Category Archives: one pot meals

Super Easy Vegetable Soup

The week of Ash Wednesday, I decided I’d eat meatless for every meal. I figured since Lent was about sacrifice, I should give up something for the short term, and something for the long term. So I decided that meat would be nixed for the week, and that I’d give up diet sodas for the duration of Lent. The challenge was trying to eat enough different things without getting bored with my food (which I did, quickly), and while getting enough protein (which I didn’t do). I started that Sunday before Ash Wednesday, and finished up on the following Saturday. By the time that next Sunday rolled around, I was ravenous for meat–my body craved protein, and specifically, I craved meat-derived protein. Needless to say, I don’t think I could be vegetarian, and I certainly could not be vegan.

Last week, I had a craving for a really good vegetable soup. I decided while I was doing the shopping that I’d put together a big pot of it and eat on it all week long. Since SB is trying to eat a Paleolithic-style diet, which eschews legumes and tubers, he wouldn’t be eating this soup, so I was able to put onions in it. The final product was outstanding, and was great for lunches and dinners all week long.

A really simple, flavor-packed vegetable soup that could easily be made vegetarian with the substitution of vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth used here.

Here is how I did it. You will need:

  • 8 small creamer potatoes, skins on, washed and cut into quarters
  • 1 24-ounce jar/can tomato puree, plus water to rinse out the can/bottle
  • 5 carrots, washed, cut into coins (about 3 cups)
  • 4 cups cabbage, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cups frozen green beans
  • 2 cups frozen corn kernels
  • 1 package frozen chopped spinach
  • 2 cups diced onions
  • 2 cups diced celery
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons chicken base
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt, to taste

In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add your onions, celery, garlic and parsley. Saute these vegetables until they are soft, but do not brown them. Next, add your chicken stock and tomato puree plus water to rinse out the jar/can–you want all that yummy tomato flavor in the soup.

Add the potatoes, green beans, corn kernels, carrots, cabbage, spinach and pepper. Add enough water to cover everything and stir thoroughly to mix. The soup will be very thick, almost like a stew. Allow this to come to a slow bubble, and then add in the chicken base. Stir this in and allow it to blend in with the soup. Reduce your heat to low-medium-low and allow the soup to simmer for about an hour.

Serve while hot. I cooked mine in a 6-quart stockpot, and had more than enough soup for the week. In fact, I froze what I did not eat (about 2 1/2 quarts) for later. This soup reheats beautifully, and is quite good. It could be made completely vegetarian with the substitution of vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock. Really, you could use any vegetables you like…your palate is your limit!


Shepherd’s Pie

Today was the last day of the semester, and for that I was grateful.  As I’ve mentioned before, this semester has been particularly trying, and I am just thankful to have made it to the end!  I have the next two weeks off on holiday, during which I plan to rest, relax, and do a fair bit of cooking.  I started this evening with our dinner–we’d been eating out all week long as the end of the semester usually is so busy that I don’t have much time to cook, so we resort to going out.  This week we also had a few social engagements that involved dinner, so eating at home happened very rarely this week at dinnertime.

Sometimes you just want a meal that soothes and comforts.  And sometimes you just want something that is easy and quick to fix that doesn’t require a terrible lot of work.  This dinner is both.  We’d been out earlier in the week to one of our neighborhood favorite joints, the Allen Wickers.  It’s a great pub/restaurant that we frequent, and the food there is quite good and includes a few British pub favorites such as fish and chips and shepherd’s pie.  Their version is ground beef with mixed vegetables, topped with mashed potatoes and a bit of cheese.  There isn’t a gravy or sauce, so while it is good, there isn’t anything that really holds it together.  I decided I’d make a remixed version of their recipe for dinner tonight, with a few modifications to accommodate for SB’s onion allergy.

Comfort food at its best: shepherd's pie. Easy to make, full of vegetables, and sure to be a repeat guest at your dinner table.

Now I’d made shepherd’s pie before, but it had never turned out anywhere near as good as this one did.  As SB said while he ate, “This is off the chain.”

Here’s how I did it.  You will need:

  • 1 pound ground sirloin
  • 1 package steamable frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1 package Alexia Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes (about 3 cups)*
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • salt to taste

*you can always make your own mashed potatoes; I used these because they were in my freezer and cut the prep and cook time significantly.  Additionally, this particular brand of steamable mashed potatoes is really good and tastes homemade–SB couldn’t tell the difference!

