Sunday, July 31, 2011

Menu Plan Monday ~ August 1 - August 7, 2011

Cleaned out the freezer pretty good the last couple of weeks. Time to restock!  Just got over a huge weekend of cooking, parties and cleaning up so at the moment, I'm not in the mood to cook.  But...tomorrow's another day and I suspect the family will be hungry at some point so here is the plan.  :-)

Monday: Black Bean Burgers & Summer Squash Casserole

Tuesday: Polynesian Chicken Salad (use some yogurt instead of mayo)

Wednesday: Lentil Chili

Thursday: Asian Broccoli Slaw Teriyaki Wraps

Friday: Leftovers

Saturday: Southwestern Tortilla Pizza

Sunday: Burgers

This is linked with Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Lemon Yogurt Mini Muffins

Check out my Vitatops Giveaway here!!

These adorable muffins were awesome. The kids got to roll them in sugar which they loved.  Then we ate them up while warm.  Perfect summer muffin!

Lemon Yogurt Mini Muffin Recipe

1/4 cup lemon juice, fresh-squeezed
3/4 cup milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 + 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup non fat vanilla yogurt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons melted butter
sugar for rolling muffins in

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 12 cup muffin pan or a mini muffin pan.

2. Add lemon juice to a large glass then add milk; set aside. In a large mixing bowl whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate large bowl stir together milk mixture, butter, egg, yogurt, lemon zest and vanilla (don't worry if it looks clumpy or curdled).

3. Make a well in center of dry ingredients and add wet, stir just to combine. Spoon batter or use an ice cream scoop to fill muffin pan. Bake minis 12-14 minutes and large 18-20 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool pans on wire racks 5 minutes, turn out and brush tops with melted butter, dip or roll in sugar while still warm. Best eaten immediately. If they cool off and become sticky roll in sugar again.

Makes 36 mini muffins

This is linked with:
Sweets for a Saturday at Sweet as Sugar Cookies
Weekend Wrap Up Party at Tater Tots and Jello

One Year Ago...

Ethiopian Lentils with Sweet Potatoes

Friday, July 29, 2011

Vita Top Vitalicious Giveaway

It can't all be about cooking, right? Sometimes I need a healthy snack that is already there with no prep.  Vitatops are perfect for a quick healthy snack.

Vitalicious has offered one of my readers a super sample pack of delicious Vitatops! Have you heard of these before? If not, you're missing out! They totally rock! The triple chocolate fudge is probably my favorite but really, I love them all. I have not found one that I avoid or don't care for. They are all super tasty! The cornbread muffins are awesome with chili, I buy those all the time. Seriously, for 100 calories, there is no way I could make something that tasty. I have to fight my 12 year old for the chocolate mint ones, he totally loves them.

Not only are they tasty, they are super filling, nutritious and only 100 calories. Everyone is on the 100 calorie bandwagon and I've tried them all. There is not ONE 100 calorie snack that is as filling as this in my opinion. Not to mention, if you have a chocolate craving, this does the trick. The chocolate ones are REALLY chocolaty, they satisfy the most intense cravings. Let's not get started on the brownies, oh my. 100 calories and insanely awesome. And not tiny, they are very decent portions.

So here's the deal, I recommend you check out and order some of these tasty vitatops. They do sell them in some grocery stores but I think they are slightly more expensive and they don't have near the variety.

To Enter: CLOSED will be giving one of my readers a super sample pack. Check out the super sample pack online and leave me comment letting me know which one sounds the best to you. I can't wait to try the Pumpkin Spice! That's a new one!

I will pick a winner randomly on August 26th so make sure I have an email address to contact you!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Meaty Spaghetti Sauce

So did you see my Tomato Zucchini Bisque last week?  Quite the tasty soup.  However, it made a lot and I was the only one eating it.  So at the last minute, while making this pasta sauce, I added a couple of cups of the soup into it.  Just because it seemed like it would go well and the sauce needed more volume. 

