Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Beef Barley Soup

Beef Barley Soup is one of our favorites. I like to make a big (Crock-pot) of it on a nice, chilly day. If I serve this with sandwiches, I can get 3 nights' dinners from the one pot. If I skip the sandwiches and serve with biscuits, then we get 2 nights' from the one pot.

This soup freezes nicely, too. One of these days, I'm going to make a double batch of this soup and freeze in 4-6 portions. Combined with other soups I plan to serve this fall/winter, I should only have to make this particular soup once (maybe twice) during this soup season.

Here's the recipe....

Beef Barley Soup


  • 1 lb. London Broil, diced into small pieces
  • splash of Olive Oil (enough to coat bottom of skillet
  • 5 - 6 cans (14 oz each) beef broth
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • heaping Tbs. minced garlic
  • 1 bay leaf (2 if they are small)
  • 1 1/2 cups mixed frozen veggies(peas, carrots, corn, lima beans, green beans)
  • 14 1/2 oz. can diced or stewed tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 1/2 cups diced potatoes
  • 2/3 cup barley*


  • In a skillet, brown meat in hot oil. Drain.
  • Add all ingredients to slow cooker.
  • Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.

* Do not use quick-cooking barley, it's not meant for the long hours of cooking in the slow cooker.

I originally found this recipe in an email from Better Homes and Gardens. I adapted it to our tastes (i.e. I use more potatoes and veggies than the original recipe calls for, plus add more broth to accommodate the extra veggies).

For more great soup recipes, be sure to check out Life As Mom's Ultimate Recipe Swap. This week's theme is Soup! MMmmm! MMmmm! Good!
I am also sharing this recipe with the October Fest Carnival of Super Foods hosted by Katie at Kitchen Stewardship. The theme on October 8th will be recipes that call for broth/stock. Be sure to check out her blog for more great recipes!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fool Proof Fruit Dip

I suppose this is a bit late to be posting a fruit dip recipe, since summer has gone away and has taken the good prices on fruit along with it. But for those of us that crave fruit during the off season and occasionally splurge on an over-priced, off-season melon, then this easy fruit dip recipe will come in handy.

But for readers that are really good at not giving in to cravings and sticking to your budgets, I'll repost this recipe next spring or summer!

This fruit dip is so easy and really kid friendly. I serve this with a fruit salad when they visit, instead of a cake or pie for dessert. It's always a hit!

Easy, Kid Friendly, 2 Ingedient, Fool Proof Fruit Dip

Tub of Cool Whip
6-8 oz, strawberry yogurt

Mix together the Cool Whip and the yogurt, chill.

See? So simple, right??? And soooo yummy! You could even make it diet friendly using Lite or Fat Free Cool Whip and fat free yogurt. Also, I'm sure that any flavor yogurt would work! I've always used strawberry yogurt. The kind with the fruit pieces in it. Adds a "homemade" look to the dip with the little bits of strawberry mixed through.

I like to use my clear glass, chip and dip bowl when I serve fruit salad with this dip for a party. When it's an afternoon snack with my nieces, I usually give each of them a small bowl of the dip and let them choose what fruit they want to eat. The individual bowls, allows for double dipping!

I'll be sharing this recipe at the following blog carnivals:

Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
Tuesdays at the Table
Tasty Tuesday

Be sure to check them out for more great recipes!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Crock Pot Ravioli ~ Super Easy Meal

One of my favorite crock pot meals during my pregnancy (and even now, after the baby's been born) was Crock Pot Ravioli. I found the recipe posted by the Aldi Queen.

At first, I was leery about trying it. I thought for sure that the ravioli would turn to mush after cooking in the crock pot, but after my friend Lisa told me that she tried it and liked it, I figured I'd give it a try. We really liked it! It's so easy and really tasty!

The last time I made it, my mom came over while it was cooking in the crock pot. She thought I was making a homemade lasagna, she said it smelled that good!

Here's how I'll be making it this week:

Crock Pot Ravioli


1 (25 ounce) bag cheese ravioli
3-4 cups pasta sauce
1 cup water
1-2 handfuls of shredded mozzarella cheese

Pour about half of the pasta sauce in the bottom of slow cooker. Add frozen ravioli. Pour additional pasta sauce, and water over ravioli. Sprinkle cheese on top. Turn slow cooker on low and cook for four to five hours.

I like to serve this with either Texas Toast of garlic bread sticks.

**This makes enough for my husband and I to have hearty portions, my husband usually has seconds, plus a pretty good lunch portion for him to have later in the week.**

I am sharing this recipe at the blog carnival Crock Pot Wednesday, hosted by Dining with Debbie. Be sure to check over there for more great crock pot recipes!

