Italian Vegetable Soup

Italian Vegetable Soup by Produce with Amy“Do stuff. be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.”
― Susan Sontag

The first month of the new school year depleted my energy. Each evening I found myself returning home exhausted and in a fog. I felt filled up and content, but I had little energy to do anything but rest, eat dinner, and go to sleep.

Last week after arriving home from work I felt guilty sitting on the sofa as sunshine filtered Athenathrough the burnished leaves – autumn was quickly approaching and summer was making one last stand. The weather was warm and I should have been going for a walk.

Midweek I mustered up the energy to go outside and plucked a bouquet of blooms from my garden – late roses and the sunflowers that the birds planted. I placed the flowers in one of my Fiestaware pitchers and marveled at how splendid they looked set up against the setting sun. It was the perfect backdrop to snap a few pictures of a bowl of my latest recipe – a vegetable soup. Our cat Athena let her curiosity get the best of her, which led to a spontaneous photo shoot. Instead of shooing her away, I let the moment bathe me in beauty and I thought to myself how refreshing it felt to pay attention.

This tiny pocket of brilliance in my evening bubbled over into my classroom the next day. I took out a copy of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and read to my creative writing students about how important it is for us to fill the well. I encouraged my young writers to fill their hearts and minds with sounds, scents, and sights. We talked about Cameron’s philosophy of going on an Artist’s Date to nurture our creativity.

I decided to follow my own advice and I took the weekend off. I did not grocery shop, cook, do housework, or grade. Sunday my husband Mike and I traveled a couple of hours north to Ontonagon, Michigan and visited the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park and enjoyed the day basking in 80 degree weather. We swooned over the glistening beauty of Lake Superior and were rendered speechless at the sight of the Lake of the Clouds ensconced in waves of scarlet and copper hued leaves.
Lake of the Clouds

Two days into a new week and I feel a bit of my fatigue lifting. I believe it is because I allowed myself to be astonished by my surroundings and I made time to fill the well and nurture my own creativity. I snapped photos, scribbled in my journal, and laughed.

As testament to the lightness that I feel this week, I am able to share my latest recipe for soup. A steaming bowl of soup radiates fall and this combination makes the best of fire roasted tomatoes and the last of summer’s herb garden. Dried herbs will work – but as always – fresh is best.

Italian Vegetable Soup by Produce with AmyITALIAN VEGETABLE SOUPFire roasted tomatoes

*4 cups of vegetable stock
*3 chopped carrots
*3 ribs of chopped celery
*3 cloves of minced garlic
*2 cans fire roasted tomatoes (the cans that I used were 15 ounces each)
*1 can of tomato sauce (14.5 ounces)
*1 chopped green bell pepper
*1 small chopped onion
*1 spiralized zucchini (or chopped if you do not have a spiralizer)
*8 ounces of fresh, sliced mushrooms
*13-14 ounces of cannellini beans
*1/4 cup of chopped fresh basil (2 teaspoons of dried)beans
*1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley (2 teaspoons of fresh)
*2 sprigs of chopped fresh rosemary (1 teaspoon of dried)
*2 sprigs of chopped fresh oregano (1 teaspoon of dried)
*5 strands of fresh chives (1 teaspoon of dried)
*1 Tablespoon of cooking oil (I used coconut oil)
*Salt and pepper to taste
(I also added a few baby pea pods and green beans from my garden)

Saute the garlic, onion, celery, bell pepper, and carrots in the cooking oil until soft (3-5 minutes). Add the mushrooms and cook for an additional four minutes. Add the vegetable broth, fire roasted tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Cook on medium heat until the soup boils. Add the beans and fresh herbs. Turn the heat down and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add the spiralized zucchini. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Since I like my spiralized zucchini al dente, I add it after the soup has cooked. If you are used chopped or sliced zucchini you may want to add it when you add the mushrooms.
I like to add the herbs close to the end of the cooking progress to maximize their flavor.

Simmering soupFinished soupItalian Vegetable Soup by Produce with AmyPrintable Recipe: ITALIAN VEGETABLE SOUP by Produce with Amy

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Find my other soup recipes HERE.

Thank you for your interest in my blog and please share if you enjoy my posts and recipes. I would love to hear from you. Make sure you follow me on Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, and stop by my Facebook page and give it a like (all the links can be found on the right hand side of the page).

As we move into winter I promise to continue to share my ideas for healthy comfort food. This week I will be experimenting with a plant-based roasted vegetable stew. Have a wonderful week and I challenge you to pay attention and fill the well of your creativity.

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French Onion Soup – Healthy & Plant-Based

Plant Based French Onion Soup by Produce with Amy“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” ~William Wordsworth

What is there not to love about the above quote? As an English teacher and writer I try to encourage my students to tell their stories. This year my 9th grade students are so reluctant to write that first line. They sit paralyzed in their desks with looks of alarm on their faces. I try to coax them — sometimes quietly – and sometimes in passionate-crazy-English-teacher fashion to allow their hearts to lead them.

I think that the same can be said about cooking (just replace the word paper in the quote with stock pot, bowl, or plate). When I became a Weight Watchers leader I was surprised to learn how many people are reluctant cooks. I love being able to help provide my members, and readers of my blog, with an array of new food finds and recipes.

For my regular readers, I apologize that I have been on a bit of a blogging hiatus. Life is busy and it is a challenge in the beginning of the school year to find energy to do anything but work, eat, and sleep. In fact, my healthy goals for the beginning of the school year have been nutrition, drinking plenty of water, and getting to bed at a reasonable hour.  Luckily, I get in a lot of movement at work, but in the coming weeks I will be trying to add in more formal exercise.

