Michael and I spent yesterday hanging up some of our pictures and decor. The new house is starting to feel more like our home. I say Michael and I, but really it was Michael hanging things up with an eye for precision while I told him where to put things. Before we started packing up our San Antonio house, I took pictures of everything to remember our first home together. I’m glad I did, because yesterday when we were putting up our picture wall and cross wall, I was able to pull up the pictures and see how we arranged the photographs and crosses. When we move again, I will definitely take pictures of how and where we placed our decor on the walls. One of the things we hung up in our kitchen was this adorable wooden dachshund, a Christmas present from Michael’s sister and brother-in-law. I love the rope it hangs from, and we love our Beretta!
While we were busy decorating, our Saturday night dinner was busy cooking in the Crock-Pot. Yes, a Crock-Pot! I’m finally putting to use this amazing appliance my sisters gave me when I was out of college and living on my own. Now that I’ve experienced the convenience and ease of Crock-Pot cooking, I have no idea why it took me so long to start incorporating it into my weekly dinner menus. Last night we enjoyed Golden Chicken with Noodles. This recipe was in a special Crock-Pot recipe edition of Women’s Day from 2007. My mother gave me this recipe book many years ago, and it has taken me this long to open it up and try out a recipe. For this recipe, I chopped up and added some celery stalks in addition to the carrots. We had some left over celery from another meal, and I wanted to use it up. I had fun adding a parsley garnish to the dish.
I’m going to share some of the recipes that I’ve discovered in this post. The one below says “lowfat,” but my intention with these meals leaned more toward warm and cozy comfort food! The lemon juice and Dijon mustard gave the sauce a zesty flavor.
The first meal I tried in the Crock-Pot was my mother’s roast and potatoes. I’m proud to say it was a success! I was in charge of the roast, and Michael mastered the gravy.
My Mom’s Roast and Potatoes
roast, any time will work, rump, Pike’s Peak
1/2 c water
new potatoes (red)
herbs: thyme, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, bay leaves
bacon grease (for the gravy)
Here are the instructions, in my mother’s words.
Almost any type of roast will work, I buy rump or Pike’s Peak. Put a half cup of water in the crock pot, peel as many red potatoes(new potatoes) as you think you want, then some small carrots and one or two onions cut into fourths. Add salt and coarse pepper and a variety of herbs: thyme, marjoram, oregano and rosemary. Cook on high for about 2-3 hours and low for 2 hours, or when you think it is ready, depending on the size of your roast. Brown about 1/2 to 1 cup of flour in bacon grease and the juice, and cook on low until it thickens. The amount of flour depends on how much juice your roast produced. Enjoy! You can cook the roast one hour high, then low for about 4-5 hours if you like it juicier.
I modified her recipe only slightly. Michael and I do not prefer onions, so those were left out. I did sprinkle in some onion powder. We like the flavor of onions, but not the texture! Since we did not have any bacon grease on hand, Michael used butter for the gravy. The oregano, marjoram, and bay leaves I used were all from my mother’s herb garden, and this made the meal extra special. The roast I found at our neighborhood Kroger was called “Beef Round Bottom Round Roast.” I was a little overwhelmed in the meat department because they had all sorts of different roasts to choose from. I figured “bottom” was close enough to “rump” that they must be the same thing! In the end, I just grabbed one that looked nice and didn’t cost too much, and luckily it worked out well for us.
I’m a big fan of kosher salt, and it’s the only salt I use for cooking. The grains are considerably larger than regular table salt, and it does not contain any additives such as iodine. I don’t care one way or the other about additives; I simply enjoying using kosher salt because I can pour some in the palm of my hand and pinch out portions to add to whatever it is I am seasoning. It makes me feel like a real cook.
The carving pro:
We were very happy to be reunited with our Mikasa Italian Countryside dinnerware.
What I like the most about using the Crock-Pot is the fact that I just dump my ingredients into it in the morning, and by the evening, it magically prepares a moist and delicious meal for us. The next recipe we tried was Crock-Pot Split Pea Soup. Michael loves pea soup, and I was excited to finally make it for him. I found this recipe on Pinterest and saved it to my board, “Tasty.” It’s from the blog, Family Fresh Meals, which you can access here. BuzzFeed has a great article about “dump dinners” for the Crock-Pot. The article also links to the blog with the pea soup recipe. I changed the recipe up slightly by substituting real bacon for the turkey bacon (again, this is comfort food!), and omitting the onion.
Family Fresh Meal’s Crock-Pot Split Pea Soup
1 lb dry split peas
2 cups of diced turkey bacon (I used real bacon)
1 large yellow onion, diced (I used onion powder for flavor)
1 cup celery, chopped
2 cups carrots, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced (I used the spice jar kind, not fresh garlic cloves)
1/2 teaspoon thyme
2 bay leaves
32 oz of chicken broth
2 cups water
For this recipe, I woke up in the morning before work, “dumped” all the ingredients in the Crock-Pot, left it on low from about 6:00 a.m. until 6:oo p.m., and served it with Saltine Crackers. It was fun coming home from work on a cold day and smelling the pea soup when we stepped into the house. The soup was very thick, and it did not need any extra salt for flavor. I sprinkled some salt on it before I served it, but after tasting it, wished I had left it out. The bacon added plenty of salt on its own. I was amazed that leaving the pea soup in the Crock-Pot for twelve hours did not overcook it. My mom always says things can usually go on low for as long as you need, and she is right.
