Crock Pot Taco Soup

crock pot taco soup

Crock Pot Taco Soup is such an easy healthy dinner!

Sometimes I wonder about my relationship with my Crock Pot. Is it strange that I think about it first thing in the morning and last thing at night? That if someone asked me how I kept my sanity this soccer season I would shout out “my Crock Pot” as the number one reason? That having it making dinner-y goodness over there on my counter-top makes me smile as I walk through my (very rare) clean kitchen on my way to get other things done all day long?

For Real Fooders, I can’t think of a bigger work horse than the Crock Pot. So let’s put it to use with my latest go-to soup. Cool thing is that this one is Paleo-friendly, gluten-free, dairy-free, and can be vegetarian and vegan with just a few easy swaps. And it is always nutrient-rich!

Recipe: Crock Pot Taco Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 qt high quality broth (beef, chicken or veggie)
  • 1 lb high quality ground beef (or about 2 cups of cooked beans like black, pinto or kidney)
  • 1 onion, small diced
  • Small dab of butter, tallow or coconut oil
  • 14 oz of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 jalapeño, minced (optional)
  • 2 carrots, small diced
  • 2 celery sticks, small diced
  • 2 cups kale or spinach, chopped small (I often use frozen)
  • 1 cup corn (I use frozen)
  • 1 can (drained) black olives (optional)
  • 3 T taco seasoning (see below for recipe)
  • Any other veggies that sound good, chopped small (zucchini, winter squash, bell peppers, broccoli, sweet potatoes, potatoes, etc.)

Toppings (pick your favorites):

  • Cilantro, green onions, cheese, corn chips, sour cream (or Greek yogurt), avocado

Instructions:

  1. Place all ingredients into Crock Pot EXCEPT ground beef, onion and 2 Tablespoons of the Taco Seasoning.
  2. Sauté chopped onion in a dab of butter, tallow, or coconut oil for a few minutes.
  3. Add ground beef and sprinkle Taco Seasoning over the meat.
  4. Mix onion, meat and seasoning over medium heat until the meat is cooked through.
  5. Drain meat if it is really fatty, and dump the mixture into the Crock Pot.
  6. Vegetarians: Sauté the onion with the Taco Seasoning for a richer flavor, but just add the beans straight in the pot (drain out liquid if using canned beans).
  7. Omnivores: I often use meat AND beans in this soup.
  8. Crock Pot on high for 4 hours or low for 7 to 8 hours.
  9. Before serving, taste the soup and adjust the seasonings. Depending on the broth you are using, sometimes some extra salt is needed to make it sparkle!
  10. Serve with the toppings of your choice.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 4 hour(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

TACO SEASONING: A few words about Taco Seasoning. Now here is a spice packet you do not need to buy – just make your own. Not only will you avoid whatever fillers and preservatives they put in there, but over time you can play with the amounts of different spices in your blend making it exactly what your taste buds desire! Here is a standard recipe to get you started.

Recipe: Taco Seasoning

Ingredients

  • 1 T chili powder
  • 2 t ground cumin
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t black pepper
  • 1/2 t paprika
  • 1/2 t garlic powder
  • 1/2 t onion powder
  • 1/2 t oregano
  • 1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes (this is the heat, so add a little extra if you like it spicy)

Instructions

  1. Mix all together.
  2. Make double or triple batches and store in an old spice container or small mason jar.

crock pot taco soup

Crock Pots of the world, unite!!

Looking for more Crock Pot recipes? This Crock Pot Chicken & Eggplant Parmigiana is one of the most popular recipes on this blog. Enjoy!

Photo Notes: FYI that the Crock Pot Taco Soup in these photos doesn’t have ground beef in it or beans. My family has eaten so much Taco Soup over the past couple of weeks, that I changed it up and used a beef soup shank in this batch. I also omitted the corn and the optional olives, and cut my veggies chunkier (including fresh acorn squash) for it to taste more like a stew than a soup. Have fun with your food and make it your own!

Recipe: Weeknight Rescue Frittata

Frittata

I was asked a GREAT question the other day… what do you eat for dinner when you have no plans and little time? I like this question so much I think I’ll just keep answering it with different recipes over the next few months. Because as much as I love a good meal plan, sometimes life gets in the way and it’s on to Plan B.

Plan B works for us because there are some things we pretty much always have around and today’s recipe utilizes them front and center. This kitchen always has eggs, cheese, and random veggies and herbs (usually several days past their prime). Throw that together and -voila- thirty minutes later we’ve got a beautiful frittata and a cleaner refrigerator!