Last week I started a new novel with my 9th grade students. We are reading Starved by Michael Somers. Somer’s novel details the story of Nathan Thomas who faces stress from school and his family life and develops an eating disorder. I think it is an important topic to discuss with teenagers and as I guide them through the novel, I anticipate many conversations.  In fact, this weekend the assignment was for my students to identify five healthy activities that one can engage in to manage stress. I look forward to seeing their responses tomorrow. As we brainstormed in class I loved hearing about how they love to hike outside and enjoy nature, go fishing, listen to music, and draw. It made my heart joyful when several shared that they enjoy writing when they feel overwhelmed emotionally. I hope that I can help them develop healthy ways to cope with stress at a young age.

My students were excited when I informed them that Mike Somers would be visiting us this year at our high school. What an exciting opportunity it is for them to be face-to-face with an author and be able to ask questions about the creative process. Especially an author that wrote a compelling book that addresses the overwhelming issues of self-concept, identity, and how to find control and balance in our stress filled lives.

For me, part of the way that I deal with stress is to make sure that I am fueling my body with the proper nutrition. Therefore, this blogging adventure has been therapeutic in helping with the stresses of work and my personal life. I really struggled this summer after my beautiful aunt Bev passed away suddenly in June. While I did not share as many recipes as I would have liked, the constant flow of comments and messages from readers who enjoy my recipes kept my spirits up.
BEVolution of Kindness

My aunt owned a supper club,  Bev’s Supper Club, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She was an incredible woman and I will always struggle with the reality of her death.  I spoke at her funeral and shared how I was not ready to say goodbye to Bev. She was my babysitter when I was a little girl and I looked up to her and loved her. I asked all present at her memorial to please commit an act of kindness in Bev’s memory. I started a Facebook page called BEVolution of Kindness and I am thrilled that the kindness campaign is still moving. I also started a FB group that is currently 230 members strong and I hope the numbers continue to grow in the coming months. Please consider joining. You do not need to have known Bev to participate. All it takes is a kind heart and the desire to make a difference in the world. What I am asking people to do is commit an act of kindness and to pass along a BEVolution card to the next person (who in turn passes on the card etc.). My hope is that people find their way to the Facebook group and page and share their story and location that the act of kindness occurred.

Here is a link if you are interested in printing off BEVolution cards:Printable BEVolution Cards

Today’s blog post is in memory of Bev. My aunt’s baked French Onion Soup was enjoyed by her customers and was nearly world-famous (or U.P. famous).

My version of this classic soup is plant-based and was made in the crock-pot. A woman who I chatted with in line at the supermarket suggested that making a flavorful French onion soup without butter or beef broth was impossible. Not only do I think that I nailed this recipe – but I also managed to add crusty bread with plant-based cheese that came out bubbly and browned from the broiler.

Fresh herbs from my garden. I think that the secret to a rich French onion soup is caramelizing the onions and slow-cooking it with a variety of herbs. You do not need butter to caramelize onions – your favorite cooking oil will do the trick. I like to use coconut oil or olive oil – and if you do not have fresh herbs, dried will work.

Since my husband would be eating this soup I made a large batch so you may want to reduce it in half (but I promise you will not regret making a large batch if it is only you eating this soup…it is the perfect, healthy, comfort food).
Plant Based French Onion Soup by Produce with Amy

PLANT-BASED FRENCH ONION SOUP

*8 cups of vegetable stock
*Optional – 1 cup of red wine
*8 medium sliced onions
*4 minced garlic cloves
*2 sprigs of rosemary (2 teaspoons dried)
*2 clusters of sage (2 teaspoons dried)
*6 strands of chives (2 teaspoons dried)
*1/2 cup of parsley (2 teaspoons dried)
(I do not chop the fresh herbs but tie them in a bunch with string and add them to the soup)
*3 Tablespoons of your favorite cooking oil
*Salt and pepper to taste
*Loaf of crusty bread
*Swiss cheese (I used Daiya Swiss Style Slices non-dairy cheese. I highly recommend this product…it was perfect for this soup)

A steaming bowl of soup is the perfect comfort day for a crisp Autumn day. Divide up the cooking oil and onions in three batches and cook on low heat. Add a little salt to the onions and cook until brown and caramelized. Saute the minced garlic with the last batch of onions. Add the onions, garlic, herbs, and broth to the crock-pot. Cook on high for four hours (times may vary according to your slow cooker.  This soup could be also be made on the stove top and I would recommend cooking it on low for a few hours).

Serve the soup hot and top with toasted bread. Slice the bread, top with cheese, and allow to brown under the broiler. You can also make garlic toast and forgo the cheese if you are trying to save calories. Last week I spread olive tapenade on my garlic toast for my soup since I did not buy the Daiya non-dairy cheese until the weekend.
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Printable recipe:PLANT BASED FRENCH ONION SOUP

Pin it HERE.

Make sure you check out my other soup recipes.

Stop by my Produce with Amy Facebook Page and make sure that you sign up to receive email updates of my posts (on the right side of the page). Follow my posts on Twitter Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Thank you for joining me in the journey to eat more fruit and vegetables. As cold and flu season makes its ugly rounds this time of year it is important to fortify our immune systems with plenty of vitamins and minerals. Your body and health will thank you.
Plant Based Onion SoupI hope you enjoy this soup recipe that I am sharing in memory of my sweet auntie. There is nothing quite as comforting as a bowl of healthy soup. My aunt welcomed people into her restaurant as if it was her own home. She was known for her infectious laughter, warm personality, and her heart-of-gold. I am certain that if there were more people like Bev in the world – it would be a much kinder, gentle, and joyous place. I hope you will consider joining the BEVolution of Kindness that I started to honor her spirit of compassion. Thank you!

BEVolution of Kindness