[Slow Cooker] Bacon Bean Soup

There’s something about bean soup that just feels cozy: nice and filling, warms you up on a cold day, and requires fairly minimal effort on the cooking front. I made this soup last year and then the springtime weather promptly returned with no time for me to post another wintery item.

[Slow cooker] Bacon Bean Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

With a recent cold snap here, I decided to resurrect this recipe and share it with all of you. Full of veggies, easily made vegan, and quick to throw in the slow cooker, this is a great meal for a busy week. Ditch the bacon (or use pre-cooked crumbles) and there’s almost no hands-on time other than chopping some veggies. I like to prep the veggies the night before, dump everything in the crock pot in the morning, and come home to delicious aromas and a hot meal. A quick puree with the stick blender and a side of bread and/or a vegetable and you’re good to go.

[Slow cooker] Bacon Bean Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

This soup is one I like to describe as comfortable. Nothing too snazzy with the flavors but it tastes great, fills you up, and is a healthy way to end the day. It keeps for at least a week and reheats well in the microwave, so don’t be afraid of a large batch even if you’re on your own to finish it off.

[Slow cooker] Bacon Bean Soup {{Baking Bytes}}

I personally nixed the celery in favor of zucchini, but if you have celery on hand throw it in there too. With it all pureed together at the end the flavors meld into one instead of a more traditional and chunky vegetable soup. It turned out fairly thick, great for topping with extra bacon, cheese, chives, or whatever else you like to throw on there.

Warm yourself from the inside out with a healthy and filling dinner, then maybe splurge on dessert.

Bacon Bean Soup

Adapted from Emily Bites
Makes about 2 quarts

Ingredients

8 slices bacon1

3 (15oz cans) Great Northern beans, rinsed
1 can butter beans, rinsed
6-8 carrots, diced
1 onion, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced (optional)
4 stalks celery, diced (optional)
4 cloves garlic, minced
32 oz chicken or vegetable broth
1-2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp parsley (fresh or dried)
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Fry bacon or bake for 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees. Allow to drain, then crumble into small pieces. Set aside.
  2. Add half the bacon and all remaining ingredients (except salt and pepper) to a slow cooker and stir gently. Cook on low for about 8 hours, or on high for about 4 hours.
  3. Use an immersion blender to puree at least half the soup (I did all of it, but you can stop whenever you like the texture) in the crock pot, or carefully remove 3-4 cups of soup to a blender and puree, then stir back into the crock pot.
  4. Taste soup and add salt and pepper if necessary. Top with remaining bacon and serve hot. Also delicious with a little grated cheese!

Notes

It would also be great with cubed ham. Great way to use those leftovers! Or nix the meat entirely for a vegan/vegetarian option, it’s delicious that way too.

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Broccoli Beef

Two days until July – I’m so excited! Why? You may ask. Well, for the month of June my challenge to myself was to give up bread (tortillas and pasta included) and peanut butter. Mainly to see if I could do it, because these items are basically life staples, and to help me branch out into different food.

Broccoli Beef {{Baking Bytes}}

I did end up having to make some exceptions (I traveled a fair amount this month which makes it a lot harder to avoid bread, especially since I really don’t like to waste food unnecessarily) but overall it was a successful challenge. I am *super* looking forward to being able to use tortillas again for wraps, and to have peanut butter on a waffle, but it also helped me come up with some new favorites: quinoa bowls, baked sweet potatoes, and this broccoli beef dish.

Broccoli Beef {{Baking Bytes}}

Super easy since it’s made in the crock pot, this broccoli beef is just as good as takeout and not much more work. You could easily prep it all the night before and store it in the fridge (use a separate bowl, not your crock pot container), and dump it into the slow cooker in the morning. Add the final ingredients right when you get home, turn it to high, and you’ll have dinner ready to go within the hour while you unwind or do some chores or whatever else you need to do in the interim.

