Archive for the Category ◊ Crockpot ◊

02 Aug 2013 Beans!

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I am so excited about this recipe!  It’s a paradigm shift recipe!  It’s not a recipe in the true sense of the word, it’s more of a road map to a particular destination.   A road map allows for more flexibility than a recipe, a road map allows the cook to make adjustments based upon personal preferences, taste, time, and what’s in the pantry.  I think most people have a road map for a few good dishes.  I have a road map for spaghetti sauce, chicken soup, stir-fry and hamburgers.  You might have a road map for meatloaf, burritos and rice bowls.  Most people have road maps for sandwiches and salads. A road map means there are guidelines, easy ones, usually ones that can be memorized, and that can always be adapted as the situation requires.

So here it is, a guideline for a pot of beans, in the crockpot no less!  Crockpot cooking is great for summer, the kitchen doesn’t get heated up, and a pot of beans pairs well with almost everything that can be BBQ’d.  In the winter months, a bowl of beans with some cornbread or tortillas is almost the definition of comfort food. Another plus, crockpot cooking is fuss free, so toss everything in the pot and then go sit in the sun or shovel snow.

Many thanks to Mark Bittman of the New York Times for this road map. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

BTW…, for years I have been looking for a good baked beans recipe, so that’s what I make with this recipe:  meaty, slightly sweet Boston-style beans.  YUM! They go with everything and I have  a serious love for leftover beans on toast (I’m English).  My son mastered this recipe in one take and he makes killer spicy teriyaki beans with chicken.  I can see others going for more of a Mexican style bean. What sort of beans do you like? Make them!

The House Special Beans

  • 1 lb of dried beans, any kind, I like small white and pinquitos but black, pintos, garbanzos, kidney, or a combination of different kinds of beans can also be used.  Don’t have a full pound of beans?  Add in some split peas or lentils to make up the difference.  Remember these are dried beans (about $1.25 for a pound bag) we are not using canned beans here (and there is no need to soak the beans first).
  • 4 cups of liquid, any kind.  Find a mixture that appeals to you. I start with a bottle of beer, then I add in about 1/4 cup of ketchup, 1/4 cup of Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup of brown sugar and a squirt of mustard, using molasses instead of maple syrup and brown sugar would be good too. If my Dad were here I’d stir in 1/4 cup of bourbon. Then I add water, broth (any kind), or cold coffee to make the 4 cups (too much coffee will make the beans a bit bitter, so stick to less than 1 cup of cold coffee).  My son adds BBQ sauce, sriracha, honey, teriyaki or soy sauce along with beer and coffee.  Don’t like beer?  Use some leftover wine. Don’t drink at all, stick to broth and water.   Health nut?  Stir in carrot juice and some of that green liquid you’re so fond of !
  • Seasonings, any kind.  Start with a healthy amount of salt and pepper, then add in what appeals to you.  I add in 2 t. salt, 1 t. black pepper, 1 t. cumin, 2 t. chili powder, minced garlic, and 2 bay leaves.  Other options include oregano, basil, coriander, red pepper, curry powder, ginger, paprika, liquid smoke, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme…
  • 1 lb meat, any kind, a bit more or a bit less is fine.  I like beef, and I buy something on sale, beef shanks, top sirloin, stew meat, steak, anything.  Throw in a pork chop or two, or some ground meat (brown it first and drain off the fat), chicken (with or without the bones, but boneless chicken does tend to get a bit overcooked), sausage, ham, cooked bacon…, or go for a combo.  Sausage and chicken? Beef and bacon? Or leave out the meat all together if  you’d rather.
  • 2 lbs finely minced or grated veggies, any kind.  I always add diced onion, grated carrots, and minced celery.  Then I might add some shredded zucchini, turnip, cabbage, spinach or kale, whatever I have on hand. Throw in some potatoes. Lots of folk like bell peppers, dice some up and throw them in.  Leeks are yummy. A few diced jalapenos would spice things up. Even canned pumpkin works. The only veggie I don’t add is tomatoes. I heard once that tomatoes interfere with the cooking process of dried beans, so I leave them out (I also don’t use tomato juice as a liquid, but I do stir in a bit of ketchup, and have had no problem with that).

