Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday Favorites

Slow Cooker Basics - lots of pictures of different kinds of slow cookers - from crocks to heating element to temperature settings on several models. If you haven't bought a slow cooker yet this website article is definitely worth the look before buying one. 

Slow Cooking From Scratch - this website recipes using nutritious real ingredients

How to Cook Dried Beans in a Crockpot Slow Cooker  - Cooking dried beans in the slow cooker can at times be a challenge, but not as much as cooking them on the stove top.  I really find it is the easiest way because it helps get them the right texture. 

Slow Cooking Comfort Food -  from Martha Stewart

Fix it and Forget it Slow Cooking - from the books of the same name

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Honey Lemon Chicken

Honey Lemon Chicken in the Slow Cooker

6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or drumsticks 
1/2 cup chopping onion
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 lemons, sliced
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup chicken stock or water
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. rosemary
dash of pepper

In a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive over over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and brown on both sides.

Lay the browned chicken on the bottom of the slow cooker. Sprinkle the chicken with rosemary, thyme and pepper.  Add the stock or water around chicken to the crock.  Scatter onion, garlic and lemon slice on top of chicken and then drizzle with honey.

* Sometimes I don't brown the chicken, such as in this photo of the honey lemon chicken - I did not brown it that day.  It was browning in the crock near the edges. I will sometimes rotate as it cooks to help overall browning, but if you want it completely brown then use the skillet to brown before adding to slow cooker.

* Sometimes instead of those seasonings I will just use whatever mixed spice I have on hand something from Penzeys or even a Grillmate. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Slow Cooker Meatball Soup

I didn't add any extra seasonings to this soup and it had amazing flavor. The tomatoes with the basil, garlic and oregano plus my homemade meatballs have Italian seasonings - those were giving it all the seasoning it needed. This was easy and quick to put together and tasted really good.
1 bag (16 oz) frozen cooked Italian meatballs, thawed or cooked homemade meatballs
2 cups beef broth
1 3/4 cup water
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano, undrained
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
1 can (19 oz) cannellini beans or great northern, drained
1 cup frozen carrots
1 cup frozen green beans
1 cup cooked pasta - made just before serving
Shredded Parmesan cheese - garnish

In 4 quart slow cooker, mix all ingredients except pasta and cheese. Cover and cook on low heat setting 6 to 7 hours. The carrots and green beans can become mushy in a slow cooker so add after 4 hours or 4 1/2 hours instead. Add pasta just before serving.

Garnish individual servings with Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tips for Slow Cooking

* Sautéing or just throwing it in -  If you pick up a cookbook on slow cooking, most of the time they will say “sauté the meat” before adding into the slow cooker.  That always takes more time and often the use of the slow cooker is to save time so people don't want to do that step. Honestly 98% of the time I don’t feel that sautéing the meat adds anything to the flavor or to the process. But I know that some people might disagree with that.  Really it is a preference thing – if you want to sauté the meat before adding to the slow cooker, go for it and if you don't, don't. There are things I do saute because I just like the look of it better such as whole chicken pieces - such as thighs or drumsticks with skin on them. I also always saute and brown ground meats such as ground pork, beef or turkey.

* Flavor – A complaint of the slow cooker is that all the flavors become muddled together so that it really doesn’t taste like anything or have a distinct flavor.  I do agree that this can happen with some dishes. One way is kick up the flavor is to add extra flavor in the last 30 minutes of cooking. Add some more seasonings – herbs, a squeeze of citrus fruit, a splash of  balsamic, or whatever your recipe used for seasonings.

Using whole herbs and spice - such as grating nutmeg or cinnamon, adding fresh basil leaves will give more flavor to the recipe.

Know that cayenne, chili pepper or other types of hot pepper will intensify during slow cooking and they are really the only spices that do this in slow cooking.

Substitute water in recipes for more flavorful liquids such  stock or wine and it gives an extra boost to the flavor.

* Lifting the Lid - Almost every cookbook, website or instruction manual out there will tell you to not lift the lid on slow cookers.  I understand the concept is that it loses some heat. But I am sorry there is no way I am not going to stir or baste or move things around in the pot while it cooks.  I can't imagine, not lifting the lid once or twice during cooking.  So I do lift the lid, I mean how can't I let some of the yummy aroma escape and waft through the house even stronger.  It is part of the cooking process that I enjoy - so I lift the lid. Also a tip if you have too much liquid in your slow cooker while cooking a dish - turn the lid and set it off turned so that steam - liquid can escape and evaporate.  Only do this if you have too much liquid and only do for a short time - 20 to 30 minutes.

