Tag Archives: soup

New slow cooker cookbook takes your crock beyond soups and stews (+ recipes for you to try!)

Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes A Joy Makin' Mamas ReviewI have featured my bottom of the line, workhorse 4 quart slow cooker in my photos so often that I have occasionally thought maybe I should get a new one just so you guys would have something new to look at. I kept using it even after the original handle broke off- I just picked up an orphaned lid from the thrift store and turned it into the Frankenstein’s Monster of slow cookers. (A nice perk is that the new handle is much easier to grab, so I don’t worry as much about dropping the lid. It also doesn’t get as hot. I’m dangerously close to advising you to void your warranty by modifying your cooker with off-list parts… I’ll stop before I get us all into trouble.) If I need any further credentials regarding my expertise in the world of slow cooking, well… I don’t have much to offer you except that I’ve been a dogged fanatic for almost 16 years now.

The news says they are making a “come back.” The theory is that the recession has led to fewer restaurant meals, and so the ease and convenience of the slow cooker is leading us all right back to it. Combine that with new demographics discovering the joy of entertaining, and slow cooker sales are booming. I am not surprised they are popular, but I confess I WAS surprised to hear they are “back.” I hadn’t realized they were ever gone. It would be impossible, in my opinion, to overstate the convenience they offer. Whether your household is DINK, WAHM, SAHM, SAHD, or one crazy cat lady, that slow cooker is a simple, inexpensive, hands off way to make sure dinner is ready when you are hungry. (And I have used mine in every situation but SAHD. YES, my crazy cat lady credential arrived early in life. DEAL WITH IT.)

That’s why I am so excited to have in my hot little hands a review copy of Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes: 200 Recipes by Donna-Marie Pye. I think most of us look for similar things in a cookbook- ease of use, which means good organization, eye candy/food porn (PICTURES, okay?), and whether our family will eat the food. That last one is kind of a deal breaker… if it’s just got pretty pictures of food no one here will eat? I’ll browse it in the book store but it’s not going to live on my shelf. (Ok, maybe my virtual shelf? I could see having an e-cookbook just for the pretty pictures, but actual shelf space is at a premium around here.)

Buy on Amazon: Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes: 200 Recipes {Aff Link}

If you would like to do more than the “add a can of this” type of slow cooking, you’ll appreciate this book. Moving beyond soups and stews, this book not only offers recipes for a wide variety of dishes, it includes helpful ingredient hints, like how to cook with a tomatillo. I’ve never touched a tomatillo, but I may just make it a point to go there now that someone has brought it up. (Why have I never done that, you ask? Because you cook with what you can get your hands on, and I can honestly say I don’t remember ever seeing one in the small town I lived in before moving to the metro area I now call home. After 11 years, you get into habits, ok?) As you can see from the sample images I’ve included (with permission from the publisher, of course), it does indeed include attractive, full color, full page photos to make you drool while you plan your menu.

Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes is organized by main ingredient or type of dish. The second to last chapter (right before desserts- my personal favorite) is called “Double Duty Dinners.” This section is devoted to meals you crock cook the first night, and then transform into something totally different the second night. Cook once (-ish, or and-a-half) and eat twice. I like it. This is a great idea for busy families, particularly since this type of forward planning tends to help you with your time budget and your money budget, both. Also, the size of slow cooker needed for each recipe is noted at the top of the recipe, so there will be no ugly surprises after you start cooking.

Much as I would like to have made (and eaten!) every one of these 200 recipes before writing about this book- and I did work up an appetite while I was reading them all- it would take weeks or months for me to do that. I did have a hard time picking just a couple to try, because a great many of these pass the “will my children eat this” test, and even more of them pass the “will I put the children to bed early so my husband and I can eat this in peace” test. In the end, I decided to test drive one of the Double Duty dinners, and I got permission from the publisher to share three of the recipes with you, so you can try them yourself.

