First, the tips:
1. If you’re doing anything with beans, get dried beans. Put them and a lot of water in the crock pot overnight–turned off. This will soften the beans and they’ll cook beautifully while you’re at work.
2. Instead of using a blender at the end of recipes that call for them, invest in an immersion blender. You will become evangelical about it.
3. If your soup or stew calls for rice, and you want it to come out great, buy minute rice. Put it in your crock pot stew 10-15 minutes before you want to serve.
Okay–on to the recipes! (I’m sorry, by the way, about the way most of the recipe sites I’m linking to are organized. You have to scroll a LONG way down to the actual recipe, and pop ads get in the way, but I don’t want to steal people’s recipes, either.)
Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan Soup. This is a favorite of my son.
Black Bean Soup. Book group and campus people love this one. It’s vegan, but you can have toppings: cheese, ham/bacon, sour cream, etc. I recommend green onions on top in any case. With this and other bean recipes, have some wine vinegar on the table–just a sprinkle refreshes the flavors.
Curried Lentils with Chicken and Potatoes (from Melissa Bender). So good, and warming in cold weather.
Jambalaya. I do this in the crock pot, though the recipe is for the stove top. See the rice hint above. I also add okra, cause it’s friggin’ jambalaya. If you use shrimp, add them relatively late. The trick to Jambalaya, though, is to do it the old-fashioned way–throw in whatever meat you have. I always use ham and sausage, and I usually throw in a frozen or fresh chicken breast and a frozen fillet of white fish if I have one lying around the freezer.
Red Beans and Rice. Make the rice on the stove or in the rice cooker. Soak the beans first, as described above, and sprinkle with wine vinegar at the end.
Basically, I do almost all the soups/stews I could do on the stove in the crock pot: chili, split-pea soup, white bean soup, chicken soup, vegetable soup, daal, pork tomatillo soup, potato soup, broccoli soup, etc. If you’re doing a pot luck, you can make the soup on the stove, but then take it to the party, or, in my case, the all day grading session, and leave perfection on low.
In addition to the recipes listed above, here are more favorites that book groups and colleagues alike have wanted the recipes for:
Creamy Tomato Soup. You know, the kind kids like. I add basil.
Spiced Carrot Soup with Lime. The boy and I decided this needed a little bit of rice and some coconut milk. We serve it with naan.
Indian Spiced Corn Soup. This is now my favorite corn soup.
Chickpea Vegetable Stew. This can be made vegetarian, or, if you’re making it for my son, you can make it more kid friendly by leaving out the chickpeas.
Yes, I know my son is no longer a kid. And he’s not picky in all the traditional kid ways. He doesn’t like beans, but love broccoli. He eats Japanese, Thai, and Indian all the time, but won’t eat some of the more traditional “American things.”
Just the other day, he had falafel for dinner with his friends. Since he’d been SO picky as a child, he asked if I was surprised.
“No. I know it would take something really exotic like an omelette or an apple pie to throw you now.”
Pasta in a crock pot? Really?
Yes. Oh, yes.
Of course, you already know that you can make a good marinara/spaghetti sauce in the crock pot, leaving it to simmer all day, putting it atop stove-top made pasta when you get home. But pasta can go into the crock pot, too.
How about enough ravioli casserole for a crowd?
What about some mac and cheese (with or without bacon) waiting for you on a rainy day? This one is by Trisha Yearwood. (You can’t leave these dishes on all day, but still.)
I haven’t tried it yet, but I bet I could make this sausage and tortellini soup in the crock pot if I use frozen tortellini . . . or, I could throw the pasta in at the end if it’s fresh (more soups in a blog to come).
A simple chicken with noodles? 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (can use frozen); 2 cans cream of chicken soup; 1 stick of butter; 2 15 oz cans chicken broth; 24 oz. frozen egg noodles. Directions: Cook chicken, soup, butter, and broth in crock–pot on low for 6-7 hours. Take chicken out and shred. Put chicken back in; add noodles and cook on low for 2 hours. Stir a few times while cooking.
You could do these chicken riggies the same way, instead of cooking the noodles separately.
But what everyone asks for, again and again, is crock pot lasagna: Spray the crock pot with pam. Layer marinara sauce, no boil noodles (yes, you’ll have to break them, and the layering will be uneven), alfredo sauce, no boil noodles. Repeat until 2/3rds full. Top with mozzarella and cook on low 4-6 hours. Any cheap alfredo sauce will do. When I’m not making my own marinara, I prefer to use this one: Enjoy!!!
