Slow Cooker Sunday: Vegetarian Minestrone

While spring may be a few days away the weather is still cold enough for some hearty soup. And while this soup may not have any meat in it, it’s still filling thanks to the array of vegetables. I was a bit intimidated by the amount of ingredients – I tend to avoid recipes that have too many ingredients – but, they are all pretty simple and some I actually had on hand.

I added most of my ingredients to my slow cooker and then set it to cook on low for 8 hours. I began checking on it after 5.5 hours as I didn’t want my vegetables to over-cook and break down, especially the zucchini. Ultimately my soup was ready in 6 hours, my vegetables were tender and still intact.

I then cooked the elbow macaroni in pot of boiling salted water and added it to the soup along with chopped baby spinach. I cooked it on low for an additional 15 minutes and it was done.

The Minestrone was flavorful and as I said earlier hearty and, the leftovers tasted even better the next day and even better the day after that.

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Minestrone

Ingredients:

6 cups vegetable broth

1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 15 ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 large onion, chopped

2 ribs celery, diced

2 large carrots, diced

1 cup frozen green beans

1 small zucchini, cut into quarter moons

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoons thyme

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup elbow macaroni

4 cups chopped fresh spinach

Parmesan Cheese

Directions:

Combine all ingredients from the broth through the black pepper in a 6-quart slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours, until vegetable are tender.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the elbow macaroni for about 8 minutes, until cooked through but still firm, drain.

Add the macaroni and spinach to slow cooker and cook for another 15 minutes. Top with parmesan cheese.

Recipe from allrecipes

Slow Cooker Sunday: Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

I’ve tried baking in my slow cooker a few times and I’ve had a few fails that didn’t make it to my blog and there have been a few that did make it, but, I’ll admit weren’t all that perfect – the cakes were a bit unevenly cooked or they fell apart. But, baking a cheesecake in my slow cooker seems to be a winner – thanks to two items, a 6-inch springform pan and a mini rack to place the pan on in the insert of my slow cooker.

I began by making the graham cracker crust and pressing into the bottom and up the sides of my springform pan.

I placed the rack inside the insert of my slow cooker and filled it with a 1/2 inch of water. FYI…It’s an OXO Good Grips Silicone Rack. I found it at my local Sur La Table, but, it’s also available at Williams-Sonoma and Amazon.

After making the batter I poured it into the springform pan and placed the pan on top of the rack. I covered the slow cooker and cooked the cheesecake on high for 2 hours. After 2 hours I turned the slow cooker off and let the cheesecake sit inside for an additional hour without uncovering it. I then removed it, let it cool completely and refrigerated it for at least 4 hours before serving.

One thing I did like about making a cheesecake in the slow cooker… it didn’t crack. I have yet to make a cheesecake in the oven that didn’t crack. And while this cheesecake was good I learned something about myself, I love texture in most foods but cheesecake. I prefer my cheesecake to be smooth and not have any crunch to it

 

Slow Cooker Chocolate Chip Cheesecake

Ingredients:

3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (for 6-7 graham crackers)

1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon salt, divided

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon flour

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup sour cream

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

 

Directions:

In a medium bowl whisk together the graham cracker crumbs, cocoa powder and half of the salt and then stir in the butter.

Press the crumbs in the bottom and about 1/2 inch up the sides of a 6-inch springform pan.

In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, sugar, flour and the remaining salt. Using a handheld mixer beat the mixture on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, then the vanilla and finally the sour cream. Make sure to beat the mixture well after each addition. Stir in the chocolate chips and pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Place a rack in the insert of the slow cooker and fill with a 1/2-inch of water. Place the pan on the rack, cover and cook on high for 2 hours. Turn the slow cooker off and let stand, covered for an additional hour. Remove the cheesecake from the slow cooker and allow to cool completely and then refrigerate for at least four hours before serving.

Recipe from Slow Cooker Family Favorites

Slow Cooker Sunday: Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

So, funny thing, pretty much the only reason why I made this was because I had celery in my fridge and I didn’t want it to go to waste. That always happens when I buy celery. I use a few a few stalks and then the rest gets thrown out. I was determined not to let that happen again. So, I knew I wanted to make something in my slow cooker but wasn’t sure what and then came across this recipe in my favorite slow cooker cookbook.

What was even better, this is one of my favorite types of slow cooker recipes – throw it in there and let it cook. I know that doesn’t sound to proper considering we are talking about food, but, I will assume that you know what I mean. In my slow cooker I added in chicken, andouille sausage, okra, green bell pepper, celery, onion, cayenne pepper, salt, can of diced tomatoes, and chicken broth. Now, it may look like there isn’t enough liquid in there….

