Slow Cooker Sunday: Vegetarian Minestrone

While spring may be a few days away the weather is still cold enough for some hearty soup. And while this soup may not have any meat in it, it’s still filling thanks to the array of vegetables. I was a bit intimidated by the amount of ingredients – I tend to avoid recipes that have too many ingredients – but, they are all pretty simple and some I actually had on hand.

I added most of my ingredients to my slow cooker and then set it to cook on low for 8 hours. I began checking on it after 5.5 hours as I didn’t want my vegetables to over-cook and break down, especially the zucchini. Ultimately my soup was ready in 6 hours, my vegetables were tender and still intact.

I then cooked the elbow macaroni in pot of boiling salted water and added it to the soup along with chopped baby spinach. I cooked it on low for an additional 15 minutes and it was done.

The Minestrone was flavorful and as I said earlier hearty and, the leftovers tasted even better the next day and even better the day after that.

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Minestrone

Ingredients:

6 cups vegetable broth

1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 15 ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 large onion, chopped

2 ribs celery, diced

2 large carrots, diced

1 cup frozen green beans

1 small zucchini, cut into quarter moons

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoons thyme

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup elbow macaroni

4 cups chopped fresh spinach

Parmesan Cheese

Directions:

Combine all ingredients from the broth through the black pepper in a 6-quart slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours, until vegetable are tender.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the elbow macaroni for about 8 minutes, until cooked through but still firm, drain.

Add the macaroni and spinach to slow cooker and cook for another 15 minutes. Top with parmesan cheese.

Recipe from allrecipes

It’s Pi Day!

It’s March 14th, otherwise known as Pi Day! So named, because of the irrational number 3.14 that goes on infinitely. So, enjoy some pie today in honor of the day. Not a fan of pie, have a slice of pizza from a pizza pie or try your hand at a savory pie, like a quiche. Or, you could out on a limb and have some cheesecake. I actually baked a cheesecake a few years ago in honor of the day. I’ve also made a Banana Cream Pie and a Blueberry Pie as well to honor the day.

I was in search of a new pie to make for today and was stumped. I flipped through an entire book dedicated to pies and nothing popped at me and then I remembered I had a bag of shredded coconut in my cabinet that I had purchased to make crispy coconut cookies – which I haven’t gotten around to – so, I decided on a Coconut Custard Pie. This is actually one of my favorite pies from my youth. I remember my Dad bringing home the Entenmann’s version from the supermarket when I was a kid. Unfortunately, Entenmann’s has discontinued it, so the flavor is a distant memory now. I actually tried making Coconut Custard Pie once before and it came out horrible because I didn’t use whole milk and I think the missing fat from the milk was the leading culprit of my failing. The custard never formed.

Thankfully I had no issues with this pie… The custard formed, the shredded coconut rose to the top during baking and it was the perfect balance of the coconut flavor and sweetness.

 

 

Coconut Custard Pie

Ingredients:

1 homemade or store bough 9-inch pie crust*

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

3 eggs, at room temperature, beaten

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup shredded sweetened coconut

1 1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature

3/4 teaspoons vanilla extract**

nutmeg

 

*I used a frozen deep-dish one

**For a more of coconut flavor used coconut extract

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Arrange pie crust into a 9-inch pie plate.

In a large bowl combine the butter, eggs, flour, sugar, coconut, milk and vanilla extract. Use a hand mixer to blend all of the ingredients together. Make sure the sugar is dissolved.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pie crust and sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake in the preheated oven for 45-60 minutes, covering the edges of the pie with aluminum foil for the first 25 minutes and then remove. Pie will be ready when the custard has puffed up – sides and center.

Remove from the over and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe from Bunny’s Warm Oven

Slow Cooker Sunday: Sour Cream Cheesecake

So, last week I brought you a Chocolate Chip Cheesecake made in my slow cooker and this week I am bringing you a Sour Cream Cheesecake. The recipes are quite similar, but, I actually preferred this cheesecake a little more. As I mentioned last week, I wasn’t too keen on the chocolate chips in the cheesecake.

I began by making a graham cracker crust. I pressed the crumbs onto the bottom and slightly up the sides of a 6-inch springform pan. Next I made the filling by beating together the ingredients for the cheesecake. Quick not, the recipe called for almond extract, but, if you are not a fan of almond extract feel free to substitute vanilla extract in its place. After making the batter I poured it into my prepared pan and then placed the pan in my slow cooker on top of a rack and filled it with a 1/2 inch of water. After cooking it on high for 2 hours I turned my slow cooker off and let the cheesecake stay in the slow cooker covered for an hour.