I enlisted some help and JMM Danette Z and I tested some of the recipes from this book. We are pleased to report that the directions are easy to follow, the cooking times are accurate, and the recipes come out as they are supposed to. Like always, we got mixed reviews from our families depending on what we chose… but trying something new is always fun, and adding even three or four new slow cooker favorites to the family rotation means three more nights a month when I can set dinner up when I have time, and eat it when it’s ready! I’m in!Nonnas Mini Meatball Soup Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes Joy Makin' Mamas Review

Nonna’s Mini-Meatball Soup, page 49, kid-fav
Recipe type: soup
Cuisine: Italian
• Minimum 5-quart slow cooker Makes 6 to 8 servings This soup reminds of the one I’m served when I visit my friend Maria’s house. Her mother always has a pot of soup on the stove, or if she doesn't, she will quickly make one for you with whatever.
  • 1 lb lean ground beef 500 g
  • 1 lb lean ground pork 500 g
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese 250 mL
  • 1 cup fine dry Italian bread crumbs 250 mL
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, finely chopped (about 1 cup/250 mL)
  • ½ tsp salt 2 mL
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper 2 mL
  • 6 cups chicken broth 1.5 L
  • 2 cups packed baby spinach, coarsely chopped, 500 mL (or chopped escarole)
  • 2 cups cooked small pasta, such as elbows, tubetti, shells or stars 500 mL
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
  1. In a large bowl, combine beef, pork, Parmesan, bread crumbs, eggs, parsley, salt and pepper. Using your hands, roll into ¾-inch (2 cm) meatballs. Place meatballs in slow cooker stoneware. Gently pour in broth.
  2. Cover and cook on Low for 8 to 9 hours or on High for 41?2 to 5 hours, until soup is bubbling and meatballs are cooked through.
  3. Stir in spinach. Cover and cook on High for 10 to 15 minutes or until greens are wilted, bright green and tender. Stir in cooked pasta.
  4. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with additional Parmesan, if desired.
Tip: If you don’t have homemade chicken stock, use ready-to-use chicken broth. I like to keep 32-oz (1 L) Tetra Paks of broth on hand, especially the sodium-reduced variety. They come in handy when you’re making soups and stews. Another option is to use three 10-oz (284 mL) cans of broth and add enough water to make 6 cups (1.5 L). Avoid broth cubes and powders, which tend to be salty.

Courtesy of Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes by Donna-Marie Pye, 2014 © www.robertrose.ca

Reprinted with publisher permission.

Holy Mole Chili Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes Joy Makin' Mamas Review
Holy Mole Chili, page 86, vegetarian
Makes 4 to 6 servings With its notes of cumin, cinnamon and chocolate playing off the gentle spices, this meatless chili combines the best of a mole sauce and a Cincinnati-style chili. Its rich body makes it a seriously satisfying dinner any night of the week. • Minimum 4-quart slow cooker
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 can (19 oz/540 mL) diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 can (14 oz/398 mL) baked beans in tomato sauce
  • 2 cups cooked or canned romano or pinto beans (see page 84), drained and rinsed 500 mL
  • 2 cups cooked or canned black beans (see page 84), drained and rinsed 500 mL
  • 1 tbsp chili powder 15 mL
  • 2 tsp ground cumin 10 mL
  • 2 tsp ground coriander 10 mL
  • ¼ cup mole paste (see tip, at left) 60 mL
  • ½ cup vegetable or chicken broth 125 mL
  • Crushed tortilla chips, chopped fresh cilantro, shredded Cheddar cheese (optional)
  1. In slow cooker stoneware, combine garlic, green pepper, onion, tomatoes with juice, beans in tomato sauce, romano beans, black beans, chili powder, cumin and coriander.
  2. In a bowl, combine mole paste and broth. Using a fork, gently stir together into a thin sauce. Stir into bean mixture.
  3. Cover and cook on Low for 5 to 6 hours or on High for 21?2 to 3 hours, until vegetables are tender and chili is bubbling. Serve topped with tortilla chips, cilantro and cheese (if using).
Make Ahead: This dish can be assembled up to 12 hours in advance. Prepare through step 2, cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day, place stoneware in slow cooker and proceed with step 3.

Tip: If you can’t find mole paste, substitute 1 tbsp (15 mL) unsweetened cocoa powder and 1?2 tsp (2 mL) ground cinnamon. Mole paste is a rich, dark, reddish brown sauce used in many Mexican poultry dishes. It is a smooth cooked blend of onions, garlic, several varieties of chiles, ground seeds (such as pumpkin or sesame) and a small amount of Mexican chocolate, which adds richness without being overly sweet. You can find mole paste in the Mexican foods section of the supermarket or in specialty stores.