In a Dutch oven, brown the ground sirloin.  While the meat is cooking, steam cook the mixed vegetables according to package directions (about 5 minutes).  Drain the fat from the meat and add in the garlic.  Carefully open the package of cooked mixed vegetables, and add them to the pan, stirring them in with the meat to combine.  While you are cooking the vegetables with the meat, cook the mashed potatoes according to package directions (about 10 minutes).  Add the dried spices to the meat-vegetable mixture and cook for about 5-6 minutes to allow the spices to flavor the mixture.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

After this has cooked, sprinkle the flour evenly over the mixture to lightly coat it and stir to distribute the flour.  Stir in the milk so that a gravy is created, and turn the heat off of the meat and vegetables.  After the mashed potatoes have finished cooking, carefully remove them from the package using a rubber spatula and spread them over the surface of the meat and vegetables so that you create a mashed potato “crust.”  Sprinkle the cheese on top and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.  Allow the pie to set for about 5 minutes before serving.

This recipe made 4 large servings, but would make 8 small servings if eaten with other vegetables or side items.  We elected to eat it as a solo dish.

Easy Potato Soup

Earlier this week, I managed to pick up some sort of stomach bug which made eating anything with any real spice unpalatable.  In fact, my dinner Tuesday night was a sleeve of saltine crackers and a couple of cans of Sprite Zero.  Delicious AND nutritious, I say!

Last night, I decided to test the waters with eating something that had a bit more flavor than plain saltines.  When SB and I first met way back when, we’d gone to his folks’ house, and on that particular day, his mother was making a potato soup for his dad, who’d been out hunting all day.  I remember sitting in their living room, smelling the soup and thinking, “Damn, I really want some, but we just ate.”  I haven’t forgotten that, and it’s been nearly 8 years ago since that day.  So the other day when I was feeling wormy, I had SB ask his mama just how she made that soup that smelled oh-so-good.  And from the information he relayed to me, it was quite simple:  potatoes, broth, onions, salt, pepper and cheese, if you wanted.  I changed the recipe up a bit, but it’s still quite good and could be eaten at any time of year, really.

So yeah, it's 100 degrees out, and what did I fix for dinner last night? Potato soup that did NOT require me to stand over a hot stove for long!

This recipe could easily be made vegetarian or vegan with the use of veggie broth and the exclusion of the bacon.  Here’s how I made mine.  You will need:

  • 4 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and chunked
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3 slices uncooked bacon, cut into 1″ pieces
  • black pepper
  • cheddar cheese, shredded (optional)

In a Dutch oven, heat the oil and cook the carrots and celery until they are slightly soft.  You don’t want them to give too much; you want to cook them until you can smell the sweetness of the carrot, about 10 minutes.  Add the broth, bacon and potatoes.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, stir in the black pepper and cook for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring periodically.  Using a potato masher, smash the potatoes slightly to break them up.  You do not want mashed potato consistency, but rather a chunky soupy consistency.

Serve hot, with a salad if you like.  You may garnish the soup with shredded cheddar cheese, or you can stir it into the entire pot at the end of the cooking process if you want your soup to be more cheesy.  I sprinkled a couple of tablespoons on my bowl and stirred them in, which is why the bowl above appears a bit orangey.

This recipe made 6 1 3/4 cup servings.  Since we ate ours as a meal by itself, you could reduce the serving size and serve it alongside a salad or sandwich.

The Untidiest of Sandwiches

One of my favorite easy, one-pan meals to fix is Sloppy Joes.  A friend of mine from high school once told me that her mother used to call them “untidy Bartholomews” instead.  Quite a mouthful for a simple, messy and tasty sandwich.

Generally, when people make Sloppy Joes, they buy that stuff in a can that you can add to ground meat to make them.  That’s all good and well if you’re pinched for time, but truly, this version is far superior.  Not only does it get in the half cup of vegetables the canned stuff claims to provide per serving, it eliminates the corn syrup the canned stuff adds.  As corn syrup is a no-no in our household (as are onions), the canned stuff isn’t an option.  So I developed my own version of the Sloppy Joe.  Et voila:

The untidiest of sandwiches, this recipe mimics the stuff you can get in a can, but minus the corn syrup, and full of flavor.

I make mine using either 93/7 ground turkey (99% lean is too lean here) or ground sirloin.  Certainly ground chicken or pork could be substituted, but I feel that for this particular rendition, beef is best as it holds its own against the spices I use to flavor this sandwich filling.  The cayenne and red pepper flakes could be left out to make it kid friendly, unless your kid is a connoisseur of spicy foods, and then by all means, leave them in!   I also add celery and bell pepper to boost the veggie content, and they are a great addition here.  Here’s how I make this particular dish.

