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Good Crockpot Recipe

Wednesday nights are just insane around here.  I usually have to go pick Princess up from writer’s guild after school, and somehow manage to feed the two youngest by 5:15 so they can go to basketball practice (they won’t get home until after 8).  I can’t make anything too spicy or weird because they’re going to be running.

I’d gotten in the (lazy) habit of doing something like fish sticks and tater tots because they’re fast and easy, but not the healthiest.  (Plus I hate that kind of processed crap.)

Then I found this recipe for easy Korean Beef in the crockpot.  What attracted me to this recipe is that it uses hamburger — and even better, you don’t have to brown it first.  My hamburger wasn’t even completely thawed, so I threw it in on high for 1-2 hours first, and then chopped it up and added the rest of the ingredients.  I doubled it, left off the green onions (do any kids like green onions?!?), and used ground ginger rather than fresh.  I cooked it on low the rest of the afternoon and it turned out really well.  I added a package of broccoli slaw for a quick veggie (just cooked it 15 mins or so) and cooked some basmati brown rice.

I loved this recipe.  I could eat it for lunch for days.  Middle wouldn’t even try it.  She’s not big on anything Asian, though I think if she’d tried it, she might have been able to eat it.  She had a sandwich instead.  So I guess I can’t put it on our regular rotation, but it was definitely good enough to mention and I’ll make it for myself!

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Chocolate Chili So Good Your Head Sweats

I had a small roast thawed in the fridge.  Too small, really, to feed the whole family the way we eat roast beef.  But it was already thawed and so I wanted to come up with something interesting.  I was in the mood for something different.  Not just a hunk of meat…but something tasty and good and unique.

With the rule that I wanted to keep it low carb today.  (I had a few too many Panera whole grain bagels over the weekend!)

In came my Well Fed paleo cookbook.  No, I’m not paleo and never could be paleo long term.  But I’m committed to whole foods and nothing on the paleo menu is ever going to be made with pre-packaged ingredients.  Plus it totally fit the low carb/no wheat bill!

The recipe for Chocolate Chili struck my fancy.  I’ve never put chocolate in chili before, but I know it’s a crucial ingredient in mole.  I love that dark, rich, spicy sauce, so I thought, hey, I’ll give it a try.  Princess is gone tonight, Middle is eating vegetarian right now, and That Man is still doing his crazy salad diet, so it was really going to be me and Littlest eating it.  As long as I make pasta for her, she’ll eat about anything on top of it.

The results…. OH.  So good.  Yum.  To me, it wasn’t spicy at all (there are only 2 T of chili power in it).  As I ate, it made my head sweat, but it didn’t burn my mouth at all.  Littlest said it was spicy but she ate a good bowl’s worth.  That Man sampled the meat and said it was way too spicy for him.  So if you’re a bit of a wimp in that regard, you might want to cut down on the spice!  For me, it was perfect.

So here’s how I modified the original recipe to come up with Chocolate Chili.

2-3 lbs lean roast beef, trimmed and cubed (original recipe called for ground beef)
2T coconut oil
1 diced onion
4-5 cloves garlic
1 can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1 c. beef broth
2 T chili powder
1T cumin
1 t all spice
1 t parsley (original recipe called for oregano but I didn’t have any)
1 1/2 T cocoa powder
salt and pepper to taste

In batches, brown the chunks of meat in coconut oil and remove. Add the onions to the pan and scrape up the browned bits. If needed, add a little broth to help deglaze the pan. Press the garlic and add the rest of the ingredients, including the browned meat. Reduce heat to a low simmer and let cook 1.5-2 hours.

For me, it was two thumbs way way up.  The meat was fall apart tender and I didn’t miss the beans at all.  I put a nice mound of raw spinach in the bottom of my bowl and spooned the hot chili over the top.  Littlest ate hers over pasta.

On a chilly gloomy day, it was the perfect belly warmer!

