Pasta Pot

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I find that cooking is all an exploration of what works and what doesn’t. I am all about finding efficiencies to prepare good meals that are cost effective and saves me time on cleanup. Since I spent time making granola and bread this weekend, I turned to my crockpot for an easy meal. I’ve always wondered if you could cook meat fully in the crockpot without browning it first and whether it would cook pasta for an easy all in one dish; yes you can. I was thrilled with how well it came out and I grated a little Parmesan on top for that final touch of flavor. Check out the easy recipe below and put your crockpot to good use.

1 lb lean ground beef

1 cup sliced mushrooms

8oz frozen spinach

1 25 oz jar of vodka sauce

8oz of dry corkscrew pasta 

1 1/2 cup of diced onion

2 cups water 

2 tbsp fresh rosemary

2 tbsp fresh basil 

Directions:

  1. Defrost lean ground meat at least two hours before starting.
  2. Add meat to a crockpot and breakup thoroughly.
  3. Dice and slice veggies and mince herbs; add them to the crockpot including spinach.
  4. Add pasta then sauce and water.
  5. Cook on high for 4 hours.
  6. Enjoy 

Satisfaction and Comfort

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I’ve gotten on a kick making bread at home, really just to see if I could. I’ve been surprised that it something that can be done in an hour and even better, that I can  add things like flaxseeds, oats and chia seeds mostly to my hearts content. While baking it was a fun experience, making an open-faced turkey, avocado and tomato sandwich sealed the deal. This was a quick and easy meal that was both filling and satisfying. And there is just something to be said about fresh baked bread. 🙂

Using a teeny tiny avocado, I reserved half for an easy guacamole later in the week and cut slices out of the other half. I mashed a slice for more of an avocado butter to spread on the bread, added the tomato and turkey and the remaining slices on top. This takes all of 5 minutes. Enjoy!

Ingredients

3oz of Turkey

1/2 small avocado

1/2 medium tomato

 1 slice of bread

Salt and pepper to taste 

  1. Warm a slice of bread. 
  2. Cut an avocado in half while it warms and remove the pit. Store one half and cut the other half into slices.
  3. Mash one to two slices on the bread and smear like butter. Add a tiny pinch of salt and pepper.
  4. Slice 2 to 3 slices of a tomato and add to bread. Add a tiny pinch of salt and pepper.
  5. Add smoked turkey and top with remaining avocado and red pepper flakes.

Pepper Steak

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Pepper steak is incredibly comforting and easy to make. Best of all, it fits in one. It can be eaten with mashed potatoes or your favorite rice dish and makes great leftovers. I love to add different vegetables like peppers, mushrooms and onion, but you can always add your favorite mix of seasonal veggies. Sauteed leafy greens such as spinach, Swiss chard or other greens make a great side dish. But for this go round I topped it with micro greens for the same nutrient packing punch with less of the chewing. Check out the recipe below and share your thoughts!

Pepper Steak

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 large thick cut filet or ribeye steaks 

1 yellow bell pepper

1 red bell pepper

1 medium onion

1 container of crimini mushrooms

1/2 tbsp. olive oil

1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste 

1/2 cup of water

3 large red potatoes 

1/2 tbsp. butter 

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cube potatoes and add to water. Slice 1/2 of the onion into thin slices and add to pot.
  2. Heat oil in a large pan over medium high heat. 
  3. Lightly season steaks on one side with garlic powder, a pinch of salt and pepper. Place season side down in the  skillet and cook for 3 minutes. Season other side.
  4. Rinse and chop bell pepper into large pieces. Cut large mushrooms into fourths and smaller in half.
  5. Flip steaks and move one side of the skillet. Add peppers and mushrooms. 
  6. Peel and slice onion into thin slices. Add to the skillet and add 1/2 cup of water.
  7. Reduce heat to simmer and top up pan. Cook for 10 minutes.
  8. Strain potatoes and onions and add 1/2 tbsp of butter and salt and pepper to taste. Mash until chunky smooth.
  9. Plate and top with micro greens. (Optional)

Summer Hash

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Every now and then, I get a craving for comfort food. One of my favorites is smothered potatoes. As a kid, I was always an early riser, and since the rest of the house slept long after I did, I taught myself to make potatoes my way. While I called them hash browns, my mom always would always tell me they were smothered potatoes. It’s a great dish any time of the day and a particular favorite of mine for breakfast or brunch.