But, after cooking on low for about 4 hours there was more than enough liquid. One thing I didn’t do that the recipe called for was adding a cornstarch-water mixture after 3 hours to thicken the liquid. I find that I am not too keen on thickening the liquid because it tends to look congealed after refrigerating it. Granted, all is well once it is warmed up, but, since I am cool with the thinner liquid I stick with that. One more thing, this was delicious, but, if you don’t like spice, I suggest using less cayenne pepper. To go along with the gumbo I made white rice and it’s the perfect accompaniment to soak up all the juices.

Slow Cooker Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs. boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

1/4 lb. andouille sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 pound okra, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces

1 green bell pepper, chopped

3 celery stacks, chopped

1 yellow onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes

2 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup cornstarch

White rice, for serving (optional)

Directions

In a slow cooker combine the chicken, sausage, okra, pepper, celery, onion, cayenne pepper and salt. Add the diced tomatoes, along with their juices, and the chicken broth and give everything a few good stirs to combine. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours.

In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch along with 1/4 cup water. Stir into the gumbo to thicken it, cover and continue cooking for an additional hour or until the chicken is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper if necessary. Serve with white rice.

Recipe from Slow Cooker Family Favorites

Slow Cooker Sunday: Herbed Turket Breast

Have you ever thought about cooking your Thanksgiving turkey in a slow cooker? Well, unfortunately you can’t put a whole turkey in there, but, you can cook a turkey breast. Believe it or not, they actually say slow cooker friendly on the wrapper, well, at least the one I picked up did. My friends and I had our 2nd Annual Friendsgiving Celebration last weekend, and when I offered to bring the turkey in my mind I was already thinking of a slow cooker turkey breast since there wasn’t going to be that many of us. I decided on a turkey breast that was 7.5 lbs. Now, when I brought him home and tested him out in my slow cooker I freaked out a little bit because he didn’t fit. Well, he fit I just couldn’t put the cover on the slow cooker. But, I thought to myself that once he thawed out he should just fine.

On the day of the get together I got up early just in case it took longer than directed and in case of any other mishaps. I began by placing a chopped carrot, onion and celery in the bottom of my slow cooker. I then placed the turkey breast on top of the vegetables and sprinkled him – oh, and yes, I always refer to my turkey as him or he, it’s because of Tom The Turkey – with an herb and spice mix and then drizzled melted butter over him. If you don’t have the specific spices that I used below feel free to create your own spice mix.

After a little coercion I was able to get the cover snug on top and I set him to cook on low. I was planning on him being done between 6-7 hours.

While the pop-up time did pop out at 6 hours I decided to leave him in there a little longer just to be sure. I figured he wouldn’t dry out in a slow cooker. And unfortunately the one downfall of cooking a turkey in a slow cooker is not getting that nice browned skin.

But, that was nothing that a few minutes under the broiler couldn’t resolve.

So, would I make a turkey breast like this again? Yes! It’s stress-free and pretty much guarantees that you will have a juicy turkey. I am tempted to go my usual route of brining the turkey beforehand next time though. Oh, one thing I was able to make with this turkey that I had never been able to do before was gravy. There was a decent amount of drippings left in the slow cooker and I must say, homemade gravy from the drippings beats anything you buy in the store hands down.

 

Slow Cooker Herbed Turkey Breast

Ingredients:

1 carrot, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces

1 onion, chopped into 1-inch pieces

1 celery stalk, chopped into 1-inch pieces

3 tablespoons onion powder

1/2 teaspoons sage

1/2 teaspoon celery seed

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 6 to 7 lb. bone-in turkey breast

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons cornstarch

 

Directions:

In the slow cooker toss together the carrot, onion and celery.

In a small bowl mix the herbs and spices.

Place the turkey on top of the vegetables and sprinkle with the spice mixture. Try to get some of the mixture under the skin of the turkey as well. Drizzle with the melted butter. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours, or until fully cooked – 165 F

When the turkey is done, preheat the oven to broil and place the turkey in a roasting pan and broil for a few minutes to brown the skin. Don’t leave it in the oven too long or the turkey could dry out.

Combine the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water.

Strain the remaining liquid in the slow cooker into a medium saucepan. Bring to a bowl over medium-high heat. Whish in the cornstarch mixture and cook until the gravy thickens.

Slice the turkey and serve with the gravy.

 

Recipe from Slow Cooker Family Favorites

 

 

Slow Cooker Sunday: Broccoli Cheese Soup

Whenever I go to Panera and I am in the mood for soup I always get the Broccoli Cheddar Soup. I am not sure what drew me to ordering the soup in the first place, because when you think about it, you would assume that a cheddar soup might be thick and overly cheesy… More like a cheese dip as opposed to a soup. But thankfully that is not the case.

