Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I Lied

I honestly did plan to make the tortilla soup in Monday's crock pot post, but I was unaware that I was missing a few key ingredients.  Like beans.  Of any sort.  (I usually have several cans on hand!)  So instead, we are having throw-a-bunch-of-stuff-in-the-crock-pot-and-cross-my-fingers served over whole wheat pasta tonight.  My to-do list today is incredibly long, and even now-- almost 4:00-- I've barely scratched the surface.  The kids are going to church with my mom this evening so I'll have a little kid-free time to get all caught up.  (I'm skipping school tonight.  Things have really been piling up and needed and extra day to work on it!)

Today's "recipe" (if you can call it that:)

4-5 chicken tenders (probably equivalent to 2-3 small chicken breasts)
1 bag frozen veggies
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup chicken broth (I think... I used what was left in the box I had in the fridge, so that's an estimate)
1 tbsp herbes de provence (spice blend that includes thmye, basil, lavender, and fennel seeds)
salt and pepper

Put everything in the crock pot.  Cook on high 3-4 hours or low 6-8 hours. (If cooking all day, I recommend adding the veggies shortly before serving so they're not overcooked.)

Watch the veggies! They go from crisp and verdant to mushy and that overcooked color extremely fast! In fact, if you have the time, you may just want to throw the veggies in there when you're ready to serve and let them just heat through.
Also, I recommend going for just a tsp of the herbes de provence. Mine came out tasting almost floral, I didn't realize the lavender would have such a strong flavor.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Crock Pot Mondays: Tortilla Soup

Since last week's Crock Pot Monday turned out to be a total bomb (you know, since I didn't actually use my crock pot at all last week), I've decided that even though I'm not pulling out the crock pot until Wednesday (we've got leftover pizza in the fridge for tonight-- a meal that makes everyone happy) I will go ahead and give you the recipe today.  This week's crock pot meal will be Tortilla Soup.  The recipe I have is for a quick stove-top soup, so I'll be making just a couple of modifications.  (And thanks to my friend Jenny for the recipe!)

Tortilla Soup:

1 onion
1 chipotle in adobo (buy a small can, use one pepper and freeze the rest in a ziploc bag. When you want to use it again, just cut off the amount you need-- it thaws very quickly. It also lasts about forever.)
2+ quarts of chicken or vegetable broth
1 can (or 2 c frozen) corn
2 cans (or 3 c bulk) black beans
juice of 2 limes
chopped tomatoes
cheese (I'll be using a pepper-jack/cheddar blend)
tortilla chips

Sautee the onion and chipotle and add to the broth, along with the corn, black beans, the juice of two limes, and salt. Cook until everything is warm. When serving, add the tomatoes and cilantro, then add tortilla chips and cheese to each bowl.

Modifications I'm making:
1.) Obviously, I'm putting it in a crock pot, and since this is a meatless dish, I'll make it later in the day and let it cook on low for 3-4 hours.

Tune in on Thursday to find out how it turned out!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Crock Pot... Oh, Who Am I Kidding?

It's just been one of those weeks.  I hate to say it, but it looks like there will be no Crock Pot post this week. Unless I decide on something tomorrow.  Tonight, my kids are hanging out with my mom until it's time for them to go to church, so I'm sure they'll get some sort of healthy meal.  ...or at least not total junk...  And I'll probably pick something up for hubby and myself on my way home from class-- there's a Panera Bread in the same shopping center where I have to stop and pay a bill anyway, so we can go healthy and effortless.  (Although not made-at-home cheap... but, like I said, it's just been one of those weeks.)

I very much hope I will be greeting you next week with a wonderful taste-explosion of a crock pot meal!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Crock Pot Mondays: Ooops!!

I completely forgot to have a crock pot recipe ready for today!  This weekend was a busy one, complete with major household organization projects, and familial obligations, and today is one of those Mondays upon which all stereotypical Mondays are modeled.  As a result, I will be observing Crock Pot Monday either tomorrow or Wednesday.  I'm thinking either turkey chili or a chicken tortilla soup.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Is It Wrong That I Hope This Doesn't Change?

My lovely daughter is dancing around the house and singing.  She does this a lot.  I smile when she does it, because it's one of those things I can look at and say, "Yes!  She gets that from me!"  (Especially the highly uncoordinated dance moves!)  Today she is singing a song that she's making up as she goes along:

Who is that girl?
She is a princess!
She is so beautiful in her white shirt and pink pants.
And in her pink flip flops.
She is so lovely and a beautiful princess.
And what is her name?
It is Jocelyn Olette Taylor!

