Category Archives: Slow Cooker

Slow Cooker Black Bean Chili

My little slow cooker has been quite busy this week–and rightly so. We’ve had some of the coldest days here in Chicago in years. Having lived in New York, Utah, Vermont, and now Chicago I like to think I’m pretty good about the cold. But the truth is all I want to do is snuggle up in about 10 blankets by the fire, drink tea, and read books all day. Since there’s life and work to keep up with, plus the fact that we don’t have a fireplace, I tried to create that same level of comfort with our meals this week. Not only does the slow cooker guarantee a warm-you-from-the-inside dinner, it makes the house smell incredible for hours, which is a kind of cozy, homey comfort for me.

Let’s talk about this chili because it turned out even better than I imagined–and I already had high hopes. There are just so many different flavors: onion, garlic, jalapenos, chiles in adobo sauce, chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Get your spice rack ready!

If you ever thought vegetarian meals are lacking in flavor (does anyone think that?) this meal would surely prove you wrong. Although the first few steps require a little more work than the typical toss in the slow cooker approach, they are so, so worth it.

Just chop your onions, jalapenos, and garlic cloves. Sautee in some olive oil. Your home already smells amazing.

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Add your spices.  Cook about 10 more minutes.

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Add some veggie broth and scrape up brown bits (aka flavor)

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Pour everything into the slow cooker.

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Wait 7 hours…Party.

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Garnish with plenty of fresh cilantro (not pictured) and sliced avocado. Serve over brown rice or quinoa if desired.

Have a great weekend! I start Sculpt training tomorrow. Freaking. Out.

Slow Cooker Black Bean Chili

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

Olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 red onion, chopped

2 jalapeno chiles, stemmed, seeded, and minced

6 garlic cloves, minced

3 Tbsp chili powder

1 Tbsp cumin

1 Tbsp dried oregano

4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

1 cup water

1 pound dried black beans, picked over and rinsed

10 oz white mushrooms, sliced

2 Tbsp minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce (about 2 chiles minced)

2 Tbsp adobo sauce from canned chipotle chile in adobo

2 bay leaves

1 (28 oz) can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped

Salt & pepper

Garnish: chopped cilantro, avocado

Preparation

1. Heat about 1 Tbsp oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, jalapenos, and garlic. Saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Saute until vegetables brown and soften, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1 cup vegetable broth, scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add to slow cooker.

2. To the slow cooker add: remaining vegetable broth, water, beans, mushrooms, minced chipotles, adobo sauce, and bay leaves. Cover and cook until beans are tender, 9 to 11 hours on low or 5 to 7 hours on high.

3. When done cooking, discard bay leaves. Transfer 1 cup of cooked beans to a bowl and mash with potato masher or back of fork until smooth. Return mashed beans to slow cooker. Add tomatoes into chili. Once heated through, about 5 minutes, season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution 

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Slow Cooker Lentil Stew

There are some healthy foods that make me feel even healthier than others. I realize this is completely ridiculous. Like spinach? Broccoli? Eh, those are old-school healthy. Kale is better, but Swiss chard is like crazy-super healthy probably because it’s a mystery to me. I feel the same way about lentils. Once you put lentils into a meal it automatically shoots the health-factor through the roof. It’s practically impossible to make an unhealthy meal once you’ve added lentils into the mix. Only good things can happen.

Every time I cook lentils I think of Dr. Oz. I remember reading an article in Time magazine about how he cheated before undergoing a colonoscopy and ate the day before. During the test his colon was dotted with lentils, which obscured the result. I’m not sure why that stuck with me, but it’s probably because it’s just totally absurd. You blew your colonoscopy because you ate lentils? Seriously Dr. Oz? The story would’ve been way better if his colon was clogged up with a cheeseburger.

Truth be told, I have iffy feelings about veggie stews because they can end up kind of mushy (gross), but this meal fell into no such trap. The carrots, cauliflower, and lentils maintained a slight firmness to them even after hanging out in the slow cooker for 8 hours. Meanwhile, the flavors totally melded together–just as they should in a stew. It tasted earthy, a little bit spicy, and just a bit sweet. I loved, too, how every bite was packed with so many different ingredients. It’s a huge bonus, but I’ll admit the prep requires quite a bit of chopping. Problem solved: I chopped all of my veggies the night before and stored them in reusable containers in the fridge (see below). They were ready for action the next morning. 

