Every year on January 2, many people around the world wake up knowing they’re just one cookie away from a bigger pants size. Gyms memberships rise, WW (Weight Watchers) Workshop chairs fill up, and dog walkers double their pet’s exercise along with their own. I began WW for the 4th (5th?) time just before the start of December, so while I didn’t wait until after the Christmas fudge tin was empty, I did move into this arena right upon finishing the last piece of pumpkin pie with whipped cream.
So many slow cooker recipes indicate a “dump and cook” method, but then taste like that’s exactly what you did. (I’m not eating any food from a recipe that includes the word “dump”!) We all wish this simple cooking method worked in just such a way–especially during the hot summer months. In truth, many meals need a bit of pre-sautéing or browning before that long simmer or they are, to my palate, steamed to death and all the same color–the very reason some good cooks tell me they tried a slow cooker once and gave it away soon thereafter.
If you spent too much time watching the Alabama-Georgia game last night, and neglected to take anything out of the freezer, you, like me, might be wondering what’s for supper Tuesday night. Slow cooker to the rescue and read on…
If you’ve been following the blog, you’ll know I have a stack of much-loved French cookbooks that are surely the stuff of which dreams are made…well, at least my dreams. I’m not as much of an armchair cookbook reader as some, though there is always a stack next to my reading chair–even at Christmas. Maybe especially at Christmas. (List of said books upcoming on a blog page. I promise.)
Despite devoting the lion’s share of my time to cooking, even I sometimes just have to throw something in the slow cooker, pray for success, and run. A couple of fairly recent keepers in that category are:
I’ve been making pumpkin chili off and on for years now… It seems to be my fall go-to for chili because ,#1 I’m not happy unless there’s chili in the freezer and, #2 making different kinds of chili changes up the menu and wakens the palate. Today’s version creates a pretty smooth, but not-too-spicy chili that doesn’t taste pumpkiny, but still has all the potassium, fiber, nutrients, and overall health goodness pumpkin offers. Pumpkin is also low in calories: go, pumpkin! If you are partial to chunky Pumpkin-Chicken Chili, try my stovetop version made with boneless chicken thighs and lots of vegetables like zucchini, along with both pureed and chunks of pumpkin. Continue reading
My niece Jamie is a married mom of three with a demanding full-time job as an accountant for a big company. With no time to cook, she just laughs and says, “I don’t even know how to feed my family!” Husband Jerry is not an admitted cook, either. And that’s the way it is for lots of young moms and dads. Continue reading
If you wanted a slow cooker pot roast recipe, I doubt you’d look here. (I don’t do a lot of slow cooker.) Maybe you wouldn’t look anywhere; you’d just put your meat and vegetables together into the pot with your wine, broth, or herbs and turn it on. That’s what I do on the occasions I make this meal. I decided to blog it, though, because I had such good luck getting a big frozen piece of meat cooked and on the table quickly using a slow cooker. No more excuses if you’ve forgotten to unthaw your meat and the morning has disappeared; you can still make a great no-watch meal in a short afternoon. The rest of the time is yours to take a bath, watch the dogs sleep, read the paper, garden, call your daughter, or binge-watch Downton. So put this one in your back pocket for when you need it…
(Below: Right after the Super Bowl. All worn out.
FROZEN POT ROAST SLOW COOKER DINNER with horseradish, carrots, and onions IN 4.5 HOURS
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 3-4 pound frozen beef chuck roast with bone
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- 1/4 cup grated horseradish
- 2 cups dry red wine I used a mix of leftover Cabernet Sauvignon and Chianti
- 10 large carrots,trimmed, peeled, and cut into 2-inch pieces
- 3 stalks celery,trimmed, and cut into 2-inch pieces
- 2 large onions, cut into wedges
- 4 cloves garlic,minced
- 6 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 Bay leaf,broken in half
- Brown the pot roast well on both sides; it thaws as it browns:
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high flame with 2 tablespoons canola oil. Add frozen pot roast sprinkled evenly with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Brown well, covered, 10-15 minutes; turn and spread evenly with the horseradish, cooking another 10 minutes. Add wine and cook another 5 minutes uncovered or until the wine has cooked down a bit.
