Basic Slowcooker Bean and Sausage Soup

Original Recipe HERE

This soup was good.  Nothing fancy, but it was tasty and filled us up, plus made leftovers.  It offers a lot of room for improvisation...also known as, "I have these vegetables in my fridge that are going to go bad in the next 24 hours and I need to use them up."  I used frozen peas, frozen corn, celery, and green onions.  I thought I had carrots, but Husband had taken the rest of them to work.  Darn him for brown-bagging healthy lunches.

1 can white kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 can pinto beans, drained & rinsed
1 can garbanzo beans, drained & rinsed
1 teaspoon dried or ground thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried minced garlic (approximate)
2-4 chicken or turkey sausages
1/2 chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup leftover rice (or about 1/3 cup uncooked rice)
2 cups chopped fresh vegetables
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth

1) Chop vegetables into bite-size pieces.
2) Slice sausage length-wise and then length-wise again, followed by slicing into smaller pieces (so you have quarter-rounds).
3) Add all ingredients to slowcooker.
4) Cook on low for 6-9 hours, or on high for 4-5. The soup is done when it's heated through and the vegetables are tender.

Notes: None, other than to try different types of vegetables next time, as well as another type of sausage, just to see how it turns out.

Kid Participation:
* Drain beans.
* Dump ingredients into slowcooke.r
* Throw bean cans into recycling bin but miss, forcing Mom to walk out into the rain to pick up the cans and lids strewn on the patio.


Chicken and Spinach Quinoa

Original Recipe HERE

I made this recipe just as it's written, which scared me a little at first because I'd never gone near canned chicken.  I bought it as a back-up in case I didn't have time to cook "real" chicken the night I made this.  And inevitably that happened...so I popped the top and hoped for the best.  I was surprised at how well it turned out.  I wasn't turned off by the chicken at all, and it wasn't as processed-tasting or horribly unhealthy as I'd anticipated.  The larger-than-usual amount of pepper had me a little worried, but the dish had a good, flavorful "bite" without being too harsh.  Husband got home late (per usual) and ate a plate of leftovers cold and declared them good.  Then he went back for seconds and polished off what I'd happily been anticipating would be my lunch the next day.  Oh well.  Compliments to the chef, at least.

Cooking spray or olive oil
½ onion, diced
1 cup quinoa {I used red}
2 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon thyme (dried or fresh) {I used dried}
2 whole carrots, chopped
1 cup fresh baby spinach
1 can (5 oz) shredded chicken breast or 1 cooked chicken breast, shredded

1) Drain and rinse quinoa.
2) Spray a skillet with nonstick cooking spray or drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Heat pan over medium heat and cook onion until translucent and tender and quinoa is slightly toasted (about 5 minutes).
3) Add the chicken broth and spices.  Bring mixture to a boil.
4) Cover skillet and turn heat to low. Simmer for 5 minutes.
5) Stir in the carrots and let everything simmer until all liquid is absorbed (about 10 minutes).
5) After turning heat off, stir in spinach until it wilts and add shredded chicken.

Notes: Next time I'll add more chicken - either another can, or use two medium-sized breasts.  I would also add more spinach, perhaps using two frozen packages to save a few minutes of cooking time.

Kid Participation:
* Add chicken broth and spices.


Spinach and Chick Peas with Bacon

Original Recipe HERE

I wasn't sure if this would work better as a side dish or could serve as a main dish, so I served it as a side.  With a little more jazzing up (diced chicken? chopped tomatoes and peppers? sliced sausage?) it could be a full meal.  I served it when my mother was visiting, and she raved about it and asked for the recipe.  We ate it warm for dinner, but after trying it cold the next day, I think I liked it even better chilled.  This would be a great contribution to a picnic or potluck, as long as you at least double the recipe (and probably triple the amount of chickpeas).

3 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped into bite-size slices (about 1/2 inch thick)
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil [I found I needed more]
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
8 cups baby spinach, approximate (6 ozs), chopped and with any tough stems discarded
1 garlic clove, minced

1) Cook bacon in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until browned.
2) Leaving bacon in skillet, spoon off all but 1 tablespoon fat.  Add 2 tablespoons oil, chickpeas, and red pepper flakes to skillet and sauté over high heat, stirring occasionally, until chickpeas begin to brown (3 to 4 minutes).
3) Stir in spinach and garlic and sauté, stirring, until spinach is wilted. Season with salt and pepper.

Notes: Frozen spinach might work and would speed up the process.  Also, because I much prefer to cook bacon the Foreman, I will try that and just spoon a little of the grease into the pan, chopping the bacon once it's cooked and adding it into the skillet at the end.  *N* loved the chickpeas and bacon, though as expected, she carefully picked out all the spinach.

Kid Participation:
* Not really a kid-friendly meal to prepare, though.

Sausage, Peppers, and Onions

Original Recipe HERE

Everyone needs a Sausage, Peppers, & Onions recipe in their repertoire.  A lot of times they're pretty straightforward...the name says it all.  But I like it nonetheless, so I'm always happy to dish some up at a potluck or picnic.  However, this recipe is definitely the best I've ever had.  The first night we had it over pasta, and the next night I chopped up a serving into smaller pieces, warmed it, then toasted it on a sub roll with American cheese.  I don't know which way I liked it better.  Probably with cheese, because just about everything is better with cheese...but that is nothing against the pasta version.  This will be made again and again, as well as passed along to others in recipe exchanges.

4 Italian sausage links [I used chicken]
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 green bell pepper, sliced into 2 to 3 inch strips
1 red bell pepper, sliced into 2 to 3 inch strips
1 bell pepper of another color (yellow or orange or purple), sliced into 2-3 inch strips
4 garlic cloves, sliced into slivers
1 large onion, sliced into 1/4-inch half-moons
1 can (15 ounce) crushed tomatoes
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 cup Marsala or red wine [optional; I used Marsala]
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flake
Salt to taste

1) Slice sausages in half, length-wise.  Then slice into bite-size slices.
2) Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pan that has a lid. When hot, add sausages and brown them slowly (avoid sizzling and crackling).  Cook for several minutes, turning occasionally. When the sausages are browned, remove from the pan and set aside.
3) Increase the heat to high and add onions and peppers. Toss so they get coated with the oil and sear, stirring occasionally. Once they're softened, sprinkle some salt on them. Once there's some searing (slight blackening) on the onions and peppers, add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
4) Add the Marsala or red wine if you are using, and with a wooden spoon scrape the bottom of the pan to release all the browned and blackened bits. Let the wine cook down by half.
5) Add tomatoes, oregano and red pepper flakes, stirring well to combine. Add sausages back in. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until the peppers are soft the sausages are cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Sausage, peppers and onions will keep in the fridge for several days.  Serve over polenta or pasta or load up in a hoagie roll. Any leftover sauce makes a great sauce for pasta.

Notes: None.  I will make it exactly the same way next time.

Kid Participation:
* None...pretty much the whole process involves sharp knives, high heat, and oil.