Archive for the 'Slow Cooker' Category

Moroccan Vegetable Stew

We’ve been undergoing a bit of a food revolution in our house over the past few months, trying to eat as cleanly as possible (when we’re home and can control it, at least!) in the interest of being our best and healthiest selves. We eat lots of organic meat and eggs, lots of fruit and veggies (keeping the Dirty Dozen organic, at least), and a little organic dairy, and we’ve majorly reduced our beer and wine consumption. It’s been tough, but worth it. Lest you think we’re going crazy, I did bring a caramel apple pie to my friend Christopher’s amazing Thanksgiving dinner and enjoyed every single bite. (Life without any indulgence hardly seems worth living, am I right?) Still, we’re doing the best we can as often as we can.

Changing our lunch habits has been a major challenge throughout this process. I used to alternate between Lean Cuisine and turkey sandwiches; Dr. O was eating the previous night’s leftovers, or (horror of horrors!) Lean Pockets, in the event of an emergency. Since I really wanted to get away from processed food, I bought a bunch of glass Snapware at Costco and committed to stocking my freezer with homemade frozen lunches. I’ve made lots of delicious recipes (I’ll share them, promise!), but today’s recipe – Moroccan Vegetable Stew from Peace Meals – is one of my favorites. There’s a lot of prep work with the veggies, but the stew is really simple and tasty. Plus, the ingredients fill my five-quart slow cooker to the brim, which means I have plenty of lunches to freeze.

Moroccan Vegetable Stew
Serves 6 – 8

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried coriander
1 teaspoon dried cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
5 cups vegetable broth (I use organic chicken broth, since that’s what I keep on hand)
2 1/2 cups diced eggplant, about 2 medium
2 cups peeled and sliced carrots, about 5 small
2 cups cauliflower florets, about 1 small head
2 cups sliced zucchini, about 2 medium
1 cup chopped onion, about 1 medium
29 ounces canned stewed tomatoes (I use Muir Glen)
15 ounces canned garbanzo beans
1 cup chopped toasted almonds
3/4 cup currants
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1/2 cup non-fat plain yogurt (optional)

Method:
Heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-low. Add the garlic and spices and cook until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes; be careful not to burn the garlic. Scrape the garlic and spices into a slow cooker. Add the broth and the remaining ingredients (except the yogurt) and stir. Cook on high for 6 to 7 hours. Allow to cool slightly. Purée 3 cups of the stew in a blender or food processor and return to the slow cooker, stirring to combine. Serve warm with a dollop of yogurt, if desired.

Source: Peace Meals

Moroccan Vegetable Stew

This is such warm, delicious, comforting food. You probably have to like eggplant in order to enjoy this one, but I just adore the way all the vegetables in this dish come together. I also love, love, love the hint of sweetness from the currants and the slight heat from the cayenne pepper.

The first time I made this stew, I was in a huge hurry, rushing to get out the door for some reason. I nearly skipped the almonds since I didn’t want to take the time to toast and chop them. It would have been a huge mistake! I thought it was so strange to put nuts in a slow-cooker stew (surely they would get spongy, right?), but they add such a wonderful texture and flavor to the dish.

TIPS: When I first made this stew, I cut my vegetables into fairly large pieces since I assumed they would cook down quite a bit (especially the eggplant and the zucchini). It didn’t really happen. Now, I use a small dice for the onion, a small-medium dice for the eggplant, and half-moons for the zucchini (and larger carrots). Also, I just put my hand blender right into the slow cooker for a few seconds at the end, rather than dirty my regular blender or food processor.

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Slow-Cooked Vanilla Spice Oatmeal

Recently, I received a treat in the mail: a promotional copy of Pure Vanilla, a new vanilla-centered cookbook by Piece of Cake blogger Shauna Sever. As much as I love chocolate, vanilla has always been my favorite flavor, so I couldn’t wait to dig in and check out the recipes. In a cruel twist of fate, we’re trying to avoid eating too much refined sugar and dairy at this point, so I longingly skipped over Vanilla Bean Bread Pudding, Big Mama Vanilla Cheesecake, Salted Vanilla Chip Oatmeal Cookies, and Candied Vanilla Popcorn. I did manage to find a recipe, though, that (a) is relatively low sugar, (b) is made (almost entirely) with things I already had on hand, and (c) solves a problem we’ve been tackling recently, which is that it’s hard to make breakfast every morning with Dr. O’s ever-changing (and sometimes painfully early) work hours.