It worked wonderfully. If you don't have extra soup, feel free to just add more tomato sauce as desired.  Or follow Reeni's recipe.  It will be good either way. I promise. Italian sausage rocks.

Meaty Sauce and Pasta Recipe
Adapted from Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice

1 green pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp. garlic, minced
1 lb. ground turkey, 92%
1 lb. Italian sausage, ground
1 heaping tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 can tomato paste, 6 oz.
2 can diced tomatoes, 15 oz.
1 bay leaf
2 cups leftover Tomato Zucchini Bisque or a can of tomato sauce would work
Red pepper flakes to taste

In a large pan, saute onion and pepper in cooking spray until tender, about 4 - 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add garlic, saute for another minute.  Add the ground turkey and sausage, cook until done.  Add italian seasoning and tomato paste, combine with meat, allow to cook for 3 - 4 minutes stirring often.  Add diced tomatoes, bay leaf, red pepper flakes and leftover soup or a can of tomato sauce.  Add a bit of water if you think it's too thick. Bring to a simmer and cook for 35 - 45 minutes, tasting to see if it needs to be re-seasoned.  Remove bay leaf before serving.  Serve over pasta or veggies.

Total calories = 2371 calories for sauce
216 calories per cup

One Year Ago...

Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato Pasta Salad

This is linked with:

Full Plate Thursday at Miz Helen's Country Cottage
Tasty Traditions at Coupon Cookin'
Cooking Thursday at Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Things I Love Thursday at The Diaper Diaries
It's a Keeper Thursday at It's a Keeper
Recipe Swap at Prairie Story
Ultimate Recipe Swap:Food that Travels Well - Life as Mom
Made it on Monday at Lark's Country Heart
Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum
Friday Favorites at Simply Sweet Home
Recipe Swap at The Grocery Cart Challenge
I'm Lovin' It at Tidy Mom
Foodie Friday at Little Brick Ranch
Fresh Food Friday at LaBella Vita

Calories calculated from Some numbers are approximate and rounded.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sloppy Joe Slaw

I love broccoli slaw.

I love sloppy joes.

So of course I jumped at the chance to combine the two for an another awesome version of the sloppy joe. 

Hungry Girl's recipe was super simple, just ground turkey, broccoli slaw and sloppy joe sauce.  I like to make my own sauce whenever possible. So I did.  I also added some more veggies.  Still a super simple recipe and amazingly delicious!!

Sloppy Joe Slaw
Adapted from Hungry Girl

1 lb. ground turkey, 97%
1 large onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 tbsp. garlic, minced
2 - 12 oz. bags of broccoli slaw
2 cups sloppy joe sauce

Brown ground turkey with onions and peppers.  Add garlic, cook for another minute or so.  Add broccoli slaw and sloppy joe sauce.  Mix together and cook for about 10 minutes or until broccoli slaw has softened some. 

BBQ Sloppy Joe Sauce
1 - 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 - 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 1/2 cups BBQ sauce
2 tsp. hot sauce
2 tbsp. worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper

Mix ingredients together and stir.  This will make more than the 2 cups needed for the recipe. You can save it for something else or just add more to your sloppy joe.

Total calories = 1647 calories
2/3 cup = 122 calories
1 serving Sloppy Joe Slaw with 100 calorie Arnold Select Sandwich Thin = 222 calories
Or eat it on a corn tortilla if you are gluten free.

One Year Ago...

Oreo Amish Friendship Bread

This is linked with:

No Whine Wednesday at Food on the Table
Let's Do Brunch at My Sweet and Savory
Works for me Wednesday at We are THAT Family
Real Food Wednesdays at Kelly the Kitchen Kop
What's on your Plate? at Good Cheap Eats
What's on the Menu Wednesdays at Dining with Debbie
Made it on Monday at Lark's Country Heart
My Best Recipes at This Chick Cooks

Calories calculated from Some numbers are approximate and rounded.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Chickpea Squash Pot Pie with Pumpkin Biscuit Crust

I've mentioned my love for chickpeas and squash.  It's a match like chocolate and peanut butter, although that is a completely different different kind of love.

