January 2, 2014 at 1:00 am

Minestrone soup is on to drop those holiday pounds

Garbanzo beans add flavor. (Noel Barnhurst)

Let’s face it. Most of us enjoy the holiday goodies a little too much. I know I try to watch it, but sometimes the cakes, cookies and carbs just get the best of me. I don’t let it bother me because, come Jan. 2, this vegetable soup is bubbling away on top of my stove.

Sometimes I double this recipe so it will last a few days. I like it for lunch and dinner. I don’t feel deprived because it is so flavorful and satisfying. And, best of all, I can step on the scale a few days later and know I have conquered those extra pounds.

Minestrone

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 leeks, light green part and white parts only, cleaned and finely chopped
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
4 zucchini, cut into 1-inch dice
1 pound peeled and cut into 1-inch dice butternut squash
1 teaspoon favorite seasoning salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ cups diced tomatoes with juice
6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
Rind of Parmesan cheese
1 ½ cups cooked garbanzo beans (chick peas), drained and rinsed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley or basil
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the carrots, zucchini, squash and seasoning salt. Sauté for about 3 more minutes, or until mixed well and beginning to soften. Add the garlic and sauté another minute.

Add the tomatoes, broth and Parmesan rind. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Partially cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Add the garbanzo beans and cook another 3 minutes, or until heated through. Add the salt and pepper. Add the parsley or basil. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Remove the Parmesan rind.

To serve, ladle the soup into shallow soup bowls and garnish with Parmesan cheese. Serves 6.

Variation

Puree the soup either completely or partially in the pot with a hand blender or in batches in a blender or food processor. Return the soup to the pot, if necessary. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

To serve

Ladle into shallow soup bowls and garnish with Parmesan cheese, sun-dried tomato pesto or basil pesto.

Advance preparation

May be prepared up to five days ahead in either version, covered and refrigerated. Reheat gently. This may also be frozen. Defrost and reheat gently.

Per serving: 256 calories; 9 g fat (2 g saturated fat; 32 percent calories from fat); 37 g carbohydrates; 6 mg cholesterol; 1,039 mg sodium; 12 g protein; 9 g fiber.