When we lived in Edmonton, one of our family night traditions was to head to West Edmonton Mall, park at the “Bourbon Street” entrance and head to The Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner. No matter what meal you order at Old Spaghetti Factory, it comes with soup or salad to start and dessert. My girls love Caesar salad, but my son always ordered the minestrone soup which thrilled me because it is full of veggies!
Since moving back to Ontario, our trips to Old Spaghetti Factory are limited, but on a recent mini-family getaway to visit Ripley's Aquarium, we made a point of heading to the Old Spaghetti Factory downtown Toronto where my son ate not one but two bowls of minestrone soup before asking if I could “puh-lease” make this soup at home.
How could I resist when clearly he loves it this much?
Simply cook ground beef and chop your veggies.
Toss cooked ground beef, veggies and kidney beans into slow cooker.
Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, beef broth and Italian spices, stir and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
Stir in cooked pasta and enjoy!
1 lb. ground beef
2-3 cups veggies, chopped (I used zucchini, green beans and carrots but you can use whichever ones your kids will eat)
1 can red kidney beans (approx. 540mL)
1 can diced tomatoes, drained (approx. 596mL)
1 jar tomato sauce (approx. 700mL)
1 carton of beef broth (approx. 900mL)
1 tbsp. Italian herb mix
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups small/short pasta
Cook ground beef in skillet, breaking up into small pieces until no longer pink.
Add ground beef, veggies, kidney beans, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, beef broth, herbs and salt and pepper into slow cooker.
Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
Just before serving, cook pasta according to package directions, drain and stir desired amount into soup.
Serve with your favourite bread and enjoy!
BUSY MOM TIPS: Use whatever veggies your kids will eat including frozen chopped veggie mix right from your freezer. You can also cook the beef and chop the veggies the night before then toss everything into the slow cooker right from the refrigerator before you head to work the next morning.
MAKE IT VEGETARIAN: To make a vegetarian version of this soup, omit the ground beef and add another can of your favourite beans (ex: navy beans) or chickpeas and substitute vegetable broth for the beef broth.
It seems like not that long ago but it’s been at least eight years since I was sitting under the Mediterranean sun in a Greek olive grove at a long table filled with tourists and locals speaking as many languages as there were people. There were bowls of just-picked olives along the table and I’ll never forget how warm they were when you ate them. At first I wondered if our hosts had warmed them but then realized they were warm from the sun — never having actually been inside a factory or a can. While I stuffed myself with olives and feta cheese grandfatherly Greek men explained how in the afternoon they mixed their ouzo with water instead of drinking it straight and insisted I join them in a beverage.
I love that memory. But even more than that memory, I love fast and easy dinners that remind me of the Mediterranean sun even deep into the Canadian winter. This one-pan seriously easy chicken and feta dinner not only brings that memory back, it also takes almost zero prep work leaving lots of time to reminisce and dig out a jar of olives from the back of the pantry.
Simply chop your dill and slice your lemon.
Drizzle chicken and feta with olive oil.
Place lemon slices on top of chicken, sprinkle with dill then drizzle with lemon juice and bake.
Halfway through baking, add broccoli to the pan then bake some more.
Serve and enjoy!
1 block of feta cheese (approx. 150g), cut into slices at least 1 ½ inches thick
4-6 skinless boneless chicken breasts
2 tbsp. olive oil
1-2 tbsp. fresh dill, chopped (depends on how much you like it)
1 bunch of broccoli, florets cut into bite-sized pieces and stems discarded (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Place chicken breasts and feta cheese on rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Drizzle with olive oil.
Slice half the lemon into round slices and place on top of chicken breasts.
Sprinkle chicken and feta with fresh dill and season with salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze other half of lemon over top of everything.
Bake in pre-heated 400F oven for 15 minutes.
Carefully remove from oven, place broccoli on pan and continue baking for another 15 minutes. Remember cooking times may vary depending on the size of your pieces of chicken. I find the regular-sized ones I get at the grocery store cook perfectly in the 30-minutes but check to make sure yours are completely cooked before serving.
Looking for more easy chicken dinner recipes? Try my Easiest Slow Cooker Roast Chicken (yes, a whole chicken in a slow cooker!), my Chicken Parmesan Casserole, my Three Ingredient Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos and my Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup.
If you’re looking for easy weeknight dinner solutions that are kid friendly and guaranteed to come together quickly then this Wonton Soup recipe is for you! Wonton Soup is one of my kids' favourites and this is one of those recipes I know comes together fast and without any fuss, especially on those days when I’m alternating between making dinner, signing school forms, and checking those urgent work emails that always seem to come in right around 5:30 pm.
If you don’t think your kids will eat all the veggies in this soup, have no fear! My eldest daughter will eat an entire bowl of soup as is (minus the mushrooms), my son wants mostly wontons and a bit of broth, and my youngest daughter wants lots of broth, a few cut up wontons and bean sprouts. Because the pieces stay fairly large it’s easy to pick out what each child won’t eat.
Simply add broth, water, bok choy and mushrooms to pot.
Add wontons and carrots and simmer some more.
Add bean sprouts, cilantro and green onions.
Serve and enjoy!
1 box chicken broth (900mL)
2 cups water (just the plain tap kind)
2-3 baby bok choy (ends cut off and sliced in quarters)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 package frozen wontons (approx. 500g) (Note: Available in your grocery store’s frozen food section. Choose any kind you like- my family prefers pork. Also, if I can’t find wontons, I use frozen pork and veggie dumplings which I used in the pictures above).
1 cup matchstick carrots (These are the super skinny almost-shredded carrots you buy in bags at the grocery store to save time)
1 cup bean sprouts
1 green onion, sliced
1/3 cup cilantro, sliced
In large pot add chicken broth, water, mushrooms, bok choy and bring to a boil. Reduce to low heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
Increase heat to medium then add wontons and carrots and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes.
Turn off heat, add bean sprouts, green onion and cilantro.
Serve with a side salad and enjoy!
Adapted from a recipe I ripped out of my October 2005 copy of Canadian Living back in the pre-Pinterest days.