Recipes

Sunday Adventures with a Crockpot

Rainy Sundays are perfect for putting a soup on in the crockpot.  I decided to try a new eMeals recipe.  But I had to decide whether I wanted to use my regular old crockpot, or my instant pot.

If I’m just wanting to use the crock pot feature, and don’t need to take advantage of the instant pot’s feature allowing the cook time to be delayed, I actually prefer the regular crock pot.  I feel like crock pot recipes I make in the instant pot take longer to cook and are more watery than I like them, compared to using the “regular” crock pot.

My plans to use my crock pot were foiled, though, because when I took the crock pot out of the cabinet, I found it had burnt on food on its walls, that apparently I missed seeing the last time I washed and put it away.

I (halfheartedly) attempted to scrub it clean, but it wasn’t budging (and who knows how long it had been there, anyway), so I googled “HOW TO CLEAN BURNT FOOD OUT OF CROCKPOT” and found the suggestion to dump 1/4 cup of baking soda, water and a squirt of liquid soap into the crockpot, cover and cook on high.  The directions said to cook for 4 hours, but I only did 2, and the gunk wiped right out.  Easy peasy.

In the meantime, I loaded up the instant pot with the ingredients for Chicken Tortilla Soup, and eight hours later, I had dinner.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 1.5 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces (but I used to 12.5 oz cans of canned chicken, drained)
  • 32 oz carton of chicken broth
  • 10 oz can diced tomatoes and green chiles
  • 12.7 oz pkg frozen Southwest vegetable blend, thawed
  • 10 oz enchilada sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic (I used a teaspoon of refrigerated minced garlic)
  • 2 tsp ground cumin (I used 1 heaping teaspoon)
  • 2 tsp chili powder (I only used 1 light teaspoon)
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • Tricolor crispy tortilla strips

Throw everything but the avocado and cheese in the crockpot, cook on low for 8 hours.  Garnish with avocado, cheese and tortilla strips.

This was good stuff, will definitely be saving this recipe.  I did have trouble finding the Southwest vegetable blend – only one of the two local Walmart stores carried it.  I’m sure if I shopped at fancier places, though, it would be easy to find.

And no, Tarzan wouldn’t try it.

Recipes

What My Husband Wouldn’t Eat For Dinner Tonight

You guys!  I’m super excited!  I tried a new emeals recipe tonight and it was ah-may-zing! I mean really really good.  Company-worthy.  Shoot, I’d go as far as saying restaurant quality.  Definitely a new favorite in my recipe box.

However, it is a little spicy.  I’m not a big spicy food eater, but I can handle it a little.  Tarzan used it as an excuse not to eat it.  I really didn’t think it was that bad.  I’m not sure there’s a way to make it milder, I think that’s the point of the recipe.

Anyway… here goes:

Spicy Pork Ragu

  • 8 oz rigatoni
  • 1 1/2 lb ground pork
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 24 oz jar of arrabbiata sauce
  • parmesan cheese

I threw the pasta with 4 cups of water in the instant pot, on the manual setting, for 6 minutes.  I know, I know, it’s not that hard to boil pasta.  But, I love using the instant pot, because it frees up my stove space, I don’t have to worry about stirring to keep it from boiling over, it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan, etc., etc.  I can just set it and forget it while I work on the rest of the stuff.

Heat the olive oil over medium-high, then cook the pork until no longer pink.  No need to drain!  Dump in the wine and the sauce, cook and stir on medium until the pasta is done.  Drain the pasta, then dump in the pot with the rest of the stuff, stir, and serve with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

This is seriously good stuff.  It’s just something different from your run of the mill pasta dish, the flavors of the wine and the arrabbiata sauce blend so well.  It reminds me of Pasta House’s Shrimp Diablo, which isn’t on the regular menu, but they serve it as a lunch special on Fridays.

