Friday Night is Homemade Pizza Night

Homemade pizza on Friday nights has been a tradition for me practically my entire life. Now granted, my mom disliked cooking and kind of “cheated” with frozen bread dough and canned sauce, but at least it wasn’t the frozen cardboard most people were eating in the 80’s! Some Fridays, we’d play board games while we ate our favorite meal of the week. Most of the time, we tried to talk my parents into watching TV, which was a special treat. Once the VCR became a part of our teenage lives, we moved on to it being movie night as well. On a side note, it was also the only night we drank soda and ate ice cream. Yes, times have definitely changed!

But back to the pizza… When I married, I brought this favorite food ritual with me. I quickly learned that making pizza dough was no big deal. The recipe I used the most required kneading and some rise time. I also had one that 30 minutes of prep for those days when I had more going on but it wasn’t as good. After several years, our homeschooling schedule changed and all of the sudden, I wasn’t home during the day on Fridays anymore. I tried making the dough ahead of time and freezing it after the first rise. That worked well…as long as I remembered to take it out of the freezer in the morning before I left. Then I stumbled upon a recipe for pizza dough made in a bread machine. Oh my!! It was the most amazing pizza crust I had ever made and very close to takeout. So chewy and flavorful! I threw all the other recipes out (well, not really) and haven’t used them since.

Pizza Dough (Bread Machine)

1 cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 1/2 cups bread flour
2 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
cornmeal, for sprinkling (optional, but recommended)

Place all ingredients except cornmeal into your bread machine according to your manufacturer’s directions. For my bread machine it is in the order listed above. Choose “Dough Cycle.” (It works fine to set it to start several hours later.)
Once dough cycle has finished, turn out onto a large pizza pan sprayed lightly with oil and then sprinkled with cornmeal. Pat and stretch dough out into a 14-inch round.

Pizza Sauce

1 cup can tomato sauce
1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons grated, reduced-fat Parmesan cheese

Combine all ingredients and spread over pizza dough.
Top with favorite  toppings and shredded mozzarella cheese.
Bake at 400°F for 20-22 minutes or desired doneness.

Another really delicious option is to make Spinach and Tomato Pizza. I’ve tried a couple different recipes which usually had you combine olive oil, garlic and herbs for your “sauce.” You then topped it with fresh spinach and fresh tomatoes. All of those options were very tasty. However, I ended up improvising one week when we got snowed in unexpectedly and I didn’t have fresh spinach or tomatoes on hand. The result was so popular, that’s what I have stuck with except for when tomatoes are in season.

I don’t really measure any of this. Just eyeball it. I drain really well one (15 oz.) can of petite diced tomatoes. Then I thaw out about 2 cups chopped frozen spinach in the microwave and squeeze the water out of it with paper towels. (After, it will be less than 1 cup of spinach. Don’t worry about that.) Combine the tomatoes and spinach in a bowl. Add some Italian Dressing, homemade if possible. (Maybe 1/4 cup?) Then mix in some grated/powdered Parmesan cheese to thicken it up a bit. Spread on crust. Top with cheese, mozzarella and feta are really good together on this. Sprinkle with Italian Seasoning if desired. Bake at 400° for 20-22 minutes.

Spinach and Artichoke Pizza is also good.  I topped my pizza crust with garlic & olive oil, artichoke hearts, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, mozzarella, feta cheese and sprinkled it with some dried basil. Bake as described above.

If seafood is your thing, you might want to prepare my Shrimp or Lobster Gourmet Pizza. My family declared it “the best ever” when I fixed it for them.

My Mediterranean Greek Pizza is another tasty option to try.

No matter what your flavor preference, I hope you too will enjoy the tradition of homemade pizza!

Photography Composition – Utilizing the 5 Kinds of Lines

Just as placing your subject on the ‘invisible’ thirds lines in your frame, the placement of the actual lines and curves in your photo can have a tremendous influence on how pleasing your picture is to look at. There are basically 5 kinds of lines, which you can emphasize individually or combine. Lines can be used to lead the eye to the point of interest and prevent the eye from wandering. They can put emphasis on distance or illustrate a relationship between foreground and background elements. Also, realize that using lines incorrectly can inadvertently lead the eye away from the point of interest.

