{Recipe} Creamy Italian Minestrone Soup

So winter finally arrived & this chilly mid-60 degree weather (yes, that's winter & we'll ignore that it's supposed to be 78 on Wednesday) calls for soup.  My absolute favorite soup comes from the Detroit Italian staple, Lelli's. They make hands down the BEST minestrone soup.  It's much thicker & creamier than traditional Minestrone. But it's the only way Minestrone soup should ever be made.  Seriously. Once you try it this way, you'll never go back.
Knowing it might be a long shot, I went on the hunt for a copy cat recipe & was shocked to actually fine one on Genius Kitchen! Let me tell you, it is pretty damn close. At Lelli's they serve this soup as one of the many many courses, but truthfully,  it is a meal unto itself.  You won't want or need to eat anything else after devouring a bowl...except maybe seconds.  This recipe is really easy to assemble, however, you will need either a blender or an immersion blender. I highly recommend purchasing an immersion blender if you don't already have one. (We have this one)  Despite the creamy-ness, this dish is actually quite healthy! It is also meat-free, so vegetarians rejoice!  I will absolutely be making this recipe again & again & again!

Serves: 6-8 (the original recipe says 8-10 but I call bullshit. It's too good to eat such small portions)
Cook time: 2 Hours 20 mins
How difficult was this? Not hard AT ALL.

3/4 cup chopped onion
2 tbsp butter
2 16 ounce cans mixed veggies, drained
32 ounces chicken broth (1 carton)
2 15 ounce cans cannellini beans (can substitute great northern beans...I have no idea what these are)
1 14 ounce can crushed tomatoes (I couldn't find this size, so I used a 28 ounce can & used half)
1 8 ounce bag frozen spinach (I couldn't find this size either so I used a 12 oz bag & used it all)
1 6 ounce can tomato paste
3 tsp garlic
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 cup uncooked macaroni noodles (I used ditalini noodles)
1 cup half & half
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt butter & saute onions for 3-4 mins until onions are tender 
In a large stock pot, add onions & everything above the line. 
Bring to a low boil & then immediately reduce the heat. I kept it somewhere between low & medium. Let soup simmer for 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally. 
Ok here comes the fun part. Using a stick blender on medium, blend the soup. You can also pour at least 1/2 of the soup into a traditional blender & blend.
I wasn't really sure when to stop, so I just moved our stick blender around for about 5-7 mins until the soup thickened up.
Add in uncooked macaroni noodles, half & half, Parmesan cheese & mix well.
Cook for an additional 20-25 mins
Top with additional Parmesan & serve!


{Read} Book Review: Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

Happy Freaking Friday. Seriously, the week after Thanksgiving is TOUGH. But we made it! As we get closer & closer to the holidays, things are only going to get more chaotic, so I wanted to share a bit of light fluffy reading. Since completing back-to-back reading challenges (catch up here & here) my brain has needed a bit of a break from the heavy reading.  I had this book on my summer reading list (catch up here) but never got around to reading it.  So a few weeks ago, on a cold day (ya know, like 65 degrees) I curled up with this book that transported me to a small town outside of Tuscany & into the mind of a 17 year old teen. 

“So... Italian gelato. Take the deliciousness of a regular ice-cream cone, times it by a million, then sprinkle it with crushed-up unicorn horns.”

Read the summary, then we'll discuss.

Summary from Goodreads:
Rating on Goodreads: 4.1 stars
“I made the wrong choice.”
Lina is spending the summer in a small town outside of Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.
But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more. 

“Turns out there's a reason they call it falling in love, because when it happens - really happens - that's exactly how it feels. There's no doing or trying, you just let go and hope that someone's going to be there to catch you.” 

So this book totally sucked me in despite being filled with teen angst, teen drama & a teen romance.  This book is definitely more of a YA story (could you tell?), but does it matter when the story is captivating & sweet? I finished it within 48 hours of starting & now I desperately want to go back to Italy.   I will say, parts of the book are quite predictable, but if they weren't, I probably would have been pissed at the end.  There were also quite a few times I wanted to smack Lina, but then again, she's a teen with a dead mom & no dad...sooo maybe I should let some of her annoyingness slide?

Will this book make my MUST READ list?   No. I don't think everyone HAS to read think. It wasn't a life changing story & no, it didn't change the way I think about the world...or anything for that matter.  It wasn't about important social matters or how to better our society, but that isn't the point of this charming story. It held my attention & I enjoyed it. 4 Stars from me!