* Safety - For safe slow cooking, make sure your low setting reaches 140 to 165 degrees fahrenheit. The low setting on most slow cookers reach about 200 degrees F and 300 degrees F for high.  Often I will put my slow cooker on high for the first hour and then turn it down so that I can get to that safe temperature as quick as possible to ensure the food is safe.

Don't overfill your slow cooker - it should be half to 2/3 full. Use the size of slow cooker recommended in each recipe - if stated.  You don't want it overflowing or under-filled as it make the food cook improperly.

If doing any prep the night before, such as cutting meat or chopping vegetables, do not store in the same container over night.  Also don't store in the crock in the refrigerator with the raw foods layered in it. The raw meat mixed together with vegetables can create food safety issues and also the cold crock put into a heating element can cause the crock to break.

* General Info -  Layer foods into slow cooker - keeping in mind that the food on the bottom will cook faster and be moister because it is simmering in the liquid.

Dairy products break down in the slow cooker.  Add any sour cream, yogurt,  milk, cream or half-n-half  in the last 15 to 30 minutes of slow cooking.  Many recipes with cream cheese don't advise this, but sometimes I do end up adding it in the last 30 minutes of cooking because it tends to break down too. Especially the lower fat cream cheese.

One hour on high is the same as two hours on low. 

I have never cooked with seafood in the slow cooker, but have read many time that they shouldn't be added until the last hour or they will become overcooked.

I hope these tips help you when using your slow cooker. As I said at the beginning of this series, I use my slow cooker about once a week - sometimes more.  I can't imagine my domestic life without. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

What to do with all those delicious turkey leftovers

In our house there is never a shortage of food for the thanksgiving table, or any holiday that we host for that matter.  Himself and I really enjoy cooking, so we are always sure to share that plentiful bounty with others.  That leaves us, however, with the question of what to do with the leftovers.  No one in our home is a big fan of just re-heating the same foods.  So I am always in search of creative recipes that can use up our left overs without making them seem like left overs at all.  This year I found the recipe below and I know it's going to be a hit with the family.

Sour Cream Turkey Enchiladas


  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (or you can use 1 tbsp already minced garlic from a jar)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper seeded and minced
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (28 ounce can), drained
  • 1 cup sour cream (we prefer lowfat sour cream)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (we prefer sharp cheddar)
  • 2 cups cubed or shredded cooked turkey
  • 4 flour tortillas (8 inch) in size
  • 1 can black olives sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9x12-inch baking dish.

Heat vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat, and cook the garlic and onion until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes; stir in the jalapeno pepper and flour. Stir a few times to mix in the flour. Stir in the chicken stock, about 1/4 cup at a time; cook until thickened, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes. Mix in the tomatoes and bring the mixture to a simmer.

While the sauce is simmering, combine sour cream, 1/2 cup of Cheddar cheese, and turkey in a bowl. Place a tortilla down onto a work surface, and spoon 1/4 of the turkey mixture onto the tortilla in a line down the center. Roll the tortilla around the filling; place into the prepared baking dish with seam side down. Repeat with the other tortillas. Pour the tomato sauce over the filled tortillas. Sprinkle the casserole with black olives and 1 tablespoon of Cheddar cheese as garnish.

Bake uncovered in the preheated oven until the cheese topping is browned and the casserole is bubbling, about 30 minutes.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

My Sir's Favorite BBQ Sammiches

I saw this late 70's era ad and had to smile.  A working woman's dream and all for under $15!  And while not all of us work outside the home, we still work hard around the house!  This recipe is my Sir's favorite.  I've made it with beef, pork and chicken.

I serve this on potato rolls, and I always turn the slow-cooker on low while I am mixing the ingredients.

