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!

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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!

Cinnamon-Vanilla Spiced Almonds

2013-12-23 14.29.39I realize, of course, that this is embarrassingly after-the-fact (for which I am very sorry and hope you forgive me, readers), but I wanted to share with you the recipe for some awesome Cinnamon-Vanilla Spiced Almonds that I made as gifts for friends and family over the holiday season. Because, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good spiced almond any ol’ time of year??

I, for one, think that “fancied up” nuts should be enjoyed year-round. Not only are they a great healthy snack that, when consumed wisely, help prevent obesity; additionally, nuts including almonds, walnuts, cashews, peanuts and pistachios have been proven to help protect your body against the damaging physical effects of stress, maintain cholesterol levels, and improve heart and brain health. Now that is one powerful fruit!

For these reasons (and also because they simply are delicious!), I usually keep some sort of nuts around for snacking, and I decided to use these crunchy little buddies when it came time to make my holiday gifts. Because they contain a lot of (heart-healthy) monosaturated fats and natural flavor, raw nuts are really easy to dress up with some simple spices and seasonings (besides the counterproductive yucky salt) to make extra delicious. Plus, I got to use my crock pot!! Talk about a win-win situation 🙂

2013-12-23 08.43.23(Crock Pot) Cinnamon-Vanilla Spiced Almonds

adapted from Polka Dotted Elephants

  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 6 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp vanilla
  • 2 egg white
  • 6 cups raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup water
In a large bowl mix together sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon. In another large bowl beat egg white and vanilla by hand or with an electric  mixer until mixture is frothy. Add the almonds and coat thoroughly. Once your almonds are thoroughly coated with the egg mixture, pour the sugar mixture over the almonds and stir to coat.
Prepare crock pot by spaying it with cooking spray. Turn the crock pot on to low and add almonds to pot. Cook for 4-5 hours, stirring every 20 minutes to prevent burning.
2013-12-23 14.28.59In the last hour, add 1/4 cup water to the almonds and stir. Continue to stir every 20 minutes until done. Spread the almonds out onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Once they begin to cool the cinnamon sugar glaze will harden. Wait several hours before packaging.
Namas-tasty!

Slow Cooker Short Ribs Dinner

2013-11-21 11.44.53I have some very exciting news: I recently decided to invest in a Crock Pot!! OK wait, that’s not true; my dad recently invested in a Crock Pot for me, via an Amazon gift card — Thanks, Dad! But, let me tell you, I can’t get enough of this thing! It’s all round and silver and shiny… what a stud.

In all seriousness, this is the perfect tool for cooking through a crazy lifestyle. I can spend maybe 10-20 minutes in the morning putting the ingredients together in the pot, turn it on before I leave, and voila! An entirely cooked meal ready to go when I get home. I’ll admit, the first time I used it I was a tad weary of leaving a cooking device plugged in and running for the whole day while I was out…I anxiously carried my phone with me all day, half expecting to get a livid phone call telling me I’d successfully burned down my entire apartment building. However, when I returned I was pleased to find little Mr. Crock Pot cookin’ away like a champ and absolutely no sign of any mischief. It was also super easy to clean up after; you simply remove the ceramic bowl and wash it by hand or in the dishwasher. Amazingly, I even found these little crock pot liners (Reynolds brand) that you can use on extra lazy nights, which eliminate any and all cleaning afterwards. How much easier could it get?!

2013-11-21 20.55.15For the first test run using my new toy, I admit I was pretty ambitious; short ribs are not exactly in keeping with the “super easy” theme of the slow cooker. But the few minutes of extra effort when assembling the recipe were well worth it. These bad boys were an instant hit! The meat was unbelievably moist and flavorful; served alongside some mashed potatoes with a bit of garlic and parmesan cheese blended in and a simple salad, this was a wonderful winter meal for a night in.

Slow Cooker Short Ribs Dinner

adapted from Eat, Live, Run

  • 3 ½ lbs beef chuck short ribs
  • 2 whole shallots, minced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 ½ cups Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 ½ tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt, divided
  • 1 tsp pepper, divided

2013-11-21 11.44.45Heat the oil in a skillet over high heat. When hot, add the short ribs. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the ribs in the pan and brown. This will take about three to four minutes per side. You want them very nice and caramelized.

After the ribs have browned, remove from carefully and set them at the bottom of your slow cooker. Take the pan off the heat briefly to cool down, then return to medium heat and add the minced shallots and diced celery. Saute for about five minutes until tender, then add the tomato paste. Mash the tomato paste into the veggies using a rubber spatula and continue to sauté on medium heat for another four minutes.

2013-11-21 12.37.19Pour the wine and the beef broth into the skillet and stir. Add the brown sugar, a teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of pepper and the flour. Stir well to get rid of any flour clumps.

Bring sauce to a boil, then to a simmer. Pour sauce right over ribs in the slow cooker. Sprinkle remaining salt and pepper on top. Place lid on slow cooker and cook on HIGH for seven to eight hours or on LOW for 11-12 hours. When done, the meat should literally be falling off the bone.

Namas-tasty!