I love a good party. It doesn’t matter to me whether I’m the host or just a guest at one. I mean, who doesn’t like celebrating with friends and indulging in some yummy food! When The Hubs & I lived in our old house BC (before children) we had a BBQ and pool in our backyard. It seemed like we had a “party” every weekend between Memorial Day and Labor Day for the five years we lived there. We’ve been in our “new” house now for nearly four years and I can count the number of parties we’ve had here on one hand.
It was like two brains (or more accurately our stomachs!) that were thinking alike last week. My cooking-partner in crime Cristina over at Central Jersey Working Moms posted on her Facebook fan page some crock post recipes she found on Real Simple magazine that she was itching to try. On that very same day I was trying out this crock pot recipe for pot roast…..and the two of us decided to bring back our Thursday Crock Pot Buddies Recipe Hop for the winter season!
When my son was two, that Christmas the Hubs and I got him this great wooden kitchen from Little Tykes. He loved playing with the pots and pans and liked stocking his pantry with old empty (and cleaned out) containers of milk, eggs and butter. He would make and bring me crazy play sandwiches that had ham, cheese, pickles, eggs, bacon, tomatoes and hamburger patties on toast or some type of soup concoction that he said was made up of dinosaurs. He played with his little kitchen everyday for a good six months until he dropped his apron and picked up the checkered flag for anything Lightning McQueen, Monster Jam Trucks and Hot Wheels-related. Sadly, I thought his cooking days were over.
This week, this “Grill-More” Girl is serving up some grilled tasty grilled pork chops!
Pork is a popular menu item these days. It’s a lean meat and has a mild flavor that blends perfectly with many flavors and seasonings. Pork is a great alternative to serving steak or chicken. In the past I’ve shied away from pork, afraid that its leaness would lead to a unedible leathery piece of meat. Through some trial and error, I’ve found that grilling pork chops that are moist, tender and delicious isn’t as difficult as I thought. Continue reading
This week, this “Grill-More” Girl is serving up some simple grilled vegetables!
Backyard grilling doesn’t always have to mean meat. Vegetables are one of the easiest things to make on the grill. Grilling helps to intensify the natural sweetness and flavor of most veggies. Also, during the summer there are so many veggies that are “in season” either at your supermarket or local farmer’s market that you can prepare an entire meal grilling several different veggies for a main course or stick to just one type for a great side dish. Continue reading
After a brief hiatus (hey it is summertime!) the “Grill-More” Girls are back for some more BBQ fun! My grilling partner-in-crime Cristina from centraljerseyworkingmoms.com and I have some tasty and fun recipes coming up for you over the next few weeks. We’ll even have a special “beach/vacation edition” where we’ll be grilling together while we are both vacationing down at the New Jersey shore (by total coincidence we’ll be visiting the same shore resort at the same time!). On tap for this week’s post, my favorite grill accessories.
It doesn’t take much to be a good griller aside from practice, practice and more practice. You certainly don’t need to invest in a lot of fancy or expensive tools to become a BBQ star, but there are a few accessories that I find have made my grilling easier, more successful and more flexible in the kinds of tasty dishes you can fire up.
I love dessert! Growing up, my favorite part about eating dinner was getting to dessert. To this day, if someone offered me dessert before dinner, I’d happily comply. I find that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree with my two kidlets. I think my son’s favorite question is, “Mommy, can I have a treat?” He’s a smart boy. He totally knows that his mom can’t resist a sweet treat and that more times that not, I’ll partake in the deliciousness right along with him!
This week, this “Grill-More” Girl is serving up Grilled Pizza. Yes, you read that right – pizza on the grill. I’ll be honest, the first time I heard about this from a mom friend all I could think of was “how on earth can you cook that on the grill!” To me it would seem to come out as such a mess, the dough would fall into the grates of the grill and would never be cooked all the way through before turning into a half-charred, half-raw mess. I was certainly skeptical, but I have to tell you that it is so super easy and the results will have you tossing your take-out pizza menus into the trash! Grilled pizza is a great go-to dish for either casual dining or entertaining with friends.
Yay! It’s our four week anniversary for me and my Crock Pot Buddy, Cristina over at centraljerseyworkingmoms.com! Have you tried any of our previous recipes? If so, please be sure to let us know either via comments here or our Facebook pages. This week, we both tried completely different recipes. This week Cristina made Golden Honey Chicken, and well, you’ll have to read her post to see how it turned out! As for me, I’m featuring my favorite go-to Crock Pot meals, my Lip-Smack-A-Luscious Pot Roast!
