Italian Tortellini Garden (Slow Cooker) Soup

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We absolutely loved this slow cooker soup – Dave said it was my best slow cooker soup ever!  It’s chock full of healthy veggies, like awesome zucchini, and has the creamy tortellini for a unique flavor.  Don’t skimp on the diced tomato can – make sure you get the one that has basil, garlic, and oregano in it for FULL flavor!  Instead of the onion, I added more bell pepper and celery.  I couldn’t find navy beans in a can so I subbed red kidney beans.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 T. extra-virigin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup sliced celery
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano, undrained
  • 1 can (15 oz) navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen cut green beans, thawed
  • 2 cans (14 oz each) chicken broth
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 package (9 oz) refrigerated sausage or cheese tortellini pasta (I used frozen cheese tortellini and let it come to room temp).
  • 3 T. chopped fresh basil
  • Grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese

 

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until hot.  Add bell pepper, onion, and celery.  Cook and stir 4 minutes or until onions are translucent.  Transfer to slow cooker.
  2. Add tomatoes with juice, beans, zucchini, green beans, broth, and garlic powder.
  3. Cover, cook on low 7 hours, or high 3.5 hours. (Your slow cooker will vary).
  4. Turn slow cooker to high, add tortellini and cook 20 -25 minutes longer or until pasta is tender.
  5. Stir in basil.  Garnish each serving with cheese.

Quick Taco Salad

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I had always wanted to try a taco salad and this easy recipe fit the bill.  I halved the recipe, omitted the onion, olives, and Jalapenos (all health or personal taste reasons) and it was perfect for our family.  It was simple to throw together, enjoy!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 pounds ground beef chuck
  • 2 envelopes taco seasoning mix
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cups green leaf lettuce, shredded
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar/Monterey Jack cheese blend
  • 1/2 cup chopped black olives
  • 2 cups salsa
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped (optional)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 (10.5 ounce) bag corn chips (such as Fritos®)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Brown ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat until crumbly and no longer pink, about 10 minutes; drain excess grease.
  2. Mix in taco seasoning mix and water. Bring the beef mixture to a boil and cook until thickened, about 10 more minutes. Transfer beef to a serving bowl.
  3. Place chopped onion, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, Cheddar cheese, black olives, salsa, jalapeno peppers, sour cream, and corn chips in individual serving bowls.
  4. Allow diners to assemble their own salads from the ingredients.

Fluffy French Toast

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This is my favorite French toast recipe.  I make it once a month and freeze the remainder.  I usually use Texas Toast for the best result.  It’s just perfect.  I cook it up on my nonstick rectangular griddle that takes up two burners on the stove.  I usually double the recipe so there is more yield and less work in the long run.  Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk (I use 2%)
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 T. white sugar (I’ve reduced this and it turns out just fine)
  • Approximately 12 thick slices of bread

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Measure flour into a large mixing bowl.  SLOWLY whisk in the milk.  (<— This step is very important to prevent unsightly lumps!)
  2. Then whisk in the salt, eggs, cinnamon, vanilla, and sugar until smooth.
  3. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium heat.
  4. Soak break slices in mixture until saturated, one by one. 
  5. Cook break on each side until golden brown.  Serve hot.

 

Couscous & Apricot Stuffed Peppers

couscous peppers

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What a unique dish!  This is definitely a recipe that you could tweak to your liking.  I like apricot flavor but we noticed we didn’t love a full 1/2 cup of them in the peppers.  We’ll add apricot in the future, just less.  Yummy recipe and it’s interesting to see a pepper recipe without a tomato-based sauce!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 lb. ground beef
  • 1/2 cup raw couscous
  • 4 sliced scallions (optional – I didn’t do this, just added onion powder)
  • 1 cup crumbled Feta
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • salt/pepper
  • 4 hollowed-out bell peppers

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Brown 1/2 lb. ground beef.
  2. Cook 1/2 cup couscous according to package directions.
  3. Mix the beef, couscous, 4 sliced scallions, 1 cup crumbled Feta, and 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots; season with salt and pepper.
  4. Stuff mixture into 4 hollowed-out bell peppers and bake at 400° F, covered, until tender, 45-50 minutes. 

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Sandwiches

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This is such a simple pulled pork recipe!  It only works with regular root beer, not diet.  So it’s the only time you’ll see regular pop in my house.  It turns out beautifully!  The recipe says you can make it with a pork loin roast, but I had tried that previously and noticed the tenderloin shreds MUCH easier!  Leftovers are just as good as the main meal!  We used Sweet Baby Ray’s “Original” sauce, my favorite BBQ sauce, even though it’s not the healthiest one, it’s one sacrifice we make because we love it.  You could use any BBQ though.  ENJOY! 

INGREDIENTS:

  • One 2-lb. pork tenderloin
  • One 12 fl. oz. can or bottle root beer (approximately 1 1/2 cups)
  • One 18 oz. bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce
  • 8 Hamburger buns, split (lightly toasted, optional)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Place the pork tenderloin in a slow cooker, pour the root beer over the meat. 
  2. Cover and cook on low until well cooked and shreds easily, about 6-7 hours.  (Pork should get to a minimum temperature of 160 degrees to be safe, though the USDA said it can be 145, I go with 160 minimum).  The length of slow cooker time varies by your slow cooker.
  3. Drain well.  Stir in BBQ sauce. 
  4. Serve over buns.

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins

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This recipe is from “Smitten Kitchen” – and we found it really healthy YET wonderful.  Sometimes, as we all know, healthy baked goods can be very unappetizing, but these had flavor, sweetness, with a unique apple taste.  I halved the sugar crunchy topping, but next time I will add the entire amount.  I got about a 19 muffins yield.  They freeze and defrost well.  I left them on the counter to defrost, or in a pinch, I defrosted them on the defrost setting of my microwave.  I used buttermilk not yogurt. 🙂  I did encounter buttermilk curdling in this recipe, but I just kept going, and the muffins turned out just fine!  ENJOY!

Smitten Kitchen Link!

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup (4 ounces) whole wheat flour
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed, divided
1 large egg, lightly beaten (TO MAKE THEM EGGLESS, I JUST TOOK OUT THE EGG BECAUSE THERE IS BUTTERMILK IN THE RECIPE TO MAKE UP FOR IT). 
1 cup (8 ounces) buttermilk or yogurt
2 large apples, peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Grease and flour 18 muffin cups and set aside.

Mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, and set aside. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and add the granulated sugar and 1/4 cup of the brown sugar. Beat until fluffy. Add the egg and mix well; stop once to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.Mix in the buttermilk gently. (If you over-mix, the buttermilk will cause the mixture to curdle.) Stir in the dry ingredients and fold in the apple chunks.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, sprinkling the remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar on top. Bake for 10 minutes, turn the heat down to 400°F, and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool the muffins for 5 minutes in the tin, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.