Thursday, November 14, 2013

Going Beyond the Crockpot!

There are a lot of interesting things we do around here, and cooking with a crockpot is only one of them.  We've expanded our blogging to a new site that includes written and video posts about cooking, gardening, beekeeping, chickens, wild edible plants, and more!  Hop on over and check out what we've been up to!

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Caramelized Onions

I've been busy testing some recipes for caramelized onions, trying to find something I like.  Success!!  This recipe is an adaptation of some others I found and tried.  I just changed the ingredients to suit my taste.  I know, this isn't the same kind of caramelized onions that chefs make on TV, but it's super easy and so tasty.  For those of you who have tried making caramelized onions in a pan on the stove and ended up burning them, try this recipe -- little to no chance of burning.

What are caramelized onions good for?  Oh, the possibilities!  I tried (and loved) them on grilled burgers, slow-roasted ribs, homemade pizza, and even as a topping for saltine crackers.  If I had some toasted bruschetta, they would be delicious on that, too!  You can also mix the onions into things like mashed potatoes, scrambled eggs, seasoned rice -- use your imagination with them.  This one's a keeper!

Caramelized Onions

3 sweet onions, sliced
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt to taste)

Combine ingredients in crockpot, and cook on LOW for around 10 hours.

I think a 3-quart crockpot or smaller is best.  The onions take up alot of space when they are freshly sliced and separated, but they wilt down when cooked.

I used 1/2 cup olive oil, and I thought it was a bit much.  I think I will use 1/4 cup next time.

Your favorite spices and herbs can be added to suit your taste or to compliment a dish you plan to use these in.

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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Corned Beef for St. Pat

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  I'm not sure why we eat corned beef for St. Patrick's Day, but we do.  There are some distant Irish roots in our family, but not enough that we carry strong traditions from it.  Corned beef goes on sale this time every March, so we buy it and make what my Mom always called "Boiled Dinner."  It was a favorite when I was a kid, and now my kids are huge fans, too.  It's very simple, but tastes good enough to be comfort food, especially when March is still cold and snowy like it is this year.

There can be many variations to Boiled Dinner, but using corned beef or a large shank ham (with the bone in) are our favorites.  I normally cook it in a huge stock pot on the stove, but since we were going to be gone all day this time, I decided to use the crock pot.  The vegetables we include are cabbage (quartered and cored), whole potatoes, whole carrots, and whole onions.  Using the crockpot limited my space, so I only put in cabbage and potatoes this time.  When I use the stock pot on the stove, I simmer the meat for at least half the day and then put in the veggies for the last couple hours of cooking.  Here's how I did it with the crockpot:

Corned Beef Boiled Dinner

Corned beef roast (I used one that was nearly 4 pounds)
Seasoning packet (included in the corned beef package)
Whole potatoes, enough to feed your crew
1 whole green cabbage, quartered and cored
Whole carrots & onions, if you have room for them or a second crockpot

Place the corned beef in the bottom of the pot and sprinkle the seasoning packet on top of it.  I did not include the meat juice/brine that was in the meat package.  Then put the potatoes and cabbage in, arranging them to fit as much as possible.  I managed to squeeze 8-10 small red potatoes in there with the cabbage. 

Fill the crockpot with water, enough to cover the food or up to the rim.  The cabbage didn't get covered by water, but it steamed during the cooking.  The lid barely fit over the top, but it settled as the day went on.  Set the crockpot to LOW and cook for around 10 hours.

When cooking time is done, move the veggies to a platter.  Remove the meat, slice it, and place on the platter.  If you prefer your cabbage to be cooked softer, you can place it and extra vegetables in a second crockpot for cooking.  If using a second crockpot, season the water with plenty of salt since you won't have the meat to flavor the vegetables.

If you have not tried Boiled Dinner, I encourage you to do so.  It is a very easy meal to prepare and can quickly become a traditional meal for your family. 

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Pull-Apart Pork Roast

It's been way too long since I've brought you a crockpot recipe!  The past year brought some interesting new challenges that changed our family's lives forever and forced us to put some things on the back burner for a while.  Now that life has settled down a little, it's time to get back to the things we love -- especially crockpot cooking. 

