Veggie Beef Soup

veggiebeefsoup

There is this restaurant that we like going to from time to time that used to serve this veggie beef soup. It was so good! One bite, and I was hooked. The last time we went, I ordered my soup as normal only to be served simply veggie soup, so I asked what happened. I was informed that they never served veggie beef soup. I know that they did, I had it many times before. Instead of arguing with the manager I just said okay and moved on.

But this got me thinking about how hard would it be to make veggie beef soup. I started looking at recipe after recipe. No two were the same. The basics were about the same, veggies and beef but nothing else. So I combines several different recipes with the parts that I liked and threw everything into my slow cooker and walked away.

Now you may have notice that I love my slow cooker, I won’t deny it. But with this soup it makes even the toughest of beefs just melt in your mouth. You don’t even need to chew the meat… okay maybe a little so you don’t choke. 🙂

Veggie Beef Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb beef tips
  • 2-3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 4-5 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 lb green beans, make sure to cut the tips off
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 5 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Italian seasoning
  • 2-3 Knorr beef cube
  • 1 Tbs parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 6oz can of tomato paste
  • 1 ts salt
  • 1 ts pepper

Directions:

Tip: Make sure to have big chunks of the veggies. Having small sizes can cause the carrots and potatoes turn into mush. And you don’t want to eat mush for soup.

  1. Put everything into the slow cooker. Make sure to add the salt and pepper this will help bring the flavors together. Adjust the salt and pepper if needed.
  2. On low for 8-10 hours or high 6-8 hours. I prefer high temp, I think it gets the meat more tender then the low setting. But that is really up to you.

Tip: You can substitute the tomatoes, paste, and Italian seasoning for 1 16oz jar of pasta sauce. This will work but you won’t have that fresh from the garden taste.

See another easy meal to have ready for you when you walk through the door after a long day at work. You don’t need to spend hours in the kitchen to have a hot meal ready these days just need to learn to make what you have work for you not against.

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Ultimate Pasta Salad

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We have all had pasta salad in some way shape and form. Mine usually consisted of  pasta, dressing, and cherry tomatoes. Most people have had it this was and I love this way, it makes for a great side dish at a cook out. But when trying to figure out what to feed kids, it lacks something. It needed more to make it a complete meal and had to be healthy too.

I took the basic idea and added some more veggies and thin slices of ham. And I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have some type of cheese in it. It needed to be a cheese that wouldn’t melt in the heat or have it’s flavor get lost with all the other flavors. Parmesan cheese, freshly grated was my answer. Cost just as much as the pre-shredded but doing it yourself gives it a better flavor. 🙂

Ultimate Pasta Salad

  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced ham
  • 1 box pasta,  I used rotini
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 summer squash
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup Italian dressing
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a medium pot bring water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain.
  2. Cut the zucchini and squash into 1/2 inch chunks and quarter them.
  3. Place tomatoes, zucchini, squash on a cookie sheet. Add the ham strips. Pour 2 tbs of Italian dressing over and mix until everything is coated.
  4. Cook over the grill or in the oven on 350˚ until the veggies are slightly tender but still have a crunch to them. You don’t want to over cook and have it become mush.
  5. In a large bowl mix together the pasta and cooked veggies. Add the Italian dressing and mix until everything is coated again.
  6. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese over and give a quick toss. Serve warm or chilled.

This makes for a great summer time meal that won’t wear you down or heat your kitchen. 🙂 My favorite part is that you can make it a head of time and have an easy afternoon playing with the kids instead of worrying about cooking dinner. Summer time = fun time 😀

Spinach Pasta & Chicken Alfredo Dinner

A few days ago I made chicken alfredo with my homemade spinach pasta and it was a hit. And of course I was not expecting it to be such a great success I didn’t write down what I did. I do that a lot. 🙂

My husband asked for it again and this time I wrote it down. GO ME! 😀 Even my non-pasta loving child was asking for second and thirds. I think this is going to be on our menu for a while.

Spinach pasta & Chicken Alfredo

Spinach pasta & Chicken Alfredo

Alfredo has this expensive Italian sounding name but it is so easy to make, don’t be afraid. I have seen other recipes that call for cream cheese and I just couldn’t do that. To me cream cheese belongs on a bagel or for the base of a great tasting 7 layer dip. My Aunt Karen use to make this 7 layer dip all the time, and I can remember just eating the shredded cheese on top. But I digress. I wanted the sauce to be simple yet still have a ton of flavor and this is perfect.

Spinach Pasta & Chicken Alfredo

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into cubes
  • 1.5 cups chicken stock
  • 2 TBS flour
  • 5 oz parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 lb spinach pasta, fettuccine
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 TBS parsley, chopped
  • 1 TBS garlic, minced

Directions:

  1. In a large deep frying pan, fill about 3/4 way of water. Bring to a boil. Once boiling add spinach pasta. Cook until tender: about 3-4 if using homemade pasta or 8-11 minutes using store bought pasta. <- See mine is faster cooking time 🙂
  2. Once pasta is done drain. Set to the side.
  3. Put pot back on the stove and drizzle a little olive oil in the center. Added garlic, cook until fragrant. Add chicken. Cook until done. About 10 minutes. Once done remove chicken.
  4. In the same frying add 1 cup a chicken stock and deglaze the pan. We don’t want all that yummy chicken flavor to go to waste.
  5. In a small mixing bowl whisk together the flour and the last 1/2 cup of chicken stock. Once combined add to frying pan. Cook over medium-low until sauce thickens.
  6. Once sauce is thick add the heavy cream and stir. Slowly add in the parmesan cheese in small batches, stirring after each addition. Salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Add back in the chicken and let warm up in the sauce. Finally toss the pasta back into the sauce. Sprinkle in the parsley and serve.