Barbecue Sammiches

1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup ketchup
1 cup barbecue sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray's with Hickory and Brown Sugar)
1 cup water
2 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 - 1 tsp chili powder (I use less, Sir likes sweet better than spicy)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Mix the above in your crock pot and let heat through to combine well.  When it is done, add 3-4 lbs sirloin roast, bottom round roast, pork shoulder roast or chicken breasts and/or thighs.  Let simmer on high for at least 7 hours.  Meat needs to be tender and cooked through, but you do not want to burn the sauce!

Using two forks, shred the meat, if your crock pot is deep enough, you can do this in the pot, but if not, you will need to remove it and put it back in.  To shred, gently pull the meat apart using the forks.  Return meat to the sauce and heat through.

I like to toast the buns first by putting them face up under the broiler for just a few seconds.  Helps keep the bread from getting overly soggy,

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! We are enjoying some wassail while waiting for the turkey to get done.  Wassail is such a great hot drink to serve during the holidays. And really easy to make. There are lots of variations to this recipe out there, but I like to keep it simple so here is what I do....

1 gallon apple cider
2 cups orange juice
1 or 2 oranges - sliced
1 tablespoon allspice
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Add ingredients to a 7 or 8 quart slow cooker.  Simmer for 2 to 4 hours. Turn to warm and serve in mugs.

* the orange I used today was fairly large so only used one
* if you don't have allspice use mixture of ginger and cloves they always taste good too

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Book Reviews: Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade Slow Cooker Recipes

I picked up Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade Slow Cooker Recipes and Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade Slow Cooker Recipes 2  at the library and I am glad I did that instead of buying them. I am okay with Sandra Lee's show on Food Network. I think lots of people make things complicated when they don't have a lot of time and she offers some short cuts that I think are worth the saved time.

What I didn't like about these books:
* many ingredients I can't find in the grocery store. Such as she will say to buy a certain brand of seasoning or bottle of salad dressing and our stores don't carry that.
* As I mentioned above she uses name brand items. I wish she would have just said use fajita seasonings or whatever kind of seasoning instead a certain brand.
* trying to substitute some of the ingredients for whole ingredients instead of frozen onions I used a fresh onion.  But often those kind of substitutions seems to ruin the recipe - how I am not sure that is possible, I would think it would taste similar but often the recipe just didn't turn out.
* many recipes don't turn out even if following the ingredient list exactly

What I do like about these books:
* Tips she offers for slow cooking
* Ideas...I have used recipes in these books to create new recipes that work for me.  Such as the Turkey Cutlets with Green Chili Scalloped Potatoes. Many of the ingredients on her recipe for that recipe,  I couldn't find and I wanted to not do turkey cutlets but just shredded turkey so I made a new recipe from the idea of that recipe.
* Some of her short-cuts using bottled or canned things I do like when I am needing to save time.

If you like Sandra Lee's show, you might like these cookbooks. If you don't like her show and are more about using whole ingredients, then I would probably skip these cookbooks unless you want to get ideas and substitute whole ingredients to make your own recipe. Over all I am glad I picked them up and took a look at them as they did give me some ideas for the slow cooker even if they weren't the exact recipes in the cookbooks.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Great Goulash with Potato Dumplings

This recipe is from the book I reviewed yesterday - The 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes. I adapted it slightly, but don't think the outcome would be much different if doing the original   The potato dumplings are a really delicious choice for this goulash, but if you are pressed for time, serve goulash on top of wide noodles or mashed potatoes.

Great Goulash with Potato Dumplings
adapted from the recipe in The 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes.  
serves 6

For the goulash:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1/2 pounds stew meat, cut in large chunks
2 cups onions, diced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon  dried marjoram
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 small can tomato paste
1 1/2 cups beef stock
1/2 cup sour cream

For the potato dumplings:
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubes
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
fresh parsley, chopped for garnish

In a large saute pan over medium high heat add the olive oil and brown the stew meat in batches. Transfer to slow cooker.

In the same pan, reduce the heat to medium and add onions and garlic and saute for 3 - 4 minutes. Add paprika, marjoram  pepper, and flour and cook for an additional minute. Add tomato paste and stir well. The mixture will be thick. Add beef broth and cook, stirring, for a minute or two.

Transfer mixture to slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours or on HIGH for 4 - 5 hours. The beef will be very tender and shred easily.

