chicken and mushroom gravy: crockpot edition

Time to dust off the crockpot, y’all. It’s the most wonderful time of year!

…crockpot season, that is! While this beloved appliance of mine makes celebrity appearances during the summer {for dishes such as this and this}, it truly shines during the cooler months. There’s something so special about a slow cooked meal, and walking into your home at the end of a dreary day, greeted by aromas wafting from the kitchen. It is instantly soothing, like a hug or a pat on the back with someone saying – “don’t worry, dinner is on me tonight”.

Except we prepared ahead! This dish couldn’t be easier. For awhile now, I’ve been craving a mushroom gravy. I didn’t know with what, though; I spent a few nights last week brainstorming dinner ideas, and when I stumbled upon this recipe, I knew it would be perfect. I tweaked it a bit to fit the current state of our refrigerator, and voila! A perfect chicken dinner, prepared in no time.

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I spent the day at work {and the hubs too, I’m sure!} dreaming about this dish. Like I mentioned, I love the anticipation of the end of the day, knowing that dinner is doing work on itself. And y’all, it was amazing. From the moment I walked in until we sat down for our meal, there was nothing but smiles. The chicken is perfectly tender; the gravy is rich and flavorful. And piled high on top of your favorite starch, it’s a match made in chicken heaven.

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Enjoy!

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Chicken & Mushroom Gravy: crockpot edition {recipe adapted from food.com}

Wonderfully comforting and delicious, this dish is the ideal fall meal. With minimal prep time, it can be thrown together minutes before walking out the door for work; you and your family will be rewarded with the glorious aroma of roasted chicken and gravy after a long day! 

Ingredients:

3 lbs. bone-in, skin-on chicken breast

8 ounces plain Greek yogurt

4 cups low-sodium chicken stock, divided

1 tsp. oregano

1 tsp. rosemary

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. garlic powder

salt and pepper, to taste

1 large onion, thinly sliced

8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms {I used shiitake}

2 Tbsp. cornstarch + 1/2 cup boiling water, combined {to be used at the final 15 minutes of the dish}

1 Tbsp. butter

To Prepare:

After removing the skin, generously season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Place into the crockpot, and top with the sliced mushrooms and onions.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the Greek yogurt, 2 cups of the chicken stock, and herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour over the chicken and vegetables.

Cook on low for 6-7 hours, or until chicken is done and falling off the bone. At 15-20 minutes before serving, uncover the crockpot and shred the chicken and stirring well with the gravy mixture. Remove any bones you see! Pour in the remaining 2 cups of chicken stock, and add in the slurry {cornstarch and hot water}, making sure to combine thoroughly. Lastly, stir in the butter.

Serve over rice, egg noodles, or my favorite – – – smashed cauliflower.

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Enjoy!

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crock-pot split pea soup

Yes, yes – another crock-pot recipe.

c/o Whole Foods

c/o Whole Foods

Y’all, I honestly just can’t help myself!…we’re in the throes of winter, the sun is barely out, it’s gloomy and I JUST.WANT.TO.EAT.ALL.THE.SOUP. Forever and always.

Well maybe not for that long, but as long as this weather continues to be dreary, I find myself craving rich and hearty dishes. The kind that warm you from the inside out, and stick to your ribs so you don’t succumb to winter’s chill. Sure, I’ll give into the rich and luxurious dishes that winter is so well known for {like this and this and this}, but sometimes…sometimes, a girl wants that warm and fuzzy feeling without feeling weighed down, too!

So that’s where my split pea soup comes in. I would be lying if I said that this wasn’t one of the easiest dishes on the planet to prepare. It literally takes 10 minutes; from the time you pull out your crock-pot until you’re layering in the ingredients, this is a meal you could find the time to make, even if you slept through your alarm. And man oh man, is it worth it! Chock full of winter vegetable goodness, it’s easy on the wallet, too! One delicious bite in, and your taste buds will be in split pea heaven. Truth.

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Crock-Pot Split Pea Soup {recipe adapted, minimally, from Whole Foods}

Requiring no prep work other than layering all ingredients in the crock pot, this soup is an ideal weeknight meal. Low-fat and full of vitamins, why not do your future self a favor and make a double batch? It freezes beautifully!

