Category Archives: Crock Pot Challenge

Crock Pot Sweet Potatoes – CPC #10

Gooooooooood morning!

I’m in an awfully good mood today! Most likely because a) it’s Friday, b) it’s March 1st (meaning one more month closer to Spring, even though it certainly doesn’t feel like it this morning) and c) I already have a sweaty 6 mile run under my belt… I’ll take it all! Before I get to my final crock pot recipe, I have one honorable mention from Thursday to discuss first.

Thursday’s Delciousness

My body was a little sore from a recent workout this week and was craving sleep, so I listened to it and skipped my morning workout yesterday in favor of an extra hour of sleep.

Let me tell ya, it felt AMAZING. Plus I took the opportunity to make a hot breakfast.

bfast3

Ho-ly. Cow. I know it doesn’t exactly look appetizing, so it’s a good thing my goal wasn’t towards visual appeal but I had to share because this was incredible!

bfast1

I sauteed onion, browned turkey breakfast sausage, scrambled in two eggs, stirred in avocado at the end and added a dollop of roasted garlic & pine nut hummus and a few dashes of Cholula hot sauce.

bfast 2

I really wish my weekday mornings allowed for a little extra time to prepare eggs because they are just so darn tasty! Although my taste buds generally are in the mood for breakfast on the sweeter side, this little concoction may have changed my mind.

Mmmm mmm mmm!

Crock Pot Sweet Potatoes

I have to preface by saying this isn’t exactly a “recipe”, but it is most definitely noteworthy… especially if you happen to love sweet potatoes AND are a busy bee like me! ūüėČ

sweet potato coconut butter4

Ingredients:

4 medium sized sweet potatoes

Directions:

1. Wash sweet potatoes thoroughly but do not dry. Put at the bottom of a dry crock pot.

sweet potatoes raw crockpot

2. Cover and cook on low 10-12 hours or overnight.

sweet potatoes crockpot

3. Prick with a fork or give one a squeeze to see if they are soft to your liking. Another good check is to see if any of the potatoes have any carmelization going on (see bottom right.)

sweet potatoes cooked crock pot

4. Cut a slit lengthwise in the top and squeeze to open up. Top with anything your heart desires!

sweet potato coconut butter

I chose to sprinkle cinnamon and drizzle melted coconut butter over the sweet potato. OMG, that’s a little slice of heaven right there!

Tonight

I’m excited to get through the rest of the day because Dave and I are off to the Blackhawks game tonight. Hopefully they continue their incredible streak of no losses! Go Hawks!

blackhawks

What are YOUR plans this weekend?

Crock Pot Spaghetti Squash – CPC #9

To put it simply, I adore spaghetti squash.

Spaghetti Squash Bowl5

It is one of those vegetables that does not have a particularly strong flavor and thus, can be dressed up any way you see fit.

spaghetti squash bowl

One of the most popular and my personal favorite ways to eat spaghetti squash is to treat like pasta and top with marinara or bolognese sauce and Parmesan cheese.

spag squash

It belongs in the winter squash family and can be roasted, boiled, microwaved, or slow cooked in a crock pot.  Until this week, I had only ever roasted and microwaved spaghetti squash, but I really enjoyed the ease of the crock pot.

spag squash cooked

A 1 cup serving contains 9% of your recommended daily intake of fiber, is very low in carbs and has only 42 calories, so if weight loss is your goal, it can be a good swap for pasta. ¬†Although that is not my goal right now, I personally¬†love spaghetti squash as an alternative to pasta because it doesn’t leave me feeling sluggish like a giant bowl of pasta sometimes does.

Spaghetti Squash Bowl3

Once a spaghetti squash has been cooked, you just scrape the inside with a fork and out comes long strands resembling spaghetti.  Imagine that!?

Spaghetti Squash Bowl2

It’s actually thinner than spaghetti, more like an angel hair pasta, but let’s not get too technical. ¬†ūüėČ

Crock Pot Spaghetti Squash

crock pot spaghetti squash steps2

1.  Wash your spaghetti squash and remove any stickers or labels.

2.  Place in a slow cooker with 2 cups of water and cook on high for about 3-4 hours (or on low for longer, probably about 6-7 hours?).

