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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Easy Italian Bread Bowls

As I continue my quest to have homemade breads become a staple in every kitchen, I have another easy recipe for you all: bread bowls.

There’s just something about the way a bread bowl absorbs just the right amount of soup – where you can scrape the inside with your spoon and get the perfect bite of soup and bread together. It’s just heaven.

My love of bread bowls started many, many years ago on a little road trip to San Francisco in college.  My best friend and I ended up enjoying the most amazing sourdough bread bowl meals at Boudin‘s.  I think we may have had three meals there over the course of our four days in San Fran.  It’s been virtually impossible to find its match since.

So, last week, when I was smelling the aroma of my Chicken Corn Chowder, I was taken back to our trip.  And I decided right then and there to attempt to make my own bread bowls for us to enjoy.

Now, I knew that sourdough would not be happening since it takes several days to get it going, so I searched for any easy recipe I could make in an afternoon.

The Recipe:

Italian Bread Bowls, slightly adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

(I halved her recipe since we only needed three bowls.)

3/4 T active dry yeast

1 1/4 c warm water

2 t sugar

1 t salt

1 T vegetable oil

3 – 3 1/2 c bread flour

1/2 T cornmeal

In a large bowl (or bowl of an electric mixer), dissolve yeast in warm water and sugar. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

Add salt, oil and 2 cups flour to the yeast mixture; beat well.  Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well with an electric mixer at medium speed after each addition until a soft but not sticky dough is formed.

When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes (or let knead in an electric mixer).

Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil.  Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes.  Punch dough down, and divide into 3-4 equal portions.  Shape each portion into a round ball.  Place loaves on lightly greased baking sheets sprinkled with cornmeal (or use silpat liners or parchment paper).  If desired, slash the top surface of the bread bowl several times with a sharp knife or razor. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in bulk, about 35 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake in preheated oven for 15-18 minutes until golden brown and baked through.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

Now, I know that some of you are intimidated by yeast.  (I promise, they’re not scary…but in case you are worried, Mel has a great tutorial on yeast that might ease some of your fears.)  The one thing I did add to the recipe is a little sugar.  For some reason, my yeast gets a lot happier if I add a touch of sugar to the recipe.  I don’t think it does much to the flavor, but it gets those little yeasties bubbling away.

Anyhow, the rest of the bread mixing/kneading was easy.  Everything was moving along smoothly until it was time to divide the dough evenly.  As I have documented many, many times, I have issues when it comes to math – not numbers math, but shape/size/volume issues.  This was no exception.

Here is my post second-rise picture:

No, the first one isn’t bigger because it’s closer to the camera.  It’s just bigger in size.  And because of the size difference, they rose differently – the two smaller ones rose much higher.  Oh, well.

No worries, though.  As long as they were big enough to hold some chowder, all was good.  And when they came out, the gorgeous color made me happy – as did that warm bread smell.

I scooped out some of the middle, added my chowder, and a tasty meal was had by all.

What I loved about these bread bowls was that the crust was hard enough to hold the thick chowder without getting soggy – while the inside was super soft and soaked the chowder right up.  The flavor was great with the chowder or with butter, as we served the middles with some butter on the side.

Again, this was just the exact-right comforting dinner we needed that day.

A home-run of a meal, as Hubs would say.

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!

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!

Tuscan Bean Stew

Yay!  Recipe one from my list of New Year’s Resolution recipes – check.

Delicious, warming, comfort food – check.

First dinner of the New Year cooked – check.

If they all are as easy as this dish, I am going to fly through these for sure.

The Recipe:

Tuscan Bean Stew, adapted from A Dash of Sugar and Spice

1 T extra virgin olive oil

6 slices bacon, cut into ¼-inch pieces

1 large onion, chopped

4 medium celery ribs, cut into ½-inch pieces

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces

8 medium garlic cloves, minced

3 c turkey broth

2 c water

4 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed well

2 bay leaves

1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained

1 sprig fresh rosemary

Heat oil and bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until bacon is lightly browned and fat has rendered, 8 to 10 minutes.  Add onion, celery, and carrots; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and lightly browned, 10 to 16 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Stir in broth, water, beans, bay leaves, and tomatoes.  Increase heat to high and bring to simmer; reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.   Add rosemary and simmer another 10 to 15 minutes, or until vegetables are fully tender.

Discard bay leaves and rosemary sprig; season with salt and pepper to taste. If desired, use back of spoon to press some beans against side of pot to thicken stew.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

What originally drew me to this recipe was the beautiful colors involved (well, and the fact that it had veggies in it that I actually liked).

I had planned on getting kale to go in it, but our small local grocery store (we live in a little town) did not have any when I went grocery shopping.

The other big change I made was I substituted turkey broth for the chicken broth – we just happened to have some homemade leftover from the holidays.

I really don’t think you’d notice any difference, though, between the two broths.  (Though you might between homemade and store-bought.)

I adored the smells that came from cooking this.  Between the bacon, onion, garlic, and herbs, my house smelled divine.  Hubs even commented on it when he walked in the door.

I wish I’d had better light to do the colors in this dish some justice.  But it was pretty – even without the kale.

The stew was tasty, filling, and perfect for a gray day (in other words, pretty much any winter day around here).  Next time I will be sure to use good bacon – and Hubs suggested removing it from the dutch oven after it’d crisped up and then adding it back in at the end in order to keep a little extra texture and taste.

I already feel this year is off to a great culinary start.

Crossing my fingers it stays that way.