I had never even heard of arrabbiata sauce, but I found it at Wal-Mart with the rest of the pasta sauces.  I used the cheapest brand I could find, which turned out to be a Sam’s Choice label.  The recipe actually called for grape tomatoes, but the arrabbiata sauce I purchased had little balls of tomatoes in it already, so I skipped that part.

Someone else needs to try this!

P.S.  The recipe is supposed to serve 6, and comes out to 516 calories a serving.

Recipes

What I Did with 4 Ounces of Rigatoni

So tonight I decided to experiment with my instant pot.

I had leftover Cowboy Chili from last week, and I had about a fourth of a box of rigatoni noodles.  I really hate it when recipes don’t call for a full box of pasta… what are you supposed to do with four ounces of rigatoni noodles?

So I decided to kill two birds with one stone and finish up these leftovers.

Since I had made the chili in my instant pot (with the slow cooker feature), it was already in the inner pot from my instant pot.  So I just took a slotted spoon and fished out the stew meat chunks.  Then I dumped the pasta in the chili broth, set the instant pot on 6 minutes using the manual setting, locked the pot and waited to see what would happen.

What happened, was the pasta was cooked perfectly (I chose 6 minutes because that was how long a different recipe I recently called for cooking rigatoni)… and the broth was steaming hot enough so that when I mixed the stew meat back in, it adequately heated the meat, so it was ready to eat as soon as I got it all stirred up!

I thought it was great.  My husband?  He had hamburger helper.  *shrug*

 

Recipes

I Wonder Why They Call it Cowboy Chili?

Well, we survived Snowmageddon.  Got home from work Friday evening and neither one of us left the house again until Sunday.  Over 24 hours of torture marital bliss.

Actually, it wasn’t that bad.  I’ve been sick with my annual Cough That Won’t Go Away.  It was a good excuse to do absolutely nothing.

It was a little unfortunate that I hadn’t made it to the grocery store before the blizzard… we were forced to eat frozen pizza Friday night.  I had a rare hankering for fried chicken and mashed potatoes Saturday.  Tarzan offered to go to the gas station up the road and get me some, but they didn’t have mashed potatoes and I knew that just wouldn’t do.  So instead I had Raisin Bran (Tarzan had a bologna sandwich) and Sunday morning we went to brunch at Ponderosa (which was about as awful as it sounds, but I got the fried chicken thing out of my system anyway).

With all the spare time available, I perused emeals and planned my meals for the week (lunch at work and dinner at home, 6 servings a piece, and given that Tarzan rarely eats My Food… “meal planning” for the week equates to two emeals recipes).  Sunday evening, I mixed up “No-Cook Black Bean Taco Salad” for my lunches, and this morning I put “Cowboy Beef Chili” in the instant pot (using the slow cooker feature, setting the timer to start later in the day).  Both recipes turned out to decent, although I think the Cowboy Beef Chili was more brothy than I would usually want chili… but I do think it would make an exceptional base for vegetable beef soup.

I altered the original recipes a bit:

No-Cook Black Bean Taco Salad

  • 2 (15-oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1/2 cup no fat Ranch dressing
  • 1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco
  • romaine lettuce

Mix the first 4 ingredients, spoon over lettuce.  (The recipe also called for tortilla chips and avocado, but I skipped the chips in the interest of saving calories.  The avocado would have been a nice touch, but I wouldn’t use a whole avocado in one serving, and it would have just turned brown.)

 

Cowboy Beef Chili

  • 2 lbs stew meat
  • 32 ounce carton of beef broth
  • 2 cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes (with seasonings added)
  • 1/4 cup frozen chopped onion*
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic*
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon chili powder*
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin*
  • 1 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

I chopped the semisweet chocolate in my Ninja, it worked great.  I wasn’t sure about chocolate in chili, but while I couldn’t taste the chocolate, the chili had an exceptionally good flavor.  As I mentioned.. it was more soup than chili, I think.  I’ll defintely use this base recipe again someday, but add potatoes and vegetables for a vegetable beef soup.  I think it would be delicious.

