This may be the easiest recipe I’ve ever published on my blog. I mean, a total of 6 ingredients with minimal fuss in the prep? It truly doesn’t get much easier.
It all started with my typical weekly browse of the “What’s New” shelf at my local Trader Joe’s. My eyes lit upon a bottle of Organic Sriracha and Roasted Garlic Barbecue Sauce and I knew that baby was going home with me for dinner. The entire ride home my mind was swimming with ideas of how to use it.
In the end, though, the simplest idea is generally best. And so these Sriracha BBQ Chicken Sandwiches were born.
In the morning before I leave for work I simply toss some lean chicken breast, this sriracha barbecue sauce, and some slices of red onion into the slow cooker. Heck, I’ve even taken the chicken straight out of the freezer and thrown it into the slow cooker. That’s right, no dethawing.
At the end of the day, when I come home from work the house smells like someone’s been barbecuing all day in my kitchen. I then whip up a simple slaw of a store-bought coleslaw mix, lowfat blue cheese dressing, and a bit of crumbled blue cheese. Now all that’s left to do is shred up the chicken breast and slap my sandwich together.
After Juneuary and Febuly here in the Pacific Northwest, March has returned us to the normalcy of rain. I love waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of raindrops plopping on the roof, splattering against my window. I snuggle down into my blankets and the noise lulls me back to sleep.
There’s something about a rich, thick stew on a cool, rainy day that makes me feel warm and happy from the inside out. I love to dunk hot crusty bread in the broth, soaking the bread through with the flavor of the broth, and slowly savor it in my mouth.
I’m particularly fond of this recipe that combines the dark, chocolate flavor of a rich stout beer with sweet winter tangerines. I slow cook some chopped up beef bottom round roast with tender sweet potatoes, carrots, and chewy dried tomatoes for a bowl of deliciousness that is out of this world. It makes my mouth happy just thinking about the goodness to come from each bite.
The best part? This is truely a fix-it-and-forget-it meal. I simply marinate the beef overnight in the stout then throw everything in the slow cooker in the morning before I leave from work. When I come home from the office, all I have to do is mix in the tangerine juice and dig into a bowl. Home-cooking does not get any easier than this.
Getting back into the kitchen after my injury has not been so easy. I find that even minimal effort leaves me with an aching ankle and as exhausted as if I had just completed a hard workout.
Thank goodness for my slow cooker.
I use my slow cooker this time of year for many a dish, but I’ve found myself using it more since I’ve been slowly getting back into the kitchen. I can set it in the morning, dinner is ready for me at the end of the day, and I have leftovers to keep me fed for at least a few more days.
This Rioja Red Potato and Chicken Chorizo Stew makes some of my favorite leftovers. Rich red Rioja wine makes for a complex and tasty broth that swims with creamy red potatoes and spicy chorizo sausage. Chorizo sausage made from chicken lowers the fat and calorie content, making a great stew also good for you.
Bonus? The stew also freezes well. I like to ladle it into containers in individual serving sizes. Then it’s just a matter of popping the container into the microwave for a satisfying lunch or dinner.
What are you making in your slow cooker?
Slow Cooker Rioja Red Potato and Chicken Chorizo Stew
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add the onion, garlic and salt and cook until the onions are transparent.
Stir in the sausage and continue cooking until the sausage is cooked and crumbly and the onions are browned.
Add the red wine and use a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan, getting all the cooked bits off the bottom of the pan.
Remove the skillet from the heat and transfer the contents into the slow cooker.
Stir the potatoes, tomatoes, broth and paprika into the chorizo mixture in the slow cooker.
Submerge the bay leaf in the stew, cover and cook on low for 10 hours.
Stir in the fresh cilantro and ladle yourself up a bowl of steaming deliciousness.
Rioja wine comes from the Rioja appellation in Spain and is made primarily from tempranillo grapes. The wines from this region are beautiful and worth seeking out. If you're looking for a domestic wine, though, seek out a tempranillo for this recipe.
This time of year when I go to work in the dark and come home in the dark, I love to break out my slow cooker. What’s better than throwing some ingredients in the slow cooker before you leave the house and have it all ready and waiting for you when you walk in the door? Plus, the house always smells amazing.
The slow cooker is filled and ready to cook.
