Monday, December 24, 2012

Day 30 and 2 Bonus Recipes!!

"For unto us a Child is born, 
 Unto us a Son is given; 
 And the government will be upon His shoulder. 
 And His name will be called 
 Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, 
 Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 
Of the increase of His government and peace 
There will be no end."
Isaiah 9:6-7a

Merry Christmas!  I can't believe Christmas Eve is already here!  We are just relaxing today, reading Christmas books and watching Christmas movies, addressing our Christmas cards, and enjoying time together.  I finally have a moment to wrap up my 30-Day crockpot recipe spree!  

The last day of the challenge I made an easy creamy vegetable soup.  The kids even thought it was really good.  It was perfect for the evening because we ate early and then went to the Austin Trail of Lights!  I had lots left over, so I froze enough for two more meals!  Yay!!

Friday, my husband returned from a week in India, so I wanted to have a nice special meal made for him.  We have been cutting down on meat for several months, but I thought he would enjoy this yummy Beef Chuck Roast dinner.  I took my older kids to the mall Friday, so I was glad to have dinner slow-cooking the whole day while we were gone.  We were stuck in parking lot traffic for over an hour upon leaving, so it was a good thing dinner was already made!!  My mom made yummy mashed potatoes, and dinner was ready when we made it home.  Unfortunately, Todd's flight was delayed, and he didn't make it home in time for dinner, but he had some for lunch Saturday and loved it!  I froze the rest for another meal--I will make tacos out of the leftovers, and I'll post about that when it happens (easy way to convert leftovers into taco filling).

Last night we had friends over to go to a local live nativity, so we ate hot dogs from the grill, and I made a very festive, yummy, perfect side for cookouts--"Party Beans!"  I doubled the batch, and will freeze for later.  Everyone raved about the beans, and my friend even told me she doesn't ever really like beans as a stand-alone side dish but she tried these beans, and loved them.  She said they were very flavorful!  So that tells you something!  Enjoy the recipes and enjoy your Christmas!!


Creamy Vegetable Soup
Makes 12-15 Servings (full 7-quart slow cooker)
3 14-oz. cans chicken stock (I used vegetable)
3 15-oz. cans cream style corn
3 cups fat-free milk
48-oz. pckg. frozen mixed vegetables
1 onion, chopped (you can pre-sautée if you want it ready sooner)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Combine all ingredients except pepper in slow cooker.
2. Cover and cook on low 3 hours.  
3. Serve with warm bread and sprinkle fresh pepper over each bowl to taste.

*Add 2 potatoes, cubed, in step one (if you're in a hurry to have it ready, pre-boil)
*Add salt, pepper, and fresh herbs to taste in step 1.

Beef Roast with Tomatoes, Onions, and Peppers
Makes 10 servings
4- to 5-lb. beef chuck roast, cut in half
2 14 1/2 oz. cans Mexican-style stewed tomatoes, undrained
16-oz. jar salsa, your choice of mild, medium, or hot
2 or 3 medium onions, cut into chunks
1 or 2 green or red bell peppers, sliced

1. Brown roast on all sides in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Place in slow cooker.
2. Combine tomatoes and salsa in bowl.  Spoon over meat in slow cooker.  
3. Arrange onions around meat.
4. Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours or until meat is tender but not dry.
5. Add pepper slices 1 hour before serving, pushing them down into the sauce.
6. Remove meat from slow cooker and allow to rest 10 minutes before slicing. Place on serving platter and top with vegetables and sauce.
7. Serve with rice or mashed potatoes.

Partytime Beans
Makes 14-16 servings
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 sweet red bell pepper, chopped 
1/2 cup water
1/2 packed brown sugar
2 bay leaves
2-3 tsp. cider vinegar
1 tsp. ground mustard 
1/8 tsp. pepper
16 oz. can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
15 1/2 oz. can Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
15-oz. can Lima beans, rinsed and drained
15-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
15 1/2 oz.  can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained 

1. Combine first 10 ingredients in slow cooker.  Mix well.
2. Add remaining ingredients. Mix well. 
3. Cover.  Cook on low 5-7 hours, or until onion and peppers are tender.
4. Remove bay leaves before serving. 
5. Serve with grilled hamburgers or hot dogs, tossed salad or veggie tray, chips, fruit and cookies.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Day 29: BBQ Pork Loin--Super Simple and Delicious!

It's the holidays, and I've been going for the easy, minimal-ingredient variety of crock pot meals.  Yesterday, dinner was in the crockpot in literally one minute.  Super simple, super yummy--my mom (visiting from Miami) and the kids loved this.  I am cutting down on meat, so I ate mostly rice with the sauce and a huge helping of the green beans I steamed on the side.  The sauce was really good!  