Recipe: Weeknight Rescue Frittata

Ingredients

  • 6 Eggs (highest quality you can manage)
  • 1/2 Cup Whole Organic Milk (optional, but use an extra egg if you are leaving it out)
  • 1T Organic Butter
  • 1 Onion, chopped small
  • 1 Cup of Dark Leafy Green, chopped small
  • 1-2 Cups of Veggies, chopped small
  • 1 Clove of Garlic
  • 1/4 Cup of a Fresh Herb, chopped small (if you don’t have a fresh herb, then toss 1 teaspoon of dried thyme in with the onion)
  • 1/2 Cup of chopped Bacon or Sausage or Leftover Cooked Meat (totally and completely optional)
  • 1/3 Cup of Any Kind of Cheese (use more or less due to personal preference)
  • 1/2t Salt
  • 1/2t Pepper
  • 1 Chopped Tomato, Green Onion and/or Avocado for a topper

Optional:

  • Can of green chilies
  • Can of sliced olives
  • Can of artichoke hearts (chop them up good)
  • Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Instructions

  1. Whisk eggs with the milk and salt and pepper. If using any of the “optional” ingredients, add them into this egg mixture. Set aside.
  2. If using bacon or sausage, sauté it up in a medium-sized skillet until it begins to brown up (over medium to medium-high heat). Cast iron works best here. The skillet must be able to go under the broiler at the end.
  3. If you have a lot of extra grease in the pan, drain most (not all) of it out.
  4. Add in the onion. If you are not using bacon or sausage, then melt a little butter in the skillet to saute the onion.
  5. Once the onion begins softening, add in veggie ingredients that need a sauté such as greens, bell peppers, asparagus, garlic, broccoli, etc.
  6. Once all veggie and meat ingredients are softened to your liking, take a moment to lightly butter the edges of the skillet and any spots on the bottom that seem dry. DON’T SKIP THIS STEP or your frittata will stick.
  7. Adjust the heat to medium and pour the egg mixture over the vegetable/meat mixture. You may need to slightly turn the skillet to use gravity to move the mixture over all areas of the pan.
  8. While the eggs are slowly cooking, sprinkle the fresh herbs all over the top. Then sprinkle the cheese.
  9. After a minute or two when the sides just start to look set, transfer the skillet to a low broiler for a few minutes.
  10. Keep your eye on it, and pull it out when the edges begin to brown and the center is set and not runny.
  11. Top with chopped tomato, avocado or green onions.
  12. Can be served warm or room temperature.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

This one is more like an art project than a science experiment. Use what you have and play around with it. You can also make this the night before and refrigerate it, if you know tomorrow is going to be crazy. Just warm it up in an 250 degree oven until it comes to room temperature and serve.

Serve with fresh fruit and maybe a little flavored yogurt with granola? If you have an extra few minutes, a side of country potatoes works beautifully with this frittata. Now you are having breakfast for dinner which is always a crowd pleaser!

What’s your “go to” dinner when you have little time and no plan? This recipe has a lot of room for interpretation. If you have a question about a specific ingredient or when it would go in the mix, just comment below and I’ll give you my opinion!

Recipe: Zucchini Bread

Zucchini Bread

Take an awesome zucchini bread recipe from SmittenKitchen, tweak it up to make it fit my preferred ingredients, and – boo-ya – a super delicious bread emerges that disappears from the house in a day. We all celebrate around here when we find something that every member of the family likes (feels like a short list sometimes). This bread is on the list!

Recipe: Zucchini Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 Eggs (you can substitute 2 “flax eggs” to make it vegan)
  • 1/4 cup Applesauce
  • 1/4 cup Coconut Oil (melted)
  • 3/4 – 1 cup Coconut Sugar
  • 1 cup Zucchini (grated)
  • 1t Vanilla Extract
  • 1 1/2 cup Whole Wheat Flour (I use sprouted whole wheat)
  • 2t Cinnamon
  • 1/2t Nutmeg
  • 1/2t Baking Soda
  • 1/4t Baking Powder
  • 1/2t Sea Salt
  • 1/2 cup Pecans (chopped)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease and flour a loaf pan.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk. Mix in applesauce, coconut oil, coconut sugar, zucchini and vanilla.
  4. Combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, sea salt and pecans.
  5. Stir this into the egg mixture.
  6. Pour into the loaf pan.
  7. Bake loaf for 45-60 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  8. Let sit cooling for 15 minutes before removing from loaf pan and slicing.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 1 hour(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

Enjoy!