*The recipe actually called for 2 cups of chopped onion, and twice the amount of minced garlic, chili powder, and ground cumin.  I tend to be sensitive to all those ingredients, and typically always half those.

So… now you know what I did on my winter break.  😉

Recipes

Life is Good

I’ve kept a diary since I was in third grade, and one thing has always been true:  The more interesting my life gets, the less I write.  🙂

So you might take that to infer that my lack of activity here indicates that interesting things have been happening.  And… you’d be somewhat right.

The most significant thing is, I’ve changed jobs again.  This time you might even say I’ve changed careers!  I’m still in accounting, but doing something completely different and in a completely different industry.

Around August, it became apparent that my health could no longer sustain the travel my job requires.  I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rhuematoid Arthritis as a child.  Since my teenage years, I have only had a minor flare here or there, easily controlled by over-the-counter meds and the occasional cortisone shot.  But, in November of last year I began to have more serious symptoms.  The cortisone shot didn’t help this time.  It would ebb and flow, but things got progressively worse as the year went on.  After a particularly tiring work trip that included almost 24 hours in a airport due to delayed flights, I just kind of fell apart.  It was time to make a change

This is kind of a big deal because I’ve worked really hard at building a career in my current niche, and I was good at what I did, and I was paid well, etc.  However, it was more than just my health.  I don’t say these kind of things often, but I felt that God was telling me I needed to make a change, and now.

So… I did.

Several things have happened since then that I won’t get into here, but have confirmed that this was the exact right thing to do.  Besides that, I am loving my new job, loving my short commute, loving having regular hours, and my marriage is improving.

Also!  I think I’ve cooked more in the past month than I have in the past two years (which might be part of the aforementioned “marriage improvements”…)

The latest addition to my recipe book is this.  I was looking for a recipe to use up some ham pieces I had, and when I came across the recipe I had almost everything I needed to make it, so I thought, what the heck.  I substituted canned chunk chicken breast (two 12.5 oz cans) for the turkey, and doubled the crackers for the topping, but otherwise followed the recipe exactly.  Tarzan didn’t love it, but he also didn’t complain (which might also be part of the aforementioned “marriage improvements”). Our oldest granddaughter (who is currently living with us), liked it too.  In fact, the next day, she chose the leftover casserole over the ribs Tarzan had grilled (and he was very offended).

So anyway.  Things have slowed down a bit.  Priorities have changed.  Life is good.

Recipes · Uncategorized

Pursuit of the Perfect Taco Pizza

Early last week, Tarzan grilled some sirloin steaks.  A few days later, noticing the leftovers had not been eaten, I consumed the rest of it for lunch one day.  Apparently all day long that day, he had been dreaming of coming home to his leftover sirloin.  I really thought he had forgotten about it.  To make up for it, he wanted to go to Pantera’s Pizza, which is over an hour away (on a work night!) to try their taco pizza.

My husband is something of a taco pizza connoisseur.  He claims that Pizza Hut used to have the best taco pizza, but they discontinued it.  I think that must have been a long time ago.  Probably before I was born.

He doesn’t like Casey’s taco pizza.

There used to be a place a couple of towns over that had it, although he said it wasn’t as good as Pizza Hut, it was passable by his standards.

He had recently been perusing Pantera’s website (that iPhone’s good for something!) and saw that they had taco pizza and wanted to try it.

So, heavy with guilt from eating his sirloin, I had to give in (did I mention it was a work night?!).

He was sadly disappointed, as Pantera’s taco pizza did not meet up to his expectations.  The main thing they all do wrong, he says, is they fail to use refried beans.  Pantera’s version appeared to use some sort of thickened-up taco sauce in place of pizza sauce, which in Tarzan’s estimation, made the meat too greasy.

