Minestrone Soup

Minestrone Soup – Slow Cooker Version

Did you know that January is National Soup Month?

A regular staple of winter, soup can warm the body and soul and this Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup recipe will do just that.  I cannot tell you how many chilly Texas days have been warmed with a hot bowl of delicious soup. If you are thinking that you don’t have time to make homemade Minestrone Soup, I assure you that you do with this recipe!

First Things First…Your Equipment

First thing you’ll need is a slow cooker. This is an absolutely necessary piece of equipment if you desire to cook more and save time. The recipe is designed to throw the ingredients in the pot, turn it on, and wait for the aroma to reel you in! Next, you’ll need to figure out what vegetables you want.

Ingredients for Minestrone Soup
Ooohh The Veggies…

Celery, carrots, and green beans are just a few of the yummy vegetables included in this Minestrone Soup. Feel free to get a bit creative and try different combinations. For me, I added fresh kale and parsley straight out of my garden. The spices and fresh herbs are key additions too that will bring this soup to life.




It is so healthy, easy to make, and just plain delightful. The soup is chocked full of nutrients and will satisfy the masses for dinner AND lunch (and breakfast if you wanted it to!)! To make this Minestrone Soup recipe, visit The Little Spice Jar. If you don’t have the time to make healthy meals, contact us to try our prepared meal delivery service.



Backyard garden

Gardening with Chef Sandra: Starting A Garden – Selecting Your Plants

Many may feel like starting a garden in these challenging times may be difficult. We are here to tell you that it is not!  There are many resources that you can access to get your own garden started.  Whether in containers, above ground, in the ground, or planted in whatever you can find around the house, starting a garden does not have to be a tough task.
Let’s begin with ordering a few plants to start with.  You can certainly start with seeds. However, it is important to identify your zone so you can ensure that you are starting the right things at the right time of the season.  For myself, I just ordered some things curbside from Calloways Nursery.

Where to Order Plants

I receive a local Garden Center newsletter  “Calloway’s Nursery” and recently discovered they offer curbside service. I was ecstatic! Gardening is more than just a hobby to me. It is a way of life, one that I have grown up learning and knowing.  One of the locations I used to frequent in my area closed, so I was glad to see this being offered, especially now. What a great discovery!  I wanted to add a few more things to my garden and because of the timing to plant here, I wanted to find a few starter plants.  All of the plants I purchased are in 4 inch pots which are perfect for planting.  You can also order planting soil, fertilizers, pots, etc from them so getting everything you need for your garden is not a problem.  If you are not near a Calloways Nursery, check into your local nurseries and home improvement stores as they may offer the same convenient services.

Selecting Your Plants

First thing in the cart was a Basic Pepper Trio (includes 2 bell pepper plants and 1 hot pepper plant).  I also purchased their Herb de Provence Kit that includes a 5 pack of herbs that included lavender, marjoram, thyme, oregano and rosemary.  ALL of these items make an appearance in my cooking and they are so easy to grow! And as if I don’t already have enough tomatoes growing, I also purchased the Tomato Starter Trio which includes a large tomato plant, a plum variety, and a cherry tomato.  I could not resist.  There is nothing like a fresh home grown tomato.  We ate tons of them growing up in our family garden.
Once I get my plants, I will show you how to plant bell peppers in a container. In preparation for this, you need to get the right sized pot to plant your bell pepper plants. So what size pot should you get?

Preparing to Plant Bell Peppers

Bell peppers need a well-draining pot that is at least 10 to 12 inches deep and 10 to 12 inches across. The material of the pot is not as important as its size. You want something that is large enough to accommodate the maturing pepper plant.  It should also be deep enough to encourage proper root development.  You can find containers around the house or feel free to add it to your cart when purchasing your plants.
Check out my recent video about seeds and get a peek at my backyard garden!

Where to Find Seeds

To find out where to get seeds, check out the links in a previous post about Thai Basil.

Fresh from the Gardens Response Regarding the Coronavirus

As the Owner & Executive Chef of Fresh from the Gardens, I would like to address our company’s policies and procedures in light of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Please know that we do not buy into any level of fear or hysteria tactics. However, we do think it’s important to address the concern around the Coronavirus, especially in relation to food, since we know food has a lot to do with your overall health and wellness.

Our company has always operated under the U.S. Food Handler regulations and will continue to do so. We take those regulations seriously and we want you to know that we will be adding extra precautions not only with our food, but how we operate our business and interact with the public as we complete our services.