The Five Kinds of Lines:

1. Vertical Lines can suggest dominance, strength and growth. Some examples include tall structures and trees.
It is best to try and keep vertical lines parallel with the sides of your photograph as much as possible. Vertical lines can cut an image in half if they are too close to the center of the frame.  Keep the Rule of Thirds in mind, especially when dealing with one dominate vertical line.

2. Horizontal Lines can convey peace, calm and a sense of rest. Some prime examples include fallen trees, the ocean, beaches and horizons. Just like vertical lines, horizontal lines should be kept as horizontal as possible. Also like vertical lines, the Rule of Thirds should be taken into consideration when dealing with one prominent line. Layering horizontal lines can strengthen the composition and generate patterns and rhythm.

3. Diagonal Lines can indicate action, stimulation and depth. Diagonal lines can especially help draw the eye through a photo. To prevent the photo from looking split, try positioning your diagonal lines so they begin slightly above or below the corner of the photo on at least one side. Square plates, utensils and straws come in very handy for creating diagonal lines in food photography.

4. Curved Lines or S Curves provoke a sense of gracefulness, elegance and balanced serenity. S curves don’t necessarily need to be S-shaped; any form of a winding line can be used. Some excellent examples include winding rivers, paths, the curve of musical instruments, shapely glassware and even the human body.


5. Converging or Crossing Lines will add a certain depth and flow to your photographs. They also help add a sense of distance. Some prime examples of converging lines are power lines, stairways and the infamous railroad tracks or road disappearing into the distance. Our eyes are naturally drawn to where intersecting lines meet. For an even stronger impact, position your subject close to the converging lines. Unless the converging lines are the point of interest in and of itself. Then there is no need for additional subjects.

Grab those cameras and go take photos of some lines!

Last Minute Dinner Rolls

Have you ever realized a half hour before dinner time that supper would be so much better with fresh baked bread? This recipe can be a lifesaver! Okay, so really only a meal saver, but you get the idea. I believe the original recipe came from a Taste of Home magazine about 15 years ago. It called for self-rising flour, which I never use. If you do, just omit the baking powder and salt. (By the by, if you haven’t tried the new, at least to me, baking powder without aluminum, you should. It tastes so much better than traditional baking powder. No metallic aftertaste!)

Even though the texture of these rolls aren’t as chewy as a traditional yeast roll, they are lighter and fluffier than a muffin. They are excellent with soups, stews or just with jam on them. I bet they’d be tasty with some herbs added to them as well.

Last evening, I made them buttermilk. It made the batter thicker than usual, so I thinned it down with water. Next time, I’d probably use 1/2 cup buttermilk mixed with 1/4 cup water. They sure were delicious!

Last Minute Dinner Rolls

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Combine all ingredients.
Fill 6 greased muffin tins half full.
Bake at 375°F for 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Photography Composition – The Rule of Thirds

Have you ever seen two photos of the same scene or object and thought one looked a lot better than the other one? Have you ever wondered why? Most of the time it is due to the composition of the photo rather than the subject matter. Once you know how to manipulate your composition, you will be able to consistently turn out superior photos.

Almost every book on photography you’ll ever read includes a blurb describing the infamous “Rule of Thirds.” Basically, the human eye is naturally drawn to a point about two-thirds away from the edge of the photo, either horizontally or diagonally.

Compose your photos so that the main subjects are located around one of the intersection points rather than in the center of the image. But why can’t we use the rule of fourths or fifths or some other number?? Thirds wasn’t just an arbitrary pick. The Greeks studied the most pleasing works of nature and discovered that most of them adhered to a specific proportion that could be described in a specific mathematical formula. (I’ll spare you the details!)

The thing we care about most is – does it make a difference? Well, get out your camera and let’s find out!