3.  Cut in half and remove seeds from the center.  (Keep in mind: water may be soaked up during cooking and may come out when you cut it open, so just be careful.)

4.  Scrape the insides with a fork.  Place in a bowl and add your favorite sauce and/or toppings.

Spaghetti Squash Bowl4

 

Last night, I finally completed my 10th and final crock pot recipe for the Crock Pot Challenge! Just in the nick of time!

Smoked Sausage Cassoulet – CPC #8

Before we get another crock pot recipe under our belts, I want to acknowledge that today is National Pistachio Day!

pistachio

Yes, another one of those pointless “holidays” but seeing how pistachios are one of my favorite foods, I’m okay with it.

Here are a few fun facts about pistachios:

1.  Pistachios are actually seeds, not nuts, and they grow on trees in big grape-like clusters.

2.  A pistachio grows so quickly that it breaks its outer shell making it easier for us to open.

3.  Pistachios are harvested by shaking the trees until the clusters fall down.

4.  One serving of pistachios contains 3 grams of fiber.  In comparison, you would have to eat 2 plums or 1 cup of strawberries to get the same amount.

5.  Pistachios and almonds are the only nuts mentioned in the Bible and humans have been eating them for over 9,000 years.

Reference

pistachios

Let’s celebrate with a handful of these little green nuts seeds!

Smoked Sausage Cassoulet

Moving on to today’s featured recipe.

cassoulet2

I came across this recipe on the Cooking Light’s website and it immediately grabbed my attention. ¬†I love one-pot meals where multiple ingredients and flavors come together in a rich sauce.

cassoulet

A cassoulet by definition is a French stew-like dish with meat (usually pork) and beans cooked for a long period of time.

cassoulet 7

This cassoulet has rich, smoky flavors from the smoked sausage and bacon but still has a light feeling throughout thanks to the pork tenderloin, beans and tomatoes.

cassoulet 6

Finally, its garnished with a sprinkle of parsley and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

c smoked sausage cassoulet

Smoked Sausage Cassoulet

Slightly adapted from this Cooking Light recipe.

Ingredients:

1 lb pork tenderloin

1 cup water

2 tbls homemade taco seasoning

2 bacon slices

1 large onion, chopped

1 tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp dried rosemary

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

2 (14.5 ounce) cans of diced tomatoes, drained

1 (15 ounce) can of pinto beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 lb smoked turkey sausage, diced

Parmesan cheese, grated

Fresh parsley, chopped

Directions:

1.  Rub seasoning over pork.  Place pork and water in the bottom of the crock pot and set on low for approximately 3 hours or until cooked through.

2.  Meanwhile, cook bacon in a skillet until crispy.  Remove and crumble.  Add onion, thyme, rosemary and garlic to bacon drippings and saute for about 3 minutes.  Stir in crumbled bacon, salt, pepper and tomatoes.  Bring to a boil and then remove from heat.

3.  When the pork is finished, remove and cut into small pieces (about 1/2 inch cubes).  Pour out any remaining liquid.

4.  Coarsely mash beans in a bowl and combine with pork, sausage, and tomato mixture in the crock pot.  Cook on low for about 4 hours.  Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with parsley and Parmesan cheese.

cassouletmac5.  Most importantly, keep away from dogs!

Crock Pot Chicken Fajitas – CPC #7

Can you believe it’s Monday? ¬†Ughh this weekend went by way too quickly.

It’s no fair! ¬†Hmmff…

Alright fine, I’ll act my age now.

After the girls headed back home yesterday, Mac and I took a longgg 2 hour nap while Dave was out at a go-kart racing charity event. ¬†I was in desperate need of some extra zzz’s so it felt fantastic! ¬†I woke up much more energized, cleaned up the rest of the house, and took a walk with Mac while the sun set. ¬†Not too bad.

