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Winter Recipe: Spinach Tortellini Soup

12 Jan

To view text-only version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

These greens will warm the "snowy day blues" right out of you.

Nothing’s better than coming in out of the snow to a piping hot bowl of soup, but what happens when you don’t have hours to let the kettle simmer before dinner?

This soup recipe can be thrown together and cooked in under thirty minutes, and it’s got all the hearty flavor of something that’s been bubbling for hours.

If you can’t find frozen or refrigerated cheese tortellini at your local discount grocery store, you can substitute using either cheese ravioli, or just regular boxed pasta noodles + a little bit of grated parmesan cheese in the soup.

Start by melting a tablespoon of butter/margarine in a deep pot over MEDIUM burner heat. Once melted, throw in about a cup of diced onions. (I keep these in the freezer so I don’t have to mess with chopping them every night.) Continue reading


Easy Recipe: French Onion Soup in Bread Bowls

10 Jan

Soup in a bread bowl is a simple but elegant way to warm up on a cold evening.

Gracie’s hippie sister here, using a cold day as an excuse to make one of the warmest of winter dishes.

When I lived in the St. Louis area, my office was just a few blocks from a St. Louis Bread Company restaurant. One of my favorite lunchtime treats was to go to the Bread Company (known outside the St. Louis area as Panera) and have some of their famous onion soup in a bread bowl.

The Panera/SLBC version involved an oversized sourdough roll with a cylinder cut out of the middle to hold the soup.

It was nice, but I think my simple homemade version — which is a lot faster to make than sourdough — is even better, and it really isn’t difficult to make at all. Continue reading

Slow-Cooker Recipe: Chicken Stew

30 Nov

Grace’s sister here, checking in with a spur-of-the-moment recipe that turned out better than I expected.

The other day, I had a craving for chicken pot pie — or, more accurately, chicken pot pie filling. I wasn’t particularly interested in the crust. I just wanted the stew inside.

A bag of frozen vegetables and a couple of chicken breasts later, I had something lovely simmering in my Crock-Pot. Continue reading

Cheap Recipe: Easy Chicken Gumbo

11 Mar

This is recipe #99, making the countdown to RKP’s 100th Recipe Celebration with Jana Kolpen at (1)!

For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

Easy as pie! I mean, soup!

With Spring just around the corner, I realized this week that there were many more soup recipes I’d been meaning to try my hand at making this winter, and time is running out!

Today’s recipe, Easy Chicken Gumbo, is a great example of how little effort (and money!) it takes to produce a really satisfying meal at the end of a rough day.

Tomatoes and chicken broth make an easy soup base.

Gumbo is also another great reason to slow-cook chicken on the weekends to stock your freezer with. (Click here for easy directions on slow cooking whole chickens and salvaging homemade stock.)

Any veggies will do; just don't forget the okra.

Begin by emptying a large, undrained can of tomatoes (whole, diced, whatever) into a large saucepan. Add 1 can chicken broth (or homemade chicken stock with water) and stir over medium heat.

As soon as broth begins to bubble, throw in one or two handfuls of uncooked white rice to help thicken up the soup.

Don't add the frozen chicken at the same time as the frozen veggies or the rice will never cook!

Sprinkle equal parts garlic powder, onion powder and paprika into broth and add salt/pepper to taste. Mix in 1 package (12 ounces) frozen mixed vegetables and allow soup to return to simmer.


Go as heavy or as light on chicken as you want.

Chef’s Note: There are several different blends of frozen mixed vegetables these days–some stores even carry specific “gumbo blends.” The goal is to have onions, celery, bell pepper, corn and okra. You can mix and match with potatoes, carrot, lima beans or other vegetables as well.

My store was sold out of their gumbo blend, so I just substituted a plain old mixed vegetable blend and made sure I had plenty of okra. Honestly, as long as you remember the okra, no one will look too closely at anything else.

Once soup is bubbling, stir in about 2 cups (frozen or thawed) cooked chicken. It’s okay if it’s frozen to a solid brick–it won’t stay that way for long once it hits that hot soup. Just be sure to space out additions of frozen ingredients like vegetables or chicken and allow soup to return to full heat between those additions–otherwise, the rice may not cook properly!

Happy little okra wheelies...

Continue to heat over medium burner setting, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes or until rice is thoroughly cooked and chicken is completely heated. Serve immediately with oyster crackers; freeze leftover soup in an airtight container up to 2 months.

Cheap Recipe: Slow-Cooker Cranberry Beef Stew

25 Feb

For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

beef stew

Yummy beef stew (with my mom's homemade bread riding shotgun).

This is a super “Get Out of Jail Free Card” kind of meal in the winter months when you know you’ll come home freezing cold and worn to a frazzle.

