kid-friendly · Recipes · Slow Cooker

Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken

Inspired by a popular post on Damn Delicious (one of my favorite cooking blogs), this recipe for Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken is beyond foolproof, with no braising, marinating or prep work required — just toss it in the slow cooker, come home after work and eat. You can use any cut of chicken and it still turns out moist and delicious. The original recipe called for chicken thighs, but boneless breasts were on sale and are something Georgia prefers, so we decided to try the recipe with those instead. And it worked perfectly. Life = easier, just like that!

Honey Garlic Slow Cooker Chicken

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 Chicken thighs (or two packages of boneless breasts, which I used here)
  • 16 oz. red potatoes (half a 2.5 pound bag)
  • 16 oz.baby carrots (one bag)
  • 16 oz. green beans, trimmed (one bag)

FOR THE SAUCE

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce (preferably reduced sodium)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Dried oregano, basil, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste (about a tablespoon total)

DIRECTIONS

  • Mix the sauce together and set aside.
  • In your slow cooker, nestle the potatoes and carrots into the bottom of the pot, then layer the chicken on top. Pour the sauce over and set to cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.
  • The original recipe calls for basting every half hour, which is fine if you are home but not fine if you’re working. It turns out well either way.
  • In the last 30 minutes of cooking, add in the green beans.
  • Serve warm on a cold day!

OK, so this doesn’t photograph very well as a finished product. Trust me when I tell you it’s even BETTER as leftovers! 

This is a great recipe to pair with the Maple Dijon Pork Chops I posted about a couple of weeks ago when you’re meal planning for the week, because you can buy one bag of potatoes and use half in this meal and half with the chops; the same goes for the green beans.

Are you all set for Halloween?? We are in full Spooky Swing. Last weekend was the “Boo at the Zoo” event at the same place where we hosted Georgia’s birthday party this year, and we had a blast with friends riding the kiddie rides, seeing the animals in their exhibits, dancing to some monster tunes and of course picking up some toys and (healthy) treats along the walking paths. Monday we had a trick-or-treat in my office, which was another hit, and tomorrow G has her preschool Halloween party. It’s an exhausting life when you’re three — and the actual holiday hasn’t even hit yet! I’m not sure Rapunzel’s wig will make it to Monday intact… 🙂

Have a great rest of the week everyone. 

kid-friendly · Recipes

Turkey &Veggie Meatloaf (Toddler Friendly!)

So, I’ve been trying to revive my slow cooker for our cool fall nights, but am having trouble expanding my repertoire of recipes. A few weeks ago, I bought ground turkey to try and make this slow cooker cheeseburger casserole, but it seemed like every morning that week was just too hectic for me to do the minimal prep required to get it started before work. With the expiration date looming, I had no choice but to throw all that ground turkey into a meatloaf. That’s how this recipe was born! I didn’t discover a new slow cooker meal, but I did devise something just as easy and even a little bit healthy, since I snuck a lot of finely-diced and shredded veggies into it too. I’m really trying  to get more vegetables into Georgia’s diet these days, and this succeeded in doing that, while still tasting very moist and just like a classic meatloaf. Success!

The only bad thing is that I took ZERO good pictures of it. You’ll just have to trust me that this came out so tasty, and use for your evidence these snapshots of Georgia enjoying dipping hunks of the meatloaf in her favorite condiment — ketchup — which she calls sauce (“mama, I need more SAUCE!”) I really think the far-off stare, eating straight ketchup with her fork, and treating her binky like a place setting will make this look even more appetizing for you. And yes, I put a red shirt over my child’s regular clothing when she’s eating ketchup.

  
What makes this toddler friendly?

  • It uses turkey instead of ground beef & other red meats that are higher in saturated fats (and may be carcinogenic!)
  • It makes minimal use of that nutritional dud white bread, instead using some bread crumbs. I don’t know about your kids, but mine gets PLENTY of refined carbs as it is.
  • It packs a lot of veggies without turning a weird color or tasting too “green.”
  • It is good for practicing fork/spoon/knife skills, but is also very grab-able for hands that just want to go straight from plate to mouth!
  • The most obvious: it is prime dunking material, in ketchup, barbecue sauce, what have you.
  • Meatloaf is cool-weather food. It’s filling, reminds you of weeknight dinners as a kid, and reheats beautifully for busy evenings after work and school.

