Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Crock Pot Wednesdays - Slow Cooker Beef Tortellini Soup

It was really nice to come home to dinner cooking in the crock pot yesterday after I had been running around all day.

Debbie, from Dining with Debbie, invited me to join in on Crock Pot Wednesday so I thought that I would join in on the fun this week.

I made Slow Cooker Beef Tortellini Soup from Betty Crocker's website.

This recipe was fast and simple to throw together in the morning and it cooked all day on low. It makes your house smell wonderful! I've highlighted any changes that I made to the recipe in bold below.

1lb beef stew meat
1 large onion, chopped (3/4 cup)
1 large carrot, chopped (3/4 cup) - I used 3 large carrots
1 medium stalk celery, chopped (1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped - I used 2 tsp. minced garlic
2 teaspoons sugar
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained - I used 1 lg. 28 oz. can
2 cans (10 1/2 oz each) condensed beef consommé - I used 3 cans of beef broth
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves - I didn't add this. Instead, I used 1 bay leaf
2 cups frozen cheese-filled tortellini - I probably used about 4 C. of tortellini. I dumped 1 and 1/2 bags into the crock pot.
1 cup Green Giant® Valley Fresh Steamers™ frozen
cut green beans - I added 2 cans of drained green beans in with the frozen tortellini

1. In 3 1/2- to 4-quart slow cooker, add beef, onion, carrot, celery,
garlic, sugar, tomatoes and beef consommé in order listed.

2. Cover; cook on Low heat setting 8 to 9 hours. My soup was fully cooked within 8 hrs.

3. About 25 minutes before serving, stir in basil, frozen tortellini and
green beans. Increase heat setting to High. Cover; cook about 25 minutes
or until beans are tender. - The tortellini was cooked and hot in 15 minutes in
my crock pot.

**TIP** Make sure to turn the crockpot off once the tortellini is cooked. It will turn mushy if it continues to cook.

I served it with crusty Italian bread. Very good!

Cookie Carnival - Black - Bottom Coconut Bars

Even though I am running WAY behid this month, I wanted to try the Black - Bottom Coconut Bars that were chosen by Kate for the Clean Plate Club's Cookie Carnival. I might not make the deadline to show my bars in the roundup but I'm really happy that I made the bars.

The first layer of the bars are brownie-ish. These brownies are covered with a chewy coconut topping. You can afford to cut these cuties into small pieces because they are very rich and filling. My husband and I both really liked them. I thought that they tasted much better once the bars were completely cooled. When I cut into mine, the middle bars were still a little bit warm. My husband didn't mind them either way.

This recipe is from Martha Stewart's website. I was never a big fan of her website but I've started changing my mind within the last year. The more recipes that I make from her website, the more I seem to like them. This is a good thing.

Black-Bottom Coconut Bars

For Chocolate Base:

* 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan - I used butter spray in the pan
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 large egg
* 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
* 2 large eggs - I used 1 egg + 1/4 C. applesauce & 1/2 tsp baking soda
* 3/4 cup sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
* 1 package sweetened shredded coconut (7 ounces), 1/2 cup reserved for sprinkling


1. For chocolate base: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving a slight overhang; butter bottom and sides of foil (not overhang). I used butter spray instead of greasing the foil with butter. It worked just fine. Spray lightly.

2. Place butter in a large microwave-safe bowl; melt in microwave. Add sugar and salt; whisk to combine. Whisk in egg, then cocoa and flour until smooth. Spread batter in prepared pan.

3. Bake just until sides begin to pull away from edges of pan, 10 to 15 minutes (do not overbake). Let cool slightly while preparing coconut topping. Keep oven on for topping.

4. For coconut topping: In a medium bowl, whisk eggs with sugar and vanilla. Gently mix in flour and coconut (except 1/2 cup reserved for sprinkling). I had only 1 egg left so I subbed the applesauce and baking powder that I listed above, for the second egg. Everything worked out fine with the substitutions.

