Spicy Slow Cooker Soup

Spicy Slow Cooker SoupIt was a super-busy holiday season with gifts and work and family and get-togethers and baking and fun. The post holiday season let-down has been rather relaxing, though, and the leftover party food has provided us with many days of meals.

But the party’s over, and with my work hours greatly diminished, I need to cook frugally.

Onward, brave housekeepers! To the slow cooker!

Today was a somewhat slow day workwise, so I had some time to throw together a spicy soup, all with ingredients from our kitchen.

Here’s the basics for the soup. Feel free to take this as inspiration and change according to your own tastes or what you have on hand. Frugal cooking isn’t frugal if you have to go out and buy ingredients, right?

Just a fair warning, this turned out quite spicy.

Spicy Slow Cooker Soup

  1. Cook bacon and save the grease to use later.
  2. Bake chicken tenderloins, cutting into small pieces.
  3. Once the chicken is cooked, throw in a good helping of sliced peppers and onions. Add some heaping tablespoons of bacon grease and ghee.
  4. Spice the chicken, peppers, and onions with habanero-infused salt, cumin, herbs and spices blend, onion powder, and chipotle seasoning.
  5. Stick the dish with the chicken, peppers, and onions back in the oven to cook a bit more. Take it out when the peppers and onions are cooked, and everything  is smelling great.
  6. Add to the slow cooker a drained can of pinto beans, a can of Ro-Tel, crumbled bacon, and a can of regular diced tomatoes. Stir in the chicken and pepper mix.
  7. Cook on low for the day. Enjoy!

Hubby seemed to love this soup! He went back for seconds!

 

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Easy Cheesy Soup (In a Wonderbag)

easycheesysoupHaving worked late last night, I wasn’t much in the mood for a heavy day of cooking. Dinner had to be easy and simple, especially since I would be working shifts throughout the day as well.

Luckily, my husband had stocked up on Progresso Recipe Starters awhile back when our local grocery store had run a sale on them. We always stock up on sale goods, especially when they’re canned and shelf-stable items. And who doesn’t like to save money? Anyway, he chose a selection of the various flavors, and luckily we had one of the Creamy Three Cheese starters left in our pantry.

Although the old brain cells take a bit longer to come up with something at my age, I was able to put together an idea fairly quickly. Easy Cheesy Soup! Improvising my own recipe from an established one would have to be the way to go in this case as I definitely wouldn’t be running to the grocery store for a few items. I found a good basic recipe online and began from there.

Here’s what I put in the pot:

  1. 2 links of hot Italian sausage
  2. 1 can of Creamy Three Cheese recipe starter
  3. About 1/3 bag of frozen Mirepoix vegetable mix
  4. Couple of handfuls dehydrated green and red peppers
  5. Ghost pepper infused sea salt from The Spice Lab
  6. Habanero infused sea salt from The Spice Lab
  7. Assorted spices (chipotle, roasted herb mix, garlic powder, etc)

I first browned the sausage in a bit of coconut oil, adding the Mirepoix veggies after a bit. Spices went in next; I then threw in the peppers and soup. I returned everything to boiling and put the steaming pot in the Wonderbag. It sat on my counter for an hour or so until we were ready to eat.

The result? Yummy! We chopped up some cheese in our soup for a garnish, and it turned out cheesy and wonderful. I’ll definitely try this again. And the Wonderbag made it all easy and convenient even for my work schedule.

Dinner Is in the Bag!

dinnerwonderbagBe sure and check out my latest frugal improvisation for dinner in a Wonderbag!

Dinner Is in the Bag!

It was a tasty and easy meal! Plus, as it used up ingredients we already had on hand, very frugal. I’ve got tons of other articles on Bubblews, so be sure and check those out as well. You might find something useful on there!

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Boiled Eggs in a Wonderbag

boiled eggs wonderbagSo, if you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen a recent tweet about my purchase of a Wonderbag. Although I covet very little these days, I must admit that I had been wanting one for quite awhile. Challenging myself to learn different cooking methods is kind of fun–perhaps I’m a bit odd that way–and so this looked to be right up my alley. I finally relented and bought one online.

When we first began our solar cooking journey, we jumped right in and began cooking full meals. While not disasters, the stews and soups didn’t always quite turn out. We then decided to go back to basics, learning to cooking single items, such as rice and eggs, to see how the solar oven performed and give us a better idea of the quirks involved with solar cooking. Having learned from those experiences, I decided to begin my Wonderbag journey with the easy stuff.

Waking up this morning, I thought, “Today is the day!” I would finally use my Wonderbag for the first time! Thinking about the food we currently had on hand, I decided to boil some eggs. With just a bit of searching, I found a guideline for doing this in the Wonderbag. It looked simple enough, so I began as the directions described, covering the eggs in water and bringing it all to a boil. After a quick period on the stove, the pot was boiling nicely and ready for the Wonderbag. In the bag it went, the whole kit-n-kaboodle sitting on my counter for about seven or so hours.