 I LOVED the idea of a biscuit topped pot pie.  Not only delicious but fun to make!

I know this recipe just screams FALL or AUTUMN but I just had to post it now. 

The leftovers were great too!  My husband even forgave me for putting peas in it.  In past years, that would have been just cause for divorce.  He let it slide this time. Whew!! :-)

Chickpea Squash Pot Pie
Adapted from Eats Well With Others

1 2 - 2 1/2 lb. butternut squash
1 large sweet potato, cut into chunks
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, minced (who are we kidding, I'm sure I added more)
2 cans (15 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 can light coconut milk
1 cup water
4 tsp red curry paste
2.5 tbsp soy sauce
1-2 tbsp brown sugar, depending on taste
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas
2 tbsp flour (I used gluten free)

For the biscuits
2 cups flour (I used gluten free)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 450. Toss squash and sweet potato chunks with 1 tbsp oil and some salt. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 45-50 minutes or until fork tender. Or just microwave until soft.

2. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large-ish pot. Add in the onion. Saute for 3 minutes or until translucent. Add in one clove garlic. Saute 30 seconds. Add in red curry paste. Saute 30 seconds. Add in chickpeas. Saute 1-2 minutes.

3. Pour the roasted squash and sweet potato into the pot. Stir. Mix in the coconut milk, water, soy sauce, and brown sugar. Stir until well combined. Bring to a simmer. Pour in the peas. Cook until heated through. Add salt, sugar, and curry paste to taste. Add in 2 tbsp flour and stir until mixed in. Remove from heat while you prepare the biscuits.

4. Lower oven to 400. In a mixing bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, pumpkin, milk and lemon juice. 

5. Pour the pot pie filling into a large dutch oven or oven-safe casserole dish. Drop handfuls of the biscuit dough onto the top of the pot pie. I dropped them for 12 biscuits. Bake for 20 minutes or until biscuits start to brown.

Total calories = 3974 calories
12 servings = 332 calories per serving

One Year Ago...

Cinnamon Apples

This is linked with:

$5 Dinner Challenge at $5 Dinners
My Meatless Monday at My Sweet and Savory
Mouthwatering Mondays at A Southern Fairytale
Your Recipe, My Kitchen at Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker
Just another Meatless Monday at What's for Dinner, Mom?
Midnight Maniac Meatless Monday at Midnight Maniac
Made By You Mondays at Skip to my Lou
Mangia Mondays at Delightfully Dowling
Tuesday at the Table at All The Small Stuff
Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam
Hearth n Soul at A Moderate Life
Tasty Tidbits at Permanent Posies & Grocery Shopping for Free
Ingredient Spotlight:Pumpkin at Eat at Home

Calories calculated from Some numbers are approximate and rounded.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Menu Plan Monday ~ July 25 - July 31, 2011

We're cleaning out the freezer this week. I've been working on it for awhile.  So I'm not trying any new recipes this week. :-( 

We have a huge kids party this weekend and I need the freezer and refrigerator emptier than it is now.  So I'm sticking to simple meals for the week, I have a bunch of frozen burger patties so we may end up eating burgers twice.  The gang is getting frozen pizza at least once for lunch. 

I'm planning to make a whole bunch of shredded chicken with barbecue sauce for the party. I have mostly chicken in the freezer so a lot of it will go. I still haven't decided how much I will make and which sauce I will use. I might use one that I've already made on my blog or I might try a new one.  I'm still working on the party menu.  I'm trying to keep it simple but I may just make something new.

Monday: Chicken Pasta Salad

Tuesday: Very Veggie Chicken Fajitas

Wednesday: Burgers & Oven Baked Fries (if it's not too hot)

Thursday: Chipotle Bean Burritos

Friday: Leftovers or burgers

Saturday: Kids Rock 'n Roll Party, BBQ Shredded Chicken or new BBQ Chicken, Bean Casserole, veggies with dip, still working on the rest of the menu!

