Saturday, April 19, 2014

Crockpot-a-palooza

We're trying to eat at home more often. It's less stressful now that we have two kids and it's healthier. I'm also trying to plan out our meals for the week ahead of time so I avoid the daily "what should I make?" conundrum, avoid the stand-and-stare at everything at the grocery store and cut down on throwing out the food I bought that I thought we'd eat but never did.

Since having Bennett, the crock pot has been my life line. The best part of the "set it and forget it" process is ability to have the final 30 minutes before dinnertime be that much less stressful. I'm able to assemble the slow cooker early in the day with Bennett asleep in the Moby, and when things are more stressful when I'm often home alone with both kids before Michael gets home, I'm just arranging a side dish or two.

Which brings me to my next point, which is that I've been experimenting with how to incorporate sides into the crock pot. There are a lot of stew recipes out there that have the potatoes and carrots in with the meat juices, and I definitely can go for that meal once or twice. But if I'm going to use my crock pot for multiple meals a week (like I have been), I want to vary it up.

(Michael made a comment the other day about how we are setting a record for the amount of crock pot meals made in one month. I'm not entirely sure he meant it as a compliment.)

My new go-to is to pack some veggies into aluminum foil (wrapped up to make the steam stay in), season them however I want, and lay that on top of the meat that is cooking. This way the side is done at the same time but doesn't necessarily have to be the same flavor as the meat. This works great with potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots so far, but I'm sure other veggies/sides would be great too.

Those dense veggies can stay in the crock pot all day, but you could also prep some other veggies (like green beans, asparagus or broccoli) in an aluminum pocket early, keep it in the fridge, and just throw it in the crock pot for the last hour or two before dinnertime.

If you're interested, below are some of the recipes we've tried in recent weeks.

Garlic Brown Sugar Chicken
Shredded this and made sliders with King's Hawaiian small rolls.

Crock Pot Lasagna
Not quite as good as Mom's recipe, but still good and very convenient.  (I love normal lasagna, but hate how you dirty so many pans just getting the elements ready, and how even after cooking and assembling, you still need to bake the whole thing.) I think the issue was that you put the noodles in uncooked, so the recipe just seemed a little dry for lasagna. (Strangely, June loved it and I've never seen her like something with red sauce on it before.)

Beef with Broccoli
Serve with rice and your dinner is done!

Pineapple Mandarin Chicken

Brown Sugar Basalmic Glazed Pork Tenderloin
I tend to not like recipes that call for extra prep steps like searing meat before putting it in. But I did decide to do the optional method of placing the cooked tenderloin under the broiler after putting the glaze on it. It turned out delicious!

Beef Burgundy 

Chicken with preserved lemons and Italian dressing

Pork Loin with Apples
No specific recipe, but I was inspired by this photo. Rubbed sage, salt and pepper on top and poured a little leftover chicken broth in the crock pot.

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