Last weekend, we took a boat ride.  We sputtered down the river to the next river town over, docked our boat (probably on someone’s private dock, but there wasn’t a NO TRESPASSING sign), and walked to a local pizzeria.  We were the only customers there, and Tarzan and the owner of the pizza parlor debated the makings of a great taco pizza.

They agreed to disagree.

At any rate, over the weekend I picked up the makings for a taco pizza from the grocery store, and we tried it last night.  My version was roughly based on this recipe.  The biggest thing I did different was instead of making two 12 inch prebaked pizza crusts like the recipe calls for, I used a refrigerated Pillsbury crust (13.8 oz, classic crust) and made one larger pizza, with the same amount of toppings (Tarzan doesn’t like his taco pizza with the tortilla chips on top, so I left that out).  The crust filled up essentially all of a large cookie sheet… I prepared the it as directed on the packaging of the pizza crust (including greasing the pan, and prebaking for 8 minutes on 400) and then, once the toppings were on it, baked it another 6 minutes at 350… because I thought that’s what the directions on the crust package said, but now that I’m looking at it, it actually said to keep it at 400.  So that might explain why the crust wasn’t as crispy as we would have liked it… something to note for next time.

Tarzan had two or three pieces, liked it okay – thought it would have been better if the crust was crispier.  Thinks next time we should make it with thin crust.

This made a LOT of food for two people, and it’s a heavy meal (you have to eat it with a knife and fork).  Tarzan won’t eat leftover pizza, so I had it for lunch and dinner today… and I think we still have 6 or 7 pieces left.  It was definitely worth making, and next time he has a hankering for taco pizza I think we’ll just make it at home.  He says he liked it just as much as he liked anything we’ve gotten in a restaurant recently.  So until Pizza Hut brings back taco pizza, I guess this is our game plan!

 

Recipes

Why You Haven’t Heard From Me and What I Made For Dinner Last Night

I haven’t been the most faithful blogger, have I?

The last couple few months have been sort of…hard.  A lot of little things that aren’t such big deals on their own kind of adding up and making it difficult to find nice things to say.  Such as:

  • My husband made a large, unauthorized purchase.  I am still trying to devise the appropriate punishment.
  • My mother married my uncle and moved an hour and a half away.  This was also unauthorized.
  • I injured myself and could not exercise for nearly 3 weeks.  Which in itself is enough to make me cranky (exercise is my stress reliever) but also I was taking a pain medicine that I believe was making me anxious and unreasonable.
  • Our dog died the Tuesday before Christmas.  I was out of town for work at the time.
  • Someone very close to me has been going through some really hard family stuff and there’s absolutely nothing I can do to help.
  • I got a ticket for rolling through a stop sign on New Year’s Eve.
  • We began having these weird power surges in our home and couldn’t figure out what the issue was.  It all came to a climax on our anniversary when we blew a breaker on the pole outside of the house… at 8:30 pm while I was in the basement on the treadmill.  (Imagine being thrown off a treadmill in pitch darkness.). And then my husband almost died because I almost killed him over a half-baked DiGiornio pizza.
  • Work has been either feast of famine… and each is stressful in its own way.
  • I found out I have emphysema.  Which explains a lot about my recurring bronchitis and why cough medicine never seems to help as much as it should.

BUT IN OTHER NEWS.

I made dinner last night.

My brother and I got my dad and stepmom iPhones for Christmas.  I put them on my data plan.  Since they do not have wi-fi at home, they needed to come over to my house and install the latest software updates.  I also needed to change some settings on their phones to see if I could stop them from blowing through our data so quickly.  (What did they do with themselves before they had iPhones?  I don’t know.)

So I invited them over for dinner.