The recipe makes a lot (you should probably be smarter than I was and freeze some), which is why I ate the stew for two dinners and three lunches last week. Let’s just say that by the end of the week I practically felt like the patron saint of health. As a result I was totally okay calling movie theater popcorn and a diet coke dinner Saturday night when we saw Skyfall (so good!) Balance : )

Slow Cooker Lentil Stew

Serves: At least 6

Ingredients

1 cup chopped onion (about 2 small or 1 large onion)

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

3 celery stalks, chopped

1 large leek (or 2 small), white and light green parts chopped

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp cayenne (more if you like it spicier)

Salt & pepper

1 head cauliflower, chopped into tiny florets

14 oz dried green lentils, rinsed and picked through

1 (28 oz) can no salt added diced tomatoes

4 cups low sodium vegetable broth

Preparation:

Combine onion through salt and pepper in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion and carrots soften. Add to slow cooker. To the slow cooker add cauliflower, lentils, tomatoes, and broth. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

Adapted from The Shiksa in the Kitchen originally from the Weelicious cookbook

 

Tex-Mex Chicken Stew (Slow Cooker)

I always thought that if you weren’t dining out for Valentine’s Day you should cook something with meat. What better way to show your love than with a thick, juicy pan-seared ribeye or boozy beef bourguignon? But as V-Day rolled around the idea of meat became less and less appealing to me. I had just returned from a week in L.A. where many of my meals were light and summery (think: fish tacos, mussels, giant kale, veggie, and quinoa salads, and especially daily fro-yo!) and the idea of beef just seemed…heavy. Plus, I wanted to show myself a little love that day and make it to a yoga class, which meant I didn’t have all evening to cook. There’s also the fact that since Robert would likely be working until 9 or 10 pm slaying accounting dragons I’d probably be dining alone (I can’t wait that late to eat!) So as much as I wanted to whip up something spectacular, I also wanted to be practical and make a meal we’d both enjoy that wouldn’t be too heavy and would provide ample leftovers that we could continue eating throughout the week.

Two things came to mind: Make it spicy (his fave) and use the slow cooker. I browsed through my slow cooker cookbook and landed on this recipe. Done. The heroes in this dish aren’t the main ingredients (chicken, corn, and black beans), but the things you add at the end: Chipotle chiles in adobo, chopped cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. Without them you’d have a pretty great chicken stew that’s similar to a chili. However, those garnishes brighten the flavors and the chiles lend a smoky depth.

While this meal is no beef stroganoff (a serious contender when I was recipe hunting) I’m pretty sure neither of us were disappointed. And in case I had any doubt, Robert’s text the next night at 10:15 pm when he got home from work and heated up dinner (“Best. Leftovers. Ever.”) was pretty high praise from a guy who loves leftovers.


Tex-Mex Chicken Stew
Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients
2 onions, minced
2 jalapeno chiles, seeded and minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp chili powder
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Salt and pepper
2 cups frozen corn
1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
Canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce (I used 2 chiles, minced) plus 2 Tbsp adobo sauce
Fresh cilantro, chopped
1 lime

Preparation
Add onions, jalapenos, garlic, tomato paste, oil, and chili powder to a microwave-safe bowl (such as glass). Microwave in 1.5-minute intervals, stirring after each one, for a total of about 6 minutes, until onions are softened. Add to slow cooker.

Stir broth and tomatoes into slow cooker. Season chicken with salt and pepper and place in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours until chicken is tender.

Transfer chicken to cutting board. Allow it to cool slightly and then shred using two forks. Stir corn and beans into slow cooker and cook on high for about 10 minutes. Add shredded chicken, chipotles, chipotle sauce, and allow to heat through–about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon stew into bowls. Garnish with chopped cilantro and squeeze of a slice of lime.

Minestrone Soup (in the Slow Cooker!)

Will someone please put this argument to rest once and for all: Fifty percent of the people who ate this meal (me) think it’s pronounced minestrone (no eeeeeeeeee) while the other fifty percent of the people who ate this meal (achem, Robert) think it’s pronounced minestroneeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. Anyone? Anyone? Maybe Giada could weigh in.

