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Archive for the ‘slow cooker recipe’ Category

When doctors and nutritionists point to the healthiness of the “Mediterranean diet,” too many people think, “Oh, I can eat lasagna loaded with cheese and meat and be healthy.”  I do believe that there are times for lasagna, but I know that even made with whole grains and organic products or even spinach that it’s still not health food.  Still, people from the Mediterranean do know how to eat to live.  To celebrate the start of fall, we had a great Italian soup made with fresh garden ingredients:  minestrone.  I served it with crostini with pesto and garnished it with some petite Italian turkey meatballs, but you could leave those out and go entirely vegetarian instead.

Minestrone is health in a bowl if you make it properly.  I started by cooking some navy beans with garlic and a parmesan rind until the beans were al dente.

trombetta squash

  • 1-2 cups cannellini or navy beans, cooked
  • 1/2-1 sweet onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 1-2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2-4 cups fresh, seeded tomatoes (retain and use juice) or diced canned tomatoes
  • 1 small zucchini, cut into chunks
  • 1-2 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth

Cannellini beans are more traditional, but the navy beans substitute just fine.  You can easily find canned cannellini beans too.  My next step was to sauté a small diced onion while I diced a carrot and minced a stalk of celery.  Then I sautéed the carrot and celery alongside the onion.  As the trio begin to cook, add a clove of minced garlic.  Next add 2-4 cups fresh or  quality canned, chopped tomatoes, seeded but with juice retained and added to the soup.  If you have any good zucchini, as we did, cut it into chunks and toss it in.  Add back in the beans with any remaining cooking liquid.  Add up to 2 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth.  Simmer over low heat until the vegetables are tender, about 20-30 minutes.

I served petite turkey meatballs on top of the minestrone.

  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs (oregano, rosemary, basil)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed fennel seed
  • pinch crushed red pepper
  • pinch salt
  • 1/3 pound ground turkey (or lamb, beef, or chicken)
  • 2-4 tablespoons whole-grain bread crumbs
  • splash of broth sufficient for forming meatballs

I minced 1/4 cup onion and sautéed it in olive oil until the onion took on a little color.  I added a clove of minced garlic just long enough for the garlic to get the harsh flavor out.  Then I mixed the onion and garlic with about 2 teaspoons of dried Italian herbs (rosemary, oregano, basil), about a teaspoon of crushed fennel seed, a pinch each of crushed red pepper and salt, and 1/3 pound ground turkey.  Add 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup whole-grain bread crumbs.  Mix and add a splash of minestrone broth or chicken broth.  Using a teaspoon or small cookie scoop, form petite meatballs and cook in olive oil over medium heat, turning to brown all sides.

Minestrone

Serve minestrone in a broad bowl, placing meatballs on top, and garnish with fresh grated parmesan cheese and chiffonaded fresh basil.  Add whole-grain crostini to work with the beans to increase the protein.

Fall makes me crave warm, healthy soups.  Do you crave soup as temperatures drop?  What’s your family’s favorite fall soup?

Copyright 2010 Ozark Homesteader.

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I learned this recipe for vegetable soup from my Georgia grandmother.  She made it with whatever meat she had on hand, often pot roast.  My mother rarely made pot roast, so she cooked up ground beef.  I use whatever poultry I have on hand, but you could easily make this a tasty, healthy vegan soup that meets all your nutritional needs in one bowl by leaving the meat or poultry out.  This soup fits the old Southern “meat and three” (or meatless and three!) meal of beans, grains, and nutritious vegetables.  It is a bowl full of warm flavors.  You’ll want to make a big pot of it, because the flavors will continue to meld into something even more wonderful after the first day.  And if you think you’ve made too much, don’t fret!  This soup freezes well too.

All measurements are approximate.  As I’ve said before, use what you have!  By the way, I used frozen garden okra and beans and home-canned tomatoes.  The home-grown frozen and canned ingredients make this recipe even more frugal.

Makes at least 5-7 cups

  • one large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup okra, cut into thin slices across the grain and then chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 1 cup beans (baby limas or “green” (wax, pole, bush) beans–if using “green” beans, cut into short pieces)
  • optional:  1/2 cup to 1 cup leftover turkey, chicken, or pot roast or browned ground meat
  • 1 pint to 1 quart tomatoes and tomato juice (start with less, add as you need or want)
  • 1/2 cup-1 cup corn, off the cob
  • salt and pepper to taste

Begin by dicing the onion and sauteing it in a heavy-bottomed pot.  While it sautes, prepare the okra.  Are you turning up your nose at the okra? Trust me on this one.  Okra, it is true, can be slimy and disgusting if improperly prepared, but we’re using it to thicken the soup.  It’ll add a mild flavor similar to a bell pepper, and if you don’t tell anyone there’s okra in it, they’ll never know. Once the onion gets a little  color, add the okra.  Turn the heat down to almost nothing, and put a lid on the pot.  Set the timer for an hour.  Stir occasionally, adding a small amount of water or broth as needed to cook the onions and okra into a soft mass.

