Technical Difficulties and Taco Soup

February 17, 2009 at 1:46 pm | Posted in Family, Food | 3 Comments
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My trusty 6-year old laptop died over the weekend.  As in, it won’t start up.  At all.  Grr…  I hate problems like these because I don’t know how to fix them myself, so I’m hoping that my awesome computer-saavy coworker will be able to fix it tomorrow.  Because you know I’ve got stuff on there that hasn’t been backed up.  Like, say, all of the pictures from our wedding and honeymoon, and an entire year’s worth of work.  So, friends, let this be a reminder to you to go back up your files.  Right now.

I kicked off the weekend with a manic cleaning and laundry spree Friday night (Jason was out of town on business until late Friday night).  Early Saturday morning, we hit the road and headed to Milwaukee for the weekend to help my mom out and visit my grandma (keep sending your prayers her way… she’s fighting hard, but things still aren’t working as they’re supposed to).  We made a whole bunch of meals to freeze so that they’d have dinners on nights that my mom is at the hospital, we cleaned my family’s house, and did their laundry.  And we helped little brother Trevor make a wig for his school’s colonial days.  It was a whirlwind of a weekend.  Sigh. I’m tired just thinking about it.

I did manage to crank out an awesome dinner last night.  I made this taco soup recipe.  Delish!  Jason even gave it kudos, which is amazing since he hates soup.  Also, I think this soup makes enough to feed 40, so I’ll be eating leftovers until the end of time (because he also hates leftovers).

No laptop = no pictures of my culinary success.  (So you’ll have to take my word for it).  Basically, I pulled out the shiny new crockpot and threw in: 2 cans kidney beans (rinsed/drained), 2 cans pinto beans (rinsed/drained), 2 cans corn, 1 large can diced tomatoes, 1 can tomatoes and chiles, 1 packet taco seasoning, 1 packet ranch dressing mix, 1 lb browned ground turkey (could also use hamburger/chicken, but we had turkey in the fridge).  Cook on Low 8-10 hrs, or high 4-5.  We ate the soup with a side of tostitos, and Jason topped his with insane amounts of hot sauce – I opted for cheese on mine instead (Jason also hates cheese.  Someday, I might rename this blog “food items hated by Jason” because it seems to be a recurring theme.  At least he’s progressed from his only-lettuce-eating days…).


Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

February 4, 2009 at 10:29 am | Posted in Food | 5 Comments

Our new, shiny All Clad crock pot arrived last week.  I was so happy, I almost cried.

Nah, that crying part is a lie.  But I was really happy.  Because this is our main kitchen appliance.

So I made some chicken and wild rice soup (based off of this recipe for turkey and wild rice soup).

I combined the following: 8 cups chicken broth, 2 chicken breasts, 2/3 cup uncooked wild rice, 1 cup carrots, 1 cup celery, 1 yellow onion, 1 tsp sage, 2 T balsamic vinegar.  Then, I set the crock pot to low for 9 hours.

I’ve started purposefully putting whole chicken breasts in the soup instead of cutting them in advance.  The meat is super-easy to pull apart once it’s been cooked that long and you avoid having slimy meat-cutting hands.  Also, I can usually persuade Jason to do that part (by saying: You do it so much better than I do! You’re just so good at it! — It’s what I say to persuade Jason to do just about anything.  And you know what he’s really good at?  Taking out the trash.  Yep, boy does that much better than I do.)  I also usually make him cut the onion, because I can’t be within 300 feet of a chopped onion without doing the stinging-eye-onion-cry…

The final product was delish (thank goodness, because I’ll be eating soup leftovers for the rest of the week).  I think Jason may have even approved, even though he doesn’t like soup (also?  he hates leftovers.  I don’t understand.).

Lasagna Fail

January 24, 2009 at 4:35 am | Posted in Food, Homemade | 5 Comments
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I was super-psyched to find out last week that you can make lasagna in the crock pot.  Lasagna is definitely a cold-weather favorite of mine… I’ve made it in the oven a few times, but, well, we don’t have an oven now, and I don’t have any little pans that will fit in the toaster oven, so I figured I wasn’t going to get any homemade lasagna this winter.  Until I stumbled across this recipe.

The basic instructions are:

(I modified a little to make a veggie lasagna, but you could put any meat or anything else you want in it – just cook the meat first).

Put a little pasta sauce in the bottom of the crockpot, lay lasagna noodles over it, followed by ricotta cheese, some spinach and mushrooms, then a little bit of an italian cheese mix.  Repeat 2-3 times.  Pour 1/4 cup water over your crockpot of yummy-ness.  Set on low for 8 hours.  (or high for 4 hours)

Then I went to work.  And told every. single. one of my coworkers how excited I was to have lasagna for dinner.  And I daydreamed about how much I would love  my delicious dinner of veggie lasagna.  And I tried to avoid drooling on my keyboard.

So of course I was seriously. seriously. annoyed when I got home from work to find a half-cooked lasagna in a cold crock pot.  Grr…  And the fact that I had just bought enough groceries for a week’s worth of crockpot meals was a little like rubbing salt into my wounds.  Bad crockpot.

