Friday, November 29, 2013

Ultimate Crock Pot Mashed Potatoes

5 lb. potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 1/2 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. butter or margarine
1 c. sour cream or plain yogurt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/ tsp. ground pepper
1/2 to 1 c. milk, warmed

Place potatoes, chicken broth, and butter in crock pot.  Cover; cook on High for 4 to 4 1/2 hours until potatoes are tender.  Add remaining ingredients except milk.  Mash or beat potatoes until well blended.  Do not over mix.  Stir in enough milk for desired creamy consistency.  Cover and keep warm until serving time.  

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lemon Cookies

1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. powdered sugar

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Whip in vanilla, egg, lemon zest, and lemon juice.  Stir in all dry ingredients EXCEPT the powdered sugar together.  Roll heaping teaspoon of dough into powdered sugar.  Bake at 350 for 9-11 minutes on greased baking sheet.  Remove from oven and let cool for 3 minutes before transferring to wire rack.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Strawberry Delight

Crumb mixture:
1 c. flour
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. chopped nuts
1/2 c. margarine

Mix together and spread on cookie sheet.  Bake 15 minutes at 400 or until golden.  Spread 2/3 on bottom of glass 9x13 baking dish.  Do not use anything but glass.

2 egg whites
1 c. sugar
1 box frozen strawberries, thawed.  Do not drain.
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. lemon juice

Whipped Cream

Beat egg whites, sugar, strawberries, vanilla, and lemon juice together on high speed for 20 minutes.  DO NOT UNDERBEAT.  Fold in 1 c. whipped cream. 

Spread over cooled crumb mixture and sprinkle remaining 1/3  of crumb mixture on top.  Freeze until ready to serve.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Popcorn Balls

3/4 c. light corn syrup
1/4 c. butter or margarine
2 tsp. cold water
2 1/2 c. + 2 Tbsp. confectioner's sugar 
1 c. marshmallows
5 quarts (20 cups) plain popped popcorn (see here for a good recipe--thanks Lydia!)

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine corn syrup, butter, cold water, confectioners' sugar and marshmallows.  Heat and stir until the mixture comes to a boil.  Carefully combine the hot mixture with the popcorn, coating each kernel.  Grease hands with vegetable shortening and quickly shape the coated popcorn into balls before it cools.  Wrap with cellophane or plastic wrap and store at room temperature.  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Cheesy Chicken Breasts

4 boneless chicken breasts
1/3 c. olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 c. breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. paprika
1/4 c. parmesan cheese, finely grated
1/3 c. cheddar cheese, finely grated
1 Tbsp. parsley, chopped

In a bowl combine oil and garlic and let set for 15 minutes.  In a bowl, combine breadcrumbs, pepper, salt, and paprika.  Stir well.  Add parmesan cheese, cheddar cheese and parsley to the breadcrumb mixture and stir well to combine.  Dip chicken breasts into oil to coat on both sides, then dip into crumb mixture coating well on both sides.  Place chicken breast on greased baking dish.  Bake at 400 for 35 minutes.  Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Chewy Chocolate Walnut Cookies

1 c. butter
2 c. light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
18 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c. walnuts

Preheat oven to 350.  Grease cookie sheet.  Cream butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until very smooth and fluffy.  In a aspirate bowl, mix together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.  Incorporate the dry into the butter blend.  Blend well but do not over mix.  Add chocolate chips and walnuts.  Stir until blended.  Shape golf ball size pieces of dough.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Cookies will be soft when you remove them from the oven.  Let cool to set.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Easy, Moist Chicken Breasts

