Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ground Beef Soup for Crock Pot

This is a recipe/soup that I came up with by myself right after graduating from college, when I had to start feeding myself :P. I used the "smell test", which is basically this: go through your pantry/cupboards and smell your spices. If one smells like something you would want to include in the food you're making, add it! I ended up using a lot of spices, but most of them are pretty common, so hopefully you won't have any problems with finding everything. I gathered everything up for a group picture!

In case you can't see everything, here's a list of ingredients:
Rubbed thyme (dash)
Onion Powder (couple of dashes)
Minced Garlic (1/2 tsp.?)
Ground Cayenne Red Pepper (teeny teeny dash)
Cilantro Leaves (couple of shakes)
Whole Kernel Corn - I highly recommend the Del Monte brand
Oregano leaves (couple of shakes)
Cut Green Beans (again, I recommend Del Monte)
Ground Cumin (a few shakes)
Hunt's tomato sauce (1-1.5 cans)
Minced/chopped onions (I use the dried kind, but you can use real onions if you want to) - a few tablespoons
Chili Powder - a couple tablespoons
Salt & Pepper (in our snowmen shakers - it's Christmas year-round!) - season to taste
A couple of medium-sized potatoes
A couple of medium-sized carrots
1 Celery stalk
Approximately 1 pound ground beef (I like the 93% lean/7% fat ratio)

To start, brown the beef and set aside - I actually like to strain the beef to get all of the fat out and then let it sit until I'm ready for it. Peel the potatoes and carrots and wash the celery. I like to slice the celery and carrots nice and thin so that they aren't crunchy in the soup. Cut the potatoes in small-ish cubes, but not too small or they might just dissolve.

Pour the tomato sauce, corn, and green beans into the crock pot. This time I poured everything into the pot without draining the liquid out of the cans first... if you choose to drain them, you'll need to add more sauce/water at the end. (As a side note, Aunt Shi, Del Monte and Hunt's offer low- or no-sodium cans of veggies and sauce! Or, if you have a garden, you can always use your own veggies :)) Add spices and stir.

Add your fresh veggies to the pot and stir. Finally, put the ground beef in the pot and stir. It will probably need some more liquid, so I usually add about 1/2 can more of tomato sauce and a can of water (I use one of the veggie cans and fill it up with water). Make sure it's enough liquid to cover all the veggies and beef and stir everything in.

Set your crock pot on high and cook for about 4 hours, or until all of the veggies aren't crunchy anymore and the smell is making your stomach growl :D. Test it as it cooks, just to make sure it's the right flavor for your tastes :). Adjust the seasoning accordingly. I actually put the pot (it's removable from the part you plug in) in the fridge and I'll plug it in at lunch tomorrow so that it will be ready just in time for dinner :).

A few alternatives for this recipe are:
Hunt's low-sodium tomato sauce
Del Monte no-sodium-added corn/green beans
Ground buffalo/bison
Ground deer meat
Ground turkey?
Fresh onion instead of minced dried onion flakes

Basically, I highly recommend using the smell test. That's how I have come up with a lot of my favorite recipes. Your taste depends a lot on your nose, so you can't go wrong with smelling everything first! :) Just be careful with the cayenne pepper... you probably don't want to do a lot of sniffing with that :P.

This is a lot easier to make than it sounds... and it's great to make ahead and leave in the crock pot so that you don't have to worry about cooking dinner after work. Please let me know if you make it and how you like it! I've made it quite a few times and have always gotten great reviews! :)

Here's what it should look like right before you start cooking it:

It looks even more yummy when it's ready to eat! Anywho, good luck and enjoy! :)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Chicken Enchiladas

This is a very simple recipe to make... and one that tastes good too! I have a couple of different chicken enchilada recipes, but this one is always fun to make because it has green sauce :).

To find the recipe, just look for the can of green enchilada sauce... I think it's Old El Paso brand, and the recipe is on the back of the can.

Here's the cream cheese/chicken/chile filling:

This is right before I put them in the oven. Jason likes lots of cheese, so I loaded them up :)

I guess I didn't take a final picture. Hmm... maybe we ate them too fast and I didn't get a chance. Anyway, they're yummy! Try them out sometime :).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Ok, so I know this blog is supposed to be about cooking and baking, but I have to sneak this post in :). I drink coffee every morning, so I've tried nearly every single flavor of creamer available in the grocery store. Well... I think I've finally found my Holy Grail creamer! It's one of the special "World Cafe" Coffee Mate flavors called "Belgian Style Chocolate Toffee". Yum! It's so creamy and has a nice chocolate flavor that's not too overwhelming. It's almost like I'm drinking coffee flavored hot chocolate :). I absolutely love it! Here's a picture so that you can see what I'm talking about:

The downside is that the only place I've seen it (so far) is at Target. I haven't looked at WalMart or Publix, so it could be there, but I don't know for sure... and it's NOT at Kroger.

As a side note, my second favorite flavor is probably hazelnut... or just plain 'ol creamer with a bit of sugar :).

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ginger's Prize!

Here's Ginger, my friend who won my blog contest (and Sal, a kid from church, behind her) :). I made her a chocolate cream pie! This one's special, though. Even though I said I was going to make a homemade treat (and I don't consider pudding pie in a store-bought shell "homemade"), I did add my own twist to it.

Here's what I did:

I used a large chocolate pudding box (mix) and added 2 cups of cold milk. The box says 2.5 cups, but I don't do that :D. After beating the mix and milk together with a whisk for about 2 minutes (it's pretty thick by then), you fold in half of a small container of Cool Whip. Slowly stir this together until the color is uniform. It will be a medium brown. Then, I just added a dash of cinnamon to give it a different taste. I did lick the spoon after scooping it into the pie shell and it was so good! It almost tasted like Jason's famous birthday torte :). Anyway, pour the concoction into the chocolate graham shell and add a little dollop of cool whip on top. Chill for a few hours, just to make sure it's set.

That's it! So easy... and great for the summer, because it's chocolaty yet cool :). Let me know if you try it... it's muy bueno!

Ginger, if you're reading this, I'm sorry I gave you such an unhealthy dessert, but I really couldn't help it. It was the fastest and easiest thing I could make :).