Category Archives: Slow Cooker

School-year Swing!

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School started this last Monday for us and we are in full swing at this point.  As most of you know, eating as a family is very important to me.  I like to gather my family around the dinner table and talk about our day and not think about homework, lesson plans, etc for a few minutes.  However, after re-entering the full-time work force two years ago, getting dinner made is harder than it was for many years.  Tonight I prepped this dish for my high schooler to start in the slow cooker once she gets home on Monday and I made breakfast tacos to zap in the mornings for a little sturdier breakfast for each of us.

How did I find time tonight to do all this?  Well, I cooked a roast in the slow cooker for Sunday lunch and told everyone they were on their own for dinner!  Then tonight I was able to spend about an hour in the kitchen getting these two separate things ready.  So this is my plan for the “School-year Swing”– to try to prepare ahead of time so that I can enjoy my time at home with my family more and not be standing in the kitchen too often on weeknights.

And now, I’m going to sit with my feet up for a bit before the second week of school gets underway!

Take it Easy

 

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Preparing for the New Year

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I forgot how precious the holidays are when you teach school!  I have really enjoyed my time off and we were so blessed to be near our family and able to see them multiple times throughout the holidays.  As this first day of 2015 wraps up, I have begun to think about work again (I might have to start a summer countdown calendar though).  One thing that I will be doing before school starts back up and I am busy-busy again is that I will freeze some meals for those days that I just can’t spend time cooking.  I am planning to put two different “main entrees” into the freezer before Sunday night.  One of them, Porcupine Meatballs, I’ve blogged before.  This new one is a recipe my Aunt Gwen shared with me.  Neither of us have made it after it was frozen, yet we have made it fresh.  However, I’m going to try freezing it and bought gallon-sized freezer zip bags at the store this week for that very purpose!

Cilantro Lime Chicken

Place into a resealable gallon-sized freezer bag:

  • 1 1/2 pounds of chicken breast (if they are crazy big chicken breasts, cut them to make thinner)
  • 4 Tablespoons of lime juice (about 2 limes if using fresh)
  • 1 bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped (this was about 3 cups prior to chopping it)
  • 1, 16 oz, bag of frozen corn
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste.

Once all the ingredients are in the bag, mix it all together and zip the bag closed.

Place in the freezer for up to 3 months.  When you are ready to prepare the dish, remove it from the freezer and thaw it in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Cooking times:

Slow Cooker: This recipe works great in the slow cooker.

  • Low for 8 hours
  • High for 4 hours

Stove:  I found this site that helps convert recipes from stove to slow cooker.  I may try this when I cook this for my family as the slow cooker and my teaching hours don’t mesh well.  According to this on stovetop it would take about 45 minutes to cook this meal.  I will most likely pull the chicken out and brown it on both sides and then pour the rest in on top to finish cooking it all together.  I will update this post after I try it to let you know how it works!

 

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Family time is priceless!

 

Ratatouille—Vegetables after the Carb Fest!

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We have had a wonderful Thanksgiving here in Texas.  It was wonderful to drive to be with our Giese family.  Thanksgiving is the only time of year that the entire clan (close to 40 of us) plan to get together.  This year we were just outside of San Antonio and next year I get to host!!! (And yes, the spreadsheet is already forming in my head and I’ve determined where furniture will be placed too!)  Then on Friday we drove over to see Brad’s parents and had another wonderful feast.  Needless to say, we need some vegetables without butter and brown sugar all over them!

I just finished prepping this Ratatouille recipe that I found last winter in “Slow Cooker Revolution”.  I served our dish with some Rigatoni Pasta to help my kids be a bit more receptive to this vegetable focused meal.  It does take a bit of time to prepare (30 minutes) but then you have 4 to 6 hours to clean up the kitchen and know that later your family will have a warm, healthy meal without any butter 🙂

Ratatouille

Cut into 1-inch chunks:

  • 2 eggplants (2 pounds)
  • 3 zucchini (1 1/2 pounds)

Heat in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat:

  • 1 Tablespoon of olive oil

Brown in the heated oil for about 5-7 minutes:

  • 1/2 of the eggplant; turning it to brown on all sides.  (I pepper mine a bit)

Transfer browned eggplant to your slow cooker.

Repeat process with 1 Tablespoon more of oil and remaining eggplant.

Then, work in two batches again, to brown the zucchini (adding 1 Tablespoon of oil before each batch.)

Put the browned zucchini in the slow cooker.

Heat 2 more Tablespoons of oil in the skillet.  Add to the shimmering oil:

  • 2 onions, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground thyme (could use 2 teaspoons of fresh if you have some)

Cook the vegetables for 8 to 10  minutes until softened and lightly browned.

