Cooks Exchange

Cooks Exchange: What’ll it be? Soups or salads

Pasta and bean soup with Italian lettuce salad is heart-warming, and can be served for two or a crowd.
Pasta and bean soup with Italian lettuce salad is heart-warming, and can be served for two or a crowd. MCT

Does Old Man Winter want to turn the food tables on spring or is spring ready to showcase its fresh flavors?

Who knows? Last week’s cold blast had most of the country warming up to stews and soups. This week promises warmer salad days.

Whatever the temperature, a slow cooker is a home cook’s best friend. I love plopping all the food in the slow cooker, turning it on and letting it do the rest.

Even though the weather has been erratic to say the least, ballgames, dance, tumbling and karate classes and school activities rarely stop. With the wealth of activity and the unpredictable weather, the slow cooker reigns supreme in the kitchen. It takes the stress out of meals. Nutrition need not suffer for extra-curricular events.

Coastian Ashley Sharp apparently knows that one day a hearty soup is needed and the next a quick-fix salad, depending on the weather and day’s events. She shared a beef barley and vegetable soup that is done in the slow cooker and a chicken fajita salad prepared on the stovetop.

Spring, which arrived Monday, seems to crank up the number of activities with which children and their parents and relatives are involved. A teacher friend said after the students get back from spring break, the end of school is close behind.

Instead of grabbing fast food for family meals, try switching on the slow cooker in the morning and coming home to a home-cooked meal in the evening, before or after myriad activities.

Check out today’s slow cooker meals and salad days recipes.

A pulled-pork recipe takes 10 minutes of preparation time and 360 minutes in the slow cooker. This one is great for people wanting to munch out watching basketball games on TV or to make a sandwich on the go.

For those doing meatless Fridays, vegetable-stuffed peppers are filling, and family and friends won’t miss the meat.

Andrea Yeager can be reached at ayeager51@cableone.net and Cooks Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.

BEEF BARLEY VEGETABLE SOUP

1 cup frozen green beans

1 cup frozen whole kernel corn

1 1/2 pounds beef stew meat

1 bell pepper, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

2/3 cup uncooked barley

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 (14-ounce) cans ready to serve beef broth

2 (14-ounce) cans diced tomatoes with roasted garlic, undrained

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

Rinse green beans and corn with cold water to separate and partially thaw.

Mix all ingredients in a 3- to 5-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on low heat for 8-9 hours or high setting for 4-5 hours, until vegetables and barley are tender.

Submitted by Ashley Sharp

PERFECT PULLED PORK

5-pound boneless blade pork roast

1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika

2 teaspoons black pepper

1 teaspoon cayenne

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup water

Soft sandwich buns

Combine all the seasonings in a small bowl and rub evenly over roast. Place meat in a 6-quart slow cooker. Add water. Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or HIGH for 4-5 hours or until pork is very tender.

Remove pork to a large cutting board or platter and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Pull, slice or chop to serve. Serve in buns with barbecue sauce. Serve with baked beans, coleslaw and chips. Makes 16-20 servings.

From the National Pork Board

VEGETARIAN STUFFED PEPPERS

2 cups brown rice

3 small tomatoes chopped

1 cup frozen corn, thawed

1 small sweet onion, chopped

3/4 cup cubed Monterey Jack chees

1/3 cup chopped ripe olives

1/3 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained

1/3 cup canned red beans, rinsed and drained

4 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

6 large sweet peppers

3/4 cup meatless spaghetti sauce

1/2 cup water

4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Place the first 12 ingredients in a large bowl; mix lightly to combine, Cut and discard tops from sweet peppers; remove seeds. Fill peppers with rice mixture.

In a small bowl, mix spaghetti sauce and water; pour half of the mixture into an oval 5-quart slow cooker. Add filled peppers. Top with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese.

Cook, covered, on low 3 1/2 to 4 hours or until heated through and peppers are tender. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese. Yield: 6 servings.

Nutritional facts: 1 stuffed pepper, 261 calories, 8 grams fat (4 grams saturated fat), 18 milligrams cholesterol, 815 milligrams sodium, 39 grams carbohydrate (9 grams sugar, 7 grams fiber), 11 grams protein. Diabetic exchanges: 2 starch, 1 lean meat, 1 vegetable, 1 fat.

From Taste of Home February/March 2008

CHICKEN FAJITA SALAD

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon peppers

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size chunks

Dressing:

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/3 cup milk

3 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons chopped, fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 garlic clove, minced

Salad:

6 cups mixed greens

1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

3 tablespoons sliced black olives

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 tomato, diced

1 avocado, sliced

In mixing bowl, combine olive oil, ground cumin, paprika, chili powder, garlic, salt and pepper. Add chicken and toss to coat.

In a large skillet, sauté chicken with cooking spray until chicken is cooked through.

Combine all ingredients for dressing in a mixing bowl and whisk until smooth.

In a salad bowl, combine all ingredients for the salad. Place cooked chicken on top of salad and toss salad with the dressing.

Submitted by Ashley Sharp

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