Category Archives: Crock pot

These are recipes which can or should be made in a crock pot

Mashed cauliflower & potatoes

One of my favorite healthy foods to hide is cauliflower. Because of its subtle taste and versatile texture, cauliflower can be hidden in many foods, the easiest of which is mashed potatoes. Most people cannot jump right into mashed cauliflower alone, so a 50:50 mixture is a good place to start.
From the family “Brasicaceae” (I don’t know how to say that either), cauliflower is related to broccoli, kale, cabbage, brussels sprouts and collard greens. For the long history of cauliflower breeding, see Wikipedia. In one cup of raw cauliflower alone, there is only 25 calories, yet 10% of your daily recommended fiber and over 75% of your daily vitamin C! Bet you didn’t think a boring white veggie could help fend off colds, but it’s true. It has no fat of course, but also not much protein, which is acceptable. I don’t recommend mashed cauliflower alone as a meal. The World’sHealthiestFoods website recommends cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower a minimum of 2-3 times per week. Cauliflower has nutrients that help support the immune system, anti-inflammatory system, and antioxidant systems. It has been linked to some amount of cancer protection, likely because of these protective effects.


Ingredients:
1/2 head of cauliflower
4-5 potatoes
1 1/2 cups stock (chicken, beef, veggie, homemade)
Garlic salt

Step 1: Peel the potatoes, dice them, and cut the cauliflower head into florets.

This is veggie stock I made myself in a slow cooker earlier.

Step 2: Put the stock (or water) into the crock pot and then add in potato and cauliflower.

The cauliflower should break apart easily in your hands.

Leftover scraps of potato and cauliflower will go in the freezer until I have enough to make another batch of vegetable stock.

Step 3: Cook on low 2-3 hours or high 4-5 hours. Mash the potato and cauliflower together, adding any spices or more liquid if needed. You can now serve or doctor however you would normally use mashed potatoes. If you don’t tell, no one will even know the difference! 


What’s you favorite way to use cauliflower?

What to Do With Vegetable Scraps

With one big cooking holiday down (Thanksgiving) and another mammoth of a food-waster coming up quick (Christmas!) most households probably have a lot of food and vegetable waste.

What should you do with leftover vegetable scraps?

You know, the butt of carrots, potato peels, mushy tomatoes. If you throw it into the trash can and send it down to the curb, it’s out of your house, but then what?

Channel4 in the UK wrote an article about visiting a landfill, a common feature of pretty much every country in the world by now. It’s something we don’t think about too much in our hectic, fast-paced, self-centered world these days. 

According to an article by the Huffington Post, Americans throw away nearly half the food we buy each year.

This is a waste of good food, a waste of hard earned money, and a waste of valuable and diminishing space on this planet.

But if something in the back of your mind nags you every time you replace the trash bag, then this is one small step in the right direction for you.

We can all try to reduce the amount of food we buy at one time, plan properly to use the food we do buy each week, eat leftovers and creatively use leftover food, and find uses for even the most seemingly unusable scraps.

1. Compost
If you’re lucky enough to have a yard, then there isn’t much excuse to not have a compost pile.

Even if you ‘don’t have time’ or ‘don’t have space’ or ‘don’t have energy’ to have a garden, composting just makes sense, and you can spread it around trees or in flower beds or even give it away on Craigslist once made.

If done right it doesn’t smell bad, and merely requires occasional turning to aerate. There are certain things that are great for compose and others not so much. NEVER put meat or animal bones or fat into compost because they will attract wild animals and cause unwanted reactions.

For more information about how to build a proper pile see here.

Photo from I Dream of Eden.

2. Muffins
This of course depends on the type of food scraps you have.

Carrot peels or leftover sweet potato can become carrot cake muffins, or be added to homemade coleslaw. If you have veggie pulp because of using a juicer, you can substitute that for part of the wet ingredients in a muffin mix.

Pay attention to what was in the pulp you juiced though. I think cucumber/grapefruit/kale muffins might be a little weird.

But who knows.



