Showing posts with label slow cooker. Show all posts
Showing posts with label slow cooker. Show all posts

03 February 2016

Slow Cooker Sausage & Bean Soup

I had half a pound of raw sweet Italian sausage in the fridge, leftover from the "Tomatoey Macaroni & Bean Soup," and while at first I was all "I'll make a slow cooker Italian sausage pasta sauce all chunky with vegetables and heavy on the garlic" I actually ended up making a soup, because soup is definitely in season now ... and I'm not done experimenting with grilled cheese. The Husband picked up a lovely hearty loaf at Brooklyn Baking Company and it toasts up just wonderfully. Vastly superior to the "farmhouse" white I'd picked up in the Stop & Shop bread aisle.

Anyway, this soup tastes pretty great, is easy to prepare, and reheats well. To make it even easier, I did most of the prep -- chopping, browning, etc -- the night before and just dumped everything into the slow cooker the following morning. I had originally intended to throw the zucchini in with everything else at the start of cooking, but then I thought it might go a bit squishy and no-one wants squishy zucchini. Twenty minutes at the end was just enough time to soften (but not squishify) the zucchini.


Slow Cooker Sausage & Bean Soup

Yield:4-6, depending on appetite

Ingredients

  • ½ lb ground sweet Italian sausage
  • ½ finely chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 15.5 oz can Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 14.5 oz can crushed tomatoes [Muir Glen]
  • 1 cup finely chopped carrots
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery
  • ½ Tbsp salt-free Italian seasoning
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups low-sodium fat-free chicken broth [Pacific Foods]
  • 1 cup chopped zucchini
  • Salt & pepper, as desired

Instructions

  1. Brown sausage in a hot skillet. Transfer sausage to slow cooker. Drain oil from skillet. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring regularly, until onion is translucent.
  2. Put onions, garlic, beans, tomatoes, carrots, celery, seasoning blend, bay leaf, and broth in with the sausage. Cover and cook on Low for 8-10 hours.
  3. Add zucchini, stir, and cook for another 20 min or until zucchini is desired tenderness.
  4. Remove bay leaf, season to taste, and serve.

29 January 2016

Slow Cooker Lemon Caper Chicken Thighs

Boneless chicken thighs combine perfectly with bright flavors like lemon, white wine, and capers to create a quick prep, no-fuss meal perfect for a lazy winter afternoon. Just put all the bits in your slow cooker, turn it on, and go about your business for 4-6 hours. That's just about long enough to become thoroughly addicted to the BBC Scotland crime drama Shetland, by the way.


Slow Cooker Lemon Caper Chicken Thighs

Yield: Serves 3-6, depending on appetite

Ingredients

  • 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs, well trimmed
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp capers, drained
  • 8 sun-dried tomato halves, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ cup Sauvignon Blanc or similar dry white wine

Instructions

  1. Nestle chicken thighs at bottom of slow cooker insert. Sprinkle with shallot, garlic, tomatoes, capers, and seasoning blend.
  2. Whisk together wine and lemon juice. Pour around the thighs, trying not to get it on the thighs, because you don't want to wash away the seasoning blend.
  3. Cover and cook on Low 4-6 hours or until chicken's internal temperature reaches 165°F.
  4. Remove chicken from slow cooker and, if desired, turn the juices into a sauce by whisking in a cornflour slurry.

20 January 2016

Slow Cooker Tomato & Artichoke Chicken

Last time I was at the warehouse store (to buy vitamins and salad mix and only those things), I picked up an enormous (35 oz!) jar of marinated artichoke hearts to "put on salads and things." While I've yet to actually put them on salad, they have made their way into my slow cooker. With chicken. And tomatoes, of course. The three just work so well together and make one of my favorite flavor combinations. (A little wine doesn't go amiss, either).


