Tag Archives: crock pot

Hearty Beef Minestrone Soup

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As a polar vortex takes hold of the country, there is nothing more comforting than a bowl of hearty beef minestrone soup and warm homemade bread.

Chock-full of tender ground beef, vegetables, beans, and pasta, this soup is very filling and is especially good topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

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Some of us here are avoiding pasta these days, so I sometimes cook the pasta separately and let people add it to their soup when they dish it up.

This soup also freezes wonderfully. So make a big crock-pot full and set some aside to eat another day. The one thing you need to do when freezing this soup is to freeze the soup WITHOUT the pasta stirred in. Freeze the cooked pasta separately and add the pasta when you reheat the soup. If you freeze the pasta in the soup, it will be mushy when you reheat it.

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For a delicious bread to serve with your soup, try one of these recipes:

Whole Wheat Bread, or Rolls:

Whole Wheat Bread

Crescent Dinner Rolls:

Crescent Rolls 2

 

RECIPE:

Hearty Minestrone Soup

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2 Tbs olive oil
1-2 lb ground beef (use 2 lb for a thick soup)
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups beef broth
1 can white beans, drained
1 small can (6oz) tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 Tbs Italian seasoning
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Kitchen Bouquet or beef bouillon base
½ tsp fresh ground pepper
1 large carrot, diced
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 cups finely shredded cabbage
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 cup small pasta shapes
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

In a large pot, brown ground beef in olive oil; drain excess fat. Add onion and garlic to the pot and cook until tender. Add broth, beans, tomato paste, bay leaf, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper, carrots, celery, and cabbage. Bring to a boil; simmer 30 minutes. Add zucchini and cook 10 minutes. Add pasta and cook about 10 minutes, just until pasta is tender. Add additional water if soup is too thick. Remove bay leaf. Taste and add additional salt, if needed. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

To cook in crock pot: Brown ground beef, onions, and garlic as above. Place in crock pot. Add remaining ingredients (except for Parmesan) and cook on low for about 8 hours. Turn to high heat, add pasta, and cook until pasta is tender, about 30 minutes.

To freeze soup: Prepare as above, but do not add pasta. Place in freezer containers and freeze. Cook pasta separately in water. Drain, cool, and freeze pasta separately. Add cooked pasta to soup after thawing and reheating.

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Layered Chicken Taco Salad in Baked Tortilla Bowls

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Sure, you can eat taco salad on a regular plate, but it is much more fun to eat it out of an edible tortilla bowl. Tortilla bowls are also a great enforcer of portion control. Have you ever noticed that when you layer taco salad on a plate it seems to grow well beyond your original intentions by the time you add all of the toppings you want? Tortilla bowls are the perfect solution, especially for the kids in my family who usually end up with a plateful of food they can never finish.

Intimidated by the thought of shaping and deep-frying tortillas? Me too. Good thing these are simple to make, and baked instead of fried. All you need is a super-old-scratched-and-rusty muffin pan.

Tortilla Bowls

To make your baked tortilla bowls, warm tortillas slightly in the microwave (just enough to soften). Spray both sides of tortillas lightly with olive oil cooking spray (or brush very lightly with oil). Turn a muffin tin upside down. Press tortillas into the spaces between muffin cups. Make sure the bottoms of the tortilla bowls are flat so that they will not wobble when served on a plate. Bake at 400F for 8-10 minutes, or until crunchy and just beginning to brown.

You can layer your regular taco salad fillings in the bowl (seasoned ground beef, cheese, lettuce, etc) or try this layered shredded chicken salad. It is similar to some of the semi-fast food Mexican restaurants where you build your own burrito/salad. There are layers of seasoned chili-cilantro rice, black beans, crock-pot cooked shredded chicken, and a cilantro ranch dressing.

Green Chili Cilantro Rice

This Green Chili Cilantro Rice is also great served alongside other Mexican dishes or grilled meats.