Barbecued Pork
Makes 8 servings (I doubled and had leftovers enough to freeze for another meal)

2-lb. boneless pork loin
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 cup diet soda
1 cup low-sodium barbecue sauce

1. Place pork in slow cooker.  Combine all other ingredients in a bowl and then pour over pork.

2. Cover and cook on high for 4 to 6 hours or until meat is very tender. 

3.  Remove pork from slow cooker.  Slice or shred pork.  Stir back into sauce. 

4.  Serve on wheat or multigrain buns.  Or serve over rice with steamed vegetables on the side.  

Variation: Add another 1/2 cup barbecue sauce in Step 1 to create a juicier sandwich filling.  

I hope you are all enjoying all the wonders of the Christmas season!  We are trying hard to focus on the Reason for the Season: Jesus!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Day 28: It Doesn't Get Much Easier Than This!

I love easy, delicious meals!  Who doesn't??  The meal I made yesterday in the crockpot seemed way too easy to really taste good.  Well, it turned out to be Super tasty and a huge hit with the family!  We had a teeny bit left over, and the children made me divide it equally among them for lunch today.  I would even be proud to serve this to company over steamed rice with a green bean casserole and a nice salad on the side.

Three Ingredient Crockpot Turkey
Makes 6 servings (I, of course, doubled it)

1 frozen turkey breast, NOT thawed, bone-in (about 5 min) or boneless (about 3 pounds)
1 lb. can cranberry sauce 
1 envelope dry onion soup mix

For bone-in turkey, put all ingredients into 5-6 quart crockpot, cover, and cook for 2 hours on high.  Then reduce heat to low and continue cooking for 4-5 hours until turkey registers 170 degrees F on instant meat thermometer (or until meat is cooked through--I didn't check with a meat thermometer).  Note: I actually cooked this on high for 2 hours, then on low for 6 more hours, and it was perfectly cooked through.  

For boneless turkey breast, follow instructions above.  When you reduce the crockpot heat to low, start checking the turkey after 1-2 hours.  It may only need that long to reach 170 degrees.  As my previous note stated, if you want to just cook on low for several more hours, it isn't going to make it tough or anything.  The meat turned out perfect.  My meat was also a bit thawed, so that probably made a difference.  It was delicious!

To serve, slice turkey breast and serve with sauce over rice.  For a really nice full meal, serve with a steamed vegetable and salad on the side.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Days 26 and 27: In the Holiday Spirit! Wassail PLUS a super-easy Sunday Dinner!

Yesterday our children had a piano recital.  There is always something about doing this at this busy time of year that makes me feel more of the Christmas spirit!  Our teacher has only a few students--our children and our neighbor's children.  We had the recital at our neighbors' beautiful home, which is decorated with lovely things.  We decided to have a brunch afterwards, and then we got to visit for quite a while afterwards.  It was  lovely.  Add that to the fact that my mom arrived Friday from Florida, and I had the opportunity to take her to Michael W. Smith's Christmas concert last night, and I am now officially in the Christmas Spirit!!

For the brunch, I made a yummy Fruity Wassail in the crockpot.  It was very well received.

Fruity Wassail (from Fix it and Forget It: Recipes for Entertaining)
Makes 20 servings

6 cups apple cider
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 cup honey
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon rind
46-oz. can pineapple juice

1. Combine ingredients in slow cooker.
2. Cover. Cook on low 1-2 hours.
3. Serve warm from slow cooker.

Variation: Use 3 cups cranberry juice and reduce the amount of pineapple juice by 3 cups, to add more color and change the flavor of the wassail.

Dinner for this evening has become a regularly appearing meal in our household.  It is simple to prepare and tastes surprisingly good.  The first time I made this, I didn't expect it to taste as good as it does.  I guess the juices flow down over the vegetables and create a very nice flavor.  I can get this one ready in less than 5 minutes.  It cooks all day, so I like making it on a Sunday before church so we can enjoy our afternoon and I don't have to worry at all about dinner.  Serve with a salad and bread, and you have a nice meal.  I've brought this to several potlucks as well.  People seem to really like it.  What is really nice about this recipe is that you can make more or less according to your needs--bigger or smaller.  It's not exact, so it is very flexible.

Grandma's Sausage Crock-Pot Dinner

Your favorite potatoes, skin on (quartered)
Green Beans (canned or ore-steamed)
Hills hire Farm Smoked Sausage (Lil' Smokies--I use store brand turkey smokies)
1 stick butter
Salt and Pepper

Wash as many potatoes as your family will eat. Quarter them and place in the bottom of the crock pot. Add as many quarts of green beans as your family will eat (I usually put in two large cans).  Pour some or all of the juice over the top. Over the beans, place as much of the Hillshire Farm lil' smokies as your family will eat.  (NOTE: this is pre-cooked, not raw or ground--the kind that come in packages and look kind of like little hot dogs.  Typically called "lil' smokies.") Slice one stick of butter over the top and season with salt and pepper.  Slow cook on High for 6 hours or low for 10 or more hours.  It sounds too simple to be good, but you will not believe the taste or the delicious smell.  

