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Tag Archives: Crockpot

Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili – a vegetarian recipe for everyone

You can definitely tell by the number of dishes including meat on my blog that we are omnivores, not vegetarians.  But, everyone needs to eat more fruits and vegetables, so a good vegetable stew or salad recipe is always helpful. 

The chili spices in this dish predominate, so you don’t even miss the meat.  I was concerned that with both the honey and sweet potatoes, the chili would be too sweet, but it isn’t.  To make the recipe vegan, substitute the honey with maple syrup or other vegan-acceptable sweetener and don’t use the optional dairy-based garnishes.

The coffee is just to give it a bit of a smoky taste. So if you don’t drink coffee, use water instead and then add a bit of smoked paprika.  That should give you the same effect.   I have given the recipe using canned beans and tomatoes; the ones I used were organic.  But, it is always better if you have the forethought to soak and cook your own beans and use fresh tomatoes.  But, I am not usually that organized.  🙂

The kids all loved this recipe.  We served ours with a dollop of plain yogurt on top, but no cheese.  You could also garnish with a bit of chopped cilantro.  The sweet potatoes will be giving you lots of vitamins A & C and the beans will give you lots of fiber.

– Stacey

Sweet Potato & Black Bean ChiliSweet Potato Black Bean Chili - potatoes and onions
Yield: 2 quarts, about 8 servings

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp olive, peanut, or coconut oil (I used coconut)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 cans (15 oz. each) Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili - adding garlic and spicesblack beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/4 cup brewed coffee
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup shredded monterey jack cheese or mexican cheese blend, optional for serving
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream, optional for serving
  1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili - ready to simmer
  2. When oil is hot, sauté sweet potatoes and onion in oil stirring often, until the onion is beginning to soften, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin and cayenne; cook stirring constantly 1 minute longer.
  4. Stir in the beans, tomatoes, coffee, honey, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil.
  5. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender.
  6. For serving, you can top with a dollop of plain yogurt and/ or a sprinkle of cheese.

Note: Another lazier option for making this is to just throw everything in your crockpot and cook on low for 3-4 hours.

Taco Salad… in the slow-cooker?

Girl with Taco SaladThis was dinner on Wednesday night and everyone enjoyed it.   Obviously, you don’t have to make taco meat in the slow cooker, but I had been making chili in it recently and I wondered if the extra cooking time would improve the flavor.

I always add both tomatoes and beans to my taco meat to make it more nutritious.  Do notice that the tomatoes are obviously in there and not hidden veggies.  Unlike some children’s cookbook authors, I think it is important that kids know they are eating veggies in order to develop a taste for them and a habit of choosing to eat them.

I had gotten a LOT of Westbrae organic beans and Muir Glen diced fire-roasted tomatoes during the sale our local Natural Grocers had in October.  If you can’t find the fire-roasted tomatoes, then substitute regular canned diced tomatoes but add a little smoked paprika for that smoky flavor.‎

Slow Cooker Taco Salads
Serves 6-8, depending on appetite

  • 20-oz. ground lean turkey (or ground beef)
  • 25-oz. can organic pinto beans (or kidney or black beans, if you prefer)
  • 28-oz. can Muir Glen fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp Taco seasoning of your choice (I used a mix from Native Roots, a local natural foods store,
    but here is an option from $5 dinners for making your own)
  • sea salt, to taste (our taco seasoning was salt-free, yours may not be)
  • Organic corn chips (we used some from Xochitl)
  • 2-3 cups organic leaf lettuce or raw spinach, shredded
  • 1-2 raw tomatoes, chopped
  • shredded mild cheddar cheese
  • Plain Greek yogurt (a great substitute for sour cream)
  • Tabasco sauce (served at the table to spice things up a bit more for the adults)
  1. In the morning, put the ground turkey, beans, canned tomatoes, taco seasoning and optional sea salt in your slow cooker (AKA crock pot). Cook on low for at least 4-6 hours.
  2. When you get home in the afternoon or evening , chop up the lettuce or spinach and the tomatoes.
  3. Serve everything at the table and let everyone plate their own taco salad… chips, lettuce, taco meat, shredded cheese, yogurt, and fresh tomatoes.

We also mashed up an avocado with a bit of lime juice and some tabasco, salt, pepper, and garlic as a speedy guacamole.

– Stacey

Taco Salad

Crockpot Balsamic Chicken

Crockpot Balsamic ChickenLast week, I posted on my Facebook page that I tried this recipe from CrockPot Girls.  It is apparently pretty common on the web since I found the same recipe lots of other places and they admitted that someone had given it to them; they did not develop it.  So, I don’t really know who to “give credit” to for the basic recipe.  I changed a few things, so made it my own anyway.

What I like most about it is that it can be made in the crockpot, so you throw everything in and come back 3-6 hours later to find a meal ready.  But, there are lots of crock-pot recipes that are made with suspect foods such as “cream of… soup” so that is not enough for us to add it to our menu.  More importantly, this recipe uses real food such as chicken, tomatoes, onions, and vinegar.  It is your choice what to serve it with and we chose 100% whole wheat angel hair pasta.  But, brown rice or even whole wheat couscous would be good.

I was a little confused by the quantity of chicken specified in the original recipe as it said “4-6 boneless breasts”.  Sometimes, more so recently, people use “breast” to mean half of the chicken’s breast, sometimes called breast halves, or split breasts, meaning that each chicken has two of them.  But, I think traditionally, when recipes specified a “breast” they meant the entire breast, meaning a chicken only has one.  When I read this recipe, I thought the 4-6 breasts referred to split breasts.  I had a package with 9 split breast in it, so I had assumed I would be doubling everything.  But, that was way to much liquid for just the 9 split breasts, so I ended up not using as much of the tomatoes, etc.

The original recipe called for four different dried spices, but I have been using the Tone’s Italian Seasoning you can get at Sam’s Club which is a blend of oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary and sage and it has no salt or MSG in it.  So, unlike the original recipe, mine did have some sage in it.  The other thing I changed was adding the olives and capers.  I recommend the Lindsay “Naturals” olives, as they only have a few ingredients: olives, water, and sea salt.  The canned tomatoes I chose to use were the Muir Glen fire-roasted ones; they add something to any dish you make with them.  Last thing is that you can put the garlic cloves in whole after peeling if you want to, but I chose to smash mine.  Actually, that is the result of how I peel them.  🙂

Crockpot Balsamic Chicken Ingredients

Ingredients, not pictured are the olives and capers

Crockpot Balsamic Chicken
(make 8-16 servings depending on number of adults, kids, dieters, etc.)

  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 8-10 boneless, skinless, split chicken breasts halves (about 3.5 lbs total of chicken)
  • ground black pepper and sea salt, to taste
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp of salt-free “Italian seasonings” (or 2 tsp each: dried oregano,basil, and rosemary and 1 tsp dried thyme)
  • 6-8 garlic cloves
  • 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 14.5 oz cans diced or crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup black or green pitted olives, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 2-3 Tbsp capers, drained

Pour the olive oil on bottom of  a 5-7 quart crock pot. Salt and pepper each chicken breast and then place the chicken breasts in crock pot. Put sliced onion on top of chicken. Then put in all the dried herbs and garlic cloves. Pour in vinegar and top with tomatoes, olives, and capers.  Cook on high for 3 hours or low for 4 – 6 hours. Serve over pasta or rice.

Balsamic Chicken Process

The kids all liked this and so did Mike.  We tried putting the leftovers in their lunchbox cold and it was not as big a hit, so it is better served hot.  If you are trying to eliminate/reduce grains, gluten, or carbs from your diet, you could serve it without the pasta or rice.  You just wouldn’t have anything to “sop up” the sauce, so you might want to serve it in a bowl.

– Stacey

UPDATED TO ADD: Just thought I would mention that I used an onion similar to a Vidalia in this dish and that combined with the balsamic vinegar gave it almost a sweet flavor.  This dish is not at all spicy and should appeal to most kids because of that.

Creamy Potato and Leek Soup

We had dinner the other night at church as part of our book group that is reading “Consuming Kids” by Susan Linn.  The book is very insightful and there is a whole section on food marketing to kids, so I recommend reading it.  You can also check out the companion video on YouTube.  Anyway, each of the members of the book group brought some food to share and our coordinators, Craig and Michelle, brought the main dish.

Craig made some delicious crusty bread and I will post about that at a later date, but Michelle made Potato Leek soup that was enjoyed by everyone; several of us asked for the recipe.  She based it on this recipe at, but she made a few changes and then I made a few more.

Also, I decided to make mine in the crockpot, not to save time really, but so I could throw everything in and then come back 3 hours later to find delicious soup.  I used my smaller crockpot, but if you only have a large one, you could double this recipe and have some to freeze for later.  If you want to make it on the stove in less time, then follow the shorter cooking instructions in the original recipe.

Creamy Potato and Leek Soup (crockpot version)
Makes 8 large servings or more if you are feeding kids

  • 1/2 cup butter (this is 1 stick or 1/4 lb.)
  • 2 small leeks (or 1 large leek), sliced thinly
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 quart chicken broth (or veggie broth for vegetarians)
  • 5 cups potatoes, diced
  • 2 cups half&half (or 1 cup cream plus 1 cup milk)
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. In a small pan over medium heat, melt butter. While it is melting, clean and thinly slice your leeks.
  2. Cook leeks in butter until tender, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes.
  3. While the leeks are cooking, wash and dice your potatoes.  I left the skin on mine.
  4. Mix cornstarch well into broth and then pour broth into your crockpot.
  5. Add the leeks, potatoes and half/half to the crockpot. Preseason with salt and pepper, being conservative. Cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours.
  6. Adjust salt and pepper to taste before serving.  We also added shredded cheddar cheese as a garnish to ours.
Creamy Potato and Leek Soup

Creamy Potato and Leek Soup

Some Variations:

  • Loaded Potato Soup: Garnish with shredded cheddar cheese, crumbled cooked nitrate-free bacon and chopped chives.
  • Clam Chowder: Add a drained can of clams, chopped. (or fresh ones if you live near an ocean; not an option for us in Oklahoma)
  • Potato and Ham Soup: Add some cubed leftover baked ham when you add the potatoes.
  • Add Veggies to make it healthier: sliced carrots, chopped broccoli, or chopped spinach/kale, green peas, whatever veggies you like
  • Kick it up a Notch: Add some cayenne to the crockpot while cooking or if you need to season at the table instead because some of your guest don’t like it spicy, just add a few dashes of tabasco to each bowl.

I am going to be honest here, even though there is a lot less butter and cream in this version than the original, there is still a lot of butter and cream in this soup.  So, if you would like, you can reduce the butter still further  to 1/4 cup (1/2 a stick) and switch the half&half to just whole milk.  It will not be as thick, so to thicken it up, you could take out about 1-2 cups of the finished soup and blend it in a blender until pureed, then add back to the crock pot or give the whole pot a few whirs with an immersion blender.

Since we try to eat real food, I am not going to suggest using Frankenfood low-fat spreads or abominations like fat-free half&half.  If you are going to do that, you may as well just open a can of Campbell’s potato soup with all its sordid ingredients and forget cooking.  Okay, off my soapbox.  🙂  If you want to avoid cream and butter, then instead of doing crazy substitutions, instead try this Leek and Potato soup that is broth-based not cream-based from Jamie Oliver’s site.

Also, if you use commercial chicken broth, there can be a lot of sodium in it; that is one reason why I can’t give an exact amount on the salt.  I used homemade chicken broth, so that wasn’t a big concern for me, but if using store-bought, find one of the lower sodium ones.

By the way, all the kids loved this soup and so did I.  Enjoy!

– Stacey

UPDATE:  Made another batch of this last night with the following changes: reduced the butter to 1/2 a stick (1/4 cup) and added some sliced raw baby-cut carrots and chopped raw spinach along with the potatoes.  Still Yummy!

Summer storms = Power outages at stores = no yogurt to be found! Time to make my own again…

yogurtLast night we had some pretty wild thunderstorms here in the middle of Oklahoma.  Mike, the kids, and I had just started enjoying a movie “Hoodwinked 2” at our local dollar movie theater since it was $1 Tuesday night.  The storms started just after 7pm and the theater lost power about 15 minutes into the film and so we headed home.  We made it home during a break in the rain as there were even more storms to come last night.  We never really lost power, it just flickered a bit.  But, big sections of town lost it for hours and some areas are still without power.

Anyway, breakfast today was the last five of our local pastured eggs and the last of our plain yogurt along with some OK, but not great, store-bought peaches. So,  this morning it was time to visit the Farmer’s Market.  I got my eggs there…they didn’t have power and were selling in the semi-darkness inside with the doors open.  I also got lots of yummy fruits and veggies… peaches, cherry tomatoes, salad greens, potatoes, mustard greens, beets, blackberries; all local.

Then I tried to get yogurt at both Target (no power still and thus not selling any “temperature-sensitive” items at all) and then Homeland (had lost power most of the night, but they had packed dry ice around the milk).  So, no yogurt, but did get some milk.  Since my girls are yogurt addicts, this means I have to make yogurt for them from scratch.  Not a lot of work, but since I am feeding four yogurt addicts, I only get enough for a couple of days at our rate of consumption.  🙂

I do not have a yogurt maker and trying to heat/cool/maintain the milk at the right temp is a hassle, so I use the crockpot yogurt recipe  at “A Year of Slow Cooking”.  Basically, you:

  • Put a half-gallon of milk in your 4 quart crockpot.  ( I use either whole or 2%, skim makes a thin yogurt) (Note: if you only have a bigger crockpot, you can double the recipe)
  • Heat it on low for 2.5 to 3 hours with crockpot lid on.
  • Turn crockpot off, unplug, and let cool for about 3 hours or until the milk temp is about 110ºF.
  • Scoop out about 2 cups of the warm milk and add 1/2 cup of plain yogurt (either Dannon or other quality brand of UNFLAVORED and UNSWEETENED real live yogurt) or 1/2 cup from your last batch. It must have live cultures.  Or you can use a yogurt starter such as “Yogourmet” freeze-dried yogurt starter.  You can get that or something equivalent at a local natural foods store or from many vendors on Amazon.
  • Mix well and then pour it all back into the crockpot with the rest of the warm milk.  Give it a good stir.
  • Put lid back on crockpot, wrap the whole thing with 1 or 2 thick bath towels and let sit for 8-12 hours until it thickens to your preference.
  • Refrigerate until ready to use.

Homemade yogurtHomemade yogurt close-up

Then, you can blend in vanilla, honey, fresh or frozen fruit, no-sugar added jam, etc. to your liking. Or you can strain the yogurt in a colander lined with cheesecloth in the fridge for several hours to get “Greek yogurt”.  If you do that, be sure and save the whey that you drain off to use later to soak oats or beans.  I use mine when I make oatmeal…I soak the oats in a mixture of water and whey overnight.

Greek yogurt made by straining homemade yogurt

Greek yogurt made by straining homemade yogurt

Our girls favorite way to enjoy yogurt is with just a little honey on top.  But, my new favorite is PB&J yogurt.  Take 1/2 cup of plain yogurt (either regular or greek), top with 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter (or other nut butter) and 1 tsp of fruit-only jelly or jam such as Simply Fruit brand. Stir and enjoy.

– Stacey

Tonight’s Dinner – Barbacoa Mexicana in the Crockpot

Quick post…

Saturday night we went to a local restaurant, Pepe Delgado’s, and the special was Barbacoa Mexicana.  I had never had it and was in the process of ordering off the regular menu when I saw a waiter walk by with a plate.  It looked delicious.  The cashier confirmed that it was the special, so I got that.  It was great, so of course I had to find a way to make it myself.  Also, for those of you that are Paleo, it looked like it would fit the bill.  Vegetarians, sorry, not for you.  😦

Found crockpot recipes at and and kind of combined them. So, I will let you know how it turned out tomorrow.  In the meantime, here is a picture from when I had just assembled it in the crockpot this morning…

Barbacoa Mexicana in the Crockpot

Barbacoa Mexicana in the Crockpot

Results…two thumbs up from the kids. Not the same as the restaurant’s, but good.

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