Tag Archives: crock pot

Life of the Party

We’re oh-so-close to the Oscars on Sunday, and with just three entries left in this year’s 12 Days of Oscar we’re at our second film in the series that is nominated for an Oscar this year.  Dallas Buyer’s Club has been nominated for six Oscars.  Taking place in 1985 Dallas, the film stars Matthew McConaughey as Ron Woodruf who is diagnosed with AIDS and told he has thirty days to live.  After driving to Mexico for AZT, he meets a doctor who prescribes him other drugs that have not yet been approved in the U.S.  With the help of Rayon (Jared Leto), an HIV positive transgender woman Ron forms the Dallas Buyer’s Club, bringing these drugs over the border and selling them to other patients.

There’s not much food actually in this movie, so instead I considered a Texas theme.  When I thought about Texas, I kept coming back to the idea of chili.  I know that Texas chili doesn’t have beans.  I know.  I like my chili with beans, and so the beans stay.  Since everything’s bigger in Texas I made a huge batch of chili, in the crockpot, with beans.  There is nothing simpler than throwing some ingredients into the crock pot and having about four meals’ worth of chili to store in the freezer.  Oh, and double points because I am over this cold weather and would rather be in Texas right now.

big batch crock pot chili

Crock Pot Big-Batch Chili

Ingredients:

  • 4 lbs. ground chuck
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 (14.5 oz. each) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 4 (8 oz. each) cans tomato sauce
  • 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1/4 C. chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. ground red pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 (16 oz. each) cans light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

Directions:

In a large skillet, brown the ground chuck over medium-high heat, working in batches.

Crumble, drain, and place the beef into a 6 quart or larger slow cooker.

Stir in the remaining ingredients.

Cover and cook on high for 5 to 6 hours or on low for 7 to 8 hours.

Remove and discard bay leaf before serving.

Source: Pass the Sushi, originally from Southern Living Slow-Cooker Cookbook

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No Ordinary Love

People are starting to think I’m having some kind of strange affair with my crock pot, I use it so often.  I know many people who only pull out the crock pot for jeans-and-hoodie-weather recipes.  I used to be one of them.  Every time the weather got colder, I’d reach for the crock pot and churn out hearty foods like beef stew and pea soup and keep right on doing that until the first sign of summer.  Now I’ve learned the error of my ways and use the crock pot just as much in hotter weather as I do when the weather is cool.  Need to make dinner and it’s hot and humid and the last thing you want to do is heat up the kitchen? The crock pot has it covered.  Add a crock pot liner and you have a dinner that didn’t heat up the kitchen and with no cleanup beyond a skillet and the dishes you use for serving.

In hotter weather the last thing I feel like making for dinner is beef stew, so I’m glad the crock pot is more than just the beef stew machine.  I made these smothered pork chops, and they are a new favorite.  This is possibly one of the easiest meals I’ve ever made, crock pot or not.  If you thought pork chops covered in tasty gravy couldn’t be any better, think again.  Those pork chops could be covered in gravy and bacon, like these.  This is a little more involved than just dumping ingredients into the crock pot and walking away, but not all that much more involved.  You will have to cook the bacon and use the bacon fat to cook the onions.  I do also recommend giving the pork chops a quick trip through the skillet to brown them a little but that’s really more for appearance than anything.  We do eat with our eyes, so I did brown my pork chops but this is just as tasty if you skip that step.  At the end, you will take the extra step of turning the cooking liquid into a fantastic sauce.  So, while this isn’t exactly “set it and forget it” easy, it’s worth the extra steps to enjoy these simmered-all-day pork chops.

crock pot smothered pork chops

Crock Pot Smothered Pork Chops

Ingredients:

  • 5 slices bacon, chopped
  • 4 boneless center-cut pork chops, about 3/4-inch thick (1-1/2 lbs.)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 yellow onions, peeled, halved, and sliced into 1/2 inch thick slices
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1/4 C. plus 2 Tbsp. cold water
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 3 C.  low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

Directions:

Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat for 5-6 minutes until lightly browned.

Remove the bacon from the skillet using a slotted spoon and place it on a paper towel lined plate.  Leave the drippings in the pan (If you have more than 2 Tbsp. of drippings, drain some of the drippings as well.  If you do not have 2 Tbsp. of drippings, add canola or olive oil to make up the difference).

When the bacon is cool, refrigerate until pork chops are almost done.

Heat the skillet with the bacon drippings over medium to medium-high heat until hot.

Pat the pork chops dry with paper towels and sprinkle salt and pepper evenly over both sides of the pork chops.