Slow Cooker Chicken With Tomatoes & Artichokes

Yield: 3-6, depending on appetite

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 2 cups drained marinated artichoke hearts
  • 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • ½ cup Sauvignon Blanc or similar dry white wine
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend
  • 6 skin-on bone-in chicken thighs

Instructions

  1. Mix together onion, artichokes, tomatoes, white wine, garlic, and seasoning blend. Pour into the slow cooker insert, if using right away. Otherwise refrigerate until ready.
  2. Trim the chicken thighs so that the skin just covers the tops of the thighs like a little
    blanket.
  3. Nestle the chicken thighs in the artichoke mixture, skin side up.
  4. Cover and cook on Low 6-8 hours or until chicken reaches 165°F.

(To save time, and knowing I'm not at my best in the mornings, I combined all the artichoke mixture ingredients in a food storage container the night before and then just poured it into the slow cooker the next morning. I'd like to think this helped give the dish a greater depth of flavor, but I might be reaching).

You could, of course, remove the skin entirely from the thighs but then you'll probably want to pour the artichoke mixture over them so they don't dry out in the slow cooker. I know, it seems impossible food should dry out in such a steamy environment but it has happened to me before so I try to make sure all meats are topped with something juicy -- like sauce or skin -- to keep them moist. The fat melts out of the skin, anyway, flavoring the rest of the dish, and the skin almost disappears into the flesh so there's no need to fear the dread "slimy chicken."

We ate the chicken in shallow bowls with garlic knot rolls for sopping up the sauce, but you could be more "healthful" and have it over whole wheat couscous or quinoa pilaf.

17 January 2016

Slow Cooker Peanut Chicken

When I put Pillsbury's "Slow-Cooker Spicy Chicken in Peanut Sauce" on this week's menu plan I wasn't really thinking about how The Husband might react to it. But, the week moved along and it was the only supper left unmade, I started to fret. Cumin? Cinnamon? Chiles? Peanut butter?


Oh, he was going to hate it.

But he didn't. Except for the peanut garnish (which was too crunchy), he thought the dish was fine and would eat it again. Hooray. I quite liked the dish myself, although I found it more aromatic than flavorful. Other cook's comments on the recipe suggest I am not alone in this, so I might follow a few of their suggestions next time (yes, it's worth making again) and use more peanut butter (maybe a few tablespoons of PB2 stirred into the amount of peanut butter already called for?), more garlic, and add a squirt of sriracha.

13 January 2016

Too Tired Chicken Enchiladas

Last weekend, I had a pound of thawed boneless skinless chicken breasts in the fridge that were nearly at their eat by date and I still had no energy to do anything with them. So I tossed them in the slow cooker with a tablespoon or two of Penzeys salt-free Arizona Dreaming seasoning blend and a jar of salsa and just let them cook away for six or so hours. (Seriously, I wasn't keeping track of things so it could very well have been ten hours). At the end, I shredded them, mixed in half a can of chickpeas (the other half having gone into salad earlier in the week) and shoved it all in the fridge until I was sufficiently motivated to make a proper dish out of it all.


There are probably lots of things I could have done with the shredded chicken and I'm sure Pinterest is full of ideas, if you want to go take a gander, but I just made up a pan of enchiladas and called it good enough. I simply mixed the shredded chicken and beans with enchilada sauce, cilantro, and crumbled queso Cotija then spread the mixture down the middle of multigrain tortillas, rolled the tortillas up, popped them in a rectangular baker, covered them with more enchilada sauce and Cotija and baked them at 425°F until everything was brown and bubbly.

These "enchiladas" were surprisingly good and even reheated pretty well for lunches, so hooray!

16 December 2015

Slow Cooker Tuna Casserole

This slow cooker casserole is based on a Betty Crocker's "Easy Slow-Cooker Turkey Tetrazzini" recipe, but I've adapted it to use tuna, more vegetables, less cheese, and no wine. Also, the original was pretty high in sodium, so I tried to use lower sodium ingredients where possible here (it could easily have been even lower sodium, but I couldn't be arsed running to the store "just" for low sodium soup and tuna) and omitted the salt the original recipe called for. The finished dish certainly didn't taste bland, so don't worry about missing the salt.