No matter what you call it, I was pretty darn pleased with how this soup turned out.  I’m no stranger to minestrone soup, but this was the first time I ever made it in the slow cooker. Why that’s awesome: It allowed me to use dried beans (so much better for you than the sodium-laden kind that come in a can crawling with the endocrine-disrupting chemical BPA), but without babysitting a pot on the stove for three or more hours. Slow cooker recipes rock for that very reason–lifting the lid disrupts the cooking process (because it allows steam to escape) so it practically forces you to spend your misty Sunday doing other things for about seven hours. Some suggestions for how to pass the time: Develop an obsession with Pinterest (I think I need a Pintervention) and watch Midnight in Paris. Just in case you were wondering.

Lately, I’ve been making a big pot of soup on Sundays and eating it for lunch throughout the week–an easy and delicious way to gobble up a heap of veggies at one time. As a matter of fact, I’m going to warm up a bowl of this minestrone right now. Mmmmmm.

Minestrone Soup (in the Slow Cooker!)

Ingredients
1 onion, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1  (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 cup dried cannellini beans (directions for soaking below)
3 carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 zucchini, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed and leaves cut into ribbons
1/2 cup small pasta such as mini elbows
salt and pepper

Preparation
To soak the beans: Place 1 cup of dried beans in a bowl and cover with water so water comes several inches above beans. Leave bowl, uncovered, out overnight. Drain before using.

To make the soup: Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, and some salt and pepper. Stir occasionally until onion is softened, about 5 to 10 minutes. (Alternatively, you can place onion, garlic, oil, oregano, and red pepper flakes in a bowl and microwave, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.) Whichever method you choose, once onion has softened, transfer mixture to slow cooker.

Add broth, tomatoes, soaked and drained beans, and carrots into slow cooker. Cover and cook on high 5 to 7 hours.

Stir in zucchini, chard, and pasta. Cover and cook on high until vegetables are tender and pasta is cooked, about 20 to 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Source: Slow Cooker Revolution

Chicken with Carrots & Mushrooms in a White Wine, Tarragon, and Cream Sauce

Sunday night I wanted to cook—and eat—a feast. Sure, the holidays may be over, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to subsist on lentils and Napa cabbage for the next 11 months. To get back to the idea behind the blog that birthed this blog, I’m all about living a balanced life. So while I may have eaten a few more cookies and drank a couple of extra glasses of wine during the holiday season than I ordinarily would, I definitely didn’t go off the deep end. I didn’t shove my head into a bag of Cape Cod Kettle Cooked Chips and swear that I’d detox when I got home. And though I did a fair amount of sitting, napping, iPad surfing, and relaxing, I also went with my family and our dogs on daily 5 to 7-mile long hikes through the woods in Vermont (sadly there wasn’t enough snow to ski). Truth be told, I enjoyed every single bite and sip of those treats during the holidays, making the indulgences entirely worth it. And when I returned home to Chicago last week, I just got right back into the swing of how I normally eat—plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains, and proteins—and not an ounce of guilt.

But Sunday I wanted a true Sunday night feast—one of those meals that satisfies more than just your belly. One of those meals with a couple of different components even if it means working your way through a mile-high pile of dirty dishes afterward. I wanted one of those meals that means you have to spend most of the afternoon in your tiny galley kitchen in your warm apartment with occasional breaks to snuggle beside your football-watching boyfriend and ask, “who is this Tebow guy?” and then, “would you rather roasted or mashed red potatoes?”

Since comfort and slow cooking are pretty much synonymous, I decided on a recipe from another holiday gift: Slow Cooker Revolution by America’s Test Kitchen. Normally, slow cooker recipes involve throwing a bunch of items into the appliance, setting it on low, and leaving it alone for 8 hours. This is not one of those recipes. There’s a heck of a lot of peeling, chopping, and cooking involved before the food even goes into the slow cooker for 6 hours. For me, that made this an even more perfect Sunday night meal—it combined the pleasure of the preparation with the rich smells and tender results of slow cooking. It also features one of my most favorite sauces: White wine and cream. Yes, please! So here it is: Chicken with carrots and mushrooms in a white wine, tarragon, and cream sauce served alongside braised kale, mashed red potatoes, and homemade cloud biscuits (recipe coming in a future post). In my experience, this meal pairs very nicely with a viewing of the movie Crazy, Stupid, Love and a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream for dessert.

