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Archive for the ‘Slow Cooker’ Category

I didn't like the first pic so here are some leftovers served with chargrilled tortillas!

Who would have thought?   Frankie Valli (who is still AMAZING at 76 years old) and The Four Seasons was one of my favorite shows of all time.  This could be because it felt more like going to see a musical than a concert, but I just adored the show.  The theatre where he played was gorgeous and half way through the show we look over at one of the balconies and see an older couple spontaneously slow dancing to one of his songs.  It was a touching, wish we could all have that kind of lasting love moments.

Frankie – apologies for my poor photography skills!

Anyways, with that show and a couple of other things that have been going on this week it has been busy!  I haven’t had time to go grocery shopping in weeks and there are basically just a few cans of beans and tomatoes lingering in my cupboard and not much else.  I looked in the freezer and found some frozen chicken breasts, so I knew exactly what I was going to make.  The recipe is from another one of my favorite food blogs, SkinnyTaste, it’s called Chicken Taco Chili.  The best thing about this site and the recipes is that they are healthy but so good.  The name doesn’t sound fancy but it always turns out so tasty.

You can put this in a taco, on rice, on a salad or eat it as chili.  Try this, you won’t be sorry.

Serves 10: about 200 calories per serving (1.25 cups each)

1.5 lb chicken breasts, uncooked

1 14.5 oz can tomato sauce

1 14.5 oz can pinto beans

1 14.5 oz can black beans

2 14.5 oz can Rotel (diced tomatoes with mild green chiles)

1 tbsp cumin

1 tbsp chili powder

10 oz frozen corn kernels – optional

1 packet taco seasoning, reduced sodium

Whatever toppings or serving choices you like – rice, lettuce, taco shells, chips, chargrilled tortillas (just throw a tortilla on a burner (electric) for five seconds on each side)

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker (with the exception of the toppings).  Cook over low heat for 8-10 hrs or high heat 5-6 hrs.

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Oh my goodness. This was by far my favorite meal in weeks.  I’ll caveat that I didn’t drain quite enough liquid off the beans before mashing them so they were a little more runny than I had planned, but I put them on tostada’s instead of in stand-up taco shells and they were phenomenal.  So you know what led me down this path, I was inspired by these beans, but I made a few tweaks based on my preferences.

 

I wasn’t even planning on making Spanish Rice but I was craving it at the last-minute, so I threw a few things in a pan and out came the most delicious Spanish Rice I have ever had.

Enough talk – let me just tell you how to do it yourself.

For the beans:

2 cups dried pinto beans

2-3 cups water or broth (enough to cover beans by about an inch)

1 sweet onion

1 tbsp cumin

1 tbsp mexican style chili powder

2 cloves garlic

1 can enchilada sauce

1 can diced green chilis

Rinse the beans and place into the slow cooker.  Cover with water or broth about an inch above the beans.  Add enchilada sauce, garlic, onion, green chilis, cumin, and chili powder.  Set slow cooker on high and cook for 6-8 hrs.

Once cooking time has completed, drain the extra liquid out (freeze it off to use in future dishes!).  Blend all ingredients together with an immersion blender.  You can add some shredded cheese here if you want, but I think they are great without it!

For the Spanish Rice:

2 cups white rice

1 onion

1 can diced tomatoes and green chilis

1/2 c corn

2 cloves garlic

1 diced jalapeno (seeds/veins removed)

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

2 tbsp tomato paste (start with a little and add as needed – I freeze the rest of the can of tomato paste and cut off slices as needed)

1/2 cup broth (veggie, chicken, or I used the leftover bean liquid from above)

Cook the rice in a rice cooker or according to package instructions (make sure you rinse it first).  While rice is cooking, cook the onion with a little olive oil over medium heat until translucent.  Add in jalapeno, garlic, chili powder, tomatoes, cumin, and corn to onion in pan.  Cook for 5-10 minutes.  Add in cooked rice to the pan and stir them all around.  Stir in tomato paste and broth to taste and desired consistency.

Note:  As I mentioned above, because my beans weren’t thick enough to hold their own in a stand up taco shell, I heated the corn hard taco shell in my toaster oven and then broke it in three pieces to use as a tostada shell instead.  I assembled the beans, a little cheese, lettuce, sour cream, and taco sauce on top.  Served with a side of Spanish Rice.

Oh so tasty.

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Did I mention I’m not a big meat eater?  I especially find it almost impossible to eat meat that I prepare.  So why, you might ask, did I decide to venture out and make slow cooker beef brisket?   A challenge, I love a challenge.  Plus, I typically assume that slow cooker equals easy (and a relatively low volume of touching the meat).

I went to this little restaurant in the slightly more upscale part of town and one of my friends ordered the beef bourguignon (reminding me of the movie I love so much, Julie & Julia) and everyone tried it and loved it yet I didn’t try it because I have issues with meat.  I admit, I regretted not trying it!  So I decided to tackle beef brisket in hopes that it would be somewhere near as good as my friends meal looked.

Easy right?  That’s what I thought until I realized that making this would force me to come face to face with something very scary – a large (and I mean huge) 6 lb piece of brisket, raw.  Looking at various recipes, I came to terms with the fact that I would have to cut off the fat from the brisket with just my hands and I knife, which really exceed my expectations – not in a good way.  But, at my sister’s insistence “You are doing a cooking blog, push your limits” in other words “Get over it.”  So, I did.