Directions:

  1. Put the dried beans in the bottom of the crock-pot.
  2. Get out a 4-cup measure.  Combine your liquids.  When you have 4 cups, pour it over the beans in the bottom of the crock-pot.
  3. On top of the beans and liquid, add the meat.  I add the meat as is, then remove the fat and bones, and shred the meat after cooking.  You can do the same, or you can add cubes of boneless, skinless meat.
  4. Sprinkle desired seasonings on top of the meat.  (If you add bay leaves, count them so you know how many to remove before serving!)
  5. Finely mince, dice, or shred the veggies.  Add the veggies on top of the meat. (The liquid will not cover the veggies, yet).
  6. With a spatula or a spoon, press on the ingredients to lightly pack.
  7. Put the lid on the slow cooker, plug it in, turn on high, and go out and play! If you are around, check the beans after a few hours.  If the beans look dry add a bit more water, stock, beer, or wine (don’t stir, just pour it on top).
  8. Let beans cook for 6-8 hours.  Turn off.
  9. After the beans have cooled for a bit, taste them.  Needs more salt?  More maple syrup? More heat? Add it now.  If you added large hunks of meat with bones, remove bones and shred the meat. Remove the bay leaves, if you used them.
  10. If you want to add in extras, do it now.  You could stir in some diced tomatoes now, if you’d like, they won’t do any harm at this point (let cook for an additional 30 minutes or so).  Sometimes I stir cooked bacon at this point.  You could stir in frozen corn, if you’d like. Adding chopped parsley, cilantro, or green onion makes the beans look pretty and brightens them up a bit for a pretty presentation.
  11. Remember, beans seem to taste better the day after they are made, so don’t be afraid of letting them rest in the refrigerator for a bit.

Soooo, do you have the road map memorized?  1 lb beans, 1 lb meat, 2 lbs veggies, 1 qt (4 cups) liquid. Seasonings. Crock-pot. High. 6-8 hours, while you go out and play 🙂

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!  Go ahead now, make some beans! Let me know what you used and how they turn out 🙂 I can’t stop my son from making these beans! We’re drowning in beans…, but we’re not broke! Beans we can afford 🙂

10 Sep 2010 Crockpot Pizza Sauce (and yummy extras)

I’ve finally found something that the crockpot (slow cooker for those of you offended by the term “crockpot”) excels in.  Excels in!  This is not just a recipe that can be cooked in the crockpot. It’s a recipe that should be cooked in a crockpot.  Yes, a recipe that tastes best cooked in the crockpot!  I found this recipe in “Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook” by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann (San Joseans!), on page 250.

I have made my fair share of pizza sauces and this is, by far, my favorite.  The flavor is so rich and consistent.  I’m in love!  What’s more, one batch of this recipe makes about 6 cups of pizza sauce.  Use one portion, freeze four! That’s my type of batch cooking.

Crockpot Pizza Sauce

2 12 oz. cans tomato paste
1 16 oz can tomato sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
2-4 cloves garlic, crushed (to taste)
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/4 cup minced fresh flat leafed parsley
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan (or similar) cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

Place everything but the cheese, salt and pepper in the crock pot.  Cover and cook on low for at least 10 hours and no longer than 14 hours.  If at all possible, stir the sauce every few hours.  If you are sleeping, don’t worry about it.

Unplug crockpot.  Taste.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in cheese.  Let cool to room temperature.

I use just over 1 cup of sauce in my pizza.  Depending on the size of your pizza pan and your personal preference regarding the quantity of  sauce you might more or less than I do.

Sauce will keep, refrigerated, for at least four days.  Freeze for longer storage.

My Favorite Cheese Blend for Pizza

Like I said, I have made my share of pizza over the years.  I am finally getting good at it!  Last night’s pizza was fresh veggie…, sliced tomatoes, zucchini and basil, from my garden, and sliced fresh mushrooms and green onions.

Two of my three kids would holler, “Where’s the meat?”, but they are not home so I get to choose everything!

Whatever pizza I make, I always use this cheese blend.  I no longer have the cookbook I got it from, nor do I remember the name of the book, which is unfortunate now that I am going public with this blend.

2 parts shredded mozzarrella
1 part shredded smoked gouda
1 part shredded Italian Fontina
1 part freshly grated Parmigiana-Reggiano

Enjoy your creations! OH, you need a recipe for pizza dough, too?  Here you go… I hope you have a bread machine 🙂

Pizza Dough (for the bread machine)

1 1/3 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons yeast

Place all ingredients in bread machine.  Press “Quick Dough” or “Pizza Dough” cycle. Use immediately (as directed below), refrigerate overnight or freeze for up to three months.  Let frozen dough defrost overnight in refrigerator.  Let refrigerated dough rest for 20 minutes at room temperature before using.