Place the pork chops in the skillet and cook for 2 minutes per side, just until golden brown on both sides.  Do this in batches if your skillet can’t hold all 4 pork chops in a single layer at one time.

Place the pork chops into the crock pot.

Pour all but 2 tsp. of the fat from the skillet.

Add the onions to the skillet along with 1 tsp. of the brown sugar, 1/4 tsp. of salt, and 1/4 C. of the water.

Scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan and cook the onion mixture over medium-high heat for about 4-6 minutes until the onions are soft.

Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook the mixture until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Pour the onion mixture over the pork chops in the crock pot.

Pour the broth, soy sauce, and remaining 1 Tbsp. of brown sugar over the pork chops in the crock pot.

Add the bay leaves to the crock pot.

Place the lid on the crock pot and cook for 8 hours on low or about 4 hours on high, until pork chops are tender (I suggest checking at 7 hours for high and 3 hours for low- depending on the pork chops and how hot your crock pot actually gets, they may be done before the 4 or 8 hours).

When you’re ready to serve the pork chops, remove the pork chops to a serving plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

Remove the bay leaves from the crock pot and discard.

Pour the liquid remaining in the crock pot through a mesh strainer into a saucepan and discard the solids, keeping the liquids in the saucepan.

In a small bowl combine the cornstarch and remaining 2 Tbsp. of water, and stir the mixture (slurry) into the liquids in the saucepan.

Stir the reserved cooked bacon into the saucepan.

Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes until bubbling and thickened.

Stir in the cider vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the sauce over the pork chops.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

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Wild Andrea

Effects from the first storm of the Atlantic Ocean hurricane season, tropical storm Andrea, have arrived here in the Northeast.  As I type this, it looks like the storm is leaving the Charleston, South Carolina area and headed up toward Maryland.  The rain has been steadily coming down since last night and should keep up until Saturday morning.  Here in Southern Connecticut, we’re being threatened with about four inches of rain and some high winds later on tonight.  Four inches of rain is about a month’s worth, so the fact that it’s all scheduled to fall today has led to flood warnings.  We’re prepared over here, and I’m hoping that my East Coast readers stay safe during the storm.  I’m going to make a wild guess here even though it’s still early in the day that O’s baseball game tonight is cancelled.  Just a hunch.  I’m sure he’ll be disappointed, this would have been the final game of the season.

The good news about baseball season ending is that it means we’re one step closer to summer vacation.  It also means one less practice to schedule life around, until soccer season also ends and then there are no practices while we enjoy the summer.  Summer means I don’t like to heat up the kitchen more than what’s absolutely necessary to provide nourishment.  While we’re lucky and have central air conditioning, it’s easier to just not crank up the oven and test the limits.  Also, and I’ve heard I’m not in the minority here, in the summer I find that I don’t really want heavy meals all that often.  I crave simplicity and lighter meals, things that leave me with more time to be outside enjoying the nice weather or getting things done.  I love my crock pot for this very reason.   Not only does it churn out great comfort food meals, it’s perfect for cooking simpler things when you don’t have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen, or just don’t want to work up a sweat preparing dinner.  I made this crock pot teriyaki chicken, and it couldn’t have been easier.  The chicken turns out flavorful and tender, and way better than any take-out I’ve tried.  I was originally going to cut the recipe in half, but I’m so glad I didn’t.  I think this was even better reheated for lunch the next day, and that’s saying something because it was amazing for dinner the night it was made.

crock pot chicken teriyaki

Crock Pot Teriyaki Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 12 thighs), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 C. brown sugar
  • 3/4 C. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 6 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp. dried ground ginger
  • 3/4 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 4 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 4 1/2 tsp. cold water

Directions:

Place the chicken into a 4 quart crock pot.

In a mixing bowl, combine the sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, ginger, garlic, and pepper.

Pour the soy sauce mixture over the chicken.

Cover the crock pot and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours, until the chicken is tender.

To thicken the sauce, combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl.

Pour the cornstarch mixture into the crock pot and stir to combine completely.  Allow the mixture to cook, covered, for 10-15 minutes longer, until sauce has thickened.

Serve over cooked rice.