Just one of those easy slow cooker dishes that creates a lot of recycling :)

Slow Cooker Tuna Casserole

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 10½ oz can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1¼ cup low-sodium fat-free chicken broth
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 5 oz cans solid white albacore in water, drained and flaked
  • ½ cup shredded Italian cheese blend
  • ½ cup chopped white onion
  • 4 oz jar chopped pimientos, drained
  • 6.5 oz can no-salt-added sliced mushrooms, drained
  • 2 Tbsp dried parsley
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 6 oz uncooked spaghetti noodles, broken in half and then half again
  • 1 cup frozen peas

Instructions

  1. Lightly coat slow cooker insert with cooking spray or olive oil.
  2. To insert, add soup, broth, cream, tuna, cheese, onion, pimientos, mushrooms, dried parsley, garlic powder, thyme, and pepper. Stir well.
  3. Add broken noodles and stir until just combined. Try to poke the noodles down so they're as covered in liquid as possible.
  4. Cover and cook on LOW 4 to 5 hours until noodles are tender, stirring once about halfway through. About 15 minutes before serving, stir in the frozen peas.

I forgot to add the parsley so I stirred it in at the halfway point.

If you're not around to stir it at the halfway point, I wouldn't worry about it too much. Just be sure to give it a real good stir when you add the peas.

The original recipe just adds the peas in with everything else, but after four hours in the slow cooker I found they lost they're bright green color and had, unsurprisingly, gone pretty mushy. Popping them in at the end helps retain their color and body.

Because the original Betty Crocker recipe is so easy to modify, I'm kind-of tempted to try another variation with chicken, spinach instead of peas, and lots more peppers ... Hmm. There's always next week? No, that's Christmas week. The week after that? Hrm.

12 December 2015

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

It may have been 61°F today, but I still went ahead and made a slow cooker beef stew. It had come out pretty well when I threw it together last week so I'd stuck it on this week's menu plan (along with the fire-roasted tomato and white bean soup), completely disregarding the forecast spring-in-December weather.

Anyway, this was a good stew. Rich, hearty, and filling without being stodgy. The meat was meltingly tender, but the vegetables weren't mushy at all and had kept their own flavors, rather than becoming muddled and tasting generically stewy. You know how sometimes you make a slow cooker dish and after eight hours, all the ingredients in the pot have kind of muddled together and don't really taste like themselves anymore? "Is that squishy orange blob a carrot? Don't know. Just tastes like stew." That didn't happen here.

Hurrah.


I served the stew in bowls I'd made from leftover Pillsbury Grands! (Why the exclamation mark? Is it not enough to simply be grand?) biscuits. I followed the instructions provided in the "Grands!® Biscuit Bowls with Chili" recipe. As a technique, it works pretty well, but I'm not sure it is superior to simply hollowing out a bakery-bought sourdough boule. Certainly, I don't think I'd go out and buy a biscuit tube just to make them ... but I had two raw biscuits leftover from the waffled grilled cheese and biscuit bowls sounded like a fun experiment.

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

Yield: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 lb stew beef, cut into small cubes
  • 12 oz chopped white potatoes (peel or don't ... the power is yours)
  • 3 oz chopped carrot (ditto about peeling)
  • 3 oz chopped celery
  • 3 oz chopped yellow onion
  • 4 oz sliced white mushrooms
  • 14½ oz can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 Tbsp Penzeys beef soup base
  • 1½ tsp Worcestershire
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup white whole wheat flour

Instructions

  1. Layer potatoes, carrot, celery, onion, and mushrooms at bottom of slow cooker insert. Add beef. Top with fire-roasted tomatoes and garlic.
  2. Whisk together hot water, soup base, Worcestershire, pepper, and flour. Pour over tomatoes.
  3. Cover and cook on low for 8 hrs. Stir well before serving.

