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A Slow Day Calls for Slow Cooking

It’s been a typical Monday, so I am glad I was cooking with the slow cooker today. Today I am using a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen for Chicken and Dumplings. I’ve made this before on the stove top, but I decided to use the slow cooker method today.

Chicken and Dumplings

3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed

Salt and pepper

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 onions, minced

2 celery ribs, sliced 1/4 inch thick

6 garlic cloves, minced

1  tablespoon tomato paste

2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup dry sherry

4 1/2 cups chicken broth, plus extra if needed

4 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick

2 bay leaves

1 cup frozen peas

3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

For the Dumplings:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

3 tablespoons butter

Dry the chicken with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown half of the chicken lightly on both sides, 5 to 8 minutes; transfer to a bowl. Repeat with 1 tablespoon more of the oil and the remaining chicken; transfer to a bowl.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions, celery, garlic, tomato paste and thyme, and cook until the vegetables are softened and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the sherry, scraping up any browned bits. Whisk in 1 cup of broth, smoothing out any lumps; transfer to the slow cooker.

Stir in the remaining 3 1/2 cups of broth, carrots and bay leaves into the slow cooker. Nestle browned chicken with any accumulated juices into the slow cooker. Cover and cook until the chicken is tender, 4 to 6 hours on low setting.

Transfer the chicken to a cutting board, allow to cool slightly, then shred into bite size pieces. Let the stew settle for 5 minutes, then remove fat from the surface using a large spoon. Discard the bay leaves. Stir the shredded chicken, peas and parsley into the stew, and season with salt and pepper to taste (Adjust the stew consistency with additional broth if necessary). Cover and cook on high until simmering, or transfer to a Dutch oven and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

For the dumplings, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Microwave the milk and butter together until warm, about 1 minute, then whisk to melt the butter. Stir the milk mixture into the flour mixture until just incorporated and smooth. Drop golf ball size dumplings on top of the simmering stew, leaving about 1/4 inch between each dumpling (you should have about 18 dumplings). Cover and cook until the dumplings double in size, 25 to 35 minutes. Serve.

It’s a delicious meal. The dumplings come out just right and the chicken just falls apart and tastes wonderful. Here’s a picture of how it looks when it’s done:

Tomorrow night’s meal will be the Spaghetti and Meatballs that I never got to last week. Work schedules and homework just got in the way last week, but this week we shouldn’t have any problems (fingers crossed). I have made spaghetti and meatballs before, and if you want to see the previous recipe, you can check it out here. I think I am going to try to vary it a little bit this time. Check back tomorrow and see how it looks. Until then, enjoy the last day of winter (it was 74 here in New York today) and enjoy your meal!

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2012 in Cooking, Dinner, Poultry, Slow Cooker Meals

 

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Slow Cooking Short Ribs

Tonight’s dinner is all about short ribs. Short ribs are all about the meat and the sauce, and this recipe gives a great deep flavor for both and most of the work is done in the slow cooker.

Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs

5 pounds bone-in shirt ribs, meat and bones separated

Salt and pepper

 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 onions,chopped medium

1 carrot, peeled and chopped medium

1 celery rib, chopped medium

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups dry red wine

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 cups chicken broth

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Separate the meat from the bones by inserting a knife between the rib and meat, staying as close to the bone as possible. Saw the meat off the bone and set aside. Arrange the beef bones in a dish and microwave (in batches, if your microwave is small) until well browned, 10 to 15 minutes; transfer the bones to the slow cooker.

Dry the short ribs meat with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown half of the short ribs well on all sides, 7 to minutes; transfer the meat to the slow cooker. Repeat with the remaining tablespoon of oil and the remaining short ribs; when done, transfer them to the slow cooker.

Add the onions, carrot, celery, tomato paste and thyme to the fat in the skillet and cook over medium-high heat until the onions are softened and lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the wine and the vinegar, scraping up any browned bits and smoothing out any lumps. Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced to 1 cup, about 5 minutes; transfer to the slow cooker.

Stir the broth and the bay leaves into the slow cooker. Cover and cook until the beef is tender, 9 to 11 hours on low or 5 to 7 hours on high. Transfer the short ribs to a serving platter and tent loosely with aluminum foil. Let the braising liquid settle for 5 minutes, then remove the fat from the surface using a large spoon. Strain the braising liquid, discarding the solids, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the parsley. Spoon 1 cup of sauce over the short ribs and serve with the remaining sauce on the side.

