Slow Cooker Taco Soup

My cousin Jeanna is my artistic and fashionista cousin. She helps people design their homes and I wish she was helping me to do so. Why can’t you have a piece of software that shows you what all the things you picked will look like together with your furniture in my new home?

When Jeanna married her husband Jon a few years ago, I jokingly said, “I guess you can’t join this family unless your name starts with a ‘J’.” You see, all my cousins in the Bourek side’s names start with the letter J – Jenny (aka Jen or Jennifer now), Jill, Jeanna, Jodi, and Jackson. Did I mention I also have an aunt Joyce and an uncle Jerry? Little did I know, my then boyfriend Jeremiah would become my husband.

Slow Cooker Taco Soup by Jon and Jeanna Moore
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1 lb. group beef, cooked
1 onion, chopped
1 – 16 oz. can chili beans with liquid
1 – 15 oz. can kidney beans with liquid
1 – 15 oz. can whole kernel corn
1 – 8 oz. can tomato sauce
2 c. water
2 – 14 oz. cans diced tomatoes
1 – 4 oz. can diced green chili peppers
1 package of taco seasoning

Place beef, onion, chili beans, kidney beans, corn, tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, green peppers, and taco seasoning in Crockpot. Cook on low for 8 hours. Pair with tortilla chips for a crunchy finish.

Notes:

  • Jeremiah and I use no salted canned goods and tortilla chip from the health food section. This left our dish a little bland. We topped our soup with a little cheese and fresh cilantro. I think also cooking the meat with the taco seasoning could have made it more flavorful.
  • I also wondered about maybe adding some black beans to the dish.

 

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Italian Quesadilla

One of the things Jeremiah and I really enjoy doing is wine tasting. We like to go on little day trips as well as while we are on vacation. A few of our favorite places are Somerset Ridge (just past the Louisburg Cider Mill on the Miami County Wine Trail), Van Till Winery and Family Farm (great wood-fired pizzas on the weekends just outside of Excelsior Springs), and Windy Wine Company (east of St. Joseph off Hwy 36). Another little winery in downtown Weston actually got us to join their wine club.

IMG_0247The first winery Jeremiah and I visited together was Pirtle Winery – located in a historic church just off Main Street. Downtown Weston has lots of great shops. I love the community food pantry and charming kitty cat outside the photography shop. This little town really isn’t any bigger than where I grew up but really developed tourism around wine tasting, local food, unique shops, and B&B stays. Once a quarter, the Weston Wine Company host their monthly book club…aka an excuse to drink wine and pick-up your free bottle. In August, the book featured was “What to Eat with What You Drink.” You don’t need to buy or even read the book, they give you the Cliff IMG_0295Notes version during the event. Since the book was about pairings, they had matched each of their wines with a recipe. One of our favorites was the Italian Quesadilla served with a semi-sweet red (Radiant Cut Wine). At the winery, they sell a pepperoni cheese. I told Jeremiah that I thought we should buy a block and use it with fresh basil. Jeremiah says that kicked it up a bit. This is our take on this non-traditional quesadilla.

Italian Quesadilla by Weston Wine Company (modified by Amber Bourek Slater)
IMG_03191 lb. ground Italian sausage (we used Scimeca’s turkey sausage)
1 apple (red preferred)
Fresh basil
Grated Parmesan cheese
Shredded mozzarella cheese (or pepperoni cheese if you can find it)
Flour tortilla shells (we like high fiber Mission shells)

Dice the apple. Cook the ground sausage and apple. Cover half a tortilla shell with sausage mixture, basil, and cheeses. Fold over. Cook on medium for 3 minutes. Flip and cook an additional 1 ½ minutes (or until golden brown).

Cookies with a Twist

One of my first friends in Kansas City was Megan. Like me, she was an old soul in a young body. We met while working on our Masters degrees at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. We also had a lot of fun exploring the city – dinners, plays, and concerts. Megan is so talented and has taught me so many things. I also owe the start of my nonprofit career to this lady. She helped me make a resume that visually popped. Her networking skills also helped me find my first nonprofit job as a grant writer. That job was one of the best teams I’ve ever worked on and a few of those fantastic women are still dear friends.

