Tag Archives: crockpot

Creamy Italian Crockpot Soup

7 Sep

Cooler days and school back in session means that the crockpot has returned to it’s semi-permanent position on my kitchen countertop.  Hungry for some flavorful, slow-cooked food and eager to have food ready with little effort, I started searching around for some new recipes to try in the crockpot.  I spotted a Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup on Pinterest that looked mighty tasty, the only problem of course, all that dairy.  Looking through the ingredients, I figured that it wouldn’t be very hard to substitute the dairy for non-dairy counterparts, and while I was at it I decided to reduce the calories from the original version.  With all new recipes, it feels like a real crapshoot whether anyone will eat it, let alone enjoy it.

This recipe?  Jackpot.  Jackpot in the Crockpot.

Creamy and slightly cheesy, the base of this soup tastes a tiny bit like the sauce in Chef Boyardee’s canned pasta, which normally would not make it a ringing endorsement in my book.  HOWEVER, the kids totally loved it.  And the more I had, the more I loved it too.  Slightly rich, hearty, and low in calories, this soup might be one of our new favorite things.

After replacing the dairy ingredients in the original recipe (butter, parmesan, half and half) with non-dairy counter parts (non-dairy butter, Daiya mozzarella, soy cream), I was worried that the resulting soup would not be thick and creamy enough.  To make sure that the soup was not too thin, I added ingredients in two batches, pureeing the first half to create a thicker base.  The resulting flavor and texture was terrific, helped to thicken up the soup, and allowed me to reduce some of the fat and calorie-laden ingredients (this recipe is about 35% lower in calories than the original).  This recipe makes a pretty big batch of soup, which worked out great here because it has been requested for dinner and lunch several times.  I’m not sure if it will freeze well, and this time, I won’t even have the chance to try.

Creamy Italian Crockpot Soup
Serving size: 1 c.
Serves: 11

2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes, divided
1-1/2 c. carrots, cut into bite-sized bits, divided
1 stalk celery, cut into chunks
1/4 c. onion, cut into big chunks
1 clove garlic
1/4 c. fresh herbs (mix of basil and oregano)
4 c. chicken broth
2 T. non-dairy margarine
1/4 c. flour
1 c. soy cream
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 c. Daiya mozzerella
Salt and pepper to taste

Add one can tomatoes, half the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, herbs, and chicken broth to a crockpot.  Cook on low for 5 hours.  After 5 hours, use a hand blender to puree the soup until no chunks remain.

In a skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter.  Add flour and cook for about 5 minutes.  Add cream and stir until the flour mixture breaks up into the liquid and becomes a thick sauce.  Add 1 c. of soup from the crockpot, stirring until well-combined.  Add another cup of soup from the crockpot if any doughy chunks remain.  When everything has been combined and the sauce has thickened, add to the crockpot and stir.  Add remaining tomatoes, carrots, cannellini beans, and mozzerella, then stir to combine.  Cover and cook for an additional hour.

Serve.

 

Estimated calories:  143 cal/serving

Print it: Creamy Italian Crockpot Soup

Notes:
– If you would like to replace my non-dairy replacements with dairy versions, I’d recommend using butter, shredded part-skim mozzerella, and half and half in the same amounts noted here.

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Flashback Meatballs

1 Jun

There are a few party recipes that were very popular when I was a kid, and every once in a while I really crave them.  Sometimes nothing can compare to a big bowl of Chex Mix (the original recipe, not any of the variations), ripple potato chips with french onion dip, cream cheese topped with chili sauce and crab from a can, or meatballs cooked in a sauce made with grape jelly.  It’s this last recipe that I’ve searched for the longest.  When I’ve asked people how to make it, it’s always the same answer – one bottle of chili sauce and some grape jelly (amount varies).  It’s never quite as good as I remember it as a kid, but maybe it’s because now I’m the one making it.  Food always seems to taste better when someone else makes it for you.

