Pull out the crock pot for warm, easy meals

01/13/2014 1:50 PM

01/13/2014 1:51 PM

My neighbor, Lesa Wagner, made some wonderful soup for us recently. The soup was so good I could (and did) eat it cold! If you don’t have two large crock pots, borrow one from a friend and you can return their crock pot with some of the delicious soup. I’m certain they’ll either ask for the recipe or offer their crock pot in exchange for another bowl very soon. Lesa’s Tortellini Soup is great, too, and I’ve included my version of green chile stew. My favorite aunt lived in New Mexico and this soup reminds me of her every time I make it. Enjoy!

Lesa’s Pasta Fagioli (Two Crock Pot Version)

2 lbs. ground beef

1 onion, chopped

3 carrots, chopped

4 stalks celery, chopped

2 (28 oz.) cans diced tomatoes, don't drain

1 (16 oz.) can white kidney beans, drained

1 (16 oz.) can red kidney beans, drained

3 (10 oz.) cans beef stock

3 teaspoons oregano

2 teaspoons pepper

5 teaspoons parsley

1 teaspoon Tabasco

20 oz. jar spaghetti sauce

8 oz. of small pasta

Brown beef in a skillet and drain fat. Divide the beef between two large (6 quart) crock pots and divide and add the remaining ingredients (except the pasta).

Cook on low seven to eight hours or on high four to five hours. During last 30 minutes if on high, or one hour on low, add pasta.

Notes: You will probably need to add water after adding the pasta. The pasta tends to soak up all the liquid left after cooking, but the addition of extra water doesn’t affect the taste. Lesa and I have tried it with shell macaroni pasta and with very tiny pasta. Whichever you prefer is fine.

Out of necessity, I substituted garbanzo beans once instead of the white kidney beans so feel free to use what you have in your pantry. Lastly, I like to use a roasted garlic spaghetti sauce, but this, too, can be altered to your taste.

Lesa’s Crock Pot Tortellini Soup

1 lb. Hot Jimmy Dean sausage, browned and drained

19 oz. frozen cheese tortellini

5 oz. bag of fresh spinach

2 cans (15 oz.) Italian style diced tomatoes

8 oz. cream cheese

32 oz. chicken broth

1 clove minced garlic

Place all ingredients in a crock pot and cook on low four to six hours.

Suzi’s Green Chile Stew

1 1/2 lbs. pork roast, diced

6 strips thick-cut bacon, diced

6 cups chicken stock

2 large yellow onions, diced

2 tablespoons butter

6 cloves of garlic, diced

2 cups or 16 oz. of frozen, fresh, or canned green chilies

1 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes

2 15 oz. cans white hominy, rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon ground cumin

Garlic powder and onion powder, to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

Brown bacon on medium heat, stirring occasionally, in a large stockpot. Adding the pork roast, brown the meat in the stockpot and then turn off the heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and meat from the pot, allowing the fat to drip back into the pot.

Turn heat back on to medium and melt the butter in the reserved pork and bacon fat. Add the diced onions to the pot and saute until translucent, about 6-8 minutes, adding the garlic to the pot once the onions are almost done.

Next, add the green chile to the pot and stir well. (I usually use two cans hot chile and two cans regular chile but modify to your taste). Allow to simmer for about one minute. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.

While the stock comes to a boil, quarter and then dice the potatoes into 1/2-inch slivers. Once the pot is boiling, add the potatoes slowly and return the bacon and pork to the pot. Add the hominy and enough water, if needed, to cover all.

Add spices (cumin and additional onion or garlic powder, if needed. Use salt sparingly at first, the flavor changes as it simmers). Add fresh cilantro and simmer about 30 minutes, uncovered.

Honey Cornbread

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup whole milk

2 large eggs

1/2 stick butter, melted

1/4 cup honey

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Into a large bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the whole milk, eggs, butter and honey. Add the wet to the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed.

Place muffin paper liners in a 12-cup muffin pan. Evenly divide the cornbread mixture into the papers. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden.

-- Suzi Hogan and her husband, Tim, live in Mansfield.

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