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Unusual Stir Fry

In my effort to continue eating mostly protein and veggies for dinner, I decided to try a new-to-us recipe.  It’s actually based on a recipe from Jane Brody that I remember Mom making, only she used ground beef.  I say unusual because I don’t often think of ground meat in stir fry, but man, I hate cutting up nasty slimy chicken breasts or trimming all the fat off round steak.  This was quick and easy!

Ground Turkey Stir Fry

2 pkgs of 99% lean ground turkey breast (each was around 20-22 oz)
1 T coconut oil
1 t dark sesame oil
1 pkg green beans (I used frozen)
1 pkg sugar snap peas
1 c. chicken broth
2 T cider or rice vinegar
1 T soy sauce
1″ fresh ginger, peeled and chopped small
lots of fresh garlic
green onions chopped into 1″ pieces (I can’t use many because the monsters hate them)
2 T corn starch or arrowroot

Heat a large 12″ iron skillet on med-high heat for 3 mins. Add 1 t sesame oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Throw in the green beans, peas, and onions, cooking until they start to char a little on the sides. Remove with a slotted spoon.

Add 1 T coconut oil and the ground turkey. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook through.

Meanwhile, mix the chicken broth, vinegar, soy, ginger, garlic and corn starch in a small bowl.

Once the meat is cooked, add the liquid and stir until thickened. Returned the cooked veggies, mix and heat through.

When I made this the other night, I used a separate small pan for the veggies and I ended up using a bit more oil to get my healthy oils in. This made a huge pot, easily 8 reasonable sized portions, at 6 P+ each if you use more like a T of oil for the veggies. I used lots of meat — more than we really needed — because I needed to use it up (I bought it on sale) and I could use the protein.  (Plus I like having leftovers for lunch.) You could easily trim some points there if you need to.

I was afraid the monsters wouldn’t like it: white meat and lots of green veggies. But they all really enjoyed it and asked for it again!  If you’re not watching carbs, serve over rice or noodles, but it’s really good alone.


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Unusual Homemade Granola

I used to buy Kashi’s almond/flax granola by the case at Sam’s Club, but no more.  I’m making my own using this delicious recipe.  It’s so versatile!  Even better, the KIDS love it.  They won’t touch Kashi or “normal” healthy granola, but they eat this faster than I can make it.  The base recipe is inspired by Hungry Hungry Hippie’s Quinoa Granola recipe, tweaked to my family’s taste.

I’ve been doubling the recipe without the nuts, spreading out one pan, then adding nuts for the other pan (the kids don’t like most nuts).  I also skip all dried fruit (again, for the kids), but it’s delicious with dried dates and cranberries.

For a single pan of granola:

Mix about 4-5 cups of “seeds and grains” including your favorite mix of:

  • oats
  • quinoa
  • hemp hearts
  • buckwheat groats (I had to order these from Amazon – I couldn’t find locally – but totally worth it.  They add a really unique texture and are very chewy!)
  • unprocessed bran flakes
  • chia seeds
  • unsweetened coconut, shredded

We personally like about 2 cups of oats and the rest a mix of seeds and grains, with about 1/2 c coconut and 2-3T chia.  They kids LOVE quinoa in this.  It really surprised me (I thought it’d break our teeth, but it’s delicious and chewy/texture without being too hard).  Mix up the above in a big bowl and adjust the texture and balance of grains to your taste.

Melt 1/2 c. of coconut oil and pour over the grains.  Add 1/2 c. pure maple syrup.  Stir up, spread in a pan lined with parchment paper, and toast in the oven at 250 degrees for about an hour.  Stir half way through to get the toastiness even (especially if your pan is threatening to overflow!)  I like mine pretty brown and toasty so I’ll cook it a bit longer.

If you don’t have picky kids, you can add another 1-2 c. of nuts (I love almonds, pecans, and sunflower seeds) and/or dried fruit without having to change the oil and syrup much at all.  If it’s a little sticky/clumpy, then it’s good.  You can play with the measurements and cut a little of the oil and sugar out if needed, but I usually just add more nuts.  :mrgreen:

After it cools, I store in a quart mason jar.  We usually nibble on the pan so much that I’m lucky if I end up with one jar for the next day!