Chicken with Carrots & Mushrooms in a White Wine, Tarragon, and Cream Sauce

Ingredients:
5 bone-in, skin on chicken breasts
salt and pepper
vegetable oil
1 ¼ pound cremini mushrooms cut into halves or quarters
2 onions, minced
½ tsp dried thyme
4 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup flour
¾ cup dry white wine (I used chardonnay)
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 bay leaves
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup minced fresh tarragon

Preparation:
Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbsp vegetable oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the chicken, skin side down, and brown lightly. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with 1 Tbsp oil and the remaining chicken. Allow the chicken to cool slightly and remove and discard the skin.

Add 2 Tbsp oil to the pan along with the mushrooms, onions, thyme, and ¼ tsp salt. Cover and cook until mushrooms are softened, about 5 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook for another 5 to 10 minutes.

Stir in garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the wine and scrape up any browned bits. Transfer the sauce the slow cooker.

To the slow cooker, add the chicken broth, carrots, soy sauce, and bay leaves. Place the chicken into the slow cooker (it’ll be a tight fit). Cover and cook on low for about 6 hours.

Once it’s done cooking and the chicken is tender, remove the chicken and veggies from the slow cooker and tent with foil. Let liquid in slow cooker settle for about 5 minutes and skim fat from the surface. Discard bay leaves. Whisk in cream and tarragon and add salt and pepper to taste. To serve, spoon sauce over chicken breast and vegetables.

Recipe from Slow Cooker Revolution 

Chicken Tikka Masala

Let’s be honest. I tend to play it pretty safe when it comes to the flavors in my foods. In many ways, this can be considered a good and healthy thing. I like to let the natural flavors in foods take center stage with maybe just a little help from a spritz of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon, or a sprinkle of Kosher salt. After all, that’s the kind of food I was raised with. There wasn’t a lot of sauce happening in the Greenfield household.

However, this blog and this life are about balance. It’s okay to get a little fancy with your food from time to time, which means there’s a heck of a lot of flavor out there that I’ve only begun to explore. This weekend, I took one small step toward advancing my culinary skills while simultaneously exposing my kitchen and my tastebuds to a slew of new spices in my very first attempt at cooking Indian food.

Before meeting Robert I may have had Indian food once in my life. Maybe. But his spice-loving palate and penchant for sauces means he’d be more than happy eating it for every meal. When we order takeout, it’s almost always Indian. I’ve come to adore the complexity of flavors and even enjoy the slow burn it leaves vs. the HOLY-CRAP-THAT’S-HOT sensation I always associated with spiciness.

Naturally, I’ve wanted to make an Indian dish for a while, but the thought completely freaked me out. I have absolutely no experience or point of reference for this kind of thing. I had no idea what was in a vindaloo or what made it different from, say, a curry. Where would I start? What would I make? Then, earlier this month I came across a recipe for chicken tikka masala in the slow cooker. If there’s one thing I know it’s that it’s really tough to screw up a slow cooker recipe–the appliance basically does the cooking for you. This I could handle. What’s more, most of the ingredients were those I’ve used before, had on hand, or knew I could find at WF. There was just one I was clueless about: Garam masala. Turns out, it’s a blend of spices that smells so incredible you’re going to want to stick your nose in it every time you walk through the kitchen and inhale deeply. If this sounds familiar, rest assured you’re not the only one who has done this before.

So back to the recipe. The verdict: A really solid attempt at homemade Indian food. (I can’t exactly vouch for the authenticity of it, but I’ll get back to you on that once I get a chance to visit India.) From my experience, however, it was everything Indian food should be: Bold, saucy, and even passed the slow-burn test (I’m pretty sure that pricking the jalapeno with a fork is what nailed it.) I served the chicken tikka masala over basmati rice and topped it with a generous sprinkle of cilantro. This dish definitely gave me the boost in confidence to experiment with even more flavors in the future. Where should we travel (in the kitchen) next?

Chicken Tikka Masala in the slow cooker
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 to 1.5 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp Kosher salt
6 oz container Greek yogurt (I used non-fat)
Butter (just get out a whole stick and forget about your silly diet)
1 jalapeno
1 onion, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp garam masala
1 3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
4 cups crushed tomatoes
3 Tbsp heavy cream (I used half-and-half because it was all I could find and it worked well)
Cilantro for garnish (optional)

Preparation
Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with coriander, salt, and cumin. Add yogurt and stir to evenly coat. While that sits, heat 1 Tbsp butter in a skillet. Once melted, add chicken to pan just long enough to brown on each side (remember — the slow cooker will do the cooking). Add chicken in batches, if needed. Once browned, add chicken to slow cooker. Using a fork, poke holes in the jalapeno. Add to the slow cooker.

