Tag Archives: crock pot

Cooking and Using Crumbled Ground Beef

Cooking and Using Crumbled Ground Beef


I have been talking extensively in podcast episodes (see Five Tips for Efficiency in the Kitchen HERE) and in blog posts about my cycle cooking (PODCAST) and just the general idea of preparing meats to be used in dishes. (See my Shredded Chicken post here.)


Having meats ready to use in recipes is one of the best kitchen efficiency tips that I can give people. It truly makes creating a quick meal doable.

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Crock Pot Tuesday: Beef and Pork Roasts in the Crock Pot

Beef and Pork Roasts in the Crock Pot

If you follow our Crock Pot posts, you have read about the many soups and stews that I do for our lunch on the days that we teach classes. Our oldest son is soup-crazy, so I started the tradition for him as he comes to teach with me each week.

Classes are over for the summer, but I do want to continue the crock pot tradition because so many of the entrees in the crock pot are so simple–and one dish!

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Shredded Chicken–Cooking With Chicken Breasts and Thighs

Shredded Chicken - Cooking With Breasts and Thighs

I have been working on recipes for my newlyweds–Jonathan and Maelynn (son and daughter-in-law married in August 2014) and Will and Kara (daughter and son-in-law married in January 2015). I like to categorize my recipes just like I have done with all of my mega-cooking/freezer cooking recipes for the past twenty-five years…according to type of meat/main ingredients. For freezer cooking, this is ideal because I can cook up twenty, thirty, or forty pounds of that type of meat and put a lot of entrees together quickly.

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Crock Pot Wednesday: Cheeseburger Potato Soup and Cheeseburger Carrot Soup

I found a great way today to make two soups quickly–one that is an easy family favorite and one that works for my husband’s low carb eating lifestyle. 

The first one, Cheeseburger Potato Soup, is one of the easiest soups I make. I am all about Sandra Lee’s Semi Homemade books and recipes, and this one could easily qualify as one of hers! Unfortunately, I don’t have a “real” recipe–so bear with me while I try to get it down in writing! πŸ˜‰

Here is how I made it.

1 to 2 lbs of ground beef (we like a lot of meat in ours)
1 (32 oz) bag of frozen hash browns (cubed)

1 quart of half and half or cream
2 to 3 quarts  of milk or half and half
1 1/2 lbs of shredded Velveeta
1/2 lb of shredded cheddar
Optional: 3 stalks of celery and one large onion and olive oil or butter
Seasonings to taste: salt, pepper, basil, garlic herb seasoning, worcestershire powder,parsley

1. Optional: Cook chopped onion and celery in skillet until tender. 

2. Cook ground beef and drain. (When I am making something the next day with ground beef, I put ten pounds of it in my huge crock pot, turn it on low overnight, and let it cook. The next morning I drain it and use part of it for my recipe and either freeze the rest of it or make something else.)

3. Put everything in the crock pot and cover and cook on high for three hours or low for five to six hours. 

4. At the end of the cook time, whisk 1/4 cup of cornstarch in 1/2 cup very cold water and whisk that mixture into the hot soup. Cook uncovered for another hour or so on low or half an hour on high until thickened.

Serves 10.

Cheeseburger Carrot Soup

Same ingredients except for the following:

1 lb of ground beef (we like a lot of meat in ours)
1 lb of carrots, steamed and cut into small cubes

1 quart of cream
1 quart of half and half
3/4  lb of shredded Velveeta
3/4  lb of shredded cheddar
Optional: 3 stalks of celery and one large onion and olive oil or butter
Seasonings to taste: salt, pepper, basil, garlic herb seasoning, worcestershire powder,parsley

1. Optional: Cook chopped onion and celery in skillet until tender. 

2. Cook ground beef and drain. (When I am making something the next day with ground beef, I put ten pounds of it in my huge crock pot, turn it on low overnight, and let it cook. The next morning I drain it and use part of it for my recipe and either freeze the rest of it or make something else.)

3. Put everything in the crock pot and cover and cook on high for two hours or low for four to five hours. 

4. At the end of the cook time, whisk in 1 bar (8 oz) of full fat cream cheese. Cook uncovered for another  half an hour on high until thickened.

Serves 6.

Low Carb Fall Vegetables

Image from sonomatowns

As we head into fall, I am saddened that I won’t be able to just walk out the back door and get Ray Baby’s veggies everyday! I am still heading out there often and getting a tomato here and a green pepper there–I haven’t given up completely. However, very soon that obscure tomato or tiny pepper will not even be there to pick. Sadness…

On the other hand, it is time to turn my attention to buying (and even harvesting in my “fall garden”) and preparing fall vegetables.

