We have been sooooo lazy lately and eating terribly. With the pandemic and being housebound, we have developed some serious takeout and junk food eating habits! Consequently, I've felt my body yearning for some major nutrients. But the nutrients had to be cloaked in something warm and comforting. It is December, after all.
This hearty vegetable stew fits the bill. It's warm, delicious, chock full of veggies and flavorful. It's also meat-free and you can make it in one pot! And most importantly...drum roll please...the kids all liked it! I basically combined my mom's and college friend's mom's beef stew recipes (minus the beef) with some elements of our fave soups (Sausage Orzo Soup and Italian Wedding Soup) on the site, plus some new flair. Not that you need to know the stew's family lineage. Lol. Check it out!
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What is a Hearty Vegetable?
This stew has lots of hearty vegetables. As far as I see it, a hearty vegetable is a veggie that's nourishing, satisfying and won't leave you hungry. Typically, root veggies are considered very hearty due to being full of vitamins and minerals, and high in carbohydrates (aka starchy). According to the USDA, root veggies are marked by having edible underground roots. Our stew recipe has the following root veggies: carrots, potatoes, onion and garlic.
As for the other veggies in our stew, there are a ton of vitamins. We get loads of Vitamin C from cauliflower. And we get Vitamin B-12 and plenty of antioxidants from mushrooms.
Winter Comfort Foods!
I'm definitely trying to be more conscientious about eating seasonally. For example, I'm not buying mango in January or turnips in April. Even though you can get most anything at the grocery store year round, it's just not natural.
Right now (December in Oregon), root vegetables are king. That includes this stew's carrots, potatoes, onion and garlic. Also in season are mushrooms. Most of these winter veggies are a source of comfort due to being starchy and filling. These veggies, whether in stews, cooked with brisket, or oven-roasted, equal belly-warming yumminess.
A few of this stew's veggies aren't in season exactly, i.e. celery is just a wee bit past its seasonality here. Tomatoes were in season summer through fall, and chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) are in season in California in the late spring (not even grown here in Oregon). But anything that's canned or frozen is fair game year round, as far as I'm concerned. This seasonal food guide by Grace Communications is my new food bible (not sponsored, just a big fan!).
A Note on Veggies & Shortcuts
- Frozen Veggies! Get a frozen veggie mix...that's easiest. Think: peas, carrots, green beans. Or just get frozen cauliflower and carrots.
- Canned Veggies! You can use canned mushrooms and a squeezy bottle of minced garlic.
- Pre-cut Veggies! To reduce chopping time, buy pre-cut cauliflower florets. Or chop some the day before, if you think of it. I actually used baby carrots instead of full-sized cause it's what we had in the house. And I think they were faster to prep (peeled and already small). I just cut them into thirds.
Other Ways to do Stew
Of course, there are many ways to make a stew. While we have a 28 minute timeline, you could slow cook your stew for hours in a slow cooker. And while we made ours vegetarian, yours could be a beef stew. For a beef stew, it could be a good idea to add some flavors like star anise, cloves, red wine, etc.
There are several different ways to thicken the stew. We whisked together cornstarch + water in a Pyrex measuring cup and added the mixture to the stew towards the end of the cooking. With this method, you can decide how thick you want and cook longer, or even add more cornstarch/water mixture. But you can also toss your veggies in flour before cooking, and as the stew cooks, the flour breaks off and thickens the broth.
Another way of thickening a soup that I'm a huge fan of is to take a cup of your soup/stew out, blend it (in a Vitamix or blender), and then add it back in to the soup/stew. We used this method in our Potato Leek Soup. And one of our favorite bloggers, the Cheeky Chickpea, also used this method in her Vegan Stew.
Interestingly and ironically, when I opened my email today, I saw a stew very similar to ours. The New York Times Cooking Section posted a Pasta e Ceci (Italian Pasta with Chickpea Stew) today that also uses ditalini and a bunch of veggies. But to thicken the stew, you smash half the chickpeas while in the pot. They also added in greens (i.e. escarole or kale), but that's definitely something my kids wouldn't be amped about!
What to do with Leftovers
The cool thing about this hearty vegetable stew (exactly like our Sausage Orzo Soup) is what happens to the leftovers. If you have any leftovers, you'll find that the veggies and pasta will soak up ALL the broth overnight. What's left is something like a rice dish. So, the next day, you can add broth and have soup again. [We're big fans of Better than Bouillon's different stock/broth bases]. OR you can eat the dish as-is. I prefer to eat the leftovers as a rice-like dish because everybody gets bored with leftovers and this feels like a totally different meal! Enjoy!
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STEPS FOR SUCCESS:
This recipe can be made completely in one large pot. For smooth sailing, we recommend doing everything in this order:
>STEP 1: Cook onion, garlic & celery.
>STEP 2: Add broth, along with veggies, spices, worcestershire sauce & tomato paste. Bring to boil.
>STEP 3: Once veggies are soft, add pasta.
>STEP 4: When pasta is done, add thickening agent.
>STEP 5: Look at your yummmmm!
HAVE A FAMILY COOKING SESSION:
Worth considering is how this might be the perfect time to invite kids to help out in the kitchen (above all, assuming everyone is healthy and properly washing their hands!). We are all spending so much time together at home these days. So, why not make cooking a family activity?! Not only will cooking together help pass the time, but cooking with your kids has some real educational benefits. For example, cooking with kids can boost self-esteem and foster healthy eating habits.
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How kids can help make Vegetable Stew
This dish involves many kid-friendly tasks, like measuring and combining ingredients. Here's are some ways for your lil' sous chefs to help with this yummy veggie stew:
🍅 Chopping chopping chopping! My daughter was all over the mushrooms and potatoes. Both are pretty soft and easy to cut. She used her Curious Chef Kids Knife.