About an hour before dinner time, make the potato dumplings. Cook potato chunks in a large pot of water until tender. Drain and mash until smooth. Add bread crumbs, egg, and salt and mix well. Form into 2 inch balls. Set aside.

Stir sour cream into goulash. Top with potato dumplings, spooning some of the sauce over them. Cover and cook on HIGH for about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Book Review: The 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes

The 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes by Judith Finlayson

I really enjoyed this cookbook for the variety of recipes that aren't the typical stew or chili type recipe.

This book is divided into 10 sections:
1) an introduction that gives you tips for using a slow cooker and pantry ingredients to use with a slow cooker.
2) Appetizers and fondue
3)  Soups
4) Beans, Lentils and Chilies
5) Beef and Veal
6) Pork and Lamb
7) Poultry
8) Fish, Seafood and Vegetarian Favorites
9) Vegetables
10) Desserts

There are so many good recipes in this book. Some do involve prep such as browning meats. And there are a few recipes that have a can of  soup or convenience item. But that is very rare in this book.

Some recipes that I have tired and really enjoyed:
Spinach and Artichoke Dip, Crab Spread, Southwestern Corn and Roasted Red Pepper soup, Moors and Christians, Beef Noodle Casserole with Cheddar Cheese topping, Great Goulash with potato dumplings, Classic Boeuf Bourguignon,  Shepherd's Pie with Creamy corn filling, Easy Chicken Paprikash, Spicy Chinese Chicken and several more. Each section there are so many recipes I want to try. But I tend to get hooked on several and just keep doing those over and over again.

I really enjoy that this cookbook has comfort food type recipes as well as interesting ethnic type dishes and also so many of the recipes I would be happy to serve to guests.   It is a slow cooker cookbook that I turn to so many times that the cover is almost falling off and pages show definite wear and tear.

Tomorrow I will share a recipe from this cookbook that I made recently for the first time.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Rheya's Slow Cooker Post

Hi y'all.  I apologize for not posting recently, life has a way of... getting busy!  Which is why when I was asked to contribute to the Slow Cooker month posts I said "YES!!!"  I love my slow cooker, I could not LIVE without it.  I use it at least once a week and I have posted some of my favorite recipes here already, which is to your advantage but my disadvantage because I had to come up with some others for this posts.  

But first, a book review.

Fix-It and Forget-It 5-Ingredient Favorites by Phyllis Pellman Good

I really hate to say it, but this book is not worth it.  Yes, it is JAM PACKED with recipes.  But there are several on the same page that are the same recipe with just an added ingredient.   Couldn't they have made ONE recipe and said "try these variations?"  This disappointed me so much because I have come to realize , that there really isn't that much NEW material out there.

Recipes and ideas

When I worked at the 911 Center, we frequently did things like "Nacho Wednesday" and other potluck types of things where we all brought in food to share.  I  generally brought the ground meat for the nachos and having the crock pot to warm it up and serve it in was very handy.  

Pizza Dip:

2 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, cubed
1 14 oz. can of Pizza Sauce (I prefer plain, but feel free to experiment, in a pinch, tomato sauce will do)
1 8 oz package of sliced pepperoni
2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella


1 3.8 oz can of chopped olives
8 oz of bulk sausage, browned
1 cup finely chopped green pepper
1 cup finely chopped onion

Place cream cheese in the bottom of the slow cooker.  Mix together pizza sauce and other toppings.  Pour over cream cheese  Top with mozzarella.  Cook on low 1 1/2-2 hours.  Serve on pita chips or bagel chips, or something else crispy and reminiscent of toast (garlic and sea salt are my favorite flavors to use!)

Another work favorite was cobbler.  You can make it with your favorite fruit pie filling.  

Cherry Cobbler

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 box yellow cake mix
1 21 oz can of pie filling ( I generally use 2 instead of 1)
1/3 cup of chopped walnuts (or pecans!)

In a large mixing bowl, mix cake mix and butter until crumbley and set aside.

Put pie filling in the bottom of crock pot, top with filling and nuts.  Cook on high 2 hours and low 1 hour.  Can easily be doubled, tripled.... 

Serve with vanilla ice cream.