I know one cup of stock doesn't seem like enough liquid but trust me -- the vegetables and meat will release a lot of liquid as they cook. Anyway, we want a thick stew and not a brothy soup, right?

06 November 2015

Spicy Slow Cooker Barbecue Chicken

I keep meaning to menu plan, but then Life Happens and it's another week of catch-as-catch-can meals. I knew there was a package of boneless skinless chicken thighs in the freezer. I thought there was a partial bottle of barbecue sauce in the fridge. Garlic and onions are always on hand. We'd have garlicky slow cooker "barbecue" chicken for supper! Except, after I'd already put the chicken, garlic, and onion in the slow cooker, I realized there was no barbecue sauce in the fridge ...

Erk. So I threw a sorta-barbecue sauce together really fast, dumped it over the chicken, and skedaddled off to work. When I came home that evening, the scent that hit me as I opened the front door just made my mouth water! And what did it taste like? A bit like an Asian(ish) barbecue? A little spicy, a little sweet, and so savory. I'd definitely do it again!


Spicy Slow Cooker Barbecue Chicken

Yield: 2-4 servings, depending on hunger

Ingredients

  • 4 frozen boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 6 cloves garlic, bashed
  • ¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • ½ cup low-sodium ketchup
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ½ tsp ground ginger root
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes

Instructions

  1. Place frozen thighs at the bottom of the slow cooker insert. Top with onion and garlic.
  2. Whisk all remaining ingredients together and pour over chicken.
  3. Cover and cook on Low 8-9 hours.

Yes, I used frozen chicken in this recipe. I know some people are really skittish about doing that, and I used to be, but I've found my slow cooker cooks hot enough on Low that we're unlikely to get food poisoning. Also, starting with frozen meat means that the long cook time (after 8 hours of cooking, mine usually sits at Warm for 2 hours) will not ruin the chicken. Using thighs instead of breasts helps, too, as thighs are simply more forgiving.

22 April 2015

Slow Cooker Salsa Swiss Steak

Sometimes, I basically just type the contents of my kitchen into "the Google" and see what I get. This week, I got Betty Crocker's delicious "Slow-Cooker Salsa Swiss Steak."


I used a bag of frozen sliced peppers and onions instead of fresh, but otherwise followed the recipe to a T with pretty tasty results. The meat was as tender as pot roast and the sauce was rich and flavorful ... but, I admit, it could have used a couple cloves of garlic. What isn't improved by a little garlic, though?

17 April 2015

Succulent & Savory Slow Cooker Country-Style Ribs

My mom used to bake bone-in country-style pork spare ribs in her big blue and white flowered Corningware dutch oven that, I swear, were so tender and succulent that they just fell off the bone. We'd eat them with peas and mashed potatoes covered in the thick, rich tomato-y gravy.

And I do not have her recipe. And I wanted to use a slow cooker, anyway. So I turned to the Internets and found a delicious-sounding recipe at The Southern Lady Cooks. I added a couple dashes of liquid smoke, as one of the commenters suggested, and let the ribs soak overnight in the sauce before I put everything in the slow cooker.

So my best shot was potato-centric :( They were good garlicky mashed potatoes, though.
This is really my favorite kind of slow cooker recipe -- just dump everything in the slow cooker, go away for a good long time, come back to pure unmitigated delicousness.

Saucy ingredients ;)
The ribs were very good -- tender, flavorful, and falling off the bone. The Husband thought they were a little messy, but ribs can be. My only complaint was that I thought they could use a little heat -- maybe a squirt of sriracha in with the other sauce ingredients next time.

Tender, fall-apart ribs.
And, of course, I still need to get my Mom's recipe!