Without further ado, here is the recipe!

Turkey & Veggie Meatloaf

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup dried breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 large egg
  • 1.5 cups grated or diced vegetables of your choosing
  • 1 TBSP Dijon mustard
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 TBSP ketchup (extra) for serving

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350F. In a large bowl, combine the turkey, breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup ketchup, egg, vegetables, and mustard. Mix well and season with salt and pepper.

Pack the mixture into a loaf pan. Combine the Worcestershire sauce and remaining ketchup and brush over the meatloaf.

Bake for 45 minutes and serve warm. Packs well for day care with a side of “sauce!”

For vegetables, I used green beans, sweet potatoes and zucchini/summer squash. You could use whatever you like or have on hand.

I hope you are all enjoying Autumn and getting excited about Halloween. We are getting into the spirit with festive drinks, decorating our house for trick-or-treaters, and visiting the playground a few more times before frost sets in.

Georgia is going to be Minnie Mouse for Halloween this year — how about you??

Have fun, stay safe, and share photos afterward 🙂

kid-friendly · Recipes · Slow Cooker

Slow Cooker Cheeseburger Casserole

Thanks to Dizzy Busy and Hungry (boy if that isn’t an apt name) for inspiring this recipe! I’m always on the hunt for crock pot ideas, since I really only have two go-to recipes — Brown Sugar Kielbasa, and Creamy Chicken Curry — and since they make such large portions, I can only use them here and there or risk revolt from the troops. This one has been a great addition to my repertoire and with minimal prep, I can get it ready all before work and then time it to be done as we walk in the door from daycare pickup.

Ground meat is notoriously hard to photograph in an attractive manner, but I did my best here because this was easy and tasty and I really hope you try it! I used ground turkey, but you can absolutely go with beef instead. 

Since the recipe only calls for half a box of macaroni, I opted to boil the entire container and then use the other half to make scratch mac n’ cheese. I just threw in some butter and milk, added Wildtree mac n’ cheese mix and some shredded organic cheddar from the fridge, melted it in the same pan I used to boil the pasta, then topped it with bread crumbs and popped it under the broiler for less than two minutes. Voila: two different dinners for the price of one.

Slow Cooker Cheeseburger Casserole

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 ounces (half a box) whole grain or fiber-enriched elbow macaroni
  • 1 pound ground turkey (I used 80/20 lean)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 24 oz. frozen veggies with cheese sauce (I used Target brand; any will do)
  • ¾ cup low-fat shredded cheddar
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped (I actually used 4 or 5 roma, chopped)
  • 2-3 pickles, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 TBSP ketchup, plus however much more you’d like on top

DIRECTIONS 

Cook the pasta until just becoming tender (about 5 minutes). Drain and set aside.

Mix the turkey, ketchup, and onion in a large bowl. Add the frozen veggies and cheese sauce, shredded cheddar and pasta, and mix until combined.

Place the entire mixture into the your crock pot and cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 8-9 hours.

Serve with chopped tomatoes and pickles on top, plus a little extra shredded cheese!

Options: You can of course make this with ground beef instead of turkey. Turkey is healthier but tastes less “juicy” than beef does, which in turn makes this taste more like a turkey-burger casserole instead of a true cheeseburger casserole.

This recipe originally ran on Hungry Girl, which calls specifically for frozen cauliflower with cheese sauce as the veggie. Mark hates cauliflower so I subbed carrots and broccoli and it tasted just as good; go with whatever you prefer and can find at the store.

As for toppings, just pick whatever you would put on a burger! So obvious picks are pickles, tomatoes, cheese, ketchup and onions, but you can also shred some lettuce, or barbecue sauce, cilantro, hot sauce, honey mustard, or mayo — there are endless possibilities. Next time, I’m hoping to try some caramelized onions, or maybe pan-fried shallots with a flour coating, or perhaps even some jalapeno slices or a pepper jack cheese.

The great thing about this recipe is that it conveniently ‘hides’ a lot of veggies, which is something I said I’d never resort to with my child, but lo and behold here I am.