I will have another post, Sir has suggested I post his favorite BBQ Sammich recipe.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Baked Beans

Baked Beans
2 cups of dried great northern or navy beans or a combination of them
2 1/2 cups water or chicken stock
1/2  yellow onion - finely chopped
6 strips of thick hickory-smoked bacon - chopped
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup favorite bbq sauce
1/4 cup dark molasses, also known as robust (not blackstrap)
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Place the beans in a large bowl and pick through them, discarding any broken beans or stones. Cover the beans with at least 3 inches of cold water. Allow to soak for at least 8 hours or overnight. Drain in a colander.

Place the beans, stock, bacon, and onion in a slow cooker.

Whisk the remaining measured ingredients. Pour into the slow cooker and stir until thoroughly combined. Cover and cook on either high or low heat until the beans are tender and the liquid thickens slightly (it will thicken more as it cools), about 6 to 8 hours on low. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Beef Stroganoff

1 1/2 pound beef stew meat or steak cubed and trimmed
1 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 (8-ounce) package sliced mushrooms (about 2 cups)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup beef broth - low sodium
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup half -n- half
1/2 cup sour cream 
salt and pepper to taste
Serve over cooked egg noodles

1. Place steak, onion, dijon, Worcestershire sauce, mushrooms, garlic and beef broth in slow cooker; stir well. Cook on low for 8 hours or until steak is tender.  

2. Place cornstarch in a small bowl; gradually add half-n-half, stirring with a whisk until blended. Add mixture to slow cooker; stir well. Cook on high-heat setting 30 mins until sauce starts to thicken.  Turn off slow cooker and stir in sour cream. Serve stroganoff over noodles.

Sometimes I will cut into strips like I did in photo - other times I will do cubes. London Broil is my favorite to use in beef stroganoff.  If sauce isn't saucy enough or too thick, just add more beef broth or some water. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cream of Potato Soup

6 large potatoes - chopped or sliced
1 to 1 1/2 cups chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 - 32 ounce carton of stock or 4 cups homemade stock
8 slices bacon - cooked and crumbled
1/4 cup cornstarch or flour
2 cups half and half or milk
optional: 1 cup cheese - your choice -  I have used cheddar, colbyjack, gouda
salt and pepper to taste

optional toppings: paprika, green onions, chives, sour cream, cheese, potato chips, crumbled bacon

Place potatoes, carrots, onion and bacon in the crock-pot and pour the stock over it.

Cook on low for 4 to 5 hours.  Or high for 2 to 3.

Scoop out  1/2 cup to 1 cup of your potatoes (if you get bacon or carrots in there, don't worry about it - it is okay) and mash slightly. Pour the mashed potatoes back into crock-pot.

Mix cornstarch and 1/4 of cup of water or some of the half and half in a small bowl. Stir that into your potato soup.  Add the rest of the half and half and cheese and stir.

Do a taste test and add salt if needed or pepper.  Cook for another 30 to 40 mins on low and then serve in bowls with toppings if wanted.

* I like how the veggies cook when completely covered with stock/liquid. So if when I add the stock it isn't completely covered with the stock, I will add some water or more stock to it cover
* Sometimes I skip the cheese and it slightly alters the taste, but still creamy and good.
* I  never have added salt because often stock has salt (even the low sodium ones still have salt) and the bacon adds salt to it too. But I do add pepper probably about 1 to 2 teaspoons.
* As I said in the directions above - do not worry if when mashing the potatoes there is carrots or bacon in there. It is okay. You are just slightly mashing them and mixing them back on so everything ends back up in the pot so it fine.
* If it is too thick and creamy, add more liquid - water or stock.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Slow Cooker Care & Cleaning

* Make sure your slow cooker is turned off, unplugged and cool before cleaning.  
* The lid and the removable stoneware crock can be hand washed with hot soapy water or washed in the dishwasher.  

* If hand washing, don't use scouring pads or abrasive cleaners.  Use a dishcloth, sponge or plastic food scraper with hot soapy water to remove any hard cooked food residue. Vinegar will often help loosen hard cooked on food residue too. 

* Be care of taking a hot crock and having it in contact with cold...such as a cold sink, counter or water as it can cause the crock to break. 

* Do not submerge the outside heating base of crock or any slow cooker that doesn't have a removable crock into water. 

* Do not submerge a slow cooker that is an one unit (non-removable crock).  Fill the inside crock area with hot soapy water to help loosen any hard cooked food residue.  Use a dishcloth, sponge or plastic food scraper to clean the inside of slow cooker.  But again do not submerge in water. 