🍅 Measuring! This recipe uses a cup, 1/3 cup, 1 tablespoon, 1 teaspoon, and 1/2 teaspoon for some of the ingredients. You can show kids how the math works out:
- ONE cup = THREE 1/3 cups = 16 tablespoons = 48 teaspoons
- 1/3 cup = 5 1/3 tablespoons = 16 teaspoons
- ONE tablespoon = THREE teaspoons
- ONE teaspoon = TWO 1/2 teaspoons
🍅 Taste Testing! This is an easy job. Along the way, have your kids taste the veggies and pasta to see if they're done.
🍅 Make the thickener! Your kiddo can combine and whisk the 1 cup water and 2 T cornstarch in a Pyrex container. Have them pour that mixture into the stew, stir continuously and see how the soup thickens.
Mimi's Cooking Tips:
🍅 You may have to adjust you cook time expectations based on how fast your stovetop can bring things to a boil. My stew took about 30 mins because of my slow burners. Because of this heating variance, I would suggest putting a lid on your pot to speed up the process.
🍅 This stew soaks up all the broth pretty quickly. If you want more liquid, use more than 8 cups of broth or add in more towards the end of cooking. As always, we love this Better than Bouillon Veggie Base.
🍅 Your stew will cook more evenly if you cut most of your veggies roughly the same size.
OUR "KIDIFY" TIPS for Picky Eaters:
🍅 Cheese! My kids were all more amped to eat this soup once they knew we could put cheese on top. Either let them use shaky cheese (aka Kraft) or show them how to shred cheese from an actual block of parmesan.
🍅 Change the Veggies! As always, you can adjust the ingredients based on what your kids like. I threw in mushrooms because my stepdaughter is going through a mushroom phase. Lol. There are some super easy frozen mixes that you can throw in too, i.e. peas, carrots, corn, green beans mix.
🍅 Alphabets! I had no idea that this was actually a real pasta: alphabets. Lots of name brands make alphabets pasta, but sometimes it's hard to find. However, if you can find it, do it! My kids had so much fun eating the stew, while making words on their spoons. Plus, the small noodles cook fast.
🍅Garlic Bread!!!! My kids go crazy for it. Pepperidge Farm is our fave, and it only takes 8-9 mins in the oven.
Hearty Vegetable Stew with Chickpeas & Ditalini
- 2 T olive oil
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 stalk celery, chopped thinly
- 8 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup carrots, chopped (frozen or fresh)
- 5-6 baby yukon gold potatoes, cut into small pieces (or 2-3 medium potatoes)
- 5 oz cauliflower florets (frozen or fresh)
- 4 oz mushrooms (baby bella or crimini), cut into small pieces
- 2 t salt
- 2 t Italian seasoning
- 1 t sugar
- 1/2 t black pepper
- 1/2 t paprika
- 1/3 cup tomato paste
- 1 t worcestershire sauce
- 15 oz can chickpeas, drained & rinsed
- 15 oz can diced tomatoes
- 2 cups small pasta (like ditalini, alphabets, orzo, acini di pepe, Israeli or Pearl couscous)
- 1 cup water
- 2 T cornstarch
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated or shredded (for topping)
- [optional: garlic bread]
- Heat large stockpot on low-medium and add olive oil. Once heated, add onion, garlic and celery. Cook for 2-3 mins, stirring frequently.
- Turn heat to high, add broth. Bring broth to a boil while you add all the other ingredients (except pasta and thickening agent). Stir periodically to make sure nothing sticks to bottom of pan.
- Once veggies are soft, add pasta and stir regularly. Meanwhile, combine water and cornstarch in small bowl and whisk together. Once pasta is done, reduce heat to medium and stir cornstarch mixture into pot. Stir regularly until stew is slightly thickened.
- To plate...serve your stew in bowls, with parmesan cheese sprinkled atop.
- It saves time to not use only whole ingredients. Use frozen or canned veggies so you don't have to chop much, a squeezy bottle of minced garlic, and Kraft Parmesan cheese instead of grating it yourself.
- If you are using fresh veggies, maybe chop them ahead of time or buy them pre-cut. You can use baby carrots instead of full size...you just have to cut them in thirds and that's it. FYI, your stew will cook more evenly if you cut most of your veggies roughly the same size.
- Get a small pasta with short cook time, like Ditalini, Israeli (Pearl) Couscous, acini di pepe, pastina, orzo and alphabets.
- I would suggest putting a lid on your pot to speed up the boiling process. Some burners are slower than others.
- This stew soaks up all the broth pretty quickly, so add extra broth, if needed.
- Ways to thicken the stew: (1) Whisk together cornstarch + water and pour into the stew towards the end of cooking. (2) Toss your veggies in flour before cooking. As the stew cooks, the flour breaks off and thickens the broth. (3) Take a cup of your soup/stew out, blend it (in a Vitamix or blender), and then add it back in to the soup/stew.
- As for the leftovers, the veggies and pasta will soak up ALL the broth overnight and what's left is something like a rice dish. So, the next day you can eat the dish as-is or add broth and have soup again.
- We think the stew goes really well with Pepperidge Farm Garlic Bread (find in frozen aisle).
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. While we are not certified nutritionists, we work with a Wordpress-integrated nutrition API to calculate our recipes' ingredient values.
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CRAFT FOR THIS HEARTY VEGETABLE STEW RECIPE:
Sweet Roasted Chickpeas with Sugar and Cinnamon: Looking for a healthy snack? Indulge in these protein-packed Sweet Roasted Chickpeas! This is a snack your kids can make completely on their own. And you'll feel good about them munching on this crunchy treat!
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