Tag Archives: crock pot

Indian-ish feast

A good day's work in the kitchen!

A good day’s work in the kitchen!

It all started when Marc left town for two weeks. There I was on a Sunday night, opening and closing the fridge, asking myself, “What do I want to make?” and coming up with the inevitable answer, “Nothing.” Eventually I took myself out to dinner to a Vietnamese place around the corner and vowed that I wouldn’t let it happen again.

Monday I woke up with a plan. I had to go groceries anyway, and I’d just seen a lovely crock-pot recipe for lamb korma. I found some chicken thighs I decided to use instead of the lamb, but it seemed like the recipe would work regardless. From there, I found myself in a spiral of, “Well, if I’m doing it anyway…”

See, the chicken korma uses half a can of coconut milk. So what to do with the other half? There’s a recipe in The 4-Hour Chef by Tim Ferriss that I’ve been meaning to try for a while: coconut cauliflower curry mash. It’s sort of like the cauliflower version of mashed potatoes. It uses half a can of coconut milk. So I picked up a (rather overpriced) cauliflower at the grocery store too.

Of course, the recipe only used about half the cauliflower. So what to do with the other half? Roasting is always a safe bet, so I did that, along with a little garam masala, because I figured I had a theme going.

I also had a bunch of leftover root vegetables from a pot roast stew I made last week, and I figured I really should use them up before they started going bad on me. So I roasted up about two pounds of carrots, also with garam masala, and about a pound and a half of baby white-fleshed potatoes. (This time with thyme, because I like to be contrarian.)

I had about three cups of cut-up butternut squash that I had to use also, and I’d found a nifty recipe for that too. (Hence why I had the thyme on hand for the potatoes.) It wasn’t quite Indian, but what the heck, I felt like trying out the recipe and nothing as obvious as a themed dinner was gonna stop me.

Since I was doing all this work in the kitchen, I figured I might as well fry up the 3/4 of a package of bacon I had lying around, so I cut it into lardons and spent some time pushing it around the pan and draining it when there was too much grease at the bottom. (Probably about four times — there was a lot of grease!)

And, finally, some rice. I had one last tupperware of home made vegetable stock that I used instead of water, and I figured that since I was on an Indian kick anyway, I’d try to add some Indian spices and see how it went. Into the pot went a cinnamon stick, some ground cardamom, a few cloves, and about a half-tablespoon of cumin seeds.

The crock pot chicken korma happened on Monday night and got packaged up around midnight, and all the rest I did over about three hours on Tuesday. (Not counting the 45 minutes of making up my chart of what spices needed to go with which dish, what appliances needed to be in action at what time, and so forth. I may be a geek.) I’d also bought a pumpkin pie at my grocery store on Monday, because I’d never had pumpkin pie before and couldn’t find anywhere to buy just a single slice. So I had about 3/4 of that left.

Suffice it to say, there was a lot of food.

Tuesday morning, I put out the call to my friends, begging them to come over and eat dinner with me. I got four RSVPs, and one of them even brought wine, so we had an absolutely lovely time. The chicken korma was a big hit, and most of the vegetables were gone as well. (Mmm… roast vegetables.) The cauliflower mash was surprisingly tasty, definitely something I’d make again. My only sadness about the veggies is that the potatoes were nice and crispy out of the oven, but had gotten soggy by the time we ate them. So sad…

In any case, a good time was had by all, and I’ve got enough korma and rice leftovers to last me the rest of the week, I think. So… yay! Not sure if I’ll do a big cooking job again before Marc gets home, but you never know.

Freezer meals: cranberry chicken and beef stew

One failure and one success! (Eh, can’t win ’em all.) To start with the failure…

Cranberry chicken

Cranberry chicken

1. Cranberry Chicken

I admit, I was worried about the cranberry chicken pretty much as soon as I put it in the bag. It’s little more than chicken, apples, cranberry sauce, an onion, and some flavoring agents (lemon, honey, etc.). It made a lot less than the other recipes, only enough for dinner for me and Marc and a half-serving of leftovers. But that’s okay, because it wasn’t very good.

It might be that we cooked it too long. The directions are for 8 hours on low, and we probably had it in the crock pot around 10, but this was clearly Much Too Long. Despite being in a slow cooker all day, the meat was tough (i.e. overcooked) and the taste was… meh. Tart and sweet, but not in a good way. We ate our portions for dinner (reluctantly), but neither of us touched the leftovers. So this one — not so much a keeper.

 

Beef stew

Beef stew

2. Beef Stew

This one, on the other hand, went quite well. It’s admittedly kind of hard to screw up beef stew (recipe here), but still. It’s always nice when things come together, especially after the cranberry chicken disaster. The taste is good, it’s very hearty, and it makes enough for dinner plus another 2-3 servings. Putting it from the freezer to the fridge last night wasn’t quite enough time to defrost it, but it’s okay. Ten hours in a crock pot means that it was fine.

The one change I’d make next time is to add some barley. There’s a lot of liquid in this recipe, and I think adding in a 1/2-cup of barley when I toss everything into the crock pot (not in the freezer bag — I don’t think barley freezes that well) would do just the trick.

In any case, we had this with some baguette for dinner, and… yum! Just what we needed on a cold day like today. This one’s a keeper.

So we’re now halfway through the recipes I made for the first batch. Still to go: fajitas, taco soup, cilantro-lime chicken, and BBQ chicken. Clearly, our meals are gonna be somewhat Mexican-inspired for the next few weeks…

Freezer meal: sausage and peppers

Sausage and peppers, bagged and ready to go into the crock pot.

Sausage and peppers, bagged and ready to go into the crock pot.