My first slow cooker recipe this season is this Thai inspired soup that is creamy, sweet, and mildly spicy, yet entirely vegan. I start by throwing everything in the slow cooker, covering the pot, and letting it cook on low for up to 10 hours. When I come home, there’s nothing left to do but to puree it up and serve.
But wait! There is one secret to the success of this dish: Nasoya Silken Tofu.
Add a few peanuts for garnish if desired.
Nasoya Silken Tofu is extra soft and creamy and makes a perfect substitute for cream in a dish like this. I simply puree it up with the cooked soup, let the soup reheat a bit, and serve. It’s thick, creamy, and you would never know that there’s tofu in there. Bonus: using tofu also adds a nice little nutritional pop of protein to the recipe.
Would you like to try Nasoya Silken Tofu or other Nasoya product? The first 3 people to leave a comment below telling me what you’d like to make with Nasoya Silken Tofu will receive a coupon for a free Nasoya product!
Have you ever had a truly insane day at work? One of those days where time seems to fly, everything is urgent, and it’s all you can do to find time to even slip away to the bathroom?
I had one of those days this past week. There were so many demands being made of me that I didn’t know where to start, and it seemed like it was never ending. As the day started to ebb, and my energy levels were sagging, I began to dread going home and making dinner. I was just too tired to even think about cooking.
And then I remembered I had put this delicious Italian Chicken Sausage and Bean Stew in the Slow Cooker before I left the house that morning. My spirits were buoyed. All I had to do to complete the meal was to warm up some crusty bread and ladle some stew in a bowl. Heck, there was even wine ready to be poured with it!
I first published this Slow Cooker recipe almost 2 years ago, but it has remained one of my all time favorites. I find myself in a bit of a bind right now because, while I have many recipes in the hopper that I’m working on, I don’t have one that is ready to share with you yet. You need to realize that I’m very particular about having things just right before I publish a recipe to the world.
So I decided to recycle one of my favorites, this gorgeously delicious Slow Cooker Italian Chicken Sausage and Bean Stew. It’s spicy and hearty, and the tomato and red wine infused broth is delicious soaked into a piece of warm, crusty baguette. What I love best, though, is that I can have a roller-coaster day at work, come home, and have dinner waiting for me. Perfect!
As much as I look forward to sunshine and the bounty of fresh produce it brings, the weather this time of year is still highly unreliable. Last Sunday morning I woke up to sunshine then, just as I stepped outside to get some yard work done, the sky turned black, the wind kicked up, and rain began pelting down. It is days like this that I still crave a hot and hearty soup.
This Carrot Orange Coconut Soup is perfect for such cold, wet spring days. It’s thick and hearty enough to make a meal, along with a green salad and a chunk of warm, crusty bread. However, the sweet carrots, brightened by a hint of orange and made creamy with light coconut milk, also scream spring. I like to slurp a spoonful, close my eyes and dream of the warm summer days to come.
Bonus? This soup is also soup-er easy to make AND it’s completely vegan! I especially love to make this for Meatless Monday. I throw everything in the slow cooker before I leave for work, and when I come home, after a quick finishing touch, dinner is ready. It’s effortless for even the most novice cook, delicious, and healthy. What’s better than that?
Here’s the lesson of the week: never pack your laptop in checked luggage.
It all started with a trip to beautiful Napa, California. I go there every other month to visit my aging grandmother, which is not exactly a hardship for a food and wine lover such as myself. On this trip, my cousin and her husband from my mother’s side of the family were also there on holiday and so we met up to tour some wineries and taste some delicious wine.
Beaulieu Vineyards has beautiful big cabs.
I wasn’t impressed with the wine at Heitz Wine Cellars but their back patio was beautiful.
The back patio at Heitz Wine Cellars was topped by a pergola covered in a gorgeous blooming wisteria.
I loved the dogwood off to the side of the patio at Heitz Wine Cellars. The dogwood is my favorite flowering spring tree, especially fitting for Easter. Do you know the story of the dogwood?
Benches surround a firepit on the patio of Heitz Wine Cellars, looking out over the miles of vineyards coming into bloom.
Our final stop for the day was Sterling Vineyards, which makes a decent budget cab. Here you ride a tram to the winery high above the valley.
