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Don’t turn on the oven – easy Crock Pot Roast Chicken

8 Aug

Hi there. Remember me? I sure hope so, otherwise this post is going to fall on deaf mailboxes and feeds! I’ve been a bit MIA lately. I’ve had good reason. Our little mini Dachshund had some major surgery on his back, and I’ve been playing momma nurse to him. The good news is that he’s recovering really well, and starting to walk again. It’s a pretty wonky walk, and he flops down more often than not, but it’s a walk, and it’s going to get better as time goes on.

The bad news is that the rest of the world kept going on while I was playing momma nurse. Laundry, cooking, groceries, bills, work. They are all pretty rude considering they did not cease to exist until I was able to manage them again. The nerve. But, I’m BACK. Blessing you all with a weekly (maybe every other week) post of cooking, crafting or domestic bliss.

Today, it’s all about chicken. No, none of my chickens were sacrificed to make this lovely, filling and delicious concoction. But I’m sure they could smell it. And had they been given some of it, they would have gobbled it down like the little cannibals they are. Here is good old Pennsylvania, we had a week or two of fall like weather. Cool crisp nights, cool days. It was nice having the windows open, and the AC turned off. But alas, it is August, and summer is back with the 85 degree temps and ridiculous humidity. What does that mean? It means I’m pretty reluctant to turn on the oven for any extended period of time since it makes the AC run more often, which raises my electric bill, which taps into my food/fun/vet bill money. But a girl still wants a hearty meal of roast chicken every now and again. And wants it to be an easy meal. Something that cooks slowly while I’m at work. And the crock pot roast chicken was born.

This “recipe” if you can even call it that is a fairly simple one. I guess it’s more of a method. And it’ll get you to dust off your crock pot, and be almost done with dinner. I promise you won’t even break a sweat making this chicken. For real. It doesn’t have the crisp skin like you get from oven roasted chicken, but it’s tender and literally falls apart when you go to plate it. You don’t need to add any additional liquid since cooking it in the crock pot does a sort of self basting, and you can use the juices left in the pot to make a homemade gravy.

 

roast chicken sliced

Crock Pot Roast Chicken Method

Ingredients/tools:

1 whole chicken, 6-7lbs

1 lemon

Seasoning of your choice – I use Weber Roasted Garlic & Herb

Crock pot, preferably one with a timer function. Otherwise you’ll need to be around to turn it to warm at the end mark.

Start by removing the giblets if you have any. Hubs likes them, so they get tossed into the bottom of the crock pot. Rinse your chicken off and pat dry with some paper towels. Place the chicken in your crock pot, breast side up. Next, slice your lemon in half and squeeze both halves over your hand held over the chicken to catch any seeds. Toss the seeds, then stuff the juiced lemon halves into the chicken cavity. Sprinkle chicken liberally with seasoning of your choice, put the lid on your crock pot, and set it to cook on high for 6-7 hours (my rule is add 1 hour for each pound over 5lbs). After the 6 hours, remove your chicken from the crock pot and serve!

Since the crock pot doesn’t allow for crisp skin, and you may be into that – you can put the chicken in an oven safe dish and crisp up the skin under the broiler for roughly 5 minutes.

roast chicken whole

Garden Bounty – When you are over-run with tomatoes, make some Tomato Jam!

17 Sep

I’m not gonna lie. This year, gardening kind of sucked. With the really dry start and the hot as balls temperatures, things were REALLY slow going. Our corn turned out like feed corn and ended up being fed to the chickens – at least I’ll have free corn stalks to decorate the house with for fall. The single surviving zucchini plant only gave us ONE stinking zuke. The 4 yellow squash plants did a little better and gave us about 10 squash, which we ate sautéed as a side dish and I breaded and froze up a big batch so we can enjoy it in the winter months. Our pepper plants are loaded with peppers, but they just started getting crazy, and I’m not sure how many we’ll get from them before the frost hits. Basil was a total bust. The bugs attacked the leaves, making them look like an ugly green snowflake. Green onions are still growing like wild, but not yet big enough to harvest and eat. But tomatoes? Ya, we are rolling in those. I’ve got over 100lbs in the freezer (for sauce, ketchup and bruschetta) and am averaging about 1 gallon sized freezer bag ever other day – as long as I can harvest them before the chickens attack them. So you could say I have a plethora of tomatoes. I was feeling greedy and scared the garden wouldn’t give me enough tomatoes to make all the tomato goodness I had in mind, so I did go out and purchase a bushel of Roma’s from a local farm. Just in case. Because you never know. So, um, ya.