Courtesy of Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes by Donna-Marie Pye, 2014 © www.robertrose.ca

Reprinted with publisher permission.

Creamy Caramel Blondies Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes Joy Makin' Mamas Review
Creamy Caramel Blondies, page 346, desserts, kid-fav
Makes 4 to 6 servings My son, Jack, and I are caramel and butterscotch fanatics! Blondies are often described as brownies without chocolate, which I find silly: blondies have their own unique, delicious personality. While brownies depend on chocolate for their flavor, with blondies it’s all about the brown sugar. This tasty dessert combines a cake top over a creamy caramel sauce. Be sure to serve with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. • 4- to 5-quart slow cooker
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour 250 mL
  • 1 tsp baking powder 5 mL
  • ½ tsp salt 2 mL
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar, divided 250 mL
  • ¼ cup butter, softened 60 mL
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 5 mL
  • ½ cup milk 125 mL
  • ½ cup soft caramels, wrappers removed 125 mL
  • 1 cup boiling water 250 mL
  1. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.
  2. In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat half the brown sugar and butter until creamy.
  3. Stir in vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with milk, making three additions of each and beating well after each addition. Stir in caramels. Spread batter evenly in slow cooker stoneware.
  4. In a glass measuring cup, combine the remaining brown sugar and boiling water, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Pour evenly over batter.
  5. Cover and cook on High for 21?2 to 3 hours or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes
  6. out clean.
Tip: It is best to use individually wrapped soft caramels, but you can substitute ½ cup (125 mL) butterscotch chips.

Courtesy of Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes by Donna-Marie Pye, 2014 © www.robertrose.ca

Reprinted with publisher permission.

I’d love to hear how they go for you! This book is definitely going into my meal planning rotation, and I’m sure I’ll be singing the praises of the tomatillo for you soon.

Looking for more ways to live it up on a budget? Check out my Good Life Pinterest Board:
Follow Meghan Gray’s board Living the Good Life on Pinterest.

All I want for Christmas is a #HoneyBakedHoliday #Sponsored

#HoneyBakedHoliday Half Ham Joy Makin Mamas

Since I have my two front teeth already, all I want for Christmas is some HoneyBaked ham. Ok, maybe not ALL. I’d also like about 24 uninterrupted hours to tackle my to do list without anyone under 3 feet tall grabbing my posterior to shout HUG HUG HUG just as I pick up a sharp knife, open the oven door, or start stirring something that will burn if I stop. Because that’s AWESOME. Wait! I CAN HAVE BOTH! Sort of. Thank you to HoneyBaked Ham for sponsoring this post and for creating a perfect, ready to heat and serve holiday menu with no sharp knives or tedious stirrings. (I can’t help you with the oven door, but, as I found out during my visit to their Alexandria, VA store, at least the HoneyBaked sides all cook at the same temperature setting, to make scheduling the oven time easier.)

#HoneyBakedHoliday Green Bean Casserole Joy Makin MamasOnce you have crossed your main dish (look at that beautiful half ham up there! They have quarter hams, too, if you aren’t serving a crowd… or my family, who think there’s no such thing as “too much ham.”) and your sides off the list, you can free yourself to BE PRESENT. Or to wrap presents or to go caroling or cook a meal for the homeless shelter or just sit quietly and knit and catch up on your favorite show. For some reason the last few weeks of the year always come with at least one moment when I think, “this is NEVER going to get done- I’m just going to be rushing FOREVER.” Things always do eventually come together, but if I can simplify things and spend a little more time writing old friends or walking in a winter wonderland or sleeping, then I feel much merrier going into yet another weekend of back to back parties.

#HoneyBakedHoliday Mashed Potatoes Joy Makin Mamas

It’s always a struggle to try and pack in everything we want to do- so many invitations are forthcoming between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. And I never want to miss ANY of them. I want every opportunity to catch up with friends I see too seldom and to make merry with everyone I love- whether they celebrate the same holidays I do or not. So usually what ends up being missing from this season of love and kindness is quiet joy and peaceful reflection. I need those things too. I need to make a commitment to myself to lighten my load where ever I can, so I can make room for them.

