Thursday is still for soup, even if soccer practice is over until Spring. We enjoy it way to much to stop now – neighbours up for din dins, dvr’d Top Chef episodes, and a picnic on the living room floor. It really doesn’t get much better, you know.

Story –
Once upon a time I decided that I was going to quit smoking*, and remembering that the last time I had quit smoking I ate myself into a K-hole** and also that I don’t like feeling that way, this time I joined Weight Watchers, with the intention of paying attention to what I was stuffing down my gullet, right?  Well. The campaign to quit smoking didn’t go over so well, and in the end, neither did the Weight Watchers membership – I just don’t like being in a room with a bunch of strangers for an hour, it turns out. I’m too shy to talk in the meetings, and I never did get into the groove. I did another month of it online before Halloween and the fun-size candybar parade killed any interest I previously had in Weight Watchers. My gawd, I do love me a fun size Twix.

On the other hand, the food from Weight Watchers was pretty good. I have a few recipes from them that I still cook with regularity;  some I play with, since I’m not getting het up about points or calories right now. One of the dandiest of their recipes is Garden Vegetable Soup. But I have to a) double it, since soup is for share, and b) make it more hearty, ‘cos it’s freaking cold out now. So here’s what happened to it, after I got done boxing the recipe around its ears last night:

Garden Veggie and Tortellini Soup – serves 6-8
(thank yous to Weight Watchers for the base recipe)

2c sliced carrots
1c diced onion
5 garlic cloves, minced
3 32-oz boxes chicken broth
3c chopped green cabbage
1.5c green beans
1.5c diced zucchini
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp oregano
~1tsp kosher salt (to taste)
juice of one large lemon (or to taste)
dash of olive oil
20 oz cooked cheese tortellini***

1. Heat your soup pot to medium on the stove. Put the carrots, onions, and garlic in a bowl, and add that dash of olive oil (seriously, you just need a little bit of oil – just enough to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot). When the pan is hot, put the stuff in this bowl in and saute about 5min, until the carrots get sweaty and a little soft.

2. Add tomato paste, broth, cabbage, green beans, spices, and salt; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer covered for about 15 mins.  Add lemon juice, and check if the salt level is where you like it. Stir in zucchini. When the zucchini is done to your liking, the soup is done.

3. Dump the tortellini in the soup; if they’re not still hot, simmer until they are, and get it to the table. Ta-DA!

It’s a ton of prep work, to be sure – a lot of peeling and dicing. But once it’s all set up, the soup comes together fairly quick, and it’s wicked satisfying. The recipe can also be played with super easily – for example, instead of the basil/oregano/tortellini combo, you can cut down the tomato paste to 2Tbsp, and add cilantro, beans,  some frozen corn, and a can of  Ro-Tel. Or you can change the pasta. Or trade pasta for rice (parboiled, or course, so it doesn’t fall apart in your fine soup and become porridge). Or you can randomly drop in leftover veggies (if they’re already cooked, add them at the very end so they don’t disintegrate from overcooking) – adding green peppers or mushrooms will lend an earthy taste, acorn squash makes it sweeter (just don’t overcook it or it will get mushy). Adding tiny potatoes just before the 15-minute simmer is really nice too. You can add leftover cooked chicken at the end, even. I cannot say enough nice things about this soup.

***

*Which may be in my near future again, actually.
**In my own defense, I was pregnant at the time, which likely contributed to the eating free for all.
***I like to cook them separately from the soup – pasta can do funny things if it cooks too long, and I wasn’t willing to risk opened-up tortellini shells and free-floating globs of ricotta in my soup.
Last night I used Buitoni’s three cheese tortellini from the refrigerated section of the grocery, and they were di-VINE. A lot of tortellini can be heavily spiced and so wind up going poorly with whatever you put them in, but these were super mild, and delish in the soup. I will, come spring, make a pasta salad with these, as their flavor won’t be too bold and go bitter in my dressing.

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