Ingredients:

1 {16-ounce} package dried green split peas, rinsed

1 package of ham ribs {you can also use a ham bone, 2 ham hocks or 2 cups of diced ham}

1 cup sliced baby carrots

1 onion, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

8 cups low-sodium chicken stock

salt & pepper, to taste

optional: 2 ribs celery plus leaves, chopped

To Prepare:

Layer ingredients in your slow cooker, in the precise order given. Add in the stock last.

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Cover and cook on high {4-5 hours} or low {8-10 hours} until peas are very soft and the ham is falling off the bone. Serve with toasted baguettes.

apple-bbq pulled pork

This is not your average pulled pork. I am by no means putting down such a wonderful dish; in fact, there’s almost nothing I enjoy more than a tart, vinegar-based pulled pork sandwich, especially during the summer {does anyone remember this dish from earlier in the year?}. But sometimes your taste buds crave something new and exciting. And usually, it takes only a few slight modifications to transform a classic dish into something totally new and exciting. Enter this new pulled pork recipe.

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We’re transforming pulled pork with apples, BBQ sauce, applesauce, and Mexican spices. It may sound like an interesting combination of ingredients but let me assure you – this is a dish so full of flavor and texture, your mouth will not know what hit it upon the first bite! The apples impart sweet notes into the meat; the BBQ sauce adds notes of smoke and richness, and the applesauce helps yield a sauce that was made for drizzling over a heaping bowl.

Aside from making one killer sandwich {I dressed mine with a bit of arugula}, I could easily see this getting folded into Macaroni and Cheese {with spicy cheese and jalepenos}, atop a pizza, or stirred into Alfredo sauce. The possibilities are endless. And it is, without a doubt, a crowd pleaser.

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Apple-BBQ Pulled Pork {recipe adapted from The Slender Kitchen}

A fun twist on the classic pulled pork dish. This meal is bursting with flavors and textures – the apples and BBQ sauce meld flavors seamlessly to create the perfect sandwich. 

Ingredients:

pork loin, about 3-4 lbs., trimmed of any excess fat

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. chili powder

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

2 sliced apples {I used one red and one green}

2 sliced onions

2 minced garlic cloves

salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup BBQ sauce

1/2 cup water

To Prepare:

Add half of the onions and apples to the bottom of the slow cooker. Sprinkle half of the minced garlic on top. Season with salt and pepper.

Rest the pork loin atop the base layer. Top with remaining apples, onions and garlic.

In a small bowl, mix the BBQ sauce, cumin, chili powder, applesauce, and water together. Pour on top of the pork loin and other ingredients.

Cook on low for up to 8 hours. Once ready to serve, shred the meat with two forks. Make sure to incorporate the apples and onions; they will add a delicious note of flavor!

Serve with toasted buns and a side of your favorite BBQ sauce. Enjoy!

pumpkin chili

Chili is one of the quintessential dishes of the autumn season. It’s versatile, comforting, and can be transformed into thousands of different variations. Some people take it on top of rice, others with spaghetti….left plain, or piled high with cheddar cheese and sour cream and Fritos and onion, it’s a safe bet that few and far between people take theirs exactly the same way.

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The recipe that we’re making here today is probably one of our favorites here in the KK house. I still remember seeing this pop up on my feed, via Skinnytasteat least 2 years ago. My initial reaction was – pumpkin in chili?! So I bookmarked it for later, not sure if it would make it into the crockpot.

…I am so thankful that it did, and the hubs is too! This chili is seriously one of the best flavor combinations that I’ve yet to find in chili. It combines my favorite traditional chili spices {cumin, chili powder, & LOTS of oregano}. The onions and garlic give it that extra punch we all love.

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The great northern beans, when mixed with the green chili and creamy pumpkin, results in the most luxurious mouth feel; it’s truly one that I have not yet been able to replicate in any other recipe. And if you’re concerned that the pumpkin flavor may be too pronounced, fear not! It lends the perfect taste of fall; it lets the other flavors and ingredients shine and takes the back seat. It gives a gorgeous color, however!