In order to free up time and not have to worry about doing too much cooking while the girls were over on Saturday, I decided to try fajitas in the crock pot.

chicken fajitas

I’d say they turned out pretty tasty, especially considering the amount of time I spent on prepping – a whopping 5 or 6 minutes.

chicken fajitas 4

Four different colors of bell peppers (red, orange, yellow, green), onion, chicken breasts and jarred salsa all layered in the crock pot for fast, hands-free cooking!

chicken fajitas 32

Crock Pot Chicken Fajitas

Ingredients:

1 tbls olive oil

1 large onion, halved and cut into thin slices

4 bell peppers, seeded and cut into thin slices

2 lbs chicken breasts

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup prepared salsa, divided

Directions:

1.  Place oil, onion, peppers and chicken broth at the bottom of the crock pot.  Add chicken breasts on top and pour a small amount (about 1/4 cup) over the top surface of the breasts.

2.  Set crock pot to low and cook for about 4-5 hours or until chicken breasts are cooked through and the onions and peppers have softened up.

3.  Remove chicken breasts and slice in strips.

4.  Carefully pour out most of the liquid.  Add back chicken strips and remaining salsa and stir to combine.

chicken fajitas2

This is delicious just on it’s own but I chose to serve in soft corn tortillas and a sprinkle of Mexican blend shredded cheese.

Adios!

Can’t Win Them All

Last night, I had an epic crock pot fail.

crock pot

Ever since I visited Philadelphia on a work trip a few years ago and tasted my very first Philly Cheesesteak, I have been longing to go back to Pat’s for another.

pat's steaks

French bread topped with thinly sliced steak with optional toppings such as grilled onions and cheese (usually provolone or cheese whiz).

If you’ve never ordered an authentic cheesesteak from Philly, then you may not realize there is a “right” and a “wrong” way to order – see Pat’s directions here.

But most importantly, you better be ready to order when you walk up to the counter.  Especially around lunch time, they make hundreds and hundreds of sandwiches and have to move tons of people through the lines so they do not tolerate any sort of dilly-dallying. Consider yourself warned!

crock pot fail philly cheesesteak

So when I found a crock pot philly cheesesteak recipe online, I knew I had to try it… so I did.

crock pot fail

Umm HUGE FAIL.

The meat was chewier than leather and I couldn’t even bite through it! ¬†I found several similar recipes online which called for beef round steak so I gave it a go. ¬†I don’t know if I chose a bad piece of meat or what, but I have never tasted steak so tough in my life.

jj crock pot

I think what upset me the most was the fact that I had picked up 2 loaves of Jimmy John’s french bread especially for the occasion. ¬†I mean who doesn’t love Jimmy John’s bread?! ¬†I recently learned that you can purchase day-old bread for 50 cents. ¬†Plus it’s buy one, get one free! ¬†I got these two for a whopping 54 cents!

I can’t even tell you how excited I was for this dinner until I took one bite of the steak and my dreams were crushed. ¬†But hey, you can’t win them all!

Butternut Squash Bisque – CPC #6

Whenever a restaurant offers butternut squash, sweet potato, or pumpkin soup, I always order it.  I love the thick, creamy consistency, as well as all the flavors it has to offer.

butternut ss2

I wanted to recreate restaurant-style flavor but lighten it up a bit without all the added heavy creams and sodium.

butternut squash ing

I used a Cooking Light recipe for Butternut Squash & Parsnip Soup but after tweaking the ingredients a bit and giving it a taste, I had to rename it a “bisque” from it’s velvety, smooth, creamy texture.

bss4

Although a bisque is traditionally enriched with creams, I didn’t feel this one needed it. ¬†The base is slightly sweet with a touch of warm spices and the addition of goat cheese, pistachios and sundried tomatoes really brought it up to the next level.

