Slow Cooker Sunday: A Cookbook Review and Marinara Sauce

So about two months ago while perusing in the cookbook section of my local Barnes & Noble I began scanning through some of their slow cooker cookbooks and settled on purchasing America’s Test Kitchen: Slow Cooker Revolution. I was excited to try out some of the recipes as they sounded really good. I started with the Loaded Baked Potato Soup and it was a disaster! It had no flavor and was more like heavy mashed potatoes instead of soup. I decided that I would try it again another day with less potatoes. But then I tried another recipe and it didn’t come out that great, okay, truthfully, it was horrible again. It was a Broccoli and Chicken sauce that was to be used for pasta. The sauce, made with chicken broth and wine as the base, was bitter and the chicken was dry. Yuck! So, instead of trying a third recipe – quite honestly at this point none of the recipes sounded all that great – I headed back to Barnes & Noble to see if I could return it. And luckily I was able to. And since I wasn’t in a rush, I headed back to the cookbook area and picked up another book to try out… Slow Cooker Family Favorites by Maggie Shi. And (oh boy, starting 3 sentences in a row with “and,” such bad grammar… LOL) the first recipe I tried was delish… a slow cooker marinara sauce.

To make the sauce I combined crushed tomatoes, olive oil, tomato paste, red wine vinegar, fresh basil, fresh garlic and salt in the bowl of my slow cooker.

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And then gave everything a few good stirs and set it to cook on low for seven hours. For a little extra seasoning I added a few grinds of fresh pepper and that was it.

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I ended up with about 6 cups of sauce. I decided to freeze 4 cups and used 2 cups as a dipping sauce for this Cheesy Garlic Monkey Bread that I will be posting about tomorrow!

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Slow Cooker Marinara Sauce

Ingredients:

2 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 large fresh sprigs basil

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons salt, plus more if needed

Directions:

Add all the ingredients to the bowl of a slow cooker and stir together.

Cover and cook on low for 7 hours. Taste for seasoning.

Serve with breadsticks, garlic bread, baguette slices, etc. for dipping. Or use for your favorite pasta. Makes about 6 cups.

Recipe from Slow Cooker Family Favorites

 

 

A Quick & Easy Bolognese

As the temperatures begin to drop our need and desire for hearty and comforting dishes begins to rise. There’s nothing like coming in from the cold with a nice hot bowl of soup waiting for you. That’s my usual go-to after a morning of shoveling, but let’s not talk about snow so early in the season. We haven’t even had our first frost yet! And just as comforting as soup is pasta and today I have a recipe for you for a quick and easy Bolognese. I came across it in a recent issue of Food Network Magazine where they coined it Weeknight Bolognese. I’m calling it quick and easy because I was able to make twice in one day without breaking a sweat. Why did I make it twice in one day you may be wondering? Well, it’s not because it was so delicious I finished it one sitting – don’t get me wrong, it was delicious – but, it was because I made a MAJOR snafu! If you didn’t know I am more of baker than a cook. The cooking thing is still fairly new to me and I have a lot to learn, like you shouldn’t substitute cooking wine for a dry red wine in any recipe. That’s why I made this recipe twice. The first time I used cooking wine in lieu of dry red wine and it was atrocious and incredibly salty. At first I couldn’t figure out what I had done wrong, but, a quick Google search let me know. I believe I may have made this mistake once before with another recipe but, it’s not coming to me right now. At least I know for future cooking endeavors!

So, on my second go around I had a delicious dinner to eat and with the temps a little cooler in the evening it was quite comforting.

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A Quick and Easy Bolognese

  • Servings: 4 to 5
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Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound lean ground beef*

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 1/4 cups dry red wine**

1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

Kosher salt and black pepper

3/4 pound dried pasta, such as orecchiette or small shells

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

*I used a 93% / 7% split

** I used Merlot

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and cook, crumbling the meat with a wooden spoon until the meat has lost its pink color and has begun to brown. Add in the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Pour in 1 cup of the red wine, the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper, stirring until combined. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let simmer for 10 minutes.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the pasta according to the package directions.

While the pasta is cooking finish the sauce by adding in the nutmeg, basil, cream and the remaining 1/4 cup of wine and continue simmering for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and pour into a large serving bowl and top with the sauce and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan and toss well. Serve hot with extra Parmesan on top.