5. Drop mounds of mixture over chocolate base; spread and pat in gently and evenly with moistened fingers. Sprinkle with reserved 1/2 cup coconut.

6. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan. Lift cake from pan, peel off foil, and cut into 24 bars. Store in an airtight container 3 to 4 days.

I would make these again. This is a sturdy cookie bar that would pack well for gift-giving for the holidays or one that would be really pretty for a bake sale -- especially if you tint the coconut to reflect the holidays. I wish that I would've thought of that before now. Just think how pretty orange coconut would be on top of those bars!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cooking with Alicia & Annie - Buttermilk Lemon Cake

I love all types of lemon desserts so when I saw this recipe for buttermilk lemon cake on Alicia's Recipes, I knew that I had to try it. It doesn't disappoint for a great lemon taste.

The recipe is easy to make and any leftovers store well in the refrigerator.

Buttermilk Lemon Cake


1-1/3 cups granulated sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
3 tablespoons thawed lemonade concentrate
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups fat-free buttermilk
Cooking spray


2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
2 teaspoons thawed lemonade concentrate
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces 1/2 less-fat cream cheese
3-1/2 cups powdered sugar


oven to 350°. To prepare cake, place first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add eggs and egg whites, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour baking powder, salt and baking soda; stir well with a whisk. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat well after each addition.

Pour batter into 2 (9-inch) round cake pans coated with cooking spray, sharply tap pans once on counter to remove air bubbles. Instead of using the round cake pans as called for here, I chose to use a pan that I have that makes 4 mini loaf cakes. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes our clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack. I iced 2 of the loaves for us to eat and stuck the other 2 loaves, not iced, into the freezer.

To prepare frosting, place 2 tablespoons butter and the next 4 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until fluffy. Add powdered sugar, and beat at low speed just until blended. Chill 1 hour.

Place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread with 1/2 cup frosting. Top with remaining cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Store cake loosely covered in the refrigerator. I put the icing in an icing bag and piped the icing over the cake using a large circle tip.

I'm adding this one to the Cooking with Alicia & Annie Blog Contest for September!

Quick and Easy Powdered Donuts

Last Wednesday I was asked to send in 2 tubes of plain biscuits for a math project that my daughter's class was going to be working on. HHHmmm... I asked her what they had planned for the biscuits but she didn't know.

As soon as she got off of the bus Wednesday afternoon, she couldn't wait to tell me how they made donuts in their classroom! How very clever of her teacher to use food to teach math!

Mrs. H. fried the biscuits in some oil right there in the classroom and then allowed each student to roll their donut in powdered sugar, blue sugar crystals or brown sugar. The class worked on "even or odd" patterns after all of the donuts were covered in the selected sugars. Then they were allowed to eat their work!

You could hear the excitement in my daughter's voice as she relived making donuts that day! :)

Over the weekend my kids were wanting something for dessert but I hadn't planned anything for that day. I remembered that I had 2 cans of biscuits leftover from the 4 pack that I bought when I needed to send in biscuits to my daughter's classroom. My daughter was more than happy to provide the instructions for making these donuts.

Quick and Easy Powdered Donuts

2 cans of small plain biscuits
oil for frying
powdered sugar or granulated sugar
a paper bag or lg. plastic container with a lid
paper towels

Here's the instructions in her words: (My translations are next to it in parentheses.)

Before you start frying the donuts, fill a paper bag or lg. plastic container with 2 cups of powdered sugar or granulated sugar.

1. Pour some oil in a big pot ( I used about 2 inches of oil in a medium-sized frying pan)

2. Poke your finger through the biscuits to make a hole in the center of the donut ( you can use a thimble or a small circle cookie cutter if you want them to be neater but this way there are no leftover holes to deal with.)

3. Drop the biscuits into the oil and fry them. ( Watch the biscuits carefully once you drop them into the oil. They brown very quickly and will burn easily!)