3. Vegetable stock
This is by far my favorite option, since I live in an apartment and don’t have composting access yet.

What I do is store all the scraps in a bag in the freezer as I make recipes. Potato peels, slightly brown pieces, ends of veggies, etc.

Once I have a full bag I put it in the Crock Pot and cover it with water, adding any other herbs and spices that sound good. Then just leave it on low overnight or all day, usually at least 8 hours.

The nutrients and flavors will boil out of the veggies and create a beautiful, healthy, salt-free stock you can then use in future recipes. The best part? It’s totally free!

Just freeze the stock in plastic bags laid flat in the freezer, or in ice cube trays to make little cubes.

You can then pop these into soups, stews, flavor rice, or in whatever you normally use stock. This same theory works for meat as well.

If you’ve made a lovely roast chicken and have the carcass left over, toss it in the slow cooker with some water for several hours. If you have shrimp tails, a bone-in pork roast, corn cobs, or some T-bones, do the same for some flavorful bases to use in the future.



If you know of a way to use leftover scraps not mentioned here, please share with us!

 

Slow cooker chicken soup: “Just like grandma used to make”

When I was younger, Sunday was always early dinner, and almost always chicken noodle soup. Grandma or mom would put a pot of soup on to simmer, we would go off to church or on a Sunday drive around town, and come home to a house that smelled delicious and a pot full of warm delight. I like continuing that on my own, though I use the modern miracle of the crock pot so I don’t have to worry about it burning on the stove (that’s a hilarious story for another time…).

Since I had recently roasted a chicken, naturally I made soup from what wasn’t eaten the first day. We had eaten the legs and drums, so I cut off and saved the whole breasts for sandwiches for lunch the next day. The rest of the bird plus a few extras was made into a huge crock pot full of chilly weather goodness. There is nothing like coming home to the smell of homemade chicken soup!

Ingredients:
1 chicken carcass
3 large carrots, sliced
2 potatoes, diced
1 whole onion, sliced
3 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 pint fresh mushrooms
1 cup barley
1 tbsp butter
Water

Step 1: That gorgeous roasted chicken had a tray full of juices and spices that I added into the crock pot first. Waste not want not, and that’s some powerful flavor I don’t want to waste.

 Step 2: I diced up all the assorted veggies and added them and the chicken (skin, bones, extra meat and all) into the crock pot. I added water all the way to the top and put it on low all day (about 8 hours).

When I came home, the house just smelled amazing. The chicken had been brined in all that lovely salt and sugar and pepper and spices, so I didn’t even really need to add anything to the broth.

Step 4: I boiled 1 cup of barley in 1 1/2 cups of water with 1 tbsp butter for 45 minutes. 

Barley is a bit chewy, and I added some of the broth after 40 minutes to let the flavor soak in for the last 5 minutes. Maybe a 1/2 cup.

 

Just look at all those gorgeous veggies! And the sheen on the surface, that’s from the natural chicken fat that dissolved into the broth. Sure it isn’t the healthiest thing in the world for you, but boy howdy does it taste great! And you can let it cool in the fridge then skim the extra fat off the top.

The barley was surprisingly perfect for this soup. Normally I use egg noodles but didn’t have any on hand. The flavors blend so well and are perfect for nippy fall nights. It is so easy to make, and you will have leftovers for days (unless you share). I guarantee* you won’t get sick, or if you already are you will immediately feel better.

*Guarantee based only on personal experience, not actually backed by anything or redeemable for anything. But other experiences and comments are welcome to be shared. =)

Slow cooker ham & corn rice casserole

This is another creation born of needing to use up items left in the pantry. You’ll notice two themes in most recipes from times where I am either very busy (being a student) or in a state of flux (like moving), I use the slow cooker a lot, and recipes get a little weird.

I prefer the term “creative” but let’s not argue semantics.

Anyhow, the best template for any meal in a rush is “meat + carb + vegetable/fruit + liquid”, and I use it a lot.

You can have literally endless variations, and in fact nearly every meal ever is based on this formula.