We had a small adventure today in which we attempted to pick up a new crockpot, but there must have been a run on these handy little kitchen appliances recently, because the closest store that had what we wanted was a 4-hour drive.  So, a shiny new All Clad crockpot will be on it’s way to our house this week (we decided to upgrade from our original Kitchenaid crockpot because this was the second one that we’ve returned due to defects in under 4 months).

When the new crockpot comes in, I’m going to have to give this one another try.  In the meantime, let me know if your lasagna attempts are successful…

Crockpot Cooking: Salsa Chicken and Black Bean Soup

December 18, 2008 at 8:19 pm | Posted in Food | 2 Comments
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This one’s a real cold-weather winner.  Yummy!  It earned high praise from Jason, which is like the ultimate cooking award.  Seriously.  Because the boy went through a phase where he ate nothing but lettuce.  This is what I have to work with.

I combined the following in the crock pot: 2 chicken breasts, 2 cans (drained & rinsed) black beans, 4 cups chicken broth, 1 cup frozen corn, 16 oz salsa, 1.5 tsp cumin. (The recipe came from here).

Then, I wondered if I should have cut up the chicken breasts.  How weird is it to have soup with 2 giant chicken breasts floating in it?  Whoops.

Picture stolen from A year of Crockpotting (Hey! My recent crockpot dinners haven’t been turning out recently, so I’ve gotten out of the habit of taking my own picture of the dinner…)

As it turns out, the chicken was easy enough to pull apart after it was cooked.  The recipe suggested adding 1/2 cup sour cream at the end, but I hate sour cream, so I didn’t do it.  I added cheese instead.  As the picture above shows, you can add avocado, too, or cilantro.

I think next time I might throw in some extra hot sauce to really get our cold-weather noses running.

small kitchen appliance wars

December 16, 2008 at 6:46 pm | Posted in Food | Leave a comment
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Another treat that I managed to make for our party was chex mix. I always thought you needed an oven to make chex mix, but I was pleasantly surprised when I found this recipe for crock pot chex mix.

I was especially psyched about this since I’ve been eyeing up the bag of homemade chex mix on a coworker’s desk for the last week and a half. It was a Christmas Miracle that I didn’t secretly eat any of it.

Anyways, here’s what went into the crock pot: 5 cups chex, 2 cups peanuts, 2 cups pretzels, 1/2 t onion powder, 1/2 t seasoned salt (my own made-up concoction since I forgot to buy this at the store), 3 T butter, 1.5 T Worcestershire sauce. Cook 2 hours on low, stirring every 30-40 min.

As I was pouring the chex into the crock pot, I noticed a recipe on the back for MICROWAVE chex mix. D’oh!

So I decided to make that, too, and treat everyone to a little taste test. I think the biggest difference was the time it took to make each – microwave chex mix takes about 10 min., only a small fraction of the 2-hour crockpot cook time. As far as taste, the only difference was a slight difference in buttery taste – the microwave version has a little more butter for your mix. Both were good. And most people at the party couldn’t tell the difference. So, I think that next time, I will make the microwave version. Because the 10 min cook time is very compatible with my ever-decreasing holiday attention span, and because it’s much easier to handwash a microwaveable bowl in our dinky kitchen sink than it is to wash the crockpot.

My greatest kitchen accomplishment.

December 15, 2008 at 6:53 pm | Posted in Food | 5 Comments
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People! I have IMPRESSIVE! news to share! Gather round, and I will tell you a tale of kitchen greatness.



I know, right? You’re amazed. I’m amazed. We’re all really amazed that edible baked goods are coming out of my stove-less kitchen.

Here I am, mixing up the batter. Lovely, no? I really, really, really, really wanted to use our new kitchenaid classic stand mixer (wedding present!), but since my countertops are exactly 12″ x 24″ (slight exaggeration), I decided that there wasn’t enough room. So, instead, I used our brand new hand mixer (maybe this blog should be called gifts we got at our wedding and how we use them?).

After I mixed ’em up, I put them on the George Foreman grill (wedding present!), and baked grilled them.

This is a ridiculously long and annoying way to make cookies – with only 8 on the grill at a time, and 8-10 min cook time, it ended up being a complete and total pain.  But, still!  Baked goods!  In my house!

And they even looked and tasted like cookies that came out of the oven – not bad for an afternoon’s work…

Mexican Cheese Soup in the Crock Pot

December 4, 2008 at 9:07 pm | Posted in Food | 2 Comments
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I wasn’t really sure about this one, but JT said I can make it again, which is pretty much the highest honor one can achieve when cooking for him. So it must be good.

1. Combine in crock pot: 1 lb processed cheese cubes, 1 lb ground turkey*, 1 can whole kernel corn, 1 can kidney beans, 1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies, 1 can stewed tomatoes, 1 envelope taco seasoning, jalapeno peppers.