She is certainly not lacking any self-esteem.  And a tiny, small part of me kind of hopes that never changes.  Sure, it makes her look a little bit self centered-- but what three-almost-four-year-old isn't??  She's also extremely sweet and kind to others.  If she can bring both of those traits with her into adulthood, well, I think she would be quite the force of nature, really.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

In Case You Wondered...

Last night's crock pot meal was INCREDIBLE!!  It was quite honestly one of the best things to ever come out of a crock pot in my house, and by far the best thing I've made since I got my new one!  The hubby loved it, too!  The meat was falling apart tender, and the sauce turned into this rich, flavorful thing you would never guess started as a jar of Ragu!  I can't wait for lunch today, because I am definitely having leftovers today!!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Crock Pot Mondays: Fake Fancy

I've always felt that if you give food a special name, it makes it seem way more fancy than it actually might be.  Maybe I'm just gullible?  It's entirely possible, although not exactly a flattering possibility.  But when my friend Rachel announced on facebook that she had a Steak Italiana going in her crock pot, I got all excited-- steak and Italiana?  Fanciness!  Turns out, it's astonishingly simple.  Also, according to her facebook announcement later that day, very yummy!  So, today's crock pot meal will be Steak Italiana and I bet you're dancing in anticipation for this recipe.  (Or is that just me?)

I'm not sure where she got the recipe (yeah, I could always ask, but I'm already typing this...), so I will name it:

Rachel's Steak Italiana

1 1/2 lbs round steak**
1 jar (about 15 oz) chunky garden spaghetti sauce (or your favorite variety)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp black pepper
1-2 c. whole small onions (frozen, thawed or canned, drained)

Cut the steak into 5-6 serving-sized slices.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and oregano and place in the crock pot.  Cover with the spaghetti sauce.  Cook on low 7-8 hours, then turn to high, add the onions, and cook 30 minutes longer.  Serve over pasta.

**I will be making mine with a couple of "beef chuck underblade" steaks, as these were BOGO (and a great price on top of that; I think I'll get some more before they go off sale!) at Winn-Dixie this week.  Also, I will be skipping the onion step since it will be nearly 7:00 when I get home and I don't want to wait another 30 minutes for supper!  Plus, the hubby is not a big fan of onions anyway.

Friday, September 10, 2010

What Are You Reading?

One of my favorite memories is from when I was about four years old.  My brother, cousin, and I were downstairs in our playroom.  One of us was holding a book, and all three of us were just looking at it.  It was one of our favorites.  (I don't remember for sure what it was, now.)  We wanted to read it.  But none of us knew how.  So my brother, in all of his two-year-old wisdom, suggested that one of us learn how.  It was decided that since I was the oldest, I should be the one to learn.  "Ok, I'll be right back," I told them, and, book in hand, I marched up the stairs, into the living room, and right up to my dad where I said, "Hey, Dad?  Can you teach me how to read?"  He looked a little bit surprised, but he sat me down and we went over letters and sounds and how to put them together to make words.  It took a little longer than I thought-- I remember being under the impression that it was like cracking a code, and once someone taught me the trick, I would be able to read everything I saw.  I was a little bit disappointed when I found out that there was actual work involved, and that it was going to take more than just a few minutes!  I don't really know how long it took me to get all the basics down, but once I learned how to read, I never stopped.  I've always got at least one book that I'm in the middle of, and most often I'm in the middle of several.  And I am always asking people, "What are you reading?"

Right now, I am reading Beyond Einstein: The Cosmic Quest for the Theory of the Universe by Michio Kaku.  I've been reading this one for quite a while now, actually.  It's one of those that requires concentration and lately I just don't have the time for that!  I have been reading Les Miserables by Victor Hugo for almost eight years.  It's a great book, I just can't sit down and finish it for some reason!  I also recently started The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  I love him.  And I decided to re-read Bram Stoker's Dracula.  (The last two I am reading on my phone's book reader.  These will take me awhile to finish, as I usually save them for waiting rooms and other such situations.)

In between those books, I also like to sprinkle in some easier reads to lighten things up.  I'm pretty much never not reading something or another.  So... what are YOU reading?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Books!  That was my great idea as I was drifting off last night!  I was gonna talk books!  I knew once the stress of my Spanish test (which, by the way, I'm pretty sure I bombed...) was gone, I would remember!  Tomorrow, I'm talking books!