For this morning’s food demo at the Red Stick Farmer’s Market, I decided to make a healthier version with some seasonal zucchini, peppers and kale. It is great to have access to such variety all in one place. Thank you Chenier Farm for a wonderful variety of produce, and Amato’s Winery for some tasty sausage! For some added nutrients, I topped the dish with some flavorful microgreens from the Westdome Nursery. My favorite way to eat this is with a scrambled or poached egg or two. J  Be sure to share your thoughts. Enjoy!

Green Onion Sausage and Veggie Hash

Serves 4:

Ingredients:

¾ lb. fresh green onion sausage

1 cup chopped sweet onion

1 cup chopped red potato

1 cup of chopped zucchini

½ cup chopped bell pepper

½ cup of chopped banana pepper

1 cup chopped kale

1 tbsp. minced basil

1 tbsp. minced parsley

½ tsp. coarse black pepper

½ tsp. salt free sunny herb blend (red stick spice)

½ tsp. Sel de Provence (red stick spice) (optional to regular sea salt)

Directions:

1. Peel and dice the sweet onion. Place in a large skillet over medium heat with a splash of water.

2. Remove fresh green onion sausage from the casing and brown evenly.

3. Wash vegetables well and cut zucchini in half, then into long strips before dicing. Repeat with potato. In a medium pot, add vegetables with ½ cup of water. Cut peppers in half, remove seeds, then cut into strips before dicing.

4. Rinse herbs, mince and add to the pot. Add sausage and onion mixture. Cook for 10 minutes.

5. Rinse and cut chop kale. Add to pot and cook until wilted. Add seasoning and stir well.

6. Serve and enjoy.

Food For Frost

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With these unexpected cold fronts, it’s a great time to bring out the crock pot for something warm to bump out the cold. I was in the mood for a new round of curry and blended the remaining red curry I had and some yellow and used chicken as the protein this go round. As I often say, it’s helpful to prep ahead of time by separating large packs of meat into 6, 8 and 10 count bags for your freezer, since we don’t always have time for a store run. Since I already had the chicken, purple green beans and curry powder, I grabbed basil, low fat coconut milk and carrots from the store to finish the dish. This can be eaten as a soup or served with rice depending on your preference. Check out the recipe below.

Chicken Curry
Serves 8

8 chicken legs
2 cups purple or green beans
1 14-16 oz bag of baby carrots
6 small red potatoes
1 tbsp. yellow curry powder
2 tbsp. red curry powder paste (optional)
1 13.5 oz can low fat coconut milk
1 package of basil
1 cup diced onion
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. cayenne
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. garlic powder
3 cups of water

Directions:
1. Remove skin and any excess fat from chicken and rinse before putting in crock pot.
2. Season chicken with seasoning (not curry).
3. Dice onion and halve potatoes add to crock pot. Add frozen green beans and carrots. Add water and curry and mix well.
4. Set crockpot on low heat for 8 hours.
5. Add coconut and basil in last 30 minutes of cook time.
6. Enjoy!

Soups and Stews

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Good comfort food can go a long way. I was determined to chomp into some hearty beef stew and decided to crock pot it to make sure the beef was tender enough for my braces. I went for the traditional with potatoes, carrots and onion. I decided to try the multi-colored carrots for some added flavor and variety. This was easy to prep and toss into the crockpot for 5 hours. My crockpot is set to warm after the cooking time, so it was perfect to stay warm the additional 30 minutes I needed before dinner. Note: I prefer more of a cross between soup and stew and don’t often make a roux, but you can certainly add a tablespoon of flour or cornstarch to make a thicker sauce with water or stock before adding it to the crockpot. Depending on how long you plan to be away determines whether you should set it to cook low or high so that it’s not over cooked. If you plan to put it on before leaving for a workday, I would recommend a low cooking temp for a longer cook time (I.e. 8 hours). You will also want to cut the carrots and potato into larger chunks so they still have texture.

also decided to dip into my freezer stash of gumbo that I make each season. I opted for the spicy chicken and sausage for an alternate meal in between servings of stew. Check out the recipe below. I hope you find it as easy and enjoyable as I do.