16 February 2015

Simple Slow Cooker Steel-Cut Oats

I'm enrolled in a life-style modification program at local cardiology center and I'm really enjoying it. The physician assistant I see is very kind and has, so far, managed to make the program seem fun and interesting. Currently, we're focusing on adding good sources of whole grains and fiber to my diet in ways my sensitive gut will tolerate. Oatmeal seems just the ticket -- steel cut oats are easily digested, rich in dietary fiber, have a low glycemic index, and are a good source of protein.


The PA recommended microwaving steel cut outs for a quick breakfast, but I've slow cooked them in the past with good results and that's what I decided to go back to. I don't cook the oats with much in the way of added ingredients or any sweeteners, for that matter, as I prefer to add those things when I reheat them.

Slow Cooker Apple Almond Oatmeal

Yield:Approximately 5 1-cup servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • 4 cups Almond Breeze Original Unsweetened Almondmilk Coconutmilk Blend
  • 1 cup diced unsweetened dried apples
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Coat slow cooker insert with cooking spray. Add all ingredients and stir to combine.
  2. Cook on LOW 6 hours, stirring occasionally.


When I reheated the oatmeal, I stirred in a little more almond-coconut milk to loosen it up and sprinkled it with flaked almonds and ground flaxseed. I didn't add any sweetener as the oatmeal seemed sweet enough from the apples and almond milk blend.

Why almond milk? The PA recommended it as unsweetened almond milk is low calorie, contains no saturated fat or cholesterol, contains vitamins E and B12 as well as healthy fats that may help reduce my bad cholesterol levels. I'm not sure I'm ready to add the stuff to my tea, but it tastes just fine in oatmeal!

07 January 2015

Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore(ish)

Slow cooker chicken cacciatore(ish) over noodles. Everything but the mushrooms from the freezer or pantry, hurrah. (And it tasted pretty good, too!)


Ingredients: Frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts, pepper and onion strips, sliced mushrooms, Italian seasoning, pizza sauce, glug of red wine, noodles.

I don't like to cook boneless skinless chicken breasts in the slow cooker as I think they tend to come out overdone and mealy-textured. Cooking them from frozen seems to help somewhat, what they're still a bit mealy. They're probably work okay in less time-intensive slow cooker recipes, but I leave the house at 8 and don't return home again until 5:30 and so whatever I'm slow cooking will cook most of that time (my slow cooker has a "keep warm" setting that works for up to two hours and I try to take advantage of that).

Boneless skinless chicken thighs ... now those were made for slow cooking! But breasts were what I had in the freezer and so that is what I used. The sauce was very rich and flavorful, anyway, and helped disguise chicken somewhat.

We ate the chicken over these funky tubular corkscrew "artisan" noodles I'd bought on clearance at Williams-Sonoma last winter. I'd yet to find a dish they go particularly well with and had just taken to ignoring them. Happily, they are all gone now and I can stop feeling guilty about preferring boring ol' grocery store penne to them.

12 October 2014

Slow Cooker Season! Country-Style Pork Ribs

Trying to use my slow cooker more consistently this fall. Not sure I'll go so far as to declare Slow Cooker Mondays or something like, but I do want to make the effort and use it once during the work week because it's the surest way to guarantee food on the table when I arrive home from work all HANGRY and tired.


This past Friday, I made Pillsbury's "Slow-Cooker Country-Style Pork and Onions" and the ribs turned out so well that we both took seconds which is not a thing that happens very often.

That said, I have questions about the recipe and am not sure I'd make it quite the same way again. Was it necessary to precook the onions? For what purpose was I directed to flouring the ribs? No and none, I think. Next time, I'm inclined to throw the onion in raw and skip flouring the ribs. I'll just add the sage into the sauce mixture -- doubling the amount of sage -- and I might swap the broth out for beer.

Anyway, it's a completely simple and darned tasty throw-together slow cooker dish that I recommend you try. Even if it doesn't photograph well at 6 pm in my badly lit kitchen!

