Crockpot Tuesdays

No, it does not have a satisfying alliteration.  Can’t do anything about that.

Tuesdays are Puppy College days around here, at least for the next month or so.  Blue Eyes and I meet at the animal shelter at 6:00 (he comes straight from work downtown) and for the next hour we learn how to be good Thumb Havers, while Bailey just basically lies there and looks cute.

We get home about 7:20, and I just don’t feel like cooking a meal from the beginning at that hour, so I like to have dinner ready when we get home.  That means the crock pot gets used a lot!  Although I have a few tried-and-true favorites, I’m always on the lookout for a new slow-cooker recipe.

Last week I did an old favorite: potatoes, green beans and smoked sausage.  Layer in the crock that order from the bottom up.  I use red potatoes, but you can use any variety.  I also use canned green beans (2 cans) if I don’t have any fresh, and it is just fine.   The sausage I use now is low-fat turkey smoked sausage.  By putting it on the top, the meat flavors the other ingredients as it heats.  That’s it.  Low heat if you are going to have it in there several hours or high heat for a just a couple of hours.

This week I wanted something new, so I did a “crockpot lemon chicken” search and adapted what I found.  (I knew  had chicken thighs, lemons, fresh parsley, garlic on hand.)

One of the main rules of crockpot cooking for me is that I don’t make a run to the store for a special ingredient. I use what I have.  I adapt, adapt, adapt as needed. A “quick and easy” meal that requires me to crate the dog, put on shoes, make sure I look decent,(ahem…including a full complement of undergarments) start my car, and kill baby seals is not worth it.

I’m way too lazy for that.

So this week we are having this:

Crockpot Chicken with Lemon and Garlic

Chicken (I had some thighs; you use what you have.), about 1.5 lbs

1 Lemon (juice it and then chop the lemon carcass into eighths)

1/2 stick Butter (Oh, relax.  You’re feeding a whole family.)

3-4 cloves of Garlic

1/2 cup Water

1t Bullion or chicken soup base

Thyme (fresh or dried, whatever)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a skillet, season the chicken with salt, pepper and thyme.  Brown the chicken (skip this step if your chicken is skinless but still melt the butter). Put the chicken in the crockpot but add the rest of the ingredients to the skillet  to combine them.  Then pour all that buttery, lemony, thymey, chickeny, garlicky goodness over the chicken in the crockpot.

I’m cooking mine for about 8 hours on low.  I plan to serve it with some steamed broccoli and some rice pilaf.  I’ll probably cook the pilaf ahead and reheat it while the broccoli cooks.


I really do cook. And eat.

Holy cow!  I went and ignored this thing for a month???

But now I’m back, better late than never as they say.

I decided I would list my favorite ingredients, my favorite things to cook or include in dishes (in no particular order):

  • Lemons
  • Garlic
  • Shallots
  • Fennel (bulb, not seed)
  • Wild caught salmon. NEVER the farmed stuff, even if it means I only eat salmon a couple of times a year.
  • Israeli couscous
  • Greek yogurt
  • Fresh thyme
  • Home grown tomatoes
  • Bacon
  • Red onions
  • Olives
  • Ponzu sauce
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Butter lettuce
  • Beets
  • Fresh mint
  • Butter
  • Feta cheese
  • Kosher salt
  • Raspberries
  • Puff pastry
  • Agave nectar
  • San Marzano canned tomatoes
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Whole peppercorns
  • Cannelini beans
  • Quinoa
  • Red potatoes
  • Cilantro

With a few notable and unavoidable exceptions, I keep almost all of these on hand all the time, plus some basic proteins, like chicken, pork tenderloin, occasionally beef.  This allows me to make a pretty simple and substantial dinner fairly consistently.

What are your must haves?  Are there ingredients you seem to reach for, over and over?

Delicious (Orzo I’ve been told…)

Orzo. That fun little rice-shaped pasta that finally can be found in organic, whole wheat form. (Yes, I’m trying to avoid teh white stuff.)

The nice thing about orzo is that like our other new friends quinoa and brown rice, it can take on a variety of delicious personalities.  Tonight we’re having is as a cold salad, with chickpeas and grape tomatoes.  Enjoy!

Orzo and Chickpea Salad

6 oz whole wheat orzo, cooked according to package directions and rinsed in cold water.

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered

3T balsamic vinegar

1T olive oil

handfull of flat leaf parsley, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients, let “meld” in fridge for at least an hour.

We’re having this tonight with seared scallops.

Quinoa Tabbouleh

It may not be all that pronounceable, but it certainly is delicious!

Keen-Wah  Ta-Boo-Leh”

I’ve been a tabbouleh fan for years, and have used lots of different recipes.  I’ve come up with my favorite configuration of ingredients.  I’ve seen it made with as few as four ingredients, but  really like a variety of flavors and textures, so I go all out!

I am new to quinoa as an ingredient.  It’s kind of funky–its not rice, or wheat.  It can be adapted to recipes much in the same way rice or couscous can, taking on many kinds of flavor profiles.  It is high protein, high fiber, and very quick cooking.

Quinoa Tabbouleh

1 cup of dried quinoa, cooked according to package directions and cooled

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced

1 medium tomato, seeded and diced.

4 green onions,  thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

handful of mint, finely chopped

handful of flatleaf parsley, finely chopped

juice of one lemon

3 T of olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together, and let the flavors “meld” in the fridge for at least an hour.  Just try to keep your mitts off it for that long!

Why Nigella Is My Foodie Girl Crush

We recently started getting the Cooking Channel.

Because really, one channel devoted to nom-nom-nom is not enough!

And I rediscovered Nigella Lawson.