While the vegetables brown, drain but reserve the drained juice

  • 1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes

Once the vegetables are browned, Stir into them and cook for 1 minute:

  • 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour

Slowly whisk into the skillet, scraping up any browned bits and smoothing out lumps:

  • the reserved tomato juice

Transfer everything to the slow cooker.

Stir  into the slow cooker:

  • The drained, diced tomatoes

Cover and cook for 4-6 hours on low until the vegetables are tender.

Prepare your desired pasta just before the vegetables are finished

Stir into the vegetables:

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese
Ready to cook for 4-6 hours!

Ready to cook for 4-6 hours!

Enjoy!

Enchilada Casserole- Slow Cooker

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Here is another “near” magic pot recipe that we tried tonight.  It is a vegetarian dish that also earned 4 smiley faces from our family of four.  It is intended to be prepared in a smaller slow cooker ( 3 1/2 quart) but it worked fine in my big slow cooker.  If I have more than four mouths at my table it would be easy to double this one.  I made this exactly like the recipe out of the Southern Living Ultimate Quick and Easy Cookbook except that I used a 15 oz can of corn rather than an 11 oz can of mexi-corn.  I just hate to pay more for that!

Enchilada Casserole

Stir together in your slow cooker:

  • 2 Tablespoons chopped green chiles
  • 3/4 cup chunky salsa (I used Pace’s mild version)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can yellow corn
  • 1 10 oz can of enchilada sauce (I used Old El Paso’s Green Enchilada sauce)

Cover and cook on Low for 4 hours

Stir together in a bowl:

  • 1 Tablespoon green chiles
  • 1 package corn muffin mix (8.5 oz box version)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped roasted red bell peppers

Spoon the batter evenly over the bean mixture in the slow cooker (well, mine was more like glop it on top of the enchilada mix)

Cover and cook on Low for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until cornbread is done.

Sprinkle over the cornbread:

  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese (or mexican blend as I did….hmmmm….maybe I didn’t follow the recipe exactly)

Cover and allow the cheese to melt

Serve with sour cream if desired.

Obviously the spicier your salsa the spicier the dish.  I was cooking for mild-mouths so we made it more tame.  I served it with Ranch Style Beans, a green salad and apple slices.

Enjoy!

Chicken Lasagna Florentine- Slow Cooker

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Magic Pot Alert!  Yep, this one is a dump and go kind of recipe….my kind of slow cooker meal.  It gets four smiley faces from my family of four.  The only thing you have to plan for is to be home for the first hour of cooking as you cook on high for one hour and then reduce it to low for the next 5 hours. *  I found the base for this recipe in a Southern Living Ultimate Quick and Easy Cookbook that I checked out from a local library.

Chicken Lasagna Florentine

Combine in a large bowl and stir well:

  • 2 cans of cream of chicken soup
  • 10 ounces of frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry (I used frozen from Trader Joe’s and didn’t need to drain and squeeze)
  • 2-3 cups of diced, cooked chicken (I used some shredded chicken that I had in the freezer, you could also use the Tyson’s diced cooked chicken)
  • 8 ounces of sour cream
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 1 Tablespoon of Penzey’s Mural of Flavor (a mix of spices, dried shallots, onion, garlic, lemon peel, citric acid, chives, orange peel)  If you don’t have this, one variation I found online has 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg.
  • salt and pepper to taste

Place in a larger slow cooker, coated with cooking spray (or maybe one of those liners would be good)

  • 3 uncooked lasagna noodles, breaking the noodles in half, to fit in the slow cooker. (will need 9 noodles in all for the layers)

Spread one third of the spinach mixture over the noodles.

Sprinkle over the mixture

  • 2/3 cup mozzarella cheese

Layer

  • 3 more noodles (breaking as needed)
  • half of the remaining spinach mixture
  • 2/3 cup mozzarella cheese

Top with the remaining noodles, mixture, and cheese.

Cover and cook on High for 1 hour

Reduce to Low and cook for 5 hours or until the pasta is done (mine was fine after 5 hours)

* Note: I did search around before posting this and see that someone did this same base recipe on Low for 8 hours and said it was fine—that way you don’t have to worry about the High/Low switch.

 

Valentine’s Smith Style

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I know that Valentine’s Day is always on February 14 but somehow this year the 14th got here way too quickly!  Life has been zipping by at breakneck speeds lately-I’m sure you can relate.  Yesterday my youngest pulled out a can of Chef Boyardee and asked if she could have it for dinner tomorrow night (which would be Valentine’s).  Her older sister said “No, it is Valentines Day and Mom probably has a big, special dinner planned.”