We all know the ways in which 2016 has sucked.
I’ve cried a lot more this year, over the deaths of heroes, over the death of reasonable elections, over the fear of how much worse it might get.
But there were good things in 2016.
Melissa Bender and I had a book come out.
I spoke at conferences in Spain, Sweden, London, San Diego, Portland, and Chicago (twice).
I saw Love and Information, The Deep Blue Sea, The Suicide, Aubergine, Keith Lowell Jensen, Emo Philips, Blackberry Winter, Macbeth, Igudesman & Joo, Mr. Burns, Women of Will, the Cashore Marionettes, Disgraced, To Peter Pan on her 70th Birthday, Frankenstein, Latin History for Morons with John Leguizamo, The Totalitarians, the opening of the Shrem Museum, and The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips.
I did guest lectures and interviews and stage talk backs. I taught courses that I love, films that I love, plays that I love, creative nonfiction that I love.
I taught 15 courses, got my first grad student through her PhD, mentored and performed with my stand-up students, got another Atwood journal out, started prepping for next year’s Oxford course, ran a program, and got chosen to run another.
I made old family favorites and tried new recipes, including my first shepherd’s pie, my first souffle, and my first carnitas. I made tons of soups and stews and proved the worth of my crock pot time and again.
Fill it up. Plug it in. Go to work. Come home to dinner.
We all need to use our crock pots more, and I’m saying that as someone who uses hers all the time.
Most people know about chili in the crock pot, so I’m not going to give you a chili recipe. I’m just going to give you all the other ones my household loves. We’re covering the non-soup/stew recipes and non-pasta recipes here.
Waltonen Family Meatballs: Buy a package of frozen meatballs, your favorite bbq sauce, and a jar of grape jelly. Mix equal parts jelly and bbq sauce in the crock pot–enough to cover the meatballs. You can either put the frozen meatballs in and let them warm up in the crock pot during the day, or if you’re in a hurry, put them in pre-thawed. In my family, we have these plugged in all day on major holidays to snack on.
A whole damn chicken or turkey breast: That’s right. Use whatever kind of rub you like. I alternate between a savory mix of garlic, thyme, rosemary, s&p, and sage; lemon slices, s&p, rosemary; and peri-peri spices. Leave it in there all day. When you’re ready, the bird will be resting in its own juices. Serve it whole or shred it. I tend to get quite a few meals out of this: the first dinner, a soup, and tacos or enchilada meat. The one drawback: the meat is so tender that you will have a problem keeping it all together if you want to platter it. You’ll also have tons of chicken broth, useful for soups. If you slow cook root vegetables too (in the same pot), you can easily make a stew or chicken pot pie with the leftovers.
You can do any kind of meat you would normally bake in the crock pot. I do all my pot roasts this way.
Beef roast: coat lightly in s&p, flour, garlic, and a touch of ginger. You can cook the root vegetables in there at the same time. Leftovers easily become beef stew.
Pork tenderloin: Mix peach preserves, a bit of mustard, a pinch of crushed red pepper, s&p, and brandy (optional). Pour over the tenderloin.
Kalua pork: You can make a perfect Hawaiian delicacy with three ingredients. Coat a giant pork roast in liquid smoke and sea salt. Cook it all day. Shred. Serve over rice. (Save the broth. You can use the leftovers for pork tacos, enchiladas, or pork stew. This flavor works particularly well with a tomatillo pork stew, which you can also make in the crock pot.)
Caribbean Pork. Mix 4 tsp nutmeg, 4 tsp cumin, 4 tsp salt, 3 tsp cinnamon, and 1/4tsp ground red pepper. Coat a tenderloin or roast in it. Cook it all day. Serve with mixed fruit (mango, pineapple, etc.) mixed with 1 T chopped cilantro, 1-2 tsp lime juice, and cumin.
Speaking of pork, you can make carnitas and carnitas soup with the leftovers. Or try Vaguely Vietnamese Pork Tacos.
Garlic Pesto Chicken in a Creamy Tomato Sauce
Balsamic Glazed Chicken Legs (for these and the garlic pesto chicken, I always put another servings worth of chicken and the marinade in the freezer for a quick meal a few weeks later)
Red Beans and Rice (this recipe isn’t for the crock pot, but it works well there. For perfect beans, start by covering the beans in a lot of water. Leave them in the crock pot overnight–unplugged and off. This will soften the beans so they are perfect after you add the other ingredients, set it to low, and head to work)
Chicken Shawarma (I add oregano and a bit of curry powder to this recipe; I cook on low all day, not using as much water as the original does. I also make Shawarma Rice. I serve them with sliced cucumber & safeway tzatziki cucumber dressing on pita.