  1. We will complete our services following the CDC guidelines and instructions.
  2. If we have something scheduled at your home or another venue, and you are feeling sick, ill or concerned about your health, please notify us. We would rather reschedule your event than possibly infect anyone else. Please note that if you’ve already paid your deposit, it is non-refundable but can go toward a future service or catering when you are ready for that. We will be happy to work with you to get this on the calendar for a future date, and there will be no rescheduling fees and/or penalties.
  3. In our kitchen, all fresh produce is thoroughly washed before preparing.   Our meal delivery drivers travel with hand sanitizers and wash their hands in our kitchen before picking up your delivery.  Our drivers also carry sanitizing wipes and clean their steering wheels and knobs on a regular basis.
  4. If you have something scheduled at your home for a personal chef service, and you are feeling sick, ill or concerned about your health, and you still want to continue with your service, give us a call, and we can discuss other options regarding your meal service.
  5. As we are out shopping for ingredients and other details for your event, we always carry hand sanitizer in our vehicles, and we will sanitize our hands before entering a grocery store and will sanitize our hands when we return back to the vehicle. Also, while we are out shopping we will follow the CDC guidelines and regulations while interacting with the public.

We look forward to continue serving you and want you to know that we are committed to staying informed and serving you safely.

We hope that our service can help provide some nourishment and comfort during a time where you might be spending more time at home and help you avoid the big crowds at restaurants and grocery stores.

We also recommend visiting these public health websites for regularly updated news and information on coronavirus:

Please know that we are here to answer any of your questions and make sure you are comfortable with the service we are providing!


Chef Sandra Jones


Maple and Orange Hasselback Butternut Squash

  • 1 medium to large butternut squash
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp Dijon or  whole grain mustard
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped marjoram
  • Sprinkle of salt and pepper


  • Preheat your oven to 425°F

  • Adjust the oven rack to the top third position.
  • Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and pulp and discard.

  • Remove the tough outer skin as well as the thin whitish layer beneath it.  Try using a vegetable peeler to complete this task. Once done, the orange flesh should be completely exposed.

  • On the roasting pan, place both squash halves cut side down.

  • Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes.

  • While the squash is in the oven, combine the maple syrup, orange juice, olive oil, Dijon mustard, chopped herbs, salt and pepper in a small bowl and mix well with a small whisk until completely combined.
  • Remove from the oven and let the squash cool until you can safely handle it with your bare hands.  This roughly takes about 5-10 minutes.

  • Move one squash half to a cutting board and place the handle of a wooden spoon (or other wooden utensil) on either side of the squash. The wooden tools will serve as guards to prevent the blade from going all the way as you slice through the squash.

  • Grab a sharp knife and carefully cut very thin slits in the squash, starting at the narrow end. DO NOT cut all the way through the squash. Return the sliced squash to the baking sheet and repeat with the second half.

  • Coat the squash halves with about 1/3 of the syrup mixture by brushing the mixture over the squash halves, paying special attention to getting the mixture down in between the slits.

  • Add 1/4 cup of water to the bottom of the pan and return to oven for 15 minutes.

  • While in the oven, constantly check on the squash to ensure that the syrup at the bottom of the pan doesn’t burn.  Remember, if needed, you can always add a small amounts of water, a few tablespoons at a time. Make sure not to add too much water.

  • After 15 minutes, remove the squash from the oven and brush with more of the syrup mixture.  Also, brush with some of the liquid at the bottom of the pan (pan juice) to boost this dish’s flavor and color.

  • Add another 1/4 cup water to bottom of the pan and return to the oven for another 15 minutes.

  • Remove the squash from the oven and brush with some of the pan juices.

  • If you would like to add the chopped pecans, now is the time.  Add them to the remaining syrup glaze and stir to combine. Spoon the pecan syrup glaze mixture over the top of the squash, dividing it equally between both halves.

  • Add another 1/4 cup water to bottom of the roasting pan and return it to the oven for the last 5 minutes, or until the squash is golden and tender.

  • Remove from oven; spoon some of the pan juices over the squash, sprinkle with a little bit of fresh herbs and a pinch of salt.

  • Move your masterpiece carefully over to a serving plate and ENJOY.


This dish is sure to wow your family and friends so don’t be surprised when they are taking pictures and coming back for seconds !  This recipe was greatly inspired by The Healthy Foodie’s Honey Glazed Hasselback Butternut Squash.

Maple and Orange Hasselback Butternut Squash