Nigella has been around for a while.  Before Rachael, and Giada, even before Paula and Ina–at least their Television Careers.  There was Nigella, cooking in her London kitchen.

This gal has been around the block.  Married, widowed, married again.  Filthy rich.  Mother.  Looks like she has enjoyed her meals over the years.  Rocks a cardigan like nobody’s business.

She’s self-taught, and second career.  She cooks because she enjoys food, and according to sources, hates being referred to as a celebrity chef.  Because she’s not a chef.  She cooks, and talks, and people film it.

And beautifully filmed, it is.  Close-ups of the food, and the cookware, and the stove top.  Then of herself and whomever she is cooking for eating what she has cooked.

She tells a story about what she is cooking–gives the occasion for the meal.  Once it was hangover food after a pub crawl.  The episode I watched last night was about cooking foods her tweenage children would eat–a kitschy take on baked potatoes and chicken fingers and salad.

Plus, there is always dessert.  Even though I seldom eat dessert myself, I love watching her justify fat and calories.

Also each show ends with Nigella raiding the fridge for a midnight snack.

Another great dish she made on last night’s episode was pea soup.  Although she is filthy stinking rich and could easily make it with fancy expensive organic English peas, she made it with frozen peas from a bag.  Frozen veggies!  There is truly hope for the ordinary home cook like me.

I saw those frozen peas, and I swear, I fell in love all over again with this show.

Shrimp on the Barbie

Its been a strange week at the Cooksome house.  Daughter is home (also known as WonderGirl, though the older and more independent she gets, the less the “girl” moniker fits).  Daughter being home and having meals here complicates things as in she is a Vegetarian Who Doesn’t Eat Vegetables.

I know. Believe me, I’ve tried.  But she lives 2100 miles away.  There is only so much I can obsess about her diet. I’m about done with that.

It does mean that I need to make sure there is at least one starch-based dish at every meal, so she can have something to eat.

On the bright side, I do not consult her about the protein, which gives me much more freedom than when she was a Chicken Breast-Only Eater.

Thus, Tequila-Lime-Cilantro Shrimp!

I buy 1 pound bags of frozen raw easy-peel shrimp when it is on sale.  No, it is not as good as the shrimp that my friends on various coasts can get, but it will do here in landlocked country. It is a quick-cooking versatile protein: you can saute, fry, boil, broil, steam, grill, or bake it.  It cooks in literally minutes, and adapts well to a number of flavor profiles: asian, southen, cajun, french, italian, fusion, or BBQ.  It works in soup, salad, casserole, with pasta, on a kebab, and all by its little old lonesome.  It is delicious served either hot or cold.

Its a good go-to protein, and one of my favorite last-minute dinner secret weapons.  It can also be cooked with very little fat, if reducing fat is your goal, and is naturally low fat on its own.

This is how we are having it tonight:

Tequila-Lime-Cilantro Shrimp

1 lb peeled, deveined shrimp

Juice and zest of one lime

2-3 T of olive oil

Pinch of each: salt, pepper, crushed red pepper

Splash of tequila (or wine) (optional)

Handful of cilantro, chopped

Combine all ingredients except the shrimp in a small bow and stir together until combined. Pour this into a relsealable plastic bag, add the shrimp, removing the air from the bag before you seal it.  Smoosh it around a little to make sure the marinade gets all over the shrimp, put the bag on a plate and put it in the fridge.

Walk away.  Think about how delicious it is going to be. Next time you walk by the fridge, flip the bag over. If you are going to be marinating for a couple of hours, do this a couple more times.

You can marinate this in the morning, or at 3:00 in the afternoon like I did today.  It doesn’t matter.  It will still be delicious.

Possible substitutions: (I am all about the possible substitutions, especially if it means one less trip to the store! Think about the baby seals!)

  • You can use lemons if you don’t have limes, you can even use bottled citrus juice if you don’t have fresh citrus, or even orange juice.
  • Don’t like cilantro?  I don’t really understand how you can be alive and not like cilantro, but to each her own.  Try parsley, basil, thyme.  It changes the flavor profile, but you might discover something wonderful.
  • Don’t have olive oil?  Use plain old vegetable oil.
  • If you don’t cook with alcohol, use a splash of wonderful vinegar.

The shrimp can be grilled, broiled, cooked on the indoor contact grill, even sauteed.  The key is not to overcook shrimp.  As soon as it turns pink, it is done.  Three minutes later it is rubber.  And rubber is nasty.

Try it!  We’re having it tonight with corn on the cob and a salad.

Summer on a plate, baby.

White Trash Potatoes

I first ate this dish probably 15-20 years ago.  There are many, many variations on the recipe–this is just my go-to version.

It’s pretty midwestern (I think you will see why when you look at the ingredients).  One of the good things about that is that you can procure the ingredients even in the dead of winter.

It is not really called “White Trash Potatoes” by most people.  That name came about when I made it for a group of my new neighbors, all native Californians.  When one of them heard what was in it, he asked me in all seriousness if I was “poor white trash”.

Well, yes.  Yes I am.  What of it?

He still ate the taters.  Just sayin’.

White Trash Potatoes

1 bag frozen southern-style hash browns

1 can cream of chicken soup (I use low sodium)

1 cup sour cream (I use light)

I cup chopped onion

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (reserve about 1/2 cup or so for topping the casserole)

Salt and pepper to taste

Let the hashbrowns thaw on the counter for about a half-hour or so.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, except the reserved cheese.  Pour into a 13X9 baking dish that you have sprayed with non-stick spray.  Make sure the surface is even, sprinkle the reserved cheese.  Bake for about an hour in the 350 oven.

Enjoy! Watch how much the fancy people at the table enjoy it.  But lets don’t call them names, okay?