Doctoring Store Bought Pasta Sauce = No Wasted Veggies

I've always wanted to try to make a homemade spaghetti sauce, but for some reason, it intimidates me. Currently, I use either jarred sauce or canned. I usually add more spices or veggies to the store bought stuff. You know, to try to make it a bit more "homemade".

If making meat sauce, I brown the ground beef with some onion and peppers.After draining the grease, I pour in the jar or can of sauce, add some garlic, crushed red pepper, and Italian seasoning and then let simmer, covered, for about an hour.

The last time I made sauce, I had a lot of vegetables to save from being wasted. I skipped the meat this time and just made a big batch of my doctored up sauce with a couple of extra additions this time.

I diced peppers, onions, celery, carrots and zucchini and sauteed them in some olive oil with about a tablespoon of garlic. I had a lot of vegetables, so when they were starting to get tender, I transfered them to my large, oval crock pot. I added 4 large cans of sauce, some diced tomatoes, some of the spices I normally add to my sauce. (I don't really measure anything, I just add stuff until it looks "right".) I let that cook for about 6 hours on low.

The whole combination filled my crock pot almost to the top! I used some of the sauce that night with meatballs and pasta and I froze 4 containers full for future use. About 4 cups each!

I can thaw it and use it as it is, for a veggie sauce. Or I can add some of my pre-cooked hamburger base to it for a nice, hearty, meat sauce.

Once this is used up, I will work on making a homemade sauce. I told my husband not to buy jarred or canned sauce anymore, unless the sale is too good to pass up! Normally, we pay $1-$2 per jar. But now, unless it's under a buck, we'll pass. I really want to make homemade. I'll keep y'all posted when/if that happens!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

~ Our Favorite Baked Beans ~ Crock Pot Recipe

Baked beans have been one of my favorite foods since I was a little kid. I remember mom "doctoring" up a can of Campbell's Pork and Beans with some ketchup and mustard before popping into the microwave.

I also remember my Gram making really thick and sweet baked beans. They were always a huge hit at family gatherings. I requested that she make them so many times, she told me how to make "her" baked beans.

Since then, I've been the person assigned to make the baked beans for our family functions. I've tried so many variations over the years and the recipe I am about to post seems to be the favorite at the moment. It's a variation of this recipe.

As with most foods I cook, I make changes to accommodate our likes and dislikes.

Here's how I make baked beans:

Our Favorite Baked Beans


1 (28 oz.) can baked beans, undrained2
(15 oz.) cans butter beans, drained
2 (15 oz.) cans kidney beans, drained
1 1/4 c. brown sugar
1 cup onion, finely diced
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup ketchup and mustard combined (heavier on the ketchup)
1/4 - 1/2 c. bacon crumbles or crisp cooked bacon, crumbled


Combine all ingredients in crock pot and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours.

I usually make these beans once a month. I divide them into three portions and freeze. I usually freeze them in the quart-sized conainers that Won Ton Soup comes in from Chinese take-out. But they take up too much space in my small chest freezer.

The last time I made them, I doubled the recipe, divided into 6 portions and froze flat in gallon-sized Ziplock freezer bags. They take up such little space in the freezer now!

I will be using this recipe to participate in the following carnivals this week:
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday
Tuesdays at the Table
Tasty Tuesday
Crock Pot Wednesday

And the October Fest Carnival of Super Foods hosted by Katie at Kitchen Stewardship on October 1st.

Check them out for more great recipes!!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Corn Bread Casserole

My friend Lisa, at Extraordinary Life, asked me to post this recipe. It's not my recipe, but a definite favorite of my family and hers, too!

The first time I had Corn Bread Casserole (found out later that the official name of this is Spoon Bread Casserole) when my friend Barb served at dinner one night. It was love at first bite! I loved it so much, that she wrote down the recipe for me; telling me that she got the recipe from her mother-in-law.* I went home and made it that same week!

Actually, now that I think of it, I didn't make it at my home. I was visiting at Lisa's (when she was still local) house a few days after my first taste and told her about the recipe (the recipe card was still in my purse) and we made it for dinner that night at her house!

Since then, we've both made this casserole and passed on the recipe to guests several times! Everyone that tries it loves it!

Corn Bread Casserole


1 pkg. "Jiffy" Corn Muffin Mix
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 can (8 oz) cream corn
1 can (8 oz) whole corn, drained
1cup sour cream
2 eggs


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Mix all ingredients well. Pour into casserole or baking dish*.
Bake about 35-40 minutes, or until center is firm.

*I like to make this in a disposable foil pan. I usually double the recipe. And since it's a family favorite, I like to take it to family picnics and barbecues. I've even made it a few times as my contribution to Easter Dinner. Served with my mom's ham, dad's coleslaw and my baked beans....MMmmmm!

