Crockpot Minestrone Soup

An easy, flavorful minestrone soup that can be made in the crockpot. We love this soup on cold winter nights.

Crockpot Minestrone Soup #winter #recipes #easy #soup | thepajamachef.comGrowing up, I didn’t like soup at all. Minestrone soup was probably my least favorite of them all, with all its tiny vegetables, white beans, and floaty spinach. The pasta was the only good part!! And there never was enough of it. It’s not like my mom served soup all the time or anything. I just remember it being an option. A gross option. Fortunately, my tastes have matured a bit. Now, I LOVE soup. Love love love it. I frequently make a big batch on the weekend and freeze leftovers in individual containers to make the lunch packing chore easier.

Crockpot Minestrone Soup #winter #recipes #easy #soup | thepajamachef.comIn the winter, this is one of my favorite soups to make. I usually have all the ingredients on hand so making this hearty Italian in the crockpot is super simple. There are some ways to fancy it up though, if that’s your thing–you can saute the veggies, use fresh herbs instead of dried herbs, etc. But the classic crockpot cooking style of “toss it in and forget it” TOTALLY works for this recipe. The one deviation I take from that is cooking the pasta separately, to help it not soak up all the broth right away. That’s not too hard, is it? Hope not, because this is one delicious soup!! Enjoy!

two years ago: Cranberry Orange Pancakes with Cranberry Maple Syrup
four years ago: Eggless Cookie Dough

Crockpot Minestrone Soup

  • Servings: 8
  • Time: 6-8 hours
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adapted from Skinnytaste

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 15 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 6 cups/48 ounces chicken or vegetable broth, reduced sodium if possible
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • 3 small diced carrots
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 – 28 oz can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Parmesan cheese rind, optional
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup uncooked small pasta like ditalini or small shells
  • 1 – 10 ounce package frozen spinach, defrosted with liquid squeezed out
  • Parmesan cheese for garnishing

Directions:

Add beans, broth, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, tomatoes, parsley, basil, and rosemary to a large crockpot. Stir and add Parmesan cheese rind, if using. Set crockpot to cook on low for 6-8 hours.

An hour before you want to eat, bring a small pot of water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and add pasta to crock pot along with defrosted spinach. Stir, cover, and let crockpot cook for another 30 minutes or so to heat through.

Before serving, remove bay leaves and Parmesan rind. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan!

 

Notes:

  • If desired, you can saute the onion, carrots, and celery before adding to the crockpot.
  • Fresh herbs can be used in place of dry herbs.
  • A thicker minestrone can be achieved by pureeing half the beans with 2 cups chicken broth.
  • The pasta absorbs the broth as it sits, so when you reheat it, you may have to add additional broth or water.
  • Soup reheats and freezes well!

 

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Art Smith’s Macaroni and Cheese

A decadent, ooey gooey baked macaroni and cheese that is perfect for your Christmas table or for a cozy weeknight at home. It can even be prepped earlier in the week and baked later! A tried and true family favorite!

Ultimate Macaroni and Cheese | thepajamachef.com - a family favorite that can be prepared ahead of time. If I had to choose one last meal, this macaroni and cheese would be it. I know there’s lots of other good meals out there, but mac and cheese is HARD to beat. And if it’s your last meal, then the healthier choices don’t matter very much, do they? :) Sorry, didn’t mean to get into a philosophical mood there. It just sorta happened. And I suggest that this macaroni and cheese just “sorta” happens in your world soon. It’s simply the best!

Ultimate Macaroni and Cheese | thepajamachef.com - a family favorite that can be prepared ahead of time. My mom’s been making it for years, and it’s really the ultimate mac and cheese. It’s baked, so it has those crispy edges that we all know and love, but unlike some other baked pasta dishes, the middle has lots of ooey gooey cheesy goodness. There’s really no other way to describe it besides ultimate, divine, incredible, and utterly amazing! You can be somewhat flexible with the cheese that you use–using some cheddar and some parmesan is a must, but other than that, anything goes! American, colby, an Italian blend, gouda… If it’s cheese, it should be good!

