Category Archives: Slow Cooker

Easiest Black Bean Soup EVER!

EBBSEI still remember the taste of the Black Beans and Rice I had at a restaurant in Ybor City. We were visiting my grandparents in St. Pete Beach. It was a very difficult time for our family and our mom decided that several weeks¬†in Florida were needed. As a parent now, I can only imagine what was happening in her world that caused her to make that decision. Whatever it was, it must have been awful for her. And sadly, she is no longer with us so I can’t talk to her about it. The difficult times she experienced trying to raise five kids largely alone make me appreciate all she did for us. Of course, typical of a kid and then a young woman with my own life and issues, I never said those words to her. I regret that very much.

Back to the restaurant and the Black Beans and Rice. Delicious. I remember the bite of the vinegar and the saltiness of the ham. I had never had Black Beans and Rice before. We are descendants of Eastern Europeans, and beans and rice weren’t in our family cuisine.

Thankfully, they are now. My Faithful Assistant will make them as an after school snack! For years, I have been on a quest for the quintessential Black Bean Soup. I scour the internet looking for something easy and flavorful all the time and after reading dozens of recipes, I have come up with one that I think combines the best of them all into one super simple recipe.

Easiest Black Bean Soup Ever
3 cans black beans
2 cups salsa
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

  1. Saute the onion and garlic in a little olive oil until translucent.
  2. Combine everything in a slow cooker or stock pot.
  3. Cook on low for 4-5 hours.

Did you notice I didn’t say drain and rinse the beans? I read up on that too. It’s water, salt and starches from the beans and can be a nice way to give your Black Bean Soup a little thickness.

As the soup heated and all the aromas started filling the house, I was in heaven. The smells didn’t bring back bad memories of our struggles. They brought back memories of new experiences, the warm Florida sun, the beach, and many other things. I think it’s safe to say that I will never suffer as a parent the way my mother must have. She had a very difficult life that was sprinkled here and there with some brightness. I’m going to choose to remember the brightness.


Potato, Sausage, and Spinach Soup

psssOh my darling soup, how I’ve missed you!

You can call it laziness, or complete inability to adjust to a new routine, but I have really fallen apart in the kitchen. Dinner has turned into a bunch of adventures in heating, combined with the occasional sandwich and too much Chick-Fil-A.

When I realized that my entire Sunday from 1:00 on was going to be free, I quickly scanned the shelves to see what soup creation I could make. And since my main dinner companion these days is My Faithful Assistant, the options were great. He loves soup as much as me. We finally settled on Potato, Sausage, and Spinach Soup.

Potato, Sausage, and Spinach Soup
Olive Oil
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 white onion, chopped
5 medium all purpose potaotes, chopped
1 quart broth of choice
3 sweet Italian sausage links, cooked, drained and chopped
2 cups frozen chopped spinach

  1. Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil until translucent.
  2. Add the chopped potatoes and broth. Simmer for 20-30 minutes until the potatoes are soft.
  3. Use a potato masher (or a big spoon) to mash some of the potatoes.
  4. Add the sausage and spinach.
  5. Simmer for at least another 20-30 minutes until hot.

I love a hearty soup, but I don’t want to feel so full that I can’t move. This soup was perfect. Since I used turkey sausage, it wasn’t heavy but it warmed me through. If you are interested in something a little more decadent, you can add 1/2 cup cream and 5 slices of chopped bacon and turn your soup into Tuscan Sausage and Potato Soup.

We are all tired around here and we can’t wait for winter break and the opportunity to have our whole family in one place and for everyone’s schedule to calm down. We are in the home stretch, people. A nice pot of soup may be just the inspiration you need to make it through to your winter break, too.


Green Lentil and Leek Soup

gllsThree years ago, one of our pastors was sick. How did I remember this? I didn’t. Facebook did though, and showed me a sweet little thank you post from said pastor because I brought her a little Lentil Soup.

Well coincidentally, she’s sick again. There is a nasty upper respiratory virus going around. It’s the kind that leaves you with zero energy. And it’s laying people up for a week at a time.

