Tag Archives: cooking

Slow Cooker Taco Soup

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Yesterday, I decided to make taco soup in the slow cooker.  It is heavy on the pinto beans, as my husband got a 50 pound bag last summer for only $22.

I spent quite a bit of time trying to burn a slash pile with the family, and we were all glad for a hot meal at the end of a long afternoon.  Sadly, it did not burn all the way up.  We got some of it burned, but not all.  Bummer.  The soup was still excellent.  This turned out quite thick and some family members chose to fish out the beans and turn it into nachos instead.

Taco Soup

2 quart-sized bags of cooked pinto beans (soaked, cooked and frozen previously)  Probably 4-15 ounce cans would work

1 onion, chopped

2 Anaheim peppers, diced

1 Jalepeno pepper, diced

1 quart home-canned tomatoes (a 32 ounce can would work)

2 cups beef broth (I had frozen I had made, but you could use 1 15-oz. can)

1/2 pound cooked, leftover turkey taco meat, seasoned with taco seasoning

salt and pepper to taste

Extra taco seasoning, or cumin, if desired

Sour cream, cheese, and olives to garnish (optional)

Put all ingredients in crock pot.  Turn on “low” and leave for 6-8 hours. My slow cooker will automatically turn to “keep warm” when the time is up, and I left this on all day long, probably about 10 hours, until we were ready to eat.  Since everything is cooked, except the vegetables, there would be no danger if you needed to eat it sooner.  It also holds a long time  if your dinner time gets pushed off.  Makes 10-12 servings.  (Actually the 5 of us didn’t have much left last night, but we had been outside working hard for several hours and ate more than 1 serving each, I’m pretty sure!)

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This is what it looked like as a nacho.  They did drain out the liquid from the beans before they dumped it on the chips.  We get the mega-bag of chips from Costco, divide into zip-topped bags, and can enjoy corn chips for a reasonable price, without them getting stale, for several weeks.

Gluten-Free Stuffing With Apples and Water Chestnuts

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I wanted to make stuffing for Thanksgiving.  I needed it to be gluten-free, but I didn’t want to pay the price for packages of gluten-free stuffing mix (I would have needed several boxes at around $5/package) and I didn’t want it to be either too dry or gummy.

I decided to take a loaf of gluten-free bread I had in the freezer.  My daughter made multiple loaves during the summer because she was practicing for the fair, and we just froze them all.  It was unsliced, so I sliced and cubed it.  I divided the cubes between 2 cookie trays, drizzled a little butter over them and sprinkled on some seasoning.  I used poultry seasoning on one tray and Bragg’s mixed seasoning on the other.  My plan was to use one batch for croutons if it made more than I needed, but I ended up using it all.  Then, I baked those trays at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

The bread cubes were definitely dried out and crisp, but a little chewy in the middle.  I had 1/2 pan left of the gluten-free cornbread my mom had brought over.  I had some frozen broth from a time when Rob had cooked a chicken with apples and onions, so it was apple-flavored chicken broth.  Regular chicken broth would work well, also.

Thursday morning, I made the stuffing.

2 quarts homemade stuffing cubes

1/2 of a 9″ x 13″ pan of gluten free cornbread, crumbled

2 onions, diced

4 stalks celery, diced

1 can sliced water chestnuts

2 large apples, cubed

2 cups broth

2 Tablespoons poultry seasoning

1/4 cup melted butter

salt and pepper to taste

Salute the celery and onions until soft in a little vegetable oil.  Pour bread cubes, cornbread, the vegetables, apples and water chestnuts into a very large bowl.  Sprinkle with poultry seasoning, salt and pepper.  Mix thoroughly.  Drizzle with the melted butter.  Pour  1/2 of the broth over the mixture and stir.  Check to see how moist it is.  If it is still very dry, add the rest of the broth.  Check again.  Add more broth if needed.  Mine took about 2 cups of broth.  The cornbread I had was quite moist but the cubes were quite dry.  I did not want the cornbread to be gummy so I stopped adding broth when there was still some definition to the cubes–the stuffing was not all stuck together into 1 big ball when I mounded it on a spoon, but it did not just fall apart, either.    The cornbread broke down into little bits that kind of held the cubes together.  I poured it into a flat pan–mine is larger than 9″ x 13″ and baked it for about 1 hour at 350 degrees.  IMG_1755.JPG

It turned out amazing!  It had wonderful flavor from the apples, onions and celery and a nice crunch from the water chestnuts.  It was not gooey or too dry.  It was economical, too, when I used the homemade croutons.  I was very pleased with the results.

