Sunday, October 28, 2012

Grayland Beach and Hearty Minestrone Soup

In spite of a weather forecast that showed showers all week we headed to Grayland Beach State Park this weekend.  We knew we would be Ruby bound because of the weather and that we would have to take our rain breaks seriously.  Meaning throw Hailey's raincoat on her,throw on our rain suits and run like hell to beat the next rain shower.

During the summer,Site 74 is one of our favorites-you back up to the ocean and can listen to the waves all night long. Then during the day the jaunt through the dunes is very short and you have miles of flat Washington Coastline to enjoy.  We can still hear the ocean with Ruby's windows closed but sometimes the wind and rain drowns it out.

This was a great test to see how we would endure a brief period of 3 days locked inside Ruby.  We didn't do too bad, did a lot of reading; played Scrabble; surfed the Internet; watched one of my absolute favorite movies "Under the Lighthouse Dancing". Then scared ourselves to death by watching Kevin Costner play a serial killer in the movie "Mr. Brooks"(note to myself when you are one of two campers on the campground loop-don't watch serial killer movies before bed !); and baked some chocolate chip cookies.  All in all a restful weekend.  I will be so glad to get the holding tank fixed next week-these little jaunts to the restroom are getting old, by the time you suit up you either have to make a mad dash or you've forgotten why you were suiting up !

Click on this link to see :What the park looks like on a sunny day.  I knew it was going to be cold and rainy and we both are just getting over colds so soup was definitely on the menu.  I love Minestrone and I'm not sure why I don't make it more often.  When I started to make this I couldn't remember what recipe I used the last time I made this soup.  So as I was surfing the Internet I ran across two recipes that had possibilities.  I  ended up combining the best of both of them and coming up with my own version.  Excellent and  perfect for rainy days on the Washington Coast.

Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup with Pasta, Beans and Vegetables
adapted from a Recipe courtesy of Robin Miller at Food Network and Minestrone

Makes 7 quarts (Freezes well-before you add the pasta and zucchini)

3-4 cups reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
46 ounces of V8
1/2 cup red wine (optional)
3 Yukon Gold potatoes-diced
1 fennel bulb sliced thinly
2 (28-ounce) can diced fire roasted tomatoes
2 (15-ounce) can white (cannellini or navy) beans, drained
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained
1 (15 -ounce) can garbanzo beans,drained
1 (15 ounce ) can of green beans or 1/2 pound fresh green beans sliced into 2 inch sections
6 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 cups celery, chopped
2 tablespoons pesto
8 cloves garlic
3 sweet onions chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
4 bay leaves
Sea Salt and fresh ground black pepper
4 cups cooked ditalini pasta (see pasta tip below)  I couldn't find ditalini so I used Chiocciole
3 medium zucchini, quartered and sliced
2 lbs turkey sausage-Italian seasoned type-sliced 1 inch thick
3 cups fresh baby spinach
8 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil ,optional for garnish

At least 2 hrs prior to cooking (overnight is even better), mix the diced tomatoes,all the beans-including the green beans,parsley,garlic, and sea salt to taste(about 1 teaspoon)-let this marinate for at least 2 hours.
Brown the sausage just before assembling your ingredients for the slow cooker and set aside.
In a slow cooker, combine broth, V8,the marinated bean-tomato-garlic-parsley mix, carrots, celery, onion, oregano, bay leaves, pesto, red wine and sausage along with 2 teaspoon each sea salt and black pepper. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours or on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours.
Thirty minutes before the soup is done cooking, add ditalini and zucchini . Cover and cook 30 more minutes. Remove bay leaves and season, to taste, with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Shred your spinach and place a cupful in the bottom of your soup bowl. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle with fresh Parmesan cheese over top. Garnish with chopped basil or spinach, if desired.

Pasta tip from amsullivan11 (on Seeing all the reviews about the pasta, I realized I should share an old Italian family trick. When making a pasta for soups, you under cook it by about a minute, then strain and rinse it, and afterwards put it into a big bowl of ice water (mainly a bowl of ice with water to cover. Once it has completely cooled and is very cold, you can add it to the soup, after it comes down from a boil. Removing the extra starches and chilling it to stop the cooking will make all the difference in the world!

Excellent wine we picked up when we first acquired Ruby. Can't wait to try the cabernet we have stashed away. If you ever make it to Geyserville, CA stop by,it's a lovely vineyard.

 Love the ocean,always a surprise just a few feet away

The razor clam shells looked like little ballet slippers strewn all over the beach

 And yes I did find some color in Grayland 

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