Ultimate Macaroni and Cheese | thepajamachef.com - a family favorite that can be prepared ahead of time. I always serve this pasta with a big green salad or another veggie side. As you can tell it was summertime when I took these pictures at my parents’ house, but we enjoy this pasta year round. It would be a great addition to your Christmas table, too. It’s a great side dish since it’s SO rich. We easily get at least 12 servings. Enjoy!!

one year ago: Cranberry-Pistachio Citrus Butter Cookies
two years ago: Streuseled Cran-Apple Sweet Potato Casserole
four years ago: Sweet Potato Soup

Art Smith's Macaroni and Cheese

  • Servings: 12+
  • Time: 60 minutes
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from Art Smith’s Back to the Table

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound pasta – elbow macaroni or penne recommended
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups milk, warmed
  • 4 cups cheese, shredded – definitely use half cheddar + something else of your choice [he suggests American, but just go with what you feel like – Italian blend, colby, gouda, etc.]
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • hot pepper sauce [I use Frank’s]
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:

Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions, then drain.

Meanwhile, grease a large casserole dish [a 9×13 pan works, as does any 4 quart casserole dish] and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Gradually whisk in the milk. The milk doesn’t have to be hot but it shouldn’t be cold either. Room temperature or gently heated in the microwave is perfect!

Bring sauce to a simmer, stirring constantly, until it begins to thicken. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in half of the cheese. Season to taste with pepper and hot sauce.

Spread a third of the pasta over the bottom of the casserole dish. Top with half of the reserved cheese and a third of the sauce. Repeat: a third of the pasta, remaining cheese, and a third of the sauce. Repeat: remaining pasta, remaining sauce. Top with parmesan cheese and bake for 30 minutes, until bubbly and golden brown.

Notes:

  • Tent pasta with aluminum foil after about 20 minutes if top is browning too much.
  • This recipe can be prepared in advanced, covered, and refrigerated for up to 3 days before baking. Just bring to room temperature for about 30 minutes before baking, or place pan in a cold oven and let oven heat up with the dish. From the refrigerator, you’ll have to bake it at least 40-45 minutes to heat through but use your best judgment.
  • Leftovers freeze well.

Linked up with Weekend Potluck.

Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta

A creamy, veggie-filled pasta dish that comes together quickly with lots of pantry ingredients.

Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta | thepajamachef.comDoes anyone else watch Guy’s Grocery Games on Food Network? Ever since we moved to Nashville and got a DVR [yes, I know these have been around forever but we didn’t get one til a year ago. We are way behind technology-wise.] I have been obsessed with recording episodes of cooking and HGTV shows. Because I can, and because they’re good tv shows to watch while blogging or reading magazines or something. I never watch and only watch tv. I need to be doing something else in the process, so I need somewhat mindless shows that aren’t totally trashy. Does that make sense? This one, if you haven’t seen it, requires chefs to dash around a grocery store in search of ingredients for an assigned meal/category of food, and then COOK their meal… but there’s always a twist or challenge. I never in a million years would want to be on Chopped, Cutthroat Kitchen, or any of those other cooking shows… but if I had to choose a cooking competition show to be on, this would be it. It’s relatively tame, Guy seems nice, and hello! Grocery stores are my favorite place to browse. Is that weird? Ha. Anyways, on a recent episode of triple G, one of the judges said that pasta dishes aren’t supposed to be light. She thought they needed to be heavy, or at least, hearty to be a true pasta dish. I have to say I disagree with that. There’s a place for heavy, hearty dishes like baked pasta or lasagna [take a look in my archives, I have tons of recipes like that!] but sometimes lighter pasta dishes totally hit the spot. Maybe they aren’t traditional but I love ‘em.

Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta | thepajamachef.comThis pasta dish is exactly the kind I love–full of flavor and interesting things, but still relatively light. It uses cream cheese and Parmesan cheese but also a lot of tomatoes, onions, and spinach to balance everything out. You can make this pasta in a pretty short amount of time, using mostly pantry ingredients, so it’s great for weeknights. The sauce can be made while the pasta cooks, so it really doesn’t take more time to make than  a box of mac ‘n cheese. So what if it’s not this big, hearty meal? Isn’t that what sides are for? :) To make this more of a one dish meal, I think some sliced grilled chicken, shrimp, or even some canned white beans would be great additions. I’ll have to try that next time! Enjoy!

one year ago: Flourless Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Sauce
two years ago: Pumpkin Cornbread
three years ago: Honey Whole Wheat English Muffins
four years ago: Pumpkin Pasta Sauce, aka “Pumpfredo”

Creamy Tomato and Spinach Pasta

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 30 minutes
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from Budget Bytes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound small pasta like penne
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 15 ounces diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, cubed
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4-5 ounces fresh spinach [frozen spinach that has been thawed and drained should also work too]

Directions:

Prepare pasta [al dente] according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened about 7 minutes. Then add garlic and cook for 30 seconds or so until fragrant. Add tomatoes [undrained], oregano, basil, red pepper, and black pepper and stir to combine. Add tomato paste and 1/2 cup water to skillet, stirring until tomato paste has dissolved. Reduce heat to low and add cream cheese cubes one by one, stirring until incorporated. Then add the Parmesan cheese gradually, stirring until it is creamy.

When pasta is done, drain and add to the sauce. Top with spinach, cover, and cook over low heat for 2-3 minutes until spinach wilts. Stir in and adjust seasonings to taste. Serve immediately.

#10DaysofTailgate: Cincinnati Turkey Chili

This delicious, smoky chili is so easy and full of flavor! Serve it alone, or Cincinnati-style over spaghetti for a fun twist!

Cincinnati Turkey Chili | thepajamachef.com #10DaysofTailgate

This week I’m sharing tailgate-style recipes as part of #10DaysofTailgate, the special blogging event I am participating in through the rest of the month. This event has been graciously organized by Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla. While you’re thinking about it, be sure to pop over here to read all about the event and enter the giveaway. You won’t regret it! :)

#10DaysofTailgate Sponsors

I went to college in Ohio [yeahh Wittenberg!] and I remember the first time I was in the dining hall on chili night. Looking all around I saw people ladling chili on… what’s that… spaghetti! How bizarre, I thought, until I remembered that Cincinnatians [is that a thing? It is now!] eat their chili over spaghetti noodles. I thought it was really strange and didn’t try it for a few years until I was in a situation where it would have been super rude to not, plus I would have ended up starrrving. And we all know that’s not a good thing, righto? Truth be told, I before making this recipe I had only eaten Cincinnati chili a handful of times. But now that I have this easy recipe in my repertoire, I think it’ll end up on our dinner table more often in the future!

Cincinnati Turkey Chili | thepajamachef.com #10DaysofTailgate

This recipe is from an Ellie Krieger cookbook which means two things: 1) it’s healthy, and 2) it’s super flavorful. The seasonings in this recipe are SPOT ON, folks. I didn’t change a thing! Just the right amount of heat and warm spices to make a smoky, alluring chili. Yup, I just called chili alluring. You gotta make it now! Be sure to top it with whatever you please… cheese, onion, sour cream/greek yogurt… the more the merrier! That’s part of the fun of Cincinnati chili! :)

three years ago: Honey Fig Scones
four years ago: Radiatore Lasagna

Cincinnati Turkey Chili

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 2 hours
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from Ellie Krieger’s Comfort Food Fix

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 2 green bell peppers, diced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 15 ounces tomato sauce – look for salt-free
  • 14.5 ounces diced tomatoes in tomato juice – look for salt-free
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 8 ounces spaghetti, cooked
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 teaspoons minced red onion

Directions:

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often until soft–about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. Stir in turkey, breaking up with a wooden spoon, and cook through. Add peppers and cook for a couple minutes until they are just beginning to soften. Add spices–chili powder, cocoa powder, paprika, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, allspice, cayenne, pepper, and cloves. Stir in and cook for about a minute until they start to smell delicious. Finally, add in tomato sauce and tomatoes, water, molasses, and the bay leaf.

Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook down for about 2 hours. Chili should still be soupy.

Remove the bay leaf, then stir in the kidney beans. Serve over spaghetti and top with cheese and onion.

