Back in the day, we used to “sucker punch” our picky eaters with vegetables every chance we could find. Like most kids, they possessed the ability to hone in, with razor-like focus, on the one green item buried in piece of pizza or clinging to a noodle. We sucker-punched them until they were old enough to reason with, eventually developing their own taste for veggies. (My youngest, age 9, will now order a salad at a restaurant on his own, much to my joy).
During the hazy toddler years, our three hooligans loved the Disney channel show Little Einsteins, where preschool brainiacs traveled the world, exploring architecture, art and music on a space ship named Rocket. Many afternoon moments of parenting sanity were restored with that half hour show.
One episode involved the annoyingly precocious kids making soup with beans, tomatoes and cheese – a minestrone essentially, with a catchy cooking tune sung by Italian wooden puppets. I can close my eyes and remember every note of that song, reminding me of those fun but exhausting days.
I discovered this recipe for Tuscan White Bean Soup around that time, making it, paradoxically, while the soup episode played. “Hey kids – guess what? I’m making Rocket soup right now!” Three-year-old Audrey squealed in her raspy voice, mind blown as art imitated life. And just like that, a family classic was born.
I love soup season, even here in Arizona where it never truly gets cold. Besides their sneaky ability to hide vegetables and other “undesirables” from picky eaters, crock pot soups can turn the chore of dinner into a breeze. I don’t naturally enjoy making complicated, time-consuming dishes, especially on busy school nights, and am always searching for tasty, healthy meals made in one pot. I thank the crock pot gods often in the winter, walking in the door at 3 pm to smell dinner cooking and almost ready.
With just a few soup staples in your pantry (bouillon, onions, garlic), you can make a quick list of fresh veggies and proteins to run to the store. The beauty of crock pot cooking lies not only in the fast prep time, but also in how ingredients simmer together long enough to create full-bodies flavors. Fresh or dried spices work equally well, or you can keep the tastes relatively simple with just salt and pepper to taste. It’s a fun option to offer an array of spices on the table for each person to make a dish his or her own.
Following is my simple Rocket Soup recipe in all of its vegetarian and Paleo deliciousness. The flavors are simple and tasty enough as is, or you can easily customize. That’s the beauty of a simple minestrone. If you’re a meat lover, include some bacon or ham. If you love dairy, add some grated cheese to each bowl. Other vegetables like zucchini or cauliflower add some extra texture and phytonutrients. Or drop an egg in, my husband’s absolute favorite. More on that later.
Enjoy! Happy adventures in crock pot cooking for you and your family.
(Adapted from the Tuscan White Bean Soup recipe in The Gourmet Slow Cooker by Lynn Alley.
2 cups dried white beans (cannellini or navy)
7-8 cups water
3-4 tsp Better than Bouillon, either vegetable or chicken flavor
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 large celery stalk, finely chopped
3 gloves minced garlic
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 14 oz can crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper
4-6 TBSP olive oil
Freshly grated parmesan cheese
Fresh Italian Parsley, finely chopped
1. Sort through and rinse beans, then put into the slow cooker. Add enough of the water to cover. Cook on high for 2 hours or until beans are somewhat tender.
(You can also soak the beans overnight in water to cover. In the morning, drain, rinse and transfer to slow cooker. Add water to cover, as mentioned above.)
2. Add carrot, onion, celery, garlic, bouillon, thyme and tomatoes. Stir well. Cover and cook on the low setting for 6-8 hours, until carrots and beans are tender.
3. Stir in salt and pepper to taste. Remove and discard the thyme.
4. Ladle into soup bowls. Garnish each serving with either 1 tsp or 1 TBSP of olive oil (depending on serving size).
OPTIONAL: add a sprinkle of cheese and / or fresh parsley.
Egg Drop Rocket Soup (Dr. McCarthy’s favorite)
Drop an egg into a hot bowl of soup. Add other ingredients and stir together to fold in the yolk. That’s it! Makes for a hearty breakfast to fuel you with simple, whole nutrition.