I made Beef Tortellini, an old recipe I’ve had for a while but I think this is the first time I tried it.  My edits to the recipe:

  • I started 2 cups of water boiling on the oven while I put everything else together.  By the time I had everything else in the crockpot, the water was boiling, and I added two teaspoons of beef bouillon granules to the water for the beef broth called for in the recipe.  Granules dissolved really quickly.  Easy peasy.  Don’t buy beef broth pre-made if you can help it.  This is so much cheaper and less waste.
  • I didn’t brown the meat.  I never do when I’m making things in the crockpot.  I believe it’s a wasted step.
  • I used one teaspoon of minced garlic, because we are not huge garlic people.
  • I used about 30 oz of marina sauce.
  • Didn’t have fresh green beans.  Had a 12 oz bag of frozen cut green beans, which I let thaw overnight.  Probably wasn’t necessary to thaw them though.
  • I used 2 teaspoons of dried parsley.  (The rule for converting fresh spices to dried, is use about a third of what you would use if you were using fresh.  The recipe called for 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley.  A teaspoon is about a third of tablespoon.)
  • I used 1/4 teaspoon of dried rosemary, approximately the same logic as for the parsley.  Roughly.  It’s ok.
  • I couldn’t find 9 oz packages of refrigerated cheese tortellini, Walmart only had 20 oz.  I used the entire 20 oz package.  I think it would have been too soupy otherwise.  And adding the tortellini in 30 minutes before and turning the crockpot on high worked perfectly.  (That always makes me nervous, adding things in the crockpot at the end, not sure why.)
  • I put the stuff on about 10 am, added the tortellini at 4:30 p.m. and we ate at 5 p.m.  So, total, 7 hours cooking time.

It was a good meal.  I served it with just salad.  My husband did go back for a seconds, although I could tell it wasn’t his favorite.  But at least he didn’t complain.  I think next time I would serve it with shredded parmesan cheese.

I also made banana cake, because I had some over-ripe bananas to get rid of.  I have two banana cake recipes, one calls for sour cream and the other calls for buttermilk.  I was actually going to make the buttermilk version, but when I got to the store all they had was half gallons of buttermilk, and I did not need that much, so I switched to the sour cream version.  Made the cake exactly per the recipe, but I used whipped cream cheese frosting…although the frosting in the recipe looks interesting and gets great reviews.  Just wasn’t feeling that adventurous… and couldn’t see buying instant coffee just to make cake icing.

Anyway, the cake was definitely the star of the show.  Dad went back for seconds (so did I), Tarzan had a huge piece, and my stepmom requested to take some home with them.

Here’s to a better 2018!

 

 

 

 

Recipes

What Happens When You Marry A Man Who Won’t Eat Vegetables

Last night I made one of my all-time favorite meals.  The problem, of course, is that Tarzan won’t eat it.  Because of this, I’ve only made it maybe 3 times since we’ve been married.

*sigh*

This is one of those things, that I can’t fathom why he doesn’t like it.  It’s sooooo good.  He tried it once and he won’t even bother with it anymore.  He had peanut butter and jelly and bacon for dinner instead.

Here’s the recipe:  Vegetable Beef Skillet.

I make it pretty well exactly as written.  This time, I used a 12 oz bag of frozen broccoli and cauliflower (I let it thaw in the fridge for a couple days ahead of time, but if you aren’t an obsessive planner like me, I might suggest you zap the veggies in the microwave a few minutes before you add them, otherwise they might not be tender enough for some people) and since I had a can of diced tomatoes that included onion, I didn’t add the onion the recipe calls for.  Also, I’ve never seen plain “nacho cheese” soup, but you can find “Fiesta Nacho Cheese” soup usually.  I’ve never seen it at Aldi, but you can get it at Wal-Mart.

So… this is what I’ll be eating on the rest of the week.  No complaints, it’s really good!

Recipes

Make Your Wagers Now

Tarzan announced the other day that he’d like some ham and beans soup.

Anytime he says something like this, what he means is:  I want [fill in the blank].  But I don’t want to make it.  I want YOU to make it, but I want you to make it the way I would make it, if I were going to make it.

