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With fall in the air, it's slow cooker time


During the summer I had forgotten how easy and how good it can be to have company and fill my slow cookers with a couple of simple recipes that can be prepared ahead of time and almost forgotten about until it's time to eat.

Such was the case over the weekend, when I entertained out-of-state relatives and didn't want to spend time fussing all day in the kitchen when I could be sitting out on the patio visiting.

I did feature these two recipes once in my column a long, long time ago, but will share them again for any of our new readers, as they are both absolutely delicious.

The Homemade Potato Soup requires a little more time and attention, because I like to cook the dumplings separately, but the Taco Soup doesn't get any easier once you have your ground beef browned.

Similar in taste to traditional chili, this recipe is a little more flavorful and robust with the inclusion of hominy (a canned hull corn) and both the pinto and kidney beans, along with the package of dry ranch dressing mix.

If you don't care for the chunks of tomatoes, I would recommend that you use crushed, stewed tomatoes or blend the regular stewed tomatoes up a bit before you add them to the soup. The green chilies are optional, but I like to include them because they are a great flavor enhancer. And if you want the soup even spicier, use the hot green chilies instead of the mild.

Lots and lots of toppings are great served in side containers with the Taco Soup so your guests can heap on the ones they enjoy. I like to have ready, chopped onions and tomatoes, black olives, pickled jalapenos, shredded cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and Doritos chips (the scooping variety are the best) to either break up in the soup or scoop the soup you are eating.

To round out the meal I simply served a meat and cheese tray with a variety of cold cuts and cheeses, along with a loaf of fresh, French bread, sliced thin.

Capping off the meal for a dessert was a decadently delicious, rich and extraordinarily moist German Chocolate Cake compliments of my sister-in-law that will be a recipe well worth waiting for in a future column.

Until next week, from my kitchen to yours, happy cooking!!!

Creamy Potato Soup

Eight medium potatoes

One large onion, diced

2 cans chicken broth (about 14 ounces)

1 pint cream

1 stick butter

Peel and dice potatoes and put in slow cooker. Cover with chicken broth on low 6 hours or until tender. (If you need a little more liquid, add a little water). Prepare dumplings in separate kettle as referenced below. (I would make at least a double batch for this soup). When cooked through, drain and pour into potato and broth mixture. Add cream and melted butter and heat through. Salt and pepper to taste.

Flour Dumplings

1 cup flour

1 egg

1 tsp. baking powder

Enough milk to make sticky, about 1/4 cup.

Mix ingredients together until stiff. Boil water in large saucepan (I use 5-6 quart.) Drop dumplings into boiling water, cutting them off spoon about a half-teaspoon size. Once all are in the water let boil about three minutes. Drain and add to soup. (I usually double or triple this recipe for a large crock pot of soup, as they are so good.)

Taco Soup

1 ½ pounds lean hamburger

1 medium onion

2 cans stewed tomatoes

1 can pinto beans

1 can kidney beans

1 can white hominy

1 package dry taco seasoning

1 package dry Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing mix

1 can tomato soup

1 can green chilies (optional)

Brown hamburger with onion. Place in slow cooker and pour in the rest of the ingredients and let slow cook for 4 to 6 hours.