Sweet Potato and Rice Soup

For our December potluck at work, I was up for making some soup and had some sweet potatoes in my house that I had harvested earlier in the fall.  I started looking at different soup recipes that looked to be inspiring and this one, from the Good Neighbor Cookbook, looked to fit the bill.  I assembled the soup the night before and then refrigerated it overnight.  The rice had absorbed a lot of the broth overnight, so I ended up adding more broth the next day when I put the soup in my crockpot to take to the office.  I was nervous that the soup was missing some flavor or wouldn’t be flavorful enough with the limited salt and other items, but I found that it was flavored quite nicely.

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Sweet Potato and Rice Soup

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 ribs celery, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
8 c low sodium chicken broth
1 c long grain white rice
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, celery, and salt and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 10 minutes.  Add the potatoes and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes more.  Add the broth, rice, thyme, and pepper and bring to a boil.  Decrease the heat and simmer until the rice is tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

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Brown Sugar Chicken

In November, one of my neighbors had surgery and I wanted to bring him and his wife some dinner that they could easily heat up.  This recipe for brown sugar chicken had been sitting in my pile of recipes to make and was easy enough to throw in the crockpot at lunch on the day of the surgery to bring over the next day.  I snagged a sandwich out of the shredded chicken as well and was pleased with how it turned out — not too sweet, but a nice subtle sweetness with a good hint of pepper.

Brown Sugar Chicken

Brown Sugar Chicken

3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken pieces
3/4 c brown sugar
3/4 c sugar
1 c vinegar
1/2 c lemon-lime soda
3 Tbsp minced garlic
3 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp black pepper

Place the chicken in a crockpot.  Combine remaining ingredients and pour over the top of the chicken.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Shred chicken, then serve with brown sugar and green veggies.

Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes

For the holidays, space in the oven, on the stovetop, and other locations is often at a premium.  When I’ve been hosting, the past few years have resulted in cooking potatoes in the crockpot.  I haven’t done a very good job of tracking the recipe that I’m using, though.  This year I decided to follow the recipe from The Kitchn.  It turned out pretty well, although the potatoes were more liquidy than I would prefer.  Next time, I’ll add the liquid ingredients at the end in smaller batches, until they are the consistency for which I am looking.

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Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes

5 lb russet potatoes
3-4 cloves garlic, optional
1 tsp coarse kosher salt, plus more to taste
freshly ground black pepper
3 to 3 1/2 c milk or a mixture of milk and cream
1/2 c unsalted butter

Peel and chop the potatoes.  Lightly grease the slow cooker with butter or cooking spray.  Peel the potatoes and chop into small pieces, about 1 inch to a side.  The smaller the potatoes, the faster they will cook.  Add the seasonings.  Smash the garlic cloves, if using, and drop on top of the potatoes.  Stir in the salt and a generous quantity of black pepper.  Pour in 1 1/2 c milk and stir the potatoes.  Cover the slow cooker and cook 4-5 hours on high or until the potatoes are very tender and soft.  Turn the heat to warm.

When the potatoes are done, melt the butter in a sauce pan over low heat.  Stir in 2 c milk and warm gently over low heat.

If you used the garlic, but don’t want the potatoes super garlicky, remove the garlic cloves and discard.  Use a spoon to scoop out and discard any browned bits on the sides of the pot.  Use a potato masher or ricer to mash the potatoes right in the pot.  When the potatoes are as smooth as you like, slowly stir in the warmed dairy and butter.  The potatoes will look soupy at first, but will soak up the liquid.  Add an additional 1/2 c of milk if you want them to be even creamier.

Taste and season with additional salt or pepper if desired.

Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder

With the heat we’ve had lately, I wanted to make something that didn’t involve using the oven for when my friends and their kids swung through last week.  We had fun doing experiments (baking soda, vinegar, food coloring, and a little science), playing in the hammock, and harvesting the sweet peas which were ready to come off the vine at that point.  To maximize playing time together, a crockpot/slow cooker seemed like the way to go to reduce last minute meal prep.  This time I found myself making a recipe from Real Life Paleo.  I adapted it for the slow cooker and ingredients I had on-hand.

Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder

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Hosting Thanksgiving (for the 1st time)

As I finish the end of my Thanksgiving wine, I thought I would write a little blog post about the holiday.  This year’s Thanksgiving was memorable for a variety of reasons.  Last year my family spent the holiday at the hospital because my sister was having some issues.  It wasn’t the ideal place to spend Thanksgiving, but it was what needed to happen.

Fast forward one year, my parents and sister came to visit for Thanksgiving.  It was wonderful to have them here, and it was an experience to cook Thanksgiving dinner on my own for the first time.  My youngest sister Brenda had never been to my house, and since I’m about 4 hours away from her place, I was nervous about the drive going well.  Sometimes she doesn’t like riding in the car very much. But this trip it went smoothly!  She arrived at my place with a smile on her face.

So, before dinner on Wednesday night I asked my dad to help me with a quick lightbulb issue I’d been having in my kitchen.  Then, I made squash enchiladas.  As always, they were great and a nice way to ease into the Thanksgiving holiday with some squash flavoring.

We then prepped the turkey so it could marinate overnight.  My parents brought a Turkey Breast, so I did some searching online for what might be a good recipe.  And, I found a winner with this Apple Bourbon Turkey marinade.  I followed the directions exactly, marinating for 12 hours throughout the night.  We baked in a bag the next day and followed the directions.

Other items on the recipe for the holiday were crockpot garlic mashed potatoes (less cleanup, which was great), brussel sprouts with bacon and parmesan, and Trader Joe’s Cornbread Stuffing, which is a family favorite.  My mom had also brought a crustless pumpkin pie with her when they came to Mount Vernon.

It was great to have my family here and host the holidays.  There is little I would do differently if I was to do this again (and I hope I have the opportunity to have my family come visit again!)

Spinach Tortellini Soup

onionsSo, last time I posted, it was about the turkey stock we made from the turkey we made last month. A couple days after we made it, I used the stock to make a soup which had become quite famous at my last workplace. I don’t think I’ve ever blogged about this before, but one of the most amazing women I ever met used to make Spinach Tortellini Soup every time someone on the floor had a birthday. I would make Garlic Bubble Bread to accompany it and we would feast in the break room over the lunch hour. There were never any leftovers, partially because the soup is addicting, and partially because once someone heard that is what we were eating, everyone would come in.

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