* The outside slow cooker - the heating base - may be cleaned with warm, soapy water and a soft cloth such as a microfiber cloth. Wipe dry after cleaning.  Don't use an abrasive cleaner. Again vinegar will often help loosen hard cooked on food residue. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Refried Beans

I am sorry I don't have a photo of these....because honestly I just can't seem to get a good photo of them. I mean it is refried beans...not always the most nice looking dish. But these taste really good. So much better than from a can.

Refried Beans
adapted from The Gourmet Slow Cooker: Simple and Sophisticated Meals from Around the World - review on yesterday's post

1 white onion - quarterd
6 cloves of garlic
4 Serrano chilies - seeded and halved
1 tablespoon cumin (can use cumin seed and ground in coffee grinder)
2 cups dried pinto or black beans
4 cups water
2 cups beer
3 to 4 table spoons vegetable oil
salt to taste

Pre-heat the broiler.  Place the onion, garlic, and chilies on a baking sheet and broil, turning, for  5 to 7 minutes, until blackened and blistered. Remove from broiler and transfer to a cutting board, chop coarsely.

Rinse and sort through the beans.  Place in the slow cooker and add water and beer. Add the onion mixture and the cumin. Stir well. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or until beans are very tender.

Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat and add the oil.  Spoon the beans into the pan, a bit at a time, and smash them with a potato masher.  Gradually add all the beans, then any remaining liquid. Cook until some of the liquid evaporates and the beans thicken.  The finished beans should have some texture to them.  IF you want a smoother texture, puree them in a food processor before adding to saute pan.  Stir in salt to taste and serve warm.

Dried Beans - I have to be honest I am hit and miss on dried beans not just for this, but for soups, baked beans or whatever recipe calls for dried beans. Sometimes they work and get to the soft buttery texture, but at times they don't.  I just read Lynne Alley's book 50 Simple Soups for the Slow Cooker and she explained in it that dried beans can become old. They can have trouble hydrating if they are too old.  I have had many batches of beans never hydrate and that is even with soaking them over night. I always felt I was doing something wrong. But now I do think it was they were older beans.  So make sure if you are going to make these, don't just use the beans that have been sitting on your shelf for so long you can't remember when you got them - buy some new beans and you will have better luck - I am positive.   Also this recipe says you don't need to soak the beans over night, but because I have always been hit and miss on beans - I have always soaked them.  But next time I will try to buy fresh beans and not soak them - to see how they turn out.

Serrano Chilies - please google how to handle peppers if you haven't ever done so before - before you cut into them.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Book Review: The Gourmet Slow Cooker: Simple and Sophisticated Meals from Around the World

The Gourmet Slow Cooker: Simple and Sophisticated Meals from Around the World By Lynn Alley

The sub title of this book is "Simple and Sophisticated Meals from Around the World" and I have to say it is perfect subtitle. This book has a great collection of recipes to use in your slow cooker. They are great upgrade to more traditional slow cooker recipes that add things from cans, bottles or packets. The recipes would be great on any night of the week, but also for a dinner party.

The recipes in this book and really all of Lynn Alley slow cooker cookbooks give delicious recipes for cooks who want the benefit of hands-off and easy cooking, but prefer to use whole foods and real ingredients. The author offers history or insight at the beginning of each recipe and then ends it with beer or wine suggestions to go with the meal. The layout, style and photos of the cookbook just make it a lovely read.

This is a cookbook that I have turned to so much that I now know many recipes by heart.  I recently picked up a cookbook that said it offered over 400 recipes in the book - well the book is hard to look at and find anything because it is too much. This book by Lynne Alley and her follow up book are just the right amount of recipes to create something in your slow cooker that you will enjoy.

Lynn Alley has 3 other slow cooker books besides this one - The Gourmet Slow Cooker: Volume II, Regional Comfort-Food Classics50 Simple Soups for the Slow CookerGourmet Vegetarian Slow Cooker: Simple and Sophisticated Meals from Around the World. I have read the first two and heard marvelous things about the last. I really want to read it. I would start off with The Gourmet Slow Cooker: Simple and Sophisticated Meals from Around the World  though. If you are vegetarian, go straight to the vegetarian cookbook as I know it will be just as good as this one. 

