Friday, February 16, 2018

Food For Thought: All Hail the Mighty Crock Pot (recipes included)

When I got my first apartment, I received a Crock Pot as a housewarming gift. I started my vegetarian journey at the time (which was very different back then) and wasn't really sure how to use this mighty mini appliance.

I didn't use it very often but once I had my kids, it was like a God-send, especially since I had to do a lot of the kids' at-home therapy during the times I would normally be preparing and cooking supper. I mean, really? I put all the ingredients in the Pot, closed the lid, turned it on then, VOILA! I full meal cooked without the mess, extra energy or me having to be there.

So, in celebration I thought I'd share a few recipes we've tried with our Crock Pot. Feel free to change any of the ingredients up, especially if you're a vegetarian.

Let me know if you tried any of these, or add your own. I love trying out new recipes.

Happy Friday!
One of my favorite dips is spinach dip. You can make this have a bit of a kick by adding the jalapenos or even a bit crunchier with watercress nuts. The most important thing is to prepare it with the ingredients your family enjoys.

2 packages of frozen chopped spinach (thawed and drained)
2 cups of chopped onions
1 teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of garlic powder (We love garlic so we always add more!)
¼ teaspoon of black pepper
12 ounces pasteurized processed cream cheese spread, cubed (with or without the jalapeno peppers)
1 round pumpernickel loaf (or whichever sort of bread you prefer)

First, drain spinach and squeeze dry, reserving ¾ cup of the liquid. Put the spinach, liquid, onions, salt, garlic powder and pepper into 11/2-quart or other small-sized slow cooker; stir to blend the ingredients. Cover and cook on HIGH for 1 ½  hours.

Stir in the cheese and cook for 30 minutes longer or until it’s melted. Cut the round bread and scoop the insides out making it hollow. Pour the dip into the loaf and serve with crackers, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices or pita chips.


This has become one of our favs. If you have a smaller Crock Pot please watch out for the onion soup mix. The first time we did this recipe we found it so salty, there wasn’t enough water in our house to quench our thirsts! Use salt-reduced beef broth and make your own onion soup mix (we got our version from the Feingold Cookbook). OH! And the crunchier the rolls the better they’ll stand up in the au jus.

(Makes 8 to 10 servings)

4 pounds beef rump roast.
1 envelope (1 ounce) dried onion soup mix (or 1/3 cup of Feingold version)
2 teaspoons of sugar (balances out the saltiness of the soup mix)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 garlic clove, minced (use more if you love garlic!)
2 cans (or 2 ½ cups) beef broth
1 bottle (12 ounces) of beer

Trim excess fat from beef and discard. Place the beef in the Crock Pot.

Combine the soup mix, sugar, oregano, garlic, broth and beer in a large mixing bowl. Pour the mixture over the beef. Cover and cook on HIGH for 6 to 8 hours or until the beef is fork-tender.

Remove the beef and shred it using 2 forks. Return the beef to the cooking liquid and mix well. Serve on the rolls with extra cooking liquid on the side (“jus”).

Tip: You’ll find that the tougher cuts of meat work fabulously in recipes where they have to cook for a long time. That’s what the tough cuts are meant for—long, slow cooking. Very flavorful.



Our family loves chicken but we were getting tired of either stir-fry or the old Shake-n-Bake styles. So, when I saw this recipe I knew it would be a hit! You can make it with the wild rice blend, brown or even plain white. I highly recommend the wild-rice, however, because it’s very flavorful and gives the rice a bit more “oomph.” This recipe is also very healthy. Enjoy!

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, lightly pounded
Kosher or sea salt to taste
Black ground pepper to taste
1 cup wild-rice blend (or your personal fav)
10 cloves of garlic (use less if your family aren’t garlic fans)
½ cup of oil-packed or sun-dried tomatoes*
½ cup of capers (optional)
2 cups of water
½ cup of fresh-squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
*If you use the sun-dried tomatoes, be sure to soak them in boiling water to soften them up before chopping them.

Season the chicken with salt and black pepper the put it in the Crock Pot. Add the rice, garlic, tomatoes and capers, if you choose to add them. Stir well.

Mix the water, lemon juice and oil in a small mixing bowl the pour the mixture over the rice and chicken. Stir once to coat the chicken. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 hours.



When I was a kid, my grandmother used to make stuffed peppers for us all the time. She’d put sausages or other bits of meat in hers but this is an excellent—and healthy—vegetarian meal as well. If anyone in your family has a weaker palate for spiciness (like me!) just ease back on the chili powder and cumin. And don’t forget the salsa and sour cream! You can use red, yellow, orange or a combination of all peppers if you desire. It all depends on if you want a sweeter background from the peppers. (Our kids aren’t keen on these yet but you can tweak the stuffing each time so they’ll at least give that a taste.)

4 green bell peppers
1 can (15 ounces) of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup (4 ounces) of shredded pepper-jack cheese (or whichever kind you like)
¾ cup medium salsa
½ cup frozen corn
½ cup chopped green onions with tops
1/3 cup uncooked long-grain brown (or white) rice
1 teaspoon chili pepper
½ teaspoon ground cumin

Cut thin slice off the top of each bell pepper. Carefully remove the seeds and membrane, leaving the pepper whole.

Combine the beans, cheese, salsa, corn, onions, rice, chili powder and cumin in a medium bowl. Spoon the filling into each pepper the place them into the Crock Pot (Don’t worry, they’ll hold each other up!)

Cover and cook on LOW for about 4 to 6 hours or until the peppers are soft but still firm.

Tip: I find it better to cook my rice ahead of time. It saves on cooking time and, frankly, I always fear crunchy rice (Ew!)



This is an awesome recipe for those cool evenings. I’ve even added barley to give the soup a bit more heartiness. If you choose to do that, just remember to add a bit more liquid. If you aren’t able to find the red lentils, just use the brown ones instead. That’s what we do. Enjoy!

1 can (14 ½ ounces) vegetable broth
1 can (14 ½ ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 medium zucchini or yellow summer squash (or one of each), diced
1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced
½ cup thinly sliced carrots
½ cup red (or brown) lentils, rinsed and sorted
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon of sugar
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or thyme

Combine the broth, tomatoes and juice, zucchini (or squash), peppers, carrots, lentils, salt, sugar and pepper into the Crock Pot. Mix well. Cover and cook for about 8 hours on LOW or 4 hours on HIGH (or until the veggies and lentils are tender.)

Ladle into bowls and garnish with croutons, basil and/or cheese.



What’s dinner without some dessert? This is quick, easy and so sweet. Remember that the walnuts are optional. Play around with different cake mixes and pie fillings. It’s always best to make your own fillings or mixes from scratch but there are some wonderful ‘brain-friendly’ brands out there. And, in my opinion, FRESH whipped cream and homemade ice cream is best. Yum!

1 can (21 ounces) of cherry pie filling (or use your own homemade version)
1 package yellow cake mix (or throw together 18 ¼ ounces of your own mix)
½ cup (1 stick) of butter
1/3 cup of chopped walnuts (optional)
Fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Place the pie filling into the Crock Pot. Mix the cake mix and butter in a medium bowl then spread it evenly over the cherry filling. If you want the walnuts, sprinkle them on top.

Cover and cook on LOW for about 3 or 4 hours or on HIGH for about 1 ½ to 2 hours. Serve warm with generous scoops of topping or ice cream on top.

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