Here is a list of what I will be looking for to use in cooking low carb this fall:

1. Beets—very low carb, deep purple means very nutritious

2. Broccoli–very low carb and my sons like this veggie steamed with cheese, so that is a win-win

3. Cauliflower–low carb–plus I will use it for cauliflower pizza crust and cauliflower rice–and I will stir fry it along with broccoli and zucchini for oriental dishes as well as just for sides

4. Eggplant–I have never cooked with eggplant, but it is relatively low carb, deep purple for all of that nutrition–and I have some recipes pinned to try it out!

5. Garlic–I didn’t even know this was a fall vegetable, and I definitely use it year round. I know everybody loves fresh everything, but I couldn’t live without my jar of minced garlic in oil that I can dip into and get those aromatics going (along with onions and peppers) as the beginning of tons and tons of low carb veggies and stir fries.

6. Green beans–I have my fifteen year old watching his favorite show on Netflix this afternoon and snapping tons of green beans! I can use them so many way–I love putting them in the crock pot with potatoes and ham or sausage for my kids–then pulling out a heaping serving of just the green beans for Ray Baby!

7. Kale–I have some winter kale seeds that I am planting this weekend! Anxious to see if they really grow in the cold weather that the package says they will grow in. Ray enjoyed the kale chips I made him for a snack a few weeks ago–but kale is pricey, so if I can get this winter kale to grow, I will be excited!

8. Zucchini—I have been harvesting and cooking zucchini all summer! I froze it three weeks: a. shredded for breads, muffins, etc. (anxious to try out my new almond flour and swerve sweetener!); b. cubed with yellow squash for casseroles and stir fries; c. sliced (also bagged with sliced yellow squash part of the time and sometimes by itself) also for stir fries, but Ray Baby likes the sliced zucchini just to steam in a little broth and season it (though he’s not the best seasoner! lol).

I am also looking forward to using three “fall” herbs:

1. Basil
2. Rosemary
3. Thyme

Though my sons would have me using four of them–and they would have to sing it: “Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme”–they love to follow me through the kitchen when I am cooking, carrying those four spices in their hands and waving them in my face while singing “Scarborough Fair”! Kids–never a dull moment!

Crock Pot Wednesday: Cavatini

Getting ready to assemble my Crock Pot Cavatini and put it in the crock for the next day’s lunch

I hesitate to share the “recipe” for my crock pot cavatini since it is not exactly a recipe. However, if my scrambled instructions and plan here cause other moms to “think outside the box” and see how you can literally throw a semi-healthy meal together in a very little time; how to use your freezer to help you with meal preps; how to feed a lot of people in a short time; how to use your crock pot even more; etc., then I am happy to share my “recipe.”

If you have followed Crock Pot Wednesday for long then you are probably aware that I like to assemble a crock pot full of food on Tuesday morning (before my editing and writing work in the afternoon), stick it in the fridge, then pull it out and “crock” it on Wednesday morning for my sons and a couple of kids who stay with us overnight during our “cottage classes” on Wednesday to have for lunch. If we have any leftovers for Thursday  night’s leftover night, that is even better! πŸ˜‰

So here is what I did this week to assemble our Crock Pot Cavatini:

Ingredients (estimates)

1 to 2 lbs of precooked hamburger* 
1 lb of precooked ground sausage (also in the freezer bagged up)
1 to 2 lbs of pepperoni
1 lb of smoked sausage, sliced in rounds
1/2 to 1 lb of cheddar jack shredded cheese
1/2 to 1 lb of mozzarella cheese
tons of pasta (I used 24 oz of shells)
lots of pasta sauce (I used one huge warehouse store jar of sauce and a smaller can)
onions, green peppers, red peppers (also frozen from our garden)
mushrooms (optional)

1. In huge stock pot, boil pasta until al dente. (It is important that it not be fully cooked since it will get mushy in the crock pot as it is heating if it is fully done to begin with.)

2. While pasta is boiling, stir fry onions and both kinds of peppers in olive oil in small skillet.

3. Drain pasta and mix all ingredients together in a huge bowl until all is well-mixed.

4. Fold mixture into eight quart crock pot.

5. Place in refrigerator until ready to use it (covered).

6. Take from fridge to crock pot base and cook on low for a couple of hours until heated through and bubbly. (Time will vary based on your crock pot; mine is super hot, so I had to turn it down to keep warm after only two hours on low.)