Shauna says adding a vanilla bean “transforms this humble food (oats) into something otherworldly,” and she’s right. Throw this one together before bed and wake up to one fantastic breakfast.

Slow-Cooked Vanilla Spice Oatmeal
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 cup steel-cut oats
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 tablespoons light brown sugar (optional), plus more for serving
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
Half-and-half or heavy cream, for serving

Method:
Coat the sleeve of a 5-quart slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Place sleeve in slow cooker and combine all ingredients in it; add 3 1/2 cups water and stir to blend. Set slow cooker to low and cook for 8 hours. Remove vanilla bean and scrape any remaining caviar into oatmeal. Stir well and serve with brown sugar to taste and a drizzle of half-and-half or heavy cream.

Variation: Increase the water to 4 cups and add 2/3 cup of dried fruit before cooking.

Source: Pure Vanilla

Slow-Cooked Vanilla Spice Oatmeal

Talk about an incredibly easy, super tasty breakfast. I tried the variation, upping the water to four cups and adding 1/3 cup of dried tart cherries and 1/3 cup of dried apricots. The fruit cooked down to a lusciously soft consistency and the spices were just right. Dr. O said it was like eating cobbler for breakfast (a good thing in our house!).

My only complaint? I lost about a serving of oatmeal to crust on the sides of my slow cooker sleeve, even with a coating of canola cooking spray.  Maybe next time I’ll combine the ingredients in a separate bowl and dump them in to avoid disturbing the cooking spray.  (Or maybe my slow cooker is a bit too warm, even on low?)  I’m very interested to try this as a single serving in my Crock-Pot Little Dipper.  I’ll post an update when I do.

Thanks for the book and the amazing recipes, Shauna!  Can’t wait to try them all.

Fat Tire Pulled Pork Tacos

I was recently selected to participate in a challenge put on by Foodbuzz and New Belgium Brewing.  The goal: to create a recipe that incorporates a New Belgium beer or pairs well with one.  In return, I would receive a $50 stipend to buy beer and ingredients (yes!) and the opportunity to connect with New Belgium’s many, many Facebook fans (double yes!) if the company likes my recipe well enough to post it.  I was especially excited about this challenge because Dr. O and I have been huge fans of New Belgium for years.  Since we live in Denver, we’ve even been able to make a trip up to Ft. Collins to visit the brewery.

Dr. O at New Belgium

Not-Yet-Dr. O waaaay back in the day

To honor my hubby’s favorite (classic Fat Tire), I decided to build on a pulled pork taco recipe that I developed for a friend’s party last year.  Here it is:

Fat Tire Pulled Pork Tacos
Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients:
3 1/2-pound pork shoulder roast, trimmed of excess fat
1 cup Fat Tire (drink the rest!)
1 small onion, peeled and cut into thick wedges
1 serrano pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Salsa
Sliced avocado
Queso fresco
Tortillas or taco shells

Method:
In a 5-quart slow cooker, combine beer, onion, serrano pepper, garlic, and bay leaf. Cut pork roast in half and add to the slow cooker.  Sprinkle salt and pepper over the top of the pork.  Cook on low heat for 8 hours (or high heat for 6 hours).

Transfer pork from the slow cooker to a large bowl.  Cover to keep warm.

Skim fat from the top of the slow cooker juices (or pour juices into a fat separator). Strain juices into a medium saucepan (discard solids) and cook over medium-high heat until reduced by half (about 5 to 7 minutes).

Meanwhile, shred pork with two forks.  Discard any obvious pieces of fat.  Pour reduced slow cooker juices over the shredded pork and toss to combine.  Season to taste with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.

Serve pork in tortillas or taco shells with your favorite salsa, sliced avocado, and queso fresco.  Enjoy with Fat Tire, of course!

Fat Tire Pulled Pork Tacos

This recipe produces great results.  The meat comes out tender, moist, and flavorful, and the accompaniments round out the dish nicely.  Fat Tire and tacos are a match made in heaven.  Give them a try!

Slow-Cooker Spicy Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches

Football party season is upon us (Dr. O is out enjoying one as I write), which means it’s time to break out our very best game day recipes.  I found one this past week that is easy, perfect for entertaining (slow cooker!), and is actually pretty healthy: Spicy Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches from the January/February 2011 issue of Everyday Food.  The recipe isn’t on the Everyday Food site yet, so I’ll share it with you here.