You will need:

  • 1 pound ground sirloin*
  • 1 cup diced bell pepper
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 8 oz. can no salt tomato sauce
  • 1 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (also called Spanish paprika)
  • salt to taste

*ground chuck, regular ground beef or ground turkey can also be substituted here.

Brown the ground sirloin in a large skillet, then drain and reserve.  Heat the olive oil in the same skillet, and once the oil is hot, toss the bell pepper and celery in.  Cook them over medium-high heat until they soften a bit, about 7-8 minutes.  Near the end of this cooking time, add the garlic, ground sirloin, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and water.  Stir to combine, and then add the tomato paste, stirring in the paste thoroughly so that there are no chunks of it remaining.

Add all your seasonings, adding salt to taste.  Once the mixture begins to bubble, reduce your heat to just below medium, cover the pan and allow it to simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring periodically to ensure that it does not stick to the bottom of your pan.

When the cook time ends, serve with crusty hamburger rolls.  I served mine on whole wheat bakery buns, but I have also eaten it as a baked potato topping.  This recipe made approximately 6 1-cup servings.

Chile Colorado (Red Chile Stew)

Let me begin this post by saying that my mom and dad are both outstanding cooks.  Had it not been for watching them in the kitchen as a kid, I am pretty sure I would not be half the cook I am now.  I grew up on a lot of Mexican food, and by this I mean actual Mexican food–not Tex-Mex, but Mex-Mex.  The stuff you get from places like Taco Bueno or Taco Bell sure as hell aren’t Mexican (but sadly in some parts of the country, it’s what passes for Mexican food).  Real Mexican food is simple, wholesome and relatively healthy.  The stuff many restaurants pass off as Mexican food is as much a bastardization of the cuisine as the Chinese food that is found in many Chinese takeout joints.

But I digress…

You know those things your parents fix that only they really know how to fix right, that only taste good when they make them?  For me, those dishes would be my mom’s chile verde and my dad’s chile colorado.  A couple of weeks ago I was talking with my mom about red chile, and how I’d wanted to learn to make it, and she said, “It’s really easy.  You just have to buy the puree at the store.  Central Market has it in the freezer section.”

You could have knocked me over with a feather when she said this.  As a child, I remember my parents bringing back 50 pound sacks of dried New Mexico red chiles and 50 pounds’ worth of roasted Hatch green chiles from New Mexico whenever we’d go visit my grandparents in the summertime.  I also remembered that whenever mom and dad would make enchiladas, they had to rehydrate the red chiles in boiling water, puree them in the blender, strain it to remove the pulp and seeds and THEN they could make the chile sauce.  Really, the whole process is a pain in the ass, but the result is quite tasty.

The fact that you can get this:

already pureed is truly AMAZING, and a real time saver, because it saves you about an hour and a half of work!

So once my mom told me of the wonders of Bueno chile, I decided I needed to make chile colorado.  My mom makes it with oregano, which you can certainly do, as Mexican oregano complements the flavor of the chile nicely.  My dad’s version doesn’t use oregano and is equally as good, so it’s the version I went with.

No Tex-Mex here, this is Mex-Mex!

This was outstanding, and will be dinner for us for the next few days.  It’s got a bite to it, but it is really good and super easy.  Here’s how I did it.  You will need:

  • 2-3 pounds pork chops, trimmed and cubed, bones reserved with a bit of their attached meat for flavor
  • canola oil
  • 2 large Russet potatoes, skinned and diced into bite-size pieces
  • 14 ounces red chile puree, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large Dutch oven, heat about a teaspoon of canola oil and cook the pork (and bones) over medium heat until it is cooked through and no more of the cooking liquid remains.  Once the meat has cooked through, salt and pepper the meat to season it.  Add the red chile puree and garlic powder and enough water to cover the meat.  Let this come to a boil, and then simmer for an hour.  After about an hour, add in the potatoes and about 2 more cups of water and stir to evenly distribute the vegetables throughout the stew.  Allow this to continue cooking at a low simmer, about 30 more minutes.

Serve hot, with beans as shown.  Rice is also a good accompaniment, as are tortillas.  I ate mine with corn tortillas, and it was awesome.

This recipe makes about 14 1-cup servings.