1 to 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon freshly chopped herbs (optional)
Olive oil
1/2 tablespoon butter
Pound the chicken breasts to an even thickness with the handle or flat of a knife.
Lightly salt and pepper the chicken breasts.
Mix about a half teaspoon of salt in with the flour along with a little pepper. Chop the herbs finely, if using, and mix in as well.
Quickly dredge the chicken breasts in the flour, so that they are just lightly dusted with flour.
Heat the sauté pan over medium-high heat. When it is quite hot, add the olive oil and butter. Let them melt, and swirl the pan.
Turn the heat to medium. Add the chicken breasts. Cook for just about 1 minute to help them get a little golden on one side (you are not actually searing or browning them). Then flip each chicken breast over.
Turn the heat to low. Put the lid on the pan. Set a timer for 10 minutes, and walk away. Do not lift the lid; do not peek.
After 10 minutes have elapsed, turn off the heat. Reset the timer for 10 minutes and leave the chicken breasts in the pan. Again, do not lift the lid; do not peek.
After the 10 minutes are up, take the lid off, and tada! Soft, tender, juicy chicken breasts that aren't dried out in the least. Doublecheck them to make sure there is no pink in the middle. If you want to be absolutely sure it is cooked, you can use an instant-read thermometer to check (the chicken should be at least 165°F). Slice and eat.

Chicken Enchiladas with Spicy Black Beans and Yellow Rice

1 lb. tomatillos, husked
1 white onion, peeled, sliced, quartered or whole
4 garlic cloves
2 jalapenos
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 lime, juiced

Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. chicken stock, store-bought
Chopped cilantro leaves
1 deli roasted chicken (about 3 lbs.), boned, meat shredded (I used this recipe instead)
Freshly ground black pepper
10 large flour tortillas
1/2 lb. Monterery Jack cheese, shredded
2 c. sour cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

On a baking tray, roast tomatillos, onion, garlic and jalapenos for 12-15 minutes.  Transfer the roasted vegetables and any juices on the bottom of the tray to a food processor.  Add the cumin, salt, cilantro and lime juice.  Pulse mixture until well combined but still chunky.

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until soft and caramelized--this should take 5-7 minutes.  Add the garlic and cumin; then cook for a minute.  Sprinkle on the flour and stir to ensure the flour doesn't burn then gradually add the chicken stock to make a veloute.  Continue stirring over a low simmer until the flour cooks and the liquid chickens.  Turn off the heat.  Add half of the roasted tomatillo chile sals, some additional fresh chopped cilantro and fold in the shredded meat.  Season to taste, with salt and pepper.

Change the temperature of the oven to 350 and begin assembling the dish.  Take a large baking dish and smear the bottom with some of the reserved tomatillo salsa.  Take the flour tortillas and briefly flash them over the stove-top flame (or put them briefly under the broiler if using an electric stove).  Using a shallow bowl, coat each tortilla lightly with the reserved salsa mix.  Put a scoop of the shredded chicken-enchilada mix on top of the tortilla followed by a sprinkle of the shredded cheese.  Fold the tortilla over the filling and roll.  Using a spatula, place the tortillas in the baking dish and continue to do the same with all the tortillas.  Finally, pour over some of the salsa and top with remaining shredded cheese.  Bake uncovered for about 30 minutes or until bubbly and cracked on top.

2 c. (about 1 lb.) dried black beans, picked over, soaked overnight
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot, soak beans overnight covered in water by 2 inches.  Drain and set aside.  In the same pot, heat the olive oil.  Add the onion, jalapeno pepper, garlic, and bay leaf and cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the beans and cover with water by about 1 inch.  Bring to a boil; reduce the heat.  Cover and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the beans are tender.  Remove the bay leaf and discard.  Season with salt and pepper.

2 c. long-grain rice
4 c. water
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 Tbsp. turmeric
1 tsp. kosher salt
1  bay leaf

Put all ingredients into a heavy-bottomed pot.  Stir well.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce the heat to a simmer.  Cover and cook over low heat until the rice has absorbed the water, about 15-20 minutes.  Remove the heat and let sit, covered for 5 minutes.  Discard the garlic and bay leaf.  Fluff with a fork.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Chewy Butterscotch Brownies

2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
1 3/4 c. packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla
2 large eggs
1 2/3 c. Butterscotch morsels, divided
1 c. chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl.  Beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy.  Beat in eggs.  Gradually beat in flour mixture.  Stir in 1 c. morsels and nuts.  jSpread into ungreased 13x9 inch pan.  Sprinkle with remaining 2/3 c. morsels.  Bake for 30-40 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pan on wire rack.  Cut into bars.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Chicken and Mushrooms

2 chicken breast halves
salt and ground black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. olive oil
8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 pinch salt
1/2 c. water
1 Tbsp. butter
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400.  Season chicken on all sides with salt and ground black pepper.  Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in an oven-proof skillet.  Place chicken in skillet and cook until browned, about 5 minutes.  Turn chicken over; stir mushrooms with a pinch of salt into skillet.  Increase heat to high; cook, stirring mushrooms occasionally, until mushrooms shrink slightly, about 5 minutes.

