Category Archives: recipes

Miss Ina’s Beef and Vegetable Stew

From January 2012

The weather is changing here in Iowa where we’ve found our new home, nomads that we are. The leaves are turning and the cold is settling in. We still spend a good bit of time outdoors raking leaves and when we come inside we want something hot, nutritious and meaty after all of our activity. This is a family favorite of ours.

Miss Ina’s Beef and Vegetable Stew

1.5 boneless tip roast
8 cups water
1 tablespoon salt (this soup is as salty as the Dead Sea so you may need to adjust)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
celery leaves
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 package onion soup mix*
5 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (or 2 tablespoons dry)
4 cups beef stock

Brown the meat and then add all the above to your stock pot and simmer for three hours. Fish out the celery leaves and bay leaves from the stock. Then add everything below and simmer for one hour:

1 quart green beans
8 potatoes cubed (I usually only do 3-4 medium potatoes)
10 oz peas, fresh or frozen
10 oz white corn, fresh or frozen
5 large carrots, sliced
2 cups cabbage, chopped
1 quart diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon sugar (I usually omit)

*You could skip the soup mix by browning two large diced yellow onions and a couple of cloves of minced garlic in some olive oil before or while browning the meat.

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Mrs. Sorge’s Sweet and Spicy Crockpot Chili

As a follow up to the crockpot freezer meals in a bag post, I wanted to share one of the recipes I used but didn’t include in the original post. This one is from my friend Julie’s mother and is a big winner here in the Tilley household. We are connoisseurs of chili: Texas chili, white bean chili, vegetarian chili, Cincinnati chili and now sweet and spicy chili. I love how it has both meat and a variety of beans, and the flavor is fantastic.

Mrs. Sorge’s Sweet and Spicy Crockpot Chili

1 lb ground beef
1 cup chopped onions and green peppers (frozen mix or fresh chopped)
1 can kidney beans (drained & rinsed),
1 can white beans (drained & rinsed),
1 can black beans (drained & rinsed),
1 can (16 oz) tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes (including juice)
Salt and pepper across the top (approx 1/4 tsp each)
1/4 cup brown sugar
Chili powder to preference (3 tablespoons per large pot = average spiciness)
Dust the top with cinnamon

Brown the ground beef and drain off the grease. Place all in crockpot and cook on high for four hours or low for eight. If you are preparing this as a freezer meal, the ground beef can go in raw though you need to break up the chunks for it to cook appropriately. When I made this as a freezer meal, I broke up the meat through the plastic bag with my hands after I sealed it in the freezer bag and that helped cut down on how much you had to mess with it after pulling it from the freezer to cook. Yields 6-8 servings.

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Crockpot Freezer Meals in a Bag

Updated 1/7/2012

A few months ago, I discovered Pinterest. Basically, Pinterest is an online bulletin board where you can “pin” up all kinds of pictures, recipes and other inspirations onto “boards.” Your friends can then look at them and be equally inspired. I like it because it saves me from having 200 links under a generic “craft” bookmark, plus I follow a number of people who basically pick through the best of the Internet and give me all kinds of great ideas quickly.

One of the “pins” I loved was from this blog where she talked about making crockpot freezer meals. Baby #3 is due to launch in about two weeks and this is about the time where you start putting away freezer meals for the bleary postpartum life with a newborn. I wasn’t feeling very inspired since I haven’t found too many freezer meals that don’t come out just a little gross. Plus, I always forget they need like eighteen days to defrost (pregnancy drama strikes again), which usually adds up to another dinner of cardboard box pizza.

So this idea was, let’s be real, revolutionary.

I chose five crockpot recipes that were either tried and true, or sounded nutritious and delicious enough to take a chance on. They are as follows:

Vegetarian Chili with Sweet Potatoes – via Real Simple
Red Beans and Rice – via MyRecipes
Vegetable Soup – via about.com
Healthy Mama Barbecue Chicken – via the original Mama and Baby Love post (not a Tilley family favorite)
Mrs. Sorge’s Sweet and Spicy Chili

In total, I was making nine crockpot meals (I doubled all recipes except the Barbecue Chicken recipe since it serves something like 12 people). To assemble, I wrote post-in notes grouping ingredients by category: Vegetables, Canned Goods, Spices, Meats. I pre-labeled two gallon freezer bags with name of the meal, and before placing in the freezer wrote out additional direction such as how much water to add and how long they needed to cook.

