Monday, January 18, 2016

Crockpot Meals: Edition 1

Gone are the days I asked for toys and dolls for my birthday and shoes and clothes for Christmas... does being an adult mean kitchen goods topping my holiday wish list? This Christmas I got a crockpot, and I was so excited. I've seen so many recipes on pinterest that are a mile apart from the standard soups and chilis I've grown to only associate crockpots with. I used to hate soup (strong evocations of watery Campbell chicken noodle soup from the can relegated to being sick with a cold), and while I can now appreciate a hearty stew or flavorful soup... it was still a nice surprise to realize that I can make so much more than this one type of meal in crockpots!

For my first foray into the world of crockpot cooking, I stuck to the traditional and made an Italian chicken and broccoli rabe chili. This was so good, and nothing like a cup of noodles ready to go after 90 seconds in the microwave. I got this recipe from one of my favorite bloggers, Tieghan from Half baked harvest. Seriously, make this. It's rich without being heavy and the beans and chicken make it very filling. So much flavor!

Italian chicken and broccoli rabe chili

3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts
1 small sweet onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced or grated
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 teaspoons dried thyme
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼-½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 dried bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt + pepper, or to taste
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
½ cup balsamic vinegar
1 large bunch broccoli rabe, ends trimmed + roughly chopped
1 (12 ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained + sliced
1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans, drained + rinsed
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
½ cup chopped parsley, plus more for serving

  1. In the bowl of a 6-8 quart crockpot pot, add the chicken, onion, garlic, chili powder, oregano, paprika, thyme, allspice, crushed red pepper flakes, bay leaf, salt and pepper.
  2. Next add the tomato paste, chicken broth and balsamic vinegar. Give everything a gentle stir to combine.
  3. Cover the crockpot and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours (or 4-6 hours on high) stirring once or twice if possible.
  4. During the last 30 minutes of cooking, stir the broccoli rabe, roasted red peppers and cannellini beans together in a bowl and add to the crockpot.
  5. Crank the heat up to high, cover and let cook 20-30 minutes longer.
  6. Lightly shred the chicken with two forks, it should just fall apart. Stir in the parmesan and parsley.

Recipe Source: Half baked harvest

For my second go I tried one of the recipes I couldn't really believe it's possible to make in a crockpot: lasagna! But it's not even possible, it's delicious! And so easy. You literally just layer the raw ingredients (pasta and all) into the crockpot and just like magic a few hours layer, you have lasagna. You'd have to pre-cook meat, but my lasagna was so filling with tons of spinach and mushrooms that I didn't miss the meat at all.

Veggie Lasagna
(2) 24 ounce jars or cans of Italian tomato sauce
9 thick lasagna noodles
24 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese
3-4 cups chopped vegetables of choice (I used spinach)
2 cups shredded Mozzarella
Spice mix (dried parsley, ground thyme, oregano, rosemary, crushed red pepper, and garlic salt)
Parmesan cheese for topping
Fresh parsley for topping

  1. Spray the crockpot with nonstick cooking spray. Spread ½ cup tomato sauce to the bottom so the noodles don't stick.
  2. Break noodles so that they fit and mostly cover the bottom. Don't worry about it not breaking in the most uniform ways to make a cohesive layer - just use the bits that break off and work with it! No one will be able to tell when everything is cooked and covered with cheese and veggies.
  3. Cover with about one third of the ricotta, veggies, sauce, cheese, the spice mix, and end with noodles. Repeat layers two more times for a total of three complete layers. End with a layer of noodles on top, covered with a thin layer of sauce and a little bit more shredded cheese.
  4. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours or on low for 5-6 hours. Turn the crockpot off completely and let the lasagna sit for at least one hour. This allows all the moisture to get soaked into the lasagna, and if you don't do this it will probably be more like lasagna soup.
*Note: I made this twice, once on high and once on low. When cooked it on low the lasagna was a lot more dry and absorbed most of the moisture so I needed to serve it with extra sauce. I'd recommend cooking it on high.

Recipe Source: slightly adapted from Pinch of yum

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