Beef Stew
5 large red potatoes
2 cups chopped carrots
1 cup diced onion
3 cloves minced garlic
1 lb. cubed stew meat
1 cup of stock (beef or chicken)
1 cup of water
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. sea salt
1 tbsp. corse black pepper
1 tsp. Cayenne (optional)

Directions:
1. Rinse potatoes then cut in half longways and then into fourths. Add to crockpot.
2. Rinse and peel carrots 2 carrots (unless purchased prepped) and cut into medium pieces. Add to pot.
3. Peel and dice onion and mince garlic and add to pot.
4. Add beef, seasoning and liquid. Stir well, top and set timer on the crockpot.
5. Serve with rice if desired.
6. Enjoy!

Changes and Opportunties

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In addition to new resolutions, my 2018 began with braces and a requirement for soft foods. So my first week yielded new smoothie mixes, mashed potatoes, smoked gouda mac and cheese and good ‘ol grits and egg. As a person who typically eats well balanced meals, it’s been a struggle to find right balances with soft foods outside of smoothies; however, challenge accepted.

This week I decided on comforting Sheppard’s pie with a twist to boost my veggie intake. In addition to the traditional peas and carrots, I did a mix of yellow cauliflower with potatoes to give me a little more nutrients.

I also have the fixings for bowls of egg drop soup which takes minutes to make and can be made as needed. Also depending on how hungry I am, I can beef it up with more egg or even a small can of chicken.

Check out the recipes for both dishes below.

Sheppard’s Pie
1 lb. lean ground beef
3 cups diced onion (one large)
1 cup finely chopped carrots
1 1/2 cup of peas
1 small head of cauliflower (2 cups)
4 medium red potatoes or 1 large white potato
1/2 tbsp. sea salt
1 tbsp. onion power
1/2 tbsp. coarse black pepper
1/3 cup milk
2 tbsp. butter
1/4 cup cream cheese (optional)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Bring a large pot of water to boil. While it heats, rinse and peel potato(es). Cut in half. (If one large, cut in half longwise, then into fourths).
3. Rinse cauliflower and peel off leaves and cut off the tough stem end. The cauliflower should be about the same size as the potatoes.
4. Peel and dice a large onion and add half the onion, the potatoes and cauliflower to the water and boil for 15-17 minutes.
5. While that boils, place a large skillet over medium high heat. Add ground meat and the remaining onion and a pinch of water to brown the meat. Break into small pieces and brown evenly.
6. While the meat browns, peel carrots and chop finely by hand or with a food processor, small blender or magic chopper. Add to pan of beef.
7. Add defrosted peas and seasoning and cook for 10 minutes.
8. Remove potatoes from stove and strain. Add them back to the stove and reduce heat to low. Add butter, cream cheese and milk and mash until creamy. Salt and pepper to taste.
9. Remove beef mixture from heat and add to a standard 5 quart baking dish (large rectangle).
10. Add potato mixture on top and smooth evenly. Bake for 10 minutes until top browns slightly.

 

Egg Drop Soup
1 1/2 cups chicken broth or stock
1/4 cup water
1 tbsp. diced green onion
1-2 large eggs
1 tbsp. Low sodium soy sauce
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
1/4 cup canned chicken (optional)
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. onion powder

Directions:
1. Add broth or stock to a small pot. Add green onion and all seasoning over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for 3 minutes.
2. In a bowl add egg with a pinch of salt and whisk with a fork.
3. Add egg in a slow stream to pot. The egg will cook instantly. Remove heat.
4. Wash bowl from egg and add your finished soup. Enjoy.