RECIPES:

Layered Chicken Taco Salad in Baked Tortilla Bowls

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Crock-Pot Shredded Chicken
Green Chili Cilantro Rice
Tortilla Bowls
Cilantro Ranch Dressing
Black Beans – mix with 1 Tbs lime juice
Shredded Cheese
Corn
Lettuce
Chopped jalapenos or banana peppers
Salsa
Sour Cream

Place baked tortilla bowls on a plate. Layer with rice, black beans (these are really good mixed with 1 Tbs lime juice!), shredded chicken and other desired toppings. Top with cilantro ranch dressing and serve.

Crock-Pot Shredded Chicken
2 lb boneless chicken breasts or tenderloins
1 cup prepared Italian salad dressing
1/2 cup salsa
1 Tbs taco seasoning
2 cloves garlic, minced

Stir together all ingredients in a crock pot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or until chicken can easily be shredded. Shred chicken, stir in sauce from pot and serve. If the sauce is too thin (this will especially happen if you use chicken that is injected with broth), shred chicken and return to crock pot, then cook on high with the lid OFF until sauce thickens.

Green Chili Cilantro Rice
1 ¾ cup chicken broth (or water+2tsp chicken bouillon)
1 can (4 oz) diced mild green chilies, undrained
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs olive oil
½ tsp salt (omit salt if using bouillon)
1 cup Basmati rice (or other long grain variety rice)
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Combine broth, green chilies, garlic, olive oil and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Stir in rice, cover, and simmer over low heat for 20-25 minutes, or until rice is cooked. Stir in chopped cilantro. This can also be cooked in a rice cooker: combine all ingredients except cilantro in rice cooker and cook according to directions; stir in cilantro.

Tortilla Bowls
Flour tortillas
Olive oil (or olive oil cooking spray)
Muffin tin

Warm tortillas slightly in the microwave (10-15 seconds; just enough to soften). Spray both sides of tortillas lightly with olive oil cooking spray (or brush very lightly with oil). Turn a muffin tin upside down. Press tortillas into the spaces between muffin cups. Make sure the bottoms of the tortilla bowls are flat so that they will not wobble when served on a plate. Bake at 400°F for 8-10 minutes, or until crunchy and just beginning to brown.

Cilantro Ranch Dressing
1 package ranch dressing mix
1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup buttermilk or regular milk
2 tomatillos** or 4 Tbs green salsa
½ bunch of cilantro (about 1 cup chopped)
2 cloves garlic
1 lime, juiced
1-2 jalapenos (with or without the seeds; with seeds=spicier)

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend until well mixed. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours before serving for optimal flavor.

**Optional: Roast tomatillos for 20 mins at 400°F before adding them to the blender. If you are using a spicy green salsa instead of the tomatillos, go easy on the jalapenos.

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Filed under Main Dishes, Salads, Tips and Tutorials

Hearty Beef Chili

092810 018-1This is my standard go-to chili recipe. Thick and hearty. Full of roasted vegetables, ground beef and sausage (chorizo is my favorite), and two kinds of beans in a thick, spicy sauce. No runny broth-that is soup, not chili.

I know that a true Texas chili does not have any beans, but while I love the flavor of a good Texas chili, I also love beans. I love the taste, the contrasting texture they give to chili, and the fact that beans are so good for you! So while my chili may not be approved of by hard core Texans, I will continue to put beans in.

Chili is a great crock pot meal, and tastes even better the second day.

You can make this chili the “fast” way or the “it takes a little longer but is so worth it” way. The difference is: to roast or not roast the veges (onions, peppers, garlic). I have definitely made my share of chili the fast way, but I do prefer the additional flavor you get by roasting the vegetables before adding them to the chili. To roast the onions, garlic and peppers: peel onions and cut in half. Cut larger peppers in half and remove seeds. Smaller peppers, like jalapenos can be left whole. You can roast a whole head of garlic, or roast individual cloves (this will be faster). Place onions, garlic and peppers on a foil-lined roasting pan. Brush with olive oil. Roast at 475°F for about 15-20 minutes, or until veges begin to blacken. See How To Roast Peppers or How To Roast Garlic for quick tutorials.

Top your chili with shredded cheese, sour cream or chopped raw onions (red onions or scallions are great). And make lots: chili freezes wonderfully for another meal another day.