- In the meantime, cut up the vegetables and put them in the slow cooker while the meat browns:
- Trim, peel, and cut carrots, celery, and onions; peel and mince the garlic. Add about 3/4 of the them, along with half the thyme, half the bay leaf, and a 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper, to the bottom of a 6-quart slow cooker turned to high. (You’ll add the rest of the vegetables and herbs on top of the beef in a moment.)
- Add the beef and the wine to the slow cooker and… read a good book ’til dinner’s done:
- Add browned beef and wine, scraping the bits from the bottom of the skillet into the slow cooker. Place the remaining vegetables, and the rest of the thyme and bay leaf on top of the beef. Sprinkle everything with one last good pinch of salt and pepper. Put the lid on top and cook for 4-5 hours or until meat and vegetables are tender.
- Slice meat, place on platter surrounded by vegetables (remove thyme stems), and drizzle with juices. Serve with cheddar mashed potatoes if desired. (Recipe below: takes 35-40 minutes for the potatoes.)
CHEDDAR MASHED POTATOES Serves 6
- 6 large white, very well-scrubbed potatoes (about 3 pounds), cut into eighths**
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black or white pepper
- 1 tablespoon softened salted butter
- 1 cup grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese (I like Vermont–Cabot– or English Cheddar–a white cheese, if you can), plus a little extra for garnish
- 1/2 -3/4 cup hot milk
- 2 tablespoons chopped green onions (just greens is fine, but both the greens and white will work) or chives — See note below if serving meat over potatoes.
1. Place potatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt with 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a 6-quart pot and cover with water–plus an inch or so. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until potatoes are just tender.
2. Drain and put potatoes back in the hot pan with the butter and the cheese. Mash well and then stir in about half-cup of the milk. Mash again, adding more milk if needed, until potatoes are moistened and tender. Taste, adjust seasonings, and spoon into a bowl. Garnish with green onions or chives, if using, and a little of the grated cheddar.
**I don’t peel these, but you’re welcome to if you’d like. I like the texture of hand-mashed and unpeeled potatoes and am all over that fiber.
MEAL OPTIONS: Replace carrots in the slow cooker with butternut or acorn squash pieces. Trade fennel for celery. Skip the wine and use low sodium beef broth.
WINE: Côtes du Rhône or another light red such as Pinot Noir or Beaujolais (not nouveau)
NEED MORE? Green salad and crusty bread with butter are the quintessential accompaniments if you’re really hungry or have more people. You might like my Apple-Cheddar Green Salad with Spicy Honey-Apple Cider Vinaigrette.
DESSERT: Maybe none at all…. But if you need something: Apples and cheese if you haven’t made the salad above. If you have, try Pears with Stilton, and Walnuts.
USING UP LEFTOVERS TO MAKE A BEEF-VEGETABLE SOUP:
Sauté an onion, two chopped carrots, 2 chopped stalks celery, and a minced clove of garlic in a tablespoon of olive oil in a large soup pot over medium flame. Season with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper, a pinch of crushed red pepper, a teaspoon of dried thyme, a bay leaf, and 1/2 cup fresh minced parsley. Cook until the vegetables are starting to soften.
Stir in 1-2 cups of chopped, well-trimmed leftover pot roast, all of the sauce or gravy, 1 15-ounce can of chopped tomatoes, two quarts of low sodium beef or chicken broth, 2 or more cups of water, and a few drops of hot sauce. Bring to a boil. Add two peeled and chopped potatoes, 1 cup of chopped cabbage, and two cups frozen mixed vegetables or fresh vegetables such as trimmed and chopped green beans, English peas, zucchini, etc. Lower heat to a steady, but gentle boil, cooking until everything is tender. Stir regularly and add any leftover, cooked, and chopped vegetables from the slow cooker for the last 5 or 10 minutes to heat through. Pour in more water or broth if the everything isn’t floating very freely in the liquid.
Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, including hot sauce. Serve hot with crusty bread for dunking.
Options: You can add a 1/2 cup (or more) of a very small pasta — such as tubetti or elbow macaroni– during the last 15 minutes of cooking or, if you’ve time, 1/2 cup barley, which takes 45 minutes. If you’d like to use spinach, add it during the last five minutes.
STORAGE: You can cool, put into containers with tight lids, and store in the refrigerator 2-3 days or in the freezer for 4-6 months. Label and date your soup! It freezes better without potatoes or pasta, if you can manage it. If not, it’ll still be a good dinner you didn’t have to cook that night.
Sing a new song while your beef cooks happily without you,