Slow Cooker Magic
By Angie Sutton
There’s nothing like a good soup when you’re tired of eating fast food or have little time in-between the end of your work day and dinner. Many recipes can be converted to slow cooker options while, conversely, crock recipes can often be adapted to the stove top. At Sutton Central, we love making soup dinners because there are leftovers for lunch the next day. Leftover soup will last up to three days in the refrigerator.
Warm up and fill up with big-batch soups, stews and chowders from your freezer. Most soups freeze well and can be packaged in individual servings for a quick lunch. If you are making your soup and freezing it specifically for a future meal, here are a few tips to keep your soup looking and tasting great:
Undercook your vegetables a little. When reheating, they will cook a bit more, so undercooking helps prevent mush.
Recipes calling for pasta may not be your best option for freezer meals as cooked pasta tends to break up when frozen. You can leave it out and while your frozen batch is reheating, prepare the pasta and toss in before serving.
Potatoes are a challenge to freeze in soups because they lose their shape. There’s no harm, but your consistency will be a tad mushy. I’ve found frozen Southern-style potatoes hold their consistency nicely when used in a recipe you intend to freeze.
Soups that have a cream base can be frozen but require additional work when reheating. Reheat gently and add a splash of milk to achieve desired consistency.
Leave out anything you would add the last 5 minutes such as fresh herbs and garnishes like tortilla strips and shredded cheese. If your soup recipe calls to thicken the broth during the final phase, you will want to proceed with this.
I mentioned converting recipes from stovetop to slow cooker. This can require some experimentation but generally I’ve found most ventures will be successful with a few adjustments. Since there is no evaporation in a closed slow cooker, adjusting the amount of liquid in your recipe may be necessary. If a stovetop recipe calls for 6 to 8 cups of water, try starting with 5 cups in the crock. If the recipe doesn’t call for liquid, add 1/2 cup water or broth. For stews and soups, put the veggies on the bottom and sides of your slow cooker, placing the meat on top. For stews I like to brown the meat in a skillet first. In general, 1 hour of simmering on the range or baking at 350 degrees Fahrenheit in the oven is equal to 6 to 8 hours on low or 3 to 4 hours on high in a slow cooker.
If you’re like me and you see a slow cooker recipe that looks scrumptious but it’s too late in the day to accomplish, you can often convert it to the stovetop. Recipes with ground beef work well but many meat cuts really need the longevity and slow cooking process of the crock to be successful. You’ll want to plan on simmering the stovetop soup for about an hour to really appreciate the taste that would get from the crock process.
With the resources we have today to search for recipes, there are so many soups, you could eat a new one every day this winter. I’ve tried several new ones lately and hope they can warm your home this winter as well!
Slow Cooker Pasta Soup
A new favorite at Sutton Central, this soup is the perfect combination of hearty and healthy. The ditalini pasta is just a touch of pasta to balance the beans. We serve it with crusty bread.
1 lb. lean ground beef
1. Brown ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until no longer pink. Drain any grease.
2. Place the ground beef in the crock of a slow cooker along with the rest of the ingredients except the beans and pasta. Cook on low for 7 hours or high for 3 hours. With 30 minutes left to cook, stir in beans and pasta. Discard bay leaves before serving.
Beef & Barley Soup
1 lb. steak tips, cubed
1. In a slow cooker add all ingredients, except bay leaves. Stir until combined. Drop bay leaves on top.
2. Cook on high for 4 to 6 hours, until meat is cooked and vegetables are tender or on low for 8 to 10 hours.
3. About 30 minutes before soup is done, add barley. Cook until barley is tender.
Smoky 15-Bean Soup with Sausage
Plan ahead to make this soup as it requires an overnight soak and 8 or more hours in the slow cooker.
1 (20-oz.) pkg. Hurst’s HamBeens 15-Bean Soup
1. Open package of beans and remove the seasoning packet. Save for later use. Pour beans into a large bowl and cover completely with water. Let soak overnight. In a morning, drain off all the water and place beans in the slow cooker.
2. Add in 8 cups of fresh water. Add in onion, liquid smoke, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, smoked paprika and chili powder. Cover and cook on low for about 12 to 14 hours or on high for about 8 hours, or until beans are soft and tender.
3. Add in the HamBeens seasoning packet, sausage, tomato paste, tomatoes, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Cover and cook on high for another 30 to 60 minutes to let the flavors blend and the sausage heat through (these items are added later because the sodium and high acidity prevent the beans from getting soft).
Super Simple Chicken Enchilada Soup
This is so simple you can throw it in at the last minute before you head to work! You can substitute canned Southwest Corn for the frozen corn to add a kick.
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1. In a 6-qt. slow cooker, combine chicken, chicken stock and enchilada sauce. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours, adding corn and black beans the last 30 minutes.
2. Remove chicken, shred and return to slow cooker.
Slow Cooker Cheesy Potato Soup Recipe
1 bag (32-oz.) frozen southern-style diced hash brown potatoes, thawed
1. In a 4-quart slow cooker, mix potatoes, onion, celery, broth and water. Cover; cook on low heat setting 6 to 8 hours.
2. In small bowl, mix flour into milk; stir into potato mixture. Increase heat setting to high. Cover; cook 20 to 30 minutes or until mixture thickens. Stir in cheese until melted. Garnish individual servings with bacon and green onions. Sprinkle with pepper if desired.
Slow Cooker Stout Red Beans and Rice
1 lb. small red beans (or red kidney beans) dry
1. Add red beans, porter, chicken broth, ham hock, onion, garlic and sriracha to a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
2. Once the beans are finished cooking, heat the olive oil in a sauce pan over medium high heat. Cook the brats, green peppers and bacon until meat has been cooked through. Stir the brats, bacon and peppers with the beans, salt and pepper to taste. Serve over rice.
Slow Cooker Lasagna Soup
This is a nice twist on the regular version of slow cooker lasagna. If you like more juice, you can add a bit more broth or water.
1 lb. ground beef, browned
1. First mix together the can of tomatoes and tomato paste in slow cooker. Next add broth, beef, garlic, parsley, basil, onion, vegetable juice and salt/pepper. Cover and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours.
2. When 30 minutes are left of cook time, add in the 1 cup of water and noodles. Stir to combine. Put lid back on and continue cooking for 30 minutes. Garnish with cheese before serving.