Afterwards, I let the cheesecake cool completely on wire rack before placing in the refrigerator to chill before slicing and enjoying.

Slow Cooker Sour Cream Cheesecake

Ingredients:

3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs

2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

Salt

12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1 tablespoon flour

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon almond extract*

1 cup sour cream

*Can substitute vanilla extract if you prefer

Directions:

In a medium bowl mix the graham cracker crumbs, the melted butter, cinnamon, a tablespoon of sugar and a pinch of salt. Press the crumbs over the bottom and slightly up the sides of a 6-inch springform pan.

Using a stand mixer or a handheld mixer beat the cream cheese with the flour, remaining sugar, and a 1/4 teaspoon salt on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and almond extract and beat at medium speed until blended. Add the sour cream and beat until smooth. Pour into the prepared pan.

Place a rack inside the insert of your slow cooker and fill with a 1/2 inch of water. Place the pan on top of the rack and cover the slow cooker and cook on high for 2 hours. Turn the slow cooker off and keeping the lid on let the cheesecake cool inside of the slow cooker.

After an hour, remove the cheesecake and cool completely on a wire rack. Once cooled refrigerate at least four hours before serving.

Recipe from Food & Wine

Chocolate Whoopie Pies with a Dulce De Leche Filling

Remember a few years ago when whoopie pies were all the rage? I remember ripping out quite a few recipes from different magazines. Now, they didn’t go away, people just moved on to another rage. In fact, whoopie pies have been around for quite some time. Traditionally found in the New England area – they are considered the official state treat (who knew that was a thing!?!) of Maine and a Pennsylvania Amish tradition – you can find them in all parts of the country. I am sure depending on the region and season the flavors can vary greatly. Imagine a blueberry version from Maine made with fresh blueberries… YUM!

All this talk about them, let’s get to the bottom of what they are. They can be considered a cake, a cookie or a pie. How awesome is that!?! Traditionally they are made with 2 small round mounds of chocolate cake that are then filled with frosting or a filling made with marshmallow creme or fluff. These I’m sharing with you today are filled with a dulce de leche filling… Double YUM!

The cake part is made with a Devil’s food box cake mix (I used Pillsbury) and the filling is made with canned dulce de leche. I normally find it in the Hispanic food aisle in my supermarket. If you can’t find it by you, or just want to make it yourself, you can simmer a can of sweetened condensed milk. Here’s a great recipe for doing just that. It’s then mixed with cream cheese, butter and some other ingredients to make it the perfect consistency to pipe onto the chocolate cakes.

Chocolate Whoopie Pies with a Dulce De Leche Filling

  • Servings: Makes About 20
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Ingredients:

Whoopie Pies

1 box of Devil’s food cake mix

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup water

3 large eggs

Filling:

1/2 cup dulce de leche

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

Combine the cake mix, butter, water and eggs in a large bowl and beat at medium speed until smooth. Let the batter rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Using a cookie scoop, drop the batter onto the parchment line baking sheet and bake for 5 to 7 minutes. Until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Cool completely on a wire rack.

In another large bowl beat the cream cheese and unsalted butter on medium speed until creamy. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add in the confectioners’ sugar and beat until well combined. Add the dulce de leche, vanilla extract and salt and beat until well combined.

Pipe or spread the filling onto half of the cookies, place the second cookie on top.

Recipe adapted from Land O Lakes

Slow Cooker Sunday: Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

I’ve tried baking in my slow cooker a few times and I’ve had a few fails that didn’t make it to my blog and there have been a few that did make it, but, I’ll admit weren’t all that perfect – the cakes were a bit unevenly cooked or they fell apart. But, baking a cheesecake in my slow cooker seems to be a winner – thanks to two items, a 6-inch springform pan and a mini rack to place the pan on in the insert of my slow cooker.

I began by making the graham cracker crust and pressing into the bottom and up the sides of my springform pan.

I placed the rack inside the insert of my slow cooker and filled it with a 1/2 inch of water. FYI…It’s an OXO Good Grips Silicone Rack. I found it at my local Sur La Table, but, it’s also available at Williams-Sonoma and Amazon.

After making the batter I poured it into the springform pan and placed the pan on top of the rack. I covered the slow cooker and cooked the cheesecake on high for 2 hours. After 2 hours I turned the slow cooker off and let the cheesecake sit inside for an additional hour without uncovering it. I then removed it, let it cool completely and refrigerated it for at least 4 hours before serving.

