‘Tater Soup

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Autumn has arrived and my taste buds are craving comfort foods! One of my favorites is potato soup. It’s easy and inexpensive to put together and oh so worth the little effort.

What you’ll need:

10 lbs Russet potatoes, peeled and diced
3 large stalks of celery diced
30 baby carrots, diced
1 large white onion, diced
4 T mined garlic
2 32 oz boxes of vegetable broth
3 t salt
2 t black pepper
1 T dried parsley
2C half and half

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Time to pull out the large stock pot. Peeling 10 lbs of potatoes is not exactly an entertaining endeavor, but once you’re sitting, spooning this delightful combination of goodness into your mouth you’ll be thanking yourself.

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Add remaining vegetables. Salt, pepper and parsley.

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Pour both containers of vegetable broth in, over high heat bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat to get a slow simmer and stir occasionally; you’re only 20-30 minutes from dinner.

Now that the potatoes are tender, take a potato masher and start mashing those ole spuds in the pot. If you prefer a soupier texture skip this step, but I like to have a thicker “broth” with a bit of chunkiness. I also like to add a little thickener using 2T of flour and a cup of water mixed, then added to the pot.

Turn off the heat and add the half and half. Stir/blend fully. Invite the neighbors/friends, this is a huge pot of soup!  Serve!

Add shredded cheddar cheese like I do. Crumbled bacon and chopped green onion is also a fantastic topper.

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Light Italian Chicken

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The only way this dish could be any easier would be if someone else put it together for you and then fed it to you. It’s a light dish, great for a summer evening when you don’t want to heat up the kitchen. The good ole Crock-Pot comes into service once again. In the lower photo I have my 2-quart along with the few ingredients, but you’ll actually need to use a 6-quart.

What you’ll need:

1 package of boneless, skinless chicken breast

2 cans of Italian type diced tomatoes. If you can’t find these tomatoes, using regular diced will work perfect, add 1 tablespoon of basil and 1 teaspoon of oregano.

1 large white onion, julienned

2 green bell peppers, also julienned

2 tablespoons of crushed garlic

Package of Angel Hair pasta, prepare following package directions

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In your Crock-Pot, put in the chicken, next the onion and bell pepper, and the garlic. Pour the two cans of tomatoes over it all. I normally add a bit more basil. Salt and pepper. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours, low for 8 hours. Once the chicken is “fall apart tender”, you are ready for dinner. I pour the goodness over the prepared pasta and serve. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. This will taste even better the next day. If you’re a left over snob, you are so missing out.

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This is a great dish to add zucchini to, experiment.

Mexican Lasagna

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Welcome to Sunday Afternoon!

It was a long week and the last thing I want to do is “work” at home. I don’t even think I have the umph to leave the house today, but I do need to eat but it needs to be simple. Luckily I have the ingredients already in the kitchen to make something very simple, reasonably nutritious, and it will make enough to feed me for a few days, or freeze nicely.

Mexican Lasagna (yes, I do cook more than lasagna in my kitchen, it just happens these first couple of blogs caught me being lazy… yes, you will catch me lazy a lot.) Today I prepared it in my cute little 2 quart Crock-Pot, that will feed me lunch and dinner for a couple of days, or easily feed 2-4 at one seating. I have made it using my 6 quart and it makes an inexpensive meal that will feed 10-12.

This is also a fantastic dish to consider for “Meat-Less Monday” or if you are simply cutting back on your meat intake. I tend to stay very far from beef or pork for my personal consumption. A bit of chicken now and then. Fish is a favorite, but it’s generally beans and vegetables. It’s a healthier diet that way, I stay very active and I don’t like to feel weighed down by having to digest heavy meats in my meals.

Back to my 2 quart Crock-Pot. I raised two daughters and for the first part of their lives I was actually married to their father. I enjoyed preparing our meals and having guest, but that was back in the days when I was the Earth Mother. Many years later, the daughters are adults out on their own, the father is an ex (whoop!) and I work my butt off being a professional, commuting an hour and 20 minutes from a small town, to the big city of Little Rock (I’m being slightly facetious.) daily. So not only do I work an average of 11 hours a day, I also have approximately 3 hours of commuting, leaving very little time to cook a meal that is healthy, play with my animal family, run, practice the guitar, write and, oh yeah, finally get some sleep… This is why I love my littlest Crock-Pot. I can throw together some wonderful ingredients, Turn it on Low and go to bed. In the morning I wake to know I have that days meal ready. I simply divide it up for my lunch and possible dinner, or pop single servings in the freezer for a better alternative to processed frozen food grabbed at the market.

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What you’ll need to prepare in 2 quart Crock-Pot:

2 cans of Black Beans, drained and patted dry

2 cans of RoTel, I used the ‘Hot’ variety, but mild is perfectly fine. It’s a matter of how zippy you want this to be. I like a lot of zip!

2 cans of corn, drained and patted dry, or equivalent frozen. I personally prefer frozen. It may be added without thawing.

6 soft yellow corn tortillas (the little ones, Mission brand is great, although it’s a pack of 30)

2 c cheddar cheese

1 small white onion, diced

3 t ground cumin

1 1/2 t chili powder

1 1/2 t garlic powder

salt and pepper to taste

Lightly grease your Crock-Pot. Pour 1/2 of the first can of RoTel in Crock-Pot to coat the bottom, followed by 2 corn tortillas.

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Next, a good layer of the black beans, I would say about 3/4 of the first can. I forgot to take a picture, but add 3/4 can of corn on top of the beans.

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Followed by the second 1/2 of the first can of RoTel.

