An Ode to my Slow Cooker

I adore my slow cooker. It’s also a pressure cooker, but the slow cook function gets used way more often. It’s great for long days, it’s a nice way to avoid using the oven and heating up the house, and there are usually fewer dished to wash.

I’m not actually going to write an ode to my slow cooker. I’m not totally crazy. But it has been a life saver. I love coming home to dinner and there are few things as delicious as a slow-cooked roast or pulled pork.

I have this model. It was a birthday gift from my boyfriend and I don’t think he has ever gotten as much out of a gift that he bought for someone else.

Our lives will start getting more insane in a few weeks when school starts and I start my new big kid job and commute a little bit more. So it will be a lot more slow cooking and less time in the kitchen. Which is not a bad thing. I love being in the kitchen and cooking and being creative, but it’s also really nice to have those hours.

Here are my top 10 favorite slow cooker recipes that are always in rotation at my house:

  1. Braised Beef Ragu with Polenta
  2. Crockpot Pulled Pork 
  3. Crockpot Coffee Ancho Chile Short Ribs
  4. Lemon Pepper Chicken
  5. Honey Ginger Apple Shredded Pork
  6. Slow Cooker Pork with Noodles (I use tamari or coconut aminos instead of the soy sauce and sometimes chicken instead of pork)
  7. Crockpot Chicken with Thai Peanut Sauce (Vegetarian/Vegan option)
  8. Slow Cooked BBQ Ribs
  9. Jambalaya
  10. Crockpot Sesame Honey Chicken

What is your favorite slow cooker recipe?

 

Boredom and another Meal Plan

Almost one month ago today, I made the trek from Hopkinton to Boston on foot with 30,000 of my closest friends. I am realizing now that marathon training really did take up my whole life. I had a big goal and every choice I made was aimed at getting me closer. With the exception of a few nights where I drank entirely too much wine. Unless you want to call that carb-loading.

Marathon training meant my time was pretty much already accounted for. My training plan meant that I knew what I would be doing every morning, my diet plan meant I knew what, when, and how much I would be eating. Weekends meant long runs, Monday was a rest day, and I settled into a routine of working really hard.

Now I’m in this weird place of not training for anything and feeling kind of lazy and unmotivated. There is something so fulfilling about making progress towards a goal and I miss it. Working towards something so big is a ton of work and requires sacrifices, but I have always been proud of what I was doing. I have questioned my sanity more than twice, but working towards a big goal is something I really enjoy.

So the big question (still) is now what?! I have a couple random races scheduled in the next month and a half marathon on the docket for August. I can’t decide if I want to try to crush the half or not. I guess I don’t have to decide that for another couple of weeks.

I’m kicking around the idea of trying to get really strong. Spending my mornings and my afternoons in the gym picking up heavy things and putting them back down. But I am also the fastest I have ever been and I worry that prioritizing lifting right now will slow me down. Maybe a half in August and then spend the fall getting stronger? So many choices….

The one thing that hasn’t changed is trying to eat well. Here’s what’s on the agenda for this week:

Sunday: Game of Thrones party. I made some sweet potato fries. Apparently the secret to crispy fries is to give them a nice long soak first. I was not diligent about making sure they don’t touch each other… but they still turned out alright, just not as crispy as I might have hoped.

Monday: Lemon Chicken Breasts, Risotto, and Asparagus. We have had a weekend of dreary weather and risotto is one of my current favorite comfort foods. I ran out of arborio rice, so I used mostly arborio and some jasmine rice and it still turned out delicious.

I took a picture of this and only after we ate, I realized that I took a picture of the breast that I poked with the thermometer to make sure I wasn’t feeding us raw chicken. The juices started running out and long story short, it didn’t actually photograph well.

Tuesday: Tri-Tip. I use this recipe for inspiration. Most of the time I just throw together seasonings or a marinade, let it sit overnight and then off to the grill. I grill on high heat for 5 minutes per side, then turn the heat down to medium for ~10 minutes per side.

Wednesday: Copycat Red Robin Burgers from Paleo Parents. With chicken breasts, grilled pineapple, white rice, and broccoli.

Red Robin Recreation - copycat teriyaki Banzai Burgers as seen on Paleo Parents

Thursday: Super simple crockpot pulled pork. My recipe is pork loin + spices (whatever sounds good) + 1/4 cup water + crockpot. Let it hang out for 6-8 hours on low and enjoy.

Friday: We camped Friday night, so dinner was pan-fried chicken breasts and rice. We got a new campstove and it has 2 settings – off and Dante’s inferno. I’ll talk more about camp cooking next week. The trip was an adventure.

