Crock Pot Cannellini Minestrone Soup

Crockpot Minestrone Soup

This recipe came out of a Crock Pot branded book.  It was fantastic and very healthy.  Don’t be scared of using the escarole.  It looks like lettuce; just rinse and dry it well (or use a salad spinner), and cut into ribbon strips as directed.  It really adds a lot to the appearance and provides healthy vitamins and nutrients.  Make sure you cook on low for at least 6 hours+ as you’re using hard beans.  If you don’t want to do that, get a can of the beans, drain, rinse, put in fridge.  Then add in the 30 mins to one hour of cooking.

Makes 6-8 servings, depending on serving size.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 cups chicken broth*
  • *(If not homemade broth, make sure the first ingredient is chicken, not salt!  If not making it myself, I buy “Better Than Bouillon”) 
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can (12 oz) tomato-vegetable juice *****
  • 2 cups escarole, cut into ribbons
  • 1 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped potatoes
  • 1/4 cup dried cannellini beans, sorted and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives (I used dried)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped, fresh flat-leaf parsley (I used fresh)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 ounces uncooked ditalini pasta

*****I didn’t buy the tomato-veg. juice; I used a 1/2 can of 14 oz. tomato sauce and added 1 cup vegetable broth.

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Place all ingredients except pasta into slow cooker.
  2. Stir well to combine.
  3. Cover, cook on low 6-8 hours or on high 4-6 hours.
  4. Stir in pasta.  Cover, cook 20 minutes or until pasta is tender.

 

ATK Rice and Pasta Pilaf

ATK-Rice-a-roni-pilaf

I have a great substitute to Rice-a-Roni for you.  If you’re concerned, like I am, what goes into your boxed pantry goods, sometimes it’s good to make it yourself.  You will know exactly what the ingredients are and there won’t be any mystery flavorings or chemicals.  The best reward is that this tastes much, much better than the boxed version!  Thanks to America’s Test Kitchen for this recipe!  Enjoy! 🙂

 

*I used basmati rice because it has the most flavor for a dish like this.

*Be sure to use unsalted butter.  If all you have is salted butter, then don’t add the 1 1/4 tsp. salt. 

*I have raw and cooked onion issues so I subbed onion powder for the grated onion.

*If you want it vegetarian, replace chicken stock with vegetable broth.  

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 cups basmati rice or other long-grain white rice
  • 3 T. unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces vermicelli, broken into 1″ pieces
  • 1 onion, grated
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 T. minced fresh parsley

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Place rice in medium bowl and cover with hot tap water by 2 inches; let stand for 15 minutes.  Don’t skip this step!
  2. Using your hands, gently swish grains to release excess starch.  Carefully pour off water, leaving rice in bowl.
  3. Add cold tap water to rice and pour off water.  Repeat adding and pouring off cold water 4-5 times, until water runs almost clear.
  4. Drain rice in fine-mesh strainer.
  5. Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat.  Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 3 minutes.
  6. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened but not brown, about 4 mins.
  7. Add rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until edges of rice begin to turn translucent, about 3 minutes.
  8. Add broth and salt, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and cool until all liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes.
  9. Off heat, remove lid, fold a clean dish towel in half and place over pan, replace lid.  Let stand for 10 mins.  Fluff rice with fork, stir in fresh parsley, and serve.

 

Peach Blueberry Banana Smoothie

This is a ‘recipe’ for a very tasty smoothie that I discovered myself.  Smoothies don’t need a recipe, you just need complimentary flavors and enough liquid.  No pic of the actual result this time, it was so good it was gone in moments. Just imagine a purple smoothie.  No measurements needed, eyeball this one!  Play with the amounts of ingredients.  It will be fine!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 peach, room temp. or refrigerated, cored and sliced
  • Approximately 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • Approximately 1/2 cup frozen sliced bananas**
  • Approximately 1 cup 2% (or your choice of fat) milk, soymilk, etc.

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Pour your milk into the blender.
  2. Add your peach slices, frozen blueberries, and frozen slices of bananas.
  3. Cover with lid and process until super smooth – about 45 seconds to a minute.  (We love our NutriBullet much more than traditional blenders.  It makes the ingredients pulverized into super fine bits.  Even fruit seeds are no longer annoying to eat)
  4. If the smoothie gets too thick or the blender struggles, turn off blender, and add more milk, cover, and re-process.
  5. Enjoy!!