I make a lot of meatballs, but the one thing I don’t like about making them is that they can be kind of tedious.  So when I found a recipe last year for meatballs that can be cooked in a crock pot and don’t require any pre-cooking, I was thrilled.  They were pretty good, but the flavor wasn’t quite what I had in mind.  And, the recipe called for 1.5 lbs of ground beef and since the beef in my freezer is in 1 lb. packages, that strikes me as completely inconvenient.  To fit the size of the beef packages in my freezer and to bring back that old grape jelly-laden memory, I made a few changes.

These meatballs are darn easy to make and very tasty.  Throw some on a plate, grab a pile of toothpicks, close your eyes and you’ll feel like you’re back in 1982.

Flashback Meatballs
Serving size: 3 balls
Serves: 10

1 c. grape jelly
1 bottle chili sauce
1 slice white bread
1 lb ground beef
1 egg, lightly beaten
Salt and pepper

In a crock pot, mix together jelly and chili sauce.  Fill the chili sauce bottle about 1/3 full with water and add to the sauce.  Stir until well combined.  Set crock pot to low.

In the white bread to a food processor and pulse into crumbs.

In a large bowl, combine beef, breadcrumbs, egg, salt and pepper.  Form into small-sized (about 30) meatballs.

There are two methods for cooking the meatballs:

Slow method: Add the raw meatballs to the crock pot and gently stir to coat with sauce.  Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours, stirring occasionally.

Speed method: Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and cook meatballs for 30 minutes at 350° F, turning halfway through cooking.  Transfer the meatballs to the crock pot and stir to cover with sauce.  Heat on low for at least an hour to allow the meatballs to sauce up.

Estimated calories:  240 cal/serving

Print it: Flashback Meatballs

Creamy Chicken Soup

8 Mar

Earlier this week I spotted a recipe for Creamy Roast Chicken and Rice Soup at Fuss Free Cooking that sounded really good.  I LOVE creamy soups, but rarely make them because they can be a bit heavy and sometimes lose a little in the non-dairy translation.  This recipe, however, was ALREADY non-dairy and did not require any substitutes.  The trick here is genius – instead of adding cream or non-dairy cream, cook rice until it is mushy and then puree it to make a creamy base.  I loved the idea, but have to admit, that I doubted that it would work OR taste good.  I WAS WRONG.

I modified the recipe from the original to make a stock, added the meat that was used in the process, threw in some vegetables, and finished the soup in the crockpot.  As far as crockpot recipes go, this is a speedy one, which makes it perfect for those days when you have a little time but not the entire day for your meal to cook on the countertop.  This soup is very tasty, and as an added bonus, SUPER low in calories.  This recipe makes approximately 9 c. of soup, and each serving is only 157 calories.  Compare that to a regular cream of chicken soup which comes in around 240 cal for the same amount, and what you have is not only a tasty meal but a calorie saving jackpot.

This recipe was popular at our house, and I’d highly recommend it.

Creamy Chicken Soup
Serving size: 1 c.
Serves: 9

1 T. olive oil
3 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on
1/2 c. carrots
1 stalk celery, leaves included, coarsely chopped
1/2 onion, quartered
7 c. water
1 c. uncooked jasmati rice
1-1/2 c. carrots, chopped
1 c. frozen corn
Salt and pepper
In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add chicken and cook on each side for 3-4 minutes, or until browned. Add carrots, celery, and onion and stir, then cook for 2-3 minutes. Add water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for 1 hour. Remove chicken and set aside to cool slightly. Strain stock and discard solids. When chicken has cooled, remove meat and chop into bite sized bits, discard skin and bones.

Add stock and uncooked rice to a crockpot. Cook on low for one hour. When rice is cooked, puree with a hand blender. Add reserved chicken, carrots, and corn. Cook for at least one hour on low, adding water if it gets too thick.

Estimated calories: 157 cal/serving

Print it: Creamy Chicken Soup

Apple Banana Butter

16 Sep

This week my mom dropped off a bag of apples that she’d picked from the tree in their backyard.  Unlike apples purchased at a store or orchard, these apples would not win any apple beauty contests.  They look like a team of rejects – holes in some, dents in others, all sorts of sizes, mottled skin.  But, when it comes to flavor they are exactly the way I like them – tart, a bit sweet, crunchy, and not at all mushy.  They are delicious.  With a big pile of these flavorful but slightly haggard looking apples on hand, I decided to make a batch of apple butter. 