From October 2011

Then I started chopping vegetables. I had a measuring cup sitting by the cutting board and would cut up all the onions, adding them to individual bags as I went, then all the green peppers, and so forth. It was faster than filling up one whole bag at a time. In total, it took about four hours to chop everything. (I listened to a lot of podcasts). I had to take breaks at various points to pick up various children at school, etc. But all I had to do was zip up the bags and toss them in the refrigerator.

From October 2011

Side note: It was pointed out to me later that evening when I was almost comatose from fatigue that perhaps other women who are 37.5 weeks pregnant should break the assembly process into a two-day venture. At the time, I’m pretty sure I said something very rude before collapsing into bed at 8:30pm but after 12 hours of sleep this rang of good sense.

After the vegetables, I added any non-bean canned goods the recipe called for – like diced tomatoes. I thought about adding the beans as well, but my Google search didn’t turn up anything definitive about how canned beans would survive in the freezer. They would probably be fine, but I ultimately decided not to include them.

Then I added the spices and whatever meat the recipe called for. I purposefully didn’t choose any recipes that required searing or cooking the meat in any way first. Mostly because the only dishes I wanted to do were the cutting board, measuring utensils and a knife.

At this point, I sealed the bags and added any notes about how to assemble them. Add so much water and so many cans of beans. Cook on what temperature for how long. Then I put them in the freezer and called it good.

The only other thing I did was set aside a special place in my pantry for the ingredients that would be added later (the cans of beans, chicken broth, etc) so I wouldn’t accidentally use them in other dishes.

The Mama and Baby Love blog mentioned that she would let her bag defrost for about 30 minutes on the counter before adding to the crockpot. I’m guessing this is because the whole thing freezes into a solid mass and it needs a little time to soften before maneuvering it into the crockpot.

Edited to add: I found I could defrost the freezer bags in the microwave more quickly and effectively than leaving them lying out on the counter. I would soften them just enough to break up the contents into four big chunks that would fit into my crockpot. The bags should be used within 2-3 months of making them. The additional frost growth on the vegetables waters down the contents too much.

If you try this, comment and let me know how it works for you!

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Red Beans and Rice with Turkey Sausage

This is a favorite summertime recipe since it doesn’t require turning on the oven, but really it’s good all through the fall and winter too. It’s also cooked in a single pot, which make clean up simpler and it’s easy to stick any leftovers in the fridge to re-warm later. You can spice this up with hot sauce or red pepper depending on who is eating it. I usually make it mild enough for our children, and add heat to individual bowls. Tastes fantastic with cheese and corn bread.

Red Beans and Rice with Turkey Sausage

1 pound small red beans, dry
1.5 tablespoons olive oil
1 package smoked turkey sausage, sliced into rounded halves
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leafs
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2.5 cups water
1 tablespoon McCormicks Cajun seasoning
1 14 oz can, diced tomatoes
1 8 oz can, tomato sauce
1 pound package of brown rice
salt and pepper to taste

The night before, rinse dry beans until the water runs clear. Place in dutch oven, cover with water plus two inches. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and allow to sit over night.

The next day, drain the beans. In the same dutch oven, heat the olive oil. Add sausage, onion, green pepper and garlic and sauté until onion is brown, about 15 minutes. Add Cajun seasoning during last minute of sautéing. Mix in chicken broth, 2.5 cups of water, bay leafs, and beans. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes.

Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and brown rice. Cover and simmer for another 45 minutes until rice is cooked through. You may need to add a little more water. The rice should adsorb most of the liquid; the consistency should be a thick juice but not soupy. Remove from heat. You can eat it now, but ideally it should have an hour to sit and adsorb the spices before re-warming to serve.

Top with cheese and serve with hot corn bread.

Serves: 6-8 adults

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Savory Braised Chicken and Vegetables


Savory Braised Chicken
Originally uploaded by ShotSnaps

I found this recipe last month when trying to figure out what to do with our CSA radishes. It was an instant family favorite; even the baby who tends to be picky gobbled up the vegetables. Then it dawned on me that I didn’t have to limit myself to just the carrots and radishes in the original recipe, and I made a batch with some of the many yellow squash and zucchini we’ve been getting in our CSA lately. Verdict? Even yummier. It’s a very flexible, savory dish that doesn’t require you to turn on the oven in the summertime. Enjoy!