Once at the winery, you wander from terrace to terrace, stopping at different tasting stations, and appreciating the view down St Helena Highway in the Napa valley.
Of course as a result of these excursions I came home with some wine, as well as some delicious, high quality balsamic vinegar from Olivier. I packed these carefully into my carry-on, which means that I had to check my bag as the liquids would never make it past security. With a severe case of Sunday lazies after a busy weekend with my family, I decided to squeeze my laptop into my carry-on as well. I just didn’t feel like toting it around.
Can you guess what happened? Somewhere in between being squished in my luggage and being thrown around by the baggage handlers when I checked it, the screen was damaged. When I turn my laptop on, I see only a series of rapidly flashing streaks of color.
All of this is my way of explaining to you why you haven’t heard from me in a while. I was fully ready to share this recipe for Slow Cooker Parmesan Bean and Spinach Soup with you last weekend, only to discover my laptop was not cooperating. While it is almost 4 years old and I could certainly use an upgrade, for now I’ve connected it up to a monitor that I picked up on the cheap at Goodwill and am making do.
Leftover parmesan rinds become the base for a delicious soup.
I suppose this soup is a way of making do as well. I mean, what do you do with leftover parmesan cheese rinds except throw them away? I always thought that is such a shame, after all a good block of parmesano reggiano is so good and there’s so much flavor still left in that hard rind. So I decided to use the rinds as a base for a soup, injecting a unique flavor into the broth without all of the heavy calories of actual cheese.
I added some cannellini beans, onion, sundried tomatoes and herbs to round out the flavors and give the soup some bulk. Then at the end I throw in some fresh baby spinach for a pretty pop of color and additional nutritional value. With a hunk of crusty bread for dunking, it’s a deliciously easy dinner.
Place the parmesan cheese rinds at the bottom of a slow cooker pot.
Add in the cannellini beans, onion, sundried tomatoes, broth, garlic, rosemary, bay leaf, red chile pepper flakes, and salt and pepper.
Stir, cover and cook in the slow cooker for 8 hours.
Remove the parmesan rinds and bay leaf from the soup.
Stir in the baby spinach leaves, cover and let sit for 15 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.
I love to use dried beans because they are so much cheaper and healthier than their canned counterparts. Simply cover these dried cannellini beans in 6 cups of water, bring it to a boil then simmer on medium for about 45 minutes until tender. Drain, rinse and they are ready to use!
Here I was thinking that spring had spring and warmer weather was finally on the way in the Pacific Northwest. Oh how mistaken I was.
Rain has been pounding the area this week, leaving me with a bit of cabin fever. Luckily, I like to play in my kitchen and a soup in the slow cooker is perfect for a dreary, wet day such as we’ve been having.
For this soup, I decided to use boneless pork tenderloin because it plays so well with the juxtaposition of sweet and spicy flavors. Slow cooked in the crockpot, the tenderloin becomes amazingly tender and juicy. Coupled with tiny hearty navy beans and fresh baby spinach, it’s a soup that you’ll want to make again and again.
I like to pair this soup with a side salad of baby spinach, pears, red onion and a light vinaigrette, along with some warm, crusty bread. I think fresh, warm baguette with a dab of butter is a pre-requisite for just about any soup. Is there anything better than sopping up the broth with a piece of fresh baked bread? Delicious!
What are you making in your kitchen today?
Slow Cooker Sweet and Spicy Tenderloin and Bean Soup
Place pork tenderloin in the bottom of a slow cooker.
Add in the cooked beans, onion, molasses, honey, worcestershire sauce, red chile pepper flakes, and garlic. Stir in the broth, salt, and sage. Cover and cook for at least 8 and up to 10 hours.
Remove tenderloin from crockpot and use 2 forks to shred to a fine pulp. If desired, do a rough chop to create even smaller pieces.
Mix the shredded tenderloin back into the soup. Add in the baby spinach leaves and stir well. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes then serve.
I like to use dry beans because the sodium content is so much lower and it is so much less expensive than their canned counterparts. To reconstitute or cook the dried navy beans, bring the dry beans to a boil in 4 cups of water. Continue cooking at a very gentle boil for 45-60 minutes. Drain, place in a container and cover with fresh water. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
I know, I know, I too am dreaming of backyard barbecues and fresh garden veggies. But mother nature has other ideas, she likes to take her time in returning the sunshine to my neck of the woods. The temperatures are still chilly, the rain is still falling, and the wind is still blowing. So why not continue putting my slow cooker to work?
