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Cozy Up: the glorious smell of a hot comforting meal

February 24, 2018

Cozy Up

By Angie Sutton, www.momsapronstrings.com

 

When the temperature takes a nose dive and you’re finishing chores after dark, the glorious smell of a hot comforting meal is a welcome greeting as you return home. Let the slow cooker do the work for you, grab a big bowl and put your feet up by the fireplace.

Okay, so the “put your feet up by the fireplace” rarely happens but it was a relaxing thought! I’m in a happy place if I get time to put my fuzzy socks on. These soups are hearty and delicious and will warm these cold days in no time.

The minestrone soup screams cozy and hits the spot every single time. Each recipe calls for garlic and you’ll notice that I have it listed as one clove. That suits my family’s taste but certainly bump that to a couple more cloves if you love the flavor.

Head a word of warning when you puree soup in a blender. Work in batches with the blender about half full. Take caution that steam will build up with the hot soup inside the blender so remove the lid away from your face and hands. I prefer using a stick blender to puree the soup while it remains in the crock although it takes a bit longer.

These soups are packed with plenty of proteins, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

 

Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup

Substitute the tomato juice for vitamin-packed vegetable juice. This soup is just as good on day 2!

Ingredients:

1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes

2 c. carrots, diced

2 c. potatoes, diced

1 1/2 c. celery, diced

1 medium white onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

2 bay leaves

1 (32-oz.) container chicken or vegetable stock

2 c. tap water

3 c. tomato juice

1 (15-oz.) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 (15-oz.) can cannellii beans, drained and rinsed

2 c. zucchini, diced

1 c. ditalini pasta

1 (15-oz.) can green beans, drained

Directions:

1. Put diced tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, celery, onion, garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and bay leaves into your slow cooker crock. Stir in vegetable stock, water and tomato juice. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours.

3. Before you’re ready to eat, add red kidney beans, cannellii beans, zucchini, green beans and pasta and stir. Turn the slow cooker to high and cook for about 10 minutes or until pasta is tender. Remove bay leaves before serving.

Apron Strings Notes: In step 3, I have all of my ingredients ready to dump so I can minimize the amount of time the slow cooker lid is open. This retains the heat for the final 10 to 15 minutes needed to heat through the last ingredients and cook the pasta. You can also cook the pasta separately and stir in before serving.

 

Slow Cooked Meatball Stew

I prefer the home-style meatballs or classic meatballs for this recipe. I suggest using a 6-quart slow cooker.

Ingredients:

2 lbs. frozen meatballs

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 c. celery, diced

2 c. carrots, diced

5 small red potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 clove garlic, minced

1 (6-oz.) can tomato paste

1 (32-oz.) container beef broth

2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground black pepper

1 Tbsp. dried parsley

1 tsp. oregano

1 c. frozen peas

1 c. frozen corn

2 c. medium-wide egg noodles

Directions:

1. In the crock of a slow cooker, combine all ingredients except peas, corn and pasta. Cook on low for 7 to 8 hours.

2. Before you’re ready to eat, add the peas and corn and continue to cook for 30 minutes more. Meanwhile, prepare your pasta to al dente in a saucepan, drain, and then stir into the crock with 10 minutes left.

 

Split Pea Soup

I suggest using a 6-quart slow cooker. Serve topped with whole wheat croutons.

Ingredients:

1 lb. dry split peas, rinsed well and drained

2 c. diced ham

1 c. prepared bacon, crumbled

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 c. celery, diced

2 c. carrots, thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

2 bay leaves

1 (32-oz.) container chicken broth

2 c. tap water

Directions:

1. In the crock of a slow cooker, combine all ingredients. Cover and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours.

Remove bay leaves.

2. Working carefully in batches, puree about half the soup on a blender and return to crock. Stir to combine.

Apron Strings Notes: If I have a ham bone leftover from another recipe, I will add it to the crock in step 1 and remove before step 2. I use a stick blender to puree the soup directly in the crock and add a bit of water to thin the finished soup. Depending on the taste, you may wish to season with salt and pepper.

 

Easy Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup

This recipe utilizes the ease of chipotle chili powder, but you can use a teaspoon (or two) of minced chipotles in adobo sauce with a teaspoon of cumin as a substitute. Power up the protein by adding a can of black beans, rinsed and drained. Another option is adding three Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced.

Ingredients:

1 medium yellow onion, diced

5 sweet potatoes, diced small

1 garlic clove, minced

1 (10-oz.) can diced tomatoes and green chilies, undrained

1 (32-oz.) container chicken or vegetable broth

2 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. chipotle chili powder

1 tsp. ground black pepper

1/2 c. heavy whipping cream

Directions:

1. In the crock of a slow cooker, combine all ingredients except heavy whipping cream. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours. Check to ensure vegetables are soft.

2. Stir in heavy whipping cream. Working in batches, puree all of the soup in a blender until nearly smooth. Return the soup to the crock.

Apron Strings Notes: If you prefer a rustic finish, puree slightly less time than if you prefer a very smooth finish. Nonfat Greek yogurt can be substituted for the cream. Top with sliced avocado and cilantro!

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