Sigh

I am thrilled that she has noticed the special efforts I have given in previous years.  But this year I just didn’t have it in me.  Thankfully, I was able to say “We will have lunch tomorrow since y’all have a half-day of school and Dad is working in the evening.”  Whew, lunch is easier to do than dinner!  Then I didn’t let myself fret over it but got the evening wrapped up and ended watching my favorite TV show…Nashville!

This morning I kicked into gear getting  potato soup going by 9AM (recipe below).  My handsome fella was kind enough to bring home some awesome cupcakes from a bakery near his office so I didn’t even have to try to make a dessert.  Now to get the annual Valentine clues written for the hunt for the treats.

Fortunately I picked up some small little gifts for my girls on an errand run in the last few weeks so all I needed today was to run get some twizzlers.  Our candy selection is limited as the 7-year-old just entered the world of orthodontia with an expander…so no more gummy candy for a while 😦 But they gave approval for twizzlers so the world didn’t stop spinning.

After a salted caramel mocha at Burlap and Bean with my handsome fella, we made the Target run and came home with just enough time to get the Valentine Treat all set up.

I started getting the table set and really wanted it to be fun for the girls….so what could I do.  I remembered some special heart hotdogs that I repinned from my cousin-in-law and I came up with a clever way to make our soup Valentine-y too.

Here are some pictures from our table:

:Heart Hot Dogs

Hearts in soup

Here is how the entire table ended up for our family lunch:

Valentine Lunch 2013

Making the heart in the soup was super easy and such a fun way to make it fit with the theme.  I simply put  sour cream in a small bowl and dropped some food coloring in to make it pink….but whoops it was purple!  Oh well.  Then I put the colored sour cream in a small ziploc and clipped of the corner so I could “draw” the heart on the soup.  I made my snip too large but it still worked out fine.

So in the end, we had a great family lunch together.  The soup is always excellent and the cupcakes were great!  We ended our lunch reading the “Love” chapter from the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13.

Baked Potato Soup

Combine in a large slow cooker:

  • 6 large potatoes, peeled and cubed (use Russets/Idaho NOT Yukons…Oh and my definition of large is like 6 inches long so if you have small potatoes use a few more to equal out large ones)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 quart of chicken broth
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • pepper to taste (I pepper the entire top of the crock with pepper and then mix it in)

Cook on High for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours.

Mash the potatoes until the soup is slightly thickened.

Stir in:

  • 1 cup of 1/2 and 1/2  (or you can use cream)
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

I like to serve it with sour cream, bacon and (of course) more cheese.

 

Mamma Mia Italian Stew- Slow Cooker Alert!

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This was so easy to throw together late in the morning on Saturday and then dinner was ready just before we sat down to watch some College football.  I love recipes like this.  It is not quite a “magic pot” recipe as you do have to cook the Italian sausage prior to putting it in the slow cooker, but other than that —easy!

I found this recipe via some link to myrecipes.com back in August.  Everyone was happy with it and I think my girls tried some vegetables that they normally would never try (I didn’t reveal the contents until everyone had eaten!).  This made just enough to feed four….but it was our only thing besides some bread.  So you could stretch it if you had not only bread but also a big salad.  I think when we have some holiday company I may try to have this again but I will put in twice as much sausage and a tad more vegetables.

Mamma Mia Italian Stew

Brown in a non-stick pan:

  • 1 pound Italian sausage (I used sweet as my girls don’t go for the hot version.  Also I browned it in the links and then chopped it into bite-sized pieces after it was cooked through)

Combine in a large slow cooker:

  • the cooked sausage- sliced
  • 1 eggplant, peeled and cubed
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced green beans (I used frozen Trader Joe’s green beans)
  • 2 green peppers, sliced
  • 1 potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 zucchini, cubed
  • 1 yellow squash, cubed (next time I will peel the squash or at least take off some of the peel…it wasn’t very good)
  • 1 cup onion, thinly sliced
  • 15 oz can Italian-style tomato sauce (yes they actually do have this…I had never purchased any prior to this but basically it is tomato sauce with Italian seasonings all in it.  So you could use plain tomato sauce and add seasonings yourself if you needed to)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt

That is what the recipe says then I added, all to my taste:

  • dried oregano
  • dried basil
  • dried thyme
  • white pepper

Stir everything well.

Cover and cook on low setting for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours.
It was so easy.  Definitely one you could prep the night before and then dump into the slow cooker just before you walk out the door for work or a busy day running errands.

I also made a Slab Apple Pie for dessert.