What’s in the Crock? Another Crock! Oh, and oatmeal.

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I’ve spent an absurd amount of time recently thinking about oatmeal.

A lot of things have consipired to make this happen:

  • My sister put me onto the joys of real oatmeal. Not “minute oats”, not instant; the real-deal squished oats.
  • Andrea wrote a post about steel-cut oatmeal. I’m so glad I’m not the only person who thinks – and blogs – about these things.
  • Deb signed off Twitter one night with the pièce de resistance:

Bingo! Steel-cut oats are yummy, but they take too long. The slow cooker is a perfect fit. So I ran out and bought a little crock. You know, so our little batch wouldn’t burn to the sides of the big crock.

Instead, it burned to the sides of the little crock.

But all is not lost. The stoneware in the new crock fits perfectly inside my 5qt, and the results have been FANTASTIC! No burning. No scrubbing. Barely any sticking. Even with a little batch. Even without oiling the stoneware.

Oh, and it’s waaay easier to fish it out of a crock full of hot water than a regular casserole dish.

[What you see in the photo is actually a batch of Chocolate Raspberry Oatmeal, but I played with the recipe and didn’t like the result. I’ll post it when I get it just right :).]

Want to try? Here’s what you do:

  1. Find a dish that fits inside your stoneware. Not too hard if you have a 6qt, but tricky for anything smaller. But the little slow cooker only cost $10, fit in my 5qt, and of course gives me another slow cooker to work with 🙂
  2. Put the the dish in the stoneware, and add steel cut oats, water, and salt, as per package directions.
  3. Fill the outer stoneware with water to about the same level as the water/oats mix.
  4. Cook for 8 hours on low.

We now do this nightly, and wake up every morning to oatmeal that’s quicker than instant – and way yummier too.

Oh, and a hint: as soon as you’re done serving, dump the water from the big crock into the little one: cleanup is a breeze, and you’re conserving water too.

And finally, a shout-out to Stephanie O’Dea, whose Chocolate Pot de Creme with Ganache was what gave me the idea to try bain-marie in the crock. Of course, that recipe was also what made me buy a second, bigger crock, plus a dish to fit inside it. And now I have three crocks.

It’s a slippery slope. Coated in oatmeal.

I’m loving this wake-up-to-a-hot-breakfast thing. Do you have any crock-pot breakfasts to share?

Calibrating the Kitchen

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I am trying to lose weight.

No, scratch that: I am losing weight. And one thing everyone knows is important when you’re trying to lose weight is portion control. But one of the things that has always stymied me is recipe yields, especially when using my favourite kitchen appliances: my slow cookers.

Now I know that my crocks are 4, 5, and 6 quarts – but is that all the way to the top? And besides, you never fill it to the top, and I have a hard time eyeballing these things.  If I’m going to go to the trouble of journalling, I’d like to know that the numbers are right, especially for a dish that I’ll be having for at least 4 meals.

I’ve tried measuring everything as it comes out of the pot, I’ve tried dumping it all into a big measuring bowl before anyone is allowed to touch it. Pain. in. the. butt.

It was time for a new kitchen gadget. Tada!

Yup, a ruler! Stolen from the office, so didn’t cost a cent. Well, it did at some point I suppose.

Now just to clarify, I stole it from our home office. Just realized that looked kinda bad. After all, who would steal office supplies from work? Shameful.

So, like, anyways

Here’s what I did:

  1. Dump 8 cups of water into the crock.
  2. Dip a wooden spoon, pull it out and hold it against the ruler.
  3. Dump in more water, two cups at a time, until I had something like this:

2" = 8 cups
2 1/2" = 10 cups
3" = 12 cups
3 1/4" = 14 cups
3 5/8" = 16 cups
4" = 18 cups
4 3/8" = 20 cups
4 3/4" = 22 cups

See how the deltas get shorter as you work your way up the pot? The sides aren’t straight up and down, making it harder to eyeball it.

