Sunday, September 21, 2014

Crockpot Corn Chowder

Crockpot again? Yes. Once school cranks up, the crockpot is my staple kitchen tool. I am lucky enough to live close to work and can run home at noon to start my crockpot for supper. (That's the evening meal.) I find a lot of recipes online and all recommend sauteing something first, then simmering in a pot on the stove. Well, I'm not keen on putting anything on the stovetop while I'm not home or dirtying too many extra dishes. I find the flavors work together just beautifully when cooked for sometime in the crockpot. We had finished up freezing corn a couple weeks ago and I wanted to try a corn soup recipe. I found a few starter ideas in an old church cookbook but none that would work for the crockpot or for my low-dairy household (lots of heavy cream!). So I took the basic ingredients and came up with this soup. We really liked it. I find that the best potatoes to use in soups are the tender yellow rose kind. They are red skinned with a buttery yellow flesh. Yum. Try the soup. It takes just a few minutes to throw together and a few minutes of finishing at mealtime. If you put in a loaf of french bread to bake (like the Pillsbury fresh dough kind) you'll have the soup finished in the time it takes to bake the bread. Enjoy!

Crockpot Corn Chowder
1 T. butter
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
5 cups chicken broth
2 cups diced ham (bacon would work too, if that's what you have on hand)
1 T. minced garlic
4 cups potatoes, peeled and diced (I used yellow rose potatoes and didn't peel them.)
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
3 large carrots, shredded
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 T. chopped Italian parsley (dry is okay.)
Salt and white pepper to taste
1 c. milk*
1/2 c. sour cream*
2 T. flour mixed with 1/2 c. cold water
1 green onion, chopped

Melt the butter and pour into crockpot. Add onion, green pepper, chicken broth, ham, garlic, potatoes, corn, and 1 of the carrots. Salt, pepper, thyme, cayenne and 1 T. parsley.  Stir together, cover and cook on high for 4 hours. At meal time, stir in the remaining carrots, 1 T. parsley, milk, sour cream and flour mixture. Cook another 20-25 minutes to let the soup thicken. Serve hot with green onion for garnish and a bit of fresh cracked pepper to taste. Great with a warm, crusty bread.

* Note: I used 1 c. unsweetened almond milk and 1/2 c. soy sour cream.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Crockpot Ratatouille Spaghetti

Ratatouille spaghetti. Is that a thing? Could it be? I think so. It's farmer's market season and the goodies of the garden are abundant. I found some beautiful eggplant, summer squash in yellow and green, peppers in red, green, yellow and purple, fresh garlic, tomatoes. Good Lord, it's a beautiful thing. I like all the ratatouille flavors but I have a pasta lover in my house so I know I can get her to eat anything if I serve it with pasta. Again I utilized the crockpot so I could have some hearty food ready for supper (that's the evening meal) on a weeknight. Lunch time I run home to let the dog out and often throw something together. (And cross the fingers all afternoon!) This was amazing and was so easy to make. I cut some corners with some leftover spaghetti sauce from another meal, but you could easily use some jar sauce and really make it in a flash. 

Ratatouille Spaghetti
3-4 Tblsp olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced thin 
1 medium sized eggplant, sliced thin
1 yellow squash, sliced thin
1 zucchini squash, sliced thin
1 green pepper, sliced thin
1 red pepper, sliced thin
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of your favorite tomato sauce/marinara/spaghetti sauce
1 pound box of pasta, spaghetti/angel hair/linguine

Drizzle the bottom of the crockpot with enough olive oil to coat it well. Layer onion, eggplant, squash, pepper in alternating layers until you've used up all the veggies you've cut up. Combine garlic and the tomato sauce. Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the top of the veggies. Cover veggies with the tomato sauce. Put the lid on and cook on high for 4-5 hours. Prepare a pound of your favorite pasta according to directions on the box. Serve ratatouille over pasta. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese if desired.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Marcy's Amazing Crockpot Meatloaf

Okay. So you've seen a hundred crockpot meatloaf recipes on Pinterest. Which one to try? It's hard to decide. Have the pinners actually tried the recipe or did they just pin it to try later. My tip? Go with one that's easy. I created a recipe using inspiration from a lot of recipes and a few relatively successfull attempts of my own. I like making meatloaf in the crockpot so I don't have to worry about the grease spillover in my oven. Plus, it cooks while I'm gone at work and it's super easy. I make a big 3-pound meatloaf so we have leftovers for meatloaf sandwiches, and I use a big 6-quart oval crockpot. I've tried a few different dry ingredients from bread crumbs to oatmeal to graham crackers. All pretty good. My latest victory was with rye flakes. Yeah, totally. Rye flakes make for some really good breakfast cereal if you like oatmeal give it a whirl. I also use rye flakes in my granola recipes so I do have it on hand and its heartier flavor goes nicely with the beef. We all agreed it was one of the best meatloaf efforts in recent memory. 

Marcy's Amazing Crockpot Meatloaf
3 lbs. lean ground beef
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. milk
1 c. rye flakes, crushed into small pieces
1 T. minced onion flakes
1 T. minced garlic (or 1 T. Garlic Garlic from Tastefully Simple)

1 c. ketchup
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 T. Worchestershire sauce

Place a wide strip of aluminum foil in your crockpot. This will work like a sling so you can easily lift out the meatloaf later. Combine the ground beef with the rye flakes, egg, milk, onion and garlic. Smash and smoosh with your hands to really get the ingredients well mixed. Shape into an oval loaf that is relatively even from center to edges. Make sure it doesn't touch the sides of your crockpot. Cover and cook on high for about 5 hours. I put mine in at noon and it's ready at 5pm. Right at the end, combine the topping mixture and spread on the meatloaf. Allow to cook about 10 minutes. Then using the foil sling, remove the loaf to a platter and allow to sit for a few minutes before you cut into it. That keeps the juicy goodness inside. Juicy meaty goodness.