Sweet Potatoes and Bacon!

So, things have been a little dessert-heavy around here lately. I feel like that always seems to happen this time of year. Our CSA is still a few months away, and it’s not light enough in the evenings to get any decent pictures of dinner. And, let’s be honest, I’ve kind of been on a dessert kick, and I don’t see that ending any time soon. In an attempt to keep things balanced, I figured I’d talk about the sweet potatoes that I made for our Easter dinner. ūüėČ

I actually first made these for Friendsgiving. I spent a lot of time flipping through cookbooks and magazines, searching for the perfect dishes to round out the menu. Sweet potatoes aren’t usually my first choice when it comes to sides (mostly because I like white potatoes better), but when I saw the picture in the Thanksgiving issue of Southern Living, I was immediately interested. And with good reason, too. I mean, there’s bacon, after all. Do I really need to say more?

Fine. It’s also super easy, AND it cooks in the crock pot. This means that you can get the potatoes going before church and come home to a great lunch, or free up stove / oven space during a big meal. Of course, it’s one of those crock pot recipes that only cooks for 4 hours, so unless you have one of those fancy crock pots with a timer, it’s not ideal¬†for a workday meal.

Frozen concentrate isn’t an ingredient that I typically have on hand, but since the unused portion keeps well in the freezer (obviously), I figured¬† I could just use keep the extra for another batch. As long as we liked them, anyway. Which we did. So much so, in fact, that I made the full batch for Easter, even though it was just the two of us.

The picture won’t win any food blogger photo awards, but you can only take pictures for so long before you give in and eat the food. ūüôā


Slow-Cooker Sweet Potatoes with Bacon

4 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ thick slices
1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
4 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold water
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
3 cooked bacon slices, crumbled

Place the sliced sweet potatoes in a 5-6 quart crock pot.

Mix the concentrate, butter, brown sugar and salt together and pour the mixture over the potatoes. Stir the potatoes until they are well-coated with the butter/sugar/concentrate mixture.

Place the lid on the crock pot and cook on low for about 4 hours, or until potatoes are tender. (The original recipe says to cook for 5-6 hours, but I found that the longer time turned the potatoes into mush. Maybe my crock pot runs hot?) 

When the potatoes are tender, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a serving dish. Whisk the cornstarch and water together, and then whisk it into the juice in the bottom of the crock pot. Turn the crock pot temperature to high and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 3 to 5 minutes. Pour the sauce over the potatoes.

In a small bowl, combine the parsley, orange zest and garlic. Sprinkle the parsley mixture over the potatoes and top with the crumbled bacon. Serve warm.

From Southern Living, November 2015

Click here for a printable version.

Crock Pot Success!

If there was a popularity contest among kitchen appliances, I really doubt the crock pot would win. It’s not pretty, like the stand mixer. It doesn’t chop/slice/dice/mince/blend everything like the food processor. It doesn’t clean up after you like the dishwasher.

In fact, the crock pot would probably be the last one picked, usually through no fault of its own. I mean, there are a lot of not-so-good crock pot recipes out there. You know the type: You put ingredients in the crock pot before work and leave, thinking that you’ll be rewarded with a delicious meal at the end of the day, only to come home to an overcooked, tasteless pile of mush. Disappointing and wasteful. (Also disappointing: Crock pot recipes that only cook for 2-4 hours. I’m gone from 7:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. How on earth is that supposed to help me?)

This recipe, though, is not one of those disappointments, at least for me. It’s easy to put together (a must when you have to assemble it at 6:30 in the morning), and it tastes good 10 hours later. I always add potatoes, since they’re my favorite part of the traditional “pot roast.”¬†When I remember, I add some minced garlic as well, since you can’t go wrong with garlic. ūüôā


Pot Roast with Potatoes, Carrots and Onions

1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoon water
8 medium carrots, peeled (or well-scrubbed) and cut into 3″ pieces
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ pieces
2 medium onions, each cut into 8 wedges
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 3-lb. beef Chuck roast
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper

In a large (5-6 quart) crock pot, whisk together the cornstarch and water. Add the vegetables to the crock pot and season with salt and pepper.