Zucchini Bread

Recipe: Lots of Red, White and Blue Quinoa Salad

Red White and Blue Note to self: Quinoa does not photograph well. But it sure tastes delicious!

This is my ode to independence. Bringing together many flavors for some sweetness and nourishment. Together the ingredients meld while still maintaining their independent awesomeness. Blueberry, beet, cherry and feta cheese flavors bursting in celebration of their authentic natures. What do you think? Is this metaphor working at all?

This salad would be a lovely base for a pork chop or a topper for a green salad. It’d be great for a picnic. It is a unique and strong flavor profile so I’d recommend serving it in smaller amounts as a side. And if you don’t like beets, just leave them out!

Recipe: Lots of Red, White and Blue Quinoa Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 cup red quinoa made according to package directions with stock or water, cooled
  • 2 boiled beets, peeled, cubed and cooled
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped cherries
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • 3/4 cup cubed or crumbled feta

Dressing:

  • 1T olive oil or butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped cherries
  • 1T balsamic vinegar
  • 2t Dijon mustard
  • 1t salt
  • 1/2t pepper

Instructions

  1. Cook quinoa according to package directions. Cool.
  2. Boil beets until a fork goes into them smoothly. Cool.
  3. Heat oil/butter in small sauté pan over medium heat.
  4. Add cherries and sauté until softened.
  5. Add balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard and saute for a few more minutes.
  6. Add salt and pepper. Sauce will be very salty. Cool.
  7. Toss everything together in a large bowl and chill in refrigerator.
  8. Add additional salt and pepper if needed.
  9. Can be served chilled or at room temperature.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

 

Have a wonderful holiday weekend everyone! Here in Northern California it’s scorching hot, so remember to hydrate.

Recipe: Summer Minestrone

IMG_4971 All posts this week are inspired by Michael Pollan’s new book: Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. He includes four rather involved recipes in the book, which I’ll report back on some day after I try them. One of the overall messages of the book is that there is power and value in cooking for yourself and your family. On this, Pollan and I see eye to eye.

One of my favorite things to cook for my family are nutrient rich soups. This is a little tricky during the 90+ degree days of summer, but I’ve found that a little soup starter at the beginning of the meal is very nourishing, hydrating and eaten quickly because everyone is hungry. I plan to make a pot of soup each week throughout summer for dinner starters and my lunch. It’s also a great way to clear out the veggie bins of things that may be just past their prime.

Recipe: Summer Minestrone

Ingredients

  • 2T Olive Oil, Butter or Tallow
  • 1 Onion
  • 2 chopped Carrots
  • 2 chopped Celery Stalks
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 1/2 finely chopped Kale or Chard
  • 1 small chopped Potato
  • 1 chopped Summer Squash
  • 1 chopped Bell Pepper
  • 15-20oz diced Tomatoes
  • 1 fresh sprig Rosemary
  • 1 fresh sprig Oregano
  • 1 can drained, rinsed Kidney or Cannellini Beans
  • 1 cup dry Pasta, I used Orecchiette (optional)
  • 1qt organic Beef, Chicken or Veggie Broth
  • 2T chopped Italian Parsley
  • Splash of Red Wine Vinegar (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Shredded Parm for topper

Instructions

  1. In large pot, heat the oil over medium heat.
  2. Saute the onion, carrot, celery, garlic with a little salt until the onion is translucent.
  3. Add potato, bell pepper, and summer squash for two minutes.
  4. Add kale, tomatoes, rosemary sprig and oregano sprig.
  5. Add broth and bring to a simmer.
  6. Add pasta and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  7. Remove rosemary and oregano sprigs.
  8. Add beans and Italian parsley.
  9. Add salt, pepper and a splash of red wine vinegar to taste.
  10. Top with shredded Parm and serve (not too hot if it is 90+ degrees out!)

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6

Michael Pollan quotes I Yin, a Chinese chef from 239 B.C. – “The transformation which occurs in the cauldron is quintessential and wondrous, subtle and delicate. The mouth cannot express it in words.”

Love that. Enjoy your cauldrons everyone!

