Friday Recipe Exchange: Slow-Cooker Recipes for Busy Days

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JeffreyW’s Slowcooker Italian Pork

This has been a busy holiday week, so this is a quick and dirty recipe exchange. But first, I want to take a moment and thank all of you for the outpouring of love on the loss of my cat. They’re tiny, they’re furry and they really work their way into your heart. I cannot believe how much your comments and emails helped. You rock.

Now back to our scheduled recipe exchange:

This time of year I’m always looking for recipes I can have in the slow-cooker and everyone can serve themselves. My favorite is the featured recipe this week, Portuguese Beef and Pasta, which I usually only make when the extended family gets together.

Slow-cookers are one of the most versatile appliances in the kitchen, you can make a nice pot roast dinner, or recipes as simple as soups and stews. The best part is coming home from work or a day of holiday events and know dinner is ready to go and the house smells wonderful.

For recipes, let’s start with JeffreyW’s Italian Pork, pictured above and the recipe here.

Then something different, and a childhood favorite meal, Brunswick Stew, recipe here. (Posting this makes me smile, because the last time I posted the recipe, commenters informed me that REAL Brunswick Stew is made with squirrel. You’re welcome to substitute as needed).

And finally, a Chunky Vegetable Soup,  recipe found here.

What’s on your menu this weekend? Any fun holiday plans? I have a couple of things I’d like to do – Zoo Lights or Blossom Lights (at the botanical gardens) and the Christmas parade.  What are some of your favorite meals around the holidays? Do you have go-to recipes when the family descends?

I really like tonight’s featured recipe because it is very simple, but so very tasty. If I make it when the family gathers, I always double it. The recipe below serves 4.  This is a great recipe to make and let everyone help themselves when they are hungry. I toss the pasta with olive oil and put it in the refrigerator and leave the beef simmering in the slow-cooker on low for the entire day. They mix the two when they are hungry. I must say, the longer the beef cooks, the better it gets. It’s always a hit with everyone.

Portuguese Beef & Pasta

  • 1 lb round steak, cut into thin strips, remove excess fat
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced (reserve ¼ for beans)
  • 1 green pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 2-14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 bay leaf (remove before serving)
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper
  • 8 oz dry macaroni**

Slow-Cooker and saucepan

Add beef, salt, pepper, onion, green pepper, garlic, paste, diced tomatoes, water, bay leaf & red pepper to Slow-Cooker. Cook according to manufacturer’s directions (usually 8-10 hours on low) until beef tears easily with a fork. In saucepan, cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain well (you don’t want any water in your beef mixture) and mix beef and pasta in serving bowl.

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Dinner Menu: Better Late than Never, Spicy Chicken Stew

It has been a crazy week and I was going to skip the weekly dinner menu, except it falls completely inline with the Friday Recipe Exchange tonight.

Meanwhile in the kitchen right now I’m making a gluten-free Pumpkin Cake, I’ll post the recipe later, as soon as I know if it came out ok. Company on the way to taste test. 🙂 Although they do not know  it.

On the board tonight:

  1. Spicy Chicken Stew
  2. Sweet Potatoes w/Apples
  3. Tossed Salad
  4. Shortbread

Spicy Chicken Stew

Slow-Cooker Meal

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 boneless breasts, large cubes
  • ½ lb smoked sausage, cubed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 15 oz tomato sauce
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tsp to 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds

Slow-Cooker

Combine all ingredients (except almonds) into Slow-Cooker, cook according to manufacturer’s directions (usually on low) for 8-10 hours. Add almonds, simmer 5 minutes & serve.

Sweet Potatoes w/Apples

  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled & cubed
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 apples, cored & sliced
  • 8 oz can sliced pineapple (including liquid)
  • 2 tsp butter
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp salt

2 qt casserole dish, greased

Add sweet potatoes and ¼ cup water to casserole dish and microwave for 3 to 5 minutes (until potatoes are fork tender, add more water if needed) Add remaining ingredients to casserole dish, stir gently and bake at 450° for 20 to 30 minutes, uncovered, until apples and potatoes are very soft.

