Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Carrot & Sweet Potato Soup

For years, I only bought baby carrots from the grocery store.  I like them better for snacking than whole carrots.  Recently, I started buying whole carrots for cooking.  I still buy baby carrots for snacks, but if I know I'm planning to make soup or stew, I'll buy the whole carrots. 

Now that I'm hooked on making my own veggie broth from scraps and peels, the whole carrots really come in handy!  For some crazy reason, I thought it would be a good idea to buy a 5lb bag of carrots! 

When I wasn't using them as quick as I thought I would, I started to get worried that they would go bad and I'd have to throw them away, so I searched for recipes for carrots.  I found a few recipes for carrot soup and decided to attempt to create my own recipe in my Crock-Pot. 

Carrot & Sweet Potato Soup

  • 2 lbs. carrots, peeled & sliced into coins
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled & cut into chunks
  • 2 onions, sliced thin
  • 2 cans (14.5 oz. each) chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. ground thyme
  • dash of cloves
  • Sour cream (optional)
Add all ingredients to Crock-Pot, cover and cook on low until vegetables are tender. 
Blend with stick blender to desired texture.  Top with sour cream and serve. 

I served the soup along with grilled cheese sandwiches for a Lenten Friday (meatless) meal.  Both of us agreed that the soup would have been better with some meat (maybe ham) added.  Or if left as a meatless soup, it would make a delicious first course to a nice steak dinner. 

I'll be sharing this recipe with the following carnivals:

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lovin' My Crock-Pot

It's been a bit slow in the kitchen this past week as far as recipes go. 

I've gotten some use out of my Crock-Pot.  Have I mentioned how much I love that thing?! 

I cooked up my first batch of dried beans!  I am so proud of myself!  Anyone that knows me, knows how much I love beans!  The fact that I am such a bean lover and only ever prepared them by using canned beans is amazing to me. 

Wanting to attempt cooking dried beans, I bought a 2 lb. bag of pinto beans from Aldi.  Two years ago.  I bought them, then felt intimidated by them.  So, I ignored them and let them just sit there in my pantry.  Doing nothing. 

Then, I found out that beans shouldn't sit for more than a year.  After that, they don't soften.  Great.  Just great. 

Since Joe does a lot of the food shopping, there's no way I can convince him to buy more dried beans if I throw this  2 year old bag of beans away.  So, I attempted to cook them anyway.  Fully prepared for failure. 

They turned out great!  After they were done cooking (in my Crock-Pot) I seasoned them a bit and let them cook a little bit longer.  I served the beans over rice with corn muffins on the side.  A perfectly filling, meatless meal for Ash Wednesday. 

We made refried beans out of the leftovers and have several containers full in the freezer for taco dinners. 

I will  post in more detail about cooking the beans and also the refried beans.  This time I really just threw stuff in and didn't measure a thing.  Next time, I need to measure and write it all down, so I know what the heck I'm talking about!  And of course, I'll have to remember to take pictures. 

I also used my Crock-Pot to cook some split chicken breast.  I cooked it and diced it to use in future meals.  With the cooking juices and bones, I made more chicken broth!  Two quarts of homemade chicken broth!  MMmmmm!  I see chicken rice soup and croquettes in my future. 

I made more vegetable broth.  Again, in the Crock-Pot.  I think I made about 10 cups of veggie broth.  That will be perfect to add to some minestrone soup I forgot was in the freezer.  I remember that I made it a bit thick and that it would need to have some broth added when served again.  Perfect.  I think this will be on the menu for this week's Lenten Friday meal. 

I did try a new recipe.  I bought a 5 lb. bag of carrots a couple of weeks ago.  I have no idea what I thought I needed 5 lbs. of carrots, but the price was low and I wanted carrots.  Impulse buy, I guess. 

Anway, I made a carrot and sweet potato soup on Friday.  I need to gather my notes, so that I can post the recipe soon.  

Now that I think about it, maybe the kitchen wasn't so slow after all! 