Traditionally, apple butter usually contains one or more of the following spices – allspice, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg.  These spices are a bit on the strong side for my kids, so I decided just to use only cinnamon.  In my continuous efforts to cut back on the sugar the kids eat and the calories I consume, I used about half of the sugar that is usually used in apple butter.  I was kind of worried that by cutting out so much sugar I might end up with a batch of super tart applesauce and wondered if I was making a mistake.  And then it hit me, I had the perfect solution to add a bit more sweetness without all the sugar:

Super ripe frozen bananas.  My freezer is full of them.  Whenever bananas reach full ripeness, no one at my house wants to eat them.  I stick them in the freezer and then add them later to smoothies, banana bread, and now apple banana butter.  To use the super ripe bananas, I pull them out of the freezer and set them on the counter to thaw.  When they are no longer solid, I cut off one end and squeeze the banana guts out of the peel.  It does not look good, but they are perfectly ripe and already smooshy, which means they are excellent for all of the uses above.  If you don’t have a pile of black frozen bananas in your freezer, any ripe banana will do in this recipe.  Just peel it and throw it in with the rest.

Apple butter is super easy to make.  The hardest part is peeling, coring and dicing some apples.  In this recipe I used 4 lbs of apples, and it took me under 15 minutes to prep them.  All of the ingredients are placed in a crockpot, then they cook all day.  You can stir it occasionally if you’re around, but if not, it is fine just sitting and cooking on its own.  Some recipes call for placing the apple butter in jars and then putting them in the freezer.  I wanted to be able to give away some of these jars, so I decided to can them instead.  You can place the apple banana butter in any size jar you’d like, I picked half pint.

There are two types of Half Pints:

The one on the left requires a rugged good-natured fiddle player named Pa and a handsome husband named Manly.  For this recipe, you’ll need the one on the right, and you’ll need about eight of them.

Apple Banana Butter

Makes: 8 half pints
Serving size: 1 T.

4 lbs apples, peeled, cored, and diced
4 ripe bananas
2 c. sugar
2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. kosher salt

Place all the ingredients in a crock pot and turn to low.  Cook for 10-11 hours.  Stir occasionally if you’re available.  You’ll know the recipe is done when everything is mushy and has turned a warm brown-red color.

Fill canning pot with water and bring to a boil.  In a large bowl filled with very hot water, place jars and lids.  Remove hot jar, wipe dry and fill with apple banana butter leaving about ½” empty at the top.  Place lid on top and secure very tightly with band.  Repeat with remaining jars.  Place in canning pot and be sure that they are all completely covered in water.  Cover and cook for 10 minutes.  Remove jars from canning pot and set aside to cool.

Estimated Calories:  23 cal/serving

Print it: Apple Banana Butter

Notes:
– A little apple banana butter goes a long way.  A single serving is enough for a thin layer on two pieces of toast, or a nice thick dollop on top of an english muffin.
– Great on all kinds of breads or crackers, especially tasty with peanut butter.
– Try it with pork chops or tenderloin, it lends some tasty sweetness. 
– Some people add this to banana bread or muffins, which I bet would be good, but I have not tried it.

German Potato Soup

15 Sep

This year seasonal changes have happened very quickly.  BAM!  It’s summer.  BAM!  Now it’s fall.  These quick shifts have made it very hard for me to adjust to each change.  I don’t know what to wear, I don’t know how to dress my children for the day, and I don’t know what to make for dinner.  My mind is all swimsuits and grill, but my body is sweaters and soup.  It is confusing.