Broccoli Beef {{Baking Bytes}}

Amazing sauce, thinly sliced beef (or elk in my case), and veggies galore. Traditional broccoli beef is just that, broccoli and beef, but I like to add a bell pepper for extra veggies, extra flavor, and extra color. Although in full disclosure, I add bell peppers to basically all my entrees where it wouldn’t be weird. A double batch just fits in a 6-quart crock pot, so you can feed a crowd or put half in the freezer for another day.

Broccoli Beef {{Baking Bytes}}

Goes great with a side of rice, quinoa, noodles, zoodles, or just enjoy it solo. It reheats well and is just as delicious on day 5 as it is fresh from the cooker. And if you finish the meat and veggies before the sauce, it works great as a condiment for rice or quinoa bowls.

Broccoli Beef {{Baking Bytes}}

Note: I have a hunch you can add the corn starch slurry at the beginning, and assuming it’s cooked on high for at least one hour near the end it should thicken as expected. However I have not yet had time to test this theory. Once I do, I’ll update here.

Broccoli Beef

Adapted from Le Creme de la Crumb
Makes about 3 quarts

Ingredients

1 cup beef broth (or 1 bouillon cube + 1 cup boiling water)
1/3-1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4-1/3 cup brown sugar (not packed)
1 Tbsp sesame oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1.5 lbs steak, slightly frozen

3 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water

1 lb broccoli
1 bell pepper, thinly sliced (optional)

Directions

  1. In a crock pot, whisk together broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, garlic, and pepper flakes.
  2. Thinly slice meat (this is easier if it’s still slightly frozen), and cut into 2″ pieces.
  3. Gently add meat to crock pot.
  4. Cook on low for 4-6 hours, or high for 2-3 hours.
  5. 1 hour before serving: Vigorously whisk or shake together corn starch and water. Stir into crock pot. Add broccoli and bell peppers, turn heat to high, and cook for another hour.
  6. Serve solo or with rice, quinoa, pasta, or your favorite grain.
  7. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers. Make a double batch if you like to have lots!

[Slow-Cooker] Enchilada Quinoa

On the off chance you were intending to stow your slow cooker for the summer, I am here to stop you. Plenty of fantastic summer meals can be made in your handy-dandy crock pot, starting with this one.

A few weeks ago I was at Costco, my favorite store, and bought a rather large bag of quinoa on somewhat of a whim. Quinoa is trendy and healthy and I’ve seen many delightful looking recipes on the internet I thought looked worth a try. Of course I promptly left the bag unopened for nearly a month, like I do, but I broke the ice with this enchilada quinoa concoction.

[Slow cooker] Enchilada Quinoa {{Baking Bytes}}

I came across this recipe on Pinterest (of course) and thought it looked delicious, healthy, easy, and versatile. I was right on all accounts. Other than browning some meat and chopping some veggies, it requires little effort and not much hands-on time. As you may have observed, I am all about the easy meals. Even better, this makes a bunch so you have lots of leftovers or enough to feed a crowd.

[Slow cooker] Enchilada Quinoa {{Baking Bytes}}

Great enchilada flavor, with more-than-meat texture afforded by the quinoa, this is a fantastic way to get your Mexican fix without making tacos again. (I love tacos, but even they can get repetitive.) Black beans and bell peppers add some extra flair, and jalopeños would blend nicely if you’re into that sort of thing. If you want to kick up the flavor, feel free to stir in some salsa at any time. It is a great meal on its own, especially garnished with your favorite taco toppings like cheese and lettuce (or avocado, I guess), and a pretty well-rounded one at that.

[Slow cooker] Enchilada Quinoa {{Baking Bytes}}

But just in case you get bored of the bowl situation, it also makes a fantastic filling. Add a tortilla and you have a new twist on tacos. Bake or fry them and you have some great burritos. Rolled thinner and baked and you have delightful taquitos. Pour some extra sauce over them before baking and turn those taquitos into enchiladas. So many options! I’m sure you’ll have no trouble putting this recipe to good use.

