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Basic Crockpot Beef Roast

OK, I just want to warn you that this recipe includes two of the Midwestern housewife’s pantry staples that most foodies seem to abhor: cream of ___ soup and dry onion soup mix.  So if you are against such things, go ahead and just close this now before I get you too riled up.  Because I’m going to use them, and I’m not going to apologize for it.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way!  This is yet another homestyle meal that Teri taught me to make, and it’s so simple and easy!  You may be scratching your head, wondering why I’m bothering sharing this recipe with you, because you’ve been making something similar since you lost your first tooth, but I’m hoping there are others out there who never learned how to make a delicious and tender roast.  This is for you!  And for those who know how to make a delicious and tender, yet complicated roast, and need a backup recipe for busy days.

Growing up, my mother never made a single pot roast.  Which is weird, because it’s something her own mother made almost every time we visited.  You how you grow up watching your Mother and thinking, “I’m never going to do that when I grow up?”  Well, I think my Mom did that with her mother’s cooking.  Because Grandma was all about the homestyle cookin’ and Mom was all about the weird healthy food.  Bowls of lentils.  Fish stew.  Salad sprinkled with Spike in lieu of dressing, which was forbidden.  Some of her food was delicious, like her chicken chili, but most of it I couldn’t tolerate, and that was probably the only reason I was thin as a child. I refused to eat most everything she served us for dinner.  I think the school lunch program saved me from starvation.  It’s so sad, because if I ate all those foods now, I know I’d love them.  The stubborn ignorance of childhood!

Wow.  Talk about getting off-subject.  Let’s get back to the roast, shall we?  As with anything cooked in a crockpot, the meat is rendered extremely tender during the slow-cooking process and the broth from the roast combines with the soup to make a nice gravy to coat everything.  Teri recommends serving the roast with fresh bread and I chose to make rolls out of my favorite honey oatmeal bread, but would have gone with my favorite rolls of all time if I’d had milk.  Any fresh bread will do the trick, though–you just need something to sop up the gravy! :)

Basic Crockpot Beef Roast

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 (3-5 lb) roast (Teri recommends one with fat marbled throughout for moisture)
Meat seasoning/butt rubb/seasoned salt to taste
1 (10.5 oz) can cream of mushroom soup
1 (10.5 oz) can cream of golden mushroom soup
1 (1 oz) envelope dry onion soup mix
2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
1 lb bag baby carrots
8+ stalks of celery, trimmed and cut into thirds

Sprinkle meat with seasoning of choice and sear in a non-stick skillet over high heat on all sides. Meanwhile, place vegetables in bottom of crockpot. Once meat is seared, place on top of the vegetables. Spoon the soup over the top over the meat and veggies, then sprinkle the soup mix over that. Cover and set on low all day (about 8 hours).

Check it out yo! Remember the Fairy Hobmother who gave me a $50 gift card to buy a blender? Well, I decided I needed a new crockpot much worse than a new blender (my old one didn’t even have a knob and took two days to cook anything), and this roast was the first thing I made in it. I got the Hamilton Beach Set ‘n Forget 6-quart Programmable Slow Cooker.  I’m in love!  You can program it by setting it for a certain amount of time, or you can stick the thermometer probe through the top into the meat and program it to turn off once the meat comes to the right temperature, or you can put in on manual mode and just let it heat/warm until you turn it off.  It even has a snap-tight lid, making it perfect for mess-free travelling, which would have come in handy when Teri put one of the roasts we made in her trunk and it fell over during transit onto her brand new Bible! She says she now has an official “preacher’s wife” Bible because it’s stained with pot roast juice. haha!

Did the Fairy Hobmother visit any of you guys? Do tell what you got!


Vanilla Buttercream

I’ve come to realize that there is a simple, basic frosting recipe that is missing from my blog.  Sure, I’ve got recipes for white, cream cheese, chocolate, chocolate cream cheese, egg white chocolate, cherry chocolate, chocolate fudge, caramel, whipped caramel ganache, peanut butter, Oreo, raspberry, and lemon frostings (phew!), but no vanilla.

With as much cake as I obviously make, you may well be wondering why in the world I haven’t shared a basic vanilla buttercream recipe with you yet.  And the truth is, I haven’t posted one because before last week, I’d never made it.  Not once.  Seriously!

I prefer cream cheese frosting for most cakes, so I never needed to make something so simple as a basic vanilla frosting.  Until I started making my nephew’s 6th birthday cake and realized (*gasp*) I was out of cream cheese.  But as soon as I realized it, I was excited to make a new frosting, even if it was such a basic no-frills attached kind of buttercream.

If you don’t like cream cheese frosting, and your cake doesn’t have to be perfectly white, this is the one for you.  I based the recipe off of my celebration (white) frosting recipe and prefer it MUCH more because, come on, it’s made with real butter.  The only downside, which won’t matter in most cases, is that it is ivory colored, even if you use clear vanilla, because butter has a soft yellow hue.  This does affect the resulting color of your buttercream when you add icing colors to it, lending them warmth rather than the pure color advertised on the bottle.  My Mom once made a baby shower cake with real buttercream rather than white frosting and the pink turned out peach.  It was OK, but if the color scheme is very important to your cake, you should stick with the white celebration frosting recipe.

If you want to fancy this up a bit, use vanilla bean paste or scrape out a real vanilla bean in place of the vanilla in the recipe.  I imagine the little black flecks would make your cake so pretty!