Recipe from Food Network

One Can of Crushed Tomatoes = Two Meals

One item in my kitchen that is completely underutilized is my slow cooker. It’s one of those kitchen items that doesn’t ever seem to make it on to a coveted kitchen counter spot so it’s usually in a cabinet somewhere behind other things, at least that’s where it lives in my kitchen. It’s not like I forget I have it, it’s just getting it out involves moving quite a few things. Nevertheless it’s always worth the effort.

While at my local Barnes & Noble recently I picked up a slow cooker recipe book and immediately went through it and flagged some recipes that I wanted to try. I’m a bit of an organized nerd when it comes to cookbooks… I go through them and flag the recipes I want to try with mini post-its and then write down the recipes on another post-it and stick it in the front of the book.

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This time around I decided to try out the slow cooker version of Country Captain Chicken. In all honesty prior to writing this post I wasn’t aware that it was a traditional recipe found in the Southern part of the United States. I thought it was just something that was created for the cook book. Oops! To start I sautéed a green bell pepper, onion, celery and garlic with olive oil over medium-high heat until the vegetables were tender. I then placed that in the bottom of my slow cooker.

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I then browned chicken thighs, which I coated with flour, and placed them on top of the vegetables inside of the slow cooker.

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I then poured water into the skillet where I cooked the vegetables and chicken and scraped up any brown bits that were left in the pan. While the recipe called for chicken broth I didn’t want to open up a whole can of broth when I just needed a 1/4 cup of it. I poured this over the chicken and then added in the rest of my ingredients: crushed tomatoes, raisins, curry powder, salt, paprika and black pepper. The recipe only called for 2 cups of crushed tomatoes and unfortunately crushed tomatoes only come in 28 oz. cans (Does anyone know where I can find them smaller?) so I had about 2 cups of tomatoes leftover which I refrigerated for a later day.

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I covered this up and let it cook on low for 3 hours and one of the perks of cooking with a slow cooker is the wonderful aroma that fills your house from it. The final product was delicious and went perfectly with just some plain white rice.

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Country Captain Chicken

4 boneless skinless chicken thighs

2 tbsp. all-purpose flour

2 tbsp. vegetable oil, divided

1 cup chopped green bell pepper

1 large onion, chopped

1 rib celery, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup chicken broth

2 cups canned crushed tomatoes

1/2 cup golden raisins

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. paprika

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1. Coat chicken with flour; set aside. Heat 1 tbsp. oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add bell pepper, onion, celery and garlic. Cook and stir 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Place vegetables in slow cooker.

2. Heat remaining 1 tbsp. oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 5 minutes per side or until browned. Place chicken in slow cooker.

3. Pour broth into skillet Cook and stir over medium-high heat, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of skillet. Pour broth mixture into slow cooker. Add tomatoes, raisins, curry powder, salt, paprika and black pepper. Cover; cook on LOW 3 hours.

I wasn’t too sure what I was going to make with the leftover crushed tomatoes, but, after a day or two it finally came to me… Pizza. I attempted to make pizza before but it wasn’t all that successful. Mainly because I didn’t properly cook the pizza dough, or I should say I overcooked the pizza dough so that the crust of the pizza was a little too crispy bordering on hard. I had pretty much given up on trying to make it again until I came across Pillsbury’s Thin Crust Pizza dough in the refrigerated section of my local supermarket. I know some may be shaking their heads at this point by my super short-cut in making pizza, but, I figured it was worth the try. I did have my doubts though… Would my pizza just taste like a jazzed up crescent roll?

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To start I rolled out the dough onto a lightly greased 15 x 10 inch cookie sheet.

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I then spread my sauce on to the dough making sure to leave a small border. To make the sauce I mixed together about 2 cups of crushed tomatoes, 1 tbsp. of tomato paste, 2 garlic cloves finely chopped, 1 tsp. of dried basil, 1 tbsp. of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

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And finally I thinly sliced some fresh mozzarella for my one and only topping.

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I then baked it in a 425 degree preheated oven for about 12 minutes and it was perfect. I definitely will be taking this short-cut again when I make pizza in the future.

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