Growing up we had quite a few Christmas traditions. Starting the day after Thanksgiving, we'd get up early to grab donuts before heading to the Christmas tree farm to pick out/cut down our tree. We also had a paper nativity scene that doubled as an Advent calendar. My brother and I would alternate days of putting up each character, often squabbling over who would get to put the star up over the manger on Christmas Eve.
One of the other traditions that I still continue - soup on Christmas Eve. The kind has changed over the years (there was a time when I would have a can of Campbell's chicken and stars because the rest of the family was having oyster stew...), but the idea of soup has stayed constant. We've done stews, chili, homemade chicken noodle, and even played with the idea of bread bowls, but it's always homemade and always great! Plus, it is low stress as you can put it in a crockpot and forget about it. Bonus that it leaves room for Christmas cookies :)
As I don't have too many Christmas cookie recipes to share with you this year, I thought I would let you in on our little tradition and offer up a few soup recipes leading up to Christmas Eve.
The first soup is a classic - minestrone. I have made this recipe a couple of times, and I really enjoy it as it is everything a minestrone soup should be: great flavor and loaded with vegetables. The recipe calls for red wine. If you are worried about including alcohol, it could certainly be replaced with some additional broth, however if you can, I would strongly suggest you include it. I love the flavor red wine adds to soups. One thing to note is that the pasta will continue to soak up the liquid (even when fully cooked), so cook it al dente and only add it a few minutes before serving. This is especially important if you are making the soup in a crockpot! For the leftovers in this case, I have just been adding a little bit more broth as needed when I heat it up.
Feel free to join in if you want. It's a fun tradition to start! Enjoy!
Adapted from allrecipes.com
1-1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 onions, chopped
2 cups chopped celery
5 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 cups chicken broth (can use vegetable broth to make vegetarian)
2 cups water
4 cups tomato sauce
1/2 cup red wine (optional)
1 can (14.5oz) low-sodium kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup fresh green beans, trimmed into 1-inch pieces
2 cups baby spinach
3 small zucchinis, quartered and sliced
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup small whole wheat pasta, cooked al dente
shredded Parmesan cheese for serving
In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat the olive oil and saute garlic for 2-3 minutes. Add onion and saute for 4-5 minutes. Add celery and carrots, saute for 1-2 minutes.
Add chicken broth, water, and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. If using, add red wine. Reduce heat to low and add kidney beans, green beans, spinach, zucchini, oregano, basil, and salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, the longer the better.
Cook pasta separately until al dente according to package directions. Drain and add to soup. Serve with Parmesan cheese.
Crockpot directions: Follow the first step through cooking the onions. Add the sauteed onions and garlic to the crockpot with the rest of the ingredients except the pasta, spinach, and Parmesan cheese. Cook on low for 8-10 hours. Cook the pasta until al dente as directed above and add to the crockpot with the spinach just before serving. The heat will wilt the spinach. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Serve with Parmesan cheese.