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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Alphabet Veggie Soup with Mini Chicken Meatballs

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of The Frozen Food Foundation. All opinions are 100% mine.
Alphabet Veggie Soup with Mini Chicken Meatballs
I have a confession to make. Sometimes I waste fruits and vegetables. I buy them with the best of intentions. Beautiful little potato orbs just begging to be made into some warm German potato salad wind up looking like a science experiment. Spindly hairs shoot from what were recently bold orange carrots clamoring to be roasted and pureed into some creamy hummus. Crunchy celery stalks once destined to become the log to some peanut butter and raisins now lie soft an limp and neglected at the bottom of my crisper. Cartons of berries that formerly held the promise of summer sunshine, only to wind up cloaked in a fuzzy blanket. Name-calling and insults fly; head-smacking ensues. It's not pretty.

If only nature had a pause button. Oh wait - it does! Freezing fruits and vegetables is a simple way to reduce spoilage and waste. It also saves money, because while I love a rich compost pile, I wouldn't intentionally buy a fresh load of fruits and veggies from the market or farm stand and deposit them directly into it. I wouldn't shred my dollar bills and throw them in. Yet, I sometimes feel like that's exactly what I'm doing.

So, while I'm guilty of these infractions sometimes, I'm not all the time. Because I actually do keep several bags of frozen fruit and veggies in my freezer at all times. Not only are they a convenient option, they're a healthy one since our bodies need the essential nutrients fruits and veggies add to our diet. Did you know that eating a diet rich in a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables is more important than ever (eat the rainbow) given the increase in chronic disease rates among age groups!? Sadly, that's because nearly 80 percent of American fail to actually consume the daily recommended amounts of fruit, that percentage rises to 90 when we're talking vegetables. Crazy!

So, I know that money is often a factor. If you (or someone you know) avoids the produce section because they think they can't afford it, then hit the freezer section! Most stores these days have a huge selection of both frozen fruits and vegetables to choose from. You can find everything from that ever-present bag of peas you remember from your childhood (raise your hand if you loved eating frozen peas like I did) to bags of veggies meant for specific tasks like stir-fry, fajitas, and Southwestern-style meals. Remind yourself to grab a rainbow next time you pass the frozen foods section.
Alphabet Veggie Soup with Mini Chicken Meatballs
Recently, the University of California-Davis (UC Davis), in partnership with the Frozen Food Foundation, conduction an in-depth study, evaluating the nutrient content of eight frozen and fresh fruits and vegetables commonly purchased by American households.  They analyzed vitamins B2 (riboflavin), C and E, and B-carotene, as well as the minerals calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, and iron; plus dietary fiber and total phelonics (health-promoting plant compounds). If you're one of those people who sort of dismissed the thought of frozen produce before, the results may be surprising.

Study results revealed that frozen fruits and vegetables are generally nutritionally equal to, and in some cases better than, their fresh counterparts.

It's enough to make you rethink that frozen fruit and veggie aisle, isn't it? Use frozen produce alongside the fresh produce in your cart to be sure that your family is getting the plant vitamins and nutrients they need—anytime.
Alphabet Veggie Soup with Mini Chicken Meatballs
Case in point? It's a breezy fall day, the bright sun high in sky betraying the chilly breeze that blows the brittle leaves across the sidewalk. You're in the mood for soup.  Something quick, yet packed with goodies...something comforting, but not too hearty...something that both the adults and the kids will appreciate. You hold your breath and yank open the crisper drawer, only to find slick bits of last week's veggies holding fort. Never fear, because you have all sorts of choices on pause in the freezer!

So, a package of frozen veggies, some fun pasta from the pantry shelf, and 48 irresistible mini meatballs later, all you have to do is let the stove top work its magic.

Aside from "vegetables for soup", you can open my freezer anytime and find at least one bag of frozen peas (I'm telling you, every freezer has to have one), a bag of pearl onions (because I'd rather not make a recipe than peel my own pearl onions), and all sorts of fruit (for everything from smoothies to sauces to pies). How about you—do you have any fruit or vegetables freezer staples?

Alphabet Veggie Soup with Mini Chicken Meatballs

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Alphabet Veggie Soup with Mini Chicken Meatballs
Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Published 10/24/2014
Loaded with not only veggies, but also alphabet pasta and mini chicken meatballs, this soup is nutritious, simple to put together, and entirely fun to eat!

for the meatballs:
  • 8 ounces ground chicken
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons plain bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
everything else:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 ounces uncooked alphabet pasta
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes with the juices
  • 2 quarts low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (16 ounce) package Birds Eye frozen "Vegetables for Soup" (or similar)
  • ~1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • sea salt, as needed
  • ground white pepper, as needed

  1. Line a tray or baking sheet with foil, then spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Combine all of the ingredients for the meatballs except the chicken in a medium bowl and beat together until well combined. Now add the chicken and work the mixture together.
  3. Scoop by teaspoons onto the baking sheet; you should have 48 portions. Use your hands to form each into a mini meatball. You may need to wet your hands every once in a while to keep them from sticking.
  4. mini chicken meatballs
  5. Put 1 tablespoon of the olive oil a large nonstick, deep-sided pot set over medium-high heat. Once hot, carefully add the meatballs. Let them get golden on the bottom, and then shake and rattle the pot to turn them around. Cook until just cooked through, ~5 minutes. Scoop them onto a plate or clean tray for now.
  6. Place the skillet back over the heat, and lower it to medium. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring for ~5 minutes, or until pasta is coated in oil and starting to turn golden. Pour in the tomatoes with their juices and cook for another 5 minutes.
  7. Turn the heat up to high and add the chicken broth. Once it comes to a boil, partially cover, then reduce and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
  8. Birds Eye Frozen Vegetables for Soup
  9. Add the frozen veggies and reserved meatballs. Bring it back to a simmer and let it cook for 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and toss in a final handful of chopped parsley. Taste first, then season with salt and white pepper as needed.
Yield: serves 8
Prep Time: 30 mins.
Cook time: 30 mins.
Total time: 60 mins.
Tags: soup, vegetables, meatballs, chicken, herbs,
Alphabet Veggie Soup with Mini Chicken Meatballs
If you're interested in learning more about the benefits of frozen fruits and vegetables, connect with the Frozen Food Foundation Twitter or the Frozen Food Foundation Facebook.
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