Sunday: Leftovers

This is linked with Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie

One Year Ago...

Teriyaki Glazed Chicken & Pineapple

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Blueberry Muffins

I actually had some blueberries in the frig that needed to be used. Quickly.

This is rare as we go through a bushel of fruit each week and kids are scrambling for the last of it.  Actually I have no clue how much a bushel is but let's just say that rotten fruit just doesn't happen here.

Clearly it just wasn't blueberry week for the kids because by the end of the week, I still had most of a huge Costco sized container in the frig and no one around during the weekend to eat them. 

Perfect time for blueberry muffins, don't ya think?

These were awesome and were eaten very shortly after they came out of the oven. 

Now everyone wishes I had more blueberries. 

Blueberry Muffins
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup AP flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 cup sugar
4 tbsp. butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 1/4 cups sour cream, light
1 1/2 cups frozen or fresh blueberries (I used fresh)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a standard 12-cup muffin tin (or line with paper liners) and set aside.

2. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl until combined. Whisk the egg in a separate medium bowl until well-combined and light-colored, about 20 seconds. Add the sugar and whisk vigorously until thick, about 30 seconds. Add the melted butter in 2 or 3 additions, whisking to combine after each addition. Add the sour cream in 2 additions, whisking just to combine.

3. Add the berries to the dry ingredients and gently toss just to combine. Add the sour cream mixture and fold with a rubber spatula until the batter comes together and the berries are evenly distributed, 25 to 30 seconds. Small spots of flour may remain and the batter will be very thick. Do not overmix.

4. Using a large spoon or a cookie scoop sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, divide the batter amount the muffin cups. Bake until the muffins are light golden brown and a toothpick or thin knife inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan from front to back halfway through the baking time. Immediately remove muffins to a wire rack and cool for at least 5 minutes. Serve immediately or at room temperature. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature.

Total calories = 2647 calories
12 muffins = 221 per muffin

One Year Ago...

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Brownies

This is linked with:
Sweets for a Saturday at Sweet as Sugar Cookies
Weekend Wrap Up Party at Tatertots & Jello

Calories calculated from Some numbers are approximate and rounded.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Presto Pasta NIghts #223 Round Up

It's time for Presto Pasta Nights #223!  It's been a super week of Pasta Recipes. Check out these delicious recipes!


Creamy, cheesey, pure comfort food. Just what we need in a good pasta dish!

Who needs meat when you have this scrumptious pasta with zucchini and basil sauce?  Not me! 


I don't care what time of year it is, this looks amazing! Such a unique dish and I can't wait to make it!

A bunch of healthy veggies tossed with pasta and a tasty ginger scallion sauce! 

Green Onion and Ginger Noodles - Preventing Culinary Amnesia

What a gorgeous plate of homemade gnocchi, tomatoes and squash!  Sounds like a dream dinner to me!

Ricotta Gnocchi with Heirloom Tomatoes, Squash & Tomato Confit - The Spamwise Chronicles


A unique blend of flavors to create a gorgeous and tasty plate!


What a fantastic mix of homemade noodles, caramelized onion and apple with brats and sauerkraut!  My kind of dinner!

Grilled Brats with Sauerkraut and Apples on Egg Noodles - Honey from Rock

Rotini is one of my favorite pastas! I love how it holds all the ooey gooey sauce in it!


An awesome creamy sauce - without the cream! I love it!

Spaghetti Carbonara - Searching for Spice

A gorgeous pasta salad with some sweet and heat!


Dinner whipped up on the fly turned out great!!  Love the sundried tomatoes!

Sundried Tomato & Chicken Pasta


What an awesome frugal, one pot meal just thrown together with items in the pantry!  Those always turn out to be the best!

Chili Macaroni - Under the Big Oak Tree

Noodles in an scrumptious thai curry sauce?  Cold or hot, that would totally hit the spot!

Noodles in Thai Curry Sauce - Eats Well with Others


A mouthwatering plate filled with pasta, vegetables and pesto!  Somebody hand me the fork!