RECIPE:

Hearty Beef Chili

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1 ½ lb ground beef
½ lb chorizo or hot Italian sausage
10 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 onions
1 red pepper
1 large banana pepper
2 jalapenos, (use seeds for a spicier chili)
2 cloves garlic
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely chopped (or 1 tsp chipotle chili powder)
1 Tbs adobo sauce from chipotle pepper can
1 can dark red kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 can pinto beans, drained & rinsed
3 cans (14 oz) diced or crushed tomatoes
1 can (14 oz) tomato sauce
3 Tbs chili powder
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp dried basil (or 2 Tbs fresh)
1 Tbs chili paste
1 Tbs cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
Tomato paste, if needed
Toppings: shredded cheese, sour cream, chopped raw onions (red onions or green onions)

Cook ground beef and sausage until browned. Drain and place in a crock pot with the cooked bacon. If desired, roast the onions, red pepper, banana pepper, jalapenos and garlic (Brush with olive oil and roast on a foil-lined baking sheet at 475°F for 15-20 minutes). Chop vegetables and add to the crock pot with the remaining ingredients (except tomato paste and toppings). Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours. Taste after about 4-6 hours. Add additional salt or more heat (more chili paste or crushed red peppers), if desired. Thicken with tomato paste if chili is too thin. Serve with desired toppings.

 

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Thanksgiving: Roasted Garlic Stuffing

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When it comes to stuffing, I stand firmly on the “outside of the turkey” argument. I am not a fan of soggy stuffing straight from the bird. Or that you have to overcook your turkey in order to bring the stuffing to a safe temperature.

The problem with this can be: how do you fit everything in the oven that needs to be baked and have it all hot at serving time. Especially when you only have one oven. I am experiencing some serious Dual-Oven-Envy at my house. Especially at holiday times.

Solving the problem of competing oven-needing foods is doable with a little advance preparation. Pies can be cooked the day before. Rolls can be prepared and partially pre-baked (more on this later this week). But what about things that need to be cooked same day?

An appliance that can be used to your advantage here is your Crock Pot. With stuffing, however, I really like the crispy bread edges that you can only get in the oven. So I compromise: early in the day, before I put the turkey in the oven, I bake my stuffing at 400°F for 30 minutes, ensuring perfectly crispy edges. I then transfer the stuffing to my crock pot, set it on the lowest heat possible, and keep it warm in the crock pot while the turkey cooks. If you are not making a huge amount of stuffing, some oval casserole dishes will fit directly into the bottom of a large crock pot. If not, just scoop the stuffing into the crock pot, trying to keep the crisp top edges on the top in the crock pot as well.

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This is a pretty standard bread stuffing recipe, with the addition of roasted garlic and dried cranberries. I love the contrast between the smoky flavor of the roasted garlic and the sweet tang of the cranberries. Need help roasting garlic: click through to How To . . . Roast Garlic. It is pretty simple.

You can also add mushrooms, but I usually leave them out to appease my Mushroom-Hating-Children. Occasionally, however, I will chop them finely in the food processor, and then no one is the wiser.

You can use store-bought bread cubes, or make your own (highly recommended). Cube several different varieties of bread: white, wheat, rye, English muffins, bagels—all those ends that no one wants to eat. Spread in a single layer on large baking pans. If you have the time, and the humidity is not too high, just leave them sitting on the counter for 2-3 days to dry out. Stir them around occasionally. Be careful though: these sandwich ends that no one wanted to eat yesterday become just like candy to little fingers when they are turned into bread cubes. So start with more bread than you think you will need. Also: the bread will shrink as it dries, so start with more fresh bread than the dried cubes called for in the recipe.

If you are short on time, dry them in the oven at a very low heat (200°F max), stirring often. It will take about 1 hour to dry the bread in the oven.

