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Welcome to Athlete Food - our continuous adventure to seek out healthy food around the globe and at our own dinner tables. Hope you are inspired to get on a plane or get out the plates and cook a healthy dinner tonight!

Winter Workout Chaser #3: Minestrone Soup

Things that make logging workouts more fun: a hot bowl of soup and a BELIEVE training log. 

Things that make logging workouts more fun: a hot bowl of soup and a BELIEVE training log. 

My favorite moment from our hilarious podcast on Another Mother Runner radio is when Bec admits that she almost deleted the email I sent last week with the first draft of this recipe. 

“It has about 1,000 ingredients!” she busted out, cracking us all up and starting a whole other conversation in which we all divulged what makes us instantly skip a recipe. (Bec: long ingredient lists. Me: anything involving a poached egg—a technique that STILL frustrates me.)

My recipe only had about 20 ingredients, and I’d already streamlined the original. Goodbye chopping fresh tomatoes; hello canned fire-roasted. Who needs pasta and potatoes? I doubled the latter and made them sweets. Both onion and leeks? Mrs. Patmore I am not. I spent the next few days emailing Bec photos of my minestrone soup lunches to convince her that the soup is worth a big grocery shop. 

On Saturday she relented, emailing: 

“Just had a second dinner at 10 pm after making the minestrone. A taste turned into an entire bowl.”

The photo that convinced Bec to make this recipe. 

The photo that convinced Bec to make this recipe. 

But her “1,000 ingredients” comment still lingered in my head, and I admitted to myself that this recipe is long for Athlete Food. How to convince even the most time-pressed cook to try this recipe, I wondered? There’s the obvious argument: this recipe makes a lot of soup! But it’s also a forgiving recipe, so much so that, with Bec’s help, I worked up a list of potential shortcuts. And yes, you do need to use both kinds of stock to get that rich broth Bec found so addictive.

-Use pre-chopped prosciutto to save a few minutes. You can find this near the bacon in the grocery store.

-Bec did a 3-hour bike trainer workout, then a 30-minute treadmill workout, then made the soup. She understandably wanted to minimize chopping. Her clever swap: two tablespoons of our Grind Spice mix instead of the chopped garlic and onion. For even more of a shortcut, I think ½ teaspoon onion powder and ½ teaspoon garlic powder would work fine, too. If winter keeps going on and on and on I will test this trick and report back. 

-Skip the wine. 

-We were divided on the parsley. I like fresh parsley more than your average person. But for less avid fans, I’ll concede Bec’s point: a teaspoon of dried parsley would save a round of washing, drying, and chopping. If you do go for the fresh stuff, save time by chopping up the smaller stems along with the leaves instead of tediously picking each leaf from its stem.

-Choose your mix-ins carefully. I nixed the traditional string beans because I didn’t have the patience to trim them. So many strings! I’ve been using a lot of broccolini because it needs virtually no trimming, just a quick slice to get rid of the dry stem ends. But on a day when chopping a bunch of broccoli seems like too much of a chore , I can see turning to my favorite frozen vegetable combo, peas, corn, and edamame.

Or you can make it just like I did and find yourself licking the pot at 10 pm. --Melissa



Minestrone Soup

adapted from Whitewater Cooks

Makes 8 to 10 bowls worth of soup. 

Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients: 

For the soup base:

4 ounces prosciutto or bacon, finely chopped

1 large onion, finely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped into bite-size pieces

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tablespoons ghee, butter, or olive oil

1 cup dry white wine

2 teaspoons dried oregano

4 cups low-sodium chicken stock

2 cups beef stock

14 ounces fire-roasted chopped tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 large or two small sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into bite-size pieces

1 large bunch Italian parsley, finely chopped

½ teaspoon kosher salt

black pepper

For the mix-ins:

1 cup frozen black-eyed peas

1 bunch broccolini, chopped into bite-size pieces

remaining chopped parsley from bunch above

Parmesan

ounces baby spinach

Heat a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium high heat for one minute. Add the chopped prosciuttoand cook, stirring occasionally, until no longer rawbut not crispy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chopped onion, carrots, garlic, and ghee. Cook over mediumheat, stirring every minute, until the onion is translucent and carrots are soft, 5 to 7 minutesIf the onion starts to brown, remove the pot from the heat for a minute, then set back on a lower flame

Add the wine and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or spatula. Let the wine bubble lightly for 3 minutes, then add the oregano, stocks, tomatoes, and tomato paste. Raise the heat to high to bring the broth to a boilthen lower to medium highAdd the chopped sweet potato and cook, with the liquid lightly bubbling, until the potatoes are soft but not falling apart, 10 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons of the parsley, the salt, and 4 to 5 grinds of black pepper. 

If you are making the soup ahead, add the black-eyed peas then stop here. When ready to eat, bring the soup to a simmer, and cook the broccolini then. 

If, like me, you plan to eat the soup over the course of a few days, try adding the mix-ins to order: Add the black-eyed peas to the pot and cook until warmed. Then, drop a handful or two of chopped broccoli into a big soup bowl, ladle in as much broth and sweet potatoes as you like. Warm in microwave until very hot. Add spinach and toppings, and eat promptly. 

To serve a groupright away, add the frozen black-eyed peas and broccolini and cook until the peas are warmed through and the broccolini is crisp-tender and still bright green, 2 to 3 minutes. 

Set out the remaining chopped parsley, a hunk of Parmesan cheese with a grater, sea salt and pepper, so folks can top their bowls of steaming soup to taste. Ladle soup into bowls. Add a handful of baby spinach to each bowl; the hot broth will wilt the delicate leaves just enough.

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