Megan is Martha Stewart. Not only is she an amazing cook but she and her husband are also master gardeners. They have turned their passion for gardening into a full-scale Kansas agri-business. If you are close, visit their Next to Nature booth on a Saturday morning at the Bonner Springs Farmers Market. They have everything from fresh seasonal produce to products made from honey. I love watching their business adventures on Facebook.

Megan_weddingI was lucky enough to be a bridesmaid for Megan and Chad’s wedding. Like all weddings, they had a hiccup right before their big day. Less than a week before their big day, the building where they were going to have their wedding reception was hit by a car. The good news is that structural engineers determined it was still safe to remain open. Their wedding end up going off without a hitch. And nine years later, they are still happily married.

For our wedding, Megan shared this recipe. I wasn’t sure what to think at first. Orange and chocolate chips? Sure, I’ve seen chocolate covered orange slices but I’ve never eaten them. But I trusted Megan. She’s Martha Stewart, right. I have to tell you, these cookies were so good I wish I had made a larger batch. I hope you love these super soft cookies as much as I did.

Orange Chocolate Chippers by Megan Gilliland
IMG_01601 c. shortening
1 – 3 oz. package of cream cheese
2 T. grated orange peel
2 c. flour
1 (6 oz.) package of chocolate chips
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt

Cream together shortening, sugar, and cream cheese. Add eggs, orange peel, and vanilla. Shift together salt and flour. Then, add to mixture. Fold in chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoons onto lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool and remove. Makes 4 dozen.

S’more Brownies

Who doesn’t love the flavor of s’mores. How do you like your marshmallows – lightly toasted or charred? On our honeymoon, our resort had complimentary s’mores one night. I told Jeremiah we had to go. He probably could have cared less but indulged my request. We got their shortly after it began and the line was pretty long. We stood in line for probably like 20 minutes to get our s’mores. You would not believe the amount of mosquito bites I got just to eat a s’more.

For our 1st anniversary, I made this recipe to take to my in-laws for July 4th. We ended up not going because of crazy rain. They are pretty tasty but not very healthy so I shared this recipe with my coworkers. Delicious when eaten warm.

Fudgy S’mores Brownies by Mandy’s Recipe Box Blog (via Pinterest)
Smores1 1/3 cup butter, softened
2 2/3 c. sugar
4 large eggs
1 T. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 c. baking cocoa
½ tsp. salt
1 c. Golden Grahams
1 ¾ c. mini marshmallows
4 oz. chocolate chips

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Add flour, cocoa, and salt. Pour into greased 9 x 13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. When finished, preheat broiler. Sprinkle with marshmallows and cereal. Broil for 1-3 minutes. Remove and top with chips. Cover with foil and let it stand for 5-10 minutes until chocolate begins to melt.

The Dress

I’m sure you all saw the story on the news last week about Alfred Angelo bridal stores closing last week amid bankruptcy. Probably tens of thousands of brides who have shelled out thousands of dollars for dress are now left hanging. As a somewhat resent bride, my heart just sank for these women. I remember the anxiety of dress shopping. First, there is the fear that nothing will fit when you go to try on dresses. I’ve never been a size 5 and bridal dresses are ever smaller than normal stuff you buy in the store. Then, there is the budget. I just go into shock when I see young women setting budgets for dress on “Say Yes to the Dress” at $3,500-$6,000+. For a dress you will wear only once? How much are you spending on the rest of the wedding?

I was very lucky my mom offered to pay for my wedding dress. Jeremiah and I paid for the wedding ourselves. I tell you what, every couple should have to do that. It really makes you think twice about what you are spending your money on and how many people you invite. Even small weddings aren’t cheap. There is food, a DJ, photographer, hair/make-up, favors, and the list goes on and on. I think we had a nice wedding and were we able to pay for it 100% without taking on debt. (We are both Dave Ramsey grads.) It also taught us some very important lessons in saving for a house. Just a little over a year after our big day, we will have the down payment for our dream home.

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Pictures of dresses that didn’t become “The dress”.

Back to the dress. My mom and I went three stores. The first store was Belle Vogue. Going here first was like when we decided to spend the first two days of our honeymoon at the JW San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa before staying at a HomeAway rental. The service at Belle Vogue was amazing, the lighting was great, and the dresses actually came in sizes that I could try on. Our second stop was Natalie M’s. In this store, the service was still good, lighting wasn’t as good, brides had to share the big mirror, and the dresses weren’t quite as nice material. I did really like an Alfredo Angelo dress in this store. Our final stop was David’s Bridal. Anyone who loves anyone should never let a bride go to this store. The service was terrible, the dressing room was too small, and the dresses are very plain.