I really hope your family enjoys this one. It reheats extremely well and makes good use of late-summer/early fall tomatoes. (Although we still have so many that I’m doing this on Saturday to preserve them for sauce all winter!) And, of course, the best part is that casseroles travel very well to daycare and preschool, and the texture of this makes for very toddler-friendly eating. Plus, what kid doesn’t like cheese and ketchup??

Have a great rest of the week everyone, and if you have good slow cooker recipes to share, tell me in the comments below!

Holidays · Recipes

St. Patty’s Day Confession

That’s right — I gave in to temptation this week. I did it. I caved. I’m totally, utterly weak. 

I ORDERED A SHAMROCK SHAKE. 

an irresistible temptation since childhood.
an irresistible temptation since childhood.

After all, who can blame me?? It’s St. Patrick’s Day, which is basically bigger than Christmas in Boston. Plus I have this cute Irish husband and consequently a bonnie Irish babe at home! I can’t resist being just a wee bit festive.

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This does not mean I had it together in the clothing department. Lacking a shamrocked onesie, I dug out the only item of green(ish) attire Georgia owns: some Gap jeggings that are really more chartreuse, with teeny white stars on them, and called it a day. And for myself?

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at least my walls are green?

The only one who really pulled out his A Game was Mark, because he was working the Freedom Trail today.

So I’m going to add value today not sartorially, but by sharing my favorite St. Patty’s Day recipes from around the interweb. Like:

A healthy Shamrock Shake knockoff by Hungry Girl

Slow Cooker Corned Beef & Cabbage by Rockin’ Mom’s Kitchen

Mini Grasshopper Ice Box Cakes by Lulu The Baker

Irish Coffee and Guiness Floats by Pioneer Woman

That’s all, my friends! Have a fun St. Patrick’s Day, and may the luck of the Irish be with you all year ’round!

Recipes

Slow Cooker Chicken Curry

Ever on the hunt for easy, family-friendly recipes, I tried to make a simple chicken and vegetable curry with minimal spice (to please Mr. Boring Meat and Potatoes Palate) in the slow cooker last weekend. Can I just say…wow! This is a definite winner! It’s officially added to our regular rotation.

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I kept it bland, but you can amp up the spice if you like, and serve over the rice of your choosing (or plain).

The original recipe called for cauliflower, which I love but Mark hates, so I doubled up the other veggies, in particular the Brussels Sprouts since they’re a fave in our house. You can really customize this however you like, though, and make it vegetarian by leaving out the meat. If you keep the chicken, though, I think you’ll be pleased to find that it cooks down into flavorful, really moist shredded pieces in this recipe. Perfect for spooning onto a sub roll for lunch the next day!

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Freeze leftovers or take them for lunch all week long. I paired this with a salad for lunch one day, and this veggie dish another. (Belgian Salad? Brussels Sprouts? Do we have some kind of weird theme happening here?) Again, this has no heat to it whatsoever, so fear not, wimps! Mark can’t even tolerate a hint of spice, and it didn’t hurt this dish one bit.

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Slow Cooker Chicken Curry

INGREDIENTS

I bought all mine at Trader Joe’s but all are widely available.

  • 1 lb. boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cups Brussels sprouts
  • 1 medium white OR red onion, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained & rinsed
  • 15 oz. tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk, light
  • 2 TBSP curry powder
  • 2 TBSP lemon juice (about half one fresh lemon)
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Start by chopping all your dry ingredients: peel and cube the sweet potato, dice the red pepper, and chop the onion. Place all veggies in the slow cooker (including frozen Brussels sprouts) except the frozen peas and lemon juice. Pour in wet ingredients (coconut milk, tomato sauce, chicken broth) plus the beans, drained and rinsed, and curry powder. Stir, then place chicken breasts on top. I cut mine in half first, but that’s a matter of personal preference.

Set slow cooker for low and cook 8 hours, stirring occasionally if you are home. Or, cook on high for four hours. Just before serving, pour in the frozen peas and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to your taste. Enjoy with rice on the side, or plain.

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If you are making this vegetarian, be sure to increase the amount of vegetables to compensate for the space the chicken would have taken up, and cook for less time (about 6 hours on low). If you decide to add the cauliflower back in, the original recipe calls for 1 cup chopped. If you’d like for this to be spicy, I’d recommend adding 1 tsp cayenne (or hot sauce to taste) at the beginning when you add the curry powder.