Here’s what the rest of the team brought to the table…

Starters
Sticky Mango Mustard Glazed Duck Meatballs
 by girlichef
Pretzel Sticks with Two Sauces by Eliot’s Eats
Cherry Chipotle BBQ Pork Nachos by The Spiffy Cookie
Duck Poppers by CafeTerra
Duck Bacon Pumpkin Soup by Culinary Adventures with Camilla

Dips
Corn and Cheddar Dip
 by Sew You Think You Can Cook
Steakhouse Deviled Egg Dip by From Gate to Plate

Mains
Ultimate Bacon Burger
 by Cheese Curd In Paradise
Cincinnati Turkey Chili by The Pajama Chef
Smoky Date Pulled Pork by Curious Cuisiniere
Grilled Avocado with Melted Cheese & Karma Hot Sauce by Making Miracles

Sides
Just Ducky Baked Beans
 by A Day in the Life on the Farm

Sweets
Linebacker-Sized Chocolate Chip Cookies
 by Things I Make (for Dinner)
Rocky Ledge Bars by Debbi Does Dinner Healthy
Pear Poppy Snails {Birnen Mohn Schnecken} by The Not So Cheesy Kitchen

 

Greek Orzo Pasta Salad

So, I used to post once a month on a blog called Today’s Housewife. In fall 2012, the group decided together to stop posting due the busyness of life and families and such. Though sad, I enjoyed being part of the group. As of early January, the blog was officially taken down. But I don’t want to lose my recipes, so periodically I will be reposting them on here. Enjoy!

~

from April 14, 2011… this salad is delicious and I need to make it again!

Greek Orzo Pasta Salad | thepajamachef.com

My husband and I each take our lunches with us almost everyday, him to work and me to grad school. Not only is it less expensive to pack lunches, but it’s a lot healthier (and tastier) than eating out as long as you pack the right things. I discovered early on in our marriage that the best way to ensure that we each had delicious, filling lunches that would rival anything at a restaurant was to spend some time in advance doing some lunch preparation. So I started spending an hour or so every Sunday after church prepping our lunchtime vegetables and making a grab-and-go main course option. Then, every week night while we’re cooking dinner or cleaning up, we assemble our lunches for the next day. Having components in the fridge ready to go makes it a snap!

Pasta salads are one of my top choices for packed lunches as they are good served hot or cold, are customizable, and can be quite filling depending on the ingredients. I love that I can make a big batch to eat from throughout the week. This Greek-inspired dish was born out of the need to finish some random ingredients taking up space in my fridge such as a jar of sun-dried tomatoes and Kalamata olives that I used in a recent dinner, Pantry Pasta for Two. Each bite is a little different, and the sweet tang of lemon and tomatoes coupled with the bite of olives and the rich flavor of feta cheese is incredible. You’ll have to try it to believe it, but one bite and you’ll be hooked. It’s like a trip to the Greek Isles without every leaving your lunchbox! Not that I’ve ever been… (hint, hint husband!) I’m not sure this is a super kid-friendly dish depending on picky eaters’ palates, but I think it’d be great for girls’ lunches or family gatherings. Enjoy!
three years ago: The Best Panini Ever
four years ago: Maple Pecan Pear Scones

Greek Orzo Pasta Salad

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 30 minutes
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adapted from Allrecipes.com
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup orzo pasta, uncooked (or any small pasta)
  • 1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (I used the oil that my tomatoes were packed in for extra flava!)
  • zest of 1 large lemon (maybe a couple tablespoons?)
  • juice of 1 large lemon (perhaps 1/4-1/3 cup?)
  • 1/3 cup Kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1/3 cup spinach leaves, torn and packed
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup pasta water, reserved
Directions:
Prepare orzo according to package directions. Before draining, be sure to reserve 1/2 cup pasta water. If you’re like me and don’t have a fine strainer, place a (unused) coffee filter inside your regular strainer. Then drain your pasta carefully so as not to tear the coffee filter and spoon the pasta into a medium bowl. Immediately stir in sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, olives, lemon zest, spinach, and parsley. Mix gently to combine, then add lemon juice. Add feta cheese after a minute or so to let the pasta cool off (unless you don’t mind melted feta cheese). If needed, incorporate a little pasta water to make sure everything is fully coated, especially if you’ll be storing the salad for more than a day, as the sauce tends to be absorbed by the noodles over time. I used about 2-3 teaspoons of water. Season with black pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.