March 26, 2012

I got myself a new crock pot!

We've been cooking at lot at our house lately - dishes that are primarily protein and vegetables. Soups and stews work really well because we're then able to take leftovers to work for lunch the next day. We've been in the habit of making a big soup meal on Sunday, and then eating the leftovers all week for lunch. I found several great recipes that don't require a crock pot (see below), but they do require a time commitment on my part, which is a little hard to tackle during the work week.  So, based on the recommendation of Gina at, I purchased the Hamilton Beach "Set & Forget" 6-quart Programmable Slow Cooker. Unlike my existing crock pot (inherited with my marriage), this new one is programmable! Which means I don't have to limit my crock pot cooking to anything that takes at least 10 hours. I can program this one to cook for 4 hours, and then it just switches to warm. It also comes with a meat thermometer, which I can stick in a roast for instance, and the crock pot will switch to warm once it reaches a certain temperature. Genius! At least in theory - I haven't tried it yet.

My inaugural crock pot recipe was Asian Pork with Mushrooms from the aforementioned Skinnytaste. Her recipes are generally simple and low calorie, so I searched for crock pot recipes and bookmarked all the ones that sounded interesting. It didn't disappoint. I served it over rice noodles and under cilantro. It does make quite a bit, and the asian flavor means it's not quite as versatile in using up the leftovers. Next time I'll either make less, invite friends over for dinner, or find more ways to be creative with it.

Below are a few other recipes that we've made recently, not necessarily in the crockpot.

Beef Barley Vegetable Soup

This was made partially in the crockpot and partially on the stove - resulting in deliciousness. Mike  requested that I make a soup like this, so I searched online until I found a recipe with lots of good reviews. I never would have thought to make this because it reminds me of canned soup, which I cannot stand. This was great though, and it goes into my recipe binder to make again.

Next was Carne Guisada, a Columbian version of beef stew.
This is a pretty thick stew served over rice (I may have served it with Quinoa - my new favorite grain). I didn't have the adobo or achiote, so I think the flavor was a little bland. I tried to compensate with other seasonings, but I wasn't too successful.  That said, I would make it again and try to get my hands on the missing ingredients.

Lastly, Mike made us a meal (don't ever let him fool you - he knows how to cook)! In order to get Mike to make dinner "willingly" he does have to be excited about what he's making, so he chose to go with Jamaican Brown Stew and Red Beans & Rice. He grew up with meals of this sort in Florida, so he was excited to make it for me and our good friends. He's much more methodical than me when he cooks, so when he found out that I hadn't gotten all of the exact ingredients, he had to go to the store to pick them up (I tend to improvise - which does sometimes result in bland meals - see above). The chicken in this meal stays on the bone, so it didn't quite seem like a "stew" per se. It was also a little harder to eat (particularly when sitting on the couch watching a basketball game). I'm not sure why the chicken had to be on the bone, so I think this would be worth making again with de-boned chicken thighs (allowing the chicken to mix in with the veggies and therefore be more stew-like). It would also stretch further, as the individual chicken pieces ensured that there was a limited number of servings.

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