Category Archives: Slow Cooker

What I’ve Been Cooking Lately

tableHi guys! Long time no see! I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. We had a cah-razy Thanksgiving week with a lot of travel. The weekend before Turkey Day we flew to Kansas City for a night, then drove to Branson, MO and spent a few days with Robert’s family at Big Cedar Lodge. We then drove back to KC for Thanksgiving, flew home to Chicago for a night, and then drove up to Detroit for our final wedding of the year and back home again. Phew! I can’t believe all of that happened within the span of one week. At 25.5 weeks, baby sure has racked up some miles already! I must say, it feels so great to be home.

I haven’t posted a recipe in a while, but I’ve been cooking A LOT. We’ve been so fortunate to host family and friends several times over the past few months. It’s funny, when Robert and I were registering for wedding gifts (best thing ever) he’d joke about the imaginary life I had in my head in which we throw dinner parties all the time. Before we got married we just didn’t do it very often. But over the past year we’ve been hosting more and more and I absolutely love it. We’ve become quite the team when having people over.

I must say: dinner parties at home > dinner out. It’s just so much more laid back and enjoyable!

Currently, I feel like I’m going through a phase where I’m really enjoying following recipes pretty much to the word. It’s a great way to sharpen my skills in the kitchen and get back to basics. At the same time, following recipes gives me the confidence I need to make things I’ve never made before (like penne alla vodka–from scratch!) Lately, I’ve been all about comfort foods and no one does comfort better, in my opinion, than the Barefoot Contessa. So you’ll see quite a few links to her recipes below.

Here are some of my favorite recipes lately:

Barefoot Contessa Italian wedding soup I made this soup for a big group of friends we had over on a Sunday afternoon. I served it with a big salad, cornbread, and apple cider cupcakes.

Barefoot Contessa penne alla vodka This is going to sound insane, but I actually decided to make this recipe on a whim as a way to use up some ingredients we had on hand including lots of frozen pureed tomatoes from our CSA this summer and some heavy cream. It’s probably the most extravagant clean-out-the-fridge meal I’ve ever made. It was delicious.

Barefoot Contessa winter minestrone soup with garlic bruschetta I’d been eyeing this recipe for as long as I can remember and I’m so happy I finally got a chance to make it when a friend visited for lunch one day last month. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I’m definitely going to make a few batches to freeze before baby arrives in March!

Smitten Kitchen sweet and sour holiday brisket in the slower cooker from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.This November, my parents and sister visited for a weekend. I had this brisket ready for them when they arrived late Friday night. I served it with roasted carrots and potatoes (recipe is also from the cookbook), sauteed shredded brussels sprout salad, and apple spice cake for dessert.

Smitten Kitchen big cluster maple granola from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. I make a batch of this with raisins every week or two so I always have a container of it in my pantry. I love having a big bowl of granola with sliced bananas and milk most mornings. I’ve also been known to have a bowl when I occasionally wake up starving around 3 or 4am : )

Quiche Oh my goodness we’ve been eating so much quiche lately. It’s my favorite way to clean out the veggie drawer and finish up any remaining eggs each week. I use this recipe as my base, mostly for the instructions. Lately I’ve been taking a much simpler approach with shallot, canadian bacon, and arugula or spinach. Yum! I even made two of them while we were away with Robert’s family last week.

Slow Cooker Applesauce

Slow cooker applesauceWow. I just want to say a huge THANK YOU for your happy wishes after our big announcement last week! I was so nervous about sharing the news. There were a few high-pitched squeals followed by a jig around 6 a.m. when I hit “publish.” Later this week I’ll be sharing a first trimester recap post. But today, I’m so excited to share with you my new favorite thing: Slow cooker applesauce!

If you’ve never made homemade applesauce before, it far exceeds anything you could buy in a store. The taste, the texture, the color—there’s just nothing like it! Until last week I’d always made homemade applesauce on the stove, cooking apples in a little water until they were soft enough to put through the food mill. Then, it occurred to me that using the slow cooker could mean I wouldn’t have to stand over the stove. Happily, it worked like a charm and will be my go-to method from now on.Slow cooker applesauce

For the recipe below I recommend using a food mill. Although there aren’t that many uses for it, I highly recommend acquiring this kitchen gadget. {I imagine it’ll also come in handy when I start making baby food—I can’t wait for that!} Funny side note: The two kitchen tools Robert contributed to our relationship are a food mill and an immersion blender. The man loves his pureed foods!