I should state up front that this recipe is my modified version of Ina Garten’s (who has one of my favorite shows, sets, and recipes) Beef Brisket recipe.  I used most of the ingredients that she did, but I used the slow cooker instead of the oven roasting method and therefore prepped the meat a little differently.  I prefer to use a slow cooker whenever possible because it is easy and you get home and your house smells wonderful.

How did the beef brisket turn out?  While my slow cooker overflowed several times (I would suggest using a smaller cut of brisket than I did, or a bigger slow cooker) and I couldn’t fit in as many onions as the original recipe called for, it was phenomenal.  The beef shredded with just the touch of the fork.  I had to call in reinforcements (true meat eaters) to ensure my taste buds were correct and the delightful sighs they made after taking their first bite told me all I needed to know.  It was a success!!!

Will I be cooking meat every night?  No.  But now when/if I do crave it or if I need a good dish to take along, I have a great recipe to lean on.

 Serves:  4-6

Ingredients:

4 – 6 lb beef brisket

1 bunch celery (cut into 1-2 inch chunks)

1 lb carrots (cut into 1-2 inch chunks)

3 onions (halved, sliced)

2 28 oz cans tomato sauce

6 bay leaves

1 tbsp oregano

1 tbsp salt

1 tbsp pepper

1 tbsp chopped garlic (3-4 cloves)

Into the pot:

Trim the fat from the brisket and cut brisket into 3 inch wide strips (ended up being making my brisket about 4 sections).  Rub each section of brisket with the salt and pepper and place into the slow cooker.  Cover brisket with the 2 cans of tomato sauce.  Add the garlic, oregano and bay leaves.  Place all vegetables on top of meat.

Cover and cook on high for 6-8 hrs.  If you are using a slow cooker, make sure you use a small enough cut of meat and enough vegetables so that they do not come all the way to the cover as the beef and vegetables will produce extra liquid and you will risk overflowing.

I served this along side hashbrown casserole and spooned some of the extra sauce, carrots, celery and onions over the beef to keep in moist.

I am planning on doing a puree with all the leftover sauce and veggies to freeze off and use as gravy in the future.  It might also make a great soup base.  I’ll post pictures following.

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The beginnings of chicken tortilla soup...

So, let me start by saying, through this blogging process I am discovering that my photography skills are not all that I had hoped.  That being said, I blog on (whether or not one person ever says they like it).

Onto the soup!  I’ll start by explaining my Sundays.  My Sundays consist of either dinner at my sisters or me cooking dinner — either way I love them.  Being able to savor the last few minutes of the weekend while doing something I love and that makes me happy is pretty awesome.  This most recent Sunday, I decided to make two different dishes:  lasagna (for dinner on Sunday and my work lunch during the week) and slow cooker chicken tortilla soup (for dinner on Monday night and the rest of the week). 

 I love prepping something on Sunday night in the insert for the slow cooker, popping it into the fridge over night, and then taking it out in the morning and setting it up to ‘stew’ all day.  There is nothing better than coming home to a house that smells like you have been slaving over the stove for hours.  I had time to run my errands after work and still come home to a house that smelled like a mexican fiesta.

You may be wondering – what about the lasagna I mentioned?  Well, that turned out just okay, not blog worthy, but in case you are curious – here is a picture:

Not terrible but so not special I ate lunch out the next day instead!

Back to the soup.  This soup changes a little every time I make it.  Sometimes I make it extra spicy, sometimes I whir it with the immersion blender once it is finished for a smooth texture, and sometimes I even toss in a beer for a different flavor.  Every way I make it, I love it.

I started by chopping up a zucchini, a green pepper, and a couple small onions.  I tossed all of those into the slow cooker with a can of enchilada sauce, 4 cups of homemade veggie broth, and a can of black beans.  I also added a can of the hot rotel tomatoes and chiles (I like it spicy!) and some frozen corn.  After that it is as easy as popping it in the fridge.

When I get up in the morning, I take the insert out of the fridge and put it in the slow cooker unit to let it work off the chill (I don’t turn on the slow cooker yet).  When I am finished getting ready for work, I pop in the pound of thin sliced chicken breasts, set the slow cooker on low for 11 hrs, and run out the door for work.

When I come home, the chicken is so tender that when I touch it with a fork it falls apart (I take it out, shred it, and add it back).

So tender, it falls apart at the touch.

I top the soup with a little cheese, a few crushed tortilla chips, diced avocado, and of course a healthy dollop of sour cream.

Perfect for our first 40 degree day of the winter!
Into the pot:
1-2 sweet onions
1 green pepper, chopped
1 zucchini, quartered and sliced into triangles
1 14.5 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with green chilies (Rotel)
1 26 oz can of enchilada sauce (or homemade if you have it!)
4 cups broth (I used homemade veggie, but chicken or store-bought works)
1 lb chicken
1 tbsp cumin
Throw all of the ingredients in the slow cooker the night before or that morning if you have time.  Cook on low for 8-11 hrs or on high for 3-4 hours.
Optional adds:  1 bottle favorite beer, diced green chilis, pinto beans, or make without the chicken (which I often do)

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