Crockpot Chili

The weather here in the great northwest took quite a turn last week. We went from weeks of sunny warm weather, to wet and much colder weather.

(I’m crazy to admit it, but I was kind of glad. I love me some fall foods.)

Anyways, I’ve been trying to crockpot my way back into cooking a meal each week, and this recipe was a super easy way to do it – while honoring a return to cold weather food.

(Oh, and I use ‘chili’ in the pop culture way – because apparently, according to Sheldon Cooper, real chili does not have beans in it. I learn so many interesting things from him.)

The Recipe:

Crockpot Chili

1 lb ground beef, browned

3/4 c onion, diced

3/4 c celery, diced

1 can green chilis

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 large can diced tomatoes

2 cans kidney beans, drained

1 can cannellini beans, with liquid

1 T chili powder

1 t dried parsley

1 t salt

1 t oregano

Place all ingredients in crockpot and and cook on low for 8-9 hours.

The Results:

So, I have to be upfront and honest about something. Hubs may have helped me out the night before by prepping all the ingredients for me. This was super helpful because, as he put it, it would’ve taken me 45 minutes to prep what took him only 20. (It’s a sad, but true fact.) Anyways, that basically just led to me just dumping everything in first thing in the morning – SO easy.

And it turned out really good.

Now, this is not a gourmet chili or a specialized chili, or anything fancy like that. This is a regular basic chili that I think everyone would like. It’s hearty and delicious – and is wonderful for leftovers.

(And everyone in the family enjoyed it – which is crazy and hardly ever happens around here.)

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Cuban Street Tacos

Now, don’t be getting your hopes up.

(Though I think if you follow my advice and do-nots, you probably would get an amazing dish.)

Anyways, we’re backtracking a little, and talking about Hubs’ birthday dinner.  Now, as I mentioned in the last post, I put together this dish the morning of Hubs’ day in the crock pot.  We were looking forward to sharing it with some very good friends for dinner.

Well, that was before.

Before I started not feeling well.

Before we made the mistake decision to have take-out Chinese for lunch.

Before our friends cancelled on us.

So, as dinner time rolled around, we were pretty much ambivalent about dinner.  Frankly, we were still fairly full from lunch – and were very overwhelmed by the complex aroma coming from the crock pot.  So, Hubs made an executive birthday decision: we’d save the tacos for the next night and have a light dinner instead.

Here was our exciting meal:

(No, you are not mistaken – peanut butter and jelly with Doritos.  What can I say, we were reliving our teenage youth.  And darn, it tasted good!)

Anyways, I’m telling you this because I’m thinking letting the meat stew in the juices overnight may not have been the best idea…

The Recipe:

Cuban Street Tacos, adapted slightly from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

4-lb boneless pork butt or boneless pork top loin roast, cut into 2-inch chunks

1 T kosher salt

1 T canola or vegetable oil

2 c chicken broth or stock

1/2 t pepper

1 t ground cumin

1 t chili powder

1 t dried oregano

2 bay leaves

3 large garlic cloves, minced

1 jalapeño, minced

1 onion, peeled and halved

juice of 1 lime

1 medium orange, halved and juice, rinds reserved

Rub the pieces of pork all over with salt. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Heat oil in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, until the oil is shimmering and hot.  Add the pork and sear each piece on all sides, working in batches, if needed.  Once browned, remove the pork to the slow cooker.  Into the same pot used to sear the pork, pour in the water and chicken stock, scraping the bottom of the pan with a flat-edged spatula or wooden spoon to get up all the delicious brown bits from the bottom.  Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a simmer.  Pour the mixture over the pork in the slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours, until the pork is very tender.

Remove the bay leaves, onion and orange rinds from the pot and discard.  Remove the pork and place in a bowl and set aside.  Pour the liquid from the slow cooker into a pot on the stove and over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil.  Let the mixture boil until it reduces to about 1 cup and is thickened slightly, about 10 -15 minutes.

Shred the pork and place on a large patter.  Spoon the sauce over the pork.  Serve in tortillas garnished with onions, cilantro, cheese, sour cream, guacamole and additional lime wedges, if desired.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

So, after this cooked for about seven hours, I turned it off, let it cool, and placed it in the refrigerator.

The next day, about an hour before we were going to eat, I placed it back in the slow cooker and turned it on high – and then followed the rest of the directions given.

I shredded the fork-tender pork, tasting a bit to make sure it was warm.  And let me tell you – it was amazing!  The mix of orange, jalapeno, and all the spices made for a treat for the tongue.

As I was sampling shredding the pork, I had the sauce simmering away on the stove top.  Once it had reduced quite a bit, I spooned some all over the gorgeous pork.  (Big mistake.  Big.  Huge.)

(Oh, and 10 points if you can name that quote.)

