Trust Your Gut

Jan Wiggers, a member of the Southwestern Indiana Master Gardener Association and chair of the organization’s cookbook “Harvest: 30 Years of Growing and Cooking,” has a simple philosophy when it comes to soup: it’s soup; it’s hard to mess up. She does, however, believe in using homemade stock for a richer tasting dish.

“Any time you can use homemade stock and fresh herbs, you just have a little elevation of your taste,” she says.

In “Harvest,” Wiggers contributed her recipe for Italian wedding soup, which she describes as being a quick and easy dish that doesn’t need to cook all day. For the batch pictured here, she used the last of her garden’s peppers and leftover homemade turkey stock from Thanksgiving. Though Wiggers usually forgoes homemade meatballs in favor of premade appetizer-size meatballs, she browns them before adding them to the soup to add more flavor. Making small adjustments like those as you go is one of the keys to good home cooking for Wiggers. Taste as you go and trust your gut.

“One of my goals in the cookbook was to empower home cooks to be a little braver and empower them in using more produce, trying different things with their produce, using produce they haven’t used before,” she says.

 Italian Wedding Soup

1 pound small Italian-style meatballs
1/2 small onion
2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock
1 diced carrot
1 diced bell pepper
1 cup sliced mushrooms
3 cups chopped spinach
1/4 cup fresh basil or 2 tablespoons dried Italian herbs
1/4 cup mini pasta

Brown meatballs. Use homemade or frozen appetizer size. Dice and sauté onion. In a slow cooker, combine stock, meatballs, onion, carrot, bell pepper, and mushrooms. Cook on high 1 hour, then lower temperature to simmer. Add spinach and basil or dried Italian herbs. Cook 30 minutes. Add mini pasta during the last 15 minutes.

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