This whole meal will take about 30 minutes to make and you only used 1 pot to make it. No, I am not kidding you. Easy to make and easy to clean up. For a busy family I don’t know what more you can ask for. This is where buying things like meat in bulk helps save money. Now let’s take a look at the break down.

$5 for the chicken + $0.45 for the chicken stock + $0.50 for the pasta + $0.05 parsley + $1.50 for the heavy cream + $0.05 for flour +$1.25 for parmesan cheese + $.05 for garlic = total $8.85. Now I feed 5 people, but since the average family is 4 we will base the serving price off of 4 people. That breaks down to $2.22 per serving. You can not go out and buy a meal for one person for that price.

Easy Pasta, Many Flavors

Spinach Pasta and Chicken Alfredo

I had to been a really good girl for Santa to bring me a pasta maker from Christmas and I am so happy that he did. This is hands down the best pasta we have ever had, then again it is homemade I should have know better to doubt it. What I didn’t expect was how easy it was going to be! I have made 3 different flavors of pasta so far: classic, spinach, and roasted red peppers & garlic pasta. Each one has been so simple make. Each one only had a max of FOUR ingredients. I bet you have everything you need to make at least the classic pasta.

I have made pasta before using a rolling pin and pizza cutter. So you don’t need to have the pasta maker to make it just strong arms. So don’t think that you need the special pasta machine to make it! I am going to show you step by step how to make spinach pasta. This is my favorite pasta, especially when you top it was Alfredo and chicken. See picture above. Homemade of course, but that is for another post. 🙂

Spinach Pasta

Ingredients

  • 2.5 cups of flour
  • 6 oz spinach, steamed & pureed
  • 2 eggs
  • dash of salt

Directions:

  1. Using a large pot and a steamer basket, steam spinach. About 5 minutes. Once spinach is done puree the spinach in a food processor.

    Steaming spinach

    Steaming spinach

  2. In a large bowl, place flour at the bottom and make a well. Crack two eggs into the center of the well and add a dash of salt.
    Eggs inside a flour well.

    Eggs inside a flour well.

    Slowly add the pureed spinach.

    Pureed spinach add to the flour and egg mixture.

    Pureed spinach add to the flour and egg mixture.

    Combine until a ball is formed.

  3. On a lightly floured surface kneed the pasta ball until smooth and elasticy. About 5-8 minutes.

    Spinach pasta ball ready for kneading.

    Spinach pasta ball ready for kneading.

  4. Wrap the pasta ball in plastic wrap and let rest for about 15 minutes. <- Hint: Before placing the ball in the plastic wrap dust with flour, that way the pasta will not stick!

    Spinach pasta ball resting inside a plastic floured wrap.

    Spinach pasta ball resting inside a plastic floured wrap.

  5. Work in small batches!!!! Keep your work surface lightly floured at all times. You will be glad you did!!!You can do this part with a rolling pin and knife or use a pasta maker.
  6. Form a small circle by hand and run it through they highest setting on the pasta maker. As you are rolling it through with one hand guide it through the other end with the other hand.

    This is 1/4 of the dough cut into half and formed into little disks.

    This is 1/4 of the dough cut into half and formed into little disks.

  7. When the all of the pasta is out fold in half and dust with flour and repeat. Once the pasta has gone through the roller again fold in half, dust with flour and roll through the next setting. Keep repeating until the desire thickness is reached. <- Just remember to fold in half and dust with flour between each rolling. This helps keep the pasta from sticking to the rollers.  

    Pasta sheets going through the rollers.

    Pasta sheets going through the rollers.

  8. At this point you should have sheets of pasta. Let the sheets dry about ten minutes before cutting them. <- This makes it easier to cut!

    Sheets of pasta on a lightly floured surface air drying before turned into noodles.

    Sheets of pasta on a lightly floured surface air drying before turned into noodles.

  9. Before cutting, either with a knife, pizza cutter or the pasta roller make sure to dust the tools and pasta sheets. <- This helps keep the pasta from sticking. Now you should have a ton of little strips of pasta.

    Pasta sheets being cut into thin strips.

    Pasta sheets being cut into thin strips.

At this point you can boil some water and cook the pasta and eat right now! This should take between 4-8 minutes, depending on the thickness. Check the pasta half way, they will cook faster then store bought pasta.

Or you can dry the pasta. You have several different options for this. 1) If you have a dehydrator you can make little ‘nests’,  put in the 140 degree setting and let it sit in there for 2-4 hours. Again depending on thickness. <- Very brittle when they came out but completely dried.