Vanilla Buttercream

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 (2 lb.) bag powdered sugar
4 teaspoons real vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
Milk or cream to thin, if desired

Cream the butter with an electric mixer. Add remaining ingredients and beat on low until powdered sugar is moistened, then increase speed to medium and continue to beat for a few minutes longer, until smooth and creamy, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally. I don’t thin mine, but if you want yours more creamy, add milk or cream a teaspoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.

*For celebration buttercream, use two teaspoons crème bouquet flavor emulsion and two teaspoons vanilla extract. If you want to keep the color as light as possible, use clear vanilla extract.

Just for fun, here are the cakes I’ve made for Owen through the years.  His first birthday was teddy-bear themed, and his cake was one of the first I ever decorated.  The trouble I had with it inspired me to learn how to decorate cakes so that it wouldn’t be as stressful in future.

His Mom (my youngest sister, Lacey), made his second birthday cake, which is the only one I didn’t make for him.  I guess I was slacking that year!  I thought this was a really cute and simple idea–using cereal to make a picture on top.

Lacey had a Sponge Bob luau for his third birthday, by which time I’d finally taken the basic Wilton cake decorating class.  I used a trick I learned in the class to transfer a picture from the internet onto the cake in clear gel so I could trace over it with colored icing.

We went to the zoo for Owen’s 4th birthday so I gave his cake a zoo theme, cheating with some plastic toys and animal crackers.

He requested a “monster” party for his 5th birthday, and I had no idea how to make a monster cake so I asked him how he imagined his cake.  I made it exactly how he described it, which was a lot simpler than I would have done if left to my own devices, and he loved it!

This year’s dragon cake was the first shaped cake I’ve ever done.  Using that flat frosting tip pictured above really eased the frosting process–all I had to do was squirt and smooth.  (I actually use that tip for all my cakes, but it was especially handy frosting an uneven surface.)  Although I don’t enjoy decorating and do it only because I enjoy baking cakes and people, for some strange reason, expect birthday cakes to be decorated, I’m kind of excited to make future shaped cakes now that I know I can do it.  It was a lot easier than I thought!  I used the tutorial for the cake on Instructbables.  Creating an account is free, and if you make one, you can view each full-size step-by-step photo, which helped me a lot.

Update: Here’s his 7th birthday cake:

Hummus and Baked Flour Tortilla Chips

Somehow, over time, hummus has become my favorite food.  The food I think I could live on if I had to choose just one.  I eat it almost every day, sometimes with pita chips, sometimes with baby carrots, and sometimes with homemade whole wheat tortilla chips. I often replace whole meals with it!

Hummus is essentially a white bean dip that originates in the Middle East and usually contains chick peas (garbanzo beans), tahini (sesame seed paste), lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, and cumin.  Most basic recipes contain all these and the only difference seems to be the amount used and the preparation methods.

I’m going to share my own recipe for hummus with you, one that is not only approved by me (a lover of all hummus), but by my husband, who used to detest hummus.  I tried countless times to get him to like it, making him sample it every time I ordered it at a restaurant or bought some from the store, but he never enjoyed it until I started making it at home.  I had almost given up hope and it does me good to have converted him, because now that we’re both eating it, it doesn’t hang around as long, tempting me to eat it all in one sitting.

You can always add less or more of any of the ingredients to make it to your own tastes, and there’s no reason you can’t have some fun and make variations on this basic recipe.  I’ve made it into a sauce by adding yogurt, and I’ve also added pesto for a sandwich spread, inspired by Debbi’s recipe.  My foodie twin, Melissa (so called because we have often cooked up the same thing in our kitchens over a thousand miles apart without realizing what the other is up to), likes to mix balsamic vinaigrette with hummus for a salad dressing and I can’t wait to try it that way.  My blogger buddy, Biz, has made a beautiful beet hummus, and of course there’s always classic variations like roasted garlic & red pepper.  Let your imagination run wild!


Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

2 (15.5 oz) cans chickpeas, drained and water reserved
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
salt to taste

Toast the cumin by placing it in a microwave-safe dish and microwave for one minute or until fragrant. Combine all ingredients in food processor with 1/2 cup of the reserved water and turn on. While it is running, slowly add more reserved water (I use another 1/2 cup or more) through the feeding tube, stopping to scrape down the sides, until the hummus is your desired consistency. Continue processing until smooth. Taste and add salt if desired. I like to sprinkle mine with paprika and drizzle with olive oil for a pretty presentation, and you can also use sesame seeds and additional garbanzo beans on top. Serve with pita chips, baked flour tortilla chips (recipe follows), or baby carrots. Refrigerate leftovers in a covered container.

To make your own baked tortilla chips, cut wheat tortillas (I like whole wheat, or use corn if you’re making them for another dip, like salsa) into desired shapes and put in an even layer on a baking sheet lined with foil and sprayed with cooking oil. Spray the tortillas with oil and sprinkle on some salt. Bake at 350 until edges are starting to brown, about 5 minutes depending on size of chips, turn them and bake for a few more minutes until browned. Chips will crisp upon cooling. Store leftovers in a Ziploc bag or airtight container.

Per serving (based on 16 servings and calculated without chips or carrots): 115 calories; 6.5 g fat; 11.5 g carb; 3.8 g protein

Recipes by Veronica Miller

This recipe is linked with The Balance Broad for BSI: Cumin.

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