I got some awesome recipes in my inbox this week and I’m looking forward to trying them and sharing with you!

 

What I Fed Myself This Week

When I started this blog, I had high hopes that it would be a platform to share recipes that I developed myself. I love food, I love cooking, and being in the kitchen is my favorite way to get creative. It seemed like a great fit.

I learned that food styling and food photography are not my strong suit, botched recipes can get expensive, and it takes quite a bit of time and iterations to get a recipe dialed in enough to want to share it with the world.

I have a whole new respect for food bloggers. These days, my focus is running and Crossfit and meal planning, shopping, cooking, and eating takes up enough time as it is.

Most of what I cook is loosely based or “inspired by” the recipes I pick out.The ingredients are more like a suggestion or a framework to build off of. Unless you are baking. You should be reasonably precise with that or things will not go well for you. I’ve learned that the hard way more than twice.

But I realize that not everyone likes to meal plan. Not everyone knows where to start. We all have busy lives. It can be hard if you have never done it before.

So I wanted to start sharing what I am feeding myself – to share ideas with you, help you out if you are trying to cook at home more, or just to share some new recipes!

I use my slow cooker  and my grill religiously. Between the BF and I, we have a number of dietary considerations, so I typically rotate between broccoli, asparagus, and zucchini as our veggie side. Our carbohydrate/starch is typically rice (jasmine, sushi, arborio,etc.) or any variety of potato. Sometimes rice noodles. I’m working on incorporating quinoa. We eat simply and most of these meals require little prep time.

Sunday: Balsamic Braised Beef from the 21 Day Sugar Detox with Broccoli and Polenta

Monday: 30 Minute Cacciatore Chicken with Grilled Asparagus and Mashed Potatoes

Chicken Cacciatore

Tuesday: Filipino Style London Broil with Rice and Grilled Zucchini and Carrots

Wednesday: Ginger-Marinated Bulgogi-Style Chicken with Rice and Broccoli. This is one of my favorite marinades – I use some variant of it almost every week. I use tamari or coconut aminos instead of soy sauce for a gluten free option.

Thursday: Carnitas Nachos. Because Cinco de Mayo. Pork Verde, Baked Tortilla Chips, and all the fixings (avocado, salsa, cilantro, tomato, green onion, mango).

Paleo Pork Verde on www.PopularPaleo.com

Friday: Another favorite of mine and a marinade that I use almost weekly. Balsamic Rosemary Steak with broccoli and roasted red potatoes.

Steak, potato, and mushroom kabobs are soaked in a flavorful balsamic rosemary marinade and grilled to perfection! This takes steak and potatoes to a whole new level! | LoveGrowsWild.com

Saturday will be an adventure. I may or may not cook something. We might go out. It’s too soon to tell. I’m sure it will be delicious.

 

Happy eating!!

 

 

Eating an elephant. And other delicious things.

Last year at this time I was “only taking research credits/working on my thesis” and I had a grand notion that I would, in fact, have time to actually work on my thesis. In hind sight, I’m sure I did, but the deadline was far enough away to make it feel like I “had plenty of time”.

I defended in December of last year – later than I wanted to, but probably the best I could have hoped for given the circumstances. The idea of writing a thesis seems simple – you do some research and you write about it. Kind of like running a marathon. You go out and you train and then you run for a really long time. But as you get into those things, you realize that they are a lot more involved than they appear on the surface.

No one told me I would read 400+ journal articles or actually cry into my laptop. No one told me I would have to buy “fat shoes” that I could wear when my feet get super swollen or that I would cry on the side of the road or that you can get chafing so bad that you bleed. There are a lot of things that no one told me before I started either of these endeavors… but perhaps it’s best that we don’t fully understand what we are getting ourselves into.

The process can be so overwhelming. Terrifying even.

I have to run a marathon.

I have to write a thesis.

Those are big. They seem bigger than I can handle. I don’t know how I am going to pull these off. I lose perspective.

Perspective says, “I don’t have to run a marathon tomorrow. I just have to do my training run for that day. I don’t have to run 26 miles… just 6 or 8 or 10 or whatever my plan calls for.”

Perspective says, “I don’t have to have my thesis done by next week. I just need to write the next paragraph. Read the next article.”

Perspective says do the next right thing. Not even a big thing. The next thing. What is the next thing you can do to get closer to where you want to be? It can be simple. I’m going to wake up tomorrow and go for a run. Maybe your goal is weight loss – the next thing you can do is wake up tomorrow and eat a healthy breakfast. Go walk for 10 minutes.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Just take the next bite.