Tomorrow I will share one recipe I use quite a bit from this cookbook.  But  here are a few other favorite recipes: Chicken and dumplings, Pork Stew in Tomatillo Sauce, Dublin Coddle, Beef Burgundy, Provencal Beef Stew, Chicken Piperade, Tarragon Chicken, Artichoke Risotto, Chicken Cacciatore, Apricot Chicken, Beef Biryani and really I could just go on and on as you can see.

This is probably my favorite slow cooker cookbook. If you pick up just one cookbook for your slow cooker, this is the one I would recommend.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

White Chicken Chili

White Chicken Chili

1 - 32 ounce carton chicken stock or 4 cups homemade stocks
3 - 15 ounce cans of white beans
1 lb boneless chicken breast - chopped (no need to cook ahead of time)
1 - 7 ounce can of green chili
3 teaspoon chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
topping:  shredded cheese, tortilla chips or strips, sour cream, sliced jalapeno, green onion, chopped tomatoes

Place chicken in the bottom of the crock-pot and then add other ingredients on top.  Cook on high for 1 hour, then stir and turn down to low. Cook on low for 5 to 6 hours.  Serve with your favorite toppings.

Really only one note...I put the chicken in the bottom and place everything on top without stirring it for that hour on high so that the crock starts heating that chicken right away. It is just a little food safety tip with slow cookers.  Anytime putting raw meat in the crock - try to always put it towards the bottom 1/2 of the crock and then heat on high so that it brings it to a hot temperature instead of letting it get to room temp before the crock is fully hot.  If your meat is already browned or cooked, then heating putting on the bottom isn't always necessary.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Favorites

This Friday Favorite is going to be just some recipes I would like to try that are for slow cookers...

Sugared Pecans - I think not only would these be really delicious, but would make a great gift for the holidays coming up.

Broccoli Beef -  looks even better then take-out to me!  The amount of beef to me would make it serve more then 4 with the broccoli and if serving over rice too - makes things stretch.

Provençal Beef Daube -  you can see by the recipe all the flavors that  this recipe would come together to taste amazing

Cranberry Pork Roast - again the flavors together sound so good

Apple Dumplings -  desserts are often something I forget can be made in a crockpot

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Time to Buy a Slow Cooker

I have 4 crock-pots and 2 of them are used for food. The other 2 are used for wax.  I have a 7 quart and a 3 quart crock-pot. Really the crock-pot  is probably my favorite kitchen appliance. I use it once a week - if not more at times.  If you want to know why, please check out my post 6 Reasons to Use a Crock-pot.
This the 7 quart that I have, but with cherries on it instead of veggies

Some questions you might be asking before buying a crock-pot.....

What is the difference between crock-pot and slow cooker? 

Crock-Pot is actually a name brand by Rival and slow cooker is just other brands version of a crock-pot.  But crock-pot has become the word we use often when referring to a slow-cooker. Just like when people say they need a kleenex instead of a tissue. Kleenex is the brand name, but it means the same thing as tissue now.

What features?

Really I base my criteria for features on 3 things: the crock, the settings and the size. But there are many more features available so make sure you check some the other features a crock-pot might bring to your kitchen.

The Crock -  A removable crock is a must! The 3-quart crock-pot I have isn't a removable crock - because it is so old.  But my 7-quart has a removable crock.  After using it the first time, I was hooked on removable crock.  I love that I can actually take that out and put in the sink, get it wet or even put it in the dishwasher.

Settings - Next get one with high or low settings on it. If it has a warm setting,  it can be a feature you might use, but having at least 2 settings of high and low is a must.  More pricey slow cookers often come with programmable settings.  The main reason I can see wanting a slow cooker with this feature would be maybe you think you are going to be gone longer then the 6 to 8 hours the recipe calls for cooking, well then you can have it programmed to go move to the warm setting after 6 to 8 hours and sit there until you come home.   I don't recommend setting it up in the morning and to want it to turn on hours later. You don't want your food coming to room temperature for food safety issues.
 Round 3 quart

Oval 7 quart
Size -  I really love having both a 3 quart and a 7 quart crock-pot, but space to store them might be an issue.  If you are family of 4 or more, I really think just going for the larger size is best.  If it is just the 2 of you, I would even say go for the larger one.  Leftovers or being able to freeze the meals to use later is always a great time saver.

