Each day, it seems we are starting down the path toward something resembling normal. Whatever the “new normal” is; it is clear that we are getting busy again. Whether it is work, youth sports, school, or social activities, it seems we are all finding it difficult to get home in time to prepare dinner. I am now using my crockpot or slow cooker more than ever. Why? The slow cooker has the ability to have a dish cooked while you are away tending to other activities. These are a few of the crockpot dishes that I have discovered and enjoyed. Happy cooking and happy “new normal!”
Food writer Ruth Reichl described Bolognese as a “food that is greater than the sum of its parts.” She was exactly right. Something magical happens to all these basic ingredients when they are slow cooked and allowed to mingle together. It is simply delicious and it is so much more than a spaghetti meat sauce. Try this recipe and be sure to serve with wide noodles or a pasta that can hold onto the sauce.
1 pound bacon, sliced or cut into tiny pieces, cooked until crisp and drained
1 pound lean ground beef, thoroughly cooked and drained
1 pound good quality ground Italian sausage cooked and drained
2 onions thoroughly chopped
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup good red wine
1 cup milk
1/2 cup finally chopped carrots
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cans diced tomatoes, I normally use fire roasted
1 small can tomato paste
1 can beef broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Placed cooked meat and remaining ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low heat for 8 to 10 hours. Stir occasionally. Best made the day before and slowly reheated.
Serve with wide noodles.
Crockpot Cuban Pork
I love a recipe that I can use to make multiple and different meals and this is just such a recipe. You can cook the pork in the crockpot and serve it with rice and beans on the first night. You can serve it as a taco filling on another night.
My personal favorite is to serve the meat on a Cuban sandwich. To make a Cuban sandwich: assemble sliced ham, Swiss cheese, some of the chopped or shredded pork meat, mustard, and most importantly, a few slices of dill pickle. (We also add a couple of jalapeño rings to make a spicy version.) Put all this together between two slices of sturdy Cuban bread or sourdough bread and grill as you would a grilled cheese.
4-5 pound boneless pork butt (You can use a bone-in but allow an extra pound or 2)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic
2 tablespoons dried oregano
4 teaspoons onion powder
4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 orange, quartered
1 lime, quartered
Put all ingredients in a crockpot and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or until roast is easily shredded apart. Feel free to leave in the bits and pieces of cooked orange and lime peel. I think they add to the flavor.
Red Lentil and Brown Rice Taco Filling
I am trying to offer more good vegetarian options to my family. This recipe was shared by my good friend and pastor‘s wife, Sara Cole. Everything she makes is amazing. She is one of the best and healthy meal cooks that I know. Her kids described the red lentil and brown rice taco filling as “better than ground meat” on tacos. I did not believe them at first, but they were exactly right. It is amazing.
1 cup dried red lentils
1/2 cup brown rice
1 onion, diced
6 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
4 1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons of chili powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon paprika, I use smoked paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Put all ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on high for 3-4 hours. Stir a few times during the last hour of cooking. I have added about 10 chopped sun-dried tomatoes during the last hour for additional flavor.
Honey Sriracha Chicken
When my little brother told me about this recipe, I did not even have to read the ingredients. I told him that he had me at the words “honey and Sriracha!” I knew it would be great.
2 to 3 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, cut until about 1 inch pieces
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup honey
1-3 tablespoons Sriracha red pepper sauce (amount varies depending on your tolerance for spice)
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried ground ginger
1/4 cup cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup cold water.
Lightly spray your cockpot with cooking spray. Whisk together all ingredients except chicken and corn starch mixture. Once sauce is combined, put chicken in the crockpot and stir a few times. Cook on low for about three hours until the chicken is thoroughly cooked. Whisk in cornstarch mixture and allow the sauce to thicken slightly. Cook on high for an additional hour.
Serve with steamed rice and top with green onions.
Peanuts may not be the first thing you think of when you are using your crockpot but my brother-in-law, Mike Jones, is always asked to bring his boiled peanuts to tailgate parties. His recipe is a creative and interesting use of the crockpot and guarantees delicious boiled peanuts every time without having to stand over a boiling pot for hours. While we may not be able to have a traditional tailgate this football season, we can still enjoy these peanuts on game day.
Depending on the size of your crockpot you may need to adjust quantities. For an 8 quart cooker, add a little less than 4 pounds of raw, green peanuts directly to the slow cooker. Cover with water. Add about 1 1/2 cups kosher salt (more or less depending on your taste.) Cover and cook on high for 8 to 10 hours.
After cooking, remove lid and allow nuts to cool completely. This will pull more salt and flavor into the peanuts as they cool. Once peanuts are totally cool, feel free to bag peanuts into gallon size freezer bags and store in the refrigerator. These also freeze well.
When you are ready to eat, simply serve at room temperature.
I have included this recipe in a previous article but it still remains as one of the main tings we cook in our crockpot and it is worthy of a second look.
Mother’s is a wonderful little dive in New Orleans that serves the best breakfast, shrimp jambalaya, and a spectacular sandwich called the “debris.” It consists of all the yummy meat scraps and pan drippings from a roast beef. It is my son’s favorite treat when we visit NOLA. This is a super simple crockpot version of this sandwich.
1- 3 or 4 pounds beef roast, trimmed and cut in large cubes
1 can beef broth
1 onion, quartered
5 cloves garlic, peeled
1 envelope au jus gravy mix
1 envelope brown gravy mix
Put all ingredients in the crock pot and cook overnight or until the meat is easily shredded apart with a fork.
Serve on French bread, with shredded cabbage or shredded lettuce, mayo and spicy mustard.
* If you are watching your salt in-take, feel free to substitute low sodium broth and gravy mix.
Crockpot Baked Potatoes
I was very skeptical about these potatoes at first because I LOVE a good baked potato cooked in the oven. No microwave potatoes for me. However, our family loves baked potato night and sometimes it is hard to get home in time to bake a large potato in the oven for an hour. I decided to try the crockpot version and it was great. The potato is wrapped in foil so you do not get the crispy skin but we love it and it is a super easy weeknight meal. Be sure and have plenty of cooked and crumbled bacon, sour cream, chopped cooked broccoli, cheese, chili, butter, and any other toppings your family likes.
4 large baking potatoes, scrubbed
1 tablespoon oil
Kosher salt to taste
Prick the potatoes with a fork several times and then rub with oil. Sprinkle with salt and wrap in individual sheets of foil. Place potatoes in crockpot and cook on high for 4 ½ -5 hours or on low for 7 ½ -8 hours, or until the potatoes are tender.
Remove foil and serve with your choice of toppings.