Floured ribs.

Ribs topped with tender onions. See how the flour has come off  the ribs where the onions touch them?

Ribs and onions covered in condensed French onion soup, gravy mix, and water.

10 October 2014

Slow Cooker Red Cabbage With Apples & Cinnamon

I was musing over possible ways of combining apples and cinnamon for November's Improv Challenge and I thought "What, in the autumn, goes really well with apples and cinnamon?" I came up with two definite possibilities -- winter squash and cabbage. Conveniently, there was a red cabbage and turban squash lurking in the kitchen from my last impulsive shop at the farmers' market. What can I say? Turban squash are adorable and red cabbage is my favorite cabbage. (What do you mean? Normal people don't have favorite cabbages?).

Anyway! I decided to start with the cabbage-apple-cinnamon combo since I wanted to use my slow cooker (oven was occupied by what, ultimately, turned out to be The Most Disappointing Bundt Cake) and knew, thanks to making "Bavarian Red Cabbage" that it would probably work out okay.


Slow Cooker Red Cabbage

Yield: 4-6 servings

Prep Time: 00 hrs. 15 mins.

Cook time: 8 hrs. 00 mins.

Total time: 8 hrs. 15 mins.

Ingredients

  • 1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 large Gala apples, peeled cored and chopped
  • 1 small red cabbage, cored and shredded or chopped small
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp peppercorn mélange, slightly crushed
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 2-inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

Instructions

  1. Put cloves, peppercorns, and bay leaf in a spice bag or tea ball or tie up in a bit of cheesecloth so you don't later accidentally bite down on a whole clove.
  2. Add all ingredients except butter to the slow cooker insert. Stir.
  3. Dot with butter. Cover and cook on Low for 6-8 hours.

After eight hours in the slow cooker, the apples and onions seem to completely disappear into the cabbage. The cinnamon scent is pretty pronounced but works well with the cider vinegar's tangy scent. I'd say this would be nice with crunchy crackling roast pork. I ate it first with bratwurst and spicy mustard and later with "Swedish" flavored (caraway and mace) meatballs. It was delicious both ways ... and even when cold and unaccompanied during a late night snack scavenge.

However, while I enjoyed the cabbage, in the end it is just too similar to my Bavarian Red Cabbage to be submitted as a new recipe for November's Improv Challenge. On to the turban squash!

25 September 2014

Week Day Comfort Food: Slow Cooker Pot Roast

Terrible hankering for pot roast when I was planning out this week's menu -- blame the turning leaves and cooler breezes -- but I couldn't quite figure out which pot roast recipe to use. And then I decided "To heck with it! I can't go wrong chucking random roastie ingredients in the slow cooker!" So that's what I did. And it was turned out pretty darn fabulous.


Slow Cooker Pot Roast
Serve 2, with lots of leftovers for soup or whathaveyou

Ingredients
3 lb boneless chuck roast
1 small red onion, halved and sliced
6 cloves garlic, crushed
4 oz sliced white button mushrooms
2 Tbsp tomato paste
[Amore Tomato Paste Double Concentrated Tube]
1 envelope onion soup mix [Lipton]
1 bottle stout [Guinness 250 Anniversary Stout]
As many chopped carrots and baby potatoes as will line the bottom of your slow cooker insert

Directions
Arrange carrots and potatoes at bottom of slow cooker insert.



Add with roast. Top with mushrooms, onions, and garlic.



Whisk stout, onion soup mix, and tomato paste together and pour over everything.

Cover and cook on LOW for 8-10 hrs.

Remove meat and vegetables to a warm oven. Whisk cornstarch and water together to make a slurry and whisk into the juices at the bottom of the slow cooker. Cook on High for 10 minutes or until thickened. Serve.