Microwaving the bones before cooking may seem a little odd, but it actually does two things for you: first, it renders out a lot of unwanted fat (short ribs can be very greasy) and second, it gives the bones a roasted flavor which in turn deepens the sauce during the long cooking time. It’s a little work at first with the microwave and the skillet, but I think you’ll be happy with the results if you put the work into it.

I am serving the short ribs with mashed potatoes. Mashed potatoes go perfectly with this meal and  placing a couple of the ribs with the sauce directly over the mashed potatoes is delicious. I have posted my recipe for mashed potatoes before, so if you would like to check it out, feel free to click here to get it. I am also keeping the vegetable simple with just some steamed broccoli to round out the meal.

That’s all there is to this dinner. Mondays seem to cry out for a nice, slow cooker meal. So many of us are ready to crash by the time the day ends on Monday, so it would be nice to come home to meal that is just about done. You can even peel the potatoes ahead of time and just leave them in a pot of water on the stove so you can just turn it on and go when you get home.

Tomorrow night’s meal is a simple Spaghetti and Meatballs, which I have made before. I may do a slight variation on it this time, so check back and see how the recipe looks. I’ll also be writing about a couple of items I am looking to purchase to make cooking a little easier and fun, so check back and see those as well. If you have any questions, comments, suggestions or recipes you may be looking for, please feel free to leave a comment and I’ll get back to you. I hope everyone is enjoying the warm weather today. Spring is right around the corner, and I’ll be cleaning up the grill soon so we can start using that for cooking too! Enjoy your day and enjoy your meal!

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2012 in Beef, Cooking, Dinner, Potatoes, Slow Cooker Meals

 

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Oven Barbecued Ribs, Broccoli Slaw, Slow Cooker Pork Chops and a Meal Plan Menu

I took the weekend off to spend some time with the family, but now it’s back to the blog. Yesterday, we had a nice meal of Oven Barbecued Baby Back Ribs and Broccoli Slaw. It made us all think about summer coming fast since the weather has been so mild this winter. Oven Barbecue Ribs are great to make any time of the year. You can use any store-bought sauce that you like, or a dry rub, or make your own sauce. I often use a dry rub or make me own sauce, and I’ll post those recipes as we get into the warmer weather. Yesterday I just used Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce, which is our sauce of choice. There’s not much to oven barbecuing ribs, so the recipe is quite quick.

Oven Barbecued Baby Back Ribs

1-2 racks pork loin baby back ribs (about 2-3 pounds each rack)

1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce, homemade or store-bought

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Lay the ribs, meaty side up, on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Wrap the pan tightly with foil. Roast for 2 hours. Remove the foil and brush the meaty side of the ribs with barbecue sauce. Continue to roast, uncovered, until the bones have separated from the meat, about 1 hour longer.

That’s all there is to it. You can do the same with spareribs if you prefer them; I like the taste of the baby back ribs better myself. I served this with a nice broccoli slaw. This slaw has a little kick to it, but you can eliminate the red pepper flakes from the recipe if you prefer something milder.

Broccoli Slaw

1 cup shredded carrots

2 cups shredded broccoli slaw

1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 lime, zested and juiced

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

In a large bowl, combine the carrots, broccoli slaw and red onion. Set aside. In a small saucepan, add the vinegar, lime zest, lime juice, salt, sugar, red pepper flakes and the black pepper. Bring to a light boil over low heat. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Add the olive oil to the vinegar mixture, pour over the vegetables and toss together to combine. Refrigerate until serving.

It made for a nice, refreshing dinner. Tonight’s dinner, following along with my schedule, is a slow cooker meal. Tonight I am making Slow Cooker Pepper Pork Chops. This is a recipe I got from Alton Brown of the Food Network. It takes a little prep work as the pork chops need to be brined overnight, but it’s definitely worth it.

Slow Cooker Pepper Pork Chops

2 cups vegetable broth or water

1/2 cup salt

1/2 cup light brown sugar

2 tablespoons black peppercorns, slightly crushed

1 pound ice

4 (1 to 1 1/2 inch thick) bone-in pork chops

2 teaspoons salt

3 apples, cored and sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, julienned

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried thyme

Combine the vegetable broth or water, 1/2 cup salt, brown sugar and peppercorns in a medium saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Cook just until the salt and sugar dissolve, then remove from the heat and add the ice. Place the pork chops into a gallon zip-top bag along with the mixture and seal. Place in a plastic container and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the chops from the brine, rinse, and pat dry. Season on both sides with salt and set aside. Place the apples in the slow cooker. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the pork chops on both sides until golden brown, approximately 5 to 6 minutes per side. Once browned, place the pork chops into the slow cooker atop the apples.

Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan followed by the onions and saute until they begin to brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chicken broth to the pan to deglaze. Add the black pepper and the thyme and stir to combine. Transfer this to the slow cooker, set to high, and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Decrease the heat to low and continue cooking for another 4 1/2 hours, or until the pork is tender and falling away from the bone.

If you want to leave the slow cooker in the morning and not have to turn anything down, you can leave the pork chops on low the whole time and cook for 8 hours. I am serving this meal simply, with some white rice and steamed  vegetables (cauliflower and broccoli).

As for the meal plan for this week, here is what I am making:

Monday: Slow Cooker Pepper Pork Chops, White Rice, Steamed Vegetables

Tuesday: Trinidadian Chicken Stew

Wednesday: Hamburgers, Oven Fries, Oven-Fried Onion Rings

Thursday: Fettuccine Alfredo

Friday: Monkfish ( I haven’t decided how I am cooking it, but I did buy it and freeze it).

They are all simple, tasty meals. By the way, I won’t be eating the fettuccine, I’ll be having crab-stuffed trout that day, so I’ll post both recipes, but they will both be delicious :). I think that covers everything for tonight. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave a note and say hi. Until tomorrow, enjoy your meal!

 

 
 

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Slow Cooking Some Stew

Tonight’s dinner has been cooking all day and it smells terrific. Beef stew is one of those meals that you can make all day in the slow cooker or all day on the stove, and it makes the whole house smell great. You don’t need a lot of ingredients to make it and you can always add other vegetables to it if you want.

Beef Stew with Bacon

4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped

3 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon salt, plus more, to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus more, to taste

2 pounds boneless beef chuck, trimmed of excess fat and cut into chunks (I am actually using a london broil instead this time)

3/4 cup fresh mushrooms, halved if large

1/2 pound baby carrots

4 to 5 small red potatoes, scrubbed and quartered

1/2 pound frozen pearl onions (you can use 1 large yellow onion, chopped, instead)

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup dry red wine

1 cup beef broth

2 tablespoons tomato paste

In a large fry pan over medium heat, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off the drippings into a small heatproof bowl, leaving about 1 tablespoon drippings in the pan. Set the pan, reserved drippings and bacon aside.

In a sealable plastic bag, combine the flour, the 1 teaspoon of salt and the 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Add the beef chunks and shake to coat evenly with the flour mixture. Return the fry pan to medium-high heat. When the drippings are hot, add half the beef chunks and cook, turning once, until well browned, about 5 minutes on each side. Transfer the beef to the slow cooker. Repeat with the remaining beef chunks, adding the reserved drippings if needed. Scatter the mushrooms, carrots, potatoes, onions, and garlic on top.

Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the wine, broth and tomato paste. Mix well, bring to a boil and deglaze the pan, stirring to scrape up any browned bits on the pan bottom. Pour the  contents of the pan over the vegetables and beef. Cover and cook on the high-heat setting for 4 to 5 hours or the low-heat setting for 8 to 9 hours. The beef should be very tender. Stir in the reserved bacon. Cook, uncovered, on the high-heat setting for 10 minutes more to thicken the sauce slightly. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Of course, the stew is great served with some crunchy bread, rolls or biscuits. If you would like to see a simple biscuit recipe, just check here for a previous blog entry that included the biscuits. You can always freeze any leftovers to save to be re-heated on a later day or use it for lunches during the week.

This was a pretty simple slow cooker meal, which is ideal for a Monday night. Tomorrow night, I’ll be making Bacon Chicken Ranch Quesadillas and we’ll be having the leftover black beans and rice and mango pineapple salsa, both from Sunday’s dinner. If you have any questions or there are any recipes that you might like to see or if you have some ideas for the blog, please feel free to leave a comment. Until tomorrow, have a great evening and enjoy your meal!

 
 

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Jennifer Probst

a little bit naughty a little bit nice

Laissez Faire

Letting Life Lead

simple cooking recipes

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