RECIPE:

Roasted Garlic Stuffing

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½ cup butter
2 cups chopped onion
2 cups chopped celery
1 cup sliced or finely chopped mushrooms, optional
1 head of garlic, roasted (about 10 cloves)  <see How To. . . Roast Garlic>
12-13 cups dry bread cubes
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 Tbs fresh sage, finely chopped or 1 tsp dried sage
1 ½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped or 1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp marjoram
2 cups turkey or chicken broth (additional if needed)
1 cup dried cranberries, optional

Sauté onion, celery and mushrooms in butter. Crush roasted garlic cloves and stir into skillet. Pour vegetables over bread cubes in a large bowl. Mix in seasonings. Stir in enough broth to moisten. Stir in cranberries, if desired. Place in a covered casserole dish and bake at 325°F for 1 hour (or 400°F for 30 minutes).

COOKING TIPS: Stuffing can be prepared the day before and refrigerated overnight. If oven room is a problem, cook stuffing early in the day (before you put the turkey in the oven) for 30 minutes at 400°F. Transfer stuffing to a crock-pot and heat on very low heat until serving time.

Yield: this makes a lot! About 15-20 good-sized servings

 

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Southwestern Ham and White Bean Soup

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Thank goodness for crock pots on cold fall days full of errands and after-school activities for both kids and parents.

This soup is best made with a leftover meaty ham bone, but you can also start with a chopped ham steak. If my ham bone is not meaty enough to yield about 3 cups of chopped ham, I will usually add additional chopped ham to the soup.

If you are using a ham bone, this is a two-step crock pot soup. The ham bone simmers in a crock pot full of water and aromatic herbs, onion and garlic until the ham can easily be removed and chopped (about 4 hours on high). I like to strain out all of the little bits that fall off of the ham, along with the herb sprigs, and then return the strained broth to the crock pot with the chopped ham and additional ingredients. TIP: add remaining ingredients to the crock pot first, along with chopped ham. Then add strained broth until crock pot is full (then you don’t risk overflowing your crock pot adding in all of the good stuff).

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This soup has a southwestern flavor with the addition of salsa, diced hot green chilies, mild chilies, beans and corn. Plus some standard soup veges (onions, carrots, celery); you could add anything you are looking to get rid of in your produce drawer.

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Serve it plain or with any number of desired garnishes (cheese, green onions, crushed tortilla chips or baked tortilla strips, sour cream, olives, additional salsa or hot sauce). I have found that the likelihood of my children eating soup is directly proportional to the number of “toppings” they are allowed to pile on.

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Serve with these Cheddar and Herb Drop Biscuits

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RECIPE:

Southwestern Ham and White Bean Soup


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1 meaty ham bone
1 onion, quartered
4-6 cloves of garlic
Sprigs of fresh herbs: rosemary, sage, thyme,
————-oregano, and/or basil**
1 bay leaf
½ tsp cracked black pepper
1 yellow onion, diced
1-2 carrots, diced
2-3 stalks celery, diced
1-2 hot peppers, finely chopped
1 cup corn
3 cans white beans, drained
1 can diced green chilies
OPTIONAL: additional chopped ham, 2-3 cups total,
—————– (if ham bone is not very meaty)
2 cups salsa
salt
1/4 cup fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped
OPTIONAL GARNISHES: shredded cheese, tortilla strips or
———– crushed tortilla chips, green onions, sour cream,
———– additional salsa or hot sauce

Place the ham bone, onion, garlic, herbs, bay leaf and cracked pepper in a large crock pot. Add enough water to cover the ham bone (about 6-8 cups). Cook on high for 4 hours, or until ham begins to fall off of the bone.

Remove ham bone from the crock pot; allow to cool slightly and then chop ham into bite-sized pieces. Strain broth from the crock pot, reserving the broth. Discard herbs and ham bone. Add all remaining ingredients, except salt, parsley or cilantro and garnishes to the crock pot with the chopped ham. Add reserved broth until crock pot is full; add additional water, if necessary. Cover and cook on low for about 6 hours. Taste and salt as needed (about ½ – 1 tsp kosher salt, depending on saltiness of ham). Stir in parsley or cilantro.

Serve in bowls with desired garnishes.