This roast made more than enough for two for supper so I shredded the remaining meat (we ate all the veg) and made a really tasty beef barley soup with frozen mixed vegetable blend, frozen pearl onions, more mushrooms, quick-cooking barley, leftover gravy, broth, bay, thyme, salt, and pepper.

22 May 2014

Sunny Spring Sunday, Slow-Cooker Style

Sunny spring Sundays mean (much) more time spent in the garden and (much) less time spent in the kitchen so meals need to be simple, no fuss ones. Made-ahead pasta salads are great, of course, as are big ass tossed salads and grilled things, but the slow cooker deserves some love.

I've made BHG's "Chicken Drumsticks with Barbecue Sauce" a bunch of times now and, with each iteration, I make the recipe a little bit simpler to the point that, currently, I don't doctor the sauce at all. Just broil the drumsticks to render most of the fat out of the skin, then pop them in the slow cooker, and cover them with whatever bottled sauce is on hand.


My mother always used Kraft (original flavor) barbecue sauce when she made barbecued chicken and I still have a soft spot for the product, but find it too sweet now. Some of that may be do to changes to my palate as I grew up, but I suspect a lot of it has to do with that sauce having 13 grams of sugar per serving. I've been experimenting with brands of barbecue sauce and find I rather like Stubb's Bar-B-Q Sauce (original flavor) as it's tangy with just a touch of sweet (4 grams of sugar per serving). Maybe a little runnier than I'm used to, but that's okay.

Anyway, with the slow cooked barbecued drumsticks I made this past Sunday, I also threw together a quick pasta salad about an hour before the chicken was ready. I cooked up a cup of small twisty noodles from the Polish shop and mixed them, still warm, with a combination of fat-free Greek yoghurt, light mayonnaise, lemon juice, fresh dill, Penzeys Greek seasoning blend, and minced red onion, cucumber, and radishes. Completely yum, really.

28 March 2014

Comfort Me With (Slow Cooker) Chicken Soup

We were supposed to have sushi tonight, but work drama and an incipient cold had me hankering for soup. Happily, there were frozen chicken breasts and mixed vegetables in the freezer, so soup was go. (Seriously, is there any food more comforting than a big bowl of soup? Oatmeal on a bitter grey January morning comes close, I guess? Or that first scrambled egg and toast after days of gippy tummy?)

There's really no proper recipe for this soup -- I put three frozen boneless chicken breasts into the slow cooker insert with some chopped celery ribs, carrots, onion, garlic, and tomato. Added low-sodium fat-free chicken broth until everything was just covered. Topped it all off with Bell's salt-free poultry season and a bay leaf and let it cook on low for 6 hours.

Slow Cooker Chicken Soup

Then I shredded the chicken with two forks, added a 12-oz packaged of frozen mixed vegetables, chopped parsley, some hilopetes (pinky-nail-sized square Greek egg noodles) I'd picked up at the Polish grocery, and enough broth to almost fill the insert. I cranked the slow cooker up to high and let it cook for another hour. Then I removed the bay leaf, tasted, and adjusted the seasonings as needed.

Slow Cooker Chicken Soup

Not only was the soup pretty darn tasty and comforting, it made the whole house smell like home. Each time I stepped back into the house between appointments and errands, I took a great lungful in and felt ridiculously contented by the aroma. Soup, it's Feliway for humans.

10 March 2014

Slow Cooker Chicken Italiano, Yum

So I ran a little mad buying chicken at the market during last week's sale and my freezer is now impossibly full. So full, indeed, that some of the sale chicken won't fit. We've eaten chicken for three meals running now and, while chicken is delicious, I'm looking forward to tomorrow's ahi tuna.

Chicken Italiano

Tonight, I made Pillsbury's "Chicken Italiano" using skinned bone-in thighs and rosemary-and-lemon infused Kalamata olives. I cooked the dish for 8½ hours on Low and then left it on warm for about 1½ hours and it came out really well. Succulent, full of bright flavors, and beautifully colored ... I'd be pretty happy eating this chicken dish every month. And, since it uses kitchen staples, I certainly could. Yum.

