Friday, February 26, 2010

Adventures in Crock Pot Cooking.

Aside from a two week hiatus where the oven miraculously came back to life, I have been 'crock pot cooking' for around two months now. While I would love to update you on my crock pot adventures more often I am settling for a round up of some of my more memorable dishes. In case it wasn't clear before, the stove top functions, we just briefly plug in the oven, light the burner, and unplug before the 'brain' starts beeping.

Best Crock Pot Meal: You might be surprised by this, but to date, my favorite crock pot meal was a slow cooked oatmeal. This meal was breakfast obviously, and the recipe was combination of one found in Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Recipes for Two: For the Small Slow Cooker and this one. I used steal cut oats, water and milk, adding apple pie spice, a whole chopped apple and a few handfuls of golden raisins. It was supposed to cook overnight on low, but my slow cooker doesn't seem to understand 'low' so it cooked in 4.5 hours, which meant I was up at 3am checking on it. Good thing I don't sleep through the night eh!  This was soo good! I had to thin it out with milk because it was so thick, but oh man I will be making this again for sure.  Sean's opinion: Not much different than instant, no big deal. HA! He has no taste buds, he would eat wall paper paste for breakfast without complaint if I made it for him.

Worst Crock Pot Meal: Lime Chicken with Rice.  This was in my early days before I understood how quickly my slow cooker cooked. I made it because I had all the ingredients on hand, but it was totally inedible as far as I was concerned. I only tried one other chicken recipe before writing it off as impossible in my crock pot.  Sean ate this, but agreed it wasn't very good.

Most Exotic Crock Pot Meal: Honey Orange Tofu. I thought this was really good! A great intro tofu recipe if you are new to the tofu game.I followed her advice on tofu prep from a different tofu post by coating it with cornstarch and frying it in butter before putting it in the crockpot with the sauce and broccoli. The broccoli (which I don't like in general) was steamed to perfection but Sean was turned off by the color (not a bright green anymore). I really liked the sauce and the tofu was perfect, in fact Sean thought it was pork at first. He wasn't a huge fan of the sauce, but I don't care, it was good!

Biggest Repeat Offender: Butter BeefWe don't eat much red meat but it cooks a lot better than chicken in my crock pot so we had this quite a few times. TOO many times I think, I O.D.'ed on it and I'm not sure Sean was ever a big fan. It is very hard to tell what he likes and doesn't because he never says much either way. He basically gives the same response to everything."It's good." After the second round of making this he stopped taking the leftovers, I think the re-congealed butter just disgusted him... actually I don't even know if he knew how much butter was in this (I halved the recipe and then left out a tablespoon but still!) He likely would have refused to eat it entirely if he knew.. He did always make me strain it so he got NO sauce, since he probably assumed it was floating in its own fat (which is kind of correct). I served this over mashed potatoes and really enjoyed it the first few times, I don't know if I started making it worse or if I just got sick of it.

Meal We Are Still Tinkering With: Pulled Pork:  I keep trying to find the perfect BBQ sauce for this and have yet to find it. I've tried a few HFCS free and I've made my own once. Sean liked the homemade sauce but I thought it wasn't quite right for pulled pork, but I'm unable to figure out why or how to fix it... I guess I should go get some restaurant pulled pork to help refresh my memory on what it is supposed to taste like.

Best Side Dish: So far I've only done two side dishes, Baked Beans and, Potato and Pancetta Risotto from the cookbook above. The baked beans were way too sweet, but we did eat a lot of them because this recipe makes SO MUCH! The risotto was good, but I had higher expectations for it. I think I would try it again with a different pancetta because it was totally flavorless. Colin had small portions of both of these and was actually enthusiastic about the risotto despite the potato in it. So I guess the best side dish was the risotto, but since it didn't last as long we didn't have time to get totally sick of it.

Sean just walked into the room and I asked him what his favorite dish was of everything I've made in the Crock Pot. After spending some time trying to list off everything I've made, he settled on the risotto. You want to know what that tells me? He didn't like ANY OF IT. If you asked him to list things he doesn't like he would say celery, cilantro and risotto!  This might bother some people, but it doesn't bother me at all. He is responsible for his own fate, and since he rarely provides any suggestions for dinner (other than to tell me he would eat the same meal every night, and would be happy with Pb&J) ( I wouldn't!) I cook what I want to cook. The real problem is that most of his favorite restaurant meals are things I don't eat and probably won't attempt to make. However, he recently asked me if we could eat more tofu and quinoa so I am attempting to work that in more frequently. Eventually I will find a dish that Sean likes enough to actually request!

I think that just about wraps it up. Do you have a favorite crock pot recipe, crock pot cookbook or other favorite source? I would love to hear it.


Elaine and Brandon Carder said...

I used to make boneless ribs in the crock pot. I put in some sliced onions with it. I have heard from some people if you put them in frozen they stay more moist. When I have done them I do them when I stay home because sometimes they are done earlier than typical (we also have a crock pot that was anti-slow cooking).

I have done the usual---beef stew and pork roast. I do not use my crock pot that often but I definitely should use it.

On FB there is a crock pot exchange group that my friend belongs to and says has some GREAT recipes. Let me know if you are interested.

Sounds like you are becoming a great crock pot chef!!! I never had tofu--what does it taste like?

Erin said...

Does your mom have a crock pot? If she does, steal it from her when you go to visit next weekend. The old crockpots are SO MUCH BETTER. My crock pot doesn't cook on low, either, even though it has a "low" setting. The older ones are far superior. Have you tried cooking a small chicken? That is supposed to work pretty well.

The boys really enjoy "Yankee Potroast" -- a small, very lean cut of meat, a can of cream of mushroom soup, a can of water, a packet of onion soup mix, some cut up carrots, onion, potato

Anonymous said...

I love my crock pot! No problems so far with the low setting. Tend to use it more for BBQ beef (my mom's BBQ sauce recipe) and 3 bean turkey chili.
Seems you are much more adventurous with meals than I am!


Nicole said...

I got so frustrated with my super fast cooking crock pot that I got rid of it (I used to cook on the "warm" setting and still burnt everything in 1/2 the time it should take). My new one works much better. I guess it has to do with the brand.

I also have an old school crock pot cookbook that my mother photocopied for me (it's from her 1970's crock pot). I'll try to scan in some of the recipes & send them to you.

Crystal said...

What a great entry. I love my crock pot- I need to be more adventurous with it. I make a home made chicken & cous cous soup almost every week and I love it! Other than that we'll do chili, meatballs, nothing fancy. I'd like to try risotto!