Remove dough to a work surface sprinkled with flour or cornmeal. Divide into 2 parts (for large pizzas).  Roll or press dough into a circle about the size of your pizza pan.

Use dough immediately to make a pizza, or let rise 30 minutes or so for a thicker crust pizza.

When you have it all assembled, bake in preheated HOT oven (500 degrees) for 12-15 minutes.

Have fun assembling the perfect pizza!  Thanks for stopping by my pizzeria today. See you tomorrow!  Remember how much I like feedback.  I’d love to read your comments about this, or your experience making pizza at home.

05 Feb 2010 Shredded Beef Sandwiches
 |  Category: Crockpot, Main Dish, Red Meat, Sandwiches  | Tags: , ,  | Leave a Comment

Here’s one more recipe suggestion, tried and true and oh so easy, for a Super Bowl party. On your way home tonight (game day minus two) pick up a 3-4 lb. beef roast, any kind–bottom round or rump are fine–just get whatever is on sale. Tonight, put the roast in a crockpot with 1/2 cup of water (and nothing else) then mix up the sauce and refrigerate. Tomorrow morning (game day minus one), shred the beef, mix with the sauce, and refrigerate the whole thing overnight to blend the flavors. Game Day, reheat meat and sauce in crockpot for 3-4 hours. Put the crockpot on the coffee table with some tongs, hamburger buns (or the smaller dinner rolls) and desired toppings (if any) of pickles, raw or sauteed onions, sliced tomatoes, and mayonnaise (I like mine “straight up”, no garnishes!). Fans can make their own BBQ Beef Sandwiches whenever they feel the urge.

Shredded BBQ Beef Sandwiches

For Beef
3-4 lb. beef roast, any kind, bottom round or rump work well (Last time, because it was on sale,  I used a tri-tip roast)
1/2 cup water (I suspect beer can be substituted, but I haven’t tested this)

For Sauce
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tsp. chili powder
1 1/2 T. Worcestershire Sauce
2 T. vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1 T. brown sugar
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 medium onion, finely chopped, and sauteed
1/2 cup water

Place the roast in a crockpot with 1/2 cup water. Cover and cook on low for approx. 10 hours. In another bowl combine all the sauce ingredients and refrigerate overnight. Go to bed. When you get up, remove the meat from the crockpot and shred with a fork, discard any chunks of fat. Combine shredded beef with the sauce. Stir well. Refrigerate meat/sauce mixture, covered, for 24 hours or so. Return shredded meat to crockpot and cook for 3-4 hours on low. Serve on rolls* with sliced pickles, sliced tomatoes and mayonnaise (if desired). Makes approx 16 sandwiches.

*I found mini-hamburger buns at Trader Joe’s.  $1.20 for a package of 8…, but at that price, you can buy regular hamburger buns and use a circle cutter to cut them down to the size you want! (The buns were plain, and a bit dry and firm, not nearly special enough to make them worth an extra trip to TJ’s, but not bad enough to avoid either!)

Thanks for visiting!

02 Feb 2010 Crockpot Bean Dip for a Crowd

Super Bowl Sunday is just on the horizon. For years, I couldn’t care less. But somehow or other, I managed to raise a football crazy girl who actually anticipates and then watches football games, playoffs and bowls. So, through her, I am slowly warming up to the excitement of Super Bowl Sunday. Not for the game. Not for the commercials, either. For the snacks!. Just like there are American food traditions around Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day and Valentine’s Day, there are also special Game Day foods. Being slow to this football thing, I don’t have a huge repertoire of Super Bowl recipes yet, but I’ll share what I do have. Here’s my “go to” recipe for all big parties, my Crockpot Bean Dip. I put the crockpot right on the coffee table, with a ladle and some bowls and chips right next to it.

You can control the flavor and spiciness of this dip by your choice of beans, salsa and cheese. This recipe makes enough for two football teams. If there are leftovers, they freeze and microwave well. I’ve also combined leftover bean dip with leftover meat and rice, wrapped it in a tortilla and called it a burrito.

This is probably one of my most requested recipes.  Friends of my son have written to me and asked for the recipe.  When I visit my son I put a batch in several small Ziplok containers, which he can put in his dorm refrigerator and freezer and then reheat in his small microwave as needed.

