Freezer-Friendly Vegetable Quinoa Soup and the Pro’s and Con’s of Freeze-tober [RECIPE]
Good Morning Everyone!
It’s Friday! (YAY!) I bet you’re as ready for the weekend as I am. Today I want to share with you my progress in “Freeze-tober”. If you’re new around here, welcome! For the past week, I began a 30-day journey into cooking (mostly) Vegan meals ahead of time, popping them in my freezer, and reheating them… all for $200 USD. Not too shabby! This week has really been eye-opening for my family and I. So today I wanted to share with you the pro’s and con’s of my little experiment. There are things I’ll definitely be tweaking, and other things that I absolutely love. Alright, here we go…
- I don’t have to cook every night. This is kind of a given, and the very reason I did this experiment in the first place. I love Fall and Winter, but I’m also the kind of girl, when cold weather hits, who gets sick easily if I don’t stay warm. So I’ve been battling a bit of congestion every morning. That said, it’s really nice to not have to think about cooking day after day.
- I’m learning about what freezes well, and what doesn’t. Macaroni and cheese? Freezes amazingly well. Freezing your own spinach? Not so much. At least… not when I tried. Berries and sandwich bread? Excellent! You get the point. This experiment has taught me the importance of what kind of containers to use when freezing… how food changes a bit when frozen… etc. It’s actually quite fascinating! 🙂
- I cut my food budget in half! This is a huge plus. Normally we averaged about $100 USD a week for food for a family of three. Even cooking mostly vegan and vegetarian meals, we still racked up nearly a hundred dollars by varying the recipes daily. When we decided to cook freezer meals, we streamlined everything. Our grocery list became super simple, (just make 1 list… then quadruple it for 4 weeks worth!), and as such our bill fell dramatically.
- Now for the hard part… cooking everything up front. That was really, really difficult. I was wiped out after cooking a month’s worth of food in one day. My freezer was jammed to the brim and I began wondering if I should buy a separate chest freezer just to make it all fit! (I didn’t buy one by the way).
- Not having variety. I love cooking new recipes and sharing them with you on here. I love telling you silly stories about my cooking adventures (and mishaps) all while showing off pictures of these dishes. So it’s difficult for me to have 7 recipes that I rotate day after day for an entire month 😦
- White rice and a flat of eggs. We’re Vegan-ish. I say “ish” because we really enjoy eggs. I don’t need cheese, although I’m American… so we tend to put it on everything. But eggs? Oooo I love perfectly cooked poached eggs. Now my husband? He has been crying for white rice. Yes, somewhere in my freezer meal planning I blanked and forgot to include a rice dish. Big mistake. Now my Filipino husband is dreaming of rice and counting down until Nov. 1st when we cycle it back in again. Sorry honey! ❤
So there are good things about making freezer meals ahead of time… and not so good things. Will I do it again in November? Possibly. Towards the end of October I begin to itch with excitement over Halloween-y dishes… and I start to search for the perfect Thanksgiving recipes. I dream of squash, sweet potatoes, and everything pumpkin. I bust out the holiday playlist. (Okay, I confess… I play holiday music in July too). So it will be really difficult for me to pick 7 recipes to rotate over and over again during the holidays. However, I do think I’ll be swapping in more freezer-friendly meals from time to time.
And now let’s look at today’s recipe: garden vegetable quinoa soup.
Quinoa. Let’s talk about it bluntly here. It kind of resembles bird seed, doesn’t it? I know it’s super healthy. And I know that if you toss it in tabbouleh or a quinoa burger you won’t even notice the difference. But let’s be honest, it’s a weird grain to cook! First off, you have to wash it. Like… absolutely, you have to wash it. Why? Because if you don’t the quinoa will taste bitter. That’s strange, right? Raise your hand (or mug) if you don’t wash rice before cooking it. (You can’t see me right now, but I’m totally raising my hand). Yes, I’m completely guilty of tossing rice in the rice cooker and letting it go. But quinoa, uh uh. You better take a moment to wash those pebbles, my friend. Trust me, it’s nasty otherwise. And the texture is… eh. (I’m supposed to be convincing you to eat quinoa, right? Okay, let me find a positive here…). Protein! Yes, quinoa is that weird grain that’s actually a protein. So if you want to lose weight without eating a bunch of carbs. quinoa is your friend.
For me, I need to hide quinoa when I eat it and this soup does just that. After simmering in a pot of fire-roasted tomatoes… a bunch of chopped vegetables… and a bit of seasonings, it is so soft that it might as well be rice porridge. I enjoy knowing that when I eat this delicious soup there is nothing in it that will make me fat. It’s chock-full of flavor and vitamins to keep you healthy. It makes a huge batch for supper and leftovers for lunch. And the best part? It freezes and reheats beautifully. I tossed it back into a cooking pot and let it simmer for a few minutes and I was ready to go. I promise you it’s worth a try. Enjoy this recipe everyone and as always, keep on cooking! ❤
Garden Vegetable Quinoa Soup
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic
- 3 carrots
- 3 ribs of celery
- 1 (15-oz.) can kidney beans
- 1 (15-oz.) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
- 1/2 tsp. dried basil
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
- Freshly cracked pepper
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa, washed
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 cups water
- 1/4 lb. frozen spinach
Mince the garlic and dice the onion. Add the olive oil, garlic, and onion to a large pot and sauté over medium-low heat until the onions are soft and transparent.
While the garlic and onion are cooking, wash and peel the carrots, then slice into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Wash the celery and slice into 1/4-inch pieces. Add the carrots and celery to the pot and continue to sauté until they just begin to soften (about 5 minutes).
While the carrots and celery are cooking, rinse the quinoa well with cool running water in a wire mesh sieve. Drain and rinse the kidney beans. Add the quinoa, kidney beans, diced tomatoes (with juices), basil, oregano, smoked paprika, and some freshly cracked pepper (about 20 cranks of a pepper mill) to the pot.
Add the vegetable broth and water to the pot, place a lid on top, and turn the heat up to medium-high. Allow the pot to come to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and let simmer for 25 minutes (make sure it’s simmering the entire time, turning the heat up just slightly if it stops).
After simmering for 25 minutes the quinoa should be slightly translucent and tender. If not, let simmer a few minutes longer. Stir in 1/4 lb. of frozen spinach until heated through. Taste the soup and add salt or adjust the seasonings if necessary. Serve hot.