Slow Cooker Wednesday: Baked Potato Soup

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In this edition of Slow-Cooker Wednesday, I offer you a version of that favorite restaurant classic, Baked Potato Soup. It’s creamy, it’s savory, it will stick to your ribs on a cold winter night.

This recipe is based on the recipe from Slow Cooker: The Best Cookbook Ever. We’ve just changed the process a little. This is my favorite slow-cooker cookbook right now, mainly because it always uses whole ingredients. So many slow-cooker recipes rely on instant onion soup mix or other things that I don’t really consider food. The slow-cooker is supposed to make cooking a long meal easier, why take even more shortcuts with the ingredients?

Many of the recipes (including this one) assume a 5 to 7 quart slow cooker.  Mine’s only 4.5 quarts, so I cut the recipes into halves or three-quarters to not overload it.  The recipe below uses the amounts for the original recipe.

Ingredients:

  •  4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 medium leeks, finely chopped, using the white and some of the tender green parts
  • 4 large russets potatoes, peeled or unpeeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice OR 6 medium red or Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups finely shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 6 green onions, finely chopped, using the white and some of the tender green parts
  • 8 strips bacon, cooked crisp, drained, and crumbled
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup sour cream for garnishing

Directions:

Heat the butter in a large skillet over med-high heat.  Add the leeks and saute until softened, 2 to 3 minutes.  Transfer the leeks to the insert of your slow-cooker and add the potatoes and broth.  Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for 3 hours or low for 5 to 6 hours, until the potatoes are tender.  Using an immersion blender, puree the soup, or cool the soup and puree it in a blender. (You have to cool the soup first for a normal blender or you might get burned.)

Reduce the heat to low and add the milk.  Cover the slow cooker and cook for an additional hour.  Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with the remaining ingredients.

Serves 8-10.

Notes: For the potatoes, you can use any kind you want, but the kind will determine how smooth or chunky the soup is. If you’re using the russets, they make a rich creamy smooth soup.  The reds or golds are best for a somewhat chunky soup. If you leave the skins in, they will add a slightly earthier flavor to the soup. Also, make sure that the potatoes are really cooked, as the texture could be thrown off otherwise.

It reheats well, but you probably want to add more broth or water to it, as it can thicken up quite a bit in the fridge.  Also, this would make a great bread-bowl soup.

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Happy 1-Year Anniversary!

So, due to the craziness that was my general exams, I missed the 1-year anniversary of the blog.  That’s sort of sad, but I’ve made surprising progress over the last year, regardless.  To celebrate, I’ve changed the appearance of the blog.  Let’s take a walk down memory lane and go back to a couple of old posts, just to remember how it all started.

  1. The First Real Post – The first non-intro blog post was about how I was attempting to give certain fashion trends a fair shake.  Since then, I’ve worn several skirts, dresses, my shoe collection has ballooned.  I got the courage to empty my closet of almost everything that doesn’t fit.  Expect another fashion post or two, as a tribute back to the beginning.
  2. Best Recipe Success – There were several attempts at slow-cooker success over the past year, but by far, the tastiest is the slow-cooker tortilla soup.  I’m going to dig out this recipe and make it again, as the craving for home-cooked food comes back.  It’s also a reminder to attempt to reproduce the green sauce.  A project for this summer, perhaps?
  3. Productivity! – In the fall, I implemented Getting Things Done for College Students.  I never really did a follow-up post, but fall semester was almost entirely stress-free (except for big exams), and this semester was very stressful, but definitely would have been more so if I didn’t have this system.  This will be helping me stay on top of things this summer too.
  4. There were How-Tos, and other recipes too.  We also discovered I don’t like turmeric.
That’s just things that have happened in the crazy first year of this blog.  Prepare for another year of crazy productivity, more recipes, more how-tos, and more stuff I haven’t thought of yet.

Slow-Cooker Wednesday: Exploded Chicken and Rice Soup

sd530693I am pleased to announce the return of my Slow-Cooker Wednesday series.  My schedule once again has created a night where I won’t get home until late, and I definitely won’t want to cook at that time.  In an effort to keep up with my 2-month resolution Eating at Home More, I decided to reinstate the slow-cooker.  It also helps that the weather has been bitterly cold lately.

Now, in actuality, I use the slow-cooker on Monday nights, but I’ll still post these on Wednesdays.  Also, this wasn’t the first recipe I tried.  The first one was a flop.  It seems that most “traditional” slow cooker dishes end up tasting weird to me, strange spices, strange textures, I just can’t seem to get it to work.  I’ve made my chili in the slow-cooker successfully, so I think it’s just the style of recipe.  So, I’m restricting myself to mostly soups and stews, to see how that goes.