Salad Spree: Spring Pearl Couscous

Pearl Couscous

It’s Salad Spree Wednesday! Every Wednesday in May we are adding a salad to our summer salad arsenal.  This week’s recipe is a Spring Pearl Couscous Salad that makes a lovely side dish or a base for a light dinner if you add some protein on top. This is definitely one of those recipes where you can mix and match whatever produce you have on hand.

Pearl Couscous (also known as Israeli Couscous) is made of baked wheat and tastes a little like orzo pasta. It is different from classic couscous, including different preparation methods, so you can’t just substitute one for the other. Pearl Couscous can be found in the grain bins at most stores (including Whole Foods).

Here’s the recipe:

Recipe: Spring Pearl Couscous Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Pearl Couscous
  • 2 cup Broth (veggie or chicken)
  • 1 Spring Onion (minced)
  • 1/2 cup Spring Peas
  • 1 small to medium Zucchini (small dice)
  • 2 cloves Garlic (minced)
  • 1/2t – 1t Jalapeño pepper (minced)
  • 1/2 cup Kale (chopped tiny)
  • 1 Lemon (juiced)
  • 2T EVOO
  • 2T Parsley (chopped tiny)
  • Salt & Pepper (to taste)
  • 1/4 cup Goat Cheese (optional)

Instructions

  1. Bring the Broth to a simmer.
  2. Pour in the Pearl Couscous and simmer for 10 minutes.
  3. Before turning off the heat, add the Spring Onion, Spring Peas, Zucchini, Garlic, Jalapeño (amount determined by how much kicked you’d like in the dish), and Kale and stir for a minute or so to incorporate and soften.
  4. Turn off the heat and toss the mixture into a serving bowl.
  5. Stir in Lemon Juice, EVOO and Salt and Pepper. Don’t be stingy with the salt and pepper! Depending on the saltiness of the broth you may need lots or a little.
  6. Before serving, mix in the Parsley and top with the Goat Cheese.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

One more week for our Salad Spree!  I’ve got some ideas for our final salad… what would you like to see?

Salad Spree: Beet Orange Stack-Ups

Beet Orange Salad

Welcome back to the month of May’s Salad Spree!  Each week we are highlighting a new salad to add to our salad arsenal. This week’s salad is my answer to two questions I’ve heard more than once: 1. What do I do with the beets in my weekly CSA box? 2. What’s the best way to introduce my kids to beets? My answer is the Beet Orange Stack-Up. Easy, beautiful, pretty quick and full of orange sweetness to balance the earthiness of the beets.

Recipe: Beet Orange Stack-Ups

Ingredients

  • 2-3 small Beets or 1-2 bigger Beets
  • 2 Oranges
  • 1T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • pinch of Salt
  • crank or two of Ground Pepper
  • 1-2T finely chopped Parsley

Instructions

  1. Prep beets by chopping off greens and tails.
  2. Bring saucepan full of water to a boil. Add beets and cook at a high simmer/low boil until you can poke a fork into the center of the beet.
  3. Meanwhile, cut two 1/2 inch rounds out of the center of each orange (4 slices total). Peel and set aside.
  4. In the blender combine the remainder of the oranges (no peel), EVOO, salt and pepper and blend to a smooth sauce.
  5. When beets are ready, peel skin off using a spoon (it should come off very easily) and slice into 1/4 inch rounds. Note: You can also dice the beets into small cubes for a more kid-friendly version.
  6. Stack-up the salad starting with the orange slice as the base, then beet slices and finishing with a few spoonfuls of the orange sauce. Note: Kids love the sauce, use more if you are introducing beets for the first time to make the salad sweeter.
  7. Top with the parsley and a last pinch of salt and pepper if desired.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

Now this salad will put color on your plate! Enjoy!

This post is linked to Sunday School at Butter Believer!

SALAD SPREE Recipe: Confetti Pasta Salad

Confetti Pasta Salad with text

Here in Northern California it is getting hot! And that means it is time to stop making so many soups and start making big salads. To kick-off salad season here at the Lean.Green.Kitchen, we are having a SALAD SPREE during the month of May. Each week we’ll be putting together a salad recipe to add to your salad arsenal for the upcoming months.

No better way to start off our SALAD SPREE then with a party salad.  This one is all about celebrating whatever you have in those veggie drawers in the fridge and in the pantry and making it work. This Confetti Pasta Salad could also be called Kitchen Sink Pasta Salad or Rainbow Dare Pasta Salad because it has a lot going on and a lot of flexibility.  The recipe below shows what I put into mine today.  Note: Salad clean-up is much easier than actual confetti.