My first assignment in the Photography classes I taught always was:

1. Take a photo with the horizon placed in the middle of the frame.
2. Take a photo of the same scene with the horizon on one of the horizontal “thirds” lines (top or bottom) and then again using the other horizontal line.
3. Take a photo of an object (flower, cat, bottle, ball, whatever) in the center of the frame.
4. Take a photo of the same object on the right vertical “thirds” lines  and then again on the left one.

Okay, go do it! Seriously!! I did my assignments along with my students. I was shocked at how actually taking the photos “wrong” and then “correctly” on the assignments teaching composition really helped me grasp the concept more than just reading or talking about it. So, for comparison, here are my examples.

Since it can be difficult to compare them with the 3rds grid on them, here they are again.

What do you think? I personally like the horizon on the bottom 3rds line the best. However, sometimes that can depend on if you are trying to include more sky or more foreground. Notice how having the horizon right in the middle has a tendency to make the photo look more like an amateur snapshot that is in millions of family photo albums. That’s definitely not the look I’m going for!

Okay, let’s try the experiment using the vertical 3rds lines.

And without the lines…

See the difference?? Again, the middle placement makes it look more like a amateur snapshot. Shifting the birdhouse to the right or left definitely creates a more ‘artistic’ look. Also notice how which side you use also affects the image. I prefer the “negative space” created on the left side of the photo when placing the birdhouse on the right 3rds line. There may be times when including the branches better suits the overall composition though. Try to get in the habit of trying both sides. Occasionally, I can be surprised with an extra random shot becoming my favorite one of the day!

Are there times when you should break the rules? Of course!! The composition of an image can convey certain characteristics based on the placement of the main subject and the resulting amount of the space around it.
The subject in the very center resulting in an image divided into two equal halves suggests stability and strength, especially when photographing architecture or a taking a portrait.
The main object placed on one of the thirds can suggest dynamic equilibrium, balance or elegance.
The focal point being placed very close to the edge or cut into by the frame may suggest instability, movement, or an imminent sudden change.

Some other things to know: First, not everyone agrees that the 3 sections should be exactly equal. Again, more math. But using the basic 3rds rule is a good place to start. If you want to know more, look up “Golden Ratio.” Second, some cameras have “grids” in the viewfinder.  A lot of times they are NOT in the proper place for composition. I recommend doing the above exercise using the grid lines and then ignoring them, or turning them off if possible, and comparing your results.

Coming soon: Including the 5 kinds of lines in your composition to create even more exciting images.

Happy Snapping!

 

Chicken Marsala with Sun-dried Tomatoes

I don’t usually think of “Coastal Living Magazine” as a source for recipes. Maybe I should! This dish was an instant hit with the family and with those I have shared it with. As usual, I have altered it a bit to cut back on the fat content, but it is still a flavorful, restaurant-quality meal that is easy to prepare.

Chicken Marsala with Sun-dried Tomatoes

4-6 thin-sliced boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
salt and pepper
1-2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 (8-ounce) package baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons diced sun-dried tomatoes
1 cup dry Marsala
1/4 cup light cream

Combine the flour, salt and pepper in a food-grade plastic bag. Add the chicken breasts one at a time and shake to coat thoroughly between each addition.

Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil to pan; swirl to coat. (I actually spray my pan with an oil mister.) Add the chicken breasts, and cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden. Transfer chicken to a platter, and loosely cover with aluminum foil.

Add remaining 1 Tbls. oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon salt; sauté 5 minutes or until mushrooms begin to turn golden. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add sun-dried tomatoes and Marsala; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes or until slightly reduced. Stir in cream; simmer 2 more minutes. Return chicken to skillet, turning to coat with sauce; simmer until heated through.

Travel, mystery and bit of romance -The “On the Run” Series

Cozy mysteries are one of my favorite fiction genres. That is, a mystery reminiscent of the Golden Era of Detective Fiction (think Agatha Christie) without a lot of foul language, violence or bedroom scenes. Most take place in a small town with the hero stumbling upon body after body. Usually, as a series progresses, it becomes more and more absurd that one tiny little village can have so many murders. (Personally, I find the theory that Jessica Fletcher on “Murder She Wrote” was serial killer amusing. I mean, a small town of of 3,500 have 274 killings in 12 years?!?! Sounds suspicious to me!!) In my opinion, cozy mystery authors should take the Nancy Drew approach. Each book stands on its own so the series doesn’t give the impression of bodies strewn about. But, I digress.