Sprinkle some of this still warm on plain Fage yogurt and I’m in heaven.

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Amish Friendship Bread Experiments

That Man brought the dreaded gallon-sized bag of goo home from work the other day.  You know, the one you have to feed every 5 days and try to dump several bags of new goo on your friends and family.  Eventually they all start running in the opposite direction because they don’t want anything rotting on their counter.

So I end up doubling recipes, making tons of cake that none of us need.  On the bright side, it doesn’t tempt me at all, but the girls sure don’t need a bunch of rich cake to eat every day.

Besides, it’s always bothered me to put a box of artificial pudding in “Amish” bread.

So I googled and found all sorts of recipes that use the Amish starter for REAL FOOD.  This site had tons of recipes (both with pudding and without).  I had no idea that there were so many options!  Not just sweet stuff, but pancakes, biscuits and breads — anything where you’d use sourdough.  The Amish starter has a cup of sugar in it (each time I feed it), but I figure after 5 days or so, very little of the sugar is probably still there, although it’s definitely going to be sweeter than regular sourdough.

The first thing I tried didn’t turn out so well.  I made a chocolate cake using my fresh-ground whole wheat flour.  However, I don’t think I ground it quite fine enough, so the cake was a bit grainy and very heavy.  It also wasn’t sweet enough for the family, and not really chocolately enough.  They ate it, but it stuck around on the counter for days instead of disappearing.  Next time I’ll put chocolate chips in it, extra cocoa, and maybe a little more sugar.  I’m also getting better at grinding the flour.  I actually set a timer for a full 60 seconds in the VitaMix, because I just won’t grind it long enough if I don’t.

Tonight, we decided to have breakfast for supper:  pancakes and bacon, the monsters’ favorite.  I hardly ever eat pancakes, especially white flour ones made from a mix (again, family favorite is the “Pioneer” mix).  However, tonight they sounded really good.  I pulled out my Jane Brody cookbook and found my favorite multi-grain recipe (fresh-ground whole wheat and oats), but I tweaked it to incorporate the Amish starter.

At lunch, I put in 3 T of starter, along with the milk and flour for pancakes according to the recipe.  Mixed it in a bowl, and then set the whole thing in the oven with the light on to ferment all afternoon.  The recipe said to let it sit all night but I figured a couple of hours would be fine (although next time I’d probably use more starter if I didn’t have all night to let it work its magic).  Then for supper, I made the rest of the recipe like usual.

Man they were really tasty!  My favorite way to eat them is with a cup of no-sugar applesauce and a pat of real butter.  So good!

Have you ever made anything with the Amish starter?

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Retake Homemade: Lentil Soup

Jane Brody named this recipe appropriately:  My Favorite Lentil Soup.  From her Good Food Book and my all-time favorite soup recipe.

My Favorite Lentil Soup

2 T. olive oil
2 onions, chopped (I only used 1 to hopefully convince the monsters to eat it)
3 carrots, grated or chopped
3/4 tsp. marjoram
3/4 tsp. thyme
2 14oz cans fire-roasted tomatoes, with juice
6-7 cups broth
1/2 tsp coarse salt
black pepper to taste
6 oz dry white wine
2 T. dried parsley
grated cheddar cheese for topping

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven and saute the veggies and herbs for about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, broth, and lentils. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and cover. Simmer for about 1 hour until the lentils are tender. Add the salt, pepper, wine and parsely and simmer for a few more minutes. Top with cheese.

The cheese isn’t necessary, but it helps make the lentils a complete protein and is very tasty.

This recipe freezes really well.

Retake Homemade!

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Retake Homemade: Zucchini Muffins

My dad brought me a whole sack of home-grown zucchini, and two of the summer squash were so large, I couldn’t help but picture shredded zucchini in some delish breakfast muffins!  I don’t know that I can convince the two youngest monsters to eat these, but I don’t care — they’re wonderful!  (more for meeee!)  This recipe is adapted from Jane Brody’s Good Food Book (she makes bread with hers).