Butternut Squash Bisque

Butternut Squash Bisque

Adapted from this Cooking Light recipe

Ingredients:

1 medium butternut squash, peeled & seeded

2 small apples, peeled

4 medium parsnips, peeled

2 red onions, chopped

1/4 tsp, plus 1/8 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

2 1/2 cups water

2 cups low sodium chicken broth

1/4 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/8 tsp coriander

Optional toppings: goat cheese, pistachios, sundried tomatoes

Directions:

1.  Chop squash, apples, parsnips and onions into large chunks (about 1-2 inch cubes) and place into the crock pot.

soup raw veggies

2.  Stir in 1/4 tsp salt and the next 3 ingredients.  Cover and let cook for 4 hours on high (or longer on low setting, maybe 6 hours) until vegetables are very tender.

soup cook

3.  Divide into 3 or 4 batches and puree in a food processor until smooth.  Be very careful not to overfill since the veggies are hot and may burn if splattered.

soup blend

4.  Add mixture to a large bowl and stir in remaining salt, paprika, cumin and coriander.

soup blend2

5.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with crumbled goat cheese, chopped pistachios and chopped sundried tomatoes.

butternut and parsnip soup

Crock Pot Buffalo Chicken Sandwich – CPC #5

Officially halfway through the Crock Pot Challenge!  I now have about 2 weeks left to try 5 new recipes in the crock pot and I have some good ones up my sleeve.

Unlike many crockpot recipes, this one only cooks for about 2-3 hours so it is totally feasible to start as soon as you walk in the door from work.

bcs

No need to plan ahead.  In fact, Dave and I ate this twice this week, the second time on a whim.

bcs and cs

As we were eating it the second night, we started brainstorming all kinds of variations of this chicken. ¬†Instead of buffalo sauce, you could use barbeque sauce, any type of salsa (think spicy OR sweet), honey mustard… oh the possibilities!

But let’s take it one at a time…

cpc buffalo chicken sandwich

Crock Pot Buffalo Chicken Sandwich

Serves 4 sandwiches

Ingredients:

3 chicken breasts

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup buffalo sauce, divided

2 tbls greek yogurt

4 whole wheat buns

Directions:

1.  Spray the inside of the crock pot with cooking spray or olive oil.

oil crockpot

2.  Place chicken breasts and water in the pot.  Then pour 1/4 cup buffalo sauce over the chicken breasts.

crockpot buff chicken raw

3.  Turn the crock pot to low.

low setting

4.  Cover and cook for 2-3 hours.  My crock pot seems to be hotter than others so the chicken only needed 2 hours.

 crock pot

5.  Meanwhile, combine remaining buffalo sauce and Greek yogurt in a small bowl.

creamy buff sauce

5.  Once the chicken has cooked through, remove and empty the crock pot of all the juices.  Add the chicken breasts back in the crock pot, shred using two forks, and stir in the buffalo/yogurt mixture.

shredded buff ch

*Note: ¬†you don’t have to use the Greek yogurt. ¬†I didn’t use it the first time and the chicken was pretty darn spicy so the second time, I added the Greek yogurt to cut the spice. ¬†I also used Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Wing sauce, so feel free to use a milder one.

Franks Red Hot Wing Sauce

6.  Layer a big spoonful of buffalo chicken and coleslaw (optional recipe below) in between both sides of a toasted bun.

bcs2

I chose to serve this with my version of coleslaw both on the sandwich and on the side. ¬†If you know me at all, you are probably already aware of how much I hate mayonnaise. ¬†I mean, I really despise it… like a lot a lot.

Ok that’s enough, now you know… anyways, it probably now comes at no surprise that I don’t like traditional coleslaw either, so here’s my version:

Ranch Broccoli Slaw

Yields 1 large serving

Ingredients:

1 cup broccoli slaw

2 tbls light ranch dressing (I used Wishbone brand)

Directions:

Mix broccoli slaw and ranch dressing together.  If possible, let sit for about 20 minutes in the fridge to soften up a bit.

coleslaw

I loved the crunch from this slaw!

chicken sandwich with coleslawOne serving of slaw has only 85 calories compared to over 300 calories for some traditional coleslaws!  Plus, the fat content is slashed by 75%.  AND it takes no time at all.

So feel free to pile it high!