**Note: You can also use dried herbs in place of the herb sprigs. Choose 2-3 herb varieties and add about ½ tsp of each.

 

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Crock Pot Italian Drip Beef

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This is a fabulous shredded beef sandwich recipe from Pioneer Woman. She cooked hers in a dutch oven, but I did mine in a crock pot. And I started with a completely frozen roast from my deep freeze. I put everything in the crock pot just before going to bed on a Saturday night, and it was all ready to serve after church on Sunday. It couldn’t have been easier!

A beef roast (any variety), a jar of pepperoncini peppers, Italian seasoning and beef broth. That is the simple cast of characters.

The vinegar from the peppers gives this beef a fabulous tanginess. And these peppers are not spicy, so the whole family will love it.

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Just before serving, toast up some buttered, cheese topped deli rolls.

050810 020-1 Top  rolls with your shredded beef and peppers.

050810 028-1 Serve your sandwiches with a small bowl of juices from the crock pot for a fabulous dunking sandwich.

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Just don’t forget the napkins!

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RECIPE:

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Crock Pot Italian Drip Beef
————-(adapted from Pioneer Woman)

1 whole beef chuck roast or sirloin tip roast, about 4 lb
2 cups beef broth
1/4 cup Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
1 jar (16 oz) pepperoncini peppers, undrained
Deli rolls
Butter
Provolone or cheddar cheese slices

Combine all ingredients (except rolls, butter and cheese slices) in a crock pot. Do not drain pepperoncini-pour entire jar into the crock pot.

Cook at low heat for 8 to 10 hours. (I started with a completely frozen roast and it took about 10 hours to be fork tender.)

Remove roast from crock pot and place in a large bowl. Discard any large fat pieces. Use two forks to shred the meat. Remove pepperoncini from the crock pot and stir into shredded meat (I like to remove the stems from the peppers at this point, but that is optional). If desired, strain remaining liquid in the crock pot, reserving the strained juices.

Slice rolls almost in half. Open rolls and place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Spread with butter. Toast at 400°F for about 5 minutes, or until rolls are slightly crispy but not overly brown. Top with cheese slices and return to oven until cheese melts—watch carefully so that you don’t burn the rolls!

Serve meat and peppers on the toasted rolls with a small bowl of the juices for dipping.

Serves 8-10

 

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Crock Pot Thai Pork Wraps

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As we head into kids’ spring sports seasons, crock-pot meals make a more frequent appearance in our house. I especially like this one in the spring and summer, because it is not a heavy meal like many crock pot meals tend to be.

Cooked and shredded pork in a slightly spicy peanut sauce, topped with crisp, cool cucumber slices and lettuce. Sprinkle with some chopped peanuts and an Asian dressing, and roll the whole thing up in a tortilla (or use whole lettuce leaves for a twist on the traditional lettuce wrap).

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You can use either pork tenderloins or a cheaper pork loin. After cooking in the crock pot all day, both will turn out super tender. Simply put the pork in your crock pot. Combine sauce ingredients (except peanut butter) and pour over pork. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or until pork is tender enough to shred.

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Remove the pork roast from the crock pot and shred with forks. Stir some peanut butter (either creamy or chunky) into the sauce in the crock pot. Return pork to crock pot and mix into sauce. Stir in some Thai basil (cilantro also adds a nice flavor, if you don’t have Thai basil).

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I grew Thai basil in our garden last year and loved it! I brought some inside in the fall and have been trying to nurture it along during the winter. I am excited to plant outside again soon!

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DSC02840-1I serve this in warmed tortillas with lettuce, chopped peanuts, sliced cucumbers and an Asian dressing (which is completely optional; the wraps are flavorful enough that you don’t need additional dressing, but the slightly sour vinegar taste does add a nice flavor).

For the cucumber, I use a seedless cucumber and slice it into wide julienned strips. Peel and slice cucumber in half crosswise (giving you 2 cylinders). Cut in half again lengthwise. Slice each piece lengthwise into very thin strips (they should resemble long rectangles, not half-circles).

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This in our favorite Asian dressing. It is found in the supermarket in the produce section by the sushi. You could also use any Asian ginger or sesame/tahini based dressing, as well.