Wanting to create the soup at home I came across The Pioneer Woman’s recipe that utilized one of my favorite kitchen appliances… a slow cooker. And thankfully she believes in what I do, using your slow cooker shouldn’t require too much fuss; it really should be about throwing it all in there and forgetting about it for a few hours. The only prep work I had to do was chopping up a few carrots and an onion. Which I added to my slow cooker along with cream of celery soup, chicken broth, broccoli florets, salt, black and cayenne pepper. After giving it a few good stirs I cooked it on high for 4 hours.

After 4 hours I used an immersion blender to puree the soup.

Next I added in Velveeta and shredded cheddar cheese. I had never used Velveeta in anything prior to this – I am not even sure I have ever had it either – so, I was a little shocked by how much it cost. How could a process cheese product cost more than some basic cheeses? Insane!

After adding the cheeses I covered the soup again and cooked it on low for 15 minutes. I should note that I never turned off my slow cooker during the pureeing and adding of cheeses, I left it on the warm setting throughout. After the 15 minutes I gave the soup a few good stirs to mix in the cheeses and that was it! Definitely a quick, easy and delicious slow cooker recipe!

 

Slow Cooker Broccoli Cheese Soup

Ingredients:

1 pound frozen broccoli florets

1 medium onion, diced

2 carrots, finely diced

3 14.5 oz. cans low sodium chicken broth

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 1/2 pounds Velveeta

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

 

Directions:

Add all the ingredients to the slow cooker except for the Velveeta and cheddar cheese. Stir, cover and cook on high for 4 hours.

After the 4 hours use and immersion blender to blend 3/4 of the soup. You can also use a blender; if doing so only blend 1 cup of soup at a time.

Add the cheeses and turn the slow cooker to low and cook covered for 15 minutes.

After the 15 minutes stir the soup to melt the cheese and mix it in. Add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Soup will keep in the fridge for a few days.

Recipe from The Pioneer Woman

 

Slow Cooker Sunday: Chicken and Broccoli

So, this wasn’t one of my favorite types of slow cooker meals. You know, throw it all in the slow cooker, walk away for about 8 hours and come back to a delicious meal, but it was one of the quickest (3 hours) and tastiest.

I started off by combining hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sugar, minced garlic and red pepper flakes in my slow cooker. I then added in chicken thighs that I roughly cut into 1 – 2 inch pieces. I set the slow cooker to low and cooked the chicken for 2 hours.

After 2 hours, I added in a cornstarch-water mixture to thicken the sauce and some fresh broccoli florets and continued cooking everything for an additional hour on the high setting.

And that was it…

 

To serve, I made rice to soak up all of the sauce.

 

The one thing I would do different next time I make this is omit the cornstarch-water mixture. I found that the sauce got even thicker the following day for left-overs.

Slow Cooker Chinese Chicken and Broccoli

Ingredients:

1/4 cup hoisin sauce*

1/4 cup soy sauce**

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon sugar

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 heads broccoli, cut into florets

Cooked rice, for serving

Directions:

In a slow cooker whisk together the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, water, sugar, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Add the chicken and toss to coat with the sauce. Cover and cook on low for 2 hours.

In a small bowl combine the cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water.

After 2 hours, stir the cornstarch mixture into the slow cooker to thicken the sauce. Add the broccoli and toss to coat (don’t worry if you cannot coat most of the broccoli). Cover and cook for an additional hour on high, or until the broccoli is tender. Serve with rice.

*I used a garlic hoisin sauce

**I used a low-sodium soy sauce

Recipe from Slow Cooker Family Favorites

Slow Cooker Sunday: Moroccan Short Ribs with Coucous

With fall upon us and temperatures finally somewhat fall-like it’s time to bring out my slow cooker once again. Granted, when I made this dish last weekend it was feeling more like the first weekend of summer than fall.

This is my favorite type of slow cooker recipe… Just add everything into the slow cooker, cover and turn on. It doesn’t get easier than that.

I made couscous to go along with the short ribs and while I’ve had it before I’ve never made it myself. I didn’t know it was so simple. I simply boiled water with olive oil, added the couscous, covered the pot and removed it from the heat. Five minutes later I removed the cover and fluffed it with a fork and it was done.

 

Slow Cooker Moroccan Short Ribs with Couscous

Ingredients:

2-3 pounds bone-in beef short ribs

1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes

4 garlic cloves, sliced

1/2 cup dried apricots, halved

1/2 cup pitted black olives

1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Kosher salt and black pepper

1 cup couscous

 

Directions:

Combine the short ribs, tomatoes with their juices, garlic, apricots, olives, ginger, cumin, cinnamon and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper in a 4 to 6 quart slow cooker. Cover and cook until the beef is tender, on low 7 to 8 hours, or on high for 5 to 6 hours. Skim off and discard most of the fat.

Ten minutes before serving, cook couscous according the package directions.

Serve the short ribs with the couscous.

Recipe from Real Simple