UPDATE: I just received an email from a friend who said that you can actually put all the ingredients from the stew and the sweet potato recipes into the same slow-cooker and create a very popular Mexican stew called Mancha Manteles.  Who knew?  I knew the two dishes complimented each other nicely…all together would be interesting.

Shortbread

  • 1 cup butter
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 ½ cups flour

baking sheet

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Stir in flour. Chill for an hour. Divide in half. Place each half on baking sheet and pat each into approx. 7 inch circle. Prick each with a fork to make 16 wedges (total of 32). Bake for 30 minutes at 300°

Shopping List:

  • 4 boneless breasts
  • ½ lb smoked sausage
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • 15 oz tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds
  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 2 apples (my new favorite are Jazz)
  • 8 oz can sliced pineapple
  • 4 oz orange juice
  • 1 1/4 cups butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 ½ cups flour

Also: olive oil, cinnamon, salt, pepper

Originally published on January 2010

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Dinner Menu: Beef & Pepper Subs with Walnut Pear Salad

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Photo by JeffreyW

Lots going on. I picked up a new client last week, but still need to wrap things up this week with one of my other clients in order to make room for the new client. I’m putting together a trip to Los Angeles and Nebraska, plus I’ve got three personal projects I’m working on, which are at least two, too many.  What I’m trying to say is, it’s busy around here, just the way I like it, which is why I looked for something simple for tonight’s dinner menu. I especially wanted to find something with pears, because right now they are abundant at the store and I wanted to take advantage.

So that’s my Monday…any suggestions for Friday’s Recipe Exchange??

Tonight’s menu is pretty simple, for those lazy nights when you don’t want to cook an elaborate meal.  I usually let everyone assemble their own sandwich at the counter – less cleanup. I didn’t put chips on the menu, but they would probably show up last minute at my house anyway. The walnut pear salad is a nice treat this time of year, when you can usually find fresh pears at a good price. Pears and bleu cheese are a winning combo, and spinach seems to be on sale everywhere this week. If you can find it, drinking chocolate is like hot cocoa on steroids. We have a local coffee roaster who also makes drinking chocolate. It’s as if someone melted a chocolate bar in your cup and added some cream. A little goes a very long way.

On the board tonight:

  1. Beef & Pepper Subs
  2. Walnut Pear Salad
  3. Hot cocoa, marshmallows and graham crackers

Beef & Pepper Subs

  • 1 to 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb sirloin or flank steak, thinly sliced*
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 large crusty Italian sub rolls, sliced
  • 8 oz Provolone or American cheese, sliced

skillet

Heat oil in skillet, add meat, garlic, onions & peppers. Allow to cook until tender, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Add immediately to rolls. Top with cheese. If desired you can also then pop under the broiler to melt the cheese (keep an eye on them, so they don’t burn)

* it’s easiest to do if it’s slightly frozen when you slice it

Walnut Pear Salad

  • 3 pears, thinly sliced
  • Bibb lettuces & spinach leaves, washed and dried
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 ½ tbsp walnut oil (opt)
  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • ¼ cup honey (more if needed)
  • 2 oz crumbled blue cheese

large platter and saucepan

Arrange lettuce leaves on platter, add pear slices. Combine walnuts, oil(s), vinegar & honey in saucepan, mix well, and heat until honey is melted. Taste and add more honey or vinegar as needed. Pour over pears. Crumble cheese over salad.

Shopping List:

  • Hot cocoa
  • Marshmallows
  • Graham crackers
  • 1 lb sirloin or flank steak
  • 1 onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • 4 large crusty Italian sub rolls, sliced
  • 8 oz Provolone or American cheese, sliced
  • Bibb lettuces & spinach leaves
  • 4 oz chopped walnuts
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 oz walnut oil (opt)
  • 4 oz honey
  • 2 oz crumbled blue cheese

Also: crushed garlic, salt & pepper, vinegar

Originally posted January 2011

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Dinner Menu: Quick and Easy Chicken Parmesan

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Photo by JeffreyW

Heading out of town, but wanted to leave you with one of my favorite recipes.  I’m off to Boston…hoping for good weather and good food. Good company is a given.  When I get back I think I want to tackle some fun Halloween ideas.

