Thursday, June 24, 2010

Crock pot queen

With the weather being hot, nieces and nephews playing softball, Darling Husband rehearsing for a play and other forms of craziness, I've been a crock pot queen lately for dinner. First I made meatballs in sauce. I bought the meatballs frozen from Gordon's Meat, my favorite little butcher shop from when I was a kid. It's at the plaza at the intersection of Peach and Gore and it's so cute there. They also make killer home made andouille and chorizo. The meatballs were fantastic and so convenient. Baby Girl gobbled 2 in one sitting! Plus bread, which she used to mop up the sauce like the little Italian/French girl that she is. :o) The grown-ups had meatball subs with provolone.

Next came gumbo, which was also the first thing I've made using the crock pot bag liners. I HIGHLY recommend these! They sounded like a scary fire hazard at first, but a friend of mine swears by them so I gave it a try. I'm a convert for sure! They make clean up a breeze-- you literally just throw out the dirty bag. Maybe swipe off a little bit that dripped. It's perfect for dishes that might stain or be a pain to scrub, or just if you plan to turn around and use it again the next morning. The gumbo was good but a little... broken down. I'd partially browned the andouille, made the roux and sauteed the onions and peppers in a sauce pan, then put it into the crock with frozen okra, chicken that was picked from a rotisserie bird, stock and spices. Good gumbo often looks a bit swampy, but this time the okra just melted. Perhaps fresh would have held its shape better.

I also made an awesome dried cherry chicken dish with carrots. This was out of a recipe, although of course I had to alter it a bit. Chicken breasts, baby carrots (they wanted me to use whole carrots, chopped), honey, dried cherries, balsamic, chicken stock, 5 spice (although I couldn't find it so I used allspice) and grated fresh ginger. It was zesty, thanks to the ginger, and had a nice fruitiness without being too cloying. Definitely it was sweet, but it worked. We served it with mashed potatoes. My only complaint about this was the chicken was a little dry. Perhaps I should have used chicken thighs? But then again, I don't like chicken thighs. Could've used a bit of sambol olek for spice, too.

Tonight I made an Indian dish with spinach, peas and tofu. It's my version of saag paneer, with the dry farmer cheese and spinach, but I made mine with tofu. I filled the crock on my lunch hour with fresh baby spinach, which I had chopped, then grated in about 6 cloves of garlic, tossed on some frozen peas, dolloped some curry paste and glugged some chicken stock. When I came home from work, all was wilted to an inch of green at the bottom... it wasn't unexpected but still somehow shocking. I added in diced tofu (of which Baby Girl had a bite and pronounced it YUM) and some more curry paste, since it tasted bland. When Darling Husband came home, it was time to stir in some plain yogurt that I had let sit in a coffee filter-lined chinoise, bring back to temperature and serve. Despite my dubious recipe research, this came out pretty close to how saag paneer is supposed to taste! I was pleased. The yogurt kept it creamy and fluffy, not dense, and the tofu picked up all the curry flavor just like it should. I might've liked some more peas, but outside of that, I didn't have any suggestions for myself. And I'm maybe a bit proud of myself, too. Also, despite my surprise at the amount of wilted spinach, it made plenty for three hearty servings (one of us gets lunch). If I'd made rice, it would have stretched much further.

I'm not out of crock pot recipes yet! Tune in for another installment!

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