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Sprinkle 1t cumin, 1/2 t of chili powder, 1/2 t of garlic powder, 1/3 of the diced onion, good dashes of salt and pepper.

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Topped off with 1/3 of the cheddar cheese.

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The next layer will be 2 more corn tortillas, followed in the same pattern listed above. You’re making 3 layers, so dividing your ingredients up into thirds can help out if you’re making this for the first time. As I’ve stated in earlier post, I am the kind of cook that goes by sight and smell while putting together a dish, I have to stop and really think about how much of something I’ve actually added.

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Put the lid on your little helper and cook on Low for 4 hours.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream, or my choice, non-fat Greek yogurt… and maybe a margarita!

Pretzel Dip

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After trying a few different recipes I have put together some of the “hits” that pleased my taste buds, and am now sharing it with you. Most of the pretzel dip recipes I found and tried called for using mayo, and I just wasn’t thrilled with using a cup of mayo in a dip, so I tried it with Greek Yogurt instead and am happy with the results. Give it a try and see what you think.

I found a great link to a blog, “gimmesomeoven” http://www.gimmesomeoven.com/homemade-ranch-seasoning-mix/ that has a recipe to make your own Ranch dressing seasoning, instead of using those packets… I don’t mind short cuts, but for some reason those little packets always disturbed me to use, so this find has made me happy.

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What you’ll need:

2 T Ranch Dressing Mix (or that nasty packet, boo)

1 C of No Fat small curd Cottage Cheese

1 C (and a bit more for fun) of grated Cheddar Cheese

1 C of No Fat Greek Yogurt

1 T of dried onion flakes

1 T of dried shallots

1 t of dill weed

2 t of garlic powder

Mix your Ranch Mix with last four dry items.

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Mix together the ‘wet’ items; Cottage Cheese, Greek Yogurt and Cheese (I used a Mexican blend of Mild Cheddar and Colby Jack.)

Blend well the dry ingredients with the wet. It will be thick so be sure to mix it thoroughly.

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Refrigerate for 4-6 hours.

Serve with pretzels, pretzel chips or with veggies.

Chicken Lasagna

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I’m a bit of a “throw it in there” cook. I go by look, smell and taste when I’m coming up with something. I’ve been asked for this recipe, but forgive me if the quantities on the ingredients are vague. Trust me, you’d have to be trying to mess this up, it’s that easy. 🙂 You may, of course make your sauce from scratch. Raise that chicken, butcher it, cook and move forward, or cheat, this is one of those dishes where cutting corners truly is the fun of it. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone and if Martha Stewart shows up, just let her prepare a meal and you take the night off…. moving on…

This may be prepared in a 6 qrt. Crock Pot for a care free meal, or prepare in a 13 x 9 baking dish and put in a 350 degree oven for approximately 40 minutes. All the ingredients need to melt and blend. I’ve only prepared this in a Crock Pot, it may be more than what a 13 x9 baking dish can handle, so be prepared to fill a second smaller dish J

What you need:

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1 rotisserie chicken, de-boned and pieces cut into bite size

1 medium size pkg. of broccoli florets, or 5 fresh broccoli florets, stems removed and cut into bite size pieces (fresh spinach may be used instead, I would stick with fresh instead of bothering with frozen)

1 can of artichoke hearts drained and cut into bite size pieces

2 jars of Bartolli Alfredo Sauce (I use the low-fat option, it taste great and a good way to cut back in this recipe)

1 box of bow-tie pasta

2 eggs

1 large container of ricotta cheese

2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese

¼ cup of grated Parmesan cheese (may use a blend, just don’t use the nasty powder stuff)

2 T of Italian Seasoning or ¾ t of oregano and 1 ¼ t of basil

Salt and pepper, garlic powder or fresh minced garlic (to taste)

Olive oil

Prepare pasta per package instructions, rinse and drain thoroughly

With a fork, beat the eggs, in a medium size bowl, add the eggs to the ricotta and to this, add the Italian seasoning. Blend well. Set aside.

If you are using frozen broccoli, steam it or microwave it just enough to get it out of the frozen/raw stage. Drain and pat dry before using in recipe.

If using either a Crock Pot or the baking dish, oil both on the inside using the olive oil, just to prevent sticking, you may use butter or other oil, even a spray, but I always use olive oil.

Pour a quarter of a jar of the Alfredo sauce in the bottom of the Crock Pot or baking dish. Roll the dish around to coat the bottom.

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I don’t know the exact amounts of each item per layer, just remember you’re layering and use your ingredients accordingly.

Layer on top of that a semi thin layer of the pasta; this is your first layer. Add some of the chicken, then the broccoli, and artichoke hearts, the garlic (this is by your preference. If you like a lot of garlic, load it up, not so much, leave out or go sparingly) salt and pepper (possibly a little Cajun.) “Spread” some of the ricotta mixture over the chicken/broccoli. Next; a bit of the mozzarella, followed by a good sprinkle of the Parmesan.

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Cover that layer with some of the Alfredo sauce.

Next, a layer of the pasta, and the same steps as above. Do this to complete using your ingredients. For the very finish and you have covered the last layer with sauce, top this off with more mozzarella and a sprinkle more parmesan.

An added, possibility if I were making this for myself, I sprinkle a bit of the Cajun seasoning in with the layers. Otherwise I add this to my individual serving… it’s an addiction 😉

Put the lid on the Crock Pot and it will cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for six. The objective is to melt all this yumminess together. If you’re baking it in the oven, watch it, as it begins to bubble and the top is getting browned you have a completed Masterpiece.

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Perfect with garlic bread and a fresh salad. I would recommend a nice crisp Chardonnay to accompany this.

Enjoy!