The original recipe is from “The Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook” by Ranck and Good.

Crockpot Bean Dip for a Crowd

2 (16oz.) cans refried beans
8 oz. cream cheese, cubed and then softened in the microwave
2 cups jarred salsa
2 T. chili powder
1/2 t. cumin
4 cups grated cheese (I often use the packaged Mexican Blend)
16 oz sour cream

Mix beans, cream cheese, salsa, chili powder and cumin together in a saucepan. Heat over medium high heat until cream cheese is melted. Gradually stir in grated cheese, stir until melted. Remove pan from heat and stir in sour cream. Pour entire mixture into a crockpot and cook, covered, on high for one to two hours to reheat, then reduce heat to warm to serve. My kids like this on Tostitos Scoops, because they can get a lot of bean dip on one chip.

Thank you for visiting the kitchen!

Polly

31 Jan 2010 Chocolate Fondue

Chocolate! Valentine’s Day is only two weeks away. Here’s a fabulous dessert suggestion. Start now collecting fondue pots, dippers, and toppers so you don’t get stressed out at the last minute.

This fondue is rich, dark, silky smooth, and delicious. I WISH I knew how to take better pictures (I should also try to remember to take a picture before eating the  food…) This is NOT melted chocolate chips with a bit of shortening fondue, no, no, no, no, no! It’s high quality chopped chocolate and cocoa powder, whipping cream, and sugar.   Would you expect anything less?  You’ll need a candy thermometer to make this-don’t stress-the candy thermometer is a helpful tool for getting the texture right.

For me, the hardest part of this recipe was figuring out how to get ten individual fondue pots for my dinner guests last night. I thought I would use individual butter warmers, but after countless shopping trips I couldn’t find any (I’ve seen lots of them in the stores previously, but of course I didn’t need them then)…but even if I did find some, I probably wouldn’t have been able to afford ten of them, sooooo I ended up crafting my own pots out of small glass candle holders, tea lights, metal triangles, and ramekins…but they were a bit precarious (if you have any ideas to better my design, please let me know). With it getting closer to Valentine’s Day perhaps butter warmers or individual fondue pots will be easier to find BUT, if you don’t have a fondue pot-individual or otherwise-make the fondue anyway, the sauce can be kept warm in a crockpot, and your guest can put little puddles of chocolate sauce on their plate to dip their goodies in.

See the end of the recipe for great ideas for dippers and toppers.  This was such a success at my annual Book Lovers Dinner, that I am thinking of putting it permanently on the menu, and just changing the main dish and side dishes each year.

I wish I could remember where I found this recipe.  I tried about 5 different recipes before knowing this was “the ONE!” .  If I remember or find out where I found this recipe, I will post the information ASAP.

Chocolate Fondue

1 cup Scharffen Berger or Valrohna cocoa powder
1 1/4 cup bottled water
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup plus 5 T. heavy cream
5 oz. Scharffen Berger 62% semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

Place the water, sugar, and corn syrup in a saucepan and bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer, and clip a candy thermometer on the side of the pan.. Allow to mixture to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until it reaches 220 degrees on the candy thermometer. Remove pan from heat. Whisk in cocoa powder, and keep whisking until mixture is smooth. Return pan to medium heat and bring back to 215-220 degrees. Remove candy thermometer-be careful, it’s hot-and then add heavy cream. Bring mixture to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in chopped chocolate, keep stirring until mixture is smooth. Pour into fondue pots or crockpot to keep warm and serve.

These are the dippers I used: cubes of Lemon-Poppyseed Tea Cake, Mini Peanut Butter Cookies, Mini Rice Krispy Treats, homemade vanilla and peppermint marshmallows, cubed Croissant; dried apricots, plums, and pineapple wedges: fresh strawberres, banana and pear slices; and mini scoops of Vietnamese Coffee Ice-cream. (Not all are pictured, I had to recreate this morning from leftovers!)

These are the toppers I used: toasted coconut, crushed pretzels, chopped peanuts, rainbow sprinkles (would have liked to have had grated white chocolate and chopped mint chocolate, too).

More good news…1). this sauce can be made ahead and reheated either on top of the stove or in the microwave. 2). I successfully doubled this recipe (for 10) and have plenty of leftovers. 3). Leftover sauce freezes well!

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today,

Polly