Source: adapted from Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen

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Old Clothes

The weather here is finally starting to feel almost spring-like.  Twice we’ve cooked dinner on the grill, and we spent a lot of time making outdoor improvements (by “we”, I mean Lane who installed a new gutter and put down grass seed while I raked out some window boxes and gave myself fiberglass splinters).  I was able to take a four mile walk on two occasions without mittens or a coat.  The weather makes me want to open the windows and get in some good spring cleaning.  Part of spring cleaning over here involves weeding through the clothing and removing the things that don’t fit or are otherwise no longer needed.  M has dresser drawers full of pants and shirts and if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that she can have fifty long-sleeved t-shirts and thirty pairs of jeans and leggings, and she’ll wear about three of each with any regularity.   O’s clothes make me laugh because he needs a much smaller size in the waist than he does for length so he has an abundance of pants that fit great around his middle but otherwise make him look like he’s preparing for a flood.  It’s a good thing I can sew, because for some of his pants I can let down the hem, and for others I can turn them into great summer shorts.

Legend has it that one man had a much more interesting use for some of his old clothes.  The legend goes that the man was expecting his family for dinner, but couldn’t afford food to feed them.  He boiled some old clothes and because he put so much love into it, the boiled-t0-shreds clothing turned into a magnificent stew.  I’m not sure I buy it, but I love the dish it inspired, ropa vieja.  Ropa Vieja translates from Spanish as “old clothes,” which I’m sure don’t make for a tasty stew, legend or not.  The stew itself though is absolutely worth making.  This ropa vieja varies from the traditional stew in that it’s made with chicken and not skirt steak.  It’s also mainly made in the crock pot with a little hands-on time at the end.  Served over some brown rice, it’s an amazing dinner.  It also makes for a delicious Chipotle inspired burrito bowl for lunch or dinner the following day when you add some rice, black beans, corn and a tiny bit of sour cream.

chicken ropa vieja crock pot

Crock Pot Chicken Ropa Vieja

Ingredients:

  • 22 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3 breasts)
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 1 tomato, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 small green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 C. dry white wine
  • 1 C. tomato sauce
  • 3/4 C. reserved broth from cooking the chicken
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Place the chicken, quartered onion, tomato, carrot, and 2 halved cloves of garlic into a crock pot.

Pour in enough water to cover the ingredients, then cover the crock pot.

Cook on high for 4 hours, until the chicken is tender.

Remove the chicken (reserve the liquid) to a bowl and shred it using two forks, then set aside.

In a large, deep skillet heat the olive oil over medium heat.

Add the thinly sliced onion, minced garlic, and the red and green peppers.  Saute for 3-4 minutes.

Stir in the shredded chicken, tomato sauce, white wine, and 3/4 C. of the reserved broth.

Stir in the cumin, garlic powder, and salt and pepper.

Cover and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes, add more broth and seasoning if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: slightly adapted from Skinnytaste

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Talking Turkey

Raise your hand if any of the following have ever happened to you:

1. You have a large turkey tying up the majority of your oven space and you need to get the side dishes/ rolls/ desserts into the oven, but the turkey is hogging all of the space and won’t be ready to give it up any time soon.

2. You’re planning on serving both turkey and ham (a popular idea at Easter) and have no idea why it suddenly seems like your oven is the size of one belonging in a doll house and there’s no way both items are going to fit in there.

3. You’re not feeding a crowd, and you just want turkey for dinner and the thought of roasting a whole turkey inspires visions of eating turkey concoctions for a month to use up leftovers.

4. The thought of making a roasted turkey scares you to the point of near hysteria.

At one time or another, all of those scenarios have applied to me.  When I go to someone else’s house for a holiday I usually don’t come home with leftovers.  I love a leftover roasted turkey sandwich, and so I started tossing a turkey breast into the crock pot before venturing out and would slice it up and refrigerate it when I came home.  It gave me a great way to avoid the grocery store for a day or two post-holiday because I had turkey for sandwiches and soup, and turkey pot pie for dinner the next night.  It was like all of the leftover turkey bliss of entertaining without any of the stress of actually entertaining.  There was also a time when the thought of roasting a whole turkey terrified me, but we’re way past that now.  For our family of four, roasting a whole turkey isn’t always practical and tossing a turkey breast into the crock pot is an easy way to make turkey dinner whenever I want without having to wrestle side dishes into the oven and carve up a whole turkey.  Last Thanksgiving, the oven balancing act was avoided because Lane volunteered to fry the turkey.  I was worried that the largest bird we could safely fry wouldn’t be enough for the number of guests (including two “growing boys” from West Point and a handful of overnight guests who might want to join me in having a turkey sandwich later that night), but two turkeys would have been entirely too much.  At some holiday gatherings, both turkey and ham are served.  I don’t know about you, but my oven is definitely not big enough to simultaneously house a ham and a turkey.  A turkey breast in the crock pot has always been a great solution to any of these problems.