Transfer skillet to the preheated oven and cook until chicken is no longer pink in the center and the juices run clear, 15-20 minutes.  An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read 165 F.  Transfer chicken breasts to a plate and loosely tent with foil; set aside.  Set skillet on the stovetop over medium-high heat; cook and stir mushrooms until brown bits start to form on the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes.  Pour water into the skillet, and bring to a boil while scraping the browned bits off of the bottom of the pan.  Cook until water is reduced by half, about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Stir in any accumulated juices from the chicken into the skillet.  Stir butter into mushroom mixture, stirring constantly until butter is completely melted and incorporated.  Season with salt and pepper.  Spoon mushroom sauce over chicken and serve.

Granola Bars

2 1/2 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 c. whole almonds, coursely chopped
1/3 c. honey
1/4 c. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Between 1 and 3 Tbsp. peanut butter
1/4 c. packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 c. plus 2 Tbsp. mini chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350.  Line bottom and side of an 8-inch or 9-inch square pan with aluminum foil.  Lightly oil or spray with cooking spray.  Add oats and almonds to a small baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Stir and bake of another 3-5 minutes until lightly toasted.  Transfer to a large bowl.  

Combine butter, peanut butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and the salt in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Cook, stirring occasionally until butter melts and the sugar completely dissolves.  Pour butter mixture into bowl with toasted oats and almonds.  Mix well.  Let cool about 5 minutes, then add 1/4 c. of the mini chocolate chips.  Stir to combine.  Chocolate chips will most likely melt a little; this is fine--they turn into glue and help hold the bars together.  

Transfer oat mixture to lined pan; then use a rubber spatula or damp fingertips to firmly press the mixture into the pan.  Press hard and at least for one minute.  Scatter remaining 2 Tbsp. of chocolate chips over pressed granola mixture then use a rubber spatula to gently press them into the top. Cover; refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  Remove block of granola mixture from pan; peel away aluminum foil. Cut into 12 bars.

I prefer to freeze these, especially with the humidity of Hawaii.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Homemade Oreo Cookies

For the dough:

1 1/3 c. Cocoa powder
1 1/2 c. Flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 c. Sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla


1 stick butter, softened
1/2 c. Vegetable shortening
3 c. Powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Prepare the dough:  sift together the cocoa powder, flour, and salt.

Using a mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, then vanilla,  incorporating each ingredient before adding the next.  Add the dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Divide the dough into two pieces; place one piece between two lightly floured sheets of parchment paper and roll into a 1/4 inch thick rectangle. Repeat with other piece of dough. Refrigerate both rectangles, covered with parchment paper, until firm, at least one hour or up to several days.

Using a two-inch round cutter, cut the dough into 64 circles. Place the cookies about 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets and chill about 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Bake cookies until they are set and slightly darker around the edges, about 20 minutes.  Cool completely on wire racks.

Prepare filling: using a mixer, cream butter and shortening until fluffy.  Beat the powdered sugar and vanilla.

Flip half of the cookies upside down.  Top each with one level tablespoon of filling. Press the remaining cookies on top to make sandwiches.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Emeril's Hash Browns

5 medium baking potatoes (about 4 lbs), scrubbed clean
1/4 c. vegetable oil
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 c. diced yellow onions
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. Essence (recipe follows)
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

2 1/2 Tbsp. paprika
2 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp. dried leaf oregano
1 Tbsp. thyme

Place the whole potatoes in a large pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and summer until half-cooked and almost tender, about 15 minutes.  Drain and let sit until cool enough to handle.  Take the skins from the potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch dice.