“Grate” Zucchini Muffins

3/4 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 c. unbleached white flour
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 egg white
1 whole egg
6 T canola oil
1 1/4 c. packed grated zucchini
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 T milk (not in original recipe, but my batter was a little too thick)

I just dumped everything into the bowl in no particular order and stirred until mixed.  Fill muffin tins (this filled about 9-10 regular-sized muffin cups) and bake 15-20 min at 350 degrees until done.

I was out of cinnamon, so I used allspice and ground cloves instead.  Soooo good, I couldn’t eat just one!

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Retake Homemade: Rice Pilaf

I’m a little late — the “Retake Homemade” posts are supposed to be on Saturday.  But with the holiday craziness this weekend, I just didn’t have time to post.  I figured better late than never. 

My recipe is inspired by Suzanne McMinn’s Homemade “Uncle Ben’s” post.  I went to our local organic foods store and bought wild rice, red and brown rice, and parboiled rice in bulk.  I got several large bags of rice for well under $10 (although I don’t have my receipts handy).  I was nervous because my kids don’t like “weird” textures or things that look odd, and wild rice does have a weird buggy look.  However, it won the approval of 4/5 members of my family — and even Littlest Monster, although she didn’t like it, did eat a few bites.  I’m hoping that over time she’ll get more comfortable with the strange rice.

Homemade Rice Pilaf

2 T butter
1 T dried onion flakes
2 cups assorted rice
4 cups broth (I used water + bouillon cubes)

Melt the butter in a saucepan that has a lid and is large enough to cook the rice.  Saute the dried onion briefly in the melted butter (do not brown).  Add the rice and broth.  Cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed.

You could add parsley, etc. but I didn’t want to put weird green things in the already weird rice until I knew the monsters would eat it.  I also didn’t add salt since I used bouillon cubes (notoriously high in sodium).  This would be FABULOUS with homemade chicken broth if you have it on hand.

Princess Monster had seconds, and Middle went back for thirds.  She LOVED this rice.  It has become a family staple!

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Spaghetti Sauce Recipe

Hands down, this is the best spaghetti sauce I’ve ever made.  Chef Michael Smith had a show on the Food channel called “Chef at Home” that we really loved, and he inspired the original recipe (I don’t know if the cookbook I linked to actually contains this recipe or not).  I didn’t jot down the instructions and over the months/years, I’ve modified it slightly to adjust for my family (they like it meatier). 

It’s a little expensive to gather all the ingredients and make sauce from scratch, but it’s totally worth it.  This isn’t a “measure carefully” recipe, so don’t be afraid to play around with it.

1-2 T olive oil
1 pkg pancetta
1 large onion, chopped
fresh garlic cloves, crushed and chopped, to taste
2+ lbs sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
2+ lbs ground beef (Chef Michael used a mix of veal and ground beef)
28 oz can diced tomatoes
1-2 8 oz cans tomato paste (depending on how tomatoey you like it)
1 bottle of your favorite red wine (I used Dancing Bull merlot)
fresh basil, or dried basil/Italian seasoning to taste
Kosher salt to taste

1. Chop up the pancetta.  In a large deep pot, heat 1-2 T olive oil and fry the pancetta until browned.  This gives the spaghetti a delicious roasted taste, even though none of the other meat is actually browned at all.

2. Add the diced onion and cook until softened.  Add the garlic but don’t brown it (it’ll get bitter).

3. Dump in the tomatoes and paste.

4. Add the meats and use a spatula to chop up the sausages a little.  (I leave it pretty chunky — the kids think they’re “meatballs”)  Do NOT brown.

5. Stirring, pour in red wine until the meats are covered.  Don’t worry about incorporating all the ingredients at this time.  It looks a little disgusting with all the raw meat, but trust me.  Put the lid on the pot, turn the heat down to low or med-low, and let it simmer about an hour.

6. If using fresh basil (YUM) don’t add it until near the end.  If you’re using dried herbs, you can add it whenever.  After the sauce has cooked about an hour, you can safely taste it and add salt or even a little sugar if needed (sugar will cut the acidic tomato taste, but I don’t usually have to because of the wine).