Such was the case last Thursday, and it was wonderful to walk in the door with the aroma of beef stew waiting to greet the family.

This is a pretty straightforward recipe, without any confusion or complexity, really. Just a good, warm meal after a busy day. We enjoyed ours with homemade bread & honey butter. It was perfect.

Begin by thawing 1- to 1.5-lbs. stew meat. I’ve found I can get the most bang for my buck if I buy several pounds’ worth in the big “Family Packs” when my local butcher’s counter has them discounted–I just take it home, divide it up into smaller portions, and freeze individual bags. Big savings, small effort!

Carrot-chopping is so much fun sometimes I get carried away!

Chop an onion into large chunks and throw in the bottom of your slow-cooker. Add about 6 chopped carrots and about 2-3 cups red potato chunks.(I leave the skins still on my potatoes because sometimes I won’t get home until 9+ hours later and the skins seem to prevent the potatoes from mushing when you open the lid and begin to stir the finished stew after all that time…)

Celery doesn't have to be the star of this dish, so a wee bit will do.

Slice 1 celery rib into small pieces and add to cooker, but don’t overdo it–celery doesn’t have to play as big a role in this dish as in its similar cousin dish, Pot Roast.

Toss in about 1 cup frozen peas and sprinkle well with salt/pepper. Add garlic powder to taste.

Protect those taters by leaving the skins on.

Add the stew meat over the vegetables and spread around a little bit. Pour undrained contents of 2 (15-oz) cans tomatoes (I used whole) over stew.


Cold-packed 'maters.

Chef’s Note: My mother cans her own tomatoes from the garden, and they’re just a wonderful addition to stews like this one, although there’s nothing wrong with store-bought ones, of course. (Except that they’re not free like these were!)  🙂

Add 1 cup cranberry juice.  100% juice and/or juice cocktail blends are both fine, but absolutely no light or diet! (Splenda-flavored beef, anyone?)

All loaded up!

You can use additional seasoning at this point if you like (bay leaves, mustard seed, etc.), but I kind of enjoy the straightforward flavors of the meat and vegetables after they’ve simmered all day in fruit juice.

All done!

Fill the remainder of your Crock Pot with broth or water (or combination) to the 3/4-full mark. Don’t worry–it won’t come out too brothy; you’ve got a lot of porous root vegetables in there. And besides, a little broth is good.

Cover; let simmer on LOW setting 7-9 hours.

Mmm. Now that's comforting.

Enjoy with homemade bread and honey butter while wearing your wooliest pair of socks.  🙂

Cheap Recipe: Slow-Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage

11 Feb

For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

The absolute favorite dinner of our household. Hands-down, no more entries, please!

So…I’m Irish. And while I didn’t discover corned beef and cabbage until I was an adult, I’ve eaten it enough times in the last ten years to make up for all of the days prior.

The best thing about corned beef and cabbage is that I’m not quite sure how you’d screw it up. It’s so easy and so good!

Begin with a big (3-4 lb.) corned beef brisket. If yours doesn’t come with its own seasoning packet in the package, you can easily add bay leaves, garlic,

Put brisket (and seasoning) in the bottom of the slow cooker.

 peppercorns and mustard seed to create your own seasoning. Remember, though, that the meat’s already been cured and will taste yummy no matter what you add or don’t add!

Aww, look at my little baby cabbage...

Place the brisket in the bottom of your slow-cooker. On a cutting board, chop a small head of cabbage into large chunks. Quarter a yellow onion and chop about 1 lb. carrots (the small-sized bag in your produce section) into large bites.

Pile the chopped vegetables over the beef and seasoning in the Crock Pot. Fill the slow cooker up to the 3/4-way mark with water, beef broth, or beer (or some combination of those three things).

A little bouquet...of cabbage.

Place the lid on the cooker and set on LOW for 7-8 hours. To serve, remove the

Pile the veggies over your brisket.

vegetables from the pot first and place in a large bowl or serving tray. Place the brisket in one piece on platter and cut into slices with a large, serrated knife.

This dish is traditionally accompanied by boiled potatoes and Irish Soda Bread.

And by the way, the refrigerated leftovers reheat perfectly and taste just as wonderful as the first round!

I'm getting hungry all over again...

New Orleans Recipe: Red Beans & Rice with Smoked Sausage

8 Feb

For a printable version of this recipe with complete ingredients listing, click here.

We call this "virgin" Jambalaya...absolutely NO crayfish in my kitchen!

So…in honor of the Saints winning their first Super Bowl, I’m proud to present a festive Louisana-style post today!