I especially love a slow cooker dish that requires almost no prep work, like this creamy, hearty Red Lentil, Sausage and Kale Stew. Literally, all I do is throw some ingredients in the pot, set it to cook, and it’s done. Does cooking get any easier than that?
Are you still using your slow cooker? What is your favorite dish?
For my next series on eating healthy on a budget, I’m using a simple stew prepared in the slow cooker as the base for a work-week’s worth of meals. Black beans are cheap and plentiful in the bulk food bins and make a healthy add to all sorts of meals. This flavorful stew can transform into many different dishes, starting with the stew itself of course.
First, here’s my grocery list, costing a total of $35.24:
1 lb. dried black beans – $0.99
2 slices bacon from the meat or deli counter – $0.86
1 onion – $0.59
1 lb. bag of organic carrots – $0.79
1 can diced tomatoes, no salt added – $0.79
7-oz. can chipotle in adobo sauce – $2.49
16 oz. plain, nonfat Greek yogurt – $2.79
1 bunch cilantro – $0.79
3 limes – $1.29
Brown basmati rice – $4.39
2 delicata squash, about 1 lb. each – $5.23
3 tomatoes – $2.10
8 oz. shredded, reduced-fat cheese – Mexican blend – $4.19
1 head of red leaf lettuce – $1.29
1 dozen large eggs – $2.69
2 medium haas avocados – $1.98
1 bag frozen roasted corn – $1.99
And here’s the menu we will be preparing:
Meal 1: Slow Cooker Smoky Bacon and Black Bean Stew with brown rice
Meal 4: Burrito Bowl with Cilantro Yogurt Dressing (serves 1)
Meal 5: Black Bean Rice Cakes with Avocado Cilantro Sauce (serves 2)
Note that I don’t include in the price list those cupboard staples: olive oil, spices and garlic. I buy these in larger quantities and use them in multiple recipes over a long period of time so it’s difficult to quantify the cost for these purposes. But if I were to calculate a per meal cost it would be pennies on the dollar.
For our base stew, I use just 2 slices of bacon to add a tremendous amount of flavor to the dish while keeping the fat content down. I like to fry the bacon in the pan then saute the onion, carrots and garlic in the renderings before adding everything to the slow cooker. This adds a salty, smokiness to the stew that can’t be substituted with anything else, in my humble opinion.
The stew makes 8, 1-cup servings and leftovers freeze very well. I like to serve the stew over brown rice, but rice and beans are one of my all time favorite combos. Maybe it goes back to my days as an exchange student in Brazil where black beans and rice were served every day with the noon-time meal. Sometimes for dinner we would scramble an egg with beans and rice leftover from lunch – it was delicious!
Tune in next week when I show you how to turn some of this leftover stew into scrumptious Southwestern Stuffed Delicata Squash.
A small amount of smoky bacon infuses a ton of flavor in a spicy, slow cooked bean stew. Delicious over a bit of brown rice, leftovers also transform into a variety of versatile dishes.
2 slices thick cut bacon
½ large sweet onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 can diced, no salt added tomatoes
2 cups dried black beans, cooked
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
4 cups homemade, salt free chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
Coat a skillet with nonstick cooking spray and heat over medium heat.
Add the bacon and cook until crispy, turning to cook on both sides. Remove from pan and set on a paper towel to cool. Once cooled, crumble into small pieces.
Add the onion, carrot and garlic to the pan and cook in the bacon fat for about 5 minutes or until very lightly browned.
Add the bacon, onion, carrot, garlic, tomatoes, beans and chipotle peppers to the slow cooker.
Stir in the chicken broth.
Cover and cook on low for 10 hours. Add salt and pepper to taste
Serving Suggestion: Serve each serving of stew over ¼ cup dry brown, basmati rice cooked according to package directions and topped with a dollop of nonfat, plain Greek yogurt, cilantro and a squeeze of lime (not included in nutritional breakdown).
To cook dried beans: Bring 8 cups of water to a boil. Add the 2 cups dried black beans and continue boiling for 45 minutes. Remove from heat and drain water. Put into a container and cover with fresh water. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Drain before using.