*Notice in the picture that this ground beef came from my freezer; if I don’t have hamburger in the freezer, I put ten pounds in my eight quart crock pot before I go to bed, turn it on low, and let it cook all night; then the next morning, I drain it and crumble it with an old “potato masher,” bag some of it up to freeze, and use some of it in the recipe for the day.

Crock Pot Wednesday– Crock Pot Lasagna

Two crocks filled with lasagna!

I recently got a new recipe off of Pinterest for crock pot lasagna. (Unfortunately, there wasn’t a link–just a recipe on what looks like a cell phone face, so I can’t give credit.)

Anyway, I made up two large crock pot inserts of the tasty recipe given below–and stuck them both in the refrigerator to cook (1) on Sunday while we were at church; and (2) for my “Crock Pot Wednesday” lunch that I make for my kids and teachers at our house on our “cottage class” teaching day (Wednesdays). 

First, the good news. This recipe was super easy. My teenage assistant and I whipped two crocks full in fifteen minutes (with precooked ground beef from my freezer). It feels easier than regular lasagna (even though I do not precook the noodles in either recipe). I think it was just a mental thing though–I felt like it didn’t matter if it was neatly layered in the crock pot whereas when I make them in pans for the freezer, it feels more structured and time consuming. (Again, it was probably all in my head!)

I love assembling crock pot entrees, sticking the crocks in my fridge and having them ready to use in the next few days. It is similar to freezer cooking except it is in the fridge and ready to turn on the slow cooker and go. 

I have two identical crock pots–this one with three sizes of “crocks.” Thus, I have six removable crocks in three sizes (two of each size) to do this multiple-crock cooking I am describing in this post.

Now the bad news: both times I cooked this dish, the lasagna noodles became very soft, almost dissolving type of soft. I like my pasta al dente, so I wasn’t thrilled with the texture. Also, it is much soupier than traditional lasagna. However, my guys liked it (not as well as traditional), but enough for me to keep it in my repertoire and use it again for “Crock Pot Wednesday”! 

(I have wondered if refrigerating the crocks of lasagna and keeping them for a while before cooking them might have added to the soft noodles. I will update this after trying this recipe again with cooking it as soon as it is made as opposed to storing it and cooking it later. However, I have frozen pans of lasagna for twenty-three years now, and it has never affected the texture of the noodles.)

I did this recipe four times for two huge crock inserts. (Each crock fed eight to ten people.) As it is given below, I think the recipe would fit in a six or possibly even four quart crock pot and would likely feed four or five people. Be sure you keep it on low. (My kids turned it on high for an hour to rush it along, and it burned the sides and bottom. However, my slow cooker is extremely hot. My high is more like super high; my low is like high; and my warm is like low!) 


1 lb ground beef
Lasagna noodles
1 regular jar spaghetti sauce 
1 1/2 cup cottage cheese (or ricotta)
1 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 to 4 eggs (I like to stick extra eggs in everything!)

1. Mix ground beef and sauce in large bowl, reserving 1/2 cup or so of sauce by itself.

2. Mix cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese and eggs in large bowl.

3. Spray crock pot with cooking spray. Pour the reserved 1/2 to one cup of sauce in bottom of crock.

4. Place two uncooked lasagna noodles (broken in half to fit in the crock) over the sauce.

5. Spread 1/3 of meat mixture over noodles.

6. Spread 1/2 of cottage cheese mixture over meat mixture.

7. Spread 1/3 of mozzarella cheese over cottage cheese.

8. Add another layer of uncooked lasagna noodles (two again, broken in half).

9. Pour the other half of the cottage cheese mixture over the lasagna noodles in this layer.

10. Add 1/3 of mozzarella cheese.

11. Add another layer of uncooked lasagna noodles (two again, broken in half).

12. Add remaining meat mixture.

13. Top with remaining mozzarella cheese.

14. Cook on low for four hours; do not overcook.

I get very confused about the order and amounts in lasagna recipes, so here is a quick recap of the order:

a. 1/2 cup to 1 cup sauce alone
b. Two uncooked lasagna noodles
c. 1/3 of the meat mixture
d. 1/2 of cottage cheese mixture
e. Two uncooked lasagna noodles
f. 1/2 of the cottage cheese mixture
g. 1/3 of the mozzarella
h. Two uncooked lasagna noodles
i. Rest of meat mixture
j. Rest of mozzarella

Power Hour: Introducing Our “Four to Six Freezer Foods in an Hour” Program

Watch our blog (and FB page) for our new summer series, “Power Hour,” in which we will share recipes (with varying amounts and numbers of servings) that you can make in an hour (or less with some young helpers!) and make four to six (or more if making for three or four people) freezer entrees.