This is a fairly simple Chicken Parmesan and the Mushroom Confetti is a light and tasty side. Enjoy.

On the board tonight:

  1. Chicken Parmesan
  2. Garlic Bread*
  3. Italian Mushroom Confetti
  4. Sherbet or (my favorite) Gelato

Chicken Parmesan

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 bonelss chicken breasts, cut into fillets or 1 lb chicken breast fillets
  • 2 cups Italian Bread Crumbs
  • ½ onion, diced
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste**
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp rosemary
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 4 oz sliced mozzarella cheese
  • 1 green pepper, sliced into rings
  • 4 oz grated parmesan cheese

large skillet and 9×13 baking dish, lightly oiled

Wash and lightly dry breasts, then coat in bread crumbs. Heat oil in skillet, reduce heat to medium and brown chicken on both sides, remove, set aside. Add onion, sauce, paste & spices and bring to a low boil, reduce heat, simmer 5 minutes. Place a ladle of sauce in the bottom of the baking dish, place chicken on top and then spread remaining sauce over the top of the chicken. Add cheese slices on each fillet. Sprinkle evenly with parmesan, top with green pepper rings. Bake at 375, 20 -25 minutes until cheese is melted and golden brown.

**Extra tomato paste can be frozen in ice cube trays and stored in a plastic zip bag. 1 cube = 1 tbsp of paste

Italian Mushroom Confetti

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large Portobello mushroom caps (or 6 to 8 button mushrooms)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green pepper
  • ½ onion
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 1 large tomato or 14 oz diced tomatoes, drained
  • ½ cup vegetable or chicken broth
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • ½ tsp basil

skillet

Cut mushrooms, peppers, zucchini & tomato into uniform pieces. Heat oil in skillet, add vegetables, including corn, sauté 2 minutes, add stock & spices. Stir over medium heat until vegetables are tender.

*Quick and easy garlic bread: slice loaf lengthwise, melt butter, add garlic and brush on cut side of each half of bread.  Top with a little parmesan and broil until golden.  Slice and serve.

Shopping List:

  • 4 boneless chicken breasts or 1 lb chicken breast fillets
  • 2 cups Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 onion
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 4 oz sliced mozzarella cheese
  • 1 green pepper
  • 4 oz grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 Portobello mushrooms,
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 sm. Zucchini,
  • 1 large tomato or 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 4 oz vegetable, chicken broth or equivalent
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 loaf French or Italian bread
  • 1 pint Gelato or Sherbet

Also: basil, oregano, garlic, rosemary, olive oil, butter

Originally published October 2009

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Cucumber Tomato Salad

Originally published July 2009

Cucumber Tomato Salad:

  • 2 large cucumbers
  • 3 large tomatoes
  • 3 green onions
  • 1 large green pepper
  • ¼ cup salad dressing (miracle whip style) or mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup Italian salad dressing
  • salt & pepper

large bowl

Thinly slice cucumbers, onions, pepper & dice tomatoes.  Mix together with salad dressing and Italian dressing.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Serves 4-6.

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Thursday Recipe Exchange: Quick Pasta Meals

Shrimp and Pasta by JeffreyW

I started this blog as a complement to my business of 10 years – I provided weeknight menus and recipes for busy families. It was a lot of fun. I’ve moved on to other things and the blog has evolved from just my simple recipes and flavor palate to guest bloggers, co-bloggers and lots of guest recipes. It’s been a pleasant surprise.

But as the holidays approach and life gets busier, I wanted to come back to those simple recipes and highlight them several times a week. These are quick, fresh recipes that take about 30 minutes. And I swear to you, if you’re not confident in the kitchen, these are foolproof. A way, I hope, to help alleviate some of the stress around this time of year. So tonight’s recipes are in that vein.