One of my other favorite things to read about is travel destinations. It doesn’t matter to me if they are places I’ve been, which means I can picture them better, or new locations to explore. Imagine my joy when I found a series that combines both mystery and travel!!

The On the Run Series, which is easily one of my favorite modern set of books, is written by Sara Rosett. It can be classified as both “cozy mystery” and “international heist.” Zoe Hunter, our spunky heroine,  works a variety of odd jobs, including being a travel guide editor. (Dream job!!) When her ex-husband goes missing along with several million dollars after apparently killing his business partner, Zoe becomes a ‘person of interest’ according to the FBI. As she starts looking into the situations, she finds more questions than answers about her ex’s true identity. She travels from Dallas to Vegas to Venice in the hopes of piecing it altogether and clearing her name.

Even though each volume in the series concludes with the hint of more intrigue to come, they do tie up the loose ends of that title’s plot. That is something I greatly appreciate! I hate getting to the end of a book only to feel like I am no closer to solving the mystery than when I began it.

The first book in the series, Elusive, is FREE on most ereaders. And if you enjoy it and want more, buy the Boxed Set. It gives you #2 & #3 for less than purchasing them separately.

Zoe’s further adventures find her dashing about London, strolling through Paris, sneaking through villas on the Mediterranean coast, being chased through Rome, zipping along the icy roads of the Alps and being lied to in Edinburgh.

Grab your passports and come join the fun!!

 

Fish with Tomatoes and Caper Sauce

Monday evening is usually “fish night” at our house. This is a holdover from when we weighed in at Weight Watchers on Tuesdays. Yes, eating a light meal Monday night really did make a difference!

For years, the only kind of fish dish I knew how to prepare was fish sticks. Trust me, that is not considered light or healthy when you are trying to lose weight! We’ve discovered a few favorites, but this recipe definitely tops the list. I have prepared it with tilapia, hake, flounder and cod. Basically, any mild white fish. I usually serve it over Parmesan couscous.

Pan-Fried Fish with White Wine and Capers

1/4 cup dry white wine
1 (15 oz.) can tomatoes (use fresh when in season)
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp capers, drained
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp dried basil
1 to 1.5 pound uncooked tilapia fillets
1/2 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 spray cooking spray
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp light butter
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 medium lemon, cut in wedges (optional)

Combine first 6 ingredients, stirring well with a whisk; set aside.
Sprinkle fillets with salt and pepper. Dredge fillets lightly in flour, and coat both sides of fillets with cooking spray.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add fillets; cook 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; turn fillets, and cook 3 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Remove from pan.
Add wine mixture to pan; cook 30 seconds up to a few minutes, depending on how much you like your tomatoes cooked in a sauce, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat; stir in butter until melted. Spoon wine mixture over fillets; sprinkle with parsley. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.
Yield: 4 servings

Sandals All-Inclusive Resorts

We have had the privilege of traveling to several beach resorts over the years. We’ve tried privately-owned properties, hotel chain locations and Sandals Resorts. We are totally sold on Sandals All-Inclusive Resorts. We have been to their properties in The Bahamas, Jamaica and St. Lucia. All were impressive.

Regency La Toc, St. Lucia

Here are a few of the reasons we feel they are superior to other options we have tried.

They are “couples only” resorts. We have found this fact to be extremely important. While celebrating our 11th anniversary in Kauai, we had a family with several loud, obnoxious kids ruin our leisure time by the pool and a meal or two. Please note, this is also different than “adults only” properties. We’ve heard horror stories of single adults turning resorts into giant frat parties or swingers clubs. At each Sandals we have visited, there has been a quieter, more relaxing pool area, as well as a pool that offers games like water volleyball, trivia or “name that tune.”

