Gameday Slow Cooker Pasta e Fagioli Soup

With the recent snow and freezing temps in Denver, there was no better time for me to take out that old slow cooker and whip up a nice warm soup. Nothing screams winter like a hearty stew… and just in time for a weekend of football, too!

Resembling a chili (but way better), this recipe has tons of beefy bean and tomato goodness, with more veggies and a plethora of pasta to top it off. Throw it in the slow cooker in the morning and you’ll have a crowd pleasing, well-rounded complement to all that beer, in plenty of time for the afternoon and evening games. Plus, the leftovers will last you all the way til next weekend!image

Makes 10-12 servings
Ideal slow cooker size:  6 quart

Slow Cooker Pasta e Fagioli Soup

  • 1lb ground beef (I always use at least 90% lean… you can also use ground turkey if you choose)
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, finely sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 (8 oz) cans tomato sauce
  • 2 (15 oz) cans beef broth
  • 1 (15 oz) can red kidney beans, with liquid
  • 1 (15oz) can great northern beans, with liquid
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste, if needed
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 8 oz dry pasta (I used mezzi rigatoni – slightly smaller versions than the original – because it gives the soup a heartier look. Feel free to use ditalini or even shells if you prefer smaller noodles)
  • Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley, for serving

Brown ground beef in a skillet over medium-high heat until no longer pink, lightly seasoning with salt & pepper. Drain then add to a large slow cooker. Add onions, carrots, celery, garlic, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, broth, kidney beans, great northern beans, salt, oregano, basil, thyme and pepper.

Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours, or until veggies are tender.

Add in apple juice (I know it sounds weird but trust me on this one. It gives the soup a slightly tangier touch, a whole new dimension of flavor).

When you are just about ready to serve, cook the pasta in salted boiling water until just under al dente. Drain, then add to the soup and let cook for about 5-10 more minutes.  (if you add the uncooked pasta straight to the slow cooker it will absorb all the liquid and all you’ll be left with is pasta and veggies. That defeats the purpose!)

Salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into serving bowls and top with Parmesan cheese and a little sprig of parsley to garnish.

Namas-tasty!

Densely Delicious Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

photo 4Yesterday was a dreary, drizzly, chilly day in Denver — aka the PERFECT opportunity for some more fall baking! I decided to make some chocolately pumpkin bars to curl up by the fire with. These dense treats are rich, moist, and full of pumpkin spice flavor and chocolate in every bite, almost like nibbling on a hunk of fudge! They are easy to make in mere minutes and can be enjoyed solo or with a nice big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Densely Delicious Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

adapted from Avery Cooks

  • photo 1-11/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (plus more for sprinkling)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside.

In a large, microwave-safe bowl melt the butter. Let cool for one minute. Add the egg, pumpkin, brown sugar, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, and whisk until smooth.

photo 2Add the flour and stir until just combined, don’t overmix! Stir in chocolate chips.

Turn batter out into prepared pan, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula. Evenly sprinkle with chocolate chips, as few or as many as you would like 🙂

photo 3-1Bake for about 35 minutes, or until the edges are slightly browned. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Allow bars to cool in pan for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving. I found that the flavor was intensified after sitting in the pan overnight, and I did not cut them into bars right away. Bars continue to get softer and moister for about 3 days after baking. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Namas-tasty!

Easy-as-Pie Slow Cooker Pumpkin Oatmeal

photo 1Happy first day of fall, readers!! Today is officially the autumnal equinox, and thus begins my absolute favorite season of the year.

Though we slowly lose our precious sunlight as the end of Daylight Savings Times approaches in November, the crisp, cool, “just-right” air still makes autumn a comforting time for many. And did you know that without the increasing darkness in the Northern Hemisphere during this time of the year, we wouldn’t be able to witness the beautiful golds, yellows, reds and oranges that are the defining features of fall foliage?!

photo 3According to National Geographic, plants can sense the waning daylight and deduce that winter is coming, so they begin to retrieve materials from their leaves before they drop off. Evergreen trees have ways to protect their needles from freezing, but leafy plants do not; therefore, they shed their leaves, typically after the first frost. Beforehand, trees such as the gorgeous Aspen that are characteristic of my beloved Colorado attempt to store up nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, much like bears packing in food before they hibernate for the winter. This natural process is what causes the springy green leaves to transform into dazzling displays of autumn color.

2014-03-02 10.43.28Enough of my rambling about changing leaves (although I do enjoy them so!). As many of you may have read last year around this time, I also absolutely adore fall because of the unique and comforting ingredients: pumpkin, apples, cranberries, I love it all! So I wanted to start the season right with a hearty recipe that is sure to keep you warm on the chilly fall days to come: pumpkin oatmeal! Simply throw a handful of ingredients into your slow cooker and let it whip up overnight. In the morning you’ll wake up to a thick, creamy and deliciously flavorful dish to rev you up for the day to come.

Easy-as-Pie Slow Cooker Pumpkin Oatmeal

Adapted from Around My Family Table

  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 4 1/2 cups water (you can adjust this depending on if you like thicker or thinner oatmeal)
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree (about half a can)
  • 2 tsps pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsps pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/4- 1/2 cup brown sugar

2014-03-02 10.33.18Combine all ingredients in slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Stirring occasionally if you can.

Season to taste with brown sugar and top with a few dried cranberries for an extra pop of fall color!

Namas-tasty!

Gameday Pesto Portabello Pizza

2013-12-01 17.47.17Football season is upon us once again!! One of my very favorite times of the year, there are few things I find more comforting than posting up on the couch to watch my favorite players in pads tossing that pigskin. Several components are required for the optimal football viewing experience, including friends, good beers, and of course, lots of delicious food. Thus, every Thursday for the rest of the season I will be posting a new gameday recipe in anticipation of the exciting weekend of football ahead!

I may be partially biased because of my own personal passion for it, but I think most people would agree pizza and football are the perfect match. Anything you can eat with your hands ensures maximum viewing time, and pizza is less messy than most finger foods (as long as it has a good, sturdy crust). Plus, load it up with veggies (or even fruits) and you’ve got all the major food groups in one neat three-sided package!

My Gameday Pesto Portabello Pizza is less of a traditional style pizza (no tomato sauce, gasp!), but it is loaded with some awesome and complex flavors. When paired with a nice Belgian Strong Ale from Three Floyds Brewing Co., one of my favorite brews from a popular midwest pub, this pie sure didn’t last long 🙂

Pesto Portabello Pizza

Adapted from Brown-Eyed Baker

  • 2013-12-01 17.22.40basic pizza dough
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 lb. cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • ¼ of a red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup pesto (homemade or store-bought)
  • 8 ounces provolone cheese, shredded
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 500 degrees for at least 30 minutes.

Turn out prepared pizza dough onto lightly floured baking sheet or pizza pan and mold into desired shape. Let rest for 10 minutes. While the dough is resting, prepare the mushrooms and onions. In a skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and add the sliced mushrooms and onions. Cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the mushrooms have released all of their liquid and both the mushrooms and onions are soft and browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside.

S2013-12-01 17.27.27pread the pesto over the pizza dough, just as you would pizza sauce, leaving a ½-inch border uncovered. Spread the mushroom and onion mixture evenly over the pesto, and then top with the provolone and Parmesan cheeses.

Place baking sheet or pizza pan into the oven and bake until the crust edges brown and the cheese is golden brown in spots, 8 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven, slice (carefully!) and serve.

Namas-tasty!