Normally, I don’t like any food labeled “Cajun” or “Creole” or in any other way associated with New Orleans–the spices don’t seem to blend well together (at least not in my mouth), and as far as I’m concerned, “blackened” is just another way of saying, “Wow, I really burned the hell out of this.”

(And pleeeease don’t get me started on crayfish. As my mother used to say, ‘Who do you think was the first person in history to look down at a crawdad climbing out of his mudhole castle and say, ‘You know, I think I’d like to put that in my mouth…?’” Good grief.)

It's amazing how far 1/2 cup dry beans will stretch!

However, I realized this weekend that despite having run a “cheap recipes” blog for six months now, I’ve never tried my hand at making Red Beans & Rice, the Supreme Mighty Potentate of nutrition on the cheaps.

I paid only 50 cents for the HALF POUND of sausage you see here--Hooray for in-store promos and coupon-stacking!

So, I gave it the old college try–picking and choosing from Cajun spices I thought I could handle rather than buying one of those icky pre-mixed shaker blends. I also threw in some cheap sausage (I went couponing last weekend and scored some Johnsonville Andouille Brats at an unbelieveable $1 per pound!) and added some homemade canned tomatoes to round out the flavors a little bit.

The result? Surprisingly, it was actually good! Toss me some Mardi Gras beads and save me a slice of King Cake–I’m cooking it up New Orleans-style in the old kitchen tonight!

A cup of dry white rice. Doesn't get cheaper than this.

Begin by rinsing 1/2 cup dry small red beans and placing them in the bottom of a medium-to-large saucepan. Cover them with 4 cups water and bring to rapid boil.

Sprinkle the following spices over your beans: 1 to 2 tablespoons minced onions, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon paprika and 1/2 teaspoon thyme. Add cayenne or black pepper to taste.

Once boiling, reduce heat to medium setting and place lid slightly ajar over pan to prevent any boiling over but prevent liquid from all steaming away. Simmer mostly covered for about 90 minutes.

After an hour-and-a-half, remove lid from spiced beans and add 3 cans chicken or vegetable broth. Stir in 1 cup uncooked white rice and replace lid slightly ajar.

Butter and sausage! (Hey, I never said this version was lowfat.)

While water/broth mixture returns to simmer, chop 1/2 pound (about 3 regular brats) smoked sausage and add to stovetop mixture. Drain a 15-ounce can of tomatoes and add to pot.

It tastes more authentic if you start singing Arlo Guthrie's "City of New Orleans" while you stir.

Add 1/4 cup (or 1/2 stick) butter or margarine to boiling rice mixture and replace lid, stirring often to prevent sticking and checking rice periodically for doneness.

Allow rice to cook 30-45 minutes, or until soft. It’s okay if there’s a little liquid left that hasn’t soaked into the rice and beans; because of the added butter, the liquid will thicken a little when you remove the pot from heat and serve as a rich broth.

Serve garnished with fresh parsley or chives.

Cheap Recipe: Chicken Quesadilla Stew

4 Feb

For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

Another great use for leftover cooked chicken!

This is a sort of variation on tortilla soup I invented a while back. I didn’t feel like putting tortillas in the soup, and I wanted something a bit thicker and heartier so I wouldn’t have to worry about making sandwiches to go with dinner.

I left out the tortillas, added some new ingredients like cream cheese, and Chicken Quesadilla Stew was born. I liked it so much I may never make traditional tortilla soup or chili again! 🙂

Start with 2 or 3 cups of thawed, leftover cooked chicken (see this post for great tips on scavenging chicken & stock) and a can of

Chopped scallions lend some greenery to this pretty stew.

 chicken broth. Heat the chicken and broth in a large saucepan until slow simmer is reached. Refill the empty broth can with water one time and add water to mixture.

Give your leftover chicken a cheap, easy Mexican makeover with a seasoning packet.

Meanwhile, chop several green onions (or one small yellow onion would work) and add to the saucepan. Once chicken is simmering, stir in a store-bought packet of fajita or taco seasoning (or just add your own spices like cumin and chili powder if you prefer). Stir until spices are well-distributed.

Add a 10-ounce, undrained can of diced tomatoes with chiles (think RO*TEL), a 15-ounce undrained can of black beans, and a small, drained can of whole kernel corn (you

Hubby kept commenting on the yummy aromas while the pot simmered!

 can use frozen corn instead just as easily, too). Stir well and return to simmer.

I promise you'll want seconds.

Once stew is hot, stir in 4-6 ounces of cream cheese, adding a little bit of water or milk if broth is not substantial, or if you prefer the recipe to be closer to soup than a creamy stew.

Serve immediately topped with shredded Mexican cheese.

P.S.–The leftovers freeze beautifully!