Besides, I’m picky.

So, with that done, it was dead-easy to figure out how much Beef Mole we had tonight:

A few other ways I’ve been trying to keep a handle on portions:

  • My serving of hummus or tzaziki gets served in a measuring cup, right there at the table. Not exactly classy, but it works.
  • We all use small plates now. The big plates only come out for corn on the cob and fajitas – and when they do they’re so…. big! It’s weird.
  • Given the option, I’ll make something in muffin trays instead of a loaf pan. Of course, then I eat 3 muffins – but at least I know how much I ate.

Oh, and that ruler? Also handy for cases like these, when I sure as heck don’t trust myself to just ‘eyeball it’.

How do you control portions?

What’s In The Crock? Peanut Butter.

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Ok, so there’s chicken in there too, and a couple of other things. But the peanut butter is definitely the most important part.

I tried this recipe the other day, and as always, a little bit went onto the toddler’s plate. I wasn’t hopeful, the only meat I’ve ever seen her consume was in the form of a chicken McNugget, and I suspect that was only because she saw her cousin eating one. And as much as I’d like to get some protein into her, I don’t figure that’s a great way to do it.

So when she asked for peanut butter, I thought she was actually looking for peanut butter – but the chicken was gone!

I didn’t do anything to this recipe except double it, so rather than copy it all out, here’s the link:

http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2011/02/easy-peanut-butter-chicken-slow-cooker.html

Enjoy! And thank-you Stephanie O’Dea!

What’s in the Crock? Magic Black Bean Soup

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What makes this soup magical? It can make just about any vegetable just disappear. I love it, partly because it’s tasty, but especially because it calls for ‘vegetables’. Pretty much any vegetable will do. We make it to

  • clean out the crisper
  • use up broccoli & mushroom stems
  • give a home to all that extra zucchini that I thought I would use for 16 different baking projects that I just didn’t get to.

In fact, at any given time we have a couple of soups’ worth of veggies in a ziploc in the freezer, either from fridge clean-outs or the off-cuts of other recipes.

The original recipe is from Stephanie O’Dea’s Make It Fast, Cook It Slow, and is also available on her blog.  But that version called for packets of taco sauce, and I try to avoid the restaurant that sells those :). So here is a version with some pantry-spicing and a couple of other tweaks:

Black Bean Soup

  • 3 cans of black beans (undrained)
  • 1 14oz can of stewed tomatoes (I’ve only ever seen 28oz cans here in Canada – so half a can)
  • 2 cups of broth (vegetable or chicken)
  • 2 tbsp cumin
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped vegetables
  • 1 chopped apple
  1. Chop & dump everything in the crock.
  2. Cook for 8-10 hours on low.
  3. Soupify with an immersion blender.
  4. Serve with some shredded cheddar and a dollop of sour cream.
I love this soup, but our freezer-stash of veggies still tends to expaaand. Do you have any other “any-veggie” recipes?

What’s in the Crock? Snap Chicken.

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Snap. As in it’s a snap. This is so easy I’m not sure you can even call it a recipe.

I started with a dish from allrecipes.com, dropped some high-fat stuff, then a couple of other things I didn’t have, looked at it and said “well cripes, that’s nothing but chicken and soup”.

So I dropped the recipe, took the chicken, and the soup, and… hey look, why not try one of these spice mixes I won on Losing it in Ottawa?  And with chicken that was already cubed and in the freezer, this took me about 90 seconds to dump in the crock.

Snap Chicken

  • 3-4 chicken breasts
  • 2 cans of cream of chicken soup (I used low-fat)
  • spices*
  1. Dump everything in the crock, cook on high for 5-6 hours

I used Epicure Selections Herb and Garlic Dip blend, but you could use pretty much anything. Here are some ideas for some DIY herb blends and spice blends. You could also play with the soup, maybe try it with a cream of celery.