Aubergines and Pesto Pasta - Erbe in Cucina


My own version of another recipe.  Minestrone soup flavored with ham. Yes, even in the summer!

Tuscan Minestrone Soup - Debbi Does Dinner Healthy

Nothing like curling up with a good book and a nice bowl of this tasty orzo salad!

Herby Whole Wheat Orzo Salad w/Feta - Kahakai Kitchen


Who needs chicken when you have steak!  How incredible is this!

Grilled Steak Alfredo - For Such a Time as This

Next weeks Presto Pasta Nights host is Anu from Truth Personified. Send your entries to harinimenonnair (at) gmail (dot) com and cc ruth (at) 4everykitchen (dot) com by Thursday, July 28.  Check back for the roundup July 29.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tomato Zucchini Bisque

I love a good veggie soup.  I meant to get a picture of all the roasted veggies, they looked so pretty! 

They tasted great as a soup and I loved how low calorie it was!  Tasty and guilt free! 

Tomato Zucchini Bisque

3 zucchini (large, chopped into 1/2 in. chunks or sliced
2 onions, cut into 1/8ths
2 carrots, sliced
3 stalks of celery
1 bulb of garlic, top sliced off to expose cloves
2 peppers, quartered, I used red peppers
1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes (or more, I just used what I had left)
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 quart of chicken broth (I think I added a bit more at the end as it was too thick)
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 half and half
1/2 cup basil, a large handful
salt and pepper

Simmer diced tomatoes, carrots and celery in broth.  Spray the other veggies with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper, bake at 375 for 30 - 45 minutes or until tender and slightly caramelized on the bottom, stir occasionally. 

Combine vegetables and broth, add wine and basil.  Return to a boil over medium heat while stirring, reduce to a simmer and simmer for a couple of minutes.  Remove from heat and puree with immersion blender or food processor.  Add whipping cream.  Reheat to warm cream but do not boil.  Add chicken broth if it is too thick.  Taste and add salt and pepper as desired. 

Total calories = 805
8 cups = 100 calories per cup

One Year Ago...

Fruit with Pina Colada Dip

This is linked with:

Full Plate Thursday at Miz Helen's Country Cottage
Tasty Traditions at Coupon Cookin'
Cooking Thursday at Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Things I Love Thursday at The Diaper Diaries
It's a Keeper Thursday at It's a Keeper
Recipe Swap at Prairie Story
Made it on Monday at Lark's Country Heart
Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum
Friday Favorites at Simply Sweet Home
Recipe Swap at The Grocery Cart Challenge
I'm Lovin' It at Tidy Mom
Foodie Friday at Little Brick Ranch
Fresh Food Friday at LaBella Vita

Calories calculated from Some numbers are approximate and rounded.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Corn Tortilla Mexican Lasagna

Remember me?  The flour tortilla lover?  It's all gluten free now so when I used corn tortillas for this soup and I had a bunch left over.  So I had to look for the perfect recipe for corn tortillas.

I think I found it.

This was a fantastic lasagna that we all love.  I'm starting to get used to these corn tortillas. Shhh!! Don't tell the flour tortillas!


Corn Tortilla Mexican Lasagna Recipe
Adapted from Flour Dusted

1 1/2 lb. chicken, boneless breasts
1 large onion, diced
2 peppers, diced (I used one red and one green)
1 1/2 tbsp. garlic, minced
1 can red beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 tbsp. fajita seasoning
1/2 tsp. chipotle seasoning
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes
12 corn tortillas
Colby jack cheese, shredded (5 oz)

Combine the chicken, peppers, onions, garlic, brother and all the seasonings in a pan. Simmer for 40 minutes or so stirring occasionally.  Remove the chicken pieces and shred them with two forks.  Return the chicken to the saucepan and simmer for another 15 minutes.  Ladle about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid over the beans and mash them.  Stir the mashed beans into the shredded chicken mixture.  Stir in the diced tomatoes. 

