Broccoli seems like a super weird thing to have stuck at the end of a bunch of posts about cookies. Call it the broccoli-cookie-detox.
So anyway… broccoli soup. In my crock pot. I’ve had a thing for broccoli soup since I was little. I think once I had a bowl at a restaurant where my mom worked and I was hooked. If I see broccoli soup (cream of OR cheese… either way I’m happy) on a menu, chances are I’m gonna order it. My kids do not share my sentiment. They will eat broccoli without argument but not in soup. No sir.
While we all marvel at the summer weather before the first day of spring (this is at least my third post on the topic; read more here and here) I am honing my skills at cooking without turning the a/c on. It’s MARCH for crying out loud! I should still be sporting a light jacket with my flip flops, not kicking off the covers and sprawling across the bed while I’m trying to sleep.
I have thrown all the windows open and am refusing to turn the air on. In March. Because that’s wrong.
It’s very nice in here in the morning- I have yet to add a pile of ice cubes to my morning coffee cup- so I have decided that the morning is when I will be cooking dinner. For those that cannot be home to cook in the morning, this can all be done the night before. When it’s hot outside you can still be friends with your crock pot.
I found this recipe for Soupe Au Pistou (translation: a delicious pile of vegetables with a dollop of pesto on top) in the March 2012 issue of Family Circle magazine. Coarsely chop up carrots, gold potatoes (you need a variety that will hold up), onions, and zucchini. You could also add yellow squash or fresh green beans: draw your inspiration from what’s fresh and plentiful when you’re out and about.
Stir in a can of your favorite diced tomatoes,
Season with kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper according to your taste and pour in 8 cups of water. Put the lid on and cook on low for 8 hours. Thirty-ish minutes before your soup is done, add one cup of uncooked soup-ey pasta (I used ditalini; I couldn’t find any alphabet or stars) and two 15 ounce cans of white beans.
Asparagus is my favorite spring vegetable. Trimmed and cut into two-inch pieces, if I were using asparagus, I’d add it now (because no one likes asparagus that’s mushy).
Replace the lid and continue slow-cooking for that last thirty minutes until your pasta is tender. Serve with a generous spoonful of pesto on top (you can purchase pesto already prepared or use your favorite recipe). Hot soup, cool house.
Vegetable Pesto Slow Cooker Soup (from Family Circle, March 2012)
4 medium carrots peeled and coarsely chopped
4-5 cups of peeled and chopped boiling potatoes (I used Honey Gold)
2 medium onions, chopped
2 zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and then sliced into half-moons
1 can of your favorite diced tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
8 cups of water
2 cans drained and rinsed cannellini beans (really any beans would do)
1 cup of dry soup-ey pasta (I used ditalini)
pesto- prepared or purchased ahead of time and added according to your taste
Add carrots, potatoes, onions, zucchini (along with any other veggies that hold up in a slow cooker; squash, fresh green beans…) and canned tomatoes to a large slow cooker. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir until all the veggies are well combined. Pour in 8 cups of water, cover and slow cook for 8 hours on low. About 30 minutes before the soup is done, add in the pasta, beans, and any other “soft” veggies you like– ahem, asparagus. Recover and continue cooking for that last thirty minutes, and serve this veggie soup with a big glop of pesto on top!
I’ll admit that I have an unreasonable relationship with coffee. It’s my sidekick. Coffee wakes me every morning. It keeps my fingers warm while I clutch my mug, wishing this old house had better insulation. Coffee keeps me company while I write. It wakes my sleepy head up early everyday and occasionally gives me a sweet iced pick me up in the afternoon. A tall cup of joe is a great excuse to loaf around a cozy coffeehouse with my sweetheart and a newspaper, and then buy the little guys fancy hot chocolate. It’s a great companion in the car (so long as your car dancing does not spill it) and a welcome distraction when you need to wander from your desk and be off task for a few. Coffee can accompany whipped cream, add ooomph to your chocolate cake, flavor ice cream, and braise beef.
Yep. It’s awesome. And it’s also my scapegoat.
I don’t need a lecture on the perils of caffeine dependency. We all have our vices. But coffee does tend to provide me with a most reasonable explanation for my sometimes out of turn behavior. Not paying attention? Not enough coffee. Talking too much? Too much coffee. I have a short fuse. I blame the coffee.