And with all 3 freezers having been stuffed to the gills with tomatoes, I needed to think of something to do with the 10lbs I had ripening on the counter. I could have made tomato butter, but  we still had a jar left from the last batch I canned. So I decided upon tomato jam. Yes, you read that right – JAM. I don’t know why you’re so freaked out. Tomatoes after all are fruits. Except now it sounds weird calling it a fruit when you think about pasta sauce. And having one on a burger. And chili. Anyways….I had no idea what it tasted like and frankly, I didn’t care at this point. I just didn’t want those tomatoes to go to waste and with the busy weekend I had I couldn’t make anything that required much hands on time since I would be at home very little over the next two days, so tomato jam seemed like a great idea, and something I could put in the crock pot to cook down! Yay!

Once it was all said and done, this was pretty easy to do and the taste is really good. It’s like a sweet hot barbecue sauce. I think it’s less like a jam and more like a chutney but that could be because of how I used an immersion blender to break the tomato halves down. It will be great on chicken, fish, even on a ham as a glaze or dipping sauce. Pretty universal stuff!

As with canning any type of sauce, jam or chutney, your yield will vary. It depends upon the cook time, type of tomato used, how high the sun is in the sky (kidding!) so if you don’t get 10 + 2 jars worth or you get more, don’t fret. I could only fit 10 jam jars into the pot I was using, so I ended up filling two pint jars. One went into the fridge for me to use, the other went to my sister-in-law. And as a side note, this is GLUTEN FREE.

Enjoy!

Tomato Jam

Adapted from Food in Jars

yield: 10 8oz jam jars plus 2 16oz pint jars

10 lbs Roma tomatoes, stem end trimmed off, cut in half

6 cups sugar

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 cup lime juice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ginger

2 tablespoons red pepper flakes

Add your chopped tomatoes, sugar and salt to your crock pot. Using an immersion blender, pulse through the tomato halves to break them down some and get them nice and juicy. Stir to combine everything. Set your crock pot to low and place the lid on where it is slightly vented to allow the liquid to evaporate. Cooking times will vary depending upon how juicy your romas are or if you sub in a different type of tomato – I cooked mine for 18 hours. Once your tomatoes have reduced by half and are a nice, dark burgundy transfer them to a large stainless sauce pot. Add the lime juice, ginger and red pepper flakes. Cook for 15 minutes until hot and bubbling. If you desire a thicker consistency, cook until you reach that.

***While your jam is heating up, prep your mason jars, lids and water bath canner***

Once your jam reaches the desired consistency, remove from heat and fill your jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Wipe rims with a white vinegar dipped cloth, apply lids, and secure bands to finger tight. Process your jars in your boiling water batch canner for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, remove the jars from the water bath and allow them to cool for 24 hours. Test the seals – any jars that did not seal can be reprocessed or put in the fridge to use. Label jam and store in a cool dark place for up to 1 year.

Crock Pot Love: Saucy Cowboy Beans

24 Jul

This recipe is what I think I’d be eating if I was a cowgirl running cattle out in the great wild west. Something the Chuck Wagon chef could have put together with simple ingredients and cooked over an open fire all day in a cast iron pot while everyone was ropin’ and ridin’. Served up with some biscuits or corn bread. Maybe a chunk of beef! Yum. And so the cowboy bean recipe was born. It’s pretty easy. Soaked beans, blend the rest of the ingredients, cook in a crock pot. Very little hands on for something that tastes so amazing!

If you are looking to be frugal, dried beans are the way to go. A 16oz bag of dried pinto beans is just under $2! All the ingredients below? About $10. And you’ll get a couple of meals out of this. This recipe fed 4 adults – two of which went back for a hearty second portion. And there are still leftovers. The recipe itself is meat free, but I’ll cook up some ground meat or shred some chicken to make it more manly for the hubs. See below the recipe for my manly bean bowl variation. All the ingredients in this are things I buy in bulk and stock my freezer/fridge with so it still keeps the cost down.

This recipe has some kick. Not diving headfirst into a cool pool hot, but a nice even heat. If you want less kick, use only half of the chipotle peppers/adobo. This may look a little watery to you once you add in all the blended ingredients. Fear not. The long cooking time combined with the beans soaking up moisture will result in a nice smooth sauce.

Saucy Cowboy(girl) Beans

Ingredients

1 16oz bag pinto beans (soaked overnight in water) drained and picked over (for stones, rough-looking beans, what not)

1 large onion, roughly chopped

1 28oz can crushed tomatoes

1 7oz can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

1 32oz carton beef broth

1 14.5oz can Hunt’s Garlic Fire Roasted Tomatoes

Directions

Place your soaked and drained pinto beans into your crock pot.