This recipe is very much like some crockpot ribs I made for you a while back, but I wanted to show you that the same (or very similar) recipe can work for multiple things.  This pull-apart pork roast turned out better than any roast I've ever made.  It was very tender, juicy, and easy to pull apart to eat -- no knife needed.  My kids especially appreciate that!

Pull-Apart Pork Roast

3lb pork roast (or close to that size)
1 packet onion soup mix
BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray's this time)
1 pint broth (I used homemade turkey stock)

Put the pork into the crockpot.  I had to cut mine in half and put the two pieces in side-by-side so it would fit.

Sprinkle onion soup mix on the meat, followed by a generous drizzle of BBQ sauce over the top.  Pour some broth into the crockpot just to be sure your meat roasts without getting dry, but don't completely cover the meat with liquid.  Natural meat juices will come out and add more liquid to the mix.

Cook on LOW for around 8 hours.  Don't lift the lid to check on it until at least 6 hours have passed.  This is a good recipe to prepare in the morning and then leave for the day.  When you get home in the afternoon, your house will smell heavenly and dinner is nearly done.  We served this with baked potatoes and a vegetable.  Enjoy!

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cheesecake Mission Impossible?

I'm sorry it's been a while since I've added anything on my blog, but I promise you I've been working hard on it!  I wanted to make something I never thought would be possible with a crockpot -- cheesecake.  I've only made the Jell-o brand 'No Bake' cheesecakes in the past, never a real, baked cheesecake.  My excuse has been that I don't have a springform pan.  However, that didn't stop me and my crockpot this time.

I did some looking around for recipes, bought some ingredients, and got to work.  The first attempt tasted good, but the texture was grainy like it had cottage cheese in it.  Hrmphh.  With the second attempt, I beat the heck out of the batter with two different mixers in the hopes of getting the lumps out, but no luck.  It was not only lumpy again but the flavor was worse than the first!  Arrrghhh!

Okay, time to get serious.  I did a little research on solving the lumpy batter issue and also changed a couple ingredients to improve texture and flavor.  And by jove, I think I've got it.  Ladies and gentlemen.....Crockpot Cheesecake.

Crockpot Cheesecake

1 heaping cup graham cracker crumbs
1-2 Tablespoons sugar
4 Tablespoons melted butter

2 8oz. containers cream cheese spread (at room temperature)
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream

Mix together graham cracker crumbs, 1-2 TBS sugar, and melted butter.  Press into the bottom and partway up the sides of the pan.  (I used a 9"x4" bread pan)

Turn your crockpot on high, place two canning rings in the bottom (or a trivet), and pour 2 cups warm water in the bottom, or enough water to come to the tops of the rings.

In a mixing bowl, combine softened cream cheese, sugar, and flour.  Mix until smooth.     Add vanilla, eggs, and cream, mixing between each addition.  Pour batter into pan and place into crockpot.  Cover and cook on HIGH for 2 1/2 hours.  (The picture to the left is one of my lumpy batters.  If you follow my directions, it'll be nice and smooooooth -- no lumps.)

When the 2 1/2 hours is done, turn the crockpot off and let it set in the crockpot
for about 1 hour -- don't lift the lid!
Next, take the cheesecake out of the crockpot and place it in the fridge to cool for
at least 12 hours.  Slice and enjoy!

Extra tidbits: 
- The bread pan is the only pan I have that will fit into my largest crockpot, but if you have something different that works -- either metal or ceramic -- go for it.  I didn't grease the pan, and had no trouble getting slices out when serving.
- My cheesecakes rose above the top of the pan, sometimes dribbling over a little, and then they fell down in the middle when completely cooled.  I don't know if this is a normal thing to happen or not, but it doesn't affect the taste. 
- The crockpot lid can accumulate condensation, but it didn't seem to drip into the cheesecake.  If it does with yours, place a towel over the crockpot before putting the lid on.
- Refrigerating the cheesecake for 12 hours as opposed to just 3-4 hours really made a difference.  The texture and flavor didn't seem right if we ate it too soon, but it was delicious if we waited until the next morning to taste it.  Cheesecake for breakfast?  Sure, why not?!

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