And if elephants do not sound delicious, here are the recipes that I am making over and over because I’m too tired to be more creative! Enjoy!

Balsamic Rosemary Steak Kabobs

Ginger Marinated Bulgogi Style Chicken

 

 

It’s Hatch season!! And Green Chile Chicken Pizza

It’s hatch chile season!!! I decided that this is the second best foodie season. Pumpkin season is the best. And that is just around the corner! I keep seeing pictures of people with Pumpkin Spice Lattes all over Facebook and I cannot wait until my house smells of roasted pumpkins. Right now it just smells like burnt peppers and my fingers are burning from peeling and seeding peppers. And then I made the terrible mistake of rubbing my eyes… Fail.

I picked up a bunch of these little gems from my local farmers market and my local Sprouts. And when I say “a bunch”, I mean 10 pounds. Because I want to have enough for the year. Because roasted hatch chiles are delicious. They go with everything. There is really no savory dish that they don’t work well with. If you can do cheese, the cheddar-green chile combo is killer. Please just eat good cheese, like the kind that comes from grass-fed cows and isn’t full of hormones and gross stuff.

My agenda for all my chiles:

Green chile bacon burgers

Make green chile sauce and freeze it

Chop peppers and store them in the freezer

Green chile and chicken enchiladas

Green chile guacamole

Green chile beef jerky – this was sooooo good!

Aaaaaaand this gem of a recipe:

Green Chile Chicken Pizza (gluten free, grain free option, dairy free option, vegan option)

Your favorite gluten and/or grain-free pizza crust (I’m using this one)

Hatch chiles, roasted (how to roast them at home)

Green Chile Sauce – I like 505 brand (it’s gluten free) or you can make it at home using this recipe. Just substitute rice flour/ arrowroot for the flour

Favorite pizza toppings – for this recipe, I’m using

  • shredded chicken breast
  • onions
  • bell pepper
  • vegan cream cheese (I use Daiya- it’s soy-free)
  • vegan cheddar cheese (Daiya)

Directions

1. Make your pizza crust

2. Make your green chile sauce. Or buy your green chile sauce – 505 brand is the only one I have found that is gluten free. I modified the recipe I linked to and made it spicy with roasted hatch chiles, serranos, jalapenos, Anaheim chiles, and a green bell pepper.

3. Mix the green chile sauce and softened cream cheese. I used about 1 cup of sauce to 4 oz of cheese, but you can play with the consistency.

4. Slather on your pizza

5. Throw all your toppings on and return to the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

6. Devour. Which is exactly what happened in this case… and that is why there is no picture to go along with this recipe yet!

That one time I made half a gallon of barbecue sauce…

Why? Because my parents celebrated their 30th anniversary recently and naturally, we needed to have a party. We looked at a few options and ultimately decided that making food would be the most cost effective. And the easiest way to cater to special diets. So off I went to Sam’s Club and filled my fridge with enough food to feed a small army. Which means enough to feed my immediate family for 3 days 🙂

The menu:

Appetizers –
Corn chips and Salsa
Veggie Tray and Hummus

Main –
Shredded BBQ pork and shredded BBQ chicken (Easiest way to shred chicken ever)
Homemade BBQ sauce (I used a modified version of this recipe)

My version:

2 cans tomato paste
1 cup chicken broth (or vegetable stock for vegetarian/vegan)
1/8 cup molasses
1/2 TBSP maple syrup
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 TBSP liquid aminos (or coconut aminos or gluten-free soy sauce/ tamari)
1/2 TBSP onion powder
1/2 TBSP garlic powder
1/2 TBSP smoked paprika
1/4 tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste

Mix it all up and let it simmer for 10-20 minutes on the stove. Adjust seasoning as necessary. Or just mix and put it on your meat as it cooks.

Also, I quadrupled this recipe and stored it in a huge container. This was enough barbecue sauce to cover 30 pounds of meat. This recipe should make about 2 cups of sauce. As you can see, I made a lot!

BBQ sauce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sides

Grilled Veggie and Wild Rice Salad – stay tuned for the recipe!
Rainbow Kale Slaw (got rave reviews, even from the kale haters in the crowd. I have made this a couple times and it always goes over well)
Fruit salad – watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple, and grapes (I just used what was in season/ on sale)

rice saladkale slaw

 

Dessert

Sheet Cake from our Sam’s Club…. complete with a poor lettering job
Banana Chocolate Cake with Cinnamon “Buttercream” (gluten free, dairy free)

image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It took a ton of prep work – I don’t think I’ve ever produced that much food in my life. It was like Thanksgiving on steroids. Fortunately, I had a bunch of help, which made it all easy!