If you have always wanted to try freezer cooking, but an entire program of one whole day (or week!) of cooking feels overwhelming to you, our “Power Hour” might be just the thing to get you over the fear of freezer cooking!

Think your family won’t like the foods? I have been freezer cooking for twenty-three years this summer, and while I have definitely evolved as a freezer cook, I have hundreds of recipes that my family loves–and not just layered or bagged casseroles either! Some of our favorites that I will be sharing with you include potato casserole, braised beef cube mix, meatloaves, meatballs, sausage rice stir fry, parmesan chicken breasts, poor man’s steak, spaghetti pie, meats for stir fries and fajitas, and much more. And you can do each one in under an hour!

We’ll post our first one the week of June 9th, so stay “posted”! πŸ™‚ And share with your friends!

Crock Pot Wednesday–Sausage, Potatoes, and Beans

“Uncooked” ready to turn on high. (I precook and assemble the night before, stick in fridge, then pull out and cook the next day.)

Easy peasy crock pot meal today!!!

I have a HUGE crock pot. It is actually an amazing one that has three sizes of inserts, so you can do super large, kind of big, and smaller {for dips, small roasts, etc.}.

My favorite crock pot– http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?sku=14764453&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&gclid=CPrx5-DOs7UCFQ84nAodPUUABw

Ingredients–sort of

4 lbs of turkey, skinless kielbasa sausage, cut into rounds
4 lbs of potatoes, peeled and cubed approximately the same size as sausage rounds
2 lbs of frozen green beans
1 or 2 large onions, cut into chunks (I like to stir fry them before adding them.)
pork/smokehouse/ham base (to make “broth”)
Forward (Penzy spice)
Garlic and herb seasoning
black pepper

1. Precook potatoes by steaming in micro or boiling on stove top. (I like to precook my potatoes if I am making a dish where the other ingredients are nearly cooked or fully cooked.)

2. Mix all spices into 3 cups of hot water. Use the amount of base you like for your “broth.”

3. Toss half of the meat and veggies into the crock pot and pour half of the liquid over.

4. Toss second half of the meat and veggies into the crock pot and pour rest of liquid over.

5. Cook–since mine needs to be done in three or four hours, I put it on high for an hour and low for two. You could put it on low for a long time. My crock pot has a WARM setting, so I move into that fairly quickly.

Note: If you do not have the largest crock pot, cut this in half! It makes a full large crock!

Crock Pot Wednesday–Low Maintenance Chili

I have discovered new-found freedom in cooking ground meat in my crock pot. This week’s Low Maintenance Chili is an example of this. While I do not have the exact ingredients for the chili (I usually just throw my chili together), I do have some notes on using the crock pot for the meat AND the soup–and for spending very little time doing so.

This “recipe” takes about 15 mins of work time on the part of the cook and only two dishes–the crock pot insert and a strainer/colander to drain the grease. This is a perfect dish for my Crock Pot Wednesday in which I assemble on Tuesday, stick in the fridge, and cook on Wednesday morning. The fifteen minutes of work is really just stirring the meat some and opening the cans and dumping them in.

Ingredients (sort of)

5 lbs of ground beef, uncooked
3 large cans of tomato juice
2 large cans of chili beans or light red kidney beans
1 lb of tiny pasta (ABCs or Acini di pepe–see note below)
chili powder
beef base
minced onion (or large whole onion, diced finely and cooked until translucent)
garlic powder

1. Put the 5 lbs of ground beef into a huge crock pot and turn on high.
2. Cook for one hour on high; remove lid and break up/stir with potato masher or other implement you usually use to break up ground meat as it cooks.
3. Cook on low for two more hours (stir once or twice).
4. Drain grease from crock pot/meat thoroughly and put meat back in crock pot.
5. Stir in other ingredients. May need water to finish filling it up–just add more beef base if you use water.
6. Spices–I usually use a lot of chili powder and minced onion; a little of the others; and a TBSP or two of beef base. (The beef base takes away the tomato-y taste/bitter taste that chili can sometimes have. If it still has this, I will add a tsp of sugar or Splenda too.)
7. Either cook now on high for an hour and low for three or four hours or stick crock insert in fridge until you are ready and cook for 90 mins on high then three or four hours on low.

Note about pasta: Cooking foods with pasta in them in the crock pot yields two potential problems for me–1. The pasta doesn’t get done, so I often precook it; 2. If I precook it, or the dish cooks in the crock pot for a long time, the pasta swells up and gets grainy. My family likes pasta in their chili, so I switched to these tiny pastas that do not require precooking but do not swell up so big either. They were a hit!