Royal Bahamian, Bahamas

They are indeed, all-inclusive. Each property have several restaurants and bars to choose from throughout the day. You can partake of breakfast on your room’s terrace overlooking the ocean, enjoy burgers on the beach at lunch, cozy up to the swim-up bar for some afternoon refreshment, dine at an exclusive French restaurant for dinner, mosey over to the Italian bistro for dessert and sip a hand-delivered nightcap by the fire pit under the stars. All without adding a single cent to your bill.

Montego Bay, Jamaica

Even things like paddle boarding and snorkeling are included. (Spa services, scuba diving and privately catered dinners are extra, but all are totally optional.) Except for small purchase like souvenirs and extra suntan lotion, we never pay for more than what our original package included.

Royal Caribbean, Jamaica

The service is fantastic! Everyone is extremely polite, friendly and accommodating. They are at your beckon call if you need them or they will leave you alone if that’s what you prefer. Unless you have a room with a butler, there is no tipping allowed. Period. No matter how much someone has been inconvenienced to attend to a problem (fixing a mess plumbing issues, carrying luggage up a really steep hill, etc.) they all refuse any kind of gratuity.

Regency La Toc, St. Lucia

The more you go, the more you save! They offer a loyalties program that earns you discounts on future visits or free add ons like a sunset catamaran cruise.

Yes, I’ll admit it. My favorite part is being waited on hand-and-foot all week!

Ham and Bean Soup with Corn Bread

Soup is true comfort food. Finding one that is flavorful and yet super easy to make it even more comforting. One of the reasons I really like this recipe is because it is also so healthy. You mash some of the beans to make the thick broth rather than adding flour, corn starch or cream.

Healthy, easy and delicious?? Comforting indeed!

Ham and Bean Soup

3 (15 oz) cans great northern beans (rinsed & drained)
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups water
1 (15 oz) can carrots, undrained
8-12 oz cooked ham, cubed or diced
1⁄4 teaspoon white pepper

Rinse and drain beans. Mash approximately one can of beans in a slow cooker or large soup pot.
Place chopped onion in water and microwave until tender. (Or you can saute the onion in a bit of oil.) Add the water and cooked onions to the mashed beans and stir gently to combine. Add the remaining beans and rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Adding more water if necessary to cover all the ingredients. Heat on low 4-6 hours in a slow cooker or heat thoroughly on the stove.

We love cornbread, but a lot of recipes are either too dry or too high in fat for my liking. I played around with one of our favorite recipes to try and come up with a balance between the two. My family likes this version better than the full-fat one!

Low-Fat Cornbread

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup light butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/4 cups low-fat milk

Combine all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix just until moistened. Batter will be lumpy.
Pour into a greased 8-inch square baking pan.
Bake at 350°F for 35 minutes or until light golden brown on top. Serve warm or cool.

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My Photography Habit

“A camera” has been on my Christmas list numerous times over the years. I’ve snapped away with 110, 126 and 35mm film point-and-shoot cameras at various points in my life. Taking a photography class in high school introduced me to the world of SLR cameras and learning to actually capture something halfway close to “art.” My interest was further enhanced by working for several years in a camera store where I ran the photo printing lab.

After I was married, I discovered a website that not only let you post reviews of recipes you tried but also photos. My passion for food photography was ignited! Thankfully, by now, we were entering the digital photography era which meant it didn’t cost anything to take a dozen photos of a plate of muffins. My family quickly got used to me spending the first few minutes of dinner taking pictures of my plate if I tried a new recipe.

I later volunteered to teach a photography class in my kids’ home schooling co-op. I found you really learn a subject by having to teach it, especially when you force yourself to do the assignments along with the students.

In 2015, I accepted a friend’s challenge to take part in Project 365. It requires you to take at least one creative photo a day. It was a lot of fun and pretty easy…at first. Then as the days piled up, it became a little harder to find things to take photos of in a new, interesting way around the house or in the yard. However, it pushed me to learn how to use more features and settings on my camera, to look at ordinary objects from a different angle and even become more sensitive to how the changing light can affect the outcome of a photo.