This recipe originally comes from the blog A Year of Slow Cooking.  I made enough modifications to the original that I feel ok listing things here.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup chicken, already cooked
  • 1/2 cup rice, uncooked (I used brown long-grain rice)
  • About 4 cups of chicken broth (I used homemade 🙂 )
  • About 1/2 cup water
  • About 1 cup of vegetables (I used onion, celery, and carrot.)
  • Spices

Directions:

Puree the vegetables in a food processor or blender.  You will get a thick multi-colored goop.  Because I only used celery, onion, and carrot, mine looked very orange.  Put all the ingredients in the slow-cooker. Cook on low for as long as you want, at least until rice is soft. Serves 4?

Tastiness Factor:

This is where I explain the title.  I let my soup cook for so long that the rice didn’t really seem like rice anymore.  It had exploded.  I don’t know why, or what I could do for next time, and I actually don’t mind exploded rice.  Flavorwise…pretty good.  Mine needed salt and pepper and was oddly spicy hot.  The original recipe calls for herbs de provence, which I didn’t have.  I used a salt-free Mrs. Dash blend.  Next time I’ll try something else.  Also, you could really taste that the only vegetables I put in were the celery, carrots, and onion.  These are the traditional veggies my grandma put in her chicken soup, so I thought they were good starters.  Next time, I’ll definitely add a wider variety.  Maybe just chop up a stir fry blend or something.

Another big thing about this soup: it seems like it calls for a lot of liquid, but a lot of that ends up getting absorbed by the rice.  My soup ended up more like a gruel.  I don’t mind this, but some people may want something more soup-y.  I’d add more broth after the rice has been cooked.  Also, you want to eat this quickly.  Once it’s cold, it’s not as tasty.  But I think that goes without saying for most soups.

Reheat Factor:

Since the rice is already exploded, this reheats very well.  This is another place where you can thin it out, if you have some water or chicken broth on hand.  It does tend to thicken up in the fridge, again, not sure why.  But the flavor and texture are consistent with the fresh stuff once it’s reheated.

Overall Impression:

Not bad.  It has a lot of room to use leftover veggies, broths, meats, what have you.  Lots of flexibility.  I’d like to try it again, but I have other recipes to work through.  Also, I don’t know how much the original was supposed to make, but I ate this for about three days in a row, at about one to two meals each day.  Andrew didn’t eat any; he doesn’t really like soups.

Nutrition Facts (from here): 171 calories, 2.2g fat, 23.8g carbohydrates, 2.6g fiber, 12.4g protein

Slow-Cooker Wednesday: Tortilla Soup

Slow-Cooker Tortilla Soup
Slow-Cooker Tortilla Soup

Back in my hometown in Texas, there is a little restaurant called Mamacita’s.  Mamacita’s has the most awesome Mexican food, and a great bowl of tortilla soup.  I have spent every year since attempting to duplicate it.  Many recipes have come and gone, but this my friends, I think this may be the closest I have ever come.  You can find the original recipe here.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken
  • Canned Tomatoes
  • Enchilada Sauce
  • Onions
  • Green Chiles
  • Garlic
  • Water
  • Chicken Broth
  • Cumin
  • Chili Powder
  • Bay
  • Corn
  • Cilantro

Tastiness Factor:

In case it wasn’t obvious, I really liked this.  I’ve always said that my ideal tortilla soup was red, either with tomatoes or some other secret.  I added tortilla chips and mozzarella cheese into the bowl, and poured the soup over it, and it was really good.  Not too much heat, but very tasty.

Reheat Factor:

Edited as of July 13: I reheated this in a pot on the stove, and it turned out almost exactly like it did in the crockpot.  I’m still not taken with the amount of corn in it, but the flavor still packs a punch.  Future reheats may require a little more chicken broth or water added, I felt like I got a lot of the “stuff” and not as much of the broth the second time around.

Overall Impression:

With the tortilla chips, I don’t feel that this needs corn in the soup.  I didn’t precook the chicken, just tossed raw (and frozen) chicken breasts into the crockpot and pulled them out and shredded them right before serving.  I also recommend actually chopping the tomatoes, instead of just mashing them.  I plan to tweak it a little, maybe add some celery,  and not add the cilantro until just before serving.  It got kind of funny after stewing for so long.  I bet some avocado on top of this would be great too.  This will definitely become one of my staple recipes.