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Mom, my sister Stephanie, and I when I picked “The Dress”.

At first, I just couldn’t get past the cost of the dress. I work at a nonprofit and this was the first wedding expense we were figuring out. I only showed pictures of me in the dresses to just a couple of people. Everyone awed when they saw me in the dress I ended up picking. I returned to my first two stores to try on my top three favorite picks. The moment I put back on my Stella York, I knew it was the dress.

I know this sounds a little crazy but one of the reasons I liked it was because this dress was handmade in Australia. I knew how well they paid their workers and that my dress was less likely to get caught up in customs. Even then, I nervously waited for a phone call throughout the month of March to tell me my dress was here. Patience isn’t my best virtue so I asked while picking up my bridesmaid dresses. The good news is that it had just arrived in the shipment that day. Since Jeremiah was with me, I scheduled a time to come back later that week and asked a dear friend to join me as my mom lives so far away.

Almost a year and half later, Alfredo Angelo files bankruptcy. I think about all those women who don’t have dresses and are out the tons of money they spent on the dresses. You know best case scenario is that they will get back pennies on the dollar. But it also made me think back to my friend Jen’s wedding.

Jenny and I are friends from college. Roommates by Residence Hall chance, we have lived together in three different places and remained friends (miraculously) for 20 years. God, I feel old as I realize this. Jen officiated my wedding. I was lucky enough to stand up for her 12? years ago. But Jen’s wedding also had a dress fiasco.

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Bridesmaid bonded forever

Jen hired a small local businesswoman to make her dress. This same woman was also making articles of clothing for her mother, bridesmaids, flower girl, ring bearers, and candle lighters. The day before Jen’s wedding, I arrived in small town Nebraska. I went to pick up my dress and my jacket still wasn’t done. I thought this was odd but the seamstress said she’s have everything ready the next morning. The morning of Jen’s wedding, Jen got a call while we were at the hair studio. It was the seamstress. The dresses weren’t ready yet but they would be ready at Noon. Jen left us bridesmaids to go get her hair done at another salon. All five bridesmaids started talking and figured out that three of our dresses weren’t done. When the dresses weren’t at the auditorium at 12:45PM, we deciphered a plan to get and finish them. We are so lucky that Jen has a cousin who owns a sewing machine store. (Thank you small town Nebraska). Two bridesmaids went to get the clothes. The rest of us hopped in a van heading over to her cousin’s house. Luckily, she has three sewing machines in her basement. We also took Jen’s mom and another bridesmaid’s mother as none of us bridesmaids had sewing skills. When the other bridesmaids arrived with the items, we discovered the problem was bigger than we through. The only things that were done was Jen’s dress, the flower girl’s dress, and two bridesmaids’ dresses. My dress was almost completely done. We decided to scrap the jackets and focus on finishing the dresses. One bridesmaid’s dress was literally still in pieces. But first, we had to finish Jen’s mom’s dress so we could send her back to the house to help Jen get ready. The next few hours were a whirlwind in which the boys’ vest became just bow ties. You’d be amazed how good the bridesmaids became with scissors and hand stitching. The bottom of dresses were sergered instead of properly hemmed. But we got it done. And thank goodness because the nicest thing I had packed was a black cardigan and the nearest major city to find something had a home football game so traffic would have been crazy.

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Photo by Joseph Sands Images

I am happy to report, Jen and Brad had a great Muppet themed wedding. In fact, their Muppet character Pez dispensers for kids are the reason Jeremiah and I had Minion Pez dispensers for kids at our wedding. My nephew Brock still talks about those Pez dispensers from Jen’s wedding. The cake was delicious and who could forget every possible flavor of pie. Although I wish I could have been there to help Jen get ready, I hope she had as much as fun as I did at the reception.

Here’s hoping all those brides currently in distress look back on this moment as just a little hiccup in planning the biggest day of their lives. The years of marriage is what’s most important, right?