Heat the oil and melt the butter in a skillet over high heat.  Add the onions and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.  Add the garlic, and cook, stirring, for 20 seconds.  Add the potatoes, Essence, thyme, salt, and pepper; cook without stirring, but shaking the pan occasionally to keep the potatoes from burning.
until the potatoes begin to color and crisp on the underside, about 4 minutes.  Turn the potatoes being careful not to mash, and continue cooking until uniformly golden.  

Great with meatloaf or as a breakfast side with eggs and bacon.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Lemon Cheesecake Bars

1 pouch complete crust from Krusteaz Lemon Bars Supreme Mix
8 oz. (1 c.) cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 pouch lemon filling mix from Krusteaz Lemon Bars Supreme Mix
1/3 water
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350.  Lightly grease 8x8x2-inch pan.  Press full pouch of complete crust firmly onto bottom of pan.  Bake 8 minutes (will be pale).  Place cream cheese and sugar in medium bowl.  Using an electric mixer, mix on low speed until smooth.  Add 1 egg and vanilla.  Continue to mix on low speed until smooth.  Pour cream cheese mixture evenly over hot crust.  In another bowl, stir full pouch lemon filling mix, water, and 3 eggs together using a whisk until eggs are well incorporated.  Pour lemon filling over cream cheese layer.  Bake 35-40 minutes or until center does not jiggle when shaken.  Cool completely and cut into squares.  Store covered in the refrigerator.  Makes 16 bars.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Pre-made Pancake Mix

8 c. all-purpose flour
6 Tbsp. baking powder
6 Tbsp. sugar
4 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. salt

Mix all together and store in air-tight container.  On serving day, combine the following:

2 c. mix
2 eggs
2 c. milk or buttermilk
2 tsp. vanilla

Monday, August 26, 2013

Crockpot Beef and Broccoli

1 lb. boneless beef chuck roast, sliced into thin strips
1 c. beef consumme
1/2 c. soy sauce
1/2 c. brown sugar or honey
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. cooled sauce from crock pot after being cooked
Fresh broccoli florets

1. Place beef in crockpot.

2. Combine beef consumme, soy sauce, brown sugar/honey, oil, and garlic.  Pour over beef.  Cook on LOW 6-8 hours.

3. Stir cornstarch and sauce from crock pot until smooth.  Add to crock pot and stir well to combine.  (If sauce is not thickening, try bringing your sauce to a boil over the stovetop with the corn starch mixture. Boil until desired consistency.)

4. Add broccoli to crock pot.  Stir to combine.  Cover and cook an additional 30 minutes on HIGH.  (The sauce has to boil for it to thicken.)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Crockpot Kalua Pork

4 lbs boneless pork butt or shoulder 
2 Tbsp Rock Salt
3 Tbsp Liquid Smoke
2 C. water
a few cloves of crushed garlic (optional)

Place all ingredients in crock pot. Cook on high 5-6 hours or low 8-10 hours. (Low is best.) Remove meat, cool for a bit and then shred with 2 forks.

Skim fat off from the liquid in crockpot and then add meat back into the juices to serve.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Puffy Omelet

(I made this when I was in a pinch when I had no milk to make pancakes.  

4 eggs
2 Tbsp.
4 beaten egg yolks
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. white pepper (optional)
1 Tbsp. butter

Beat egg whites with an electric mixer on high speed until frothy.  Add water; continue beating about 1 1/2 minutes or until stiff peaks form.  Fold in egg yolks, salt, and if desired, white pepper.  In a large ovenproof skillet heat butter until a drop of water sizzles.  Pour in egg mixture, mounding it slightly at the sides.  Cook over low heat about 6 minutes or until puffed and set on the bottom.  Bake in a 325 oven 10-12 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.  Loosen the omelet from the sides of the skillet with a spatula.  Make a shallow cut slightly off-center across the omelet.  Add filling ingredients as desired to larger side.  Cut omelet in half.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Buttered Noodles

2 1/4 c. uncooked egg noodles
1/4 c. mozzarella cheese
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 Tbsp. parmesan cheese
2 tsp. minced fresh parsley
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. pepper

Prepare noodles as directed on package.  Transfer to serving bowl. Mix other ingredients and toss to coat.  