One thing I did like about making a cheesecake in the slow cooker… it didn’t crack. I have yet to make a cheesecake in the oven that didn’t crack. And while this cheesecake was good I learned something about myself, I love texture in most foods but cheesecake. I prefer my cheesecake to be smooth and not have any crunch to it

 

Slow Cooker Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

Ingredients:

3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (for 6-7 graham crackers)

1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon salt, divided

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon flour

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup sour cream

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

 

Directions:

In a medium bowl whisk together the graham cracker crumbs, cocoa powder and half of the salt and then stir in the butter.

Press the crumbs in the bottom and about 1/2 inch up the sides of a 6-inch springform pan.

In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, sugar, flour and the remaining salt. Using a handheld mixer beat the mixture on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, then the vanilla and finally the sour cream. Make sure to beat the mixture well after each addition. Stir in the chocolate chips and pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Place a rack in the insert of the slow cooker and fill with a 1/2-inch of water. Place the pan on the rack, cover and cook on high for 2 hours. Turn the slow cooker off and let stand, covered for an additional hour. Remove the cheesecake from the slow cooker and allow to cool completely and then refrigerate for at least four hours before serving.

Recipe from Slow Cooker Family Favorites

Slow Cooker Sunday: Turkey Meatballs in a Cranberry Chili Sauce

The book I got this recipe from touts them as satisfying your craving for Thanksgiving, while that may be true, I think they are a great appetizer if you are having a small get together, a game night, or a nice accompaniment to stuffing – if you are really hankering for that Thanksgiving flavor.

Begin by combining ground turkey along with panko breadcrumbs, an egg, chopped onion, sage and salt. Gently mix to combine. I used a cookie scoop to scoop the mixture and then rolled it into golf ball-sized meatballs. I baked them in a 425 F preheated oven on a parchment lined baking sheet for about 15 minutes.

While the meatballs were in the oven I combined a can of jellied cranberry sauce and chili sauce in the insert of my slow cooker and stirred it until the cranberry sauce had completed broken down and the two ingredients were well combined. Once the meatballs were cooked I added them to the sauce and gently mixed them in. I covered the slow cooker and cooked it on low for 90 minutes, until the sauce was heated.

Slow Cooker Turkey Meatballs in a Cranberry Chili Sauce

  • Servings: Makes about 20
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Ingredients:

1 lb. ground turkey

3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

12 cup finely chopped yellow onion

1 teaspoon ground sage

1 teaspoon salt

1 14 oz. can jellied cranberry sauce

3/4 cup chili sauce

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl combine all of the ingredients except the cranberry sauce & chili sauce. Gently mix the turkey mixture until just combined and roll into golf ball-sized meatballs.

Place the meatballs on the baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, until browned and cooked through.

In a slow cooker mix the cranberry sauce and chili sauce together. Add the meatballs gently toss with the sauce. Cover and cook on low for 90 minutes.

Recipe adapted from Slow Cooker Family Favorites

Descendants Themed Cake

It’s my Blogiversary! I started this blog 6 years ago and my very first post was an Elmo Cake I created for a friend’s daughter, aka my niece. Since then the cakes have gotten a bit more elaborate and 3 years ago they turned into fondant creations. I normally ask her a month or so in advance of her birthday what theme she’s thinking of. When she told me Descendants for this year I was stumped. I had only heard of Descendants, but had no clue what the deal was behind them. So, it was off to Pinterest to get some ideas. Once I had my idea down it was time to get my supplies and test out a few.

I needed to make sure that the icing was easily pipeable and also to test how thick the piping would be with the tip it came with. I opted to go with a smaller tip.

I also needed to make sure that the flower cut-out I purchased would make nice roses. Thankfully it did.

One more thing, I opted to purchase a dummy cake for the top tier of the cake. I normally do bake the cake, but, it usually doesn’t get eaten because it’s too much cake, so, to avoid waste and a little bit of stress on my part I purchased a dummy cake. In case you are wondering, it’s made out of Styrofoam. No one knew it was a dummy cake once it was covered and decorated.

To prep the dummy cake I covered it in frosting

I then covered it, as well as the actual cake, in fondant.

And after some piping, fondant rolling and cutting the cake came together. I have definitely learned with making these cakes that it’s important to walk away for a few minutes and then come back to truly appreciate the way it looks. So, I take a lot of mini-breaks, if not, I would probably drive myself crazy. One thing I did decide, I am going to avoid covering a cake with black fondant. I find that it tends to dry out fast and inevitably it always breaks. I had a few challenges trying to cover up the imperfections from it.

So, what will my next themed cake be…? Not sure yet. I’ll have to ask my other niece what’s she’s thinking of for her June birthday!