Drying in the dehydrator.

Drying in the dehydrator.

2) Drape pasta over the racks in the oven. Turn the oven on to the lowest setting. Wait five minutes then turn off. The place the racks in the over and wait until dry. This takes between 1-2 hours. <- Warning: pasta may break using this method, keep a close eye on the drying.

Trying to dry the strips of pasta on cookie sheets to try to stop pasta breaking.

Trying to dry the strips of pasta on cookie sheets to try to stop pasta breaking.

3) This is by far the easiest method. Just let the pasta dry on a drying rack or lay them flat on the counter. <- If you choose to do it this way make sure it is not humid in the kitchen or outside. This will affect the drying.

I hope that the pictures helped you along the way. Once you get the basics down the different flavors you can make are endless. And at a fraction of the cost. Let’s just take a quick look at the estimated price for just the spinach pasta.

$0.30 for the spinach + 0.22 for two eggs + $0.50 for flour = $1.02 for the entire batch of homemade pasta which is about two meals worth.  You can’t buy the cheap brand of pasta for that price. The prices may vary depending on where you live.

Easy Chewy Granola Bars

Chewy Granola Bar

 

A few years ago I fell in love with a granola bar and with in six months of me finding it they stopped selling it. It’s that the way it happens though. They were this perfect combination of chocolate, fruit, salty, and crunchy. I just had to find away to have them again. I have tried to make granola bars several different times, they all came out crunchy and never stuck together very well. I had to find away and one night I did. I was nervous but since they were gone in less then 48hrs I think they were a huge hit.

Chewy Granola Bars

  • 2 c oats ( I used the one minute quick cook oats, but didn’t cook them)
  • 1 c rice Krispie cereal
  • 1 c preztels, broken into pieces
  • 2/3 c light brown sugar
  • 1/3 c honey
  • 2 ts cinnamon
  • 2 TBS almond slivers
  • 1/4 c dried cranberries
  • 1/4 c butter
  • 3/4 c chocolate chips (I used a mix of semi-sweet and milk chocolate)

Directions:

  1. Line a 9×13 inch pan with parchment paper.
  2. Mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Set to the side.
  3. In a small sauce pan over medium heat combine all the wet ingredients. Heat until all the sugar is completely melted.
  4. Once the sugar is completely dissolved, remove from heat and combine with the dry ingredients. Mix well.
  5. Press mixture hard and evenly into the prepared pan. Place in fridge for about 30 minutes.
  6. In a small bowl melt chocolate chips. You can use the double boiler method or the microwave heating in 10 second intervals. Once the chocolate is melted pour over the granola and spread out evenly. Place back in fridge until chocolate has set. Then cut into bars or squares. Enjoy

OMG! Caramel Sauce

This is a quick one today. If you make anything you must make this sauce. Creamy, smooth, rich flavor and makes a ton. Best part is that is it wicked easy to make!

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Best Caramel Sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 TBS butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Mix the water and sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the sugar dissolves. Do not stir.
  2. Increase the heat to medium and boil uncovered until the sugar turns a warm chestnut brown, about 5 to 7 minutes, gently swirling the pan to stir the mixture. Be careful – the mixture is extremely hot!  Watch the mixture very carefully at the end, as it will go from caramel to burnt very quickly.
  3. Turn off the heat. Stand back to avoid splattering and slowly add the cream, butter, salt  and vanilla. Don’t worry – the cream will bubble violently and the caramel will solidify. <—This part scared me the first time I made it!
  4. Simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until the caramel dissolves and the sauce is smooth, about 2 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature. It will thicken as it cools.

Cranberry-Orange Pound Cake

Okay a few days ago I got this crazy idea to make a pound cake. Since I have never made a pound cake before I went on a search for the perfect recipe for me to try. Well nothing caught my attention so I took a basic recipe and added my own twist. I added my two favorite ingredients cranberries and oranges.  Just like any good baker you must test as you create to make sure everything works together and I couldn’t be happier with the pre-baked flavor. As it is baking away it just makes your kitchen smell so good.
One thing that I did learn while making this is do not get your fingers close to the mixer cause it hurts if it gets caught in the moving blades. I guess every great cook/baker has battle scares from the kitchen. Enjoy.
Cranberry-Orange Pound Cake
Ingredients
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 oz orange juice
  • zest from 1 orange
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 6-cup (8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch) loaf pan; set aside.
  2. In a small sauce pan mix heat 1 Tbs orange juice with cranberries. Heat on low for about 5-10minutes. You just want the cranberries to be warm, you do not want to pop the cranberries
  3. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; add orange juice and salt. With mixer on low, gradually add flour, beating just until combined (do not over mix). Gently stir in the cranberries and orange zest.
  4. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 1 hour (tent with aluminum foil if browning too quickly). Let cool in pan 15 minutes. Invert onto a wire rack, and turn upright to cool completely.

Tips: Make sure the butter is at room temperature, it will be easier to handle. Try not to use butter for the pan because butter can burn the sides, shorting is the only that I use to grease the sides of any pan I use. If you use one orange you will have enough juice and zest for great flavor.