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1/2 c. (1 stick) plus 6 Tbsp. butter, softened
3/4 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)
3 c. Quaker Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
1 c. raisins

Heat oven to 350.  In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium speed of electric mixer until creamy.  Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.  Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well.  Add oats and raisins; mix well.  Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown.  Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack.  Cool completely.  

Sunday, March 10, 2013


4 oz. can green chiles, not drained
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 clove garlic, quartered
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. cumin
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, NOT drained
1 chunk onion, approximately 2 Tbsp.
1/4 c. fresh cilantro

Put green chiles, lime juice, garlic, salt, and cumin in blender.  Press "pulse" 3-5 times.  Add tomatoes, onion, and cilantro in blender.  Press "pulse" 3-5 times.  For extra kick, add cayenne pepper and/or jalapenos.

Friday, March 1, 2013

French Dip Sandwiches

2-3 lb. beef chuck roast
2 c. (14.5 oz each) beef consomme
hoagie buns

Place roast in crock pot.  Pour beef consomme over roast.  Cook on LOW for 8-11 hours or HIGH for 5-7 hours.  Shred roast.  

Optional:  Melt Provolone or Swiss cheese on top.  Serve with baked potato wedges and fresh fruit.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Butternut Squash Soup

1 butternut squash that will fit in your crock pot
2 Tbsp. water
1 large yellow onion
1 Tbsp. olive oil or vegetable oil or unsalted butter
4 c. chicken or vegetable broth
1 tsp. light brown sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Sour cream, plain yogurt, or creme fraiche
Pinch of cumin seeds or pepitas, toasted in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant

Wash and dry the squash and place it in the slow cooker.  Add the 2 tablespoons of water.  Cover and cook on LOW until the squash is tender, 7 to 9 hours.  When the squash is done, a wooden skewer or a paring knife will pierce it easily and slip through to the center.  If the squash is not done, replace and cover and continue to cook on LOW, checking every 30 minutes.  Allow the cooked squash to cool.  Do not discard any liquid in the slow cooker.  

While the squash is cooking, peel and chop the onion.  In a medium-size non-stick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.  Set aside.

Slice the squash in half lengthwise.  Use a soup spoon to scrape out the stings.  Discard them.  Scoop out the cooked flesh and discard the shell.  In a blender, puree half the squash with half the onion and about c cups of the broth.  Pour the puree into the slow cooker and stir to dissolve any caramelized squash juices that have stuck to the bottom.  Puree the remaining squash and onion with the remaining 2 cups of broth and add to the cooker.  Add the brown sugar and season with salt and pepper.  Cover and cook on HIGH until the soup is hot, about 1 hour. 

Taste and correct the seasonings, if needed.  Serve the soup hot.  If desired, top with a dollop of sour cream, yogurt, or creme fraiche and a few toasted cumin seeds or pepitas.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mediterranean Lentil Soup

*  This was not met with "rave reviews" as is customary for the recipes I list here, but I am including it because it was good and I'm trying to do more meatless main dishes.

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, finely minced
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes, drained
2 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2 1/2 c. dried lentils, soaked in cold water 1 hour, drained and rinsed.
2 bay leaves
6 c. beef broth

2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/3 c. olive oil
2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley leaves
3/4 c. packed fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat olive oil.  Add onion, celery and garlic and cook and stir 5 minutes; do not brown.  Stir in tomato paste, tomatoes, thyme and lentils.  Add lentil mixture to slow cooker along with the bay leaves and beef broth.  Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 6 hours or until lentils are soft.  While the soup is simmering, prepare the vinaigrette.  Combine the vinegar, oil, parsley, and basil in a blender or food processor.  Process on high speed until smooth; set aside.  Stir vinaigrette into soup just before serving.  Season with salt and pepper.  Makes 4-6 servings.

*  Variation:  Alternatively, place all soup ingredients except vinaigrette to slow cooker.  Stir to combine; cover and cook on high 4 hours or on low 8 hours.

*  Note:  Add 1 to 2 hours to cooking time if you do not soak lentils before cooking.