4. Drop the donuts into the powdered sugar and give them a good shake! ( At this point, once I took the donuts out of the oil, I laid them on paper towels for about 30 seconds to remove just a bit of the oil. I cooked 5 donuts at a time and then dropped them into a plastic container that had a lid. That way the kids could shake on the powdered sugar without making a big mess.)

This dessert works best if you have two people working quickly - one frying the donuts and one helping to add and remove the donuts from the sugar.

6. Time to eat!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - Welcome Fall!

I am so happy that some cooler weather will be greeting us this week here in NC! I love everything to do with fall...the colors, the scents, the foods, the holidays...just everything!

I'm still not to the point with my menus where I'm sticking to eating at home every day of the week. With my husband having Thursday and Friday off each week, we are usually out on the road after the kids come home from school so we usually end up eating out. I'm still penciling in dinner plans for those days in hope that I will be able to wrangle us in for those days as well.

This week's menu looks like this:

Sunday: pasta with leftover red sauce and turkey meatballs (recipe for meatballs to come this week)

Monday: breakfast for dinner - poached eggs

Tuesday: Chicken Soulvaki/rice/Greek salad - one of the dinners that we missed last week

Wednesday: slow cooker beef tortellini soup - new recipe! I'll be posting this recipe on Wednesday

Thursday: bbq chicken legs/fried potatoes/salad

Friday: broiled citrus Talapia/Jasmine rice/ glazed carrots

Saturday: mushroom swiss sliders/haluski

I have a question for everyone who plans menus week after week and actually sticks to them....

What do you do when you run out of ideas or your family gets bored eating the same old foods? Do you rely on family favorites, try something new or what??? What keeps you on track?

Before you go....

Don't forget to check out all of the great menus that have been posted on I'm an Organizing Junkie this week!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Menu Plan Monday ...on Tuesday

Running late this week but I did manage to get a menu planned out for the week. Last week's menu worked out pretty well. Even though I didn't get to stick to the meals for each day as planned, I went shopping and had the food on hand to cook for each dinner. I ended up juggling the meals around at the end of the week because I was following the B.R.A.T. diet due to a bad stomach virus that I'm fighting to get rid of. It was nice knowing that I didn't have to run out for meals because they had been planned. I've used a couple of last week's meals for this week already on Sun. and Mon.

Here's this week's menu....

Sunday - tacos and Spanish rice
Monday - Amish fried chicken, spicy mac n cheese, gr. beans
Tuesday - rigatoni w/turkey meatballs
Wednesday - hot dogs and chili cheese fries
Thursday - chicken soulvaki with rice & salad - made with chicken instead of pork
Friday - mushroom swiss sliders, fried potatoes, corn on the cob
Saturday - homemade pizza (could possibly change)

Find out what everyone else has planned for this week over at Menu Plan Monday. Take a few minutes to peruse these ladies' menus! There are some clever dinner plans out there! I enjoy reading through all of them.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

I'm going to try something new. I've decided to join everyone for Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Sticking to a menu plan has never been easy for me. By posting my menu for everyone to see, maybe it will help me to stick to it this time.

With the flu kicking our butts here at home, I figure that if I can at least get dinner on the table every night, I'll be doing ok.

Here's my first menu plan:

Monday: chili
Tuesday: corned beef, potatoes & carrots
Wednesday: Amish fried chicken, fried noodles and corn
Thursday: crockpot pork chops & gravy over rice w/ green beans
Friday: tacos & Spanish rice

Check out other menus at Menu Plan Monday.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Happy to be back!

Hey everyone!

I was starting to think that I would never make it back here. Of course, with the kids back in school, germs start coming home with them. My son ended up with a sinus infection and the stomach flu. He was nice enough to pass it along to Mom and Dad and now it looks like my daughter might be coming down with it. ---Yuck---

For the last month or so I haven't been doing anything creative in the kitchen. Since we're finally settling in at home, I'm ready to get back into the kitchen.

I can't wait to catch up on what everyone has been cooking and blogging about! I've been feeling so out of the loop. I've really missed talking to everyone.

So for the next few days I'll be browsing around blogland and making some updates here.

Stop by and say "hi"!

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