Meanwhile, prep the rest of the vegetables.  After an hour, add the carrots and celery and a bit more water or broth to cover and cook on low heat about 10-15 minutes.  Now add the beans, the meat or poultry (if you are using any) and about half of the tomatoes and tomato juice.   Add more tomato juice and tomatoes if you’d like extra tomato flavor and/or juice. Simmer for twenty minutes to half an hour or even an hour, adding more tomato juice as the liquid cooks down.  Add the corn, heat thoroughly, and serve. You’ve got a delicious, rich, virtually fat-free meal, all in a big bowl.

We like this soup with traditional cornbread and bread-and-butter pickles (sweet and sour pickles with onion and mustard).  If you’re feeling decadent, a good sharp cheddar alongside tastes good but by no means is necessary.

Slow Cooker (Crock Pot) Directions

To make this recipe work in the slow cooker, I recommend pre-sauteing the onion.  I also recommend pre-cooking the okra.  You can put everything in at once, but you’ll risk folks recognizing the okra if you don’t pre-cook the okra.  Of course, if your family likes okra, it’s no big deal!  Just toss everything in, turn the cooker to low, and walk away for the day.

Copyright Ozarkhomesteader 2010.  Short excerpts with full links to this site are welcome.  Contact me for permission to use photographs.

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Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader. Short excerpts with full links are welcome.

Beans and ham, beans and cornbread, navy bean soup, ham-bone soup, Senate bean soup:  no matter what you call it, this old Southern favorite that’s not quite soup, not quite vegetable stew can include pork ham, turkey ham, or no animal flesh at all.  The beans can be pretty darn healthy, really healthy, or phenomenally healthy.    Today I’m going to give you all three variations (smidgen of red meat for a low-fat bowl, ultra low-fat bit of poultry, or fat-free vegetarian) on classic Southern beans, any of which can be prepared on the stove top or in a slow cooker.  Oh, they are soooooo good!To duplicate the Southern experience, serve these beans with cornbread (to complete your vegetarian protein), good greens (like turnip or collard), and pickles, chow-chow, or tobasco.  My ancestors made these beans on the top of a wood stove or in a kitchen fire in a big cast iron pot in colder months.  They might have cooked them all day, slowly, on a March or April day after they’d polished off an Easter country ham and just had the bone left.  They might have gathered wild greens, or perhaps they had greens growing in their kitchen garden.  Regardless, these beans with cornbread and greens made great healthy, frugal cuisine then, just as they do today.  They are a classic case of “meat and three,” where any meat included is a seasoning, not the main focus of the dish, and they are a great choice for today’s environmentally and economically conscious culture.

makes about 7 cups

the vegetables:

  • ½ large yellow onion (a full cup diced, give or take a bit)
  • 1 cup  to 1 ½ cups (split) carrots, diced
  • 1 cup to 1 ½ cups (split) celery, diced

the dried beans:

  • 1 1/2 cups dried navy beans (the classic!), pinto beans (more like chili), black beans (think southwest), or another bean like Jacob’s cattle or Anasazi (I used navy beans, black beans, and Anasazi!)


the liquid:

  • 5 -6 ½ cups water, vegetable broth, chicken stock, or turkey stock (or 1/2 smoked turkey stock*, half water)

Use the larger amount for Anasazi beans, the lesser for most other dried beans.  (Anasazi beans need 4 cups of water for every 1 cup of beans, whereas other beans of similar size need 3 cups of water for every one cup of beans.  We’re adding ½ cup more liquid to make the beans a little brothier.)

optional animal products:

  • 1 ham bone
  • 2-3 slices pork bacon, diced, rendered, and drained of fat (save it!)
  • ¼ cup turkey ham steak, diced

Stove top method:

Measure, sort through for pebbles, and rinse the beans—something you should do with all dried beans.  Soak the beans overnight or at least all day in a very heavy-bottomed stockpot or a cast iron Dutch oven.  This recipe may be a bit too big for a 2-quart Dutch oven, but you could start with just a portion of the liquid and add the rest as the beans absorb it. You’ll need to cover the beans by at least double or possibly even triple the depth of water.  (You could easily start soaking the beans in the morning and then cook them in the late afternoon.)  Drain off  the soaking liquid and add the cooking liquid (water, stock), onions, half of the carrots and celery, and any animal product you are adding.  Simmer beans, covered, for 1 ½ to 2 hours (less for Anasazi, more for black, the full two hours for navy).  Stir occasionally, but if you’ve picked a suitably heavy pot, you shouldn’t have to worry much about sticking.  After the initial cooking time, add the rest of the carrots and celery and cook the beans for ½ hour to 1 hour to finish softening them.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Slow Cooker (Crock Pot) Method

Measure, sort through for pebbles, and rinse the beans—something you should do with all dried beans.  Add the beans, the chopped onion, half of the carrots and celery, all of the optional animal flesh and/or bone, and all of the liquid to a slow cooker (known often by the trade-marked name Crock Pot).  Put on the lid and set the slow cooker to low.  Let the beans cook all day.  An hour or so before supper (depending on the type of beans—more time for navy beans, less for black and Anasazi–and your slow cooker), add the rest of the carrots and celery and crank the slow cooker to high for about an hour to finish cooking the beans.  What if you come home and the beans are already soft?  You could turn off the beans, saute the carrots and celery, add them to the beans, and then turn on the cooker right before dinner to reheat it. Add salt and pepper to taste.

In order to get the best nutrition from these beans, serve them with whole-grain cornbread (recipe to follow in a future blog post) to make a complete protein (something you can get by mixing whole grains with beans).  Add gently cooked seasonal greens, like mustard greens, turnip greens, or collard greens—or you could even just make a side salad of healthy baby greens.  Serve with cucumber pickles like bread-and-butter or chow-chow (pickled vegetables).  Some people add pickle juice or tobasco hot sauce to the beans and greens.

*Smoked turkey stock. Did you smoke a turkey this year or get one as a gift?  Did you toss the carcass?  Don’t do that again!  For a great smoky stock, cover the smoked-turkey carcass with water, add aromatics (a stalk of celery, some onion chunks, herbs), and simmer for about two hours.  Strain off the bones, vegetables, and herbs then cool the stock.  Skim off the opaque fat that forms at the top.  Use your stock in soups and beans.  I recommend using it for no more than half of the liquid in a recipe, since it is quite strong.

Do you have questions about cooking with dried beans, Southern food, or vegetarian options?  I’ll do my best to answer them!

I’ve posted a traditional, hearty cornbread recipe.  It is all corn meal and minimally sweet, like people used to eat before every bread came to taste like dessert.

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I’m betting that by now most people know that whole grains are better for you than refined flours, that old-fashioned oats, either steel-cut or rolled, are much better for you than quick-cook oats.  When it comes to oats, even old-fashioned rolled oats are easy and quick to cook, so they are a natural choice.  What about grits?  Do you remember that great scene from My Cousin Vinny, when everyone swore that no self-respecting Southern cook would use instant grits?  I’m afraid that’s just not true anymore.  Old-fashioned grits can be a hassle.  You have to stand and stir the grits for half an hour, and even then you may get some sticking.  Here’s a quick solution for winter mornings:  use your slow cooker!  If you get up ahead of folks in your household, just put in your grits and water and/or milk, stir, and set your slow cooker on high for about an hour and a half.

For coarse grits, use the following ratio for two servings:

1/3 cup grits, dry

1 1/3 cups water/milk

salt to taste

This means that for four generous servings you should use 2/3 cup dry grits and about 2 2/3 cups water/milk.

Six servings takes you to 1 cup grits and 4 cups water/milk.

You’ll get a delightful creamy texture.  If you don’t get up ahead of the big eaters in your family, put the grits and water in the slow cooker the night before, but don’t turn it on.  Leave them to soak overnight.  In the morning, turn the cooker on high first thing, and you should have great grits by the time the rest of breakfast is ready.

Of course, this same recipe works for polenta!

Grits can vary quite a bit in terms of grit size and cooking times.  This procedure works for coarse grits and polenta.  Finely ground products will take less time.   For really creamy grits, stir in a little more milk in the last half hour of cooking.

You may also want to see this quicker, slightly less creamy but still delicious easy method:

https://ozarkhomesteader.wordpress.com/2009/12/20/old-fashioned-grits-on-the-stove-top-more-comfort-food/

Copyright Ozarkhomesteader 2009

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