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The flavorful, tender pork topped by the crunchy peanuts and cool, crisp cucumbers and lettuce make for a great texture combination. And the convenience of preparing it early in the day is definitely a plus on hectic weeknights.

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RECIPE:

Crock Pot Thai Pork Wraps

2-3 lb pork loin roast (or pork tenderloins)
¼ cup soy sauce
2 Tbs lemon juice
3 Tbs brown sugar
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
½ cup peanut butter
2-3 Tbs chopped fresh Thai basil or cilantro

Tortillas (or use iceberg/Bibb lettuce for lettuce wraps)
Chopped lettuce
Julienned cucumbers
Finely chopped peanuts
Asian dressing (we like the Miso flavored dressing, found in the produce section by the sushi in our grocery store, but any ginger or sesame/tahini based dressing would be good)

Place pork roast in crock pot. Combine soy sauce, lemon juice, brown sugar, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Pour over roast. Cook on low for about 6-8 hours (about half that on high). Remove pork and skim excess fat. Stir in peanut butter. Shred pork and return to crock pot. Turn crock pot to high and cook for 5-10 minutes uncovered (longer if pork is too liquidy). Stir in Thai basil or cilantro just before serving.

Chop lettuce. Finely chop peanuts. Julienne cucumbers: Peel and slice cucumber in half crosswise (giving you 2 cylinders). Cut in half again lengthwise. Slice each piece lengthwise into very thin strips (they should resemble long rectangles, not half-circles).

To serve: Place pork in tortillas. Top with lettuce, cucumbers, peanuts and dressing.

**These are also good eaten as lettuce wraps; just use iceberg or Bibb lettuce instead of tortillas.

 

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Four Fun Fondues

Continuing with our All-Dipping-All-Day Christmas menu, for dinner/dessert we made four fondues:

Kid-Friendly Cheese Fondue
Pizza Fondue
Dark Chocolate Fondue
Vanilla Custard Fondue
– specifically for the non-chocolate eating Little A, but it was definitely enjoyed by all!

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Today I will share our savory fondues: the cheese and pizza fondues, and then tomorrow everyone’s favorites: the dessert fondues.

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The Kid Friendly Cheese Fondue was a pretty standard cheese fondue recipe, but I substituted chicken broth for most of the wine (which I completely boiled down to remove the alcohol) and used a combination of Gruyere and Muenster cheeses, for a slightly milder taste than an all Gruyere/Swiss combination.

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The Pizza Fondue was a super fun kid favorite. The dip was an easy-to-assemble “pizza sauce” full of sausage and chopped pepperoni. We then dipped bread cubes, mozzarella cubes, and other “pizza toppings” (olives, mushrooms, peppers, broccoli-you can get creative here!) in the sauce. If you let the cheese cubes sit in the fondue for a little while (on your stick), it gets wonderfully melted and gooey! Or try putting two or three pizza items on a fondue stick for the full pizza experience.

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The bread and vegetable trays were shared between the two fondues.

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The cheese cubes were just for the pizza fondue-cheese on cheese is a little too much for even a cheese-lover like me.

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What to do with leftover pizza fondue? Make a real pizza, of course! Make (or buy) a crust, use the fondue for the sauce, top with the chunks of mozzarella and slice up your favorite toppings from the dipping plate. I love getting two family-friendly meals from one day of food prep!

And how about that leftover cheese fondue? Heat it up again with some heavy cream or half-and-half, pour it over some sliced potatoes (add some onions and diced red peppers, if you want) and bake until tender. Then pretend you slaved all day over these fabulous Au Gratin Potatoes.

What to do if you don’t own a fondue pot? Or don’t have enough fondue pots for an all-out fondue party? Here are a few alternatives for fondue pots:

  • Crock-pots: these are a fabulous way to keep things warm, without burning your delicate cheese or chocolate
  • Double boiler: heat water in the bottom pot of a double boiler, set on a trivet and put your top pot with your fondue mixture over the hot water. The water should stay hot enough to keep your fondue from solidifying while you eat. You can “make your own” double boiler by using a saucepan (one with small side handles is best) for the water and a glass or ceramic mixing bowl to hold your fondue.
  • Single-burner tabletop butane/propane stove (camp stove). Just be sure to keep the flame on low, and on a secure surface. These work really well for broth or oil fondues where you are actually cooking things (as opposed to just dipping them) and need to maintain a higher temperature.