[Slow-Cooker] Enchilada Quinoa

Adapted from Bobbi’s Kozy Kitchen
Makes about 3 quarts

Ingredients

olive oil
1-1.5 lbs lean ground meat (I used deer)
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups uncooked quinoa, rinsed
2 cups frozen corn
1-2 jalopeños, diced (optional, I didn’t add any)
1 (15-oz) can black beans, rinsed
1 (15-oz) can diced tomatoes (I used a variety with chili peppers)
1 (10-oz) can enchilada sauce
1 cup water
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
2 tsp coriander

2 bell peppers, diced

optional toppings: shredded cheese, diced lettuce, sour cream, salsa, etc

Directions

  1. In a large pan, heat a splash of oil until pan is warm. Add meat and sauté until it is about halfway browned. Add onion and garlic, and continue to sauté until meat is completely browned. Drain (if necessary) and add to slow cooker.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients1 and stir until well combined. Cook on high for about 3 hours, or until all the liquid has been absorbed.
  3. Stir everything again, adding additional seasoning if necessary.
  4. Serve hot, with your favorite toppings. Also great as a taco or burrito filling, or baked into taquitos.

Notes

If you’re around, you can wait until the last 30 minutes to add the bell pepper so it retains a little crunch, but it’s not necessary.

[Slow Cooker] Hearty Stew & Honey Cornbread

[Welcome to 2014! Hope everyone had a lovely holiday season. I’m back from an amazing trip to Australia and looking forward to a brand new year of blogging. I haven’t had time to look through all my travel pictures yet as I just returned late Saturday night, but once I do I’ll be sure to share some with you guys, along with the some of my plans for 2014. In the mean time, enjoy an easy dinner recipe below.]

We now resume our regularly scheduled programming. I’m starting off the new year with an easy comfort food since I’m sure everyone is exhausted from all the holiday cooking and eating. (If you aren’t sugared out, I hope didn’t miss my almond roca post from two weeks ago.) This a hearty, no-frills stew is full of potatoes, peas, carrots and tender pieces of meat. Nothing fancy, just warm and filling. Other than dicing some veggies and browning the meat, you just throw it in a crock pot for a few hours and come back to a meal perfect for a cozy winter evening.

Hearty Stew & Honey Cornbread {Baking Bytes}

Need a side dish? Look no further than this honey cornbread. I love this recipe because not only is it super easy (and only requires two sizes of measuring cups), it is melt-in-your-mouth delicious with the slight sweetness of honey. It’s extra delicious spread with butter and drizzled with honey. Throw this recipe in the oven 30 minutes before you want to eat, and you have the perfect companion for your stew. A hard cider rounds out the meal (or Martinelli’s, for the kids.)

Both the stew and the cornbread make great leftovers, for about a week or a few days, respectively. Keep the stew in the fridge and cornbread in an airtight container on the counter. I like to reheat the cornbread for about 30 seconds in the microwave with some butter for extra moisture. I happily eat this stew for several days, and think you’ll enjoy it too. Find the recipes for both the stew and the cornbread below.

Hearty Stew & Honey Cornbread >> Baking Bytes

[Slow Cooker] Hearty Stew

Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens cookbook
Makes 2.5-3 quarts

Ingredients

1 lb meat of choice (I used deer)
2 Tbsp olive oil

2 (11.5 oz) cans V-8 juice
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cubes beef bouillon
1/2 tsp dried basil1
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 bay leaf

2-3 large potatoes2
4-6 medium carrots2

1 cup frozen peas

Directions

  1. Add oil to a skillet and brown meat over medium-high heat. Drain and add to slow cooker.
  2. Add V-8 juice, onion, garlic, bouillon, basil, thyme, pepper and bay leaf, stirring to combine.
  3. Cube potatoes and carrots into bite-size pieces, about 1″, and carefully add to slow cooker. Add as many potatoes and carrots as you like and will fit.
  4. Cook on low for 5 hours.
  5. Add peas and cook for an additional 30 minutes, until peas are warmed through.3
  6. Serve hot with a side of cornbread (recipe below.)