Place the roast on top of the vegetables. Spread the minced garlic on top of the roast, then sprinkle the roast with salt and pepper. Drizzle Worcestershire sauce on top of the meat.

Cover and cook on low for 10 hours. (Martha says you can cook it on high for 6 hours, but I’ve never tried it. Like I said, I’m gone all day.) Transfer the roast and vegetables to a serving platter. If desired, strain the pan juices through a fine mesh strainer and serve alongside the meat and vegetables. (I take the lazy easy way out and simply drizzle a few spoonfuls of the pan juices over my plate before digging in.)

Adapted from Everyday Food Magazine, October 2008

Click here for a printable version.

Chili Days

November is one of those months that make me very, very thankful to have a warm, cozy house. It was a gray, rainy weekend, and now I’m sitting here listening to the wind howl outside. It’s perfect weather for chili. (Not that I made this today… we’re having a lazy evening here.)¬†

This is¬†another recipe from Cooking for Two. (Do you hear me, Taste of Home publishers? You never should have discontinued the magazine!) I’ve tweaked the seasonings, added more tomatoes and doubled the recipe (which are the amounts you’ll see below). After all, our ground beef comes in one-pound packages, and what would I do with the other half-pound of meat? Plus, chili is one of those dishes that taste just as good (if not better) the next day.

It’s my go-to chili recipe. If I did feel like making a mess in my kitchen tonight, this would be the chili I’d make. It’s thick, beefy and full of beans. It’s got a little bit of a kick, and it’s the perfect match to¬†my favorite cornbread. It works well both in the crockpot OR on top of the stove. Serve it up with some shredded cheese and sour cream, and you have a perfect November dinner.

My Wisconsin friends tell me that my chili is missing something – noodles. Chili with pasta is something they do in Cincinnati, not Cleveland. ūüėÄ

Slow Cooker Chili

1 lb. ground beef
1 large onion, diced
1/2 cup diced green pepper
1/2 cup diced celery
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 15 oz. can of kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz. can of chili beans
1 15 oz. can of tomato sauce
1 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1/2 cup ketchup
1 cup water (I usually use this to rinse out my tomato sauce can before dumping it into the pot.)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
pinch cumin
pinch cayenne pepper
dash hot sauce (I use Sriracha.) 
Shredded cheese and sour cream, for serving

(Holy crazy ingredient list, Batman! Don’t let it scare you though – they’re all pantry staples.)¬†

In a large skillet, brown the ground beef, onions, green pepper and garlic. When the meat is almost browned, add the garlic to the skillet and cook for another few minutes. Add the spices to the meat and stir until combined.

Transfer meat mixture to a four-quart crockpot.* Add the beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce to the crockpot. Add the water and stir to combine.

Place the lid on the crockpot and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours. Serve with cheese and sour cream.

*If preparing on the stovetop, rather than the crockpot, simply add all of the ingredients to your stock pot and simmer on medium-low for an hour or so. Stir occasionally and add more water if needed. 

Adapted from Cooking for Two, Fall 2006

Click here for a printable version

Taco Tuesday!

We all know that I love my crockpot, right? Somehow, it always slips my mind in the summertime. Maybe it’s because I typically make soup, roasts and other “comfort” foods in it… things that seem completely out of season when it’s 75 degrees and sunny.

But let’s face it: aren’t we all busier in the summer than we are in the winter? The days are longer, and we’re trying to cram more into this wonderful, warm season. And when you think about it, the crockpot’s ideal for those days when it’s too hot to stand over the stove. Especially when you’re making shredded beef for tacos. The meat hangs out all day, and you come home to a house full of wonderful smells. Then, all you have to do is shred some cheese, wash some lettuce, warm some tortillas in the microwaves and get out the salsa and guac. Bam! Taco night is ready!