In a blender or a large bowl place all of the remaining ingredients (do not drain off the tomatoes). If using a blender, blend to make a smooth mixture. If you have little chunks of onion, no biggie. They’ll be mush in the crock pot. I use an immersion blender so I put my ingredients in a bowl.

Pour the blended mixture over the beans, stirring to get all the beans covered. Cook on high for 10hrs.

Yep, that’s it.

To serve: These beans are great all by themselves with a dollop of sour cream and some cornbread. To make them a meal, I turn them into bean bowls with the ingredients layered and then mixed when you plop your spoon in.

For the manly bean bowl meal, I fry up some ground beef or turkey (or bite size slices of kielbasa). Then I cook up some brown rice, or go old school with some mac n’ cheese (yes, the dayglo orange Kraft kind). Then I steam up some sweet yellow corn. Layer the ingredients in a big bowl as follows: Rice/macncheese, meat, corn, beans. Top with a nice melty cheese and a big dollop of sour cream. Serve with crusty bread or warm flour tortillas to soak up all the saucy goodness. The sweetness of the corn and coolness of the sour cream help to soften the heat of these beans.

Crock Pot Love: Dulce de Leche

22 May

Sooooo, ya. Um, dulce de leche. If you  haven’t ever heard of it, or tasted it….you are SO missing out. But fret not my pretties, for you can have some of you very own with very little hands on time. Yep. Not only is it amazingly delicious, but it requires such minimal efforts on your part that you can do this before going to work!!! And you only need 4 total things to create rich, velvety caramel laden goodness. Additionally, this method isn’t dangerous like the regular method that is floating around the net where you put the WHOLE UNOPENED CAN into your crock pot. Ya. I’d like to not have any explosions of molten hot caramel lava flung around my kitchen. Plus, this way is totally fullproof, because you can SEE the color of the contents and know it’s done.

Mason jars with lids and bands (jelly jars)

sweetened condensed milk (14oz cans)

crock pot

hot tap water

Yep, that’s it. How many mason jars you need depends on how many jars of dulce de leche you want. I wanted to fill my crock pot to make it worth my while so I filled 7 jelly jars. For those 7 jars to be filled, I used 5 cans of sweetened condensed milk.

Method:

Clean your mason jars and lids in hot soapy water. Let air dry or dry with a lint free towel.

Add sweetened condensed milk up to the thick band on the glass right under the threads.

Add the lid and a screw band to finger tight. Put them right into your crock pot. Once you have added all your jars, add hot water (from the tap, not boiling!) to cover the tops of your jars. In my pot, I just added water right up to the lip that the lid rests on. Turn your crock pot on low and set the time (if you have one of the smart crock pots) or set a timer if you do not.

Let them sit in the crock pot for 8hrs if you want a creamy dulce de leche, 9hrs if you want it thicker. I’ve read on the net where they left it in as long as 11hrs, but mine was nice and set at 8hrs. Feel free to check at 8 and if it seems like you want more time added, tack on an additional hour.

Once the jars are the desired color and consistency you want, carefully remove the jars and let rest on the counter overnight to cool. Your jars screw bands may be rusty looking as they did just soak in water for 8 whole hours. Just wipe them off once the jars cool. We have well water so mine had a lovely mineral film on them in addition to rust. Yipee! The jars will seal – but since it is a milk product, put them in the fridge the following day. There is not a lot of info out on the net right now as to shelf life, mostly no one has much left after one month! But, I’m going to freeze a few jars to see if the taste and texture are still good and will update. But I am definitely going to have to freeze some ASAP or there will be none left. None.

Now, wondering what to use this lovely stuff for (other than shoveling it straight to your pie hole with a finger or spoon that is)?  I’ve used some to sweeten tea and coffee. It’s great for an apple or pretzel dip. Mixed into cake icings. As a cake filling. And I’m going to be testing it out in a recipe for a spanish cookie called Alfajores – this stuff is the filling in them. Mmmm.

Crock Pot Love: Pot Roast

7 May

Pot Roast – this is one of those dishes that brings memories back. My gram always made a pot roast in my Bubba’s old teal aluminum pan. I say made because she gave me this pan, and when I make pot roast on a Sunday, it’s what I use. I love this pan. It’s not shiny and new. It’s scratched, dinged, stained and full of history. It’s been the star of many a meal. It’s a piece of my families history. Back to grams pot roast. She would sear it on both sides, put it in the magic teal pot, dump in an onion soup mix packet, a little water, and a bag or two of baby carrots. 3 hours in the oven, she would add in chunks of peeled potato spears and cook it for another 1-2hrs. The house smelled amazing, the meat fell apart and melted in your mouth like butter. Comfort food at it’s finest.