For this recipe, I simply checked my food box and freezer to see what was left, then followed the formula with things I thought might go well together. This is what ended up happening.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cubed ham
  • 1 box rice pilaf with seasoning packet
  • 1 can corn with liquid
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup water

Step 1: Mix all ingredients in the slow cooker. Set on low for at least 4 hours; I left it for about 9 all day.

The rice didn’t end up being overly mushy, which I worried about, and the corn gave it a nice sweet flavor. Ham paired with this well, though I think chicken would’ve been even better based on past experience with the flavor of rice pilaf and the fact that I used cream of chicken soup rather than mushroom or celery.

But overall it was tasty, couldn’t be easier, used up a box and two cans from the pantry, and lasted for about 6 servings, so I call that a success.

Slow cooker soup-in-a-bag

Dinner can literally not get any easier than:
Step 1 – take bag out of freezer
Step 2 – pour in crock pot
Step 3 – hit “start”
Ok, maybe “pick up phone and dial Pizza hut” is one step shorter, but you have to order, wait, tip the delivery guy, their customer service is outsourced to Pittsburgh… it’s way healthier my way. In my humble opinion.

Maybe this is partially inspired by these things you see on Pinterest all the time about a salad in a mason jar. Which is a great idea, and someday I’ll try it. But anyhow, with bits and pieces from other meals, I just accumulated veggies in a bag and one day after I’d made chicken and had leftover bones and grease, I used that to create a simple soup.

Ingredients:
Chicken bones, skin, fat from 4 drumsticks
1 tomato, diced
1 potato, diced
3 whole carrots, sliced
1/2 white onion, diced
2 tbsp chicken flavoring
Dash garlic salt and Italian seasonings

That bag can be tossed in the freezer to be pulled out whenever you want a quick meal hot and ready for you that night.

Step 1: Put bag of ‘stuff’ into crock pot. Add seasonings if you want, or extra chicken meat if you want.

 Step 2: Add water until crock pot is about half full. Set on low all day.

This is easily customizable to whatever veggies or meat you like. You can also add a grain like noodles, rice, or barley. If you’re full vegan, don’t use chicken leftovers as a base, you can make your own veggie stock.

Crock pot: Creamy chicken & corn

Apparently this post is brought to you by the letter C. 
This is just something I came up with to continue using up things in the pantry and freezer, mixed with a love of Crock Pot cooking ease. If you’ve kept up on posts, you know I recently moved and have one huge box full of canned things as well as a shelf in the freezer I’m trying to eat my way through before I move to my next place in a few weeks… Anyways, so this recipe used up two cans and some chicken, as well as a box of rice. And it tasted great! (In case you’re concerned about that…)
Ingredients:
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup milk
1 cup corn (or other frozen veggie)
1 box rice side or 1 cup rice cooked
Frozen chicken – I used drumsticks because that’s what I found first. Thighs would work, as well as breasts or a whole chicken, just use another can of soup and extra milk for sauce if you use more than about 8 oz.

 Step 1: Spray the inner lining of the slow cooker. Add the soup and milk, mix together. Add the corn and chicken, cover and cook on low 6 hours or high 4+. I wouldn’t recommend less than 4 hours on high for frozen chicken, you want to make sure its cooked through and not get Salmonella poisoning. And Crock pots nearly never burn so feel free to leave it on low for a good long while.

Step 2: Before serving, cook your rice. You could use any of those $1 rice sides that go on sale regularly, or plain rice cooked. Add spices or extra veggies, soy sauce, sriracha, whatever you like to flavor the rice. Then put the chicken on top and pour on a scoop of corn cream sauce. The sauce is thick and creamy and the sweetness of the corn went perfectly with the wild rice I chose to serve it over. Delightful.

(Disclaimer: My boyfriend actually did the crock pot cooking part! So any guys reading, take note! You can use this simple recipe to impress the heck out of a new flame or long-time love with next to no effort on your part. Crock pots are culinary wonders for the cooking impaired, busy and/or lazy person.)

Crock pot: pork chops & veggie rice casserole

I openly praise slow cookers all the time for their many qualities. Here is yet another perfect example of a recipe that took me a matter of minutes to prep, then the machine did all the work for me throughout the day so that I came home to a lovely smelling house and a hot meal.