Today, I share recipe from our wedding cookbook from these dear friends. Since Jen and the kids have allergies, I think you will enjoy this spin on Rice Crispy Treats. It’s corn syrup free.

Brad’s Rice Krispie Bars
1 c. sugar
1 c. peanut butter or Sunbutter
1 c. cane sugar syrup (Lyle’s Golden Syrup)
6 c. Rice Krispies
6 oz. chocolate chips
6 oz. butterscotch chips (optional)

Combine sugar and syrup over a medium heat to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and add peanut butter. Stir until blended. Pour sugar mixture over Rice Krispies. Mix until well coated. Then, spread into a greased 8 x 8 pan. Microwave chips until melted and spread over bars. Refrigerate until set.

Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings

The first time I met the Fox family was at Mythbusters Live. I’ve lived in Kansas City for about 15 ½ years. I barely ever run into people I know out and about. But since I met Jeremiah, it seems like we run into people he knows everywhere – Sam’s Club, the grocery store, dinner, and yes, even at shows. I think we also ran into an old coworker of his at Mythbusters Live.

Travis is the brother of Kelly (mentioned in a previous post). Jeremiah has been friends with the Fox brother since they were little kids. It’s actually really cool because everyone seems to get together around the holidays to celebrate Layla’s (our own niece) birthday. Travis and Molly’s son Lex is pretty close in age to our nephew Aiden. It’s nice to see a second generation of kids playing together.

I’ve made chicken and dumplings before but this is my favorite recipe. It’s easy-peasy since you can cook it in the slow cooker.

Crockpot Chicken and Dumplings by Travis and Molly Fox
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2 boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 T. butter
2 cans cream of chicken
1 can chicken broth
2 T. dried onion
1 T. parsley
4 Grands biscuits

Put chicken in Crockpot with butter. Add soups, broth, onion, and spices. Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours or high for 4-5 hours.

After it’s cooked, shred chicken and add back to soup. Cut biscuits into 9 pieces. Stir into soup. Cover and cook on high for 1 more hour.

Notes:

  • I used 2 T. of Lipton’s dry onion soup mix.

Carmelitas

Over the years, I have worked with a lot of amazing young people. This has included paid and unpaid interns as well as barely paid AmeriCorps members. These bright young minds bring energy to our work force and help us get stuff done that we want to do but just can’t do by ourselves because there aren’t enough hours in the day to do it alone.

Last summer, Maria was one of our interns. She worked in Community Engagement helping my co-workers prepare for a week-long youth leadership academy. This recipe is one of Maria’s favorite recipes her mother makes. I hope you enjoy this tasty but very rich dessert.

Carmelitas by Maria Sanchez
IMG_01041 ½ sticks of butter
¾ c. brown sugar
a pinch of salt
1 T. vanilla
1 c. old fashioned oats
1 c. flour
1 c. chocolate chips
1 jar of caramel topping
3 T. flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, butter, brown sugar, salt, vanilla, and oats together. Add half to the bottom of a greased 8 x 8 pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Mix caramel and flour together. Pour over chocolate chips. Crumble remaining oatmeal over caramel and return to oven for 15-18 minutes.

Coffee Cake

My aunt Linda made this tasty dish for my wedding shower as well as for the hospitality suite the weekend of my wedding. It kind of reminds me of a recipe my mom made when I was a kid. I’m not a nut person this recipe can be made with or without them.

I’m making it for my Volunteer Appreciation Celebration this week. I hope they enjoy it as much as I do.

Coffee Cake by Linda Vogel

Cinnamon-Crumb-Coffee-Cake

Photo from Pinterest

Topping
1 ½ c. brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. chopped walnuts

Cake
1 c. sugar
1 c. butter
2 eggs
3 c. flour
1 c. milk
½ tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla

Sift dry ingredients. Add milk, ½ c. melted butter, vanilla, and eggs. Mix well. Pour half into a greased 9 x 13 pan. Sprinkle with half of topping. Pour the rest of the batter on top. Sprinkle with remaining topping. Top with ½ c. melted butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Punch Bowl

When I was a kid, I remember my Aunt Joyce making this slush for a family holiday. All the kids wanted it but we couldn’t have any because it had alcohol. The next time my aunt made it, she didn’t put any liquor all her nieces could enjoy it as well. Probably ever since then, that’s how my aunts make it.