And the result? The eggs cooked perfectly. About the only difference from what was described in the guidelines was the ease of peeling of the eggs. The eggs were fully cooked, but they just didn’t peel very easily. I’ll admit that this might have been due to the quality or age of our eggs. After peeling one egg, I did put the rest in a bowl of cold water, which seemed to help significantly. However, I would say that this method is a success as it was easy–always a bonus!–and utilized very little gas for cooking.

My opinion of the Wonderbag so far? I have to say I’m a fan. This method of cooking would certainly be perfect for those days when cooking in the solar oven would not be possible, and it didn’t heat up my home during even a hot morning.

Do you have a Wonderbag? What are your experiences? Any favorite meals or recipes? Please share!

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Easy Tomato Soup

easytomatosoupI suppose this post could be subtitled, “The Continuing Adventures of Using Up Old Tomato Soup.” Although I have already used one can of soup, I still have more cans in the pantry. Making soup out of soup might seem kind of silly, but it is an easy way to make something not-so-appetizing, e.g., the cans of old soup, into a dinner that will satisfy. Frugal dinners don’t have to be unappealing.

In need of a dinner for my family, I decided to use another can of soup. Below are the ingredients that initially went in the crockpot:

  • One can of tomato soup
  • One can of chicken stock
  • One can of fire-roasted tomatoes
  • One can of chickpeas
  • Garlic salt and pepper
  • One onion, diced

Once it had cooked for a bit, I realized that it would be a quite bland soup. I therefore added a few more ingredients:

  • One chipotle
  • Beef bouillon, about two tablespoons
  • Chili powder
  • Cayenne
  • More garlic salt and pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Remains of a stick of summer sausage, diced
  • One can of chicken

And the result? A soup with great flavor and still frugal. I managed to use up another can of tomato soup, along with some other ingredients that needed to be utilized. And my family ate dinner without complaints. A win, win for me!

What about for you? Making something similar—I call it “dump soup”–is an easy way to make a frugal meal for your family and use up pantry ingredients that might be close to expiration. By following the general formula of this soup, you can make substitutions that are appropriate for your family and your “use it up” needs. Cooking “outside of the recipe” can be a bit intimidating at first, but it will liberate your dinners and make them truly frugal.

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Slow Cooker Cinnamon Almonds

slowcookercinnamonalmondsAfter a disastrous candy-making attempt before Christmas last year, I decided to do a “dry run” for my various holiday recipes in October. My father taught me to “prepare, prepare, prepare,” and I can assure you that having a batch of goodies fail the night before a family get-together can be a very bad thing. One extra bonus of trying the recipe this early is that my family can enjoy the recipe now and look forward to it again in December.

I therefore made a batch of Slow Cooker Cinnamon Almonds yesterday. I was a little worried about making this recipe in my crockpot as it always seems to run a bit hot. Despite my diligent stirring every twenty minutes, just as the recipe directed, there were still some areas that seemed a bit over done. Generally they came out just fine, though, and made the house smell wonderful.

Once I took them out of the oven, my husband walked in the kitchen and asked, “So do I get some?” When I replied, “Of course,” he grabbed a handful and eagerly chomped down. With a satisfied sigh, he then took a bowl and scooped up a bunch more. From his reaction, I would say that this recipe was definitely a success.

One tip for making this recipe frugal is purchasing the nuts in bulk. Buying nuts at the grocery store can be an expensive venture, making even homemade Christmas gifts not worth the effort. I buy my nuts from Bulk Foods, an online store. In order for this to be worth it, you will need to make a large purchase so that you can take advantage of the low shipping. However, we have never had any problems with the products from this store and have found that making twice yearly orders is quite worth the effort. We get our food at a lower cost from this company than anywhere locally.

So what will you be making for Christmas? Please share so that I can get more ideas!

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Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

spicybutternutsquashsoupThis morning I decided to bake a huge butternut squash that we purchased last weekend. As it was a rather large squash, I knew that we would be able to use it for multiple recipes. And what would be the first dish to utilize the cooked squash? I decided that it would be a spicy butternut squash soup, just the thing to warm us up in the cooler weather.

I began with the basic recipe for Chipotle Butternut Squash Soup Recipe. This seemed like a great beginning for our own soup, but with some alterations that fit our pantry—as well as my energy level. The result? It turned out to be a hearty, spicy soup that brings out the best of the squash.

Changes I Made to the Recipe

As I had already cooked the squash itself, I spooned the flesh of ½ of it into a crockpot. I then sauteed the carrot, ½ of an onion, 2 chipotle peppers in sauce, and garlic until tender. That was put in the crockpot as well.

