Winter Warm-Ups Sure To Please


Does anyone love Olive Garden’s minestrone soup or Macaroni Grill’s  Bread? I have to confess that I am a pretty frugal person so restaurants don’t get my food dollars very often. I’m  always looking for a way to make something I love without actually having to visit the restaurant. I have a recipe for minestrone soup that I tweaked until we had a soup that may have been better than Olive Garden’s. Just maybe. . . I will often use dried beans that I’ve prepared the night before, but if you want to have the soup quickly then the canned beans work just fine.

Minestrone Soup


  • 3 T Olive Oil (You can omit this if you want and just sautee’ the veggies in a bit of broth)
  • 1 cup finely minced onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped zucchini
  • 1/2 cup Italian cut green beans
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic (about 3 good sized cloves)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (I either make my own or buy the lowest sodium one I can find)
  • 16 oz. bag of dried beans – varieties like kidney, black, pinto, northern, etc.
  • 28 ounce can petite diced tomatoes (low sodium)
  • 1/2 cup carrot, thinly sliced
  • 2 T parsley
  • 3 t. oregano
  • 2 t. salt
  • 1 t pepper (freshly ground if you have it)
  • 1 t basil
  • dash thyme
  • 4 cups hot water
  • 4 cups baby spinach (fresh)
  • 1 cup pasta (small shells are best)



  1. Soak and soften dried beans overnight or during the morning.
  2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large soup pot.
  3. Saute onion, garlic, zucchini in oil for about 5 minutes or until onions begin to become see through
  4. Add broth, tomatoes, softened beans, carrot, hot water, and spices.
  5. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 30 to 60 minutes.
  6. Add spinach leaves and pasta and cook for about 20 – 30 more minutes.
  7. If the soup is too thick, add some water as needed.
  8. Makes 8 servings. 

I know that sometimes the thought of yeast breads can be intimidating. Don’t be afraid to try this one – it’s super easy and really hard to mess up. I had a picture of it but I think I deleted it from my camera by accident!

Rosemary Bread


  • 1 cup very warm water
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 t. black pepper
  • 1 T dried rosemary (crushed – don’t put the sticky things in there without crushing them up!!)
  • 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 t. dry yeast

Directions: (You can do this by hand)

  1. Put very warm water and olive oil  in bowl
  2. Add smaller amount of flour on top of water
  3. In separate sections on top of the flour, add salt, sugar, and yeast.
  4. Mix until a dough begins to form.
  5. Add seasonings.
  6. Knead like crazy, adding in additional flour so the dough is soft and elastic and not sticky.
  7. Allow to rise in the bowl until about doubled – about 1 hour.
  8. Punch down dough, and place in a loaf pan.
  9. Allow to rise one more hour.
  10. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for about 35 – 40 minutes or until golden brown.
  11. Enjoy! Makes 1 loaf.

I hope you will try both of these, because they are wonderful and filling, and good for you!!  What’s for dinner at your house tonight?   Diane

32 thoughts on “Winter Warm-Ups Sure To Please

  1. Mia says:

    Those look so yummy!

    I have to admit, I was looking at the nutritional website for Olive Garden Thursday and I was appalled at how unhealthy the choices are at the restaurant. The sodium and fat content alone will kill any healthy tendencies let alone the calories!


  2. Dr. J says:

    I’m going to save these great recipes as it’s finally warming up a little in northern Florida! There is plenty of winter still left to “enjoy.” Thanks, Diane!

  3. NewMe says:

    I am definitely going to try the minestrone soup recipe. It sounds delish!

    Funny thing though: even though we live on the same continent and speak the same language, I had no idea what northern beans or Italian cut beans were. I had to look up pictures on the Internet. We call the northern beans “cannellini” and the Italian cut beans I would just call flat beans. The good news is that I can find them both at my local grocery store.

  4. Sunny says:

    tonight? grilled steak. We are expecting 7 days straight of rain, so Mr. Sunny is grilling while he can. LOL I’ll have a light salad with it; he’ll have that, sauteed mushrooms, and a baked potato. 🙂
    .-= Sunny´s last blog ..Coming Up Roses! =-.

  5. Leah says:

    I love that bread at Macaroni Grill!! So, I might just have to try these recipes sometime soon.

    Thank you for sharing them. I’m always looking for good recipes that someone has already tried.

    Have a nice weekend and stay warm. 🙂
    .-= Leah´s last blog ..The Icing on the Cake =-.

  6. Leah says:

    oops…forgot to add our dinner plans. I’m thinking of a nice salad for me while everyone else finishes the leftovers from mexican food last night.

    We eat lots of soups and warm dishes in the winter also.
    .-= Leah´s last blog ..The Icing on the Cake =-.

  7. Leah says:

    …a greek salad with lettuce, feta cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers, kalamata olives and italian dressing. Not warm and cozy, but sounds so good to me today, even though it is raining out. 🙂
    .-= Leah´s last blog ..The Icing on the Cake =-.

  8. Brenda says:

    Thank you for sharing both of these recipes! I will copy them both down to try in the next couple of weeks for sure! Tonight my daughter has a pep game (she plays flute) for the hs basketball team and then she is staying the night at her best friends. So my hubby and I enjoyed big salads full of spinich, romaine lettuce, fresh roman tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers and a homeade vinagrette with EVOO, dried basil, dried oregeno and fresh squeezed lemon. Yum!
    .-= Brenda´s last blog ..weigh-in Friday =-.

  9. Jason says:

    Great blog you have here. Very inspirational. I have a site as well which I hope will be a top resource for those looking for the motivation they need in order to lose weight. There are very little sites like ours out there.

    I’d like to exchange links with you. Please let me know if this is possible under the “Best Weight Loss Websites” page. Until then, keep up the good work.


  10. Pam says:

    Just to let you know – Minestrone Soup is my FAVORITE FAVORITE soup in the whole wide world! I make mine almost exactly the way you do yours, and I have to go buy some beans and pasta now & make this darn stuff because of you – thanks a lot! ; )
    .-= Pam´s last blog ..Back In The Saddle Again =-.

  11. Lara (Thinspired) says:

    I can’t imagine making my own bread…dealing with yeast can be so intimidating! The soup sounds delicious though, and so healthy…especially if you use wholegrain pasta shells. I’m bookmarking this one for the storm that’s brewing. Thanks, Diane!
    .-= Lara (Thinspired)´s last blog ..The Best Chili =-.

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