I hope you have enjoyed the recipes I’ve shared here the past few weeks, but I have to admit, they aren’t 100% my own creations. I like to think I am a decent cook, but I am not quite Julia Child – yet! The recipes that I’ve featured so far came from various cook books or websites, but I’ve altered them to either fit my own personal cooking style, fine-tuned to suit my family’s own personal tastes, or even re-imagined because they had ingredients that were either weird or too fattening! However, this recipe is one that I totally claim as my own. It is not written down somewhere on a recipe card or nicely typed out on a sheet of paper, it’s one that sits up in my brain, stowed away in my mental recipe filing cabinet. It is a recipe that I have perfected with lots of trial and error, and let me tell you, some of those errors were not pretty or delicious. I’ve incorporated cooking techniques and “secrets” that I’ve picked up from other recipes that for some reason seemed right to use here, so you’ll just have to trust me on it.
This recipe didn’t have a name until I had to give it one for this post. Personally, I think the first step to any great meal, is to give it a just the right name. When the Hubs ate this meal the last time I made it (I usually make it once a month), he told me how tasty it was and smacked his lips. Now I know he was just teasing me, but that little sound just stuck out in my head – and hence, the name Lip-Smack-A-Luscious Pot Roast! The next step to any successful meal is to make sure it is tasty. This means the right balance of seasonings, spices, and our good friends, salt & pepper. That was going to be hard, since when I make this recipe I season it according to what I call that my old Italian cooking technique — my own gut. I had no measurements for ANYTHING. So the last time I made it, I actually took what I did freestyle, via my gut, and placed them into various measuring spoons & cups in order to get right seasoning proportions for you.
So when you read the ingredients and directions, you’re going to scratch your head and say what’s up with the cornstarch/flour/butter concoction when you’re browning the meat? Remember what I said earlier about trusting me, you need to here. This is an essential step, because most times when I brown the meat can get tough on the outside and not always caramelize enough. So to protect the meat and get it to brown a little better I lightly floured it and then seared it off. It worked great for actually browning the meat, but left the dish with a heavy, cakey-kind of taste and texture. I had thought about using cornstarch, but since it is a pure starch I thought it would form a sort of paste or gel on the meat, ick. Then I saw on some cooking show about mixing flour AND cornstarch together along with some unsalted butter. Apparently each ingredient tempers the effect of the other — with flour in the mix, the cornstarch is sufficiently diluted by the protein in the flour to prevent it from forming a paste, whereas the flour is diluted enough that it doesn’t cause the crust to become bready. It also helps to thicken up the juices in the dish and makes a nice sauce that isn’t runny. I know, it’s a lot of chemistry for a meal, but I’m telling you this works – and not only for meat that you have to brown, but also for chicken, lamb and veal!
Now if you have a hi-tech crock-pot like mine where you can actually sauté in the pot itself, you can brown the meat in it. If you don’t, I recommend that you use a heavy duty frying pan. It helps distribute the heat more evenly and allows you to get a better crust on your meat. Italian Seasoning works great to flavor the recipe but if you don’t have that concoction on hand I have listed the spices out individually. So here it is, in all its glory:
Lip-Smack-A-Luscious Pot Roast
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6 people
Slow Cook Time: 3 1/2 to 4 Hours on HIGH or 8 Hours on LOW
3lb beef chuck roast
1 1/2 large onion (I like to use a sweet onion for this), quartered
1 1/2 cups baby carrots (or use 4 carrot stalks cut into thirds)
1 cup mushrooms, caps only, cut in half, any variety
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 13 oz can of stewed tomatoes
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (or A1 Steak sauce)
2 tsp tomato paste
1 ½ cups beef broth
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
½ tsp coarse salt
¼ tsp ground pepper
1 ¼ Tbsp of Italian seasoning
- ½ tsp dried basil
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp dried crushed rosemary
- ½ tsp dried cilantro or parsley
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- ½ tsp dried marjoram
- ½ tsp dried sage
1 large or 2 medium bay leaf
1. Cut vegetables into roughly the same size, aiming for them to be 1 inch cubed.
2. Whisk butter, flour, cornstarch and some ground black pepper together in a small bowl. Lightly brush the top side of the beef chuck roast with half of butter mixture. Place meat in meat in slow cooker on “sauté” setting to brown or in frying pan, with the coated side down and brown until crust forms, about 3 to 4 minutes. While side one is browning, lightly brush the remaining butter mixture on side two of the meat. Flip the meat to brown the other side, again 3 to 4 minutes until meat browns & crust forms.
3. Switch crock pot from sauté and/or turn switch to slow cooker setting.
4. Combine beef broth, stewed tomatoes, tomato paste & all seasonings to crockpot, stir.
5. Add in meat and surround with all the cut vegetables.
6. Cook for 3 1/2 to 4 Hours on HIGH or 8 Hours on LOW
7. Salt & pepper to taste.
Please link up below your favorite Crock Pot recipe – and don’t forget to share your shortcuts or improvements to your dish! Remember, there’s always time for a home cooked meal with your crock pot!