The alcohol will cook off, leaving a rich, delicious sauce that tastes as though it took hours and hours to make.  If the sauce is a little thin, you can take the lid off and let it simmer another 1/2 hour or so to cook down a little.

Serve with your favorite pasta, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and some crusty rustic Italian bread.  This much sauce will easily feed 10 people with leftovers.  We usually get at least 2 meals out of the sauce and last time I made it, I still froze some to use for later.  You can always halve the meats and wine — bonus, you get to drink the rest!  (I admit to opening a second bottle tonight to ensure I added enough liquid.)

Something Chef Michael always said:  cook with wine that you like to drink.  I love Dancing Bull cabernet or merlot, so that’s what I used today.  I’ve also used Black Opal merlot which was delicious.

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Old Settler’s Beans

I tweeted about Settler’s Beans yesterday and had several requests for the recipe.  Let me start you with a little background…

Many years ago when I was a teenager (looooong time!), we went to a tiny basically one-room church (complete with outhouse until the addition was finished!) called Coon Creek Baptist.  Every year, they had a fellowship “Homecoming” dinner, and everyone brought traditional old-time dishes.  That’s the first time I can remember having “Old Settler’s Beans,” authentically cooked in a bean crock.  They’re basically sweet baked beans, but with extra meat and a variety of beans added to the mix.

For some random family get together with my inlaws, I made a version of Settler’s Beans from an old recipe I found in one of my MIL’s antique cookbooks she’d given me.  It was a huge hit and has become a tradition for our family.  The monsters love them too. Even though Littlest Monster whines “we’re having beans again!?!?!” she’ll eat Settler’s Beans gladly because they’re so sweet.

I’ve probably been making them about 10 years or so.  Each time, they come out a little different.  I’m going to type up the “recipe” from memory, with the disclaimer that they do come out differently every time, depending on what I have on hand, etc.  This isn’t a recipe you need to follow strictly at all.  I think the “old settlers” would approve most highly of using whatever you have on hand, because I’m sure they did!

Old Settler’s Beans

2 pounds ground beef
1-2 pounds bacon, chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 large family-sized can of Bush Baked beans
         (any flavor, but we use Maple or Brown Sugar)
2 cans dark-red kidney beans
2 cans butter beans
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. ketchup
1/2 c. BBQ sauce
          (we use KC Masterpiece honey or brown sugar flavored)
3 T. yellow mustard
3 T. chili powder

Brown the bacon until crispy, and spoon into baking dish (I use the crockpot). If you really want to be healthy, drain the fat — but I typically don’t at this point. The onions taste fabulous sauteed in the bacon grease! Add the ground beef and brown. I do use a slotted spoon to transfer the ground beef and onions into the pot, or the final beans will be pretty greasy.

Add the Bush’s baked beans to the pot.  Drain the other canned beans and add to the pot.  If you’d like a less meaty dish, add more beans!  The butter beans are my personal absolute favorite and I always use them, even though I have to make a special trip to a different store (our Wal-Mart doesn’t carry them). 

In a med. bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients into a paste.  I admit, this is TRIPLE the homemade sauce  from what the original recipe calls for, but I’m putting in way more meat than the recipe called for too.  You could always knock off a 1/3 c. sugar and 1/3 c. brown sugar if you’re worried it’ll be too sweet.  I’m also very liberal with the chili powder — tastes really good with the sweet sauce.

Dump the sauce into the pot and stir, but not too much (don’t smash the beans).  I typically cook in the crockpot on low for 2-3 hours.  I have also made the beans the night before, refrigerated, and then cooked the following day.  Alternatively, you can bake them in the oven an hour or so at 300 – 350 degrees.

This makes a ton of beans.  As a side dish, it can compliment a dinner of easily 15 people with likely some leftovers.  I make as much as my crock pot will hold,  so that we do have some to eat the next day.


P.S. I don’t typically add much salt since the beans and bacon are loaded with sodium.  You can also add fresh garlic to the ground beef if desired.