Friday, June 24, 2011

Summer is Repeat Season - Part 2

Back to the Crock

Yes, Ladies and Gents, we’re back to the crock pot this week. Frankly, I was hoping by now that the weather would be warm enough that I didn’t look forward to something hot and comforting. But as those of you who are with me here in the Pacific Northwest know, it’s been a dismal Spring. The first day of Summer was gorgeous and warm, but it’s been drizzly and rainy ever since.

But enough about the weather.

Dinner this week was a repeat of one of our first endeavours, Beef Carnitas.

And since I didn’t actually put the whole recipe down last time, here it is.

Beef Carnitas
From the PreventionGuide Slow Cooker Recipe Book

2lb lean beef stew meat, cut into ½ inch pieces
¾ cup mild salsa
2 tbsp chopped chipotle peppers in adobo
½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1 cup beef broth or water

Combine all ingredients in large slow cooker. Cover. Cook on low 6-8 hours.
Serve with warm tortillas, sliced avocado, shredded cheese and chopped onion.
Yield – 6 servings

So I went back to the last time I mentioned this recipe and noticed that I mentioned something about adding cumin and chili powder. If I did that last time, it was my idea, because this recipe doesn’t have those things in it. But it certainly wouldn’t hurt it any. It would give the flavors some nice depth and a little smokiness. So by all means, if you try this, experiment with a little of each.

Now, since we’re doing Weight Watchers and tortillas can cost you some serious points, we decided to do Carnitas Bowls. Some brown rice instead of a tortilla, some diced avocado tossed in lime juice, salt and pepper, some fat free shredded cheddar, fat free sour cream and a little taco sauce and chopped green onion later, we were very happy with our bowls of colorful, tasty goodness!

I would, of course, never make this with water. Use broth. You will thank yourself for the added richness.
I also added some extra chipotle because I love the flavor. It’s easy to overdo it, though, so be careful!

This recipe was from the book that got us started on this crock pot rollercoaster ride. And this week of carnitas reminded me why we kept going. The recipes we’d tried were bursting with deliciousness!

There are still several I want to try from this book, like the Turkey, Sweet Potato & Cranberry Stew, but they’ll have to wait until later. I just can’t face a recipe like that in the summer. If we ever get summer, that is. Until we do, I don’t want to tempt fate by making an autumnal meal.

The Moroccan Spiced Beef, however, is something I am willing to take a chance on now! Lots of chopping for that, though, so it may have to wait until I have a less busy weekend!

Thanks for reading, everyone! Happy Pride Weekend!!
See you next Friday!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Going Crockless Again

It’s good to be back again after a week away. My commitment to do this every Friday was challenged last week because my singing group got an amazing opportunity, as most, if not all of you, already know. But I have to admit, when things calmed down, I really missed the time I would have spent at the keyboard.

So this week, because last weekend was so crazy and we didn’t have a lot of time to plan, we went crockless.

Why, you might ask, did we do that if we were so tired?

Well, we had about a half a rotisserie chicken in the fridge that needed to be used and we had bags of mixed veg in the freezer. In this house, that can only mean one thing.

Chicken soup.

Before I started living with N, this idea had never occurred to me, but it is, to my mind, brilliant. She’s the one who turned me on to this quickest and easiest of nearly homemade chicken soups.

The ‘recipe’ I’m going to write in is simply the proportions we used this week, but you can fiddle around with it until you find your preferred ratio of chicken to veg to broth.

Quick and Easy Chicken Soup

½ a leftover grocery store rotisserie chicken, meat stripped from the carcass (no skin…it gets slimy and gross in the pot)
1 16 oz bag of frozen mixed vegetables
1 32oz box of chicken stock, preferably reduced sodium
dehydrated sliced garlic
mixed dried herbs (such as Italian seasoning or herbes de Provence)

Combine ingredients in a soup pot. Bring to boil. Simmer 20-30 minutes. Enjoy. Serves 4.

I know you’re thinking, “Really? That’s it?”