Melt 1-2 Tbsp of butter in skillet. Add onion and garlic and sautee until onion softens. Add garam masala and ginger. Mix so everything is evenly coated. Finally, add the crushed tomatoes, cook about 2 minutes more. Add sauce to the slow cooker. Set slow cooker to LOW and cook for 5 hours. Once finished, add cream/half and half and mix until the color lightens slightly. Replace lid and cook for 10 more minutes.

Serve over basmati rice and chopped cilantro.

Adapated from Tasty Kitchen via Smells Like Home

Homemade Chicken Stock

How is it possible that, with the quantity of soup I make (about one big pot per week), I’ve never made homemade chicken stock before? I shudder to think about the amount of money I’ve spent on boxes of organic broth in the past year, averaging about two four-cup boxes per recipe. Not to the mention the annoyance of lugging them home on the half-mile trek from Whole Foods. Geez. And all along, I had no idea just how darn easy (and tasty, healthy, and cheap) it was to make it on your own especially if you use your slow cooker. It’s about 10 minutes of work total.

The thought of making my own stock first occurred because I happened to have a spare chicken carcass sitting in my fridge. Don’t you? It was leftover from the chicken noodle soup I made when I was fighting the plague…okay it was a cold and it sucked. But the soup—and the carcass it left behind—was awesome. After removing the meat from the rotisserie chicken, I decided to hold onto the remains because I vaguely remembered hearing about using it to make homemade stock and thought I’d give it a try. Maybe. Then, later in the week, Robert and I went out to dinner with friends and he ordered half a roast chicken. Believe it or not, I asked the server to wrap up the skin and bones to go. That was definitely a first for me.

I came across lots of recipes online that required slaving over a big pot of stuff on the stove, occasionally skimming away fat, for four or more hours. I wasn’t having any of that. Finally, I found a few that used the slow cooker. I combined a bunch of the recipes based on what I had on hand (an onion, some carrots, celery, scallions, black peppercorns…) not really sure if it would work at all. While it stewed in the slow cooker I decided that if it was a total fail at least it made my apartment smell incredible for an entire day. It seriously smelled like I was sitting in a giant pot of soup. Not a bad way to spend a Friday. Finally, around hour nine, I decided it had had enough time to brothify. I lifted the lid, scooped up some liquid with a spoon, and lifted the spoon to my lips. A.MAY.ZING!!! The best broth I ever tasted in my life! It was rich yet light, bursting with chickeny goodness. Unlike the boxed kind, which, let’s face it, can taste a bit like saltwater, this stuff was clearly made from chicken, onions, and veggies. You can just taste it. Needless to say, you’re going to end up seeing lots of versions of roast chicken on the blog from now on because I’m going to need a lot more chicken carcasses around here.

Here is the recipe (if you can call it that) I used, but I’m sure it will work with just about any similar items sitting in your fridge and spice cabinet.

Ingredients

1 chicken carcass (bones and skin—it’s okay if there’s still a little meat on there, you’ll strain it out later.)
1 onion, peeled and quartered
4 carrots, cut into large pieces (I didn’t peel them)
4-6 ribs of celery, cut into large pieces
1 bunch of scallions, cut into large pieces (this is probably optional, but I needed to get rid of them.)
1-2 Tbsp black peppercorns
1 tsp kosher salt
3 dried bay leaves
Water
*I’ve also seen recipes that include fresh parsley, but I didn’t have any on hand.

Preparation
In a 4 to 6-quart slow cooker, place chicken parts on the bottom. Add the rest of the ingredients. Add water until slow cooker is about ¾ full. Cover and set on low for 8 to 10 hours. When done, taste and add salt if needed. Turn slow cooker off and allow to cool for 30 to 60 minutes. Place a strainer over a big bowl and scoop slow cooker contents into the strainer so broth flows into the bowl. Discard bones, veggies, etc. Place a tight fitting lid or plastic wrap over the top of the bowl and refrigerate until cold. (I left mine in until the next day.) Remove from fridge, skim fat off the top, then pour into a plastic freezer bag (the broth may be gel-like) and freeze.*

*I also learned a new way of freezing liquids that’s genius. Once you transfer the broth to the freezer bag place it flat on a baking sheet and place the baking sheet in the freezer. Once the broth is frozen it will be completely flat and super easy to store in the freezer without taking up much space. Love it!

Adapted From The Kitchn