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When it comes to the style of meat used, I take a note out of Gina’s book and go with the ground turkey. However, I use a less lean version…we’re going with a 93% lean. But feel free to take liberty, and sub in your favorite! You could go even leaner with the turkey; ground chicken is great {I can attest to this!}, or even mix it up with a spiced sausage and beef mixture {chorizo, anyone? WOW!}.

Just make sure you serve a side of tortilla chips with this dish – you’ll be happy you did!

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Pumpkin Chili {recipe adapted, slightly, from Skinnytaste}

Rich and creamy due to the pumpkin puree added during the cooking process, this chili is sure to warm you through. With just the perfect amount of smoky spice {thanks, cumin and chili powder!}, this is the perfect fall dish.

Ingredients:

cooking spray

1 lb. ground turkey {I like to use 93% lean, but you can substitute as necessary!}

1 medium onion, finely diced

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1-1/2 tsp. chili powder

3 bay leaves

1 tsp. cumin

1-1/2 tsp. oregano

1 {15 ounce} can white northern beans, drained and rinsed

1 {15} ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1 {15 ounce} can pumpkin puree

4.5 ounce can chopped green chili

2 cups low-sodium chicken stock

salt and pepper, to taste

optional toppings: baked tortilla chips, low-fat sour cream, low-fat plain Greek yogurt, chopped cilantro, chopped chives

To Prepare:

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and lightly spray with cooking spray. Add meat and cook, breaking it up until white, about 5-7 minutes.

Reduce the heat slightly and add in the diced onions and garlic, stirring to distribute through the meat. Add in the spices and cook until the onions have softened, about 5 minutes.

Add in the meat/onion/spice mixture into the bottom of the crockpot. Add in both of the beans, the chopped green chilis, and the pumpkin puree. Stir to combine, then add in the stock and the bay leaves. Give one final stir and cover.

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Cook on high for 4 hours, or low for 8 hours.

Once complete, remove the bay leaves and ladle into bowls. Serve with desired toppings – enjoy!

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Let’s Discuss: how do you like to dress your chili? 

‘get sauced’ pulled pork

Things are getting saucy in the kitchen today, dears!

I don’t know about y’all, but one of my most favorite meals to enjoy during the summer months is pulled pork. Tender and succulent, full of flavor, it’s a great meal that is easily adaptable to any palette. Prefer using chicken breasts and thighs over a pork shoulder? Go ahead and make the swap! Or are you a red meat lover and want to use a chuck roast? Go right ahead!

In addition to being a multifaceted meal, it’s great for summer because we get to use our trusty crockpot. By now, everyone knows that I have a {not-so-secret} love for this great kitchen tool. It keeps my kitchen cool {because I have yet to turn on the air conditioning}, it requires minimal prep work, and I can simply toss it in and set it before heading to the office in the morning. Does life get any better?

I am particularly fond of this recipe because it makes use of some of my favorite herbs and spices. But don’t think of this as a set in stone recipe! It is not that in the least. As I talked about above…just like you meat preference, feel free to swap out any of the ingredients listed below. I promise…you won’t hurt my feelings! You can take a “tex mex” twist on this recipe by subbing in some cumin, adobo spices, and a Mexican beer {I think a Negra Modelo would be fantastic} for the more traditional BBQ spices I’ve outlined. Feeling a little fancy? Throw in other root vegetables {potatoes, etc.} and sub out the beer for a bold red wine. Not a big fan of cooking with alcohol? Simply use a good, quality beef stock {or chicken if you’re cooking with white meat}.

It’s versatile dishes like this that keep me coming back in the kitchen. It makes for a wonderful al fresco dinner, sitting outside and enjoying the summer air, candles lit and music playing. Good food, good company, and good weather is perfection on said days.

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Oh…and it’s absolutely delicious. Enjoy!

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‘Get Sauced’ Pulled Pork {adapted slightly from 100 Days of Real Food}

Ingredients:

3 tbsp. paprika

1 tbsp. salt

2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

1/2 to 1 tsp. cayenne pepper {I used closer to 1/2}

1 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

1/2 C. honey

1/4 C. red wine vinegar

1 bottle beet {I opted for a Newcastle, which paired extremely well with the flavors of the pork and spices}

3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced

4 lbs. pork shoulder, trimmed of any excess fat

 

To Prepare:

In a medium sized mixing bowl, mix together the first six ingredients {all of the spices} with a fork.