Recipes:

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Kid-Friendly Cheese Fondue

12 oz shredded cheese (I used 8 oz Gruyere and 4 oz Muenster)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
1 Tbs sherry, optional
Dash white pepper
1 clove garlic, halved
Dipping items: French bread cubes, fresh vegetables, cooked and cubed meats (sausage, chicken, shrimp)

Combine shredded cheeses and cornstarch. Set aside.

In a saucepan, heat wine to a boil. Boil and reduce wine until there is only 1-2 tablespoons of liquid remaining (watch pot carefully, or you will end up with a very burned saucepan). Add chicken broth and sherry and bring mixture just barely to the boiling point. Reduce heat and stir in cheese/cornstarch mixture, a handful at a time. Stir in each handful of cheese until melted. Stir in pepper. Cook until mixture bubbles gently and cheese is completely melted.

Fill bottom portion of a fondue pot with very hot water. Place over flame. Rub your  ceramic fondue pot insert* with the garlic clove halves. Discard garlic. Pour cheese mixture into ceramic fondue pot insert and place over hot water. Use skewers or fondue forks to dip bread, vegetables or meats in cheese.

*NOTE: Cheese fondues should not be placed directly over a flame. They will burn or clump easily. If your fondue pot does not have a ceramic insert (allowing you to create a double boiler), use a glass or ceramic bowl that fits just over the lip of your fondue pot.

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Pizza Fondue

1/2 lb sausage, mild or spicy
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 jar meatless pasta sauce
6 oz pepperoni slices, finely chopped
1 Tbs chopped fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried oregano
1/8 tsp (or more) crushed red pepper flakes
Cubed crusty French bread
Fresh mozzarella balls or cubed mozzarella
Vegetables: mushrooms, red or green peppers, whole olives, broccoli, pineapple-any of your favorite pizza toppings!

Cook sausage and onion; drain. Stir in sauce, pepperoni, oregano and red pepper flakes. Simmer for at least 30 minutes. Or put into a crock pot and cook for 3-4 hours on low.

Serve in a fondue pot or crock pot with skewers to dip cubed bread, cheese and vegetables.

Hint: leave your cheese in the sauce (on its skewer) for a few minutes and it will be nice and melted- just don’t overdo it or you will lose your cheese completely!


 

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Dulce de Leche (Six Ways) PART ONE

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So what do you do when swine flu rages in your house for SIX WEEKS,  often leaving you housebound with feverish, coughing demanding children (and one spouse), eventually leading to bronchitis and pneumonia?  I mean besides trying to hide Tylenol in Gatorade for the medicine-hating little people in the house.

What else – experiment with Dulce de Leche!

With hours of time on my hands, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to play with milk, sugar, vanilla beans and lots and lots of sweetened condensed milk.  Eagle Brand sweet milk was on sale 2/$3, so I stocked up! I will admit to some embarrassment explaining to the check-out girl why I had 20 cans of sweet milk in my cart. Can’t people just mind their own business in the grocery store?

The following post is not for the faint of heart, or risk-adverse home chef. We are talking about risking exploding cans, shattered jars, and possibly a little botulism thrown in for good measure. Not to mention the risk of covering your kitchen in oozing-sticky-wonderful-caramel heaven! Or the temptation to sit and eat this stuff straight out the can.

Dulce de Leche (pronounced Dool-say De Lechay) is a caramelized milk that originated in Latin America. Nestle sells it premade in a can, often found in the ethnic section of the grocery store (by the Latin foods). But, as I have found, it is very easy and much cheaper to make at home. I will show you how to make it SIX different ways, so there is something here for everyone, even those who are not willing to risk exploding cans. And for the true gourmet, who wouldn’t dream of starting with a can, there is even a homemade option (which really is to die for).