You really can’t go wrong with this one. I hope you like it! Great for having a crowd over, or just for stocking up for the work week and before all that cooking over the holidays.

My other go-to for weekend cooking, especially right before a week like Thanksgiving when your kitchen is focused on holiday prep, are these vegetarian stuffed shells. So easy, so yummy, so filling. So Italian (just like me! And Georgia, who is VERY interested in helping in the kitchen these days).

This year, I am making Balsamic Roasted Green Beans and Homemade Cranberry Sauce for Thanksgiving at my dad’s house (gotta climb into the Wayback Machine for that first recipe!) And Georgia can eat everything this year ~ how exciting! Here’s what she looked like last Thanksgiving at just three months old 😦 I would be sad, but I remember how poorly we were sleeping back then, and I’d much rather take the craziness of toddlerhood with everyone getting a full night’s sleep.

Chicken curry recipe adapted from SarahFit, who says each of the five 3-cup servings has about 300 calories. She also puts the total cost at less than $25, which sounds about right. Cheap, healthy and tasty ~ awesome!

Recipes

Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Chili

It’s been raining a lot this week, and work these days is a ball of stress wrapped in a germ-infested box…cue the comfort food and a night on the couch watching Friday Night Lights.

This recipe is a set-it-and-forget-it speciality, inspired by something I saw in Real Simple Magazine (love). You can leave it in the slow cooker all day on low and come home to a cozy vegetarian meal that is hearty enough to leave carnivores satisfied, too. Personally? I liked serving it with a dollop of low-fat sour cream and some multigrain tortilla chips, like these.

Other good topping ideas include shredded sharp cheddar, scallions or chives, a splash of hot sauce, sliced radishes, and even a drizzle of some high-quality olive oil. Do your own thing with it.

Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Chili

Ingredients

  • 1 large  sweet potato, peeled and diced into medium chunks
  • 1 onion, diced (I used yellow; next time I’d definitely do red)
  • 1 can of kidney beans (15.5 oz)
  • 1 can black beans (15.5 oz), rinsed
  • 1 28-oz. can of fire roasted diced tomatoes (such as Muir Glen Organic)
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 TBSP chili powder (or, sub red pepper flakes or hot sauce)
  • 1 TBSP cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder (I had a small piece of stone-ground chocolate from Taza hanging around, so I used that instead!)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper

*Note: Mark really hates kidney beans, so I subbed cannellini beans plus a handful of lentils to replicate the flavor and heft.

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a large (4 to 6 quart) slow cooker, including the liquid in the cans of tomatoes and beans, and heat on low for 7 or 8 hours (or on high for 4 or 5 hours to shorten cooking time). When it’s done, serve warm with your favorite chili toppings.

Did you buy a bag of sweet potatoes for this recipe, and now you’re not sure what to do with the leftover spuds? I love this recipe from Aggie’s Kitchen for Burritos with Black Beans & Roasted Veggies. This gal roasts everything together then slaps it into a sprouted tortilla with melted cheese, and YUM.

Recipes

Coconut-Curry Lentil Soup

As soon as I saw this recipe from Delight Gluten-Free Magazine, I knew I had to try it! (I changed it up a little to suit what I had in my pantry).

I added a little more potato to compensate for the fact that I only had 1 cup of lentils on hand, and then used leeks instead of yellow onion because I had a cup of chopped leeks left over from making a batch of my spring risotto. I also made sure to use light coconut milk to keep all the flavor without quite so many calories.

This turned out really well, and we had tons of leftovers to eat for lunch all week. I served it with my Kale Salad — which is made with a simple avocado-lemon dressing — since I had half a bunch of kale leftover from making the soup, plus two avocados left from making some Lemon Pappardelle.

Coconut Curry Lentil Soup

Serves 8   Hands-on time 20 minutes   Slow cooks for 4 hours

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup dried lentils, rinsed
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 2 good sized potatoes, diced (skin on)
  • 1 cup chopped leeks (white parts only) or use a yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch kale, or use spinach/collard greens, stems removed
  • 2 TBSP tomato paste
  • 3 cups vegetable stock, plus 1/2 cup at the end (two 14.5 oz cans total)
  • 1 can of light coconut milk (14 oz.)
  • 2 TBSP EVOO
  • 2 TBSP fresh lemon juice, to use at the end
  • 1 TBSP fresh ginger, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 to 1 jalapeno, seeded (or use jarred slices)
  • 2 TBSP curry powder
  • salt to taste (about 1/2 tsp)

This looks like a long list of ingredients, but I actually didn’t have to buy anything besides the fresh kale. I think you’ll find that you have most if not all of these ingredients already on hand.

