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Green Minestrone

Sorry, guys. The soup recipes aren't going to stop anytime soon! Especially when there's a pile of bacon involved. 

I learned early on that in order to bribe my husband to try a dish, or soup, with a lot of veggies involved, I'd need to toss in a handful of bacon to sweeten the deal at dinnertime. Works like a charm every time. This soup was no exception, but with or without the bacon, we couldn't fill our bowls up fast enough for a second helping. 

What I loved most about this soup is the smell of those sweet beans when I was chopping them up. It reminded me of my grandparents so badly. They have a huge garden up in Mendon, Utah. When I was a little girl, Fall time was harvest time, and every late summer, we'd spend an entire day or weekend up in Mendon chopping beans, shucking corn, picking raspberries, harvesting pumpkins & squash, and picking those juicy tomatoes. It was a long process, but I learned so much about gardening, canning, storing veggies, trimming each and every one for storage, and how an army of family can get it done quickly. 

The beans, though, reminded me the most of these dear childhood memories. My Grandma June, Mom, Grandpa Fred, and my uncle and aunt would sit around the yellow/white picnic table with large cookie sheets for hours. They'd wash the beans, chop off the stem end, and start the canning process with either chopping them into 1-inch pieces, or sometimes can them whole. My Grandma June would be such a perfectionist, that if the beans weren't straight up in the can perfectly, she'd start the whole process over again. I think a little bit of that perfectionism has leaked through the gene pool from my Mom, down to me, sometimes. Everything can't be perfect, but sometimes I spend way too much time trying to get things to be! Oh how I loved this time in Mendon, and try my hardest to visit there often (especially around harvest time), to relive those memories the best I can. My grandpa is in heaven, and his sweetheart wife, Grandma June, is in a rest home, but my Uncle and Mom still plant veggies in that rich Mendon soil. It makes me feel like my Grandpa Fred is still in the garden, shooting robins and irrigating the corn for hours, and my Grandma June is in the kitchen with her white apron on, canning the afternoon away with my Mom. 

Funny how just a few beans can start the memory train. 

This soup is incredible. It's a fun twist on the classic Italian minestrone with a red sauce, but completely flips the flavors around, and man - it is AWESOME. The beans are rich, the broth is deep, the flavors are so incredibly developed with each ingredient. It's something you're going to want to make over and over again - and hopefully doubling the bacon like I did. I can't help but steal a few pieces when they're so crispy and smell oh. so. good. Good news: it's dinner in only 30 minutes! 

Green Minestrone
makes 4 servings

6-8 slices bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 fresh bay leaf
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper
8 C chicken broth
1 C ditalini pasta 
1/2 lb green beans, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch pieces
10oz spinach, coarsely chopped
1/2 C shaved Parmesan 
1/4 C chopped fresh basil leaves 

1. Heat the soup pot over medium-high heat. Add oil and toss in bacon. Saute for a couple minutes until crisp (remove about 1-2 T bacon for serving/sprinkling later), then add the onion, celery, garlic, and bay leaf to the pot. If there's too much oil, drain it a little bit. Season veggies with salt and pepper, continue to saute them for about 5 minutes until they're tender. Toss in the beans, and pour in chicken broth. 
2. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and bring to a boil. Add in the pasta and green beans. Cook for about 8 minutes. Stir in the spinach and grated cheese (save some for sprinkling), and cook about 1 minutes. Toss in basil, cook for 1 minutes. Serve warm with extra crusty bacon and Parmesan cheese. 

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