If you don’t have a food mill, this recipe will still work. You’ll just need to peel and core the apples before quartering them and dumping them into the slow cooker. The reason I prefer to use the food mill, though, is because you get that beautiful pinkish color from cooking the apples with their skins. I promise it’ll still be delish no matter which method you use {instructions for both are below.}

Slow cooker applesauce

There are so many applesauce recipes on the Internet that call for sugar or butter. That BAH-LOWS my mind because you don’t need anything except apples, cinnamon, and a little water. I have a mega sweet tooth and I guarantee homemade applesauce is sweet enough on its own. I just love this stuff. After cooling the applesauce in the fridge, I packaged it into Ball jars and then froze most of them. We still have two GIANT bags of apples from our apple picking adventure in Michigan a few weeks ago, so I’m sure I’ll be making more batches in the coming weeks.

One more note: The recipe doesn’t contain exact measurements because it depends on the size of your slow cooker and how cinnamon-y you like your applesauce to be. We’re huge cinnamon fans so I sprinkle the stuff pretty liberally. The great news is you can taste as you go to determine a level that makes your taste buds happy.Slow cooker applesauce

Slow Cooker Applesauce

Ingredients

  • A mix of any kind of apples, quartered. If using a food mill, leave the skins on. Use as many as you think will fit into your slow cooker. If you don’t have a food mill, peel and core your apples first.
  • 1 or 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/4 to 1 cup of water, depending on the size of your slow cooker. I have a 6.5 quart slow cooker and used about 1 cup of water. If you have a standard 4 quart size slow cooker, I’d recommend about ½ to ¾ cup of water.
  • Ground cinnamon

Preparation 

With a food mill:

Add apples (unpeeled, uncored, and quartered), cinnamon stick(s), and water to slow cooker. The apples can go all the way to the top as long as the lid fits securely on. Cook on low for 4 hours. Lift lid and stir with a wooden spoon. Apples should break down easily when you stir.

Place food mill over a heat-safe bowl and ladle some apples and liquid into the food mill. Turn to make applesauce. You may need to empty the food mill of skin, seeds, and core into the trash a few times while making the applesauce. Continue this process until your slow cooker is empty.

Taste applesauce and add some ground cinnamon, about 1 tsp at a time, until you find a level of cinnamonness that you enjoy!

Without a food mill:

Add apples (peeled, cored, and quartered), cinnamon stick(s), and water to slow cooker. The apples can go all the way to the top as long as the lid fits securely on. Cook on low for 4 hours. Lift lid and stir with a wooden spoon. Apples should break down easily when you stir.

Pour contents of slow cooker into a blender, in batches, or use an immersion blender until you achieve desired consistency.

Taste applesauce and add some ground cinnamon, about 1 tsp at a time, until you find a level of cinnamonness that you enjoy!

#Whole30 Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Soup

#Whole30 Slow Cooker Mexican Soup

Three posts in one week! It’s a miracle! After being away from this blog during our whirlwind spring of weddings and travel it is soooo good to be back. I hope I’m not boring you too much with the Whole 30 thing. I promise not to talk about it allllll the time. Really, I’m just making good, clean food here. You can label it whatever you want or don’t label it at all. Just make it, enjoy it, and feel good. That’s all anyone can ask for, right?

This week I had a mega hankering for my favorite slow cooker chicken tortilla soup. It was a little chillier here in Chicago (though still nice) so I knew it would be great for lunches. I’m happy to say it did not disappoint.

I updated my favorite slow cooker chicken tortilla soup recipe by ditching the beans and corn and packing in even more veggies than before. The result was stellar. It has all of the same kick and flavors as my beloved recipe with an even greater nutritional bonus. That’s what I call a win-win.

Soup’s on!

#Whole30 Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Soup

#Whole30 Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1-1.5 lbs)
  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 to 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, mined
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup salsa (read the label to make sure it doesn’t contain any funky ingredients like sugar)
  • 2 to 3 handfuls baby spinach
  • Juice of 1 lime

Preparation

Place the chicken breasts, tomatoes, and chicken broth in the slow cooker. In a microwave-safe glass bowl add the carrots, celery, red bell pepper, onion, jalapeño, garlic, olive oil, cumin, chili powder, and oregano. Mix to coat everything evenly in oil and spices. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Stir. Microwave for 2 more minutes. Stir. If veggies aren’t softened, microwave 1-2 more minutes. Dump the veggies into the slow cooker. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours. When it’s done cooking, remove chicken breasts to a cutting board and shred with two forks. Return chicken to slow cooker. Mix in salsa and spinach. Continue cooking on low for 15 to 30 minutes more. Right before serving, squeeze juice of one lime.