Ingredients:
2 large pork chops (or a small roast)
1 chicken bouillon cube
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 cups water
1 cup milk
1 cup rice
1 cup frozen or fresh chopped veggies of your choice
2 tbsp garlic powder

I also made asparagus on the side. Just put 1 tbsp oil, 2tbsp lemon juice & some sea salt in a pan, and heat over medium until the asparagus starts to blacken and is soft yet firm.

 Step 1: As you can see, I like just taking out pre-frozen meat to use in the crock pot. I took out 2 pork chops I’d bought and frozen weeks earlier. Put the bouillon, corn starch and spices in the crock pot. Add the water and mix well.

 Step 2: Add the rice and veggies and mix into the watery spice mix. Place pork chops on top and cover. Cook on high 4 hours or low 6-8. Give it a good stir once if you can midday.

 The pork chops got so tender the meat literally just fell off the bone. So the small chunks of pork just got mixed into the rice for a casserole.

Since you know what ingredients you put in and can control what/how much vegetables go into this casserole, it is quite healthy. You could make it vegetarian or vegan easily too. Use tofu, add beans, etc. I might try brown rice next time too. Maybe throw in some tomato sauce too. Go crazy.

Slow Cooker Chili Con Carne with Beans

 

I love my Slow Cooker. Not that I’ve ever tried to keep that a secret, I just wanted to put it out there.

Slow cookers are amazing for so many reasons: it’s super easy, takes little to no time/work on your part, and makes meals so much cheaper. You just prep, throw all the ingredients in, then go do whatever you want. You can buy cheap ingredients in bulk and turn them into a zillion different types of meals.

If ever I meet the inventor of the Crock Pot I will hug them.

I know, some of you are thinking, but wait, it’s August in Colorado, why are you making winter food? While it is true the Rocky Mountain blizzards haven’t yet begun (and thank god for that! stay away as long as possible please…) it has been rainy/overcast here.

Weird, right? Isn’t Colorado basically a really high-up desert? That’s what I was told. Someone lied to me, because we’ve had some serious torrential downpours recently. It’s far too late to save my porch plants, but at least maybe they’ll lift the fire ban and allow fireworks again soon…

Anyhow, so I was craving some chili.

After an in-depth discussion with my boyfriend, who is from Texas, arguing the general attitudes of some people towards the many different types of chili (with beans, never beans, meat types, heat level, sweetness, over noodles, etc) I decided on a thicker, meatier kind of chili with minimal fuss, not sweet, and with beans.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef (as you can see, I popped mine right in there from the freezer)
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1/2 onion, diced small
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • 1 small can V8 or tomato sauce
  • Garlic salt
  • Coriander
  • Chili powder
slow cooker chili con carne with pinto beans

 

Step 1: Put meat in crock pot, add all canned ingredients. Dice up the onion, add that and spices to taste. I don’t measure, as a general rule. I like garlic salt, so that’s probably about 3 tbsp worth, coriander comes out slow so maybe 1-2 tbsp, chili powder is kinda key so I’d say I used maybe 1/4 cup worth.

slow cooker chili con carne with pinto beans

 

Step 2: Put that sucker on low overnight. In the morning, break up the meat chunk into smaller bite size pieces. Leave on low all day long too. You can taste it to see if it needs more spice of any kind, and add extra liquid (tomato sauce/juice is best) if it needs it.

slow cooker chili con carne with pinto beans

Coming home from work to the knock-your-socks-off smell of chili just can’t be beat on a cold, rainy day!

slow cooker chili con carne with pinto beans and corn bread muffins

I made some corn bread muffins to go with it, (I totally cheated and used a 50 cent Jiffy mix, no judgment) as well as serving it with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream. It was amaaaaaaaaazing. And makes plenty for several servings and leftovers too.

Leftover chili is great on its own, or over hot dogs as chili cheese dogs, over cooked pasta, or on a baked potato with extra cheese, sour cream and or avocado. I’ve even seen it as pizza! (Which I will need to try making someday soon).

slow cooker chili con carne with pinto beans

Enjoy!