What are some of your super-fast crock recipes? Any other ideas for how to flavour this one? Do you have any tried-and-true spice blends?

What’s in the Crock? Chickpea Curry.

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Curry, coconut milk, chickpeas…

Oh, stop! You had me at “curry”  ❤

This is a long-time favourite, based on a recipe from an old Weight Watchers mag (with a few tweaks).  I usually make a triple batch of the onions etc., freeze two “spice bricks” and use the third right away – then the next two batches are “dump & go”. It’s also a quick-prep if you have chopped onions in the freezer, and use pre-minced garlic.

Spice Brick
(makes one recipe, double or triple quantities if you want to freeze some)

  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tbsp pickled jalapeno, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  1. Toast the curry powder in a dry wok over med-high heat until fragrant.
  2. Add the oil, onions, and garlic and saute until the onion is tender.
  3. Remove from heat and add the jalapeno and salt, stir to combine.
  4. Freeze in a 2-cup container (or use right away in the curry)

Chickpea Curry

  • one spice brick (above)
  • 2 19-oz cans of chickpeas, rinced and drained
  • 1 28-oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 14-oz can of coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (I use the PC fresh-frozen kind -> no prep required)
  1. Dump everything except the cilantro into the slow cooker and stir. Obviously, if the spice mix is frozen it won’t blend in yet – you can either throw it all together the night before (and then stir it when you put it in the cooker) or plan to give it a stir mid-way through cooking.
  2. Cook for 6-8 hours on low.
  3. Stir in the cilantro & serve over rice

Oh, and a tip that works for most slow cooker recipes: if you throw everything into the stoneware the night before, and then pop it in the cooker on a timer in the morning, the cool stoneware will keep the contents cool for a while on the counter, until they’re actually cooking. But be careful – you don’t want to go straight from the fridge to the heat of the cooker, or you could crack the stoneware. Check your cooker manual for any specific guidelines.

What’s in the Crock?

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As I walked in the door this evening I paused to inhale deeply – dinner had been simmering gently for 6 hours, filling the house with the aroma of comfort.

I love my crock pot. I love it when walking in the door feels like pulling on my favourite fireside sweater. And I love the idea of ‘dinner’ being just a ladel away.

Today what’s in the crock is comfort food: ham and corn chowder. I found this recipe when looking for ideas to use up the crazy-huge fresh ham we cooked for Easter dinner. For two.

Dearest likes to do this at all the ‘big meal’ holidays, even for just the two of us, and he’s got me hooked. And with recipes like this, who minds leftovers?  Even the year we had a newborn at Christmas, and didn’t even open presents until Boxing Day, he cooked a full turkey dinner. Incidentally, that was the first meal Miss Bea ever slept through – and so the first one I’d eaten hot in 6 weeks – now how’s that for a Christmas present?

But I digress. I do that a lot.

With cubed ham and pre-diced onion in the freezer, this recipe is as ‘dump and go’. The best kind 🙂

Easy Ham and Corn Chowder
from About.com Southern Food

Ingredients

  • 2 cans (about 10 1/2 ounces each) condensed potato soup
  • 1 can (about 10 12 ounces) condensed cream of celery soup
  • 2 cups leftover diced ham
  • 1 cup chopped frozen onion or finely chopped fresh onion
  • 10 to 12 ounces frozen whole kernel corn
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup half-ahd-half, light cream, or milk

Preparation:

  1. Combine everything except the milk in the slow cooker insert.
  2. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours.
  3. 20 minutes before serving, add milk or cream.

The original recipe suggests you serve with biscuits or cornbread and a tossed salad. Bread fresh from the breadmaker works just as well, and is less effort. Also, I frequently forget the milk until the last minute – I’ve always found 5 minutes is enough.
Serves 4 to 6.

So what’s in your crock? Share your favourite recipes and crock tips in the comments! And if they’re already in your blog, feel free to post a link!