Roasted Hazelnuts

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During my childhood, I was raised on a hazelnut farm.  We also had peaches and cherries, but the main crop was nuts.  So, as a result, I got the opportunity to enjoy them many ways.  One of my favorites was to eat roasted filberts, as we called them.  My mom made them during holidays roasted with salt and butter.

Now that I’m grown, I still like roasting them.  My mom still has “connections” and gives me many pounds of the shelled nuts each fall. Hazelnuts are harvested in the fall and then taken to the hazelnut plant.  When they fall from the trees, they are considered “green.”  The nuts I work with have been dried and shelled, but are still considered “raw.”   This morning, I decided to roast a cookie sheet full of them since it’s been a while since we’ve enjoyed the salty, crunchy treat.

First, I preheated the oven to 250 degrees.  I poured raw hazelnuts on a cookie tray, 1 layer deep.  I then lightly sprinkled olive oil and a little salt onto them and stirred them.   I roasted them for 1 hour, stirring them every 15 minutes.   More salt was added, as needed.  When they were done, they were crisp, and turning slightly brown in the center.

We enjoyed munching on them all afternoon with our oldest daughter and her husband.  There are a few left for tomorrow, and then I’ll have make another batch.  Nuts are great for you, and fill my need for a salty, crunch treat without a lot of carbs.  Hazelnuts are another wonderful benefit of living in the Pacific Northwest. I feel blessed to live in an area that has so many unique, delicious foods that are so abundantly growing all around me, ready to be harvested and enjoyed by my family.

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Frugal Accomplishments for this week–Nov. 9, 2015

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This week, we cooked up 2 of our huge Sweetmeat squash.  There are still a lot left, but I froze 10 bags and we’ve got lots to eat besides.  I also cut up a few Butternut squash into cubes and they have been used throughout the week for quick dinners.

We cooked quite a few things, including cauliflower, Swiss steak, lots of things from the 50 lbs. of potatoes I got for $10 a couple of weeks ago, and used several odds and ends that came out of the garden.  It frosted pretty hard so most things are dead now, so now my menu planning will focus on using all that we preserved.

Today, I cooked pinto beans with a little Anaheim pepper,  spaghetti sauce with 1/2 lb pork burger, stuffed peppers with the other 1/2 lb pork burger, and a huge batch of chili with pinto beans and hamburger.  This will be the basis of our meals for the next few days.

IMG_1665We got baby pigs to raise for meat and to sell.  If all goes well, we will be able to sell the others enough to pay for the cost of ours.  We have pre-sold most of them, so it’s a matter of them growing properly, and staying healthy.  We’ve only had trouble one time, ever, when a pig got tetnus and died, but that was very rare.  Most of the time, it goes as planned.

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I enjoyed watching a woodpecker that has decided to take up daily residence in a dead tree near our garage.  He just spends hours each day hammering and pecking on that tree.  It’s fun to watch.

We used the library and returned materials promptly and did not get fines this week.  When we couldn’t make it, we renewed our materials on-line.

We’ve done some extra cleaning and either used up the “surprise” items we found or donated them.

I’ve been sewing on Christmas presents.

Since Rob’s job loss in September, I have deliberately decided to focus on my blessings.  It’s easy to fall into feelings of self-pity, anxiety, fear of the future, anger or despair.  It’s harder to focus on the overabundance that we have been blessed with, the promises of Scripture-assuring me that God will take care of us, and the every-day beauty that surrounds me.  Worry will not change anything.  I might as well enjoy my time right now as much as possible and not ruin this season, this day, this time with worry.  Because in the end, probably at least a year from now, I will be able to look back and say, “Yes, it was hard.  It was unfair, it was awful.  We were blind sighted.  We cried a lot.  We felt betrayed by those we thought were our friends.  People who said they loved us, didn’t.  But, God was faithful, and we made it through!”  I firmly believe this with all my heart.  And, during this Thanksgiving season, I am truly blessed!

Lemon Loaf

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For the last couple of days, I have been drooling over the Simple Lemon Cake on the blog, Debt Free, Cashed Up and Laughing.  It looks so good.  I wanted to make it.  But, silly me, I did not know what SR flour was.  I am gluten-free, so maybe it was sweet rice flour?  I just didn’t know, but that loaf looked yummy!  After waiting patiently, I got the reply that it was self-rising flour.  That made sense.  Well, sweet rice flour would have fit into my gluten-free diet better, but that loaf still looked really, really good.  I still didn’t know what another ingredient was:  jelly crystals.  I wondered–pectin?  Who knew?  So, I asked again and it was…….Jello.  Sounded interesting, but I didn’t have any lemon jello on hand and I wanted to eat that cake tonight!!