Friday, February 12, 2010

Tutorial: Make Your Own Veggie Broth in the Crock-Pot

I've said before that my Crock-Pot is one of my most-used appliances in my kitchen.  Only to be beat by my constantly running dishwasher! 

After making my own chicken broth (I'll post about that soon...I promise) last month, I decided to find out if vegetable broth can be made in the Crock-Pot.  Sure enough, it can!  Yay! 

Searching the Internet, I found a lot of information for making homemade vegetable broth.  Rachael wrote this post for Buffalo Frugal Living Examiner and it seemed to have the best information for me.  After reading her post and seeing how simple it was to make veggie broth, I wanted to jump right in and make it that very second.  But, it wouldn't have been a very good vegetable broth, since I didn't have any veggie scraps saved. 

I decided to share my  vegetable broth making experience with you and was even prepared with the camera close by  and took step by step photos of the entire process! 

I started by saving all of my veggie scraps while preparing recent meals.  I saved everything:  carrot ends and peels, potato peels, celery (tops, bottoms and leaves) onion peels and tops, bell pepper tops, garlic peels, broccoli stems, cabbage cores, etc. 

I stored the scraps in gallon size Ziplock Freezer Bags in my basement freezer. 

I poured the frozen** scraps into my Crock-Pot.  My oval Crock-Pot only needed one of the gallon-sized bags to fill it.  This particular bag was full of scraps from carrots, peppers, celery, cabbage and onions. 

**Remember:  if you are using cold or frozen vegetable scraps, to start off with a room temperature Crock-Pot.  If it's pre-heated, it may crack when the cold items are added.

I added COLD water to about 1/2 inch from the top.  Then I covered it and cooked on LOW for about 13 hours. 

After letting it simmer through the night, this is what it looked like in the morning.  I took the lid off and let it cool for about half an hour. 

I placed  a large bowl in my sink and then placed my colander inside of the bowl to strain the veggies from the broth. 

I used a large ladle to scoop out most of the veggies and broth and let it strain through the colander and into the bowl until there was enough removed so that I could pour it through the strainer without making much of a mess! 

After that, I just had to pour it into my large measuring cup to see just how much broth was made!  It's past the 8 cup line!  So, that's about 4 cans of broth.  Four less cans I have to buy not only means that I saved money, but four less cans to throw away recycle. 

My next step will be to pour it into Ziplock Freezer Bags when it's finished cooling.  I'll store them in 2 cup portions and freeze flat on the shelf of my kitchen freezer.  Once they are solid, they will stack nicely in my basement freezer! 

I will be sharing this blog post with the following blog carnivals this week: 

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Chicken Rice Soup ~ Easy, Fast and Frugal

Last week, I made some homemade chicken broth.  I had a quart left in the fridge that needed to get used, so I threw together a quick soup. 

I'm posting this, at the request of my friend Lisa.  Although, it's a pretty easy recipe, I thought I'd share! 

Chicken Rice Soup

  • 1 quart homemade chicken broth
  • 1-2 cups water (or additional broth) *
  • 1 cup carrots, carrots
  • 1  medium onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup celery, diced
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, diced
  • 1-2 cups cooked rice
  • bring homemade broth to a boil in soup pot on stove, medium-high heat.
  • add water (or additional broth) if needed
  • add vegetables, cover and reduce heat to low
  • simmer until vegetables are tender
  • stir in chicken and rice
  • heat through

* I made the homemade broth (more about that in a future post) using the cooking juices and bones/carcass from a whole chicken cooked in the crock pot (recipe on my other blog).  The spices on the chicken made this a very dark, spicy broth.  I needed about 1 1/2 cups of water to dilute it enough to be a light flavored broth for a light soup. 

This soup turned out great!  It was a really quick, easy and frugal meal!  I really just cleaned out the fridge of some veggies that needed to get used and the homemade broth I had made the week before!  Joe picked up a loaf of crusty bread on his way home from work! 

There is just one small bowl left and I'm eating that for lunch today! 

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Roasted Garlic and Potato Soup ~ Crock-Pot

If you read my recipe post for Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic, then you know I added some potatoes and onions under the chicken to cook at the same time. 