Chad and I made a quick run to the grocery store the other night. Just a milk, eggs, cereal kinda thing. It wasn’t crowded and we wove our way from the produce towards the dairy department with ease. Let’s discuss grocery store etiquette for a minute. In my world, you walk like you drive: stay to the right. If you have to walk in front of a person that’s scanning a shelf for something, you say excuse me. If you need to peruse cans of green beans but someone else beat you to it, you mind your personal space and wait your turn. If there is a woman eyeballing the shelves for healthy cereal that doesn’t break the bank and you need the corn syrup laden discount bag of garbage that’s behind her, you need to refer to rules 2 (say excuse me) and 3 (mind your personal space and wait your turn). You do not lean in behind her and her boyfriend, reaching your arm past BOTH of them like you’re leaning in for a group hug and grab your crap without saying a word. Because that woman WILL freak out on you. And then she will blame the coffee.
I make no apologies. We made it out of the grocery store unscathed, my mood greatly improved by the woman dressed as a pirate that I spied shopping the deli. Chad says he would still love me if I dressed like a pirate. And he totally tolerates it when my coffee withdrawal inspires me to loudly correct rude strangers in the grocery store. Maybe it’s because I make a mean pot roast.
But maybe not.
Heat a little oil and sprinkle all sides of a 3 or 4 pound beef chuck roast with coarse ground black pepper and kosher salt. Over medium high heat, brown all sides of the roast and then remove it to your slow cooker. Saute onions in the drippings left in the pan until they are golden brown. Then add garlic, thyme, a little kosher salt, more coarse ground black pepper and onion powder.
Add coffee and balsalmic vinegar and then bring it all to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for a minute. Then add all of it to the slow cooker with the beef roast.
Add potatoes if you like, and then cover and cook on high for 5 hours or on low for 7-8 hours. Halfway through tuck carrots and celery in with the roast, recover and continue cooking.
When the roast and vegetables are done, remove them to a plate for serving and ladle the drippings into a saucepan. Skim the fat off the top and over medium heat wisk in the cornstarch (you can add a little of the broth in a cup and mix it with the cornstarch until it’s smooth to keep the lumps out of your gravy- then pour this into the remaining drippings on the stovetop).
Coffee Braised Slow Cooker Pot Roast
A 3-4 pound beef chuck roast
kosher salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste (I’m partial to freshly ground or coarse)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 onions, very coarsely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
3/4 cup strong coffee
2 tablespoons balsalmic vinegar
3 cups of potatoes, cut into “two-bite” size pieces
3 stalks of celery, trimmed and cut into sticks
7 carrots, peeled and cut into sticks
2 tablespoons of cornstarch
Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season all sides of the beef chuck roast with the kosher salt and coarse ground pepper and then brown it in the skillet. Remove it to the slow cooker. Add the onions to the skillet and saute until soft and golden. Then add the garlic, thyme, kosher salt, onion powder, and black pepper. Cook for another couple of minutes and then por in the coffee and balsalmic vinegar. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for another minute and then empty the contents of the skillet into the slow cooker. If you are using potatoes, add them now. Cover and cook on high for 5 hours or low for 7-8 hours. In the middle of cooking, add the carrots and celery. When the roast is done remove it to a plate. Ladle the drippings into a saucepan and wisk in the cornstarch until it’s thickened over medium heat. Serve the roast with the gravy.
This is the city that inspired the food craving that lasted for more than a year.
We don’t live far from Asheville… I’m not sure why we don’t drive there more often. Especially since there are amazing restaurants, delis, and cafes on every corner of this small city tucked into the North Carolina mountains. Most of them are independently run, have unique menus, and an overabundance of fresh ingredients. Over here all we have is an endless string of fast food restaurants, a Chinese buffet, and the most unauthentic, overpriced, blech version of an Italian restaurant that I have ever come across.
Dear Gas Prices,
Stop being absurd. People need to eat.
So anyway, my sister lives in Asheville, and whenever I go to visit she points me towards someplace she found that she knows to be mouth watering and delicious. Once we ate at a Thai place and shared a Pad Thai that knocked my socks off. Chad and I went to visit her last year and the three of us inhaled a pile of nachos that was both bottomless and crrrrazy good. Then there’s the Cuban restaurant.
Stephanie (that’s my sister) and I shared a late meal on the patio of Havana during one of my visits, and I have had a Cuban sandwich stuck in my head ever since. Chad and I tried to dine there the last time we went to Asheville, but there were 34,001 things going on downtown that weekend, and there was a wait. A loooong wait. We were starving, so I begrudgingly agreed to move on.
And still I craved the Cuban sandwich.
The December issue of Family Circle magazine saved the day! Pork Shoulder in the slow cooker 5 ways! But the only way I really cared about was Cuban Pork.
The way the article was written was a little hard to follow. It was meant to be simple, but I had to keep referring to the original recipe (chipotle mango pulled pork) and then “omit this” and “add that”. In my rush to get my Cuban sandwich show on the road, I left out what appeared to be a very key ingredient… chicken broth. But as my luck would have it, this was better without the broth (I know this because a day or so later I also made the creamy pork and mushroom sauce from this article WITH the chicken broth. TOO. MUCH. LIQUID. And it was greasy).