It’s Christmas time, so I’m getting ready to make lamb. Usually, I just coat it in a mix of garlic, mustard, and balsamic vinegar, but this year we’re trying this recipe for Persian-Spiced Lamb. I’m altering it just a bit–we’re doing a leg and doing it in the crock pot!
Summer is my time of resolutions and new beginnings–the academic calendar warps the mind this way. Since I live in an academic town, though, we’re all warped.
I’ve been trying to take advantage of the significant schedule shift that summer gives me–I’m still teaching, of course, but the hours are different–to do three things:
1. I’m walking every day in the purposeful way (as opposed to the I’m on my way to class way). Unfortunately, my body doesn’t like this, so I can’t go as far as I’d like, but I’m doing it anyway.
2. I’m writing every day in the purposeful way (as opposed to the I have a bunch of emails to answer and papers to grade way). You may notice that you’re getting blog posts more often, and my academic writing is on track.
3. I’m trying new recipes every week (I want to use parallelism here, but of course trying a new recipe is purposeful). Here are our favorites:
Hot Honey Shrimp, which I just served with Pan Roasted Okra and Corn.
Meltingly Tender Chicken with Miso, Ginger, and Carrots: soooo tender, sooo good.
What else would you do with the miso? Try Pancetta Miso Pasta.
Pancetta Miso Pasta and Soy Chicken over Arugula
Crock Pot Carnitas: I turned them into tacos, stew, and enchiladas.
Pork in Magic Green Sauce: the sauce also worked well on chicken and shrimp.
Soy Ginger Chicken over Argugula.
Indian-spiced Corn Stew: I used half water and half coconut milk, and I added okra and some leftover cooked chicken.
Warning: this is not healthy or sophisticated. It’s comfort food!
This month, I’ll be honoring my grandmother by sharing a few of her recipes. Today, it’s Hamburger Casserole.
Ingredients: 1 lb hamburger; 1/2 chopped bell pepper; salt; one box macaroni noodles (or whatever shape you want–shells are nice); can of tomato soup; shredded cheese; milk. (Note: I don’t have an amount for the cheese–we just eyeball it. Grandma would actually shred American cheese, but I usually use cheddar.)
Brown the meat, bell pepper, and salt. Bring water to boil and cook noodles. Add the can of soup and a little bit of water to the meat. In a greased casserole, layer half of the noodles, a layer of cheese, half of the meat mixture. Repeat. Top with enough milk to even the top.
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.
(I often use tomato sauce, leftover pizza sauce, or leftover spaghetti sauce in this casserole instead of soup. Fancy cheeses are allowed. Vegetarian fake-meat has also worked–when I take it to a pot-luck, vegetarians and carnivores alike eat it and find it comforting, which is what it’s supposed to be.)
It let me upload pics today!
As many of you know, I love trying new recipes. In the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of trying some very good ones, which I share now in hopes that you’ll share yours with me.
Leek and Ham Quiche: Ian approved!
Ham Tetrazzini: Alexander thanked me for dinner and praised this one.
Slow-cooker lentils with chicken and potatoes: Melissa Bender turned me on to this.
Okra-Grits Casserole: The website says you’re making polenta, but you’re making grits, y’all!
Balsamic-Glazed Drumsticks: need more be said?
Pesto Chicken (in a crock pot): the picture on the website does not do this justice.
Crock Pot Ratatouille over Goat Cheese Polenta: the Polenta was the best part–feel free to top with other things or eat on its own.
Lohikeitto (Cream of Salmon Soup): This seemed to be the national dish of Finland when Alexander and I were there, so I had to learn to make it when we got home. Vanessa likes it so much that she had me make it for our Christmas Eve dinner. (I add about a tablespoon of butter at the very end–and more salt and pepper.)
Sriracha Chicken: I omitted the onions, but it was still yummy!
Cilantro Chicken with Peanuts: Vanessa got me hooked on this.
And then for dessert: Salted Caramel Pie!
You’ll notice that many of the recipes feature a slow cooker. It’s my favorite way of cooking. (And thanks to Ian, who gave me a new crock pot.)
Time to share–what did you make this year that I should try?