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

Let’s be honest. If you live anywhere within the Polar Vortex it’s hibernation time. I’m pretty much in hibernation mode between now and March. At first I try to fight it–making plans and lists of fun things to do–but I’m throwing in the towel and just letting it happen this year. For me, hibernation means tons of time at home (many weekends included), fires in the fireplace, movies on TV, reading books, plenty of sleep, and a healthy dose of laziness.

It also means warm, comforting meals. That’s where the slow cooker really shines. If you ask me what’s the one must-have kitchen appliance it would, without a doubt, be a slow cooker. Seriously. If you’ve been on the fence about getting one, just do it. It’s worth every single penny and doesn’t even require that many pennies. You can score a great slow cooker on Amazon.

I adore chili and this is a super healthy version you can make that requires minimal prep time. The only thing you have to do is brown the ground turkey in a skillet. Conveniently, you can chop your veggies in the time it takes the meat to cook. Dump it all in the slow cooker and you’re good to go. I even snuck some spinach in there for an extra dose of greens in your day.

Stay warm out there!

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 pound ground turkey breast
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped (keep the seeds if you like it spicy, discard if you don’t)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers (I used an orange & yellow)
  • 2 (15 oz) cans no salt added black beans, drained and rinsed*
  • 2 (15 oz) cans no salt added kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 (15 oz) cans no salt added tomato sauce
  • 2 (15 oz) cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp red chili pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1.5 cups frozen yellow corn
  • 2-3 heaping handfuls baby spinach
  • Avocado for garnish (optional)

Preparation

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add ground turkey to skillet, season with salt and pepper to taste, cook until it starts to brown. While turkey cooks, chop your veggies. To the slow cooker add jalapeno, onion, pepper, beans, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, and red chili pepper flakes. Add turkey. Cook on low for 6 hours. Add corn and spinach. Cook on low until spinach wilts, about 10 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Serve in bowls and top with chunks of avocado or any other desired toppings.

*Note: I’ve made this recipe using beans and tomatoes in BPA-free packaging (boxes and glass jars). Although the measurements of those packages differ slightly, I’ve tested the recipe both ways and it works so use whatever you have available.

Source: Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod 

 

Slow Cooker Beef Chili

Slow Cooker Beef Chili ABalancedLifeCooks.comWell, here we are. The Monday after Thanksgiving. Cyber Monday for those who plan on doing a little holiday shopping. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Our long weekend was everything I hoped for and more: Lots of cooking, eating, and relaxing. Our Thanksgiving for three was a total success, 12 pound bird and all. I loved cooking the whole meal and now I’m ready to host Thanksgiving for 20. Who’s coming next year?

So let’s talk chili. If you’ve had your fill of turkey for a while (I know we have) this chili offers the ideal diversion and then some. I don’t know what’s taken me so long to make beef chili in the slow cooker, but it won’t be long before I make this exact recipe again.

Even Robert, who’s the most chili obsessed person I know (one time at a diner he ordered a chili cheeseburger and a bowl of chili IN THE SUMMER) declared it top 5 meals of all time. High praise indeed. The secret ingredient, cloves, comes courtesy of the chili his mom makes, which I finally got to taste last time we were in Kansas. Just trust me on this. A mere 1/4 tsp of ground cloves makes all of the flavors pop and provides a special type of heat. Not a spicy heat, but a warming heat. I’m so thrilled to finally have a go-to beef chili recipe and I hope you love it as much as we do.

DSCN3031

Slow Cooker Beef Chili

Serves 6-8

Ingedients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 lbs. lean ground beef (I used 85%)
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 (16 oz) can red kidney beans, undrained
  • 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • Salt and pepper, if needed
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels

Preparation

In a skillet, heat about 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until it begins to soften, about 5-8 minutes. Add garlic cook until fragrant, 30-60 seconds. Add ground beef. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beef starts to brown. Add chili powder, cumin, and cloves. Mix until everything is coated.

To the slow cooker add browned beef mixture, kidney beans, and tomato sauce, and diced tomatoes. Cook on low 6-8 hours. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Add frozen corn and cook on low for 5-10 minutes until thawed and heated through.

 

Slow Cooker 11 Bean Soup

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Brrrrrrrr! It’s downright wintery around these parts and I, for one, couldn’t be happier. Monday it SNOWED big fat fluffy flakes. I love the cold! I love the snow, skiing, sweaters, cozy blankets, comforting foods, fires, hot mugs of tea, baking cookies…I could go on. I’m sure I’ll be singing a different tune when this weather lingers well into March and April– sometimes even May, ugh–but for now, I’m one happy camper.

