Category: Crock-Pot (page 1 of 2)

Taste Test: Pizza Hot Dish In A Slow Cooker

Spending time browsing Pinterest makes me want to do strange things.

After avoiding Pinterest for quite some time, I logged back into my account and gazed in wonder and bewilderment at all of those frosted watermelon “cakes,” two or three ingredient [insert the name of any food imaginable] and recipe round-ups ad nasuem. Of course, nearly every image on Pinterest is vertical because someone’s research found people are more likely to pin them. Now, we have no other choice but to.

Last week my friend posted a nifty recipe for crock pot meatloaf. Between reading her post and seeing crock pot lasagna recipes, pizza hot dish got stuck in my head. I chose to try the Skinny Crock Pot Pizza Casserole recipe from the blog Six Sisters Stuff because it seemed to make slightly less food and contained less cheese and sausage than the other recipes (though I loathe the word skinny).

I did swap ground beef for ground turkey. My new favorite butcher grinds fresh beef and I drained the fat off anyway. Plus, the recipe calls for a cup of pepperoni, so why count calories? A friend commented that this type of pasta dish in the slow cooker can become dry and so I took her advice by adding more pasta sauce and water than the recipe called for. In the end, the pasta had still soaked up most of the sauce.

So, what does happen when you cook marinara sauce, rinsed (but not cooked) spiral noodles, chopped bell pepper and onion, black olives, ground beef, pepperoni, and mozzarella in a slow cooker on low for four-five hours?

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The recipe called for fresh garlic. My pasta sauce smelled garlicky, so I omitted it.

The instructions specifically say no peeking while the dish cooks. Five hours later. . .

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Honestly, the pizza hot dish in a crock post tasted pretty dang good. Since slow cooking is essentially steaming food, the cheese will melt instead of become golden brown. Also, the noodles at the bottom will feel mushier while the ones near the top will be chewier. Depending on how long you keep the meal on warm, some noodles may even become crunchy, but I didn’t even mind the varying noodle textures because they added textural contrast.

This isn’t the prettiest dish and it’s far from gourmet, but pizza hot dish in the crock pot is comfort food like our mom or school cafeteria might have made. We’re enjoying it enough to keep chipping away at the leftovers. Jake’s only complaint is that he did not like the addition of the green pepper. He likes raw green pepper but thought it got overcooked in the hot dish.

My best advice for anyone who wants to make this dish is to add lots of black pepper and change up the ratio of noodles and pasta sauce. Using about 2/3 box of pasta and 16 oz. of sauce + 1 cup of water might create more sauciness. Who knows, though. Cooking pasta in the slow cooker is wild, you guys.

Recipe: Adobo-Style Beef Stew in the Slow Cooker

I love vinegar.

I clean with vinegar and I cook with vinegar. There’s always a collection of vinegar bottles in my cupboard. At any given moment, my pantry may contain white vinegar, mellow rice wine vinegar, tart red wine vinegar, balsamic, the sweeter white balsamic, or fruity apple cider. I’m not sure if my tastes are changing as I’m getting older, but I crave the tangy note vinegar adds to dishes. Some people are tiring of restaurants squirting ornate tapestries of reduced balsamic drizzle on everything, but honestly, I couldn’t even be that mad.

One of my new favorite flavor combinations is salty soy sauce and tart vinegar in Filipino-style adobo. I’ve never had the opportunity to enjoy real adobo from a Filipino restaurant, but have tried preparing adobo-style dishes in my slow cooker. According to this Splendid Table piece about adobo, the step that really sets adobo apart is browning the meat after it’s done cooking. I never completed this extra step when I prepared my chicken or beef dishes. We dipped our forks directly into the crock pot for tastes and liked them so much so we dug in right away.

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This beef stew is easy to throw together in the morning before work. As a word of caution, those of you who know me know that I usually cook without carefully measuring ingredients. This recipe provides a basic outline of how I adapted this recipe for the stew. Not to fear, though. Crock pot recipes are usually forgiving and you can’t go too wrong with a sauce made of soy, vinegar and sugar. Just be careful not to add much additional salt, besides the soy sauce. When the dish is done cooking and the beef’s tender, skim off the excess fat and taste the sauce to see if it needs more sugar, soy or vinegar.

Adobo-Style Beef Stew In The Slow Cooker
Adapted from Kaz’s recipe for Beef Adobo (Slow Cooker Recipe) posted on Knittingforums.org, 2009. 