05 March 2014

Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Tacos

Ages ago I received a package of Campbell's Slow Cooker Mexican Red Chili Taco Sauce and, time and again, I've meant to use it ... only to change my mind as some shiny new recipe popped up on Pinterest (curse you, Pinterest). But beef roasts were on sale last week so I bought one specifically to make the slow cooker tacos.

Shredded Beef Taco

I prepared the beef as directed, using a piece of well-trimmed chuck. I did add in a small chopped red onion and about a quarter of a cup of Penzeys red and green bell pepper flakes for extra flavor. I was a little worried the peppers would absorb a lot of liquid while they rehydrated during the cooking process, but I needn't have as the beef was swimming in a sea of liquid when I checked it nine hours later. I took the beef out at that point and shredded it using two forks and then dumped it back into the slow cooker insert with a cup of black beans and a cup of thawed Trader Joe's fire-roasted corn.

We ate the shredded beef on warm flour tortillas with guacamole, salsa fresca, and cilantro. They were pretty good, but a bit messy from all the juices (I should have drained some off before returning the beef to the insert) and the flour tortillas would have been better toasted in a skillet rather than warmed in the oven.

Anyway, it was an easy and reasonably healthy weekday supper. Would I buy another Campbell's Slow Cooker Sauce? Probably not. Not because there was anything wrong with the product -- the finished dish was really quite tasty -- but because it just felt as if I could have done something very similar from scratch with tomato sauce and canned chipotle peppers in adobo, etc.

There's a ton of meat leftover, so we'll be having shredded beef quesadillas for supper on Friday and then ... I don't know. I might freeze what's left until I can come up with a decent idea. Could the meat be used as the base for a beef-barley soup? Hmmm.

29 January 2014

Slow Cooker Beef Shanks, Yum

It's been miserable cold here and I've had a terrible craving for rich, meaty dishes like beef bourguignon. Alas, the only beef in my freezer were two beef shank cross cuts picked up on a whim a few months ago. I couldn't turn them into beef bourguignon. But, surely, I could do something similar? I went to the internets, since the library was closed, and found many ways to braise beef shanks in red wine and stock. I cobbled the recipes together and came up with this:

Slow Cooked Beef Shanks

Rich, hearty, flavorful, succulent ... it was like the best pot roast ever. That sound's terrible, doesn't it? But a really good pot roast is not easily come by, in my humble opinion, and this was everything I want a pot roast to be.
Slow Cooker Beef Shanks

Ingredients
2 beef shank cross cuts weighing about 1.5 lbs each, well trimmed
olive oil, as needed
2 cups beef stock
1½ cups red wine [Newport Vineyards 2011 Merlot]
2 heads garlic, bashed and peeled
2 large carrots, peeled and cubed
2 celery ribs, sliced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar [Bella Gusta Fig Balsamic]
sea salt and pepper, to taste

Directions
Generously season shanks with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a large French/Dutch oven until the pot is quite hot. Add shanks and sear on each side until deep brown (I had to do this in batches). Add to slow cooker.


Beef Shanks Ready for the Slow Cooker

Reduce temperature to medium. Drain some of the fat from the pot so only a tablespoon remains. Add carrots, onions, garlic, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until the onion is translucent.

Add bay, thyme, rosemary, stock, and wine. Cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until the mixture is reduced by half. Pour over shanks. Drizzle with balsamic. Cover and cook on Low for 10 hours.

Slow Cooked Beef Shanks
After cooking 10 hours
Remove beef and vegetables from slow cooker, shred beef, and cover to keep warm. Skim fat from juices, crank the slow cooker up to High, and thicken the juices with a cornstarch or arrowroot slurry. Season to taste. Serve over mashed potatoes (or polenta, if you're posh).

Beef Shank Bones
Look at those beautiful bare bones.