Michael tried out another recipe, Easy Crock-Pot Chili, from the Fresh Family Meals blog. We doubled the recipe and had two chili dinners from it. It’s very nice to come home from work and dig into a home-cooked meal that’s already prepared because it’s a leftover! The recipe was, as it’s name indicates, very easy, and quite tasty. We added Fritos, and it was a lot like a fancy Frito pie.
Fresh Family Meal’s Easy Crock-Pot Chili
1 lb ground beef, browned
2 (15 oz) cans dark kidney beans, drained
1 (14.5 oz) can of tomato sauce
1 (14.5 oz) can tomatoes
1 packet of chili seasoning
2 cups water
cheese for topping
corn chips for topping
After beef is browned, and grease drained, place in crockpot. Add in kidney beans, tomato sauce, tomatoes, chili seasoning and water. Stir until well combined. Cook on low for 6-7 hours or high for 4 hours. Serve with your favorite chili toppings, such as cheese, sour cream or corn chips.
This was another recipe we left in the Crock-Pot for well over the recommended time, and it turned out just fine.
I had quite a few potatoes left over from the roast recipe, so I decided to try the Amazing Crock-Pot Ham, Green Beans, and Potatoes. I found this recipe on Pinterest, but it took me to food blogger Tonjas Busch’s Facebook page. Her blog can be found here, but I think the recipe is only on her Facebook page. I was a little worried that the potatoes would not be cooked all the way, but we came home from work to another delicious and flavorful meal courtesy of the Crock-Pot.
Tonja Busch’s Amazing Crock-Pot Ham, Green Beans, and Potatoes
2 lbs of fresh green beans
2 lbs of ham
4 baking potatoes
1 large onion (optional)
Dice the ham, green beans, onion if you are using it, and potatoes. Plunk it all into your Crock-Pot, add 3 cups of water, and season with salt & pepper (according to taste). Cook for 6 hrs on low.
Embarrassingly, this was the first time I have ever cooked with fresh green beans. I always used the canned version out of laziness, and only enjoyed the fresh ones when I was eating dishes cooked by my mom or sisters. Fresh green beans are much tastier, and I prefer their texture. I used a mixture of new potatoes and large baking potatoes, and as you can predict, omitted the onion. I added some onion powder for flavor.
My favorite Pinterest recipe so far is the 5-Ingredient Easy White Chicken Chili we had last weekend. You can pick out which toppings you want to serve with the chili. I added fresh Hass avocados, Monterrey jack cheese, and sour cream. Avocados are always risky; the ones I picked out from Kroger produce were half-and-half. One was was excellent, the other was a tad bit brown and spotty inside. But the avocados made the meal for us. They were the perfect complement to the chicken and beans. This recipe came from the blog, Gimme Some Oven, which you can visit here.
Gimme Some Oven’s 5-Ingredient Easy White Chicken Chili
6 cups chicken broth
4 cups cooked shredded chicken (*or see slow cooker method below, which uses uncooked chicken breasts)
2 (15-oz) cans Great Northern beans, drained
2 cups salsa verde
2 tsp. ground cumin
optional toppings: diced avocado, chopped fresh cilantro, shredded cheese, chopped green onions, sour cream, crumbled tortilla chips
Stovetop Method: Add chicken broth, shredded chicken, beans, salsa and cumin to a medium saucepan, and stir to combine. Heat over medium-high heat until boiling, then cover and reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for at least 5 minutes.
Serve warm with desired toppings.
Slow Cooker Method: Add chicken broth, 2 (uncooked) *boneless skinless chicken breasts, beans, salsa and cumin to a slow cooker, and stir to combine. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or high for 3-4 hours until the chicken is cooked through and shreds easily with a fork. Shred the chicken.
Serve warm with desired toppings.
I used the slow cooker method and put the chicken breasts into the Crock-Pot uncooked. I cooked the chili for at least 8 hours, and the chicken was moist and tender. I took it out to shred with a knife and fork before returning it to the pot right before we ate.
For the salsa verde, I actually used Taco Bell’s bottled sauce! The Ohio Kroger salsa selection is quite slim compared to what I’m used to at H.E.B. I spotted the Taco Bell Salsa Verse, and I knew I liked their little green packets at the restaurants, so I figured, “why not?” Michael and I were both pleased with the flavor when we ate the chili, and when I make it again, I will definitely use Taco Bell’s Salsa Verde.
Michael and I have enjoyed coming home from work together and sitting down to homemade meals. Because the Crock-Pot gets “loaded” in the morning and does its magic during the day, dinner does not have to be another task to conquer at the end of the day.