For this week’s Crock Pot Buddies Link-Up, my partner-in-cooking Cristina from centraljerseyworkingmoms.com and I decided that we’d both prepare the same recipe. Cristina likes to joke that I have the “Cadillac” of all crock-pots with my multi-setting, hi-tech Cuisinart Multicooker, while she’s totally old-school, with a classic style crock-pot with just two settings. Cristina had a recipe in mind – Crock Pot Style Loaded Baked Potato Soup. Though I’m not a huge fan of potato soup, it looked easy enough and figured I should open myself up to new meals, so I agreed.
Now, we both were making the same recipe, but would one of us have an advantage over the other? I have to say I got a little nervous. What if my hi-tech wonder wasn’t up to the challenge? Would my own cooking skills (I know, it’s a crock pot – you basically toss and go, but go with me here) be up to par with Cristina’s? We’re both Italian by heritage, and we can debate for hours over each other’s Sunday sauce, but maybe she has an ace up her sleeve, like she’s a culinary institute graduate and just not telling me! You can read Cristina’s take on this week’s recipe by clicking here – but only when you’re done reading & sharing your recipe with me first, OKAY!
I originally planned to make this recipe this past Monday, until I realized you actually have to peel the potatoes for this dish. Prepping spuds while my kidlets ran around the living room on top of the time I still needed to pull myself together for work was not a smart way to start the week. Plus, I had the wrong kind of potatoes! I needed Russet but only had Red Bliss on hand. So Monday night the hubs was sent out to the local supermarket to pick up baking potatoes, garlic, a pint of heavy cream and some sour cream, none of which I had. Note to self: make sure to read weekly Crock Pot Buddies recipe in advance and add those items to Sunday grocery shopping list!
As you might remember from last week, my crock pot is a whopping 7 quart one and most recipes out there are written only for 4 – 5 Qt ones, so I have to make adjustments to accommodate that…and I do it all by that old Italian cooking technique – my gut. So not scientific at all, and I can’t give you exact amounts for increasing to a larger crock-pot, but as the hubs said to me – why not just double the recipe? Well, duh, that would be too easy, wouldn’t it. Anyway, our local grocery didn’t have large baking potatoes, so the hubs brought home a 5 lb bag – and I wound up just using all of that for this.
Do you know what it’s like to peel five pounds of potatoes? I felt like I was on KP duty.
Potatoes, peeled – now I cut up one large onion, garlic, added butter (I used unsalted), salt/pepper and chicken stock. I had originally planned to make this totally vegetarian, but alas, as I was putting everything together, I realized I had no vegetable stock in the house and the hubs certainly wasn’t up for another supermarket run – so chicken stock would work fine.
I came home that night and it looked a little like mush, but don’t fear, it is supposed to look that way. Remember, those potatoes had cooked for eight hours after all! I took my potato masher and mashed all that goodness up. I added some “taco” flavored shredded cheese and only about ½ the amount of heavy cream. I stirred it up, ladled it into bowls for the hubs & me, put a little dollop of reduced fat sour cream and sprinkled with some chives.
Here’s what my final result – and please keep in mind, I’m no food stylist! I was a little nervous by the lack of spices in this dish, but it was PLENTY flavorful. The potatoes really break down nicely and release all of their goodness, combined with the garlic & onion. It really did taste like a baked potato, only in a liquid form. My main suggestion – plus that of my #1 food critic, the hubs – was that my version wasn’t “soupy” enough. It was pretty thick and hearty. Next time I’ll make sure to add a bit more stock to it to thin it out a bit. I’m sure you can add carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, or even meat to it, just like an actual baked potato. Mmmm-next time, bacon! I had enough left over to store some in an airtight container and pull out for dinner one day next week when I don’t have the time or inclination to make dinner.
So here’s the actual recipe and instructions. All these measurements are for a 4-5 Qt slow cooker…
Crock Pot Style Loaded Baked Potato Soup
Prep time: 15 minutes
Serves: 6 to 8 people; 2 cup serving each
Slow Cook Time: 4 hours on HIGH or 8 hours on LOW
6 large baking potatoes , peeled, cut in 1/2 -inch cubes
1 large onion , chopped
1 quart chicken broth
3 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup butter
2 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 cup cream or 1 cup half-and-half cream
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 cup sour cream (optional)
8 slices bacon , fried & crumbled
cheese , for sprinkling
1. Combine first seven ingredients in a large crock pot; cover and cook on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 8 hours. The potatoes should be tender.
2. Mash mixture until potatoes are coarsely chopped and soupy is slightly thickened.
3. Stir in cream, cheese and chives.
4. Optional ingredients – Top with sour cream, sprinkle with bacon and more cheese.
Please link up below your favorite Crock Pot recipe – and don’t forget to share your shortcuts or improvements to the dish! Remember, there’s always time for a home cooked meal with your crock pot!
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