Notes

1 If you don’t have basil, you can substitute oregano.
2 I love potatoes and carrots, so I added a bunch. Start with the lesser amount and add more to taste. No need to peel them unless you really want to.
3 I like to add the peas when I put the cornbread in the oven.

Hearty Stew & Honey Cornbread >> Baking Bytes

Honey Cornbread

Gleefully borrowed from Tim
Makes one 8×8 or 9×9 pan

Ingredients

1 cup flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder

2 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey

Directions

  1. Grease a 9×9″ or 8×8″ baking pan and preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium bowl; make a well in the center.
  3. In a small bowl, lightly beat eggs. Add remaining ingredients and whisk gently.
  4. Pour wet ingredients into the well and stir gently until just combined. Pour into prepared baking pan.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes for a 9×9 pan, or 25-30 minutes for an 8×8 pan. Cornbread should be nicely browned and a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.
  6. Let cool for a few minutes, then serve with butter and honey, if desired.

[Slow Cooker] Enchilada Soup

Bozeman has been slow to head towards winter which makes it difficult to dive into fall cooking. The weather is a little bipolar, often jumping between 20’s one week and high 50’s the next. As someone who loves cold weather, the latter of the two makes me very upset inside. Recently, however, we had a short bout of 30’s, which led me to making this wonderful slow cooker soup.

[Slow Cooker] Enchilada Soup >> Baking Bytes

In addition to being incredibly fast to assemble (not including cooking time, of course) this soup is delicious and perfect for a chilly fall day. A little spicy, this soup version of a Mexican dinner is warm and hearty and goes great with a side of cornbread. (Or if you’re me, cornbread goes great with a side of this soup.) M is a hunter so I used deer steak we had in the freezer, but use whatever meat or poultry you prefer. Corn, black beans, and green beans come together for a healthy and filling meal with the spiciness of chili peppers and enchilada sauce.

As with most slow cooker recipes, this one is very easy to modify to fit your personal preferences. Add and subtract canned/frozen veggies as you like, but be mindful of the overall volume as my small crock pot barely fit this recipe. It’s also easy to tailor towards your own spice tolerance; choose mild or hot enchilada sauce and peppers as you prefer. I’m fairly wussy so I tend towards medium and mild, respectively.

[Slow Cooker] Enchilada Soup >> Baking Bytes

This recipe makes enough to feed a decent crowd, or an average family with leftovers for later. If your weather is guiding you to soup cravings, this one is sure to satiate you.

Enchilada Soup

Adapted from SnarkRecipes
Makes 3 quarts

Ingredients

1 lb meat/poultry of choice1

1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 (10 oz) can enchilada sauce
1 (4 oz) can diced green chili peppers
1 (10 oz) package frozen corn2
1 can green beans (optional)
1 can black beans, rinsed

1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp black pepper

2 cans chicken broth3

cheddar cheese, grated (optional garnish)

Directions

  1. Dice meat into bite-sized cubes and brown in a skillet over medium heat. Drain and add to slow cooker.
  2. Stir in onions and garlic to distribute evenly.
  3. Layer remaining ingredients except chicken broth.
  4. Gently pour in the chicken broth, being careful not to overflow, and stir gently.
  5. Cover and cook on low for about 6 hours, or on high for about 3 hours.
  6. Serve garnished with shredded cheese.

[Slow Cooker] Enchilada Soup >> Baking Bytes

Notes

Again, I used deer steak but use whatever you prefer. Chicken or beef would both be great.
If you buy frozen corn in bulk like I do, 10 oz is about two cups.
If you have a larger slow cooker and would prefer a more brothy soup, you may want to add an additional can of chicken broth.
If you want to come home to a lovely dinner already made, cooking this a few extra hours won’t hurt it. Throw it together the night before, store it in the fridge overnight, turn it on “low” in the morning, and have dinner ready to go when you walk in the door.