Enjoy your family today, and hug your loved ones close.  Remember those who have lost dear ones in the terrible tragedy in Connecticut, and be thankful for every day you have to enjoy the life with which we are blessed.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Day 24 and Day 25: An Easy Dinner and then a Delicious Breakfast!

Yesterday was cleaning day, so I wanted to make something super simple.  I found an appealing recipe entitled "Easy Stuffed Shells."  This sounded like something try on a busy day like yesterday.  There are just three ingredients in the recipe, and I had this in the pot in under five minutes!  It can cook on low all day, or on high for 3 hours, which is nice if you aren't able to get it ready early in the day, as long as you get it in the pot three hours before you want to eat it, you are still ok!  The kids all seemed to like this one, even the green beans.  They told me it was kind of like lasagna.  I do have a couple of kids who aren't crazy about lasagna, but they still ate it.

My mother is arriving this morning from Miami for a 2-week stay.  We are busy getting ready for her arrival, so I thought it was a perfect day to make breakfast for Day 25.  We are having a pizza party for my daughter's birthday party tonight, so no need to crock for dinner.  As I have said before, it is simply lovely to wake up to the aroma of a nice, hot breakfast already cooked and ready to go!  This Crockpot Apple Oatmeal recipe is a favorite of almost everyone in the family.  Last night, I took my oldest three children to see the midnight premiere of "The Hobbit," so my amazing and wonderful husband actually got the Apple Oatmeal ready and in the pot!!  Gotta love that!  Did I mention that he is my hero???  :)

Easy Stuffed Shells
Makes 4-6 Servings (I doubled this, and the children ate almost all of it--Todd and I went out on a dinner date last night)

20-oz bag frozen stuffed shells (I actually used a 64-oz bag of jumbo stuffed shells, and this was fine with only doubling the sauce)
15-oz. can marinara or spaghetti sauce
15-oz. can green beans, drained (I used the French cut for this recipe)

1. Place the shells around the edge of a greased slow cooker pot. 

2. Cover with marinara sauce. 

3. Pour green beans in the center.

4. Cover.  Cook on low 8 hours or on high for 3 hours.

5. Serve with garlic toast and salad.  

Variation:  Reverse steps 2 and 3. Double the amount of marinara sauce and pour over both the shells and the green beans.

Crock Pot Apple Oatmeal
Serves about 8 (I always double this and we normally don't have leftovers)

4 cups Milk
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
2 T. Melted Butter
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Cinnamon
2 cups Oats (not quick oats)
2 cups Apples, peeled and chopped
1 cup Dates or Raisins (optional)

Spray a large crock pot with nonstick spray. Combine and mix well. Cook on low overnight or 8-9 hours. Stir well before serving.  Serves about 8. 

Have a blessed weekend!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Day 23: Red Beans and Pasta

Above is a picture of most of the (36!) cookies-in-a-jar that we made yesterday!  Aren't they beautiful??  I'll be adding the gift tags with the recipe attached today!

We had a fun and busy day yesterday, full of holiday spirit and friends.  Four of our children were able to attend the Nutcracker ballet with our field trip co-op, and we hosted an informal Christmas party complete with a screening of the hilarious Christmas movie, "Elf."  Later in the evening, my friend (who happens to also be my neighbor) came over and we made cookies in a jar to give as gifts to teachers, friends, husband's co-workers, etc.  My family has done this every year now for at least 5 years.  It is so much fun and a wonderful, inexpensive festive gift to give.

In the midst of all of this busyness, I was able to still throw together this easy dish for dinner.  The one thing I would definitely change is that I would add the pasta towards the end of the cooking time, maybe 1/2 hour to an hour before serving.  The pasta was mushy and overcooked.  I will have to experiment and post about the perfect timing on adding the pasta.  I'll be sure to do that in the future, because this was yummy other than that!  I doubled the recipe.  I'm not sure I want to freeze the leftovers because the pasta won't freeze well since it's so mushy.  We will probably just eat it for lunch and feed whatever is left over to the chickens--they will LOVE it!!

Red Beans and Pasta (Fix it and Forget It: Entertaining)
Makes 6-8 servings

3 15-oz. cans chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 garlic clove, minced
8 oz. spiral pasta
Half a large green bell pepper, diced
Half a large red bell pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 15-oz. can red beans, rinsed and drained
Chopped fresh parsley (for serving)
Chopped fresh cilantro (for serving)

1. Combine broth, cumin, chili powder, and garlic in slow cooker.

2.  Cover. Cook on high until mixture comes to a boil.  

3.  Add pasta, vegetables, and beans.  Stir together well.  NOTE:  I recommend waiting to add the pasta until maybe one hour before serving.