In short the six ways that I tried are:

  • STOVETOP (in the can)
  • CROCKPOT (in the can)
  • OVEN (from a can, but not still in the can)
  • DOUBLE BOILER (from a can, but not still in the can)
  • PRESSURE CANNER (from a can, but in a jar)
  • HOMEMADE (no cans here)

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This is “the can”. Who knew that such an innocuous looking can could have the potential for such greatness!

 

So, on to the results. You might want to get up and make yourself a snack first; this is an exhaustive study of the process of turning milk and sugar into one of the most wonderful creations ever! Today I will share the first two (danger of exploding cans) methods. Besides the taste, what I love about these two methods is that you can make a lot at one time. And then the cans are shelf stable. They sit waiting, patiently, for when you need a can for that perfect recipe (and you don’t have a few hours to whip up fresh dulce de leche) or when the apple on your lunch plate is just calling out for something to dip itself in.

Stay tuned later this week for methods three – six.

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STOVETOP (in the can)

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This method is easy, but is only for those who like to flirt with danger. It is actually only dangerous if you forget to check on your water levels, but I will give my disclaimer now that Borden (the company that makes Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk) does NOT recommend this method for making Dulce de Leche. Since they don’t recommend it, I don’t either (but I will still make it!)

  1. Start with a large stockpot. Place a rack in the bottom of the pot (mine has a steamer insert that I used). Many websites that give this method do not use a rack in the pot. The first time I made it without a rack, and the caramel in the bottom of my cans ended up slightly on the burned side. I did use a terrible thin pot, so if you have a nice thick one, this might not be a problem for you. But the second time around, I used a rack and the caramel cooked evenly through the can. The rack also kept the cans from making terrible noise as the water came to a boil.
  2. DSC01777Remove the labels from your sweetened condensed milk. Place unopened, label-free cans  into the bottom of your stockpot. You can use as many as will fit in one layer in your pot.
  3. Fill pot with room temperature tap water. Cover cans completely with water. The water level should be at least 2 inches above the cans.
  4. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, for 3 hours.
    ***The water level must remain above the top of the cans. If not—this is when you end up cleaning caramel from exploding cans off of the top of your ceiling and every surface beneath it*** To ensure that you don’t forget that you are cooking when you go off and start another project, set a timer for 30 minutes. Check water level (add more boiling water, if necessary), then set the timer again for another 30 minutes. Continue setting the timer in 30 minute increments until the 3 hours are up.
  5. Remove pan from heat, remove lid, and let water cool for 30-60 minutes before removing cans.
  6. DSC01751.jpgUnopened cans can be stored on a pantry shelf (use a marker to label cans). Opened cans need to be refrigerated.

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CROCKPOT (in the can)

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As this is another “cooked in an unopened can” method, I will refer you to the disclaimer above. . .  Now that I have not recommended that you use this method, let me tell you how much I loved this! It was easy. easy. easy. And delicious!

  1. Remove labels from sweetened condensed milk cans. Do not open cans.
  2. Place cans in the bottom of a crock pot.
  3. Cover cans completely with room temperature water. **Be sure that water completely covers cans**
  4. Place the lid on the crock pot and cook on low heat for 8 hours. (The water level in my crock pot stayed the same for the entire cooking time, so there was no need to add additional water.)
  5. Turn off crock pot, remove lid and let water cool 30-60 minutes before removing cans.DSC02492
  6. Unopened cans can be stored on a pantry shelf (use a marker to label cans). Opened cans need to be refrigerated.

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Both of these methods produced a dulce de leche that was delicious! It was thick and rich and a wonderful caramel color. Of the two, cooking it in the crock pot was the easier method.  Even though it takes a little longer, it was easier than worrying about maintaining water levels. If you do choose to try one of these methods, just remember to keep cans completely covered with water and let the cooking water cool slightly before removing cans. This will help to reduce “temperature shocks” which could cause the cans to burst.

 


 

 

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Filed under Canning/Freezing, Condiments/Sauces, Desserts