For those of you who attended my wedding shower, this was served as a punch in the bee hive container. Here’s hoping you have a baby shower, brunch, wedding shower, or summer party you can serve this tasty drink.

beehive

Photo courtsey of Pinterest

Fruit Punch/Slush by Joyce Miller
1 can frozen orange juice
1 can frozen lemonade
46 oz. can pineapple juice
46 oz. can apricot nector
1 – 2 liter bottle Sprite

Mix and serve. Add vodka if desired. Freeze for slush.

Notes:

  • I have a hard time finding a bottle of apricot nector in Kansas City grocery stores. I can usually find it sold in a six pack of cans near the tomato juice.

Goulash

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Look at this adorable card she made for Jeremiah’s birthday. He LOVES Minions and Stuart is his favorite.

My mother-in-law is super creative. She quilts and scrapbooks. Never a holiday goes by that we don’t receive a handmade card. So, I knew Lynn could take an item I found at a craft show and help me replicate it for our wedding favor.

Starbucks

We did our first look just outside the Starbucks in the Kansas City Overland Park Marriott. It was the venue of our wedding. Photo by: Joseph Sands Photography

Jeremiah and I went on our second date to Starbucks. It was after dinner at Bonefish Grill. We often debate if our first kiss was in the parking lot of the restaurant or at Starbucks. But we know we sat on the patio and talked for hours. Since we both love coffee, we go to Starbucks a lot for dates, meetings, or working on projects. Sometimes, it’s even motivation to workout. We also had three Keurig makers at one time. On any given day, we probably have between 100-150 K-cups in our apartment. What can I say, we like variety? That said, we do have our favorite flavors of coffee.Starbucks2

Lynn examined the sample I gave her and listened for my vision of having “Love is Brewing” and “Mr. & Mrs.” on each of our favorite kinds of coffee. Lynn searched the internet for a template and a video tutorial. Then, she made a template. Her scrapbooking friends even sent her some tools to add a little extra to the design. The next step was trips to Jo-Ann’s and Michaels. (Lynn is also price conscious so she helped me find some coupons to save us some money on the purple paper.) She scored all the paper so all we had to do was assemble them. It sounds simple but we spent almost an entire day making 60 of these K-cups. My sister and her friend Susan also joined us late in the day to finish the project.

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The “Mr.” was Donut Shop Regular. The “Mrs.” was Gloria Jean’s Hazelnut. We also made some without coffee for people like my mom who have a Keurig but don’t drink coffee.

 

This adorable little piece cost us about $1 each to make.

Today’s recipe comes from Lynn. Both our mothers forgot to bring recipe cards to the wedding but we knew what recipes we wanted them to share. Jeremiah was like, “I love my mom’s goulash.” I was like “I hate goulash.” He was like, “You have to try my mom’s recipe, it’s soooo good.” When I think of goulash, I think macaroni noodles with barely any meat and tomato sauce scooped with an ice cream scoop onto a lunch tray. Thank you, school lunch ladies, for making it so bland and gross looking. But I have to admit, Lynn’s recipe is really good. It has cheese. That’s what was missing in the version I had eaten in elementary school.

We don’t know for sure if the recipe is from his Oma (Grandma Martin) but we are guessing that his Oma probably made some sort of goulash as Lynn was growing up. Lynn’s parents meet in Germany as her father was stationed there in the military. In fact, I think Lynn didn’t move to the states until she was six years old. Goulash is typically a Hungarian dish but there are German versions too.

I’m really proud of Jeremiah because he made this dish all by himself. I was running late getting home from work so he started cooking without me. Normally we tag team cooking. I will tell you though to pay attention to the words “cooked macaroni”. Jeremiah didn’t know pasta doubles in size. So, needless to say, we then had some extra noodles cooked for another dish. He thought it was a little cheesier than his mom makes it but I thought it was just perfect.

Hamburger Goulash by Lynn Slater
IMG_01071 lb. ground beef
½ c. chopped onions
½ tsp. salt
3 c. cooked elbow macaroni
1 can (16 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 T. chili powder
½ tsp. pepper
2 c. Velveeta cheese cubed

Brown beef and chopped onion. Add spices and tomatoes. Add cooked macaroni and cheese. Cook until cheese melts.