Yes, that’s it. It is so freaking easy and so satisfying. And the real beauty of all that? It’s only 4 WeightWatchers PointsPlus per serving for a pretty decent sized bowl of soup!

You can, of course, do a lot with this basic recipe. Put in your favorite spices. Use different veggies, maybe even fresh ones (although they wouldn’t cook quite as quickly). Add some pasta (like orzo or pastina) or rice. You could even use your own stock. The last time I made this, I only had 2 cups of chicken stock, but I had a bunch of homemade turkey stock in the freezer, so I added that to the pot.

The only really time consuming part is stripping the meat off the carcass, which is maybe a 10 minute job. So yeah…for me, it’s the quickest, easiest pot of chicken soup I’ve ever made.

The chicken was roasted, so it’s already got good flavor. The store-bought stock I use is dark and rich. The dehydrated garlic adds a lovely, toastiness. And the herbes de Provence that I used this time gave it a fresh, floral herbiness.

Not bad for something that took about 30 minutes all told to make!

Next week, we will probably go back to the crock pot, maybe something new. Although, I’ve been craving the crock pot beef carnitas recently. We will just have to see. :o)

If you have any suggestions about something you love that you think we should try, please comment here or on Facebook!

Have a great week, everyone! See you next Friday!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Summer is Repeat Season

This week we repeated the first recipe we got from the WW site, the chicken, mushroom and brown rice meal, of which I did not post a full recipe. So I thought I would do that this week and then ask you for some feedback.

Chicken, Mushroom and Brown Rice Slow Cooker Dinner

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, approx. 2.5 ounces each
2 cups canned chicken broth, reduced sodium
½ pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 cup leeks, white and pale green parts only, sliced and rinsed thoroughly for grit
1 cup carrots, sliced thinly
1 cup celery, sliced thinly
¾ cup uncooked brown rice, medium grain (such as brown Arborio)
2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper, freshly ground

Coat a large, non-stick skillet with cooking spray. Brown chicken thighs, turning once. Set aside.
Combine remaining ingredients in a 5-6 quart slow cooker. Nestle the chicken thighs on the vegetable mixture. Cover and cook on low for 7 hours. Yields one chicken thigh and approximately 2/3 cup vegetable/rice mixture per serving.

Now that you’ve seen the recipe, let’s get to the modifications.

You probably already know by now that I didn’t brown the thighs. I know it will add flavor. But I don’t want to #1, dirty another pan, and #2, risk the chicken being more overcooked than it already will be because I have to let it cook for 10 hours instead of seven.

That said, after the first time we tried it, N and I both thought it could use a little more flavor. So this time I added an extra tsp of Worcestershire and an extra tsp of Dijon mustard.

Both times I cooked the rice separately in the rice cooker. Since the disaster of the Cuban black beans and rice, I haven’t quite been willing to cook rice in the crock pot again. But as soon as I find some brown Arborio, I will try it. I’m very curious to see how it will turn out.

Adding the rice for about the last 15 minutes before serving gave it a chance to soak up the yummy juices in the pot, but I put in too much broth this time, so it ended up a little soupy. The first time we made it, it actually had a risotto-like consistency which was very satisfying. N and I both LOVE risotto, but it is both time- and calorie-prohibitive. So this was a nice surprise. Next time, less broth.

It was as tasty as we remembered; perhaps a bit more so because of the extra seasonings. But it still needs something. Which is where you come in.

I would love to know what you would add or change to make it more flavorful. I think it needs acid. The flavors are rich and hearty, but it needs some brightness for balance. Lemon? Vinegar? Maybe a little balsamic drizzled over the top at serving? Or a little heat?

Tonight I sprinkled on some of Cajun seasoning that I bought last fall in Portland and amped the flavor up quite nicely. I also thought of the spice rub we got at Central Market last week with its smoked paprika and brown sugar. That might be interesting, too.

So, what do you think? What would you do differently? What would you add or subtract to make it more interesting? Comment here or on Facebook and let me know!

Because there’s no reason why a repeat has to be boring!

Have a great week and I’ll see you back here next Friday!!