Edited as of July 13: I forgot to note that if you use tortilla chips, you probably don’t need to add much salt to the soup itself, since the chips are already salty.  This recipe is hitting comfort food status for me; just thinking about a bowl makes me feel good.  Now, if only I can perfect my experiments to reproduce Mamacita’s green sauce.

Slow-Cooker Wednesday: Spicy Chicken with Peppers and Olives

4562042694_70e95c7d9b_oThis is another recipe from Slow Cooker Favorites Made Healthy. You have to understand, I love olives.  Green or black, I don’t care.  I love ’em.  And lucky for me, olives have lots of healthy fats.  The two bright green leaves on top are basil leaves fresh from my herb garden.  They were there mostly to brighten up the plate.  Again, I don’t know if I can reproduce the full recipe, so leave a comment if you’d like the full thing.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Red pepper (original recipe called for yellow)
  • Black and Green olives
  • Pasta sauce (original called for spicy, I added red pepper flakes at the end)
  • Pasta

Tastiness Factor:

This was very tasty.  The heat wasn’t too much, just a little tingling feeling around the edges.  There wasn’t a strong olive taste, either.  I’m a sucker for most kinds of pasta and pasta sauce.  I don’t know if I’d do the chicken again, it didn’t seem essential to the flavor profile.  It could easily have no meat at all.

Reheat Factor:

This will be edited when I reheat the leftovers and see how they taste.

Overall Impression:

I love the simplicity of the ingredients list.  It’s all things I tend to have on hand.  Again, I don’t know if I’d do the chicken.  There was nothing in the dish that screamed ‘chicken’ to me.  I think next time I’ll try it vegetarian or with something light, like fish.  The sauce itself is very heavy, so maybe something lighter would counteract that.  EDIT: It appears that the sauce was really salty and gave me a huge headache the next day.  Maybe if I cut out the green olives it would be less salty, but I like salty things, and normally am fine.  So this monstrous headache means I probably won’t try this recipe again soon.

Slow-Cooker Wednesday: Cashew Chicken

Slow-Cooker Cashew Chicken
Cashew Chicken

Welcome to the Recipe Du Jour category of posts here at Cafe Le Shay. These posts will feature a recipe that I’ve tried, and I’ll either post the recipe or the ingredients, along with the Tastiness Factor, Reheat Factor, and Overall Impression.

Tastiness Factor is all about whether the recipe tastes good. Reheat Factor would be about how well the dish reheats and will be edited in when I get around to reheating it. This is important to me, because many recipes don’t scale well, and if something doesn’t reheat well, it’s unlikely I’ll make it again. Also, reheat factor helps determine how bento-friendly it is.

So Wednesday’s are my long day. They start at about 9:30 AM and go until about 6PM (by the time I get home). This means that Shay is not going to want to take the time to cook something when she already comes home hungry.

Enter Slow-Cooker Wednesday. I have a timer device that will turn my crockpot on and off at a specified time, which means all I have to do is set it up in the morning, maybe make some side dishes, and come home to a tasty meal.

Now, on to the first recipe!

This recipe comes from a cookbook titled Slow Cooker Favorites Made Healthy. Since it’s copyrighted it, I don’t know if I can reproduce it completely here, so I’ll just list the ingredients. You can email me or leave a comment if you really want the recipe. Also, I’ve never had Cashew Chicken from a Chinese take-out place, so I have no idea if the flavors I got in this were at all like that.

Ingredients:

  • Golden Mushroom soup
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Water Chestnuts
  • Mushrooms
  • Ground Ginger
  • Chicken
  • Cashews
  • Soy Sauce

Tastiness Factor:

I paired this with a wild rice mix (because I had to be somewhere at 7 and the wild rice cooks faster). I originally meant to pair it with plain brown rice, and I think that would have gone over better. The nutty flavor of the wild rice and the nutty flavors in this dish seemed to overwhelm me. Also, I think my chicken might have gotten a little dried out.  The fiancé liked it really well though, though he felt it needed a sweet flavor of some kind added in.

Reheat Factor:

This will get edited when I reheat the leftovers and see how they taste.

Overall Impression:

Actually pretty good. I would definitely make this again, because I normally have everything except for the water chestnuts and soup on hand, and those are both small things I wouldn’t mind keeping in the pantry. The hardest part about making this was shredding the carrots. I was silly and did it by hand because I didn’t want extra dishes. Next time I’ll use the food processor. I’m still finding pieces of carrot in random spots in my kitchen!  Also, as you can see in the picture, it’s very brown and soft looking, and so I feel it should get something green and fresh. Maybe a salad, maybe just a garnish. Will have to look into for next time.