I'd also like to point out that about a year of making this recipe that I thought to be an original of my friend's mother-in-law, I found out that it's a recipe from the actual "Jiffy" company! So, it's not mine, not Lisa's, not Barb's and not Mrs. P's original recipe, but we keep making and serving it and passing the recipe along to anyone that asks!


Monday, September 14, 2009

Crock Pot Kielbasa Soup

I am really starting to look forward to soup season. That's funny coming from me, since up until about 6 years ago, I hated soup. I was not a fan at all. But over the past 6 or so years, I've really been enjoying soup a lot!

Kielbasa Soup is one of our favorites and it's excellent paired with Corn Bread Casserole.

Here's the recipe for the soup:

Kielbasa Soup

58 oz. fat-free chicken broth (four 14.5 oz cans)
16 oz. reduced-fat kielbasa, cut in half lengthwise and then slice
15 oz. canned pinto beans, rinsed and drained
15 oz. canned black beans, rinsed and drained
4 medium carrots, chopped
3 medium celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp. thyme
14.5 oz canned diced tomatoes, with juice


Mix all ingredients, except tomatoes*, in crock pot. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for at least 6 hours or until beans are tender.

Stir in tomatoes*; cover and cook on high-heat setting until heated through, about 15 minutes more.

8 servings (heaping cup)

* I add the tomatoes at the beginning when all of the other ingredients are added to the crock pot.

I found this recipe when I was a member of Weight Watchers online.

3 points (be careful though, I sometimes use regular kielbasa and the points value jumped to 7.)

For more great recipes, go to Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, or Tasty Tuesday, or Tuesdays at the Table.

And for more tasty crock pot recipes, go to Crock Pot Wednesday, hosted by Dining with Debbie.

Also, be sure to check out the October Fest Carnival of Super Foods hosted by Katie at Kitchen Stewardship. October 1st will be all about beans!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Crock Pot Beef Stew

My husband works outside, which means he suffers through the heat in the summer time or is chilled to the bone in the winter. Because of this, I try to make meals that will be a comfort to him.

I don't concern myself too much about our summer meals. I worry more about keeping the house cool and comfortable for when he gets home. The air conditioner is on most days, so eating soup or stew in the summer is okay.

But there's nothing like a nice, warm bowl of beef stew after a really chilly day at work.

Here's an easy recipe that I like to use:

Crock Pot Beef Stew


1 pound, beef cubes
potatoes, cubed
onions, chopped
carrots, chopped
celery, chopped
1 - 2 cans condensed tomato soup

Add all ingredients to crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Note: I never use the same amount of vegetables. It varies each time I make it, according to what I have in my veggie bin. If I'm running low on potatoes, I add more carrots. If I'm out of celery, I skip it. It's really a fool-proof recipe.
Also, the only other liquid I add to the stew, is just a bit that I add to the can to get as much of the soup out of the can as possible. I use one or two cans of soup depending on how much of the veggies I use.

~ Corn Dog Casserole ~

Hot dogs and beans is a comfort food meal in our house. It's such a hearty and simple meal. So simple, that when I worked, we had this just about once a week.

Then, I simply emptied a can of Bush's Beans into a microwave safe bowl and heated them while I boiled some hot dogs.

Now that I am home most days, I've tried to fancy-up some of our old stand-by meals.

I originally got the idea for this recipe in one of those small cooking magazines at the check out register at the grocery store. I used to be a sucker for those things! But, I've been really good at controlling myself when it comes to impulse purchases.

I've made several changes to the original recipe to make it to our liking. But it's really fool-proof and can be easily changed according to likes and dislikes or according to what ingredients you have on hand.

~ Corn Dog Casserole ~


6 cups of our favorite baked beans

1 (16 oz) pkg. cocktail sized hot dogs**

several squirts of ketchup and mustard (approx. 1/4 cup total)

1/4 cup finely chopped onion (optional)

1 box of Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix (prepared as directed on package) Directions:


1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
In large saucepan, combine beans, ketchup, mustard, hot dogs and onion; mix well.
Cook over medium-high heat until bubbly, stirring frequently.
Pour into ungreased 2-quart casserole.

2. Prepare corn muffin mix as directed on packing.

Spread batter evenly on top of hot bean mixture.

3. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until topping is golden brown.

makes 6 servings.

***I usually use regular hot dogs since they are usually cheaper than the cocktail sized hot dogs.
I cut them into 1 1/2 inch pieces.

We really enjoy this meal. It's really a perfect meal for us, since we usually have the ingredients on hand. Not always the case with a traditional hot dog meal. We don't always have rolls and would often make an extra trip to the grocery store, which would often result in purchasing additional items that weren't "on the list". The corn bread topping is a wonderful hot dog bun alternative!