Slow-Cooker Spicy Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches
Serves 8 | Active time: 25 min. | Total time: 4 hr. 25 min.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, diced small
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced small
1 can (14.5 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup hot-pepper sauce, such as Frank’s (I used Cholula)
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon unsulfured molasses
8 hamburger buns

Method:
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high.  Add chicken thighs, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring once, until meat is golden brown, 5 minutes.  With a slotted spoon, transfer to a slow cooker, leaving as much oil behind as possible. Repeat with chicken breasts.

To skillet, add onion, garlic, and bell pepper and cook over medium, stirring constantly, until onion is translucent, 6 minutes.  Add 1/4 cup water and cook, stirring and scraping up browned bits from skillet, 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and transfer to slow cooker.

To slow cooker, add crushed tomatoes, hot-pepper sauce, Worcestershire, mustard, and molasses; stir to combine.  Cover and cook on high until chicken is very tender, 4 hours.  Shred chicken and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve on buns.

Note: Refrigerate the finished dish in an airtight container, up to 5 days, or freeze, up to 3 months.

Nutrition per serving: 358 cal; 10 g fat (3 g sat fat); 35 g protein; 31 g carb; 3 g fiber

Spicy Buffalo Chicken Sandwich

These sandwiches were SO good!  I have a basic barbecued chicken sandwich recipe that I’ve been using for years, but this recipe has so much more depth of flavor. Unless I’m short on time, I’ll take this sandwich any day.  I should note, though, that the inclusion of the word “spicy” in the recipe title isn’t a joke.  I was cautious and cut the hot sauce to 3 tablespoons instead of 4; the heat was still enough to make our noses run.  (Our New Mexico and Arizona friends joke that we’re still “in training” when it comes to eating spicy food…  Somehow, I think this will be a lifelong process!)  Anyway, if you like it hot, go with the full 1/4 cup; if you don’t do spicy food, you might still get a hint of heat if you cut the hot sauce to 2 tablespoons.

Since I’m used to cooking fattier cuts of meat (like pork shoulder or chuck roast) in the slow cooker, I was a bit skeptical about how well the chicken breast would shred.  It was amazingly easy!  I guess that just goes to show that the slow cooker can do amazing things with meat, lean or not.

I won’t be cooking on Super Bowl Sunday, but I’m absolutely putting these sandwiches in my game day arsenal.  Give them a try the next time you need to make a casual supper for a crowd.

Slow-Cooker Spiced Chicken Stew with Carrots

I’m apparently on a stew streak…  Here goes another!

I’ve really developed a taste for carrots in the past few years, despite having a rough history with the vegetable.  Carrots were one of those foods I wouldn’t touch as a child.  My dad never really cared for them, so I figured it was hereditary.  When I first started cooking for myself, though, I decided that I actually kind of liked the soft texture and sweetness of cooked carrots, but forget the raw ones.  Now, one of my favorite snacks is hummus and carrot sticks (home-cut carrot sticks *only* – not those weird-tasting carrot chips you can buy at the grocery store).  Ah, the joys of growing up and palate maturation.

The March 2009 issue of Everyday Food had a special section on carrots…  Despite my penchant for carrot cake (Carrot Tea Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, anyone?), I decided to try the Slow-Cooker Spiced Chicken Stew with Carrots first.  The recipe only takes 10 minutes (!) to put together and I was intrigued by the Moroccan-style seasonings; it’s hard to beat easy *and* flavorful.

First, I peeled 2 pounds of carrots, cut them into 1 1/2-inch lengths, and tossed them into the slow cooker.  Next, I combined 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (the recipe just said “skinless,” but boneless worked well), 1 thinly sliced garlic clove, 1 cinnamon stick, 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper in a large bowl.  I tossed the mixture until the chicken thighs were completely coated and transferred the entire contents of the bowl to the slow cooker as well.

I put the lid on the slow cooker and cooked the stew on high for 4 hours (on low for 8 hours would work too).  At the 3:45 mark, I stirred 1/4 cup of golden raisins into the stew.  When the cooking time was complete, I removed the cinnamon stick and used a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken and carrots to a serving dish.  I topped the chicken with 1/2 cup of cilantro leaves and 1/4 cup of toasted sliced almonds, seasoned the cooking liquid (still in the slow cooker) with salt and pepper to taste, and then spooned the liquid over the chicken and carrots.  I served the stew over couscous.