** When your banana is too ripe or on it’s way out, take off the peel, and slice it up.  You have two choices:

1) You can be lazy like I am sometimes and throw your banana slices into a Ziplock bag and put it in the freezer.  This works better for bananas than berries.  Bananas will freeze and clump together but they’re still seperate-able.  With berries, I recommend #2.

2) With berries or if you have time to freeze bananas the right way: slice your bananas and lay them on a parchment paper or aluminum foil-lined plate, making sure they don’t touch.  Freeze them for a few hours (1-2 hours).  Then take them off the plate and put them in a freezer bag, and label.  Initially freezing them separately keeps them from becoming a massive berry lump!  I’ve been there and learned the difficult way. LOL

Grilled Margherita Sandwiches

 

Grilled Margherita Sandwiches Cooking Light

 

I saw this recipe in my newest magazine subscription – Cooking Light.  “This quick five-ingredient entree transforms a favorite pizza combo into a melty grilled sandwich.  To thinly slice fresh mozzarella with ease, freeze the cheese for about 30 minutes before cutting.”.

We all know Margherita pizza is just a culinary delight, so this sandwich is wonderful.  Next time I will, a) use the panini press, b) I think the recipe forgot to say to seed your tomatoes, a very important step to avoid a soggy sandwich.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/4 cup lower-sodium marinara (I just used my Newman’s Own spaghetti sauce)
  • 8 (1 ounce) slices of whole-grain bread
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
  • 1 large tomato, seeded, cut into 8 thin slices
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 12 large fresh basil leaves
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Spread 1 tablespoon marinara over 1 side of each of 4 bread slices.
  2. Top evenly with cheese and tomatoes.
  3. Sprinkle tomatoes evenly with pepper and salt.
  4. Top tomatoes with basil and remaining bread slices.
  5. Lightly coat sandwiches with cooking spray.
  6. Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat.  Add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan, swirl to coat.
  7. Add sandwiches to pan, cook 2 1/2 minutes or until browned.
  8. Brush tops evenly with remaining 1 1/2 tsp. olive oil.
  9. Turn sandwiches over, cook 2 minutes or until browned.
  10. Serve immediately.
  11. (Alternatively, after step 5 you could use your panini press.)  

 

 

Dilled Potato and Green Bean Salad

dill-potato-green-bean-salad-Jan

 

Here’s a very scrumptious carb and vegetable combo side.  You have the perfectly cooked red potatoes with the fresh green beans mixed together in a savory red wine vinegar/oil sauce similar to a German potato salad flavor.  Since the “six medium potatoes” is a little vague of a measurement, I used four medium potatoes because that looked like enough potatoes for four servings.  Don’t use frozen green beans here, this is a 100% fresh-from-the-produce-section recipe.  This recipe was from Daily Bites Blog -click here.  I omitted the scallions and added more dill and parsley.  Enjoy!

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 medium red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tbs. fresh dill, chopped (from about 4-5 sprigs)
  • 2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbs. red wine vinegar
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Cover potatoes by 2-inches with cold water in a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cook at a rolling boil for 7 minutes.
  2. Add green beans; continue to boil for 5 minutes or until potatoes are just tender when pierced with a knife but not falling apart. They will continue to soften a bit as they cool, so do not overcook them. Drain vegetables well.
  3. Toss boiled vegetables with scallions and herbs (see hint below). Drizzle with oil and vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If the salad needs more kick, add additional vinegar and salt. If it’s too tangy or salty, add an extra splash of olive oil.
  4. My added hint: Don’t mix too much while this mixture is piping hot.  Even if you don’t overcook the potatoes, if you mix hot potatoes round and round with the sauce, your potatoes will get mushy.  So let it cool slightly and gently fold veggies & sauce together. 
  5. Serve warm, room temperature, or chilled. Every way is delicious!

 

Pumpkin Risotto

pumpkin-risotto

I found this recipe in a Weight Watchers cookbook (Best of WW Magazine, (c) 2002) and gave it a try.  It has a wonderful, savory flavor! I only had 1/2 cup of white wine left so I filled the rest of the cup with water to make 1 cup.   Don’t start this risotto recipe unless you have at minimum 20-30 minutes to stir at the stove!

 

(The cookbook says it makes 4 servings: A serving equals 1 1/4 cups, which equals 8 pts.)  This was too large of a serving so we did heaping 1/2 cup servings for 4 pts.  Update: This recipe definitely makes 8+ servings, so halve it if you’re serving less people.   