 

Garlic pot roast & winter veggies

Since it’s been cold here in Colorado lately, I’ve been craving your typical cold-weather, stick to your ribs type foods. So I got a nice 1.5 pound beef roast to slow cook all day. It’s a perfect lazy, cold, Sunday meal.

Ingredients:
1.5 pound roast
Garlic cloves
3 large carrots, peeled and cut up
1 large potato, rinsed and diced
1 celery stalk
1 cup beef broth
1/2 onion, cut into quarters or eighths
Salt & pepper (or Nature’s Seasons)

Step 1: Brown the roast on all sides in a frying pan over high heat. It only takes a few minutes per side. It will be nicely browned. Place in the crock pot.

 Step 2: Peel several cloves of garlic. (Don’t do this part if you don’t like garlic, obviously.)

 Step 3: Cut small slits in the roast and stick the cloves inside. Season the roast all over with Nature’s Seasoning or salt & pepper.

 Step 4: Cut up veggies and add to the roast. Pour in beef broth.

 Step 5: Cook on high for at least 4 hours, up to 7 hours. The roast should be cooked through, and fall-apart tender.

 I cut 1/2 inch slabs of beef and a big spoonful of the veggies. Delicious with a piece of bread & Country Crock and a glass of milk. It really hits the spot and makes your tummy happy!

My boyfriend came up with another way to eat this, by taking a piece of buttered bread and topping it with a thick slice of beef and some veggies, then adding a sprinkle of cheddar cheese on top. Also a great way to enjoy this fall favorite!

Crock Pot Indian Yellow Chicken Curry

Over the weekend we went to an Indian restaurant downtown and the food was absolutely excellent! This inspired me to try my hand at Indian cooking, because it is generally healthy and uses spices which are great for you. The spices were by far the biggest investment, but I can use them many many times, so the cost per use is not too bad. As long as you’re willing to invest in good spices and cook Indian food several times, it is worth it! The original recipe I found here, and there are tons of great Crock Pot recipes if you’re pressed for time during the day and looking for ideas. I of course altered it to fit what I had, and the results were pretty darn good. This makes about 5 servings of curry, and 2 of rice. But I would recommend making fresh rice when you eat the leftover curry anyways.
Ingredients:
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced
SAUCE
2 tbsp cream of coconut (I was supposed to use 1 can of coconut milk. Couldn’t find it at King Sooper, so I figured cream of coconut would be the same. False, it is thick like syrup and WAY sweet! So I omitted the sugar from the original recipe, and added a lot less of this, hoping the coconut flavor would still be there.)
1 cup skim milk  (Since I didn’t have enough liquid from the lack of coconut milk.)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 small can tomato sauce
SPICES
2 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp cumin (mine was not ground)
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red Thai spice (for a bit of a kick. Can use Tabasco or omit for no ‘bite’)
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
VEGGIES
1/2 can garbanzo beans
1/2 vidalia onion, diced small
3 cloves garlic, diced small
1/4 red bell pepper, diced
1 cup fresh green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 small sweet potato, diced
1 cup rice (basmati or jasmine is best)
1 1/2 cup water to boil rice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

 Step 1: Whisk the tomato sauce, milk, sour cream, and coconut. Add all your spices and set Crock Pot to heat up.

 Step 2: Dice up all your veggies, chicken, garlic, etc.

 Step 3: Add the chicken and mix to coat with sauce. Add the veggies on top. You could choose not to mix them in, they will steam as the Crock Pot cooks.

 Step 4: Cook on high for 4-5 hours or low 7-8. Mix once or twice. It smells divine after an hour or 2!

 Step 5: Cook rice according to directions. Add in chopped cilantro when finished, fluff with a fork.

Step 6: Serve curry over rice, and enjoy! The chicken is so tender and flavorful, the potatoes and chickpeas add a nutty, soft texture, and the green beans are cooked perfectly. You could certainly omit the chicken and maybe add extra veggies like eggplant or mushrooms to make this a hearty vegetarian dish. I will definitely make this again, especially since I have all the spices now. I will remember to get coconut milk next time though!