Whether you’re as psyched about the frigid temps as I am or wish you were tanning on a caribbean beach, I have a meal that will warm you right to the core: Slow cooker 11 bean soup. It’s vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free. I’ve noticed there aren’t enough meatless meals around these parts. I’m going to change that for you!

I have a secret behind this meal that takes very little work: Use a dried bean soup mix. I’m sure you’ve seen them before–the packages usually contain dried beans and a spice packet. Except in the recipe below, we’ll toss all of the instructions aside and use mine instead. Deal? Deal. I used this mix by Frontier Soups that I found on our honeymoon. You can buy it online. Another good option is Hearty Eleven Bean Soup from World Market. Any kind will do (and it doesn’t need to have exactly 11 kinds of beans) as long as it already includes a spice packet. Then you just chop up some veggies, dump it all into the slow cooker, and stir in some tomatoes and spinach at the end. Wrap your chilled hands around a warm bowl of this soup, cozy up to someone you love, and I promise we’ll all make it through the winter just fine.

Slow Cooker 11 Bean Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 package dried bean soup mix with a bouquet garni (packet) of herbs such as Frontier Soups Hearty Meals Minnesota Heartland Eleven Bean Soup 
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 (32 oz) cartons of low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 3-4 heaping handfuls baby spinach
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

In a slow cooker, add dried bean soup mix, bouquet garni of herbs, carrots, celery, onion, tomato paste, and vegetable broth. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours. Add tomatoes and spinach. Cook about 10-15 minutes longer until spinach is wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Slow Cooker Chicken Stew

Slow Cooker Chicken Stew

Slow Cooker Chicken Stew

I have a new BFF in the kitchen. Her name is wine. I’ve cooked with more bottles of wine in the past two months than I can possibly count. (Just see here, here, and here.) It’s simply the best flavorizer around and any time I add wine to something I’m cooking I know I’m taking it to the next level. I’ve heard it said (achem…Ina Garten…achem) you should cook with wine you’d like to drink, which I interpret as you should use good, high-quality wine and not, like, the boxed stuff.

But you know what? I happen to enjoy drinking Trader Joe’s two buck chuck thankyouverymuch, so that’s what I tend to use when I cook. I usually pick up a bottle of red (merlot) and white (chardonnay) every week when I do my shopping. Two bottles of wine for $6? (They’re actually $2.99 each). Sign me up!

Of course, the bonus of cooking with wine is it would practically be a sin not to pour yourself a glass while you cook. And when you’ve just sweat your way through an hour-long heated Yoga Sculpt class a glass of wine is pretty much all you need (after a big glass of coconut water of course!)

Oh my, I sound like a lush.

But really, when it comes to elevating the quality of a meal with wine I can’t think of a better example than this chicken stew. I’m sure we’ve all had chicken stew before and it always tastes delicious. But add some white wine after sauteeing the onions and garlic and you’ve got yourself a fancy shmancy stew that’s totally weeknight doable AND uses the slow cooker. Win! You can even think of this stew as a classier and healthier version of chicken pot pie since there’s no crust or cream. Serve it with warm cornbread muffins and it’s still every bit as crowd-pleasing and filling.

Slow cooker chicken stew via ABalancedLifeCooks.com

Slow Cooker Chicken Stew

Serves 6

Ingredients

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast

olive oil

2 onions, chopped

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbsp tomato paste

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup white wine

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

12 oz red potatoes, cut into bite-sized cunks

5 carrots, peeled and sliced

1 bay leaf

1 cup frozen peas

Preparation

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat some olive oil in a medium-sized pan over medium-high heat. Working in batches, brown chicken on both sides. Add additional oil as needed. Transfer chicken to bowl when browned.

While chicken cooks, add potatoes, carrots, and 1 Tbsp olive oil to a microwave-safe glass bowl. Microwave on high in 2 minute intervals, stirring in between, for a total of about 8-10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add to slow cooker.

Once all chicken is removed from pan, heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in pan. Add onions, garlic, tomato paste, and thyme. Cook about 10-15 minutes until onions soften. Stir in flour, cook 1 minute more. Slowly whisk in wine, scraping up browned bits on bottom of pan. Whisk in 1 cup chicken broth. Transfer contents of pan to bottom of slow cooker.

Add chicken and any accumulated juices to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 4 to 6 hours.

Once cooked, transfer chicken to cutting board and shred using two forks. Add chicken back into slow cooker. Add 1 cup of peas, cover until peas are heated through, about 5 minutes. When ready to serve, season with salt and pepper to taste.