Recipe: Confetti Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

  • 10oz of smallish whole wheat pasta (or any smaller pasta, including gluten free)

Dressing

  • 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (use your good stuff here!)
  • 1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Lemon Juice (freshly squeezed preferred)
  • 2 T Honey (warm it until it is pretty runny)
  • 1t Dried Oregano
  • 1T Dijon Mustard
  • 2 pinches Sea Salt
  • 1 pinch Black Pepper
  • 2 cloves Garlic

Confetti Add-Ins

  • 1 Bell Pepper (small dice)
  • 6 Baby Carrots (or 1-2 Big Carrots) (thin rounds)
  • 1 med Cucumber (small dice)
  • 1-2 Spring Onion (minced)
  • 1 stalk Green Garlic (thin half-rounds of white and green)
  • 2 handfuls Sugar Snap Peas (chopped)
  • 1/2 med Zucchini (small dice)
  • 12 Basil Leaves (chopped fine)
  • 1 can Artichoke Hearts (drained and chopped)
  • 1/2 cup Olives (sliced)
  • 8oz Garbanzo Beans (drained)
  • 1/4 cup Sun-Dried Tomatoes (juilenned)
  • 4 Kale Leaves (chopped fine) *This is a great place for hiding those leafy greens!
  • 1T Parsley (chopped fine for topper)

*You can choose whatever veggies, beans, and herbs sound good to you. The Rainbow Dare is a challenge to have as many colors of the rainbow represented in your add-in choices! Shredded chicken and feta cheese are also nice.

Instructions

  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Let cool.
  2. Blend dressing ingredients together. I recommend using a blender for this to really incorporate the honey.
  3. Prep all the add-ins.
  4. Combine the pasta, the dressing and the add-ins. Toss gently and if you can stand it, let the salad chill in the refrigerator for a little while.

Preparation time: 30 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6

This salad is my take on a recipe that I found on the internet over two years ago.  After much searching I found the original, so I could give proper due to Danica (who luckily named her pasta salad “Danica’s Pasta Salad” thus helping me find her!  Her original recipe is here: http://danicasdaily.com/vegan-pasta-salad/

Let the SALAD SPREE begin!

Recipe: Spring Veggie Polenta Pizza

IMG_3763

I love pizza. I really love eating pizza when it’s guilt free and crammed with lots of veggies. It’s an added bonus when I see my kids chowing down delicious, healthy, clean food. So goodbye refined flour crust and hello herbed polenta. Here’s how to whip yours up.

Recipe: Spring Veggie Polenta Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 cup polenta or cornmeal
  • 1.5 cup milk (I use organic whole milk, but you can use any kind, including soy or rice or coconut milk)
  • 1.5 cup stock (veggie or chicken) or water
  • 1 T butter or olive oil
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 t Italian Seasoning
  • 1/2 t garlic powder
  • 1/2 t onion powder
  • 1/2 t dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup pesto or pizza sauce (your personal preference)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Toppings (your choice of course, but here’s a spring option):

  • 4-6 asparagus spears, chopped in 1.5 inch pieces and sliced in half
  • 1 leek, cleaned well and sliced in very thin rounds
  • 1/2 cup spinach, chopped in thin ribbons
  • 3 mushrooms, chopped
  • small handful of shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Optional: 1 cup cooked chicken, diced or shredded

Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan heat milk, stock (or water), butter/olive oil and a pinch of salt just to boiling.
  2. Turn heat to low and add polenta and spices while stirring constantly to thoroughly mix.
  3. Once it begins to thicken (takes less than a minute), turn off heat and pour into a greased pan of your choice. I use an 11′ round stone pie dish, but any casserole dish or cake pan will work (the depth of the polenta will vary depending on the size of your dish).
  4. Preheat oven for 450 degrees
  5. Place the polenta in the freezer for 20 minutes.
  6. Brush polenta top with a little olive oil and bake for 20 minutes.
  7. Take out of the oven and top the pizza: sauce, cheese, selected toppings.
  8. Bake for 8-10 more minutes.
  9. Top with a little Parmesan cheese and serve warm.

Preparation time: 30 minute(s)

Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

IMG_3746  Polenta “Crust” IMG_3739  Spring Toppers IMG_3806  Piece of Pie!

This recipe is so versatile.  You can adapt the pizza to whatever you have available for toppings.  If you are looking for a lovely vegan version, check out www.sweetnsavorylife.com, where the inspiration for this recipe originated.