Once that answer was received, Patsy and I set to work changing the recipe entirely to make it fit the ingredients in our pantry, and to make it gluten free.    If you want to make the original recipe, go to her blog.  Or, try this version.  It’s really good, too.  I save money every time I make my own gluten-free baked goods.  To buy one gluten-free muffin can cost a couple of dollars, minimum.   Even though gluten-free flour is expensive, it’s way less to make my own.  I also had a lemon languishing in the refrigerator drawer that needed to be used.

Mini Lemon Loaves

2 Cups 1-to-1 Flour (from Bob’s Red Mill)

3/4 cup sugar

1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

zest of 1 lemon

1/2 cup melted butter

4 eggs

3 Tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 cup milk

Glaze:  1 cup powdered sugar

2-4 Tablespoons lemon juice (start with the 2 Tablespoons, and add more as needed to make a glaze)

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl, including the lemon zest.  Mix the butter, eggs, lemon juice and milk in another bowl.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry mixture and stir until well blended.  Spray 3 mini loaf pans (4″ x 2″) with non-stick spray.  Divide the batter evenly between the pans.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or until cooked through and slightly browned on top.     When the loaves are removed from the oven, set them on a cooling rack.  Pour the glaze onto the hot loaves, still in their pans.  Let set for 10 minutes.  Remove the loaves from the pans, and finish cooling on a wire rack.  The glaze will be cooled enough to stay on the loaves.  Makes 3 mini loaves.  Keep leftovers in freezer.

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Slow Cooker Swiss Steak

FullSizeRenderWhen I need dinner in a hurry, I turn to my slow cooker.  This happens several times a week, because I am always in a hurry!

Recently, someone gave us some round steak.  So, I decided to make Swiss Steak.  I cut the steak into cutlets and laid them in the bottom of the crock pot.  I seasoned it with salt and pepper.  I chopped one small onion and 2 tomatoes onto the top.  I still have a few tomatoes left from the garden, so I used those.  When I don’t have any from the garden, I use canned.  I put a carton of cream of mushroom soup on top and turned it on to low for 8 hours.  My sister had ordered a case from Amazon, and shared several cartons with me.  I can’t tolerate any gluten, so the Pacific Foods brand is the one I use.

That evening, we had the Swiss Steak with cauliflower from the huge box a friend gave me a couple of weeks ago.   Tonight, I thickened the juices with sweet rice flour to make gravy and we had the rest of it with mashed potatoes and home-canned green beans.  I’m looking for ways to use the 50 pounds of red potatoes I bought for $10 a week ago.  I was delighted to get 2 dinners for almost free and they were really tasty, too.IMG_1651

Freezing Squash

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Today, we decided to cut up 2 of the large sweetmeat squash and process them for the freezer.  We have been blessed with so many this year and I want to get started using them.  It takes quite a bit of time to cook, mash and freeze these large squash, to I like to put some into the freezer.  Early this morning, Rob cut them up and scooped out the seeds.  I baked them on cookie sheets lined with foil.

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I baked them until they were soft at 350 degrees.    It took between 1-1/2 hours and 2 hours to get them to a place where a fork would easily slide into them.  I got 4 large cookie sheets full from the 2 squash and was able to fit them all into my double ovens.  When we remodeled this house a few years back, I put in the double oven because we run a large 4H club and it makes the cooking classes go better.  I’ve found so many ways to use both ovens during days like this, and also at holidays, that I’ve always been glad I made that choice.

I set them out on the counter to cool down while I took Patsy to an appointment.  I intended to put the squash through the food mill when I returned, but Ja’Ana surprised me by getting quite a bit of it done before I came back.  Her arm was tired by then, so Patsy took over.  Grinding the food mill is pretty fun, but I was very happy to have the help with that part of the job on such a busy day.

The end result was about 10 quart-sized zip-top bags and a sizable bowl for using fresh.  Some of the bags are stuffed as full as they could get for evenings when we want to use it as a vegetable for dinner and some have less in them for when I want to use it for cooking.  For meals, my kids like it warmed up with a little brown sugar and cinnamon sprinkled on top.  For cooking, I use it as pumpkin.  It is less watery and stringy as many pumpkins I have grown and we love using it in pie, muffins, pumpkin custard, etc.  I love having the frozen squash in my freezer to make my life easier on busy days!