Sunday, June 9, 2019

Imperfect Produce Expands Offerings to Include More Non-Produce Grocery Items...Featuring Slow Cooker Summer Harvest Minestrone with Chicken Sausage #imperfectproduce #stopfoodwaste #seasonalproduce #soupyearround #slowcooker

I love using the Imperfect Produce home delivery service to save money -- up to 30% -- each month! Did you know that an estimated 40% of all food produced in this country goes uneaten? That figure was shocking to me. If you're not familiar with Imperfect Produce, they were founded to find a home for the 20 billion(!!) pounds of wasted produce on U.S. farms annually. They achieve this by providing customized boxes of produce -- including organic -- that would otherwise be discarded. Each box of seasonal fruit and vegetables is customized for our personal likes and delivered right to our front door. Although the items inside are considered imperfect, they're always fresh and cook up delicious! 

Imperfect Produce has recently expanded its available line of non-produce grocery items to include staples like grains, nuts, oil, plenty of healthy pantry and snack items! Being able to save money on the food items I use in my kitchen every day is a huge help on my monthly grocery bill. Wonder why these items are being offered by Imperfect Produce? There are four common reasons why produce and grocery items are considered "imperfect":
  • Cosmetic appearance. Items that are too small, are oddly shaped, have damaged packaging, etc.
  • Surplus inventory on hand. Rather than throwing this excess product away, Imperfect Produce sells them at a reduced cost to its customers.
  • Updated/changed packaging. Imperfect Produce sells the items with their old packaging instead of the manufacturer discarding them.
  • Items nearing their "best use by" date. These items are still fresh, but retailers may opt to remove them from the shelves as newer stock arrives.
My latest Imperfect Produce delivery included grocery staples in addition to produce. I received brand name canned tomatoes and white beans for a fraction of their original cost...along with high-fiber bread, dry pasta, and almond crackers. I decided to use the contents of my Imperfect Produce box as the base of a delicious Summer soup recipe!
My Slow Cooker Summer Harvest Minestrone with Chicken Sausage is healthy, easy to assemble, and very filling. It features produce and grocery pantry items from my Imperfect Produce box...along with other items already on hand in my kitchen. I know that soup is typically associated with cool weather cooking. However, I make soup year-round using fresh seasonal produce. Wait until you see how easy this complete meal-in-a-bowl is to assemble and cook. Once everything is in the slow cooker, it does all of the work for you!

Slow Cooker Summer Harvest Minestrone with Chicken Sausage
a Weekend Gourmet Original Inspired by Traditional Minestrone
WW Freestyle SmartPoints:
4 SP for 2 cups soup + 1 tbs. grated parmesan

Ingredients (makes 6 servings):
  • 3/4 cup uncooked elbow noodles (I used Anna Italian pasta)
  • 19 ounce can white cannellini beans (I used Centro)
  • 15 ounce can crushed tomatoes (I used Cento)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and sliced into rounds
  • 1/2 large zucchini, cut into half moon slices
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1.5 cups fresh broccoli florets
  • 2 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 14 ounce can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano 
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning blend
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 links sweet Italian chicken sausage (I used al fresco)
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for serving
Step 1: Slice the sausage into bite-size rounds. Spray the slow cooker insert with non-stick spray and brown the sausage on both sides. [NOTE: If your slow cooker doesn't include a browning feature, complete this step in a non-stick pan over med-high heat, and add the cooked sausage to the slow cooker.]
Step 2: Turn the slow cooker to the LOW setting. Add the sliced carrot, chopped onion, and garlic. Stir to combine with the browned sausage. Add the white beans, crushed tomatoes, and diced tomatoes -- liquid and all! Add the Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Give everything a stir to combine. Finally, add the chicken broth. Stir one last time, cover, and cook on LOW for 4-5 hours.
Step 3: After 4-5 hours on LOW, remove the slow cooker's lid. Add the sliced zucchini, broccoli florets, and elbow noodles. Give the soup a good stir to combine all the ingredients, cover, and cook on the slow cooker's HIGH setting for 20 minutes. This cooks the pasta to perfect al dente.
Step 4: Ladle the finished soup into deep soup bowls. Top each bowl of soup with a generous sprinkle of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese just before serving.
Wow is this hearty soup good! There's plenty of healthy Summer veggies, protein-and-fiber rich white beans, two kinds of tomatoes, and lean chicken sausage...all in a tasty broth. This healthy minestrone has everything you need for a complete dinner in one bowl. Leftovers store well in the fridge for enjoying for lunch the next day -- and they also freeze well for up to a month.

Curious to give Imperfect Produce a try for yourself to help reduce food waste and save money on your monthly grocery bill? Imperfect Produce's delivery service is available at cities across the country.
The Imperfect Produce signup process is quick and simple. Once you're signed up, you're ready to customize your first scheduled delivery. Once you try it, I know you'll love Imperfect Produce as much as I do!

Disclosure: I was already and Imperfect Produce member, but the company provided me with a credit to purchase the box of produce and pantry grocery items featured in this article. All opinions stated are solely my own.

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