I didn’t want to bother with a blender, so I knew it would be more of a stew than the creamy soup pictured in the recipe. I therefore added to the crockpot the following ingredients: 1 can fire roasted tomatoes (undrained), 1 can kidney beans, and broth. I also added some additional seasonings, such as garlic pepper, salt, and mixed herbs. All of that combined will cook in the slow cooker until we’re ready to eat.

Perhaps I’ll find one of those handy submersion blenders at the thrift store one of these days. Until then, I probably won’t bother putting soup in the blender just to make it creamy. To be honest, it’s just not worth the cleanup.

So is this frugal? You betcha. The only fresh ingredients—butternut squash, onion, and carrot—were all very cheap in the grocery store. Taking advantage of vegetables and fruits that are in season is certainly a great way to celebrate the cooler weather as we approach fall. And with some homemade bread, this soup will make a great dinner.

Slow Cooker Cheeseburger Soup

slowcookercheeseburgersoupIn my house, I try to make food that will satisfy a few criteria:

  • It must be frugal.
  • It must be filling.
  • It must be appetizing.

I would add “healthy” to that list, but that can be an iffy thing at times. When I saw the recipe for Slow Cooker Cheeseburger Soup, I thought I’d give it a try. It seemed to fit my family’s tastes but also required ingredients that we generally had on hand. I did, however, make a few adjustments to make it a bit more frugal and make up for those ingredients that we didn’t have in our pantry.

Here are the changes that I made:

  • 1/2 pound of breakfast sausage instead of the ground beef
  • Omitted potatoes
  • Added 1/2 box of small shell pasta
  • Added remainder of bag of frozen broccoli and cauliflower
  • Powdered beef base with water instead of canned chicken broth

This produced a rich soup that didn’t require spices added at the end. Too, it was readily eaten by even my husband’s daughter, who is an extremely picky eater. Unlike many soups that are not so good the next day, this soup actually retained its appeal, and so everyone enjoyed the leftovers with no complaints.

The changes that I made followed some rules of frugal cooking:

  • Use a small amount of expensive ingredients, such as the breakfast sausage.
  • Fill out the meal by using less expensive ingredients, such as the pasta.
  • Use up what you have on hand, making adjustments in a recipe if necessary.

All in all, this was a great soup, with just some changes to make it more frugal. Once you learn the basics of improvising in your cooking, it’s relatively easy. And with cool weather coming our way, who doesn’t like a nice, hot soup for dinner?

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Planning Ahead for Comfort: Chicken Dumplings and French Toast

planningaheadforcomfortI’ll admit it: I have never been good at planning ahead when it comes to meals. I’ve tried time and time again to make and follow weekly meal plans, only to abandon them part-way through the week. Partially this stems from a former lack of emphasis on all things home, but too, I believe that it also comes from the fact that I am usually only cooking for two. I have found that what works for me is to plan a few meals based on what I find on sale, “winging it” for the rest. By stocking my pantry with a variety of ingredients, I can have those showy, planned meals that provide leftovers and create spur-of-the-moment dishes and snacks throughout the rest of the week.

crockpotchickenanddumplingsThis weekend has been all about comfort foods, and that has necessitated a bit of planning. For my own special comfort, I made Slow Cooker Chicken and Dumplings. My grandmother would make chicken and dumplings for me when I was younger, and it was certainly my favorite dish. The creamy, slightly spicy soup with chunks of chicken and tasty biscuits always warmed me up no matter how cold it was outside. I know that my version certainly isn’t nearly as yummy as hers, but I just don’t think that’s possible. She was a master at improvised cooking. Still, I wanted to have that experience again, even if it was just a shadow of what I remember of my grandmother’s tasty creations.

readytoeatThe slow cooker chicken and dumplings was very easy; I just threw everything in the crockpot and let it cook. One thing that we did do, however, was shred the chicken half way through the cooking time.  This allowed us to confirm that the chicken cooked thoroughly. By the end, the chicken fell apart anyway, but we really wanted to make sure that everything was cooked. I also found that the biscuits required at least an hour to cook completely, much longer than what the recipe states. Too, if you make this for your own family, you might want to consider adding some spices as it was rather bland.

overnightfrenchtoastFor a final goody for this weekend, I prepared Overnight French Toast last night so that we could have a hot breakfast this morning. When I saw French bread on sale yesterday at the grocery store, I knew that I would have to give this recipe a try. As we already had all of the other ingredients, it was a cheap risk. And that risk was certainly a tasty one! Preparing the dish the night before and storing it in the fridge overnight, I found that it was ready to stick in the oven this morning. Perfect for those of us who can’t function–much less plan a meal–before our morning coffee. I was able to wake my husband up with cinnamon and coffee smells. What a nice way to begin the day!

I know that plenty of wives follow meal plans strictly, and I do admire that. I suppose I haven’t yet reached that level of organization. For now, this works for us. Occasionally planning ahead doesn’t hurt one bit. And it’s mighty yummy!