I saw this recipe on Elly Says Opa! and was very excited to discover that not only is it low-maintenance, it’s very tasty. (Of course, now I see her recipe for shredded Cuban pork, and I may have to try that too…) And giant pot of meat is a great addition to those taco nights with some of your closest friends. (Wait, are we the only ones who do this? Hmm. If you don’t have a regularly scheduled taco night, you’re missing out.)¬†

I realize this is an over-stuffed taco. This happens every. single. time. Rather than limit my fillings, I just place a second tortilla on the plate to catch whatever drips out. Gives me a head start on my second taco.

Shredded Beef for Tacos

2 pound boneless roast (I’ve used rump roasts and chuck roasts with great success. I’ve also used bone-in roasts. In that case, I usually use two roasts so I’m ending up with the same amount of meat.)
1 tablespoon canola oil
salt and pepper
1 onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste (I can’t say enough about the tomato paste in a tube. I realize it’s more expensive than a can, but since I only use a few teaspoons at a time, it’s totally worth it. They say the tube keeps for forever in the fridge.)
3/4 cup beef stock
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (Don’t panic, this does not make it too hot to handle. Trust me.)¬†
1/2 teaspoon paprika (I’ve been using smoked paprika, and I am in love with the way it tastes/smells.)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Required Suggested Recommended Toppings
Shredded Cheese
Sour Cream
Green Onions
Sweet pepper
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Season the roast with salt and pepper, and then add to skillet. Brown the roast on all sides, then place in the crockpot. Add the onions to the skillet, and cook for a minute or two, then add the garlic and tomato paste. Cook for another minute or so, then add the beef stock and spices, scrapping up all of the tasty browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer for a minute, then pour the liquid over the roast in the crockpot.

Place the lid on the crockpot. Cook the meat on low for 8-10 hours. (I would assume that you could get the same results if you cooked it on high for half the time, but since I’m at work all day, I’ve never tried this.) Remove the roasts from the crockpot, place in a large bowl, and shred the meat with two forks. (This is the point where you’d remove the bones, if your roast had them.) Return the shredded meat to the crockpot, and turn the heat up to high for about 20 minutes, to soak up additional liquid if desired.

Serve with your favorite taco fixings!

From Elly Says Opa! 

Hired Help

Ever fantasize about what household chores you’d hire out if money was no object? Gardener? Butler? Chef? Maid? (Andy, in case you’re reading, if an oil well ever springs up in the backyard, we’re getting someone else to clean this place.)¬†

There are some days when I truly wonder what I’d do without my crockpot. It’s like having a personal chef, except for that whole do-your-own-dishes thing. I don’t use it every day, or even every week, but there are definitely days when¬†I think its inventor should have been nominated for sainthood it comes in handy. Especially on those nights where we get home from work, wolf something down and run right back out the door.

This soup is great for those nights – it’s hearty and filling, on the healthy side, and, as an added bonus, it doesn’t taste like mush after hanging out for 10 hours! It’s also easy to throw together in the morning before work, and on the Andy scale, it gets six out of five stars!

Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Soup 

1 onion, chopped
1 15 oz. can chili beans
1 15 oz. can black beans rinsed and drained
1 15 oz. can of corn, rinsed and drained (or approximately 2 cups of frozen corn; I use one of the packages of corn that my grandma freezes for me each year)
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 15 oz. can diced tomato with green chilies, undrained
1 1.25 oz. package of taco seasoning (or an equivalent amount of homemade taco seasoning. I use Annie’s recipe)
12 oz. chicken broth
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 large (or 2 small) boneless skinless chicken breasts

Required Suggested toppings: 
Chopped avocado
Crushed tortilla chips
Shredded cheese
Sour cream

In a large crockpot (I believe mine is the five quart size), combine the onions, beans, corn, tomato sauce, tomatoes, chicken broth and taco seasoning. Nestle the chicken breasts into this mixture until they are just covered. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Before serving, remove the cooked chicken from the crockpot and shred with two forks. Add the shredded chicken back into the soup and stir to combine.

Serve warm with desired toppings.

Adapted from AllRecipes.com