I work every Thursday and don't get off work until 6pm. By the time my husband gets off work, picks me up, and we pick up our daughter from the sitter, it's at least 6:30pm. If I didn't plan ahead we would end up eating fast food every Thursday! I have found the easiest way for our family to eat supper (without eating out) on those nights, is if I do a slow cooker meal. I prepare the recipe and throw everything into the slow cooker the night before, and put it in the fridge overnight. When we get up in the morning we take the stoneware out of the fridge and set it on the counter to warm up (you don't want to shock the stoneware by putting it straight into the heating element.) Before we leave the house, we put the pot into the heating element and turn it on low to cook all day. Then we come home to a nice hot meal.
Recipe from Sandi Richard - Fixing Dinner
2 stalks celery, diced
3 carrots, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 19 oz can mixed beans
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp Italian seasoning (or 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp basil)
1/4 cup basil pesto
1 cup macaroni
Optional: Parmesan rind (I save mine in the freezer for throwing into soups)
I did this part the night before, but you could certainly do it in the morning if you have time. The prep is about 10 minutes to pull it together.
Add onions, celery, carrots and garlic to the removable dish of the slow cooker. Gradually add stock, tomatoes, mixed beans, tomato paste, spices, Parmesan rind and pesto.
Cover with lid and put the slow cooker dish in the fridge if you prepping the night before. Take it out of the fridge in the morning, let it sit on the counter while you are getting ready and then put in your heating element on low for 6-8 hours.
If making right away, turn on low heat until dinner (6-8 hours).
When you get home for dinner:
Fill a large stove-top pot with water and season with salt and bring to a boil. When water is boiling, add macaroni and simmer according to package directions. When macaroni is done, drain and set aside. Scoop macaroni into bowls and ladle soup over top. Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese.
Click here for printable version of Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup
This was a nice hearty meal to come home to (and cheap because there's no meat). You don't even notice the lack of meat because the soup is so hearty and filling.
I made the mistake once, of adding the macaroni right to the soup...this was fine when we had it for supper, but overnight the pasta soaked up what little liquid was there. There is NO liquid the next day. I would recommend keeping the pasta separate and adding to your bowl as you want it. This recipe makes a TON of soup, so there will be plenty of leftovers.
If you have the time, I think sautéing the vegetables in a saute pan first would add a lot of flavor.