Savory Braised Chicken and Vegetables
via Real Simple

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 small bone-in chicken thighs
kosher salt and black pepper
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
combination of vegetables that can include in various quantities:

  • radishes, halved
  • carrots, cut into sticks
  • zucchini, sliced into half moons
  • yellow squash, sliced into half moons
  • green or sweet onion, chopped in large pieces

1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook until browned, 6 to 7 minutes per side; transfer to a plate. Something new I learned: When browning chicken, patience is key. It’s ready to be turned when the meat releases easily from the pan (don’t tug). Do it too soon and you interrupt the caramelization process and risk ripping the skin.

Spoon off and discard the fat. Return the pot to medium-high heat, add the broth, and scrape up any brown bits.

Stir in the vegetables and sugar. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables and gently simmer, partially covered, until the chicken is cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with the chives.

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Black Bean Burgers for the Grill


Bean Burger Mash
Originally uploaded by ShotSnaps

Last summer I started to hunt for the perfect, homemade black bean burger that could handle the grill. In the course of that journey, there was a lot of fail. Dry patties that fell through the grill top, weird tastes and unhappy consumers.

But last week I finally perfected the technique and made the perfect black bean burger. This is largely due to a recipe I found at The Innocent Primate Vegan Blog. Many thanks, Sara. From my colon and me.

Black Bean Burgers
via The Innocent Primate Vegan Blog with slight modifications

1 (15 ounce) can no-salt added black beans, drained and reserving “bean juice” [or I used 2 cups homemade black beans; recipe here]
1/2 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 small or 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4-1/2 cup frozen corn
1 carrot, finely chopped
1/2 cup bread crumbs [I used Kroger-brand plain bread crumbs]
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
salt and pepper, to taste

Chop the red bell pepper, onion and carrot as fine as you possibly can. This is one of those times that a Pampered Chef Food Chopper is a lifesaver. I know we wanna-be chefs get all snobby about chopping our vegetables the old fashioned way, but this is one of those times where the end justifies the means. The vegetables have to be microscopic for the patty to hold together well.

Saute red bell pepper, onion, garlic, corn and carrot in oil until soft, approx 5-8 min. Combine vegetables and black beans in a large bowl and mash together. Add remaining ingredients and salt and pepper to taste, and mix well. You want a lightly moist consistency, but not sopping. The bread crumbs help it keep its shape on the grill. If you need extra moisture, add a little of the “bean juice” or some fresh lime juice. Shape into patties.

Place patties on a piece of greased foil and put on a hot grill. Initially cooking them on foil will create a seared crust so they don’t fall through the grill (about 3 minutes on each side). After a crust begins, brush the patties with a little canola oil so they don’t stick to the grill, then move them to straight on the grill to get the grilled flavor.

These taste great with a generous helping of Dijon mustard on a homemade bun, but other toppings could include salsa, baby spinach and cilantro.

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Hot Crossed Buns


Hot Crossed Buns
Originally uploaded by ShotSnaps

Hot Crossed Buns are traditionally eaten on Good Friday with the glazed cross on the buns representing the crucifixion. It’s a personal failing of mine that I tend to forget to celebrate anything on the church calendar unless I am reminded with food or music. So enjoy these and pull up The Messiah on your iTunes.

Hot Crossed Buns

2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
1 1/4 cup orange juice, divided
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
3-4 teaspoon grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup currants or raisins
6 cups flour, divided
1.5 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoons cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

Dissolve yeast in 3/4 cups of warm orange juice (110-115 degrees F). This usually this has to stand until foamy or 5-10 min, but most yeast here is rapid/highly active and this step isn’t always necessary. Add yeast mixture, butter, sugar, eggs, additional 1/2 cup of warm orange juice, orange peel, salt, cinnamon, and 3 cups flour. Beat till smooth.

Add raisins. Stir in remaining flour as needed to form soft dough, which should be a bit stickier than standard bread dough. Knead for six to eight minutes until smooth.

Place in greased bowl, cover, let rise until doubled. Punch dough down and roll into about 32 pieces. Place two inches apart on cookie sheet, cover and let rise until doubled. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 min until golden brown.

After buns cool, whisk softened butter and cream. Stir in vanilla. Gradually add confectioners’ sugar until it makes a thick paste. Frost buns with a simple cross.

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