See, what I forgot to do is the most important thing you can do when cooking: taste your food.

Thinking things were still all wonderful, I plated up some amazing looking tacos.

It wasn’t until I took a huge bite that I realized something was seriously wrong.

Apparently, as the sauce had simmered, and the liquid evaporated, it got salty.  And I mean salty; as in spit-out-your-bite, salty.  As in the whole batch was ruined, salty… all that mouth-watering pork I’d tasted, ruined.

Let’s just say I was not happy.

I also want to say that I have made several of Mel’s recipes and they have all turned out perfectly.  So, I’m betting I did something wrong: whether it was leaving it sit overnight, using too much salt, or I don’t know.  So, I’m thinking if this sounds good to you, you should definitely still try it.

Just be sure to taste everything before you add, mix, or serve it.

(And yes, we did have pb&j again.)

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Be sure to enter my giveaway for a $20 gift card to Williams-Sonoma… check out this post for more information.  🙂

Chicken Corn Chowder {Crockpot}

Okay, I’m just going to say it, it’s just not fair!

Many of you readers out there are enjoying warm sunny spring weather and already talking about grilling.  While we, on the other hand, have had a heck of a week filled with snow, rain, wind, rain, monsoon rain, hail, thunderstorms, and, of course, rain.  Gotta love the Pacific Northwest.

I’m jealous.  I want spring, and I want it now.

I’m tired of this March coming in like a lion and staying like a lion.  Where’s our lamb??

Okay, enough complaining for now.

The only silver lining I can find is that at least I still get a chance to make some comforting and hearty dishes in my crockpot.

The Recipe:

Crockpot Chicken Corn Chowder, adapted from Food.com 

2 T butter

1 ½ lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes

½ c onion, chopped

3 celery ribs, sliced

3 carrots, sliced

2 c frozen corn kernels

2 (10 ¾ ounce) cans cream of potato soup

1 ½ c chicken broth

1 t dried dill weed

½ c half-and-half

salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, melt the butter or margarine; brown chicken. Transfer chicken to slow cooker.  Add onions and celery to skillet and saute’ for about 3 to 4 minutes, until just tender.  Add the onions and celery to crockpot, along with carrots, corn kernels, soup, chicken broth and dill.  Cover and cook on low 5 to 6 hours or until chicken is done and vegetables are tender.  During the last 10 minutes, stir in the half and half.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

Yesterday’s weather was crazy.  I mean absolutely crazy.  As I attempted to get back into my car from the grocery store (with the boys), Lake Parking Lot had formed under our car.  I had to brave huge gusts of wind and sheets of rain – without my coat (it had been barely sprinkling when we went in the store – and if you wear a coat for that, you’re just a wimp in our neck of the woods).  As I struggled to get the youngest buckled in his car seat, my cart blew free from where I’d lodged it, careened into the middle of Lake Parking Lot and headed straight for a car.  As I dashed after it, I stepped right into the Lake, soaking my feet and leg to mid calf.  It was awesome.  Not really.

Anyways, after driving the 20 minutes home with sopping wet hair and drenched clothing, I was ready to make something toasty warm for dinner and this recipe looked like it was meant for us all.

It was really easy to prep – even cutting the chicken.  Hubs suggested cutting the breasts while they were still partially frozen, and that worked great (especially since it let me skip the whole slimy raw chicken feeling I so love).  Once everything was thrown in the pot, there was nothing left to do except enjoy the smells wafting through my house.

But then I got bored.  So I started thinking… what’s better than warm chowder?  And then it hit me.  Warm chowder in a bread bowl!  Perfect.

So I made some lovely bread bowls that I’ll share in my next post.  In the meantime, check out our amazing meal.

Warm, hearty, and thoroughly satisfying on a blustery day.  The chowder was so tasty – creamy with the delicious chicken chunks and veggies.  And the sun actually made a short appearance while we ate, always a good omen.

Today looks like a milder version of yesterday, weatherwise.

I’m still going to wear my rain boots, though.

Happy Friday!

Curried Chicken Stew {Crockpot}

I’m not sure why I’m even sharing this recipe.

I think it’s because I’ve promised myself to share the ups and downs of learning to cook – and that means that sometimes (but not as often as in the past), recipes are just not going to turn out that great.

Not that this was horrible, but it certainly was not a favorite for anyone in the house.

I was excited, once again, to use my crockpot for an easy recipe – this time branching out from my typical American or Mexican fare.  I should’ve known my crockpot successes would have to come to an end sometime.

The Recipe:

Curried Chicken Stew, slightly adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, December 2011

6 bone-in chicken thighs

2 t olive oil

6 carrots, cut into 2-inch chunks

1 medium sweet onion, cut into narrow wedges

1 c unsweetened coconut milk

1/4 c panang curry paste

1/4 c cilantro, chopped

Trim excess skin and fat from chicken.  In skillet cook chicken, skin side down, in hot olive oil for 8 minutes, or until browned (do not turn thighs).

