Wednesday, April 02, 2014

The Quiet Arrival of Spring + Blueberry Miffins and Minestrone Soup Recipes

Ethan caught a train to California yesterday. It was a bit easier to say good-bye this time since I knew that he was anxious and excited to return to the boat. It was also a bit hard since I knew that it will likely be months before I get to see him in person again. He thinks that he might come home sometime mid summer to go on a driving, camping and adventuring trip. He hopes to have someone else to travel with him.

While we were so busy last week, spring crept quietly into our garden, a little later than usual. Before Don became ill, I was so good about looking for the first signs of the crocus (the first thing that blooms in my garden), but with Don being in the hospital, Ethan being home and all of us being on spring break, I forgot to go out to the front garden to check for the small bit of color showing up between the dry leaves that were a blanket against the cold winter days. Since I park in the garage, I don't go out front often.
The first things out in the garden are always tiny and happy; they are so easy to miss unless you are looking down as you walk or you are specifically looking for them.

I love their vibrant colors and the deep, rich shades of blue.

Blueberry Muffins

3 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon baking
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2 egg
2/3 cup milk
2 cups fresh blueberries

1 cup white sugar
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, cubed
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners.

For the muffins - Combineflour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Place vegetable oil into a measuring cup; add the egg and enou milk to fill the cup. Mix this with flour mixture. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups right to the top, and sprinkle with crumb topping mixture.

To Make Crumb Topping - Mix together sugar, flour, cup butter, and teaspoons cinnamon. Mix with fork, and sprinkle over muffins before baking.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until done

Olive Garden Copycat Minestrone Soup {Slow Cooker}(modified)
via: Cooking Classy

4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups water
2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes
1 cup diced celery (3 stalks)
1 cup diced carrots (2 carrots)
1 cup diced yellow onion (1 small) (I use a small red onion)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (or 1 tsp dried)
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried crushed rosemary
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 1/3 cups diced zucchini (1 small)
1 1/3 cups shell pasta*
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15 oz) can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz) can white navy beans or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5 oz) can Italian green beans, drained
2 cups slightly packed chopped fresh spinach (kale works well, too)
(1 small box Grape Tomatoes)
Finely shredded Romano cheese, for serving (Parmesan works too)

Add vegetable stock, water, tomatoes, celery, carrots, onion, parsley, basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves and sugar to a slow cooker. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook on low heat 6 - 8 hours or high 3 - 4 hours.
Add in zucchini, pasta*, garlic, kidney beans and white beans and cook on high heat and additional 30 - 40 minutes until pasta is tender. Stir in spinach, grape tomatoes and Italian green beans and cook several minutes until heated through.

Serve warm topped with Romano cheese.

* If I know that this will be saved, or froze, and eaten later, I will omit the pasta and add it in as it is reheating. You can also trade out the pasta for tortellini.
** Sometimes I use a bag of frozen stew veggies instead of fresh one, especially if I need to save time.)

Here are today's fun videos:

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