#HoneyBakedHoliday Seasonal Pie Joy Makin Mamas

From now until 1/11/15 you can enter to win a $25,000 HoneyBaked Kitchen Makeover when you buy a Ham and Turkey Breast bundle.

Check out this limited time coupon for $8.00 off any Sliced and Glazed Whole Turkey and 4lb Quarter Ham (Or Larger) from HoneyBaked Ham to help you make your holiday dinner easy and delicious! (Offer Valid at Participating Retail Locations: Forestville, Silver Spring, Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Fields Ertel, Beechmont, Kenwood, Colerain, Florence, Salem, Centerville, Sawmill Road, McNaughten, Louisville, Lexington, Fern Creek, Glendale, Paradise Valley, Superstition, Tucson East, Tucson North, Overland Park, Independence, Barry Road, Norristown, Parma, Willoughby, Rocky River, Strongsville, Maple Heights, Canton, Fairlawn and Chapel Hill.)

If you have any leftover ham, (I know, I’m HILARIOUS!) cut it off the bone, leaving some shreds clinging, and use it to make ham stock! Ham stock makes delicious soups- you’ve probably had it in split pea soup and Hoppin’ John, with a flavor that isn’t like anything else. It’s also great in chili.

Ham Stock
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 cups
delicious, flavorful ham stock to use as a base in a comforting soup.
  • 1 ham bone from 8-10 lb ham
  • ½ onion, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 2 large bay leaves or 3-5 small
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground mustard
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorn melange
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground sea salt
  1. Put bone in slow cooker. Add spices and water to cover
  2. Cook, on low, 8 hours or overnight.
  3. Allow to cool.
  4. Strain ham stock through wire strainer. Reserve any large shreds of ham from the pickings to add to your soup, and discard bones and spices.
  5. Refrigerate or freeze stock until ready to use.
If you are buying ham bones instead of using the leftovers from your ham, purchase about 1.5 lbs of bones.

Ham Bone Soup Stock keeps your #HoneyBakedHoliday going Joy Makin Mamas #sponsoredI have been compensated for visiting the Alexandria, VA Honeybaked Ham store and for the creation of this post. My sincere and honest opinions are obviously not for sale and may differ from yours… please enjoy your family celebrations in good health!

Warm you up Homemade Chili Kit

Warm up with a Homemade Chili Kit Free PrintableThe popularity of mason jars is just a bit over the top, in my opinion, but Gifts in a Jar have been around for ages. These can be creative, attractive, and very, very budget friendly indeed. You don’t HAVE to use a mason jar- any attractive, quart size container will do. (Just make sure it’s food grade, if you’re doing a food gift.) You can even use zippered food storage bags and a basket to present your gift. One of my all-time favorite such gifts was the year I had cayenne peppers from the garden that I had dried. I made home made chili kits, and I was able to add two home grown, dried chilis to each jar. I’ve got for you today instructions for how to assemble your jar, a recipe for my personal Saltless Chili Powder blend to include, and a FREE printable recipe card to attach. The recipe includes instructions for the carnivore version AND the vegetarian version of this excellent and filling chili recipe.

Meghan's Saltless Chili Powder
Recipe type: spices
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Total time: 
this is my personal chili powder blend. I developed this recipe to go along with my first husband's famous chili recipe, so he could customize the "hotness" and flavor blend to suit his cooking style.
  • 2½ Tablespoons Paprika
  • 2 Tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon onion powder
  • 1½ Tablespoon cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon cayenne pepper powder
  1. Blend well.
  2. Store in a tightly covered container in a cool, dark place. Use within 3-6 months.
Garlic *powder* really makes a difference in this blend. I've also used garlic granules, and I haven't been as pleased. I usually have to go someplace that carries bulk spices to find true garlic powder. For spice lightweights, substitute milder ancho chili powder for the cayenne. (Actually my preference.)