What price to expect?

Really most slow-cookers with removable crock and high, low and warm setting will range from $15 to $50 depending on size or the more features it has on it - such as being programmable, having a locking lid making it transportable, or has a removable crock that can be used on the stove top or oven. Some of those kind of features can raise the price from $50 to $100 range.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Crock-pot Meat Sauce

1 pound ground Italian sausage or ground beef/turkey
2  -  14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes with juice
1  - 8 ounce can tomato sauce
1  -  6 ounce can tomato paste
1 cup chopped onion
1 green bell pepper chopped (approximately 1 cup - it is fine if you go over that)
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
dash ground red pepper or red pepper flakes (optional)


In a large skillet, cook meat over medium heat until no longer pink.

Add meat crockpot, along with all remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on LOW setting for 8 to 10 hours or HIGH for 4 to 5 hours.

Serves 8 to 10. Sauce can be frozen.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

6 Reasons to Use a Crock-pot or Slowcooker

Ham and Bean Soup made in the Crock-pot
As I said in yesterday's post, I use the crock-pot all year around, but traditionally this is the time of the year that people seem to use it more. The days are shorter and it is dark by the time you get home from work so making dinner usually is the last thing we might want to do.  A crock-pot can give you inexpensive, healthy, hot meals.  I can tell you that it is the one appliance in my kitchen I know I can't live without and use it at least once a week.

If you haven't used one, please take a look at all these great reasons you should start.....

1. Saves Time - Place food in the crock and then walk away.  You don't have to watch the pot - monitoring or stirring.

2. Easy to use - You just layer the foods in the crock, turn it on and walk away until dinner.  Using a crock-pot doesn't require culinary skills.

3.  Inexpensive - It is an inexpensive kitchen appliance that gives you so much. You can use less expensive cuts of meat because the process of slow cooking makes them tender. It also uses less power than the oven.  So you save money using it several ways.

4. Healthy - Many recipes or foods you cook in the crock-pot don't need butter, oil or fat added.  You can make so many wonderfully healthy dishes full of flavor.

5.  Easy Clean-up with Removable Crocks - After the meal, just take that crock out and soak it in the sink and wash clean.  Some removable crocks are dishwasher safe so cuts your cleaning down even more. It ends up being the dish you use to prepare, cook and serve so less dishes to clean.

6. Good Meals - It creates good meals that taste good and usually gives you extra meals. You can cook a piece of meat that can serve not only dinner for tonight, but freeze left overs and reheat later for a quick meal, or use extra meal to create a totally different meal later. Such as making a pot roast and then using left over roast into beef stroganoff or stew.

Recipe for Ham & Bean Soup in the Crock-pot

Monday, November 5, 2012

Slow Cooking November

I love to use my crock-pot all year round. I like that in the summer it doesn't  heat up the kitchen like the oven does and that  in the cooler seasons of fall and winter the wonderful smells coming from it just makes the house seem warmer. I have 4 crock-pots in the house - 2 aren't even used for food, but wax. (Yes one of the crock-pots is used for kinky use of wax, but the other is for art.)

For the rest of the month here at Domestic Servitude we will having all sorts of helpful posts on crock-pots from what kind to buy, tips and tricks, book reviews and LOTS of recipes. We hope you will come by and read the posts and pass them on to your friends.

So starting this month of slow cooking with a recipe...

Pork and Black Beans for Tacos

2 cans of black beans (rinsed and drained)
1 pound boneless pork loin roast
1 can Rotel (with liquid - 10 ounce can of diced tomatoes with green chiles)
1 can diced tomatoes (with liquid - 14.5 ounce can)
1 can green chiles (4 ounce can)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2  teaspoon ground cumin

Trim all the fat off the pork roast, cut in half. Season with the chili powder, oregano and ground cumin. Place in the pork in the bottom of the crock-pot and then pour the other ingredients in over it.

Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Shred pork and stir in with other ingredients. Eat immediately or continue to cook on low adding water if liquids begin to evaporate. If there is too much liquid, cook without lid for a bit.

Serve on top of tortillas with your favorite toppings.


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