Brrr baby, it's getting cold!! And that means one thing (OK, maybe way more than one! But a major one, food-wise): soup. We all need simple, nourishing soups in our arsenal for colder months. They are good for so many reasons: Economical. Fast. Convenient. In some ways, I cherish colder months for this reason (and not too many others unfortunately)! When warmer weather hits, I lose the desire or inclination to make as many soups, but I look forward every year to bringing them back into the weekly regular-rotation menu. It also goes without saying that soups and stews are a perfect way to pack a whole bunch of nutrients into a single bowl / pot. Now that's always a sweet score in my book!
This soup is the definition of simple and nourishing. Although I would extend the process by making it with my homemade bone broth (though not too much longer thanks to the Instapot!!) you can speed it up by using store-bought chicken broth.
Let's talk beans, shall we? Currently, I'm primarily following the AIP / Paleo diet. And that means no beans, and no nightshades. But here at Let's Create the Sweet Life, we are focusing on removing the major allergens, gluten and dairy. Plus, there are plenty of people on this healing journey who not only do well with tomatoes and beans but thrive on them. Beans have been found to be part of ancestral diets around the world. Plus, their nutrient profile - high in potassium, magnesium, iron, fiber (more easily accessed when soaked for 12-24 hours before cooking) makes them a valuable food for many. Not to mention, they're affordable! So there's plenty about beans to get excited about.
I actually can have beans when they are soaked properly, so I modify this soup by: 1, soaking the beans beforehand and 2, switching out the tomatoes for butternut squash and a little jewel of a condiment called Umeboshi Paste (see below for link). This paste provides a tangy, salty flavor to foods, and it fills that void that tomatoes or tomato paste typically fill. It can be hard to find, but of course Amazon has it! (You might also see it in Asian markets or your local health food store.)
As far as tomatoes are concerned, for people like myself with autoimmune disease, or those with digestive issues, they should probably be avoided. But for everyone else, they can be an important source of nutrition, containing higher levels of Vitamin C, beta-carotene and potassium.
At the end of the day, what's important to remember is that we all have unique dietary needs and challenges! And that cooking with allergies or restrictions takes some creativity and a sense of experimentation.
Whether you make modifications or not, you will enjoy this soup! Hearty, comforting, affordable..that makes it as sweet as cupcakes, any day!
Do you have any special recipes that you modify? How? We'd love to hear from you!
Tuscan Vegetable Soup
prep time: 20 minutes, up to 24 hours if soaking beans, cook time: 25 minutes, total time: 45 mins to 25 hours
If pre-soaking beans (not required but highly recommended for sensitive tummies): the day before you plan on making soup, rinse your beans and cover them with filtered water and a dash of baking soda. Soak, uncovered, for up to 24 hours.
In large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. If you soaked your beans, drain, rinse, and set them aside.
When warmed (oil should be shimmering and sizzle if drop of water is added) add onions through the pepper.
Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until vegetables are tender and herbs, fragrant.
Add the broth and either tomatoes (including juice) or squash. Important: if using soaked beans, also add them now. Bring to a boil.
Reduce to simmer and cook, covered, for 25 - 30 minutes, until beans and squash are tender.
If using canned beans, add now, along with spinach. Cook 3 minutes more, to allow beans to heat and spinach to wilt.
Serve alongside toasted gf or Paleo bread smothered in dairy-free bone marrow butter. Will keep in fridge for several days. Also freezes well.