To create Chili In A Jar, you’ll need 4 cups total of dried beans. In a quart size jar, layer any six of:

  • adzuki
  • kidney
  • great northern
  • navy
  • roman
  • black eyed peas
  • cranberry beans
  • pinto beans
  • pink beans
  • red beans

Leave a small “head space” at the neck of the jar. Black beans are no good for this, as they turn the chili a very unappetizing color. Package 1 Tablespoon of Meghan’s Saltless Chili Powder in a snack size zippered bag, and squeeze all the air out. Fold it into the head space, and put on your lid, with or without a square of decorative fabric between the lid and the band. (In case you aren’t sure what I’m talking about: Canning jar lids come in two pieces. A flat piece called the “lid,” and a screw on piece called the band.) If you have dried cayenne peppers, add them along with the bow. Punch a hole in your recipe card and tie a ribbon through it to attach to your jar, and gift with love. If you’re feeling extra fancy, include a copy of one of our cookbooks.

Need more awesome DIY ideas for gifts or for any day? Visit our DIY pinterest board.

Follow Meghan Gray’s board DIYs on Pinterest.

Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken Noodle SoupToday I was on the mom side of the “your kid is sick” call from the school for the very first time. It made me remember how the time between when they called your mom and she came to get you was an eternity, no matter how long it actually took. We are fortunate enough to live very near the school, so I actually got to the clinic before his teacher came back with his bookbag so we could go. Naturally I hugged my sick baby while we waited, which prompted all the other sick kids at the clinic to come watch us with huge, sad eyes. I couldn’t gather them all up and mother them, but I hope their own mothers arrived quickly to love on them.

Once home, there is only one thing to do when everyone is feverish and cranky, and that’s to whip up some comfort food. Fortunately, I just finished some chicken stock from my “Still Going” chicken recipe. So I was able to whip up some chicken soup in a flash!

Chicken Noodle Soup
Recipe type: slow cooker
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
Fresh, home made chicken soup that's quicker than going to the store.
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 4 ounces cooked chicken
  • 1 package egg noodles
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced
  • 4 ribs celery, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon dried onion
  • ¼ teaspoon thyme
  • Parmesan Cheese, grated, for garnish (optional)
  1. In a stockpot over medium heat, add the carrots, celery, garlic, and onion to the stock and simmer until warmed through and the carrots are beginning to look bright and "cooked." (About 10-15 minutes.)
  2. Add remaining ingredients and cook until the noodles are done. (Usually whatever it says on the package directions, but maybe a minute or two longer, depending on how hot your soup is when you add them. Probably 7-10 minutes.)
  3. Serve with crusty bread and grated parmesan cheese.
Want it even faster? Skip the fresh carrots and celery and stir in an 8 ounce package of frozen peas and carrots for the last 5 or 6 minutes of cooking time. You will have fresh soup in approximately the time it takes to boil your noodles.


Peasant Soup

peasant soup recipe Joy Makin' Mamas

The carcass from your Crock Cooked Chicken will turn into this hearty, budget friendly soup in no time at all! The surprise is the parsnip. If you haven’t eaten parsnips before, they’re a bit like carrot and a bit like potato and altogether delicious. Since they are root vegetables, they hold up well to slow simmering. (I hear you can mash them like you would a potato, but I haven’t tried it!)

Peasant Soup
Recipe type: soup
Cook time: 
Total time: 
A hearty soup for step 2 of "Still Going" Slow-Cooked Chicken!
  • 1 tablespoon Sea Salt
  • 1 tablespoon Dried Parsley Flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Dried Ground Rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon Dried Thyme
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced or crushed
  • 3 medium Carrots, sliced
  • 2 stalks Celery, chopped
  • 4 small Red Potato, diced
  • 15 ounces Canned Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 small Parsnip, thinly sliced
  1. Quantities are for dried herbs. If you are lucky enough to have some fresh growing in your garden, triple the amount. Before you roast your chicken, rub it all over with this blend of Italian herbs, or substitute your favorite.
  2. Add some vegetables while you simmer your stock. drain your stock into a soup pot. I reserve the carrots and celery and add them to the soup; you can discard them and replace them if you prefer.
  3. When you're ready to make your soup, add to your soup base these hearty Italian favorites. Simmer until the potatoes are cooked through. Serve with Parmesan cheese and crusty Italian bread.

Have you completed your collection of Joy Troupe cookbooks? Joy Troupe Family Favorites, our original cookbook, is now available as a free download!