Minestrone soup and Provolone-Mozzarella Grilled Cheese

I've been looking for ways these past couple of weeks to slash our grocery budget and eat healthy at the same time. The economy hasn't been doing so well, and the government has been cutting our cost of living overseas allowance (COLA) for a few months now...grrrr...so I'm trying to cook my healthy Italian foods that don't require expensive meats and cheeses. I love this minestrone soup because it's hearty, healthy, and I put the ingredients in my slow cooker in the morning and don't have to worry about it for 8 hours! Will has grown accustomed to eating a "side carb" along with a main dish, so I made grilled provolone and mozzarella cheese sandwiches to accompany the soup. In the interest of keeping this meal relatively healthy, I used homemade wheat bread instead of a regular white. That's the other thing I intended to mention in my last blog-if you have the means, I highly suggest purchasing a bread maker. I absolutely love using them; it's cheap, the house smells wonderful, and it's so much better than the "previously frozen" bread available to us at the commissary here in Germany.

Slow-Cooker Minestrone


3 cups Brodo di Mama
1 28-oz can Contadina diced tomatoes
1 15-oz can cannellini beans
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried sage
2 bay leaves
1 medium zucchini, chopped
2 cups cooked pasta (rotini, ditalini, shells, etc)
1 pkg frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. In a slow cooker, combine Brodo di Mama, tomatoes, beans, carrots, celery, onion, thyme, sage, bay leaves, and salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

2. 30 minutes before soup is done, boil a pot of water on the stove and cook the pasta until al dente, about 7 minutes. Chop the zucchini and defrost the spinach in the microwave in a covered dish for 7 minutes. Add the pasta, zucchini and spinach to the slow cooker, and re-season with salt and pepper. Stir well, and cover and cook for another 30 minutes. Serve hot.

Provolone and Mozzarella Grilled Cheese


about 4 slices each of provolone and mozzarella cheese
4 slices of whole wheat bread


1. Heat a medium skillet on the stovetop over medium high heat. Butter each slice of bread on one side, and put the bread butter-side down on skillet. Add an equal amount of mozzarella and provolone to the top, and cover with another slice of bread. Cook on each side until browned and crispy.


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