DIRECTIONS

In a skillet over medium, heat the olive oil, then saute the garlic, leeks, ginger and jalapeno for 5 minutes. Turn off heat. (note: if you have someone who really doesn’t like heat, just leave these out. It will taste subtle to people who like a kick, but in a slow cooker peppers can really broaden their spice).

Stir into the pan the tomato paste, coconut milk, vegetable stock and curry; stir together.

Pour into slow cooker and add carrots, potatoes, lentils and salt. Set on low heat for four hours. After four hours, stir in the kale or other greens and squeeze in the lemon juice, adding the rest of the vegetable stock and any additional water that looks necessary for desired texture. Let heat for another 15 minutes, then add salt and pepper to taste.

This dish freezes well and is very filling. It’s probably most suitable for fall, but I made it during a cold snap the East Coast weathered in between some summer heat, and it really hit the spot. Enjoy!

Recipes

Brown Sugar Kielbasa

I’m letting you in on my secret go-to potluck dish: Brown Sugar Kielbasa, a crowd pleasing recipe that only has two ingredients and cooks all by itself in the slow cooker while you’re at work. The only downside is that it’s not vegetarian, but it sure does feed a bunch of people with very little effort! I bring this to every Super Bowl party, baby shower, and potluck around, and everyone always asks for the recipe after.

Copy of SPRING FETTUCCINE

All you need for ingredients is 3 packages kielbasa, any variety — I use turkey, because it’s a little less fatty and greasy — and 1 package (1 lb.) of dark brown sugar (light brown sugar is OK if dark is unavailable). 

You want a rough ratio of two or three packages kielbasa to one package sugar, but this recipe is flexible enough that you can add or subtract a kielbasa link and it’ll turn out fine. The sugar cooks over either low or high heat until it forms a liquid sauce. 

To cook it, slice the kielbasa into quarter-size pieces and place them in the slow cooker, then pour the entire box of sugar on top of the kielbasa, and stir quickly to combine.

Cover and cook on low for 5 hours (or on high for 2 1/2 hours). It will look very, very dark when it’s done. And that’s it! Ready to serve warm.

Set it overnight or while you’re at work, and when you get home you can take your slow cooker directly to the potluck or party. You’ll have perfectly cooked kielbasa chunks swimming in a sweet, syrupy brown sugar sauce.

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Variations work very well with this recipe — mustard, onions, green peppers, fruit preserves, canned fruit, jelly, beans, bacon, garlic and chilli are all great additions here. Just read the comments below for even more inspiration! I think my favorite reader suggested change is to add in some ginger beer. How good does that sound? If you make tasty modification, don’t forget to share them!

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CSA 2011 · Recipes

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

As my husband says, “Is there anything better than coming home from work to the smell of beef stew??” That goes for any kind of stew, if you ask me! It’s the ultimate comfort food, and if you chop your ingredients the night before, you can throw this together before leaving for work and time it to be ready when you come home. All you have to do is eat!

Ingredients (eyeball to size of your slow cooker)

  • 1 – 1/2 pound of stew beef
  • 3 or 4 potatoes, chopped
  • two cloves garlic, sliced or whole (whole=subtler flavor)
  • 3-4 carrots, chopped
  • 3-4 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • splash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup of beef broth (ideally, low sodium)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional: peas (add after it’s done cooking so they don’t mush)

Also optional: dredge the beef in flour and fry in olive oil before adding to the slow cooker. I am going to try that next time! I’d also add something savory like cumin, cloves or paprika to amp up the seasoning next time, I think.

Instructions

Unless you are browning the beef in a skillet first, you simply add all the ingredients to your slow cooker, stir to mix briefly, and heat covered on LOW for 8 hours. When you walk in the door after work, it will smell delicious! I made this for my husband to have since he so seldom gets to enjoy a meaty, stick-to-your-ribs dish like this.

Serve with sliced crusty bread, such as a French loaf. Check back soon to see what I do with the leftover bread!