This is my second favorite way to make turkey (frying being the first, but not always practical).  It’s easy enough for a turkey making novice, requires no basting or tenting with foil, or shuffling around the oven.  It always turns out tasty, and juicy, and exactly like a traditional oven-roasted turkey.  There’s plenty of meat for dinner and then for my beloved sandwiches and soup, and I use a crock pot liner so there is almost no clean-up necessary.  I like a bone-in turkey breast for this, but I do tend to find that even the smallest turkey breast I’ve used has a long enough bone that I have to chop into it and crack it with a sharp knife in order for it to fit into the crock pot.  Three quarters of a pound per person is typically enough to feed each guest and have leftovers.  For four of us, I use a six pound bone in turkey breast, and it’s plenty of turkey for four dinners, four sandwiches, soup, and a turkey pot pie.  This is great way to cook once and eat a few times during a busy week.

crock pot turkey breast

Crock Pot Turkey Breast

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 lb. thawed bone-in turkey breast (3/4 lb. per guest)
  • 2 C. chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

If necessary for the breast to fit into your crock pot (the lid must close completely), cut into the bone in the chicken breast using a cleaver or sharp knife so that the bone is split.

Line the crock pot with a crock pot liner (optional but recommended for easy cleanup).

Pour the chicken broth into the crock pot and place the quartered onion onto the bottom of the crock pot.

If desired, trim the skin off of the turkey breast (the skin will not crisp using this method, but does not have to be removed).

Sprinkle the turkey breast liberally with salt and pepper (you can also sprinkle with rosemary, garlic powder, seasoned salt- seasonings are entirely optional and up to you).

Place the turkey breast into the crock pot, meat-side-down and cover with the lid.

Cook on low for 7-9 hours, or high for 4-6 hours (a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part should read 170 degrees).

Remove the turkey from the crock pot and place it onto a carving board.  Allow to rest for 20 minutes before carving.

Source: Diana Dishes original

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Pushed & Pulled

Home improvement projects manage to occur in groups for me.  It started on Friday when I decided I would finally deal with the vent cover in the living room that’s loose only to end up removing the first floor vent covers and scrubbing them.  Over the weekend we decided we’d finally get around to hanging stuff on the walls.  It was high time we got around to doing that, seeing as how we just finished discussing where we wanted to hang these items.  Just finished discussing it in October, that is.  Then, Lane replaced the toilet flapper and well, I couldn’t be outdone.  Around Thanksgiving, we acquired four chairs that we figured would work well with the dining room chairs we already have.  After giving them a scrubbing and replacing the hideous vinyl that was covering the chair pads, anyway.  So through the entire holiday season I kept saying that I’d get to these chairs.  Then I waited almost three more months, for good measure.  Armed with an Exacto knife and a scrubbie sponge (and various other implements that said “I mean business”), I managed to remove the aforementioned hideous vinyl (both layers), staples of assorted sizes, and a quantity of upholstery nails that could keep a Home Depot stocked for ten years.  So to recap, I now have sparkly clean vent covers, stuff on the walls, flappy flappers in the toilets (they’re supposed to flap, right? I don’t fix toilets . . .), and a total of eight dining room chairs that I love.

There is a limit, however, to my productivity.  When I’m fussing around the house and making sure the cat isn’t crawling into the vent where I’ve just removed the cover so that I can scrub it (who does this?!), I can’t be hovering over the stove at the same time.  Well, unless it needs to be taken apart and cleaned as well, but in that case I probably shouldn’t be making dinner on it at the same time.  So on days when big or little home improvements take over, it’s nice to throw a few things in the crock pot and have dinner ready when I’m done with all of the insanity home improvement.  Enter crock pot pulled pork.  Pork chops, onions, barbecue sauce.  Throw those three things into the crock pot, shred, and serve on hamburger buns or in tortillas or taco shells.  I could go on and on with serving suggestions but those are my favorites.

crock pot pulled pork

Crock Pot Barbecue “Pulled” Pork

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. boneless center cut pork chops
  • 1 C. your favorite barbecue sauce 
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced

Directions:

Spray the inside of a crock pot with non-stick cooking spray or line with a crock pot liner.

Spread the onion slices evenly across the bottom of the crock pot.

Place the pork chops onto the onion slices.

Pour the barbecue sauce over the pork chops.

Cover and cook on low for 6 hours.

Remove the pork chops and shred using two forks.

Return the shredded pork to the crock pot and stir it in with the onions and sauce.

If needed, add more barbecue sauce.

Serve as desired (but I strongly suggest serving this on sandwich buns).

Makes 6-8 servings.

Source: Diana Dishes original

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