First up: the photo above is from JeffreyW, it’s a nice, quick Shrimp and Pasta dish that he liked well enough to make again. (recipe here).  Next up is my quick Skillet Lasagna, recipe below.

What are some of your go-to recipes for those nights when there is no time to cook but everyone needs to eat? Do you have family favorites that everyone wants at least once a week? When I was a kid, I would beg my mom to make her rice crispy baked chicken.

Tonight’s featured recipe is one of my favorites because it has a nice blend of flavors for a quick, skillet dish. I use dry spices because they are always in my pantry – make sure to crush them well to bring out the flavor in a dish that doesn’t have the advantage of a long simmer. Use good quality mozzarella and ricotta to take it up a notch. Skip the ground beef for a vegetarian meal (I’d add some nice mushrooms instead) or spice it up with 1/2 Italian sausage and 1/2 ground beef.  In other words, don’t be afraid to change it up to fit your needs. For a side, try green beans or zucchini and you’ve got a nice, quick dinner.

Skillet Lasagna

  • 8 oz  bowtie pasta
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • ½ green pepper chopped
  • 1 tsp basil, crushed
  • 1 tsp oregano, crushed
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 4 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves, chopped
  • 4 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 2 oz grated parmesan

skillet, saucepan

In saucepan, cook pasta according to package directions, cooking to al dente (slightly chewy), drain well. Do Not Rinse (it inhibits the sauce from being absorbed by the pasta). Meanwhile, in skillet brown beef, onion & pepper. Add spices, garlic, carrot and sauté for 1 minute. Add sauce, paste, stirring well into meat mixture. Let simmer 10 minutes. Add pasta, stirring gently to mix. Mix together ricotta and spinach, spoon evenly onto mixture (do not stir in, you want to create little cheese balls), top with mozzarella, cover and let simmer on low until mozzarella is completely melted. Serve with parmesan.  Serves 6 generously.

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Wash Day Beans and Rice

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Since this is the weekly recipe exchange, when I settled on red beans and rice, I decided to go googling around the internet and see what everyone else thought red beans and rice should be. I stumbled across the photo above and knew I had to include it tonight. The recipe isn’t that much different from what I’ve been making for years. If it’s good enough for one of my favorite performers, it’s good enough for me.

I live within walking distance of a Lucille’s restaurant that I do not visit often enough. Mostly because it is open only for breakfast and lunch. A week or so ago, I realized I really wanted their Wash Day Lunch, but didn’t see how it would fit into my schedule that week. Then I remembered I had a big jar of Lucille’s spice in my cupboard. The solution seemed simple, I’d make a batch of red beans and rice, tonight’s featured recipe.

Of course, JeffreyW has his own take on this, with great photos to accompany his Red Beans and Rice with Pickle Pork (click here to see it, you know you want to).

For tonight’s featured recipe, I threw on my Zydeco cds and started chopping and sautéing. Set it to simmer all day and finished it off with some delicious buttermilk corn bread.

Red Beans and Rice

  • 1 lb. Kidney Beans
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • Water or vegetable broth
  • 6 small Ham Hocks or one smoked Pork Butt, wash well and pat dry
  • 1 tbsp (or more as desired) of Creole spice, I favor Lucille’s
  • 1/2 lb. of bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, finely diced*
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 links andouille sausage

Saucepan or dutch oven, skillet

Preparation

Wash beans thoroughly, cover them with cold water and soak overnight. Pour water off, cover with fresh water and cook until tender. I use a pressure cooker, because at this altitude it’s the only way to get tender beans and it takes less than 30 minutes. Once tender, drain and add chopped tomato, Creole spice, ham hocks, a bit of water or vegetable broth and simmer on low.

In skillet, cook bacon until slightly crisp, drain on a paper towel. Add to bean mixture.

Remove all but 2 tbsp of bacon fat from the skillet, add diced onions, bell pepper and carrot. Sauté on medium heat until tender, add garlic, cook additional 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add everything to the beans, turn to low and let simmer at least 3 hours, ham should be falling off the bone. I like the idea of simmering all day for the best flavor. Add more water or broth as needed to keep it from drying out.