Adobo stew bowl

Ingredients:
2 lbs. stew beef (My favorite butcher recommended chuck)
Flour, about two tablespoons (Omit if gluten-free)
5 tablespoons soy sauce
5 tablespoons vinegar (I used white vinegar)
1/2 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, grated
2 tablespoons honey or brown sugar
2 bay leaves
Water or broth (try to use low-sodium)

Instructions: 

  1. Preheat large skillet to medium-high.
  2. Place beef in a large bowl and dust with enough flour to lightly cover each piece. Stir pieces around so they’re evenly coated.
  3. Drop stew beef in hot vegetable oil and brown on a couple of sides. Try your best to leave the excess flour in the bowl. Brown beef in two batches if necessary. Overcrowding your pan will steam the meat instead of brown it.
  4. Add browned beef to crock pot.
  5. Add soy sauce, vinegar, onion, garlic, ginger, honey, and bay leaves to the crock pot. Add enough water to cover the bottom of the crock pot. I added about 1 1/2 cups. Stir.
  6. Cook on low for 7-8 hours or until the beef is perfectly tender. If you are home, stir the stew occasionally. Some of the pieces that stick to the edges of the crock pot become dry.
  7. When the stew is finished, let the stew sit on warm long enough for the fat to rise to the top. Gently skim off with a spoon. A little sheen is ok! Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.
  8. Serve with your favorite grain and vegetable.

Is It Possible To Cook Rotisserie-Style Chicken In A Crock-Pot? My Take + Good Gravy

I have a confession:

I used to think Crock-Pot recipes were kind of annoying. It seemed like I kept encountering Crock-Pot recipes everywhere, for every time of food imaginable such as Crock-Pot mashed potatoes to Crock-Pot spaghetti. I couldn’t help but question, “Just because you can cook it a crock pot, does mean you should?”

The answer I’ve arrived at is a “We can crock pot that!” attitude in the spirit of Portlandia’s We can pickle that! bit.

I love my big Crock-Pot, so much so, that it’s earned a mostly permanent spot on my kitchen counter. Before college, my mom gave me a small Crock-Pot that lives in my cupboard. I use it less frequently, but find it handy for keeping food warm and making small batches of stew.

Crock Pot Selfies wm

When my friend Kristen of Make the Best of Everything posted her recipe for Crock-Pot Rotisserie Chicken, I had to give it a try. I had just bought locally-raised chickens from my friends at Twisted River Farm and her timing could’t be more perfect.

I simply rubbed a small chicken with butter and a seasoning mix before placing it on foil balls. Then, I cooked it on low until the meat was tender and the skin rendered.

rotisserie Chicken twisted river wm

The chicken had a texture and moistness very similar to a store-bought rotisserie chicken. The skin wasn’t crispy, but I was pleasantly surprised by how far it had rendered down to a paper-thin layer. Then, I added the chicken’s drippings into my rice’s cooking liquid.

More recently, I tried a different spin on Crock-Pot Rotisserie chicken. This time, I bought a pair of chickens from my friend Shannon who raised them at her pumpkin patch Enchanted Acres. I’ll always remember the excitement I felt upon holding a baby chick for the first time when we visited her days after she brought the chicks home from Hoover’s Hatchery in nearby Rudd.

chicken Collage
I followed the The Country Cook‘s advice and stuffed the bird with aromatics. I used fresh lemon, onion, fresh garlic and parsley.

To add flavor to the juices and elevate the bird from the bottom of the pot, I nested it on a bed of vegetables I found in my fridge such as sweet potatoes, carrots celery and onion. With the Crock-Pot set to low, I roasted the bird for about six hours until it began to fall apart.

With this particular chicken, my skin wasn’t as throughly rendered as the first. This may be due to the facts that the chicken had more fat or cooking it on a bed of veggies instead of tin foil created more liquid and steam. I followed Brandie’s advice to simply broil the chicken before serving. The juices that formed in the bottom of my Crock-Pot made a beautiful gravy; one of the most umami-filled gravies I’ve ever tasted.

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Cooking a rotisserie-style chicken in a Crock-Pot is not necessarily the fastest way to cook a chicken, nor will it produce results exactly like your grocery store’s, but the method is stress-free and close enough to a real thing that it’s become one of my new favorite recipes.

Jeni’s Take On Cooking A Rotisserie-Style Chicken In A Crock-Pot

Ingredients:
Vegetables, roughly chopped. Enough to cover the bottom of your Crock -Pot: I used sweet potatoes, carrots, onions & celery
1 whole chicken
Olive oil or butter
Parsley sprigs, a handful
1/2 lemon, sliced
1/2 head of garlic, sliced in half, or a handful of crushed garlic cloves (skin-on is OK)
Your favorite seasonings: I used a combination of Lawry’s seasoning salt, thyme, rosemary, smoked paprika and sumac.

