Slow Cooker Beef & Bacon Chili

Slow Cooker Beef & Bacon Chili

Fact: chilis and slow cookers are a match made in heaven. Chili cooked on the stove is great but the slow cooker really does bring it to new heights. On the stove, I’ve found that it’s a lot easier to burn and due to the thickness it’s hard to get it heated evenly without stirring fairly often. That’s where the slow cooker comes in. You get a nice even cook with no burning on the bottom, plus you get a much more tender meat that falls apart easily and the beans are always fully cooked. This chili has a lot of great stuff going for it, even before you begin the process of slow cooking. Ground beef meets crumbled bacon meets smoky chipotle spices. The secret ingredient in this one is apple cider vinegar, which adds just a hint of tanginess. This is THE “Game Day” chili, folks. Serve it with rice or Corn Muffins on the side or have it as is. Garnish with whatever fixin’s you like: grated cheddar, avocado slices, chopped green onion, sour cream and sliced nacho style jalapenos are all great choices.
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Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili

Slow Cooker White Chicken Chili

I tend to go in phases with meals and lately I’ve been really into using my slow cooker. Even though it’s almost July and not exactly slow cooker season, I’ve been enjoying the convenience of letting it do most of the work! Luckily there hasn’t been a heat wave yet to suppress my use of it yet. This recipe is a lovely combination of slow cooked chicken, white beans, peppers and spicy tex-mex flavors. I love the way slow cookers treat all kinds of meat–it just falls apart so nicely! And this recipe is no exception, the chicken turned out perfectly cooked and fall apart tender. As usual, slow cookers can vary by model so feel free to adjust cook time depending on how hot your cooker runs. This recipe can be adjusted based on your timing needs as well: cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4 hours. I used chicken breasts for the meat but feel free to mix it up and add dark meat–thighs, wings, etc. It all gets shredded in the end anyways and that is about all the work that is required for this recipe. It doesn’t get much better than that!
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Beef and Tomato Macaroni Soup

Beef and Tomato Macaroni Soup 2

For week night meals, I like to make a big pot of something tasty on Sunday to last me several days into the week. This is a great recipe for week night meals. It’s easy to throw together and the leftovers are just as good as the first day. The soup comes fully loaded with ground beef, elbow macaroni and the flavors of veggies, tomatoes and fresh herbs. This recipe calls for fresh thyme and marjoram, and I would recommend picking up some of the fresh stuff instead of the dried. It does impart way more flavor than dried herbs can. The combination of the fresh herbs with Worcestershire, tomatoes and ground beef were delicious. Garnish with a little grated parmesan and thyme springs and serve with some crusty french bread. As always with soups that have pasta, the noodles tend to soak up all the tasty broth if you add them in all at once. Make small batches and add a serving of noodles to each bowl so that none of the broth gets wasted.
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Wild Rice Soup with Bacon and Butternut Squash

Wild Rice Soup

For the winter months nothing beats a hot bowl of wild rice soup! I tend to avoid creamy soups due to their heaviness but I decided to give it a try. In the past I’ve made it as a broth-based soup instead of cream-based. Even though it doesn’t skimp on the cream and bacon, it wasn’t especially heavy which was surprising. I made this recipe with the leftover bones I froze from the Thanksgiving turkey. The recipe for homemade stock (swap out chicken for turkey) can be found here. The soup is also packed with butternut squash, corn and other veggies.  For the rice, I decided to save the broth and not add it into the soup as it cooked; that way the rice didn’t absorb all the tasty broth. I really liked how this turned out and it was a perfect recipe for the holidays!
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Roasted Winter Vegetables with Butternut Squash

Roasted Root Vegetable and Butternut Squash

Well it’s November and officially a few weeks away from Thanksgiving! This recipe is a great side dish for the holidays even though it’s difficult to think they are right around the corner. I even saw some Christmas commercials come on the other day which was pretty hard to believe. This recipe combines potatoes, beets and butternut squash tossed in olive oil and roasted with garlic and fresh herbs. It doesn’t get much easier than that! The flavors from each vegetable came together perfectly. Works well as a holiday side dish but is great for any time of the week during the winter.
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Chicken and Dumpling Soup

Chicken and Dumpling Soup

Who doesn’t love a warm bowl of soup on chillier evenings? Since it’s starting to get darker and the winter months are on their way I thought chicken and dumpling soup would be an appropriate post for the season. The dumplings are so easy to make since the shape of the dough balls don’t matter at all. You simply drop spoonfuls of dough into the hot broth and it does all the work for you. The more lumpy and asymmetrical the better! The dumplings are seasoned with fresh herbs and parmesan which really adds to their flavor. I went with homemade chicken stock since it tastes better than store bought and makes the soup more nutrient rich. I chose chicken breasts for the protein but thighs or even a whole roasted chicken would make great substitutes as well. I look forward to the winter months so I can whip up a batch of this again!
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Pumpkin, Banana & Oat Breakfast Muffins

Banana, Oats & Pumpkin Breakfast Muffins 2

I have been really into breakfast muffins lately. They’re not too sweet and more fulling than regular muffins because of the rolled oats. They’re quick to make and easy to grab and go in the mornings. For October, I thought a pumpkin based muffin along with bananas would be a delicious combination. One of the benefits of never going through bananas fast enough is I always have plenty of over-ripe ones to get creative with! These muffins are flavored with seasonal spices to compliment the pumpkin. They also freeze well so keeping them as a back up snack or breakfast in the freezer is a great way to go!
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Homemade Spiced Peanut Butter

Spiced Peanut Butter 2

Homemade peanut butter is a great alternative to buying it from the store. You can’t get much fresher than grinding up your own peanuts! If you have a food processor you already have everything you need to make your own. This recipe takes it up a notch with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. It makes for a great seasonal recipe and goes perfectly with sliced apples. I must confess that the numbers given for the salt, honey and spices are approximate. Feel free to use more less as desired. This recipe is excellent with chocolate and any jam you can think of. Or you can drop all pretense and go to town with a tablespoon. I definitely won’t judge you!
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Banana Bread Scones

Banana Bread Scones

Using over-ripe bananas in baking goes way beyond standard loaf bread! These are not your typical dry and crumbly scones. They are a lot more moist, but just as dense as a typical scone. The insides are more light and fluffy and totally delicious! A lot of banana bread scone recipes call for a brown sugar glaze but to cut down on the sweetness I only topped the scones with cinnamon sugar and a dusting of powdered sugar. Which still sounds like a lot right? But it actually turned out being not overly sweet at all. If you have a bunch of over-ripe bananas languishing on your counter give these scones a try!
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Italian Sausage Soup with Roasted Cauliflower and Yellow Squash

Italian Sausage Soup with Roasted Cauliflower

This soup is perfect for rainy summer nights or chilly fall days. It combines roasted cauliflower, yellow squash, red potatoes with fresh fennel and thyme. You start off the soup by broiling the cauliflower until just charred. I used homemade chicken stock which lends the best flavor to the recipe. I couldn’t get enough of these flavors combined! The spicy sausage combined with the charred flavor from the cauliflower with the fresh herbs really took this soup to the next level. Serve this soup with some fresh parsley, grated parmesan cheese and a crusty baguette.
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