In my meal planning I wanted to try to use my crock pot more often (especially since I discovered the crock pot liners that save time with cleanup!!!) so I decided to do this as a weeknight meal. Prep is pretty minimal. I browned the roasts (they came in 2 pieces since I bought it in bulk) on each side and seasoned them with kosher salt and pepper. Into the crock pot they went with the 2 bags of baby carrots and 1 vidalia onion.

When I came home, the house smelled FANTASTIC! I mean, it was all the way into the basement! My poor dog was probably going nuts with hunger over that amazing smell wafting down the steps. Instead of putting the potatoes in the crock pot with the meat and carrots, I opted for my Oven Roasted Potatoes. These were a great accompaniment since the skins are so crispy and crunchy, and I am a huge fan of baked potatoes. Yum!

Crock Pot Roast

Ingredients:

5-6lb beef chuck roast

2 small bags baby carrots

1 large vidalia onion, cut into chunks

Kosher salt & Pepper

Weber Roasted Garlic Seasoning

Season both sides of the meat with kosher salt and pepper. Sear both sides in a preheated skillet to brown the meat. Place browned meat in the crockpot, sprinkling with the roasted garlic seasoning. Dump the bags of carrots in and sprinkle those as well. Put the lid on and set the crock pot to low. If you have a timer, set it for 9hrs. No times, turn the crock pot to warm or off after 9hrs.

Serve with Oven Roasted Potatoes, mashed potatoes, fries, parslied potatoes – whatever you like! Add a salad for a complete meal.

Want this to be an oven meal? Place in a lidded roasting pan and cook at 400 degrees for 4hrs.

Crock Pot Love: shredded Mexichicken, for tacos!

23 Apr

Get it? Mexican + Chicken = Mexichicken! I know. I’m weird. Whatever.

Anywho. Crock pots…what glorious wonderful food preparation machines. With only a little bit of prep work the night before or morning of, you can come home to a hot delicious meal and pretty much be ready to eat! Yipee! I am particularly a fan of the crock pot when I’m working later because it helps me avoid having to eat dinner with the hubs at 8pm. And to make things even EASIER – I discovered through a friends mom the fantabulousness that is slow cooker liners!!!  Hello easy crock pot cleanup! Crock pot liners you ask? YES! You just put one in the crock pot and let your foods cook in it – like a crock pot barrier against having to soak the cooked on foodstuffs overnight (or multiple nights if you don’t feel like using some elbow grease to clean it). Total clean up saver. You just toss the liner in the trash can. Ta-da!

Onto the recipe. This chicken is SO good. So very good. When I was taking it out of the pot it was totally falling apart. The long cook time combined with the acids from the tomato paste and lime juice break down the chicken and turn it to butter. This recipe doesn’t have any major heat to it, just a good taco like flavor. The onions get really soft and tender, the garlic loses it’s bite…We ate ours on soft tacos, but it would be awesome on hard shell tacos as well. Also fab as a taco salad meat, or on nachos with lots of cheese.

additionally, this freezes really well. It makes a lot, so I’d advise that you freeze half of the meat after cooking. It’s enough for 4-5 dinners. I portioned out 2 small freezer bags worth so we could have it on a night I forget to plan a meal, or we have company and want nachos!

Don’t gasp like a vampire at the amount of garlic I listed. Remember you are cooking this for a LONG time, so it will lose a lot of its potency. Hence the addition of garlic powder.

Mexichicken tacos

6 boneless chicken breasts

1 large Vidalia onion, sliced into half moons

8-10 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

3tbsp hot sauce (I used my homemade sauce – it’s pretty mild from the fresh garden peppers)

1 can tomato paste mixed with 1 cup water

Juice from 1 lime

1 – 2 tbsp salt free taco seasoning

1tsp garlic powder

Place chicken in your crock pot then add in onions, garlic, hot sauce, lime juice and the tomato paste/water mixture. Use tongs to mix up the onions and get the chicken coated in the saucy goodness. Place lid on the crock pot and cook on low for 8hrs.

DO NOT ADD the garlic powder and taco seasoning at this time. If you do, the flavor will be gone. During a long cooking time, you want to add the spices at the END of the cooking process so that they don’t lose their potency.

When the chicken is done cooking, transfer it to a large bowl and shred it using 2 forks. Add 1tbsp of the taco seasoning and all the garlic powder as well as some of the juices/broth from the crock pot to keep the chicken moist. Give it a taste and see if it needs more taco seasoning. Or more hot sauce.

Serve it up on soft tortillas with some sour cream, guac, lettuce, cheese, green onions…whatever floats your boat.