2. Cook 4-5 hours on low.

3. (optional – better if you leave this one out) Come home from work to discover that you didn’t actually set the timer. Or maybe you did, but for some reason, it turned off before fully cooking. Reset the timer to cook for 3 hours on high. Snack until your new 8:30pm dinnertime.

It kind of looks like I vomited in the slow cooker.  But I didn’t.

NOTE: This makes A LOT! of food. Don’t attempt to eat by yourself. Also, it’s really good on tortilla chips and could be used as a dip for parties.

*The recipe called for ground beef, but we substituted turkey. It was still delish.

Crock Pot Ribs

December 2, 2008 at 8:00 pm | Posted in Food | Leave a comment
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I made some super-delish ribs the other night, and was ultra-proud of myself since I’ve never actually made ribs before.  Ever.  Actually, I don’t think I’ve cooked pork at all before now (unless bacon counts.  hmm.).

So here is a rundown of my first rib-errific meal:

1.  Rub ribs with pepper (~1 tsp) and put ribs in crockpot.

2.  Combine 2.5 cups BBQ sauce, 8 oz cherry jam, 1Tbsp Dijon mustard, 1/4 tsp salt in small bowl.  Pour over ribs.  Second guess whether this will really taste okay – I mean jam and mustard?  Doesn’t sound like a great combo.

3.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

I should also add that I spent a good 20 minutes in the grocery store trying to figure out the difference between baby back ribs, St. Louis style ribs, and just plain normal ribs.  I still don’t really know, but the St. Louis style ribs were the cheapest, so they won.

Crock Pot Mashed Potatoes

November 23, 2008 at 10:07 pm | Posted in Food | 1 Comment
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When you buy a house with a kitchen that looks like this and has no appliances whatsoever, cooking is tricky.  (is anyone wondering how many ugly pictures of the kitchen I can post in a week?  the answer is: a lot.  because there is a lot of ugliness in there.)

Until you get engaged, and acquire a slow cooker at a wedding shower. Then, you are totally in business.

Since the wedding, I’ve been dabbling in crock pot cooking a little, mostly finding recipes on the internet. But last weekend, Jason’s parents gave us a crock pot cookbook and oh boy! there are a lot of things you can make in the slow cooker. You can make cakes and chai lattes and all sorts of good stuff! So awesome.

So from here on out, I’ll be reporting on my crock pot endeavors (or, at least the good ones). Of course, I would be nothing without the cookbooks above (the one on the left was a gift from J’s parents – thanks so much!, and the one on the right is borrowed from a coworker).  I’ve also discovered a new blog – a year of crockpotting chronicles one woman’s goal to use her crock pot every day.

And, actually, that’s where today’s mashed potatoes recipe comes from.  Here’s the original.

1.  Wash and peel 5 lbs of red potatoes, cut in quarters, submerge completely in water.

2.  Boil 10-20 min, until potatoes are tender.

3.  Scoop 1/2 cup water from the pot.

4.  (optional) Burn your fingers on the boiling water while obtaining 1/2 cup of water.  Yell a few choice words and run your fingers under the cold water.  Bonus points if your husband is so concerned that he comes running.

5.  Add 1 chicken bouillon cube to the 1/2 cup water.

6.  Drain potatoes and return to pot.

7.  Add 1 block light cream cheese (8 oz), 1 cup light sour cream, water with bouillon cube, 1 tsp garlic powder, and 1 tbsp parsley.

8.  Mash.

9.  Put potatoes into crockpot, cook on high for 2 hours (or low for 4 hours).

10.  Enjoy, preferably with turkey, gravy, and family/friends.

I made these today for a friend’s thanksgiving party and they went over REALLY well.  As in, the bowl was empty and washed before I left.  Yummy!

A Decent Meal

November 9, 2008 at 9:40 pm | Posted in Food | 1 Comment
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I am excited to report that I made a pretty darn good dinner tonight. This is the first good meal in a string of lousy meals for me – we’ve even had to throw away a few of the really terrible meals and order out. I kid you not. They were that bad.

So, this morning I set out to make a post roast in our new slow cooker (an awesome wedding gift!). And ta-da! 8 hours later, a fantastic roast came out.

Here’s what I put in the crock pot:

  • carrots
  • potatoes
  • onion
  • roast (sprinkled with garlic salt)
  • garlic
  • 3/4 cup water
  • a few dashes (maybe 1/4 cup?) of worchestershire sauce

Brother Robby came up to help peel more of the study wallpaper and enjoy some roast.

Here’s Robby and J enjoying the roast. Yep, I was so excited that I just had to take a picture.

We also picked up some orange candles from Ikea today, so I was psyched to light them. I think they look pretty darn good with the new table runner, and they fit perfectly in the glass candle holders (both are new wedding presents… it is just so fun to use all of this new stuff!!).

A closer view of the candles and J. (Robby was making a face in this one, so I had to crop him out).

And now it’s your turn to spill your guts: what’s your *best* crockpot meal? Leave a comment with the recipe so that we can try it out!!

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