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped (I’d say 2 small onions, or 1 large, chopped would be better).
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup Arborio rice (don’t substitute any other rice here!)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 T. packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Ground white pepper, to taste
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg

 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Bring the broth to a boil in a saucepan.  Reduce the heat and keep at a simmer.
  2. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Swirl in the oil, then add the onions and garlic.  Cook until softened.
  3. Add the rice and cook, stirring, until the outer shell is translucent, about 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add the 1 cup of wine and 1/2 cup of the broth; stir until they are absorbed.  Continue to add broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until it is absorbed before adding more.  Do this until the rice is just tender.  (The cooking time from the first addition of broth should be about 20 mins.)
  5. Stir in the pumpkin, cheese, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and pepper; heat through.
  6. Sprinkle with the nutmeg and serve at once.

 

Roma Tomato, Fresh Basil, & Tofu Soup

tomato basil tofu soup

 

This tomato basil soup made with tofu was shockingly good.  I found this recipe in my Ninja blender recipe booklet.  I’ll post the original recipe, but I had to substitute the 4 roasted garlic cloves for garlic powder, to be safe.  It’s a quick, simple lunch soup or a dinner starter.  You can’t even taste the silken tofu, it just adds an awesome creamy consistency!  Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 4 garlic cloves, roasted
  • 3 T. tomato paste
  • 6 oz. silken tofu
  • 3 T. extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 T. fresh basil leaves, chopped

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Place the tofu and broth into the blender pitcher and blend on medium until smooth.
  2. Add the tomatoes, garlic, paste, olive oil, salt, and pepper into the pitcher.  Blend on medium until smooth.
  3. Transfer to a large saucepan and add basil.  Warm over medium-low heat for about 15 mins, or until heated through.

Green Beans With Cherry Tomatoes

20150125_173451P1010211

This is a wonderful vegetable recipe.  It’s simple and bursting with flavor.  I highly suggest using fresh veggies, not canned for optimal flavor.  I used the entire pint of cherry tomatoes because I felt like it and I think the extra tomatoes added even more flavor to the juice as well.  This is a definite keeper!  It paired well with the proscuitto & basil stuffed chicken, and also the brown rice.    

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. green beans
  • 1 T. butter
  • 3/4 tsp. garlic salt 
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. basil
  • salt 
  • pepper 
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Cook beans in water, until tender.
  2. In a fry pan, melt butter and add garlic salt, sugar, basil, salt and pepper.
  3. Swish cherry tomato halves around until barely soft and heated, but not squishy.
  4. Add the drained beans and mix well.
  5. (TO SAVE TIME, you can use drained canned green beans instead of fresh green beans and canned stewed tomatoes instead of fresh cherry tomatoes. Just add the canned vegetables to the butter/basil mixture and heat through. I do this frequently and it works o).

Easy Taco Seasoning

taco seasoning

 

This is an easy way to avoid buying those taco seasoning packets.  If you can make it yourself, why not!  I had all the ingredients on hand in my vast spice cabinet, so I whipped this up.  It smells very authentic!  🙂

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

DIRECTIONS:

 

  1. In a small bowl, mix together chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper.
  2. Store in an airtight container.

Black Bean & Corn Quesadillas

AR-black-bean-corn-tortillas

 

I saw this recipe and knowing most of the quesadillas we make are just cheese and cilantro, I wanted to try something new.  It was very good.  I suggest adding cilantro.  Next time I’ll add more salsa, that was my only tip!  Enjoy!  

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 3 T. finely chopped onion
  • 1 (15.5 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (10 oz) can whole-kernel corn, drained (or frozen corn, thawed)
  • 1 T. brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup salsa
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2  T. butter
  • 8 (8 inch) flour tortillas
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese 
  • Cilantro optional

 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 mins. 
  2. Stir in beans, corn, sugar, salsa, and pepper; mix well.  Cook until heated through, about 3 mins. 
  3. Melt 2 tsp. butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Put a tortilla in skillet, sprinkle evenly with some cheese (about 1/3 cup), then top with some bean mixture (about 1/2 cup). 
  4. Put another tortilla on top, pressing down gently with your palm to seal it, cook until golden, about 1 min.
  5. Flip and cook other side. 
  6. Melt more butter as needed, and repeat with remaining tortillas and filling.  Cut into wedges and serve.