Trial #2 with the freezer/crock pot cooking was sausage and peppers (recipe here). Sadly, unlike trial #1 (coconut curry chicken), I probably won’t keep this one in my recipe book. It was… okay. Ish. Quite acidic, and the consistency isn’t the crisp, dry sausage that you like to get in sausage-and-peppers, but more, well, crock pot-y. Moist.

Also, unlike the coconut curry chicken, this one looks like it might only make 4 or so servings, even with rice. (Maybe only 3 Marc-sized servings.) We had enough for dinner for both of us with Marc taking seconds, and I’ll have enough for lunch tomorrow, and then there’s probably enough left for Marc’s lunch, and that’s it.

*shrugs* Can’t win ’em all. I’ll keep “sausage and peppers” on my list of things to make when I’ve got time to actually cook the sausage properly in the frying pan, but it won’t be on my list of crock pot meals. Oh, well. Tomorrow: cranberry chicken.

Freezer meal: coconut curry chicken

Coconut curry chicken, bagged and ready to dump in the crock pot.

Coconut curry chicken, bagged and ready to dump in the crock pot.

After the huge freezer / crock pot meal prep day, it was time to try one. The first meal we tried was coconut curry chicken from this website. I think for this recipe I used breasts instead of thighs, because thighs were about twice the price of the on-sale breasts and I just couldn’t bring myself to spend more money when I was already spending $170. Otherwise, I pretty much stuck to the recipe. Added a bit of cut-up sweet potato that was left over from an earlier recipe, but that’s about it. I used light coconut milk instead of regular because it’s about 1/3 the calories, and when you’re adding two cans, that adds up. I also didn’t add a full bag of peas — maybe a third or a half a bag. In any case, it was plenty.

The verdict: success! I served it on top of rice, which had the effect of making it a bulky soup as opposed to a sauce-on-rice, but it was still muchly tasty. Very, very filling. Even Marc could only get through one bowl. A very nice fall meal; I wouldn’t want to eat this in the heat of summer.

In the end, including the rice (about 3-ish cups, which I just dumped into the crock pot before putting all the leftovers into containers), it probably makes about 6 servings. Maybe 8 Julie-size servings or 5 Marc-size servings. So, plenty of leftovers for a few days’ lunch and tonight’s dinner for Marc. (I’ll be at D&D tonight).

So, I consider this off to a good start! Looking forward to figuring out what I’m going to have tomorrow!

Freezer / crock pot cooking

Thanks to my friend Kim, I was inspired to try something I’ve never done before: freezer cooking. The idea is that you prep a bunch of veggies, meats, etc. (uncooked), freeze them in freezer bags, and then when you’re ready to eat them, you defrost and toss them in the crock pot. Given that one of my problems recently has been the dreaded “I have no idea what I want for dinner” demon, I figured I’d give this a try.

I started out last week by going through a bunch of websites looking for recipes. You’d be amazed how many nifty websites there are out there. I put together a short-list of eight recipes, each of which should make two meals’ worth (i.e. dinner for two plus leftovers), making a total of 16 dinners. Given that we don’t eat at home every night, I figured 16 meals should last us a month or so.

Not shown: 9 kg of meat.

Ingredients prepped and ready to go.
Not shown: 9 kg of meat.

I put together a shopping list and went out on Saturday with my mom to do a monster grocery run. Seriously, it was about $170 by the time we were done, but that admittedly includes about 9 kg of meat. Also, it’s supposed to provide 16 dinners plus leftovers, so that’s actually not too bad, all things considered.

Went to my mom’s place and prepped and prepped and prepped.

I feel like it took longer than it should to do all the prep. It was about 5 hours to get 16 freezer bags ready. I know some people prep all the vegetables and all the meats first, and then just assemble, but that seemed wonky to me. I mean, what if one recipe called for chopped peppers and another for sliced? And how can you tell how much 3 peppers is once they’re all chopped in a bowl? It seems like a lot of people get many more meals in the time I took (or, alternately, get the same amount of meals in less time). I wonder if it’s because they’re doing the same meal more times, making prep more streamlined.

Freezer bag meals chillin' out in the freezer.

Freezer bag meals chillin’ out in the freezer.

If I do it again, I’ll probably just dump everything into the freezer bags as I go, one meal at a time (nifty trick: open the bags in a large container, like a big empty ice cream container, to keep them upright while you’re stuffing them). I like the aesthetics of having everything nice and laid out on the counter, but it resulted in a lot of unnecessary dishes that could have been avoided.

Anyway. After five hours, I had all my meals ready. I put them in my mom’s big freezer to freeze flat, because my itty-bitty freezer at home just doesn’t have the space. I’ll probably take home three or four bags a week for the next month or so.

Lemon-tarragon crock pot chicken

When I asked a few days ago for crock pot recipes using bone-in chicken breasts, one good friend with much more experience than me suggested the following:

“Thick slices of onions on bottom of pot, chicken on the onions meat/skin side down. Very thin slices of lemon on top of the chicken. Chopped garlic on top of the lemon. Sprinkle with salt, pepper. Pour no more than 1/4 cup white wine down the edges of the pot. If you have fresh tarragon, place 1 or 2 small sprigs atop the whole thing (if dried, 1 teaspoon scattered over). Close the lid, then on low for 4-5 hours or high for 2-3.”

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Crock pot chili

Today it was time to try… (insert drumroll please)… the latest instalment in Julie’s “adventures in cooking” series, crock pot chilli! Surprisingly, it actually came out really good. (Marc would say it’s impossible to mess up chilli. How little he knows me.) This might be a recipe we’ll try again at some point. For now, after eating our fill, we’ve still got enough for at least 5 small tupperwares (two ladle-fulls each, which is a Marc-sized serving and maybe one-and-a-half Julie-sized servings). So, success! Yay!