Cheap Recipe: Slow-Cooker Sausage & Lentils

1 Feb

For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

The perfect welcome home after a cold, wet day...

This yummy stew gets a lovely flavor and texture from the delicious root vegetables that simmer in broth all day while your slow-cooker does the work for you.

I wanted to invent a lentil stew, rather than a soup, full of hearty good things to eat that wouldn’t leave us wanting for a second course.

Rather than succumb to the good old standbys of ground beef or stew meat that fade into obscurity, I decided to think outside of the box and experiment with some smoked turkey sausage in my Crock Pot. The result was both tasty and economical, satisfying both of my requirements for recipes on this blog!

The oft-overlooked parsnip makes a curious addition to this stew.

Begin by chopping about 3 or 4 cups of root vegetables of any variety. I used carrots, parsnips and potatoes, but you can also use sweet potatoes, turnips or anything else that

Any vegetables will do.

strikes your fancy or is cheap and in season in your local produce department. Be sure to include at least one onion in the mix, and play around with different sized pieces to add interest to your meal.

Throw the vegetables into your slow cooker and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon garlic powder and 1 teaspoon seasoning salt.

Next, slice up a package (11- to 14-ounces) of regular or turkey smoked sausage and add the meat to the slow cooker. Dump a 1-lb. bag of dry lentils into the mixture and add 2 cans of chicken broth (about

Using smoked sausage means you don't have to brown any meat during prep time!

3-1/2 cups) and 4 to 5 cups water, or enough to fill your slow cooker.

Since lentils do not require prior soaking, you can make this dish just as easily on your stovetop after work.

Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of brown sugar over the top of the stew and stir well. Cover with lid and heat on LOW setting for 8 hours, or HIGH setting for 4-5 hours.

Cheap brown-and-serve rolls or corn muffins make fast and yummy companions to this meal. Leftovers refrigerate well for quick lunches! (Be sure to add extra liquid to leftovers if necessary.)

Just a small bowl of this protein-packed stew will keep you full for hours.

Cheap Recipe: Oven-Roasted Turkey Stew

1 Dec

For a printable version of this recipe and complete ingredients listing, click here.

Roast turkey and vegetables come together over rice, noodles, pasta or as a stand-alone dish!

If you’re still game for buying turkey after Thanksgiving Day has passed, you can score some wild deals on freezable meat. (Haha. Get it? “Game” and “Wild”? Oh, nevermind.)

Now that Thanksgiving’s out of the way, grocery stores are trying to clear out all things fowl–and you can really score big on all sorts of stuff, not just whole fryers.

I landed a deal last week on a marinated turkey tenderloin roast (originally priced at $6.99) for only $2.19 on manager’s special! Having no idea what to make out of it, and keeping only one goal in mind (making it taste like anything other than more plain old turkey after the holiday), this tasty little dish was born.

Chop all veggies into small, easy bites.

Actually, because I hate going grocery shopping, I made this out of things I already had in my fridge and cabinet, but the finished result looked and tasted like I’d bought all the ingredients just for this recipe! And although I generally am not a fan of casseroles made out of condensed soup (they usually come out too salty and gelatinous for my tastes),

Look at those adorable little skinny onion slivers--they won't overpower your dish now!

 the orange juice really helps turn this soup-based casserole into a delicious stew that isn’t too sweet OR salty!

Begin by preheating oven to 400 degrees. Chop 3 large carrots and 2 celery ribs into fine pieces.

Place vegetables in a 9″x12″ glass baking dish. Sliver half of a yellow onion into extremely thin strands and add to the vegetables.

Make room for the meat!

Next, drain 2 small cans of mushroom stems & pieces and add to the casserole dish.

Hollow out a section in the middle of the vegetable casserole large enough to hold a thawed, 1-lb. turkey tenderloin. Place meat in center of dish and let vegetables pile around it.

Check out this sweet deal!

Using a spoon, empty one can of condensed cream of chicken soup by placing large dollops on and around the meat and vegetables.

Condensed soup is always on sale around the holidays!

Pour 1 cup chicken stock (or broth) over the mixture and squeeze (or pour) about 4 tablespoons orange juice over the dish.

Spread the now-wet dollops of condensed soup lazily over the top of the casserole.

Swirl condensed soup around the top of casserole.

Place uncovered casserole in oven and bake approximately 45 minutes, or until meat thermometer reaches a minimum of 160 degrees.

Remove from oven, slice meat and allow to cool about 5 minutes before serving. Pile creamy vegetable mixture on and around tenderloin medallions.

Fresh from the oven!

Serve over rice, pasta, egg noodles or plain white bread if desired, or eat alone as a stew.