I knew what I had to do. Time to make more soup. And since it is Lent, it was quite obvious that Lentil Soup was in order once again.

Green Lentil and Leek Soup
2 quarts water
2 cups green lentils
1 leek, chopped and rinsed
1 half onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
Cayenne Pepper
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and chopped

  1. Combine everything but the apple in a slow cooker.
  2. Cook on low for 4 hours.
  3. Add the chopped apple. Allow to simmer for another 30 minutes, just long enough for the apple to warm but not get mushy.
  4. Serve!

I had just enough soup for me for lunch and my pastor and her husband for dinner. I was very pleased with this soup. I usually use broth or stock for my soups but I wanted to make this one vegan and I don’t really love any vegetable broths so I figured the leeks and everything else would be enough flavor. I was right. Very flavorful indeed!

I didn’t measure the spices. I would say I used equal amounts of cumin and turmeric; no more than a teaspoon of each, and about half of that amount of cayenne. There was a nice little zing, but not too much. This upper respiratory thing is causing a terrible cough and I didn’t want to make it so spicy that it set off a coughing fit.

I hope my soup brings a fast recovery, because Sunday is Confirmation and there’s cake. No one, especially the pastor, should miss church cake.


Parmesan Broth

parmbrothOne day, while scrolling through FaceBook, I came across this recipe from Epicurious for Parmesan Broth and I was awestruck… smitten… overcome. It didn’t occur to me that parmesan rinds were a thing and that they were a useful thing for making broth. I had to try it.

Off I trotted to Wegman’s Cheese Counter to ask the lovely cheese lady if she would be so kind as to carve a chunk of rind off her precious wheel of parmesan so I may partake of this culinary adventure. She pointed to a display, “They’re on the front of that display.” Clearly, I am the ONLY one who had no idea.

I didn’t have the recipe handy when I was at the store. I had a vague remembrance of the photo. It included the rinds, herbs, onion, and garlic. Onion and garlic are always on hand. I grabbed a packet of fresh poultry herbs, finished my shopping, and headed home to my broth making extravaganza!

Parmesan Broth
1/2 lb parmesan rinds
1 pack or a couple ounces fresh herbs, like rosemary, thyme, oregano, etc
3 or more cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 onion, cut into quarters
salt and pepper
2 quarts of water

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a slow cooker set on low for 6-8 hours.
  2. When done, set a colander over a large bowl and pour the broth into the colander to remove the rinds, herbs, and bits of garlic and onion.

This is probably my favorite broth in the whole wide world now. I will now have to keep parmesan rinds on hand at all times. I may even post on FaceBook, asking friends to give me theirs.

We used our first batch of broth to make chicken and rice. It was amazing. We made it in our new pressure cooker so it was ready very quickly. That was nice. But the flavor and aroma would have totally been worth waiting for.

The picture is from the batch My Faithful Assistant whipped up after school this week. Yes, it’s that easy that an 8th grader can make it. And now he’s looking forward to coming up with some interesting ways to use it.


Homemade Pumpkin Puree

hppEach year our church sells pumpkins to raise money for youth programs. We happily support the endeavor by buying more pumpkins than one family of four needs. That usually means we have one pumpkin per child, possibly another one for me to carve, and several tiny pumpkins to adorn the mantle.

This year, I decided to get some small pumpkins for the sole purpose of baking them and making my own puree. I chose the small pumpkins because everything I had read said those would yield the most flavorful puree and they were right! It also didn’t hurt that they were only $1.50 each, less than a 15 oz can of puree in the store. SCORE!!!

Homemade Pumpkin Puree
Small, dark orange pumpkin

1. Slice the pumpkin into six pieces and clean out the guts and seeds.
2. Place skin side down on a baking sheet and bake at 300 for 60 minutes or more.
3. Remove from oven and cool.
4. Peel off the skin.
5. Puree in a blender or food processor. I used my blender which meant I needed to add water.

I am really looking forward to using my pumpkin in all my favorite pumpkin recipes. And I can’t wait to come up with new ways to enjoy it! Stay tuned for a new Pumpkin Soup recipe that I hope to post in the next few days!