The shift from hot to cold weather makes me crave rich flavorful foods, the kind that cook all day and fill the house with warm smells.  One of my favorite fall dishes to make is Hot German Potato Salad.  Not so much a salad as a hearty side, the flavors hit the spot but it can get kind of heavy.  I decided to make some soup that contained the same kind of flavors found in the dish, but with less of a caloric commitment.  I based the flavors on my very favorite version of this dish which can be found at Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge in Minnesota.  It is thick, rich, and full of bacon and vinegar goodness.  With that recipe in mind, I created a soup that is just as hearty and full of flavor, but comes in under 300 calories per serving.

The recipe is easy to make and requires just a bit of prep, then a few hours in a crockpot to cook the potatoes and bring the flavor together.  It makes a batch that is perfect for dinner with enough leftover for lunch the next day.  This soup improves with age, and freezes very well.  I would highly recommend this soup, and will definitely make it again.

German Potato Soup

Serves: 6
Serving Size: 1-1/2 c.

2 lbs potatoes, peeled, quartered and sliced into thick slabs
1 c. carrot, sliced
1/2 c. onion, diced
1 T. olive oil
3/4 lb. venison, cubed
4 slices pepper bacon
1/4 c. sugar
2 T. flour
1/2 t. celery salt
10 turns freshly ground black pepper
4 c. beef stock, divided
1/2 c. cider vinegar
1/4 c. fresh parsley, minced
Place potatoes, carrots, and onion into a crockpot, turn to high.

Add oil to a pan over medium-high heat.  When oil is hot, add venison and cook until browned.  Remove and place in crockpot.  Add bacon to the pan, reduce heat then cook until bacon is crisp.  Remove bacon and set aside on a paper towel. 

In a small bowl, combine the sugar, flour, celery salt and pepper.  Add to the pan and stir for one minute until the flour mixture absorbs everything in the pan.  Add 1/2 c. beef stock and 1/2 c. cider vinegar to the pan and stir until a thick sauce forms.   When it starts to bubble, add the remaining stock and bring to a boil.  Pour stock mixture into the crockpot.

Crumble all of the bacon, add half to the crockpot.  Cook for 4-5 hours on high.

When ready to serve, ladle into bowls and top with bacon crumbles and fresh parsley.

Estimated Calories:  284 cal/serving

Print it: German Potato Soup

Notes:
– If you don’t have venison, you could substitute beef or leave it out entirely
– I used Yukon Gold potatoes, but baby reds would be a great substitute

Crockpot Spaghetti

2 Sep

In the winter, my crockpot is a permanent fixture on my kitchen countertop.  Until last week, I hadn’t really used it much to make anything during the summertime, which is a crying shame considering how easy it was and that the summer is pretty much over.  Facing a night where we may or may not have guests, I wouldn’t have much time to prepare dinner after work, and it was piping hot in the kitchen – I decided to give crockpot spaghetti a try.  It was both delicious and simple to prepare; I’ll definitely make it again. 

There is so much about this dish that is good:
1. It is super easy to make and takes very little prep time.
2. Most of the ingredients are pantry items, so it is very easy to have everything on hand.
3. It is very healthy and low in calories, which is great for those times when you’re craving a hearty pasta but could do without the hefty calorie load.
4. It makes a big batch which means this is good for a crowd, or a meal with leftovers for later in the week, or to build up extra meals for your freezer.
5. MY KIDS ATE IT WITH GUSTO.  For every meal until it was gone.

Crockpot Spaghetti
Serves: 10

1/2 lb. ground beef
28 oz. can diced tomatoes
5 c. tomato juice, divided
2 T. dried minced onion
2 t. Italian seasoning
1 t. garlic salt
13.25 oz box whole grain spaghetti

In a pan over medium-high heat, brown the ground beef.  Drain fat, and add to crockpot.  Add diced tomatoes, 2 c. tomato juice, dried onion, Italian seasoning, and garlic salt.  Cook on low heat for 6-8 hours.

One hour before serving, heat remaining 3 c. of tomato juice in microwave for 5 minutes (cover unless you want to risk a fully spattered microwave), then add to crockpot.  Break spaghetti in half and add to crockpot, stirring until everything is well combined.  Turn crockpot to high, and cook for one hour.  Stir and serve.

Estimated Calories:  224 cal/serving

Print it: Crockpot Spaghetti