On the stove heat about a tablespoon of oil. Season all sides of a boneless skinless pork shoulder (I halved a 6 pound boston butt roast and it was on the bone) with salt and pepper and the brown each side until it’s crispy and golden. Mix tomato paste, onions, garlic, orange juice, lime juice, lime zest and chopped pickles in the crock pot (mixture will be thick) and then set the browned pork on top. Cook on high for 6 hours or low fror 8 hours.
When the pork is done remove it from the crock pot and shred. Mine fell apart as I removed it. It was tender and moist and full of flavor. I only used a tiny bit of the liquid left in the crock pot. I just drizzled it over the shredded pork as I put together my sandwiches.
And with that the craving was satisfied.
Cuban Pork Sandwiches(modified from Family Circle, December 2011)
3 pounds boneless skinless pork shoulder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 can tomato paste
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (I juiced 2 limes)
zest of 1 lime
1 onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup diced pickles
(additionally for the sandwiches you will need sliced ham, swiss cheese, yellow mustard, pickles, and thick slices of a soft bread… Cuban or Italian)
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Season the pork with the salt and pepper and brown all sides until crispy and golden. Remove it from the heat. In the slow cooker stir together the tomato paste, orange juice, lime juice, lime zest, onions, and diced pickles (mixture will be thick). Set the browned pork on top of the sauce, cover and slow cook on high for 6 hours or low for 8 hours. Remove the pork and shred. Add the sauce to taste. *For the sandwiches, spread mustard on the bread and layer with the sliced ham, pickles, shredded pork and swiss cheese. Grill the sandwiches (like you would a grilled cheese). Eat. Repeat.*
My mom gave me a crock pot for Christmas. This thing is amazing. Mom sent me a message asking how I like it?
How do I like it???? “Loooove it,” is what I told her. “It is like a magical pot of cooking happiness!!! Why did I never have this insanely awesome invention before now???”
So since Christmas I have been putting everything in the crock pot. Yes, you are all in trouble. I have scribbled a slew of slow cooker recipes down on scraps of paper that are currently littering various surfaces of my countertop, window sill, and desk. I will eventually need to share them all, just for the sheer joy of it.
I can cook dinner at 10 o’clock in the morning!!!
I’m gonna figure out how to bake a cake in this thing.
Maybe you’re tired of chili recipes, but don’t say I didn’t warn you (Chili Cause I’m Cold). I love chili. And for 2 whole entire days this week it felt like winter in North Carolina. I was thrilled. And armed with a freezer full of chicken and a slow cooker. So with that I give you Chicken and Black Bean Crock Pot Chili.
Put some chopped onion in the crock pot. I cut up a whole onion. And then half of another one (I like onions). Then pour in a can of diced tomatoes, a can of fire roasted tomatoes (roasty toasty flavor; MMmmmm), a can of black beans, a can of light red kidney beans, and half a chopped red bell pepper (green works, too- also the green peppers are actually affordable, but I had red on hand). Stir, stir, stir. Then you will need a package of chili seasoning (or 2 tablespoons of your favorite chili powder/seasoning), some cumin, a little crushed red pepper for heat (if you like, and I do!)and then stir some more.
Nestle your chicken breast down into the tomato and beans, cover slightly, put the lid on the slow cooker and go! I let this work itself out on low for 5 hours. Then I took the chicken and put it on a plate and shredded it with a fork. I stirred it back into the pot and eplaced the lid for another hour. You could cook this longer if you prefer– or if that’s what your work schedule requires– 8 hours on low wouldn’t hurt a thing. Garnish with a little low fat cheese and…….done!
Dinner in about 10 active minutes leaves you with lots of time to do something else. If you are cooler than me you will use your time on something besides washing dishes (where do they all come from????).
Chicken and Black Bean Crock Pot Chili
1 1/2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
1 (14.5 ounce) can of diced tomatoes
1 (14.5 ounce) can of fire roasted tomatoes
1 (15 ounce) can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 ounce) can of light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 a red or green bell pepper, diced
1 package chili seasoning (or 2 tablespoons of your favorite way to season your chili)
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
2 boneless skinless uncooked chicken breasts (3 if your chicken breasts are smaller- it was about 1.5 pounds total)
Stir together all ingredients except the chicken breast in a slow cooker. Situate the chicken breasts on top of the bean and tomato mixture and cover slightly. Cover and cook on low for at least 5, but up to 7 hours. Remove the chicken to a plate and shred with a fork. Replace the chicken and stir in. Cover and continue cooking for another hour. Sprinkle with a little shredded low fat cheese and stay warm!