Spread a small portion of the chicken mixture in the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan.  Layer 6 tortillas on top. Spread 1/2 the chicken mixture on top of the tortillas, layer another 6 tortillas. Spread out the remaining chicken mixture.  (I might have done 3 layers with 4 tortillas per layer, I can't remember). Top with shredded cheese.  Bake at 375 for about 30 - 35 minutes.

Total calories = 2850 calories
8 servings = 356 calories per serving

One Year Ago...

Apple Coleslaw

This is linked with:

No Whine Wednesday at Food on the Table
Let's Do Brunch at My Sweet and Savory
Works for me Wednesday at We are THAT Family
Real Food Wednesdays at Kelly the Kitchen Kop
What's on your Plate? at Good Cheap Eats
What's on the Menu Wednesdays at Dining with Debbie
Made it on Monday at Lark's Country Heart
My Best Recipes at This Chick Cooks
The Mommy Club at Crystal & Co.

Calories calculated from Some numbers are approximate and rounded.

Monday, July 18, 2011


It's the second month in a row for me joining The Secret Recipe Club.  It's fun, Amanda emails you your secret blogger and you get to choose anything to make of theirs.  Everyone posts the recipe on the same day and they all will be linked at the bottom of this post.  Sounds like fun, huh?  Contact Amanda if you want to be a part of it next month! 

What make this even MORE fun, is this is the week that I am hosting Presto Pasta Nights!!  So I want all of you to email me with your pasta recipes and I will include them in a round up on Friday on my blog.  Just put a link in your post to me and to Presto Pasta Nights. There is a new host every week, check out Ruth's site for all the juicy details.   

So my secret recipe blog is Mele Cotte.  Chris has many amazing recipes, I had a hard time choosing.  I finally decided on this Tuscan Minestrone Soup as it had pasta in it. (Presto Pasta Nights, remember?) 

I had every intention of following her recipe closely but a turn of events changed the soup considerably. It was completely inspired from the recipe, I have the soup stains on the hard copy to prove it! 

I've been trying to clean out the freezer and I had 2 small ham bones in there so I decided to throw them in the crock pot for the day.  By the end of the day, I had a delicious ham broth and a bunch of ham chunks to add to the soup. 

Then I realized my tomatoes were furry, so we opted for the canned.  I didn't have as much zucchini as I thought so I added a red pepper and some celery.  The celery was on it's last leg too so it needed to be used. I also like my soup thick so I used less liquid and I cooked the pasta right in the soup rather than precooking it.  Add as much water or ham broth that you want depending on your taste. 

Moral of the story, I ended up with a delicious soup that only sorta resembled the original but was completely inspired from Chris's original.  She has a Herbed Chicken Salad and a Meatloaf with Red Pepper Sauce that I am waiting to make soon!

Tuscan Minestrone Soup
Adapted from Mele Cotte

1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 - 3 carrots, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large zucchini, cut into coins cut in half
1 small bunch spinach, shredded and chopped
1 can diced tomatoes (or 2 fresh tomatoes)
2 cans white beans, rinsed and drained
4 tbsp. tomato paste
Salt and pepper
1 cup pasta, uncooked
4 - 6 cups water or ham broth (I think that I used about 4 cups)
1 ham hock (unless you're vegetarian, then you probably wouldn't want to use this.)

Saute the onion in cooking spray until soft, for about 3 - 4 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute.  Add all the remaining veggies.  Season with salt and pepper and stir.  Cover and cook for about 20 minutes, until the veggies are softened.  Add ham broth and ham chunks if using.  Stir in the tomato paste and cover and simmer the soup on low for about 45 minutes. Heat to boiling, add pasta and beans and cook until pasta is done.  Serve. 
**I like thick soup so I added about 4 cups of liquid but if you want it thinner, just add more broth.

**You can add pretty much any veggies. You can make this vegetarian by eliminating the ham broth and ham, you might need to add more salt.

This is linked with:
$5 Dinner Challenge at $5 Dinners