In slow cooker, add carrots and onion.  In small bowl, whisk together 1/2 c coconut milk and curry paste.; pour over vegetables.  Place chicken, skin side up, on top of carrots and onions.  Cover.

Cook on high for 3 1/2 to 4 hours or on low for 7 to 8 hours.

Remove chicken, skim off excess fat, and then stir in remaining 1/2 c coconut milk.  Top with cilantro and serve.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

I knew, knew, that I would regret using bone-in chicken thighs.  From my Tortilla Soup recipe last week, I knew that they would make the recipe greasy.  I stuck with them because I was hoping the browning beforehand might leach some of that grease out.  Wrong.

(I think BH&G used the thighs because it’s supposed to be a meal on a budget – but seriously, I have learned my lesson and will be sticking with boneless skinless breast from now on.)

Anyways, it was really easy to put together.

My math skills (or lack thereof) were put to the test when I had to chop the veggies.  Let’s just say my 2-inch carrots did not quite live up to 2 inches.  But my onions were pretty.

Besides the chopping and the browning, it was another dump and go recipe.

Things I wish I’d known before making this:

1.  Our curry paste happens to be extremely hot.  Hubs, apparently, only uses about 1/2 of what is asked in any recipe.  Oops.

2.  Even if it doesn’t say, always, always season your meat.  Otherwise it tastes bland – even after soaking in spicy curry all day.

So basically, it was an extremely hot curry surrounding some very bland and greasy chicken.  Not the most appetizing.

It’s not that I don’t think this recipe is salvageable, it’s just that we have better curry recipes that are just as easy.  But, I’m sure if someone else was motivated enough they could make this much better.  (I even tried to challenge Hubs again, but he said it wasn’t really worth it.)

One really good thing did come out of it though…

(Hint: it’s prominently shown in the picture.)

And I’ll be posting about it later this week.

Crockpot Chicken Tortilla Soup

I remember back in the good ‘ole days (meaning last year), when I cooked in a crockpot because I had to.

It was the only way I felt the least bit in control in the kitchen.

(Plus I could do it in the morning when Hubs wouldn’t be able to watch over my shoulder.)

Nowadays, I like that I can pick and choose when to use a crockpot – and I can appreciate it for the wonderful kitchen tool it is.  It makes cooking dinner an absolute breeze and is perfect for this busy mom.  I can’t imagine not having the option to just dump some ingredients in a pot, turn it on, and have a yummy dinner ready a few (or more) short hours later.

This was one of those super easy recipes that yielded an absolutely delicious result.

The Recipe:

Crockpot Chicken Tortilla Soup, adapted slightly from Spark Recipes 

1 lb frozen skinless chicken (shred near end of cooking time)

1 (15-oz) can whole peeled tomatoes, mashed

1 (10-oz) can enchilada sauce

1 medium onion, chopped

1 (4-oz) can chopped green chile peppers

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 c chicken broth

1 t cumin

1 t salt

1/4 t black pepper

10 oz frozen corn

1 can black beans, rinsed

Place chicken, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, onion, green chiles, and garlic into a slow cooker.  Pour in chicken broth, and season with cumin, salt, and pepper.  Stir in corn and black beans.  Cover and cook on Low setting for 6 to 8 hours or on High setting for 3 to 4 hours.  Garnish with crushed tortilla chips, sour cream, shredded cheese, cilantro, or avocados.  Makes 8 servings.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

Simple, quick, gorgeous, flavorful, delicious.

What more could you ask for?

There are a couple minor changes that I would make for next time.  First, I would stick to boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  I used a mix of bone-in thighs, drumsticks, and a breast – and the thighs and drumsticks added a little extra grease that I had to skim off the top.  Plus, shredding them was a lot harder than shredding the breast piece.

Also, I would use a can of diced tomatoes rather than whole tomatoes you have to mash.  Let’s just say my cream-colored sweater is no longer pristinely cream.  (I know, what the heck was I thinking cooking in a cream-colored top.  Lesson learned.)  And I still had giant hunks of tomato in the soup.

Other than those small things, this soup was perfect.  (Especially since it was a blustery rainy night.)

And you gotta have it with all the fixings.

Yum!

Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken

The year started with a little home comfort, a little continental taste, and a little sweet.

Now, I decided, it needed a little spice.

I had found a wonderful Grilled Cilantro Lime Chicken recipe last summer, but just never got around to making it.  I thought that the middle of winter would be a great time to brave the drizzle and spice up our week.

Unfortunately, our fairly new grill was knocked over during a wind storm over the holidays and has decided not to work.  (Hubs is ecstatic, as you can imagine.)