Gravy:
Chicken fat
Flour
Chicken stock
Salt
Pepper, white & black
Garlic or garlic powder

Instructions:

  1. Layer the bottom of your Crock-Pot with chopped vegetables.
  2. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables.
  3. Season the inside of the chicken with salt & pepper, and stuff with garlic, lemon slices and more onion.
  4. Rub the outside of the chicken with olive oil or butter and your favorite herbs and spices.
  5. Cover and cook on low until the meat is tender. This could take anywhere between five and seven hours, depending on the size of your chicken.
  6. For more rendered skin, put the bird on a pan and broil until it’s as golden as you like.
  7. To make the gravy, pour the juices and vegetables into a strainer placed over a container. Press the vegetables gently to gather all of the broth.
  8. As the juices cool, the fat will rise to the top. Strain about 1/3 cup of the fat into a pan and heat.
  9. Whisk flour into the hot fat, until it resembles the texture of wet sand. Watch carefully so it doesn’t burn. Cook long enough to eliminate the raw flour quality, but not enough to brown.
  10. Whisk in the broth, a little at a time. The flour-fat roux will thicken the broth. You can always add more liquid.
  11. Season the gravy with salt, pepper and a little garlic. Drizzle over the chicken.

Our Favorite Slow Cooker Corned Beef & Cabbage Meal

I took the plunge and prepared my first corned beef and cabbage meal for Saint Patrick’s Day.

It turned out well and made us realize that corned beef is not just for the holiday. Corned beef is for anytime.

Since Jake and I have been together, we’ve visited restaurants on St. Patrick’s Day to order corned beef and cabbage meals. The thought of cooking my own corned beef intimidated me until I saw how easy it is to prepare in a crock pot.

A reader, Stu, recommended covering it with water, sprinkling over the seasoning packet, and adding baby red potatoes and carrots.

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Cook on low for six hours, add cabbage wedges, and cook on high for another  hour, serving with butter for the veggies.

I also gained some inspiration from Martha Stewart and tossed in some onion and dried thyme. This method worked perfectly.

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Point vs. Flat Cut?
If you have never bought corned beef, you’ll notice your grocery may sell point or flat cuts with a significant price difference. I was only able to find one brand, but I’m sure you can find more in larger cities. We bought our point cut for $7, as opposed to $16.

Afterwards, I learned the point is fattier than the flat and less uniform in shape. But if you are slow cooking it, who cares about its shape? It may be fattier, but at least it won’t dry out. You can always remove the excess fat after it’s done cooking.

We feasted on corned beef for several more meals. As for the last little bit of meat, I shredded it and placed it on top of a frozen cheese pizza. This should be a thing. Corned beef on everything, please.

Soda Bread
We dunked hearty slices of Ina Garten’s Irish soda bread into the corned beef’s broth.

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I made a few small changes by adding less sugar, substituting lemon zest for orange, and raisins for currants. This also turned out well, though it tends to become more crumbly and dry each day its left over. My only complaint is that the raisins on the surface of the bread got burnt so I picked them off.

Did you make a corned beef meal? What are your favorite cooking methods?

How To Save Money By Making Your Own Mock Duck. It’s Easy!

I’m not a vegetarian but I love mock duck.

Mock duck, also known as seitan, is a vegetarian product made from wheat gluten, meaning it’s not a good option for those with gluten allergies. I like mock duck’s chewy texture because resembles meat more so than other other meat-substitutes. Mock dock is often located in the refrigerated section of grocery stores and or sold by the can in Asian grocery stores. I remember enjoying my first tastes of mock duck in Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches at Jasmine Deli, a restaurant located along Eat Street in Minneapolis, MN. Three dollars never tasted so good.


This afternoon, I found mock duck in Sidney’s refrigerated case for about $3.69 per package. It’s cut into small pieces and ready to eat, but the package only contains a cup’s worth. Instead, I bought this bag of wheat gluten flour and decided to make my own. Although this bag cost a little over $7, it actually makes about three times more mock duck for the price of the packaged version when compared ounce for ounce. If you have some extra time, it’s really easy to make at home. I mostly followed the package’s instructions and adjusted a few elements.

Ingredients:
2 cups wheat gluten
2 cups boiling water
Garlic salt, about 1 teaspoon
A pinch of dried marjoram
A pinch of dried sage
9 cups of water
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons molasses (could also use honey)
A few thick slices of of fresh ginger, washed and skinned

Instructions:
To prepare the cooking liquid, bring 9 cups of water, soy sauce, molasses and ginger to a simmer.

In a large bowl, stir together the wheat gluten and boiling water. It’s texture will be damp and spongy. Set the mixture aside until it’s cool enough to handle.

Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes to further develop the chewy texture.

Divide the dough in smaller pieces, and cut into slices. Drop into the simmering liquid. Stir and simmer for an hour.

You can just make out the steam rising from the pot.

The mock duck will absorb the liquid’s flavor and become chewier. The slices of mock duck will greatly expand in size.

Remove the mock duck and drain in a strainer. Place a heavy object on top of the mock duck to remove extra liquid or wait until it cools and press it with your hands. Now it’s ready to use. You can also use the mock duck to replace the meat in stir-fries, salads, or sloppy joes. Extra mock duck can be frozen for later use.

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