Slow Cooker Spiced Chicken Stew with Carrots

I thought the flavor and texture of this dish were really terrific.  The carrots were sweet and tender, the chicken was juicy, and the garlic-cinnamon-cumin-cilantro seasoning really worked.  I loved the crunch of the almonds too.  I quizzed Dr. O to see if he could guess what the “secret” ingredient was (the cinnamon stick), and he actually got it (on the third try 🙂 ).    This dish probably won’t please many “vanilla” eaters, but I think anyone with a relatively adventurous palate would enjoy this.  Plus, it’s awfully hard to beat that 10-minute prep time!

TIP:  I’ve been using my slow cooker a lot lately, and I’ve noticed a trend.  When I cook meat on high for a shorter period of time, the pieces tend to stay intact (but very tender); when I cook meat on low for a longer period of time, it usually falls apart when I try to remove it from the slow cooker.  Falling-apart meat can be a beautiful thing, certainly, but I suppose choosing “high” or “low” just depends on how you want to present the meal.

Recipe link: Slow-Cooker Spiced Chicken Stew with Carrots

Soy Ginger Chicken

I love my slow cooker. I think the best part about it is that you typically make the dinner mess about 6 – 8 hours before you need to eat the meal, which allows for plenty of clean-up time. 🙂 Anyway, Dr. O picked a nice slow cooker meal earlier this week – Soy Ginger Chicken from the December 2006 issue of Everyday Food.

I started by combining 1/3 cup of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar, 5 thinly sliced garlic cloves, 2/3 cup of chopped fresh cilantro, 1 piece of fresh ginger (peeled and cut into thin strips), 1/2 cup of scallions, 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, 1 teaspoon of ground coriander, and 1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper in my slow cooker. I added 4 chicken drumsticks and 4 thighs (skin removed) along with 2 thinly sliced carrots. I tossed everything together and cooked the chicken on low for 6 hours.

When the six hours had passed, I whisked together 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of water in a 2-cup glass measuring cup. I ladled 1 cup of cooking liquid from the crock pot into the measuring cup and whisked everything together to combine. I put the mixture into a small saucepan, brought it to a boil, and cooked it until thickened (about 1 minute). With the slow cooker turned off, I stirred the sauce into the chicken. I served this over white rice, garnished with cilantro.

soy_ginger_chicken.jpg

If I had been paying attention, I would have followed the recipe and garnished it with more scallions as well. I used up all the scallions I had in the first part of the recipe, and my search for scallions during my SuperTarget errand turned up cold. We survived.

This dish was good but not “knock your socks off” great. There’s nothing like slow-cooked meat, though… I had a couple lonely drumstick bones in the crock pot because the meat had cooked right off.

TIPS: If you don’t have a large slow cooker, this dish can be made in the oven as well. Click the recipe link below and check out the “Notes” section for full instructions.

Recipe link: Soy Ginger Chicken

Italian Pot Roast

We had dinner at our place with our neighbors last night, and I decided to serve Italian Pot Roast from the December 2004 issue of Everyday Food. This is a “bold green” recipe, all the way. Plus, it’s a slow cooker recipe, which means any mess can be cleaned up long before company arrives.

I started with a beef chuck roast. I cut it in half crosswise and then cut 4 random slits in the meat. I stuff each slit with half of a garlic clove. I seasoned the beef with salt and pepper and then heated 1 tablespoon of olive oil in my cast iron skillet over high heat. I browned the meat on all sides, using tongs to turn it. Browning took about 5 minutes.

Next, I combined the beef, an onion (cut into wedges), 1 1/4 pounds of white potatoes, a can of whole tomatoes in puree (28 ounces), 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary, and 2 more halved garlic cloves in my (large) slow cooker. I cooked everything on high for 6 hours.

When the cooking time had passed, I removed just the meat from the slow cooker and cut it into smaller pieces. I skimmed the fat off the top of the sauce using a sieve and then returned the meat to the pot until we were ready to eat. I served this with a loaf of take-and-bake bread from Kroger and salad with dried cherries and toasted almonds.

italian_pot_roast.jpg

This was actually really easy and the ingredient list is exceptionally short, but it was so good. Seriously.

TIPS: The recipe says this will serve 8 people. There is simply *no* way. I started with a 2.8-pound piece of meat (as opposed to exactly 3 pounds) and served it to 4 people. The guys barely got seconds before we completely emptied the pot.

Also, it can be tricky to find whole tomatoes in puree. Most “normal” grocery stores only have them packed in juice. If that’s all you can find, it will work – your sauce will just be thinner.

Recipe link: Italian Pot Roast




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