This is exhausting to me, since he and I do not have the same taste in food (have I mentioned that?).  He doesn’t want to eat it my way, I don’t want to eat it his way.  I feel like whoever’s making it should get to pick.  Unless it’s your birthday or you’ve been sick for days and this certain thing, made this certain way, is the only thing that sounds good enough to eat.

*sigh*

The problem with ham and beans is, he likes it soupy.  I don’t really like it at all, but if I do have to eat it, I like it a little thicker.

I only tried one other time to do this, but I cheated and used canned beans.

I have carrots and celery left over from making buffalo-chicken chili two weeks ago (which was good, not great – I only used about half the chili sauce and hot sauce it called for, I think I may have undershot it a bit – but I will say it was pretty good over the leftover spaghetti noodles from the week before)… and I have a thing about REALLY wanting to “Use Things Up”, so I decided to try my hand at ham and beans, for real.

I started with this recipe for inspiration.

  • 1 lb dry great Northern* beans
  • 6 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 ham hock
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • a bit less than 1/4 cup of dried chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups chopped ham
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

I soaked the beans in the crockpot overnight (no, I didn’t turn the crockpot on… duh, I was just saving some bowls to have to wash).  In the morning, drained off the water, then threw all of the ingredients in the crockpot and turned that sucker on LOW.  It was done in about 6 hours.

Again, in the spirit of wanting to Use Things Up, I have some chicken bullion cubes that just won’t seem to go away, so I’ve been boycotting buying chicken broth until they’re gone.  So I just heated 6 cups of water to dissolve 6 cubes, in lieu of using canned chicken broth.

I tried it out a little while ago, I was pleased.  I’m trying to stay optimistic… this morning when he saw me assembling the ingredients, Tarzan whined, “I thought you were going to make real ham and bean soup?”  (He was alarmed by the presence of bay leaves.)

We shall see.  Make your wagers now.

*Why is Northern capitalized?  I don’t know.

Recipes

What Happens When You Marry a Man Who Won’t Eat Leftovers

Last Friday night I had big plans to make dinner for Tarzan.  It’s always a struggle to find something we both like, we have exactly opposite tastes in food.  He doesn’t really like to go out for Mexican food, but now and then I can get him to eat it with minimal complaints if I make it at home.  So I put some chicken taco meat in the crockpot that morning.  (I used 2.25 pounds of chicken, an entire envelope of taco seasoning, and I didn’t have enough chicken broth so I dissolved some bullion cubes in hot water to make up the difference.  Also, when it was done cooking,  I shredded the chicken in my KithenAid® mixer, using the dough hook) I planned to make Mexican rice, and had soft tortilla shells and lettuce and tomato on hand, so it would seem more like a “meal” to Tarzan.

But… he had other plans for the evening and didn’t end up being home for dinner.  I didn’t make the rice, since that was mostly for him.  He won’t eat leftovers so I had an abundance of chicken taco meat on my hands.

I ate chicken soft tacos for dinner Friday, and for lunch and dinner Saturday.  When I got back from my trip I had chicken soft tacos for lunch and dinner Wednesday.  I had had about enough chicken soft tacos by then, so Wednesday after work I went and got the fixings for Skinny Tortilla Soup, which I made for lunch Thursday.  I used bullion cubes for the broth again and I used full-fat cheese (nope, I don’t believe low or reduced fat ingredients are all that much healthier, but that’s just my humble opinion) and I just replaced the 3/4 cup of cubed chicken with the chicken I already had.

I still had about a cup and a half of chicken left, even after making the soup, so I froze the rest of the chicken and put a reminder in my Awesome Note app to remind me in about a month to make a double batch of the soup and use the rest of the chicken up.  I do love the soup, it’s one of my favorites, so eating up a double batch won’t take me long at all (I had finished off Thursday’s batch by last night).  But… even so, I’m about taco-chickened out!  This is what happens when you marry a man who won’t eat leftovers.  *sigh*