So, I went to Plan B.

The Recipe:

Slow Cooker Cilantro Lime Chicken, adapted from Pip & Ebby

24-oz jar medium salsa verde

juice from one lime

1/4 c fresh cilantro, chopped

1 1.25-oz. package taco seasoning

2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped

4-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, thawed

(If you do not have or want to use a packet of taco seasoning, you can substitute the following:

1 T chili powder

1/4 t garlic powder

1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 t dried oregano

1/2 t paprika

1 1/2 t ground cumin

1 t sea salt

1 t black pepper)

In crockpot, mix everything but the chicken.  Add chicken and cover with salsa sauce.  Cook on low for 6 hours.  Serve on rice or shred and serve in tacos.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

I wanted spice – and boy, did I get spice!

(Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t tweak my version to make it a little less spicy – for example you could use mild salsa and no jalapenos.  I think that would bring the heat down a tad.)

But I like things a little spicy, so this was right up my alley.  Plus, it included two of my most favorite food flavors: cilantro and lime.  I swear if they had a cilantro and lime perfume, I’d buy it.  Really.

I also liked figuring out my own ‘taco seasoning’ to use.  (If you want it milder, remove the red pepper flakes.)   I saw several ideas online and kind of picked and chose the seasonings I liked.

And I loved the color combinations in my crockpot.

Unfortunately (for the looks) but fortunately (for the flavor), everything kind of melded all together to make a brownish-green sauce.  It certainly wasn’t pretty, but it was chock-full of spicy, citrusy, cilantro-y taste.   We served it over rice last night and are using the leftovers for tacos tonight.

Another super simple crockpot recipe to add to my growing collection of easy dinners.

Enjoy!

Sweet and Spicy BBQ Pot Roast

The cold weather has arrived.

(Or at least our cold weather – down to the 30’s at night.)

Nothing says snuggling-in on a cold autumn day with your family than a delicious homemade pot roast.  (Or a nice hot toddy if you’re snuggling with my family, but that’s a discussion for a different day.)

Anyways, I’ve kind of gone back to my cooking roots (they’re so deep you know) and am exploring my crock pot options these days.  I wanted to make a pot roast because it sounded comforting, warm, and I knew it would smell up my kitchen for hours.  I also hoped to find a recipe that was a little different from the typical pot roast.

When I saw this recipe at Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, I knew I’d found it.

The Recipe:

Slow Cooker Sweet and Spicy BBQ Pot Roast, from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

4-7 lbs boneless chuck roast, trimmed of large areas of fat

1-2 T saute spice (equal parts garlic powder, salt and black pepper)

2 T vegetable oil

1 can root beer

1 can (around 9-ish ounces, the size of a soup can) red chile enchilada sauce

2 T Worcestershire sauce

1 T hot sauce

3 T cornstarch

¼ c of water or milk

Pat the roast(s) dry with a paper towel; then rub the saute spice all over the roast.  Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet until it is shimmering.  Brown the roast on all sides in the hot oil, for about 1 minute on each side.  The oil should be hot enough to get the roast nicely browned without burning it.

Transfer the roast to a 4-8 quart slow cooker.  In a bowl, combine the root beer, enchilada sauce, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce and pour over the roast.  Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 5-6 hours.

Remove the roast, reserving juices in the slow cooker.  Tent the roast with foil to keep warm.  In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and water/milk, stirring well until the cornstarch is completely dissolved.  Stir the cornstarch mixture into the juices in the slow cooker.  Cook, uncovered, on high for 15 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Serve sauce over roast with mashed potatoes or any other sides.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

Did you notice (how could you not?) that this recipe is made with root beer??  I was really excited to make it because I’d told Hubs that it would include some secret ingredients.  I wanted to test his taste buds to see if he could identify the unusual flavorings.

I started off rubbing and then browning the roast.  I’m so proud that I don’t freak out anymore when have to touch raw beef, fish, or pork (chicken’s still a whole other matter, though).

Aren't you glad I remembered to put the oil in first?

I put it in my lovely crock pot, mixed up my bubbly root beer concoction, and poured it on top.

See all the carbonation bubbles?

6 hours on high later, I had a moist, flavorful, absolutely delicious pot roast – and some darn fine gravy to go with it.  Minimal work with fabulous results!  Definitely my kind of recipe.

The root beer (or root beard as my son calls it) gave it a sweet carmel-y tone that matched well with the spicy enchilada sauce and salty worcestershire.  We also used the gravy on some delicious buttery mashed potatoes Hubs made, and it was heaven.

Unfortunately, that same four-year old (who shall now be known as Big Mouth) told Hubs the secret ingredients, so my little game did not come to fruition.  But in the end, I was okay with that because I was the big winner with this mouth-watering little gem of a recipe.

The perfect warmer-upper on a crisp, cold day.