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Pour in the honey, vinegar and olive oil. Stir to form a paste.

Place the onion in the bottom of your slow cooker, making sure to create a nice bed for the pork to rest on. Place the pork atop the onions, and then pour the spice/honey paste over all the sides of the pork. Expect some to drip down the sides  – that’s ok! Coating the onions slightly with it will only enrich the flavor.

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Pour in the bottle of beer and mix around to coat the pork. It will come about halfway up the sides of the meat, give or take the height of it. I made sure to place a good amount of the sliced onions on the top of the pork.

Turn the slow cooker on to low and cook for at least 8 hours, or until the meat is tender enough to pull apart with a fork. Mine cooked from about 8am until 4:30pm, there upon which I lowered the crokpot to ‘warm’.

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To Serve:

{optional} Scoop the majority of the cooking liquid, onions and all, into a small sauce pot. Mix well with about 1/2 to 1  C. of tomato sauce {I used homemade marinara because it’s what I had on hand, but ketch up or BBQ sauce would work great too…really anything goes!}. Cook over medium-high heat until bubbly and slightly reduced in volume.

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Served atop toasted buns and pass around coleslaw, shoe string potatoes, salad, etc.

 

preparing a sunday roast, crockpot style

Turning the oven on on a steamy summer day just does not appeal to me. It never has, actually. Between the tiny space I {lovingly} call my kitchen and the fact that I have thus far refused to turn on the air conditioning results in a hot and bothered cook working in, essentially, a sauna.

So. What’s a girl to do on such a night?…

Crockpot, obviously!

We all know that I harbor a deep and profound love for said appliance {see here, for starters} and that it is, hands down, one of the hardest-working appliances in my kitchen. The hubs is probably a close second, as the dishwasher master for when I’m whipping up crazy concoctions and creations, but let’s leave that for another day, shall we?

What makes these crockpot meals so wondrous is all the prep work is done the night before. I had settled on making a roast, a venison {read: deer meat} roast, to be exact, because I was lucky enough to be gifted one by a lovely friend of mine. Living where we do, the hubs and I have several friends who are avid hunters, and that I was fortunate enough to score an almost 5-pound beauty was cause to celebrate. I kept this stowed away, wrapped tightly in my freezer, waiting for the perfect opportunity to cook this up.

The great thing about the following recipe is that it can be perfectly adapted to just about any cut of meat you prefer. I know that many people do not have the availability {or palette} for venison – I’ve done this particular dish with rump roasts, pork shoulders…really, any big cut of meat will work great. Using one that is still bone-in is even better, because as this roasts low and slow all day, the flavor from the bone is going to be released, adding an entire layer of flavor to the resulting cooking liquid produced.

Feel free to adapt the seasonings to your preference as well! I love a classic blend of herbs and red wine, but if you’re looking for something a bit lighter, use a good beef stock instead of wine. Thyme is a great, well-purposed herb to use in here, or you can go super simple {but still delicious} with a simple combination of salt and pepper, bay leaves, and just a touch of rosemary.

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And fear not, dears, if you’re cooking a roast large enough to feed a small army. The hubs and I hardly put a dent in the resulting dish, but what I love to do is shred the leftovers and freeze in snack-size bags. It makes the perfect portion for lunch…think sandwiches, folded into leftover pasta, or used taco-style.

This truly is a wondrous dish, adaptable to please, and just tasty! I hope you enjoy!

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Sunday Roast, Crockpot Style

Ingredients:

1 piece of meat, roughly 3-5 lbs {or whatever will fit comfortably in your crockpot}

4 to 5 large cloves of garlic, left whole

assortment of mixed root vegetables {I chose a blend of large carrots and onions, but russet or sweet potatoes make a great addition, as does celery, parsnips…whatever you like!}

2 cups red wine {I use a good Cabernet Sauvignon}

2 cups low-sodium chicken stock

4 tsp. dried herbs, more or less to suit your taste {I used a mixture of oregano and rosemary, because I like how it complements the flavor of the venison}

salt and pepper, to taste

extra virgin olive oil

1 to 2 tsp. butter {for the gravy}

1-3 tsp. flour {for gravy}

 

To Prepare:

Begin by peeling and dicing your garlic and root vegetables, being sure to leave them in larger chunks so they don’t break down and disintegrate  during the cooking process. Add into the bowl of your crockpot, and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle all with olive oil, and toss to coat.

