Italian Vegetable and Lentil Soup

Cold winter nights call for warm bowls of soup and this one is packed with vegetables and lentils and a dash of crispy, salty pancetta. Cooked with a Parmesan rind, this soup captures the sharp and nutty flavors of the cheese in every bite. If you are planning the perfect cozy night at home, enjoy a bowl of this delicious soup with your family and end the night with a mug of hot cocoa and good book by the fire. Cheers to nutritious comfort food and warm evenings at home this winter.

Ingredients:
4 ounces pancetta
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, trimmed and chopped
8 ounces baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
32 ounces low sodium vegetable broth, divided
1 cup lentils (any color)
1 (14.5 ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 Parmesan rind (cut from a wedge of cheese)
5 ounces baby spinach or 1 bunch spinach, chopped
Grated Parmesan cheese for serving

Directions:

  1. In a large stock pot over medium-high heat, cook pancetta until brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. Remove pancetta and place on a paper-towel lined plate. Drain all but about 2 teaspoons of pancetta drippings from the pot.
  2. Reduce heat to medium and add onion, carrots and celery to the stock pot. Sauté until vegetables are tender and lightly browned, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add mushrooms and 2 tablespoons of vegetable broth to the mixture and sauté until tender and browned, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add lentils, tomatoes with their juices, the remaining vegetable broth, rosemary, bay leaf, salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese rind to the stock pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until lentils are tender.
  5. Add spinach and pancetta to the soup and cook for another minute or two, stirring until spinach is wilted. Serve in bowls and top with grated Parmesan cheese.

Servings: 4

Farm-Fresh Vegetable Beef Stew

My Farm-Fresh Vegetable Beef Stew is a bowl of comfort food that is good for your heart, body and soul. Use rainbow Swiss chard or substitute any dark leafy green. You can’t go wrong with any of these nutrient-dense choices. Dark leafy greens are low in calorie while high in several vitamins and minerals that support healthy blood pressure, vision and immune system.

This colorful bowl of vegetables may even brighten your mood on a grey and chilly day. Leftovers are delicious, so make this meal on the weekend for a quick weeknight supper, and grab a book to read by the fire while your stew simmers.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 pound beef stew meat
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
4 celery ribs, sliced
1 bunch rainbow Swiss chard, ribs removed and chopped, leaves roughly chopped
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, diced
1½ cups frozen corn
32 ounces low-sodium vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 tablespoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large stock pot and add stew meat. Cook until brown on all sides, stirring occasionally. Remove beef and set aside.
  2. Add onion, carrots, celery and swiss chard ribs to the stock pot. Sauté until vegetables are tender, about five minutes.
  3. Return the beef to the pot and add potatoes, corn, vegetable broth and seasonings. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low. Add swiss chard leaves and simmer for 40 to 45 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Servings: 6

 

Kale, Apple and Cheddar Panini with Strawberry Jam

Sautéed kale is not just for side dishes. Give it a try as a sandwich base and you will forget all about lunch meat. This Kale, Apple and Cheddar Panini with Strawberry Jam is a hearty vegetarian sandwich with seasonal farm-fresh favorites. It is comfort food that packs a nutritious punch and takes less than 15 minutes to prepare.

Ingredients:
2 sub sandwich loaves (5 to 6 inches each), cut from a baguette
1 medium bunch kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons water
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 small apple, cored and thinly sliced
2 slices white cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons strawberry jam (preferably homemade)

Directions:

  1. Preheat a panini maker to medium-high. Slice sandwich loaves in half and set aside.
  2. Remove stems from kale and roughly chop. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add kale and water. Sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, until wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Add balsamic vinegar and cook or another minute, tossing to evenly coat.
  3. Layer apple slices, kale and cheddar cheese on the bottom bread slices. Spread strawberry jam on the top bread slices. Stack together and place sandwiches in the panini maker, closing the top. Grill until the bread is crusty and golden and cheese has melted. Slice sandwiches in half and serve.

Note: If you do not have a panini maker, use a grill pan or skillet and flip the sandwich to grill both sides. Placing a heavy skillet on top of the panini while grilling will give you the panini effect.

Servings: 2