4. Cover.  Cook on low 3-4 hours.

5. Add parsley or cilantro before serving.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Day 22: Western Omelet Casserole

I hope your Christmas season is off to a great start!  We have many traditions we love to do every year at this time, and almost every year we add a new one! This year, I'm starting a new tradition which involves taking favorite Christmas story books (mostly picture books) and wrapping them.  Unwrap and read one each day!  We also always do an Advent celebration each day lighting candles, singing carols, and reading a little devotional.  This year we also added a new tradition involving a very special Advent calendar I bought from an organization that sells goods hand made by widows in Africa.  Every day as we take out the newest little figure to hang on the picture on the quilt, we think of and pray for the widow whose hands made this beautiful Advent Calendar.  I have always wanted a cloth Advent calendar with the little figures you take out and hang each day, and this was the year God directed me to the one we were meant to have!  Love it!!

In this busy time of year, I'm loving my crockpot more and more!  Yesterday the meal I made was breakfast.  It was a good casserole, and everyone ate lots of it, but we all agreed that we liked the Breakfast Skillet from my Day 19 better.

Here is the recipe.  I didn't have to double this one, and there was plenty for everyone and even a  little left over that a couple of children had for lunch.  I was a little worried about the onions in this one, but they softened nicely overnight and you couldn't even really identify kids didn't even notice them.

Western Omelet Casserole (Fix it and Forget It: Entertaining)
Makes 10 servings

32-oz. bag frozen hash brown potatoes (the cubed kind, not shredded)
1 lb. cooked, diced ham
1 medium onion, diced
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
12 eggs (I ended up using 16 to cover the top of the layers)
1 cup milk
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper

1.  Layer one-third each of frozen potatoes, ham, onions, an cheese in the bottom of the slow cooker.  Repeat two more times.

2.  Beat together eggs, milk, salt and pepper.  Pour over mixture in slow cooker.  (I added 4 more eggs and a little more milk to fully cover--I wanted to cover up those onions!)

3. Cover.  Cook on low 8-9 hours.  (I actually cooked on high for 6 hours and the turned to low when I woke up around 6 am.  We ate about 1 1/2 hours after that.  Turned out great.)

4. Serve with orange juice and fresh fruit.

Have a blessed day!  Next up will be a red bean and pasta dish!  

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Day 21: Black Bean Soup

After the week of heavy-on-the-meat meals, I was ready yesterday for something meatless.  This soup was easy to make, smelled delicious while cooking all day, and was nice to serve in a variety of ways at the same table!

Yesterday was a chilly day by Texas standards, but our cozy little house was warm, and it was lovely to smell the yummy comforting aroma of this soup cooking throughout the day.  I was free in the afternoon to snuggle on the couch with my younger children and read books--dinner was already done!  We read a book about manners, and in the book was a section on how to set the table properly.  So my 5-year-old helper, Simeon, wanted to help me set the table once we were finished reading.  That's all there was to last night's meal prep after the 20 minutes of getting it into the pot in the morning!  This is why I've been lovin' the 30 day crockpot challenge!!

The photo above is the soup in my "old-faithful" crockpot I've had almost 18 years (wedding gift).  See how colorful it looks!

Black Bean Soup 
Serves 6
(I doubled the recipe and froze a large container's worth of leftovers)

1 lb. bag dry black beans
2 10-oz. cans Rotel tomatoes
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped (I used 1 red and 1 orange bell pepper--colorful!)
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
14 1/2 oz. can chicken of vegetable broth
Water (to cover beans)
Cajun seasoning to taste (I used cumin instead, and it turned out well)

1.  Night before cooking:  Cover beans with water and soak for 8 hours or overnight.  OR: use quick-soak method--cover beans with 2-3 inches of water, bring to a boil for 10 minutes, then remove from heat and let stand, covered for 1 hour (I usually do this method and things turn out perfect). Drain well.  Place beans in slow cooker.

2.  Add tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, garlic, and chicken or vegetable broth.  Add water just to cover beans.  Add Cajun or other seasoning to taste.

3. Cover.  Cook on high 8 hours.  Mash some of the beans before serving for a thicker consistency.  

4. Serving suggestions:  
*over rice  
*on tortillas like tacos
*with tortilla chips, sour cream, guacamole and cheese like a taco soup

Today is Nina's 11th birthday, and she has requested a family favorite: Poppy Seed Chicken, which I don't make in the crockpot.  So my crocking for the day is a breakfast casserole: Western Omelet Casserole.  We will soon see how everyone likes it, and I will post about it, along with the recipe, tomorrow morning.