   

As 2015 came to a close, I stumbled across a website that lets you sell your photos on commission. A lot of site require you to purchase a membership to join, which means you could pay a couple hundred dollars and never make any money selling. I decided to give Twenty20 a shot. The commission is small, but it is fun to make some spending money off of a hobby. I submit a mixture of photos that I take because I want to and ones the website suggest as being popular right now. I have shocked at what sells sometimes. This photo below has sold probably more copies than any other I’ve submitted! But, I guess shopping is one of America’s greatest past times.

Images with some type of human element in them sell the best. Unfortunately, since I’m home alone most days, it isn’t always easy to include a person in my pictures. One of the skills I’m working on improving is using my self timer and tripod to take shots of myself. It can be challenging, frustrating and very rewarding. That is one topic I hope to cover more in a future post.

Until then, Happy Snapping!!

 

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Amazing Wheat Beer Bread (ABM)

I love bread.

I adore bread.

I am totally infatuated with bread.

And this is one of my all-time favorites!

For the first 20 years or so of our marriage, I made bread by hand. My husband kept trying to convince me to get a bread machine, but I felt that hand-kneaded bread was so much better. After herniating a disc, I realized I either needed to “give in” or stop having fresh bread as much. I am a bread addict. There was no way I was giving it up. The contraption was purchased and recipes were tried. I must admit; they weren’t as bad as I thought they would be. Out of the plethora of loaves we sampled, a few recipes became permanent residents in my cookbook with this one earning the title of king.

It is amazing fresh.

It is fantastic toasted.

It is pure bliss toasted and slathered with real butter and honey.

Amazing Wheat Beer Bread (ABM)
Yield 1 1/2 lb loaf

12 oz. dark beer, room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
1 1⁄4 cups wheat flour
2 cups bread flour
2 1⁄4 teaspoons active dry yeast, 1 package (.25 oz)

Place all ingredients in machine in order given according to manufacturer’s instructions for 1.5 lb loaf and start machine.

If you wish to make traditionally baked loaves or rolls, select the dough cycle. At the end of the cycle, divide the dough and place in greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise until doubled. Bake at 350° for about 35-40 minutes or until done.
Or shape into rolls, cover and let rise until doubled and bake on a greased baking sheet at 375° for approximately 15 minutes.

 

Kielbasa Bean Soup – My favorite!

Until I was in my 30’s, the only soups I would eat were canned tomato and canned chicken noodle. It probably didn’t help that I hadn’t learned to like most vegetables or beans yet. Amazingly, when I forced myself to try them, I found out I actually *love* most beans and veggies! I now make a wide variety of soups, with this healthy and flavorful option being my absolute favorite.

The original recipe was from Weight Watchers. I have, as usual, tweaked it to better suit our taste and to make it more convenient to prepare. The original recipe had you use fresh carrots. They never seemed to be done though, so I switched to canned.

I haven’t tried it, but I’m sure it could be prepared on the stove rather than in a slow cooker. I usually serve it with Beer Bread…recipe to follow!

Kielbasa-Bean Slow Cooker Soup
Servings: 6-8

INGREDIENTS
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
5 chicken bouillon cubes
2 cups of water (about)
16 ounces low-fat smoked sausage (turkey kielbasa)
15 oz. canned pinto beans, rinsed and drained
15 oz. canned black beans, rinsed and drained
15 oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1-2 15 oz. cans carrots, undrained
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
14 1/2 ounces diced tomatoes, undrained (sometimes I double it)

DIRECTIONS
Chop the celery and onion and place in a microwave safe bowl or measuring cup with the bouillon cubes and enough water to cover. (Or you can use chicken broth) Microwave on high for about 5 minutes or until veggies are tender.
Meanwhile slice the kielbasa in to bite-sized pieces. Place in the slow cooker.
Add beans and carrots and cooked celery and onions. Add enough water/broth just to cover all the ingredients. Sprinkle Italian seasoning in and top with tomatoes.
Cook on low for 4-5 hours or until heated through.