Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Recipe Rewind

I received the ultimate compliment last night from Chris after another crock pot experimentation... "Are you writing these recipes down?"

I'm very new to cooking. Chris moved in at the beginning of 2013 and since then I've been doing my best to put together homemade, or at least semi homemade, meals every night. This is all in an effort for both of us to be eating healthier and also to be saving money by not eating in restaurants. So began my journey of repeating the recipes my mom gave me from what she used to cook when I was growing up. And I have to say, I've done well with recreating those meals- meatloaf, casseroles, tacos, pork chops, chicken breast, etc. But lately I've been more so bitten by the make-it-up-as-you-go bug, especially now that the weather is colder and I've brought out the crock pot.

My goal recently has been to not waste anything. I'm in the process of training myself how to shop for the two of us without wasting fresh food. I'm constantly purchasing produce, which is great! I'm so happy that Chris loves fresh vegetables and fruit and is literally thrilled with anything I give him! The challenge lies with me... the super picky one. So how do I work in the produce, without letting anything go bad? My current answer: soups and stews. I've learned to think ahead and use my ingredients wisely. Truthfully, until a couple of months ago, it never occurred to me to cook additional servings of food to use as building blocks for later; or to set aside small portions of ingredients to be used in tomorrow's meal. But now, I'm doing it all the time!

A few nights ago I made hamburgers on my George Foreman grill. I planned ahead and cut our burger sizes down, just a tad. I saved the ground beef in the fridge, not really knowing what it would end up being used for, but knowing that a little ground beef can go with a lot of dishes. Yesterday, when I decided to make vegetable soup, I decided last minute to throw in the leftover ground beef, just to make the soup a little heartier. I could have also used it in breakfast tacos, or as a pizza topping! (Another great tip: If you like a frozen pizza every once in awhile, buy the cheese version, which is always cheaper, and chop your own fresh toppings! I stock up on the cheese pizzas when I have a coupon or when they're on sale, then use whatever veggies and/or meats I have in the house when I cook it. That way I'm using up fresh produce that's usually leftover scraps, I'm getting a fresher taste and I'm saving money on the store-bought pizza!)

So after chopping up whatever veggies I had around the house yesterday, I then threw together leftover ingredients such as diced tomatoes used from a casserole, spaghetti sauce, and various spices. I happened to have a small amount of beef broth left from beef stew last week, but it wasn't quite enough for the soup, so I used up the beef broth and then topped it off with vegetable broth.
I was proud of this soup. I don't normally talk about my own cooking but I honestly couldn't stop saying how much I liked it. Chris agreed, and that's when he asked "Did you write the recipe down?" Me? Recipe? Wait what? You think someone might want to duplicate this?
Look, in all honesty I know this isn't a new idea... beef & veggie soup... nor is using the ingredients you already have in your kitchen. I'm sure this dates back as long as people have been cooking. But for me, a relatively inexperienced cook, this IS new. And refreshing. I feel a sense of success... like I'm creating a happy home, filled with yummy smells and a happy man. And I'm using up more of my food and throwing out less. And I'm eating fresher foods. And apparently, I'm doing pretty well :-)
So... here's my first attempt at rewinding and remembering back to exactly what I did. Maybe next time I'll actually think to write it as I go and have a little more confidence that it'll be great!

Texas Sass Veggie Beef Soup

1 stalk celery chopped
2 carrots chopped
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 - 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper (I used red bc it's what I had)
1/4 cup chopped jalapeƱo
7 oz canned diced tomatoes (1/2 can)
1 & 1/2 cups spaghetti sauce (I used Classico Tomato & Basil)
1/2 cup organic beef broth
1 cup organic vegetable broth (this is what I had, you may want to use only one kind of broth)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon Mrs. Dash Original Blend Seasoning
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/3 pound ground beef (browned in skillet before adding)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Add all ingredients to crock pot & cook on high for 2-3 hours, or low for 5-6 hours.

Hope any kitchen newbies out there will be encouraged by my adventures in the kitchen! :-)

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