When the Chicken with 40 Garlic Cloves was finished cooking, I removed the chicken to one bowl and the potatoes, onions and some of the garlic to another bowl.  I reserved those potatoes for this recipe: 

Roasted Garlic and Potato Soup

  • Roasted Potatoes, Onions, Garlic*
  • 1 quart homemade chicken broth**
  • 2 additional cups potatoes, peeled & diced
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp. Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • Place previously roasted potatoes, onions and garlic in crock-pot with chicken broth, cover and cook on high for one hour.
  • Using a stick blender,*** puree the potatoes and onions to your desired consistency and texture. 
  • Stir in the additional potatoes along with the carrots, celery, water, salt and pepper.
  • Cover and cook on low for 5-7 hours, or until vegetables are tender. 

Potatoes and onions in chicken broth.

Pureed potatoes and onions in chicken broth.
Finished product! 
  *I really love how easy it was to make this soup using the previously roasted vegetables.  I added extra veggies since I planned on pureeing the roasted veggies, but still wanted a chunkier soup. 

 **I made homemade broth using the bones and the cooking juices from the Chicken with 40 Garlic Cloves.  Store bought broth or stock can also be used. 

***If you don't have a stick blender, a food processor or standard kitchen blender will work.

I really enjoyed this soup.  It was very hearty and had lots of flavor.  We each had two bowls along with sliced French Bread for dipping! 

Even after our hearty portions, there was still about a quart of soup leftover.  I put that in the fridge for leftover night (probably Saturday)!

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

Crock-Pot Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

Do you know there are several recipes for Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic posted all over the Internet? 

Seriously, I didn't realize it until I decided over the weekend that I wanted to prepare this dish for dinner on Monday night.  You can find some version of this recipe pretty much anywhere:  Food Network, Bloggers, Allrecipes, etc.! 

With the help of my friend (in real life) Lisa, I was able to decide on a combination of flavors that would work for me. 

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic with Roasted Potatoes & Onions

  • 3lbs. potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 3 cups onions, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced 
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 Tbsp. dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
  • 4 bone-in split chicken breast (approx. 4 lbs.)
  • 33 cloves of garlic*, peeled
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
This is a photo of the raw chicken layered in the crock pot on top of the potatoes and onions.

  • In a large bowl, toss the potatoes and onions with the sliced garlic, olive oil, rosemary and thyme. 
  • Spread the potato and onion mixture evenly on the bottom of a large crockpot.**
  • Use the same large bowl; toss chicken pieces with the olive oil and the remaining ingredients.  Fit a garlic clove or two into open spaces in the chicken breast (optional). 
  • Fit the chicken parts in the crock pot on top of the potatoes and onions. 
  • Place lid on top and cook on low 6-8 hours.***
This photo is the chicken after it cooked in the crock pot for 5 hours. 
See the nice roasted garlic? 

     * I was tired of peeling garlic at this point, we never missed the other cloves! 
   ** I reserved the potatoes and onions to use for another meal later this week. 
 *** I cooked this on high for one hour, then turned it to low for 4 hours. 

I really enjoyed this recipe.  The flavors were wonderful!  The chicken was a teeny bit dry, I'm thinking that I layered too many potatoes and they didn't allow for the chicken to baste in the cooking juices.  But I like that we were able to eat it like a nice piece of roasted chicken.  Sometimes meat is too tender when cooked in the crock pot.  At least to my liking.  I think I will try this combination of spices with a whole chicken the next time.  With less potatoes on the bottom.

When I began deciding how I wanted to season the chicken and prepare everything, I knew the chicken wouldn't fill the entire crock pot.  I remember someone telling me that they cook their chicken and potatoes at the same time in the oven.  I thought that was a great idea, but decided that the garlic potatoes along with the garlic chicken would be a bit much for one meal.  So, I came up with a plan for those roasted potatoes. 

Be sure to check back to find out how I used those potatoes and onions in another meal!

I will be sharing this blog post on the following carnivals this week: