We eat a lot of soup at my house, especially during the fall and winter months. It’s a great way to keep everyone warmed and fed while stretching the food budget. It’s also a good way to use up leftovers. I freeze any leftover vegetables, rice, pasta, meat, etc. for the soup pot. Soup and stews are convenient too. Take a few minutes to combine the ingredients in your slow cooker before heading out for the day. It’s absolutely wonderful to walk in the door and smell a delicious dinner waiting!
Do you dread cleaning up the turkey carcass after Thanksgiving? I used to just wrap it up in plastic bags and stick it in the freezer to be pulled out weeks or months later. Last Thanksgiving my sisters-in-law taught me a new trick! During clean-up time we put the two turkey carcasses into two slow cookers, and covered each with 8 cups of water. Then we let them cook on low overnight. That got the whole mess out of the way in short order, making it much easier to get the kitchen cleaned up.
Here’s what to do with the carcass the next day. (Quantities and instructions are for one turkey in one slow cooker.)
Strain off all the liquid and reserve it. Remove turkey carcass and pieces to a cutting board. Pick meat from the bones and cut into small pieces. Wipe out slow cooker. Return the strained broth and the meat to the slow cooker, then add 1 cup chopped celery, 1 cup chopped carrots, 1 chopped onion, 1 teaspoon dried sage, 1 or 2 chicken bouillon cubes, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, ½ to ¾ cup of wild or brown rice, and 2 cups of spinach leaves (or substitute a block of frozen spinach).
This makes a lovely day-after-Thanksgiving lunch, or it can be frozen for future use during those busy weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Now I’m going to share some of my family’s favorite soup and stew recipes. If you were to visit my house this winter I’d likely serve you one of these!
Slow Cooker Texas-style Chili
By the way, I made this a couple of weeks ago—doubling the recipe to serve 8. I served it over fried slices of polenta (cornmeal mush in a tube from the refrigerator case.) I froze the leftovers, and tonight four of us had it for dinner, served over white rice and topped with sour cream and grated cheese. There is still some left! Tomorrow I’ll mix the chili with the leftover rice, maybe add a can of black beans, and use the mixture to fill tortillas (adding a little shredded cheese and lettuce) for lunchtime burritos. Soup can stretch!
- 2 1/2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes (or buy stewing beef)
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- Coarse salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, minced or put through a garlic press (I use the jarred garlic)
- 2 (4.5-ounce) cans of chopped green chiles, drained
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons chili powder (or to taste—you can always add more if needed)
- 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1 or 2 tablespoons hot sauce
- 1 ½ cups water
Toss the beef with the brown sugar and salt in a large bowl. Brown meat in a large skillet with the vegetable oil. Do it in batches so the pan is not crowded. Place the browned meat in a 5 or 6 quart slow cooker. Lower skillet heat to medium and cook the onion until softened. Add garlic, chiles, cumin, and chili powder. Stir and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the tomatoes, water, and hot sauce. Stir and scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour this mixture over the meat in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of grated cheese.
As I mentioned, I first served the chili over fried polenta. I sliced the refrigerated polenta tube into rounds about ½ inch thick, then browned the slices lightly in hot oil in a skillet, a few at a time, transferring them to a pan in the oven to keep warm until all were done.
My family asks for this at least a couple of times per month. We usually serve it with crusty rolls and a salad for a fabulous and filling dinner.
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 1 cup sliced celery
- ¼ cup margarine
- ¼ cup flour
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- ¾ teaspoon dry mustard
- 4 cups boiling water
- 4 chicken bouillon cubes
- 3 cups potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
- 7-8 ounces to 1 pound fully-cooked kielbasa, sliced into ¼ inch rounds
- 2 cups milk
- 3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- Coarsely ground pepper
In a large soup pot, cook onion and celery in melted margarine until soft. Stir in flour, Worcestershire sauce, and dry mustard. Cook and stir this mixture for a couple more minutes. Add the water and bouillon cubes, then add potatoes, celery, and kielbasa. Simmer until the vegetables are tender. (20-30 minutes) Add milk and stir until heated through. Then add cheese and stir until cheese is melted. Add a sprinkle of coarsely ground pepper, and serve it up!