About an hour before serving, I sliced the sausage in half lengthwise and browned on both sides in a skillet, I then added it to the bean mixture to simmer.

*carrot is optional, but I find it adds a nice sweetness to the dish.

Serve over rice with corn bread. Makes 6 good sized servings.

Rice

I used brown rice for this dish and loved the flavor with the spicy bean mixture.

  • 2 cups brown rice, rinsed
  • 2 cups water

Saucepan or pressure cooker

Add water and rice to pan, bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low and cook until all water is absorbed, about 45 minutes with traditional saucepan and 25 minutes with a pressure cooker.

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Braised Italian Chicken

Happy Thursday. I don’t know about you, but I could have used the weekend two days ago, it’s been that kind of week. Let’s get right to tonight’s ingredients: chicken and vegetables. This was really just my excuse to be able to test drive a recipe I’ve been thinking about for a while. I came across a recipe for an Italian braised chicken in a white wine sauce served over pasta and my first thought was, I wonder if you could do that with a traditional red sauce? I love chicken cacciatore, but the texture of the chicken leaves a lot to be desired. I could go with a traditional chicken parmesan, but that isn’t quite the same, the meat isn’t permeated with sauce flavor in the same way. This recipe gave me just what I was looking for, a nice textured chicken packed with flavor.

In case Italian chicken isn’t a favorite, I posted two other chicken recipes this week: Barbecue Chicken with Spinach and Grilled Lime Chicken. Next week: I’m taking requests.  What would you like?

Now for tonight’s recipe:

Braised Italian Chicken

  • 8 bone-in chicken thighs, skin on
  • Olive oil
  • Flour
  • Dried: basil, oregano, rosemary, cayenne pepper, pepper, salt, thyme

Sauce:

  • 6-8 green onions, chopped
  • 1 small zucchini cubed
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 4-6 button mushrooms, washed and sliced
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic or equivalent
  • 1/2 cup good red wine
  • 6 oz can of tomato paste
  • 14 oz can of diced tomatoes or equivalent (I use unsalted)
  • 2-15oz cans of tomato sauce (again, I use unsalted)
  • 2 tsp dried basil (or fresh equivalent)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (opt)
  • Pinch of rosemary
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 10-16 oz of favorite pasta (I like angel hair with this dish)

Bowl, Saucepan, Skillet, Baking dish or Dutch oven

In a bowl, mix together about 2 cups of flour and a good amount of the spices. Wash and dry thighs. Dredge in flour and fry in large skillet in about 1/2 cup of olive oil (I start with skin side down and do not touch it until it moves easily when I nudge it with a fork, then I flip it). When browned on both sides, remove to a plate with paper towels to drain a bit. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat 1 tbsp of oil and add diced vegetables, cook until the onions are translucent. Add garlic and cook for another minute, then add wine, stirring to deglaze the pan. Add remaining ingredients, stirring to mix well. Let simmer, covered, on the stovetop while chicken browns.

In baking dish, add enough sauce to come 1/2 way up the side of the baking dish. Nestle chicken in the baking dish, skin side up. Now here is the important part, ladle additional sauce AROUND the chicken as needed, but DO NOT cover the top. Leave enough room for the browned top of the chicken to remain above the sauce. This lets it braise and the skin still stay crispy. Bake, UNCOVERED, for 1 hour and 30 minutes. At the 15 minute mark, check to make sure the sauce is barely bubbling, if it is boiling, reduce heat to 300 degrees. Chicken is done when it gives easily, but not falling off the bone.

Leave remaining sauce on the stove to simmer on low while the chicken cooks, you’ll probably want extra for the pasta. Prepare pasta just before chicken is done.  Serve with salad or green beans and a nice deep red wine.

Prep time is a lot on this meal, so I suggest it for weekends or special guests. I also doubled the sauce and froze 1/2 for another meal.

Tonight we also get a glossary:  What is braisingWhat is deglazing?