Sleep Blogging-- Apparently, It's An Epidemic

Once again, I have completely forgotten what (as I was drifting off to sleep) seemed like an excellent blog idea.  This is frustrating.  Although, if there is any silver lining at all, I at least know for sure that I was thinking about it before sleep, and not just dreaming that I had a great idea.  I should have written it down.  I even thought, "I should write this down so I don't forget..."  But did I?  Of course not!  (In my defense, it was cold in the bedroom and I was all toasty warm under the covers...)  I really, really need to keep a notebook and pen nearby when I sleep.  Sometimes all I want to remember is simple, silly things, but there are times when I think of important stuff that I absolutely need to do as I'm drifting off to sleep and I don't remember until halfway through the next day!

Hopefully at some point today, I will remember just what it was that I wanted to share with you... and hopefully I will remember to write it down if I'm not in front of my computer!!  Today, my brain is filled with Spanish words, phrases, and grammar rules for my test tonight though, so if I do remember it will be a small miracle!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Crock Pot Mondays: Beef Stew

I've promised you a weekly feature, and that's what you're going to get!  But, while today is Monday, I'm not pulling out the crock pot.  It's a holiday!  Which means none of us has school or work today, so a wait-awhile supper isn't necessary.  We're having ribs and potatoes (they're currently getting all happy together in the smoker) with cole slaw and roasted asparagus.  My mouth waters just thinking about it!  However, yesterday was a crock pot kind of day, and so I'm sharing yesterday's crock pot meal with you today!

I made beef stew, which is one of my favorite crock pot meals.  Few things make the whole house smell yummier!  I deviated from my normal recipe a little bit, because I was in a hurry at the store and forgot a few things!  I think I'm going to post both recipes, though, and let you decide which to try.  (Note: I used the smaller sized package of precut beef from Wal-Mart.  My level of dedication does not extend to digging through the trash can to find out the exact weight.  Just, use your instincts on this one!)

Beef Stew as I Made it Yesterday

1 pkg. of pre-cut beef for stew (or get a roast and cut it yourself... but why make it harder than it has to be?)
1/4-1/3 c. all purpose flour
1 c. beef broth
3 med. potatoes
1 onion
8-10 oz baby carrots
salt and pepper
olive oil

Cut the potatoes and onion into whatever size you decide is best. Put them in the crock pot. Next, add the carrots. Cover with the broth and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put the flour in a ziploc bag and add some salt and pepper, shake it to mix. Add the beef, shake it to coat the beef with flour. Put the beef in the crock pot, shaking off the excess flour, first. Drizzle olive oil over the beef.  Cook on low for 10 hours, stirring everything together about halfway through. (I put this on before church, and stirred it once after we got home from lunch.) You can add more broth if the gravy is too thick. I actually thought mine was a little thin, but once I turned the heat off, it thickened to just right in 10 minutes or so.

Beef Stew as I Usually Make It

1 pkg pre cut stew beef
1 8oz pkg white mushrooms, halved
6-8 baby red potatoes, halved
handful of baby carrots
1 onion, diced
1/2 c beef broth OR water
1 can cream of mushroom with roasted garlic soup (I've only seen it in the Campbell's brand)

Mix together the soup and broth; set aside. Put everything else in the crock pot: veggies on the bottom, meat on top, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour the soup on top. Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or on high for 4-6 hours.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Crock Pot Mondays: Wednesday Edition

Monday's crock pot meal turned out great!  If you don't mind mushy rice, that is.  Actually, the rice wasn't so much mushy as almost completely dissolved.  It made for an interesting texture, that's for sure.  But the TASTE is what is important, and that's where the meal totally rocked!  And now I know to add the rice later on in the cooking process on days when it's going to sit on its own, and to not cook it as long on days when I'm around to keep an eye on it.  Also, I just cut each chicken breast in half when I made it.  I think from now on, I will dice it so that it's distributed throughout the dish.  I might even brown it in a skillet first on days when I have the time for that.  So, the following is the recipe I used.  Feel free to modify it as necessary.  I wasn't working from a cookbook, just going through my fridge and pantry to see what I had.

Crock Pot Chicken with Rice, Tomatoes, and Black Beans

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced
1 sm-med onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup uncooked rice
1 large can crushed tomatoes
1 can black beans
1/2 cup taco sauce
1 cup water
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
salt and pepper

Put the chicken in the bottom of the crock pot, sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Mix together the remaining ingredients* and pour over the chicken.  Cook on high 3-4 hours or on low 6-8 hours.

*If you're going to cook it more than a few hours, I would recommend adding the rice later on and cooking on low.