Prepare your meat – depending on the cut I am using, I like to go over the meat and trim off any excess fat {this is particularly important if using a piece of chuck roast, or something similar}. In this case, because I am using venison from a local hunter, I went and removed remaining pieces of “silver skin”…chewy pieces that don’t taste ideal. Pat dry, then season liberally with salt and pepper.

Optional step: depending on your time schedule, give the meat a good sear on all sides! I do this in a large non-stick skillet on my stovetop. Coat the bottom of the pan with a good dose of extra virgin olive oil, and once hot, add in your roast. Allow the meat to sit for several minutes on each side, flipping when brown. When we transfer this to the crockpot, you’ll want to scrape in the cooking liquid and bits up from the bottom of the pan – that’s flavor gold right there!

Once the meat is trimmed and seasoned, place atop the vegetables in your crockpot. Add in the wine and stock, making sure there is just enough liquid to almost cover the entire roast. Add in your herbs and mix well, making sure to really get that meat as close to the bottom as possible.

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Cook on low heat for about 8 hours {I set mine around 8:15-8:30am and let it cook away while I’m at work, returning at 5:15pm}. Drop the heat setting to ‘warm’ and remove most of the cooking liquid and the root vegetables, transferring into a bowl.

Make the gravy – in a medium saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Once completely melted, whisk in the flour and cook for several minutes, making sure that the raw flour taste is removed. Slowly add in the cooking liquid and set to high heat, whisking vigorously so as to avoid any lumps forming. Cook on high until mixture thickens and begins to slowly bubble. Add in the root vegetables, and puree with an immersion blender.

Serve with roasted vegetables {I had asparagus on hand, but mashed potatoes make a fabulous accompaniment}, a good crusty French bread for dipping, and a glass of red wine on the side.

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crockpot bolognese sauce

I’ve always felt that the crockpot is a severely underutilized kitchen tool.

Now, now, don’t get me wrong – I know there are plenty of people out there who swear up and down with this culinary piece of cookware heaven (myself included) , but I feel certain in the fact that many people don’t appreciate all the great things this versatile tool can do. Sure, it’s great for soup and stews…but how many people can say that they use it for other times of year, to make jams and jellies with fresh summer produce, applesauce in the fall, and roasts in the winter? let me know if you do below, and how you like to use it! 

It’s high time that I bring this appliance out into the blog and let it shine. Today, my dears, we’re talking sauce. Bolognese sauce, to be exact.

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Let’s just take a minute to appreciate that beauty, the base for our sauce. Wow.

This is by and far one of my husband’s favorite recipes. Thick and rich, gloriously dense and meaty, flavors cooked to perfection – how can you go wrong? Truth be told, you really and truly can’t. It’s chock full of flavors, herbs and spices, the perfect dish to soothe any soul.

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However, and I’m being painfully honest, it’s one sauce that I don’t find myself drawn to making often. The reason?…you ask, scratching your heads and wondering why….

It’s quite simple, actually. Bolognese sauce is painfully long and attention-grabbing to make. While I wish, more often than I care to share, that I could spend all my days in the kitchen, quietly stirring pots of simmering goodness, making bread and cranking out pies and cakes, it’s just not in the cards for me right now. That’s what my weekends are for, and I am extremely thankful I have the opportunity to do just that {the husband doesn’t complain, either!}. But there are just some days when you need the benefits and warm hug of a dish that has been slowly simmered all day, had love poured into it, and that is where we bring in the crockpot.

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I would be lying if I told you that this particular crockpot dish is a simple one. As many of you all know, a vast majority of said recipes require little to no prep work…chop and dice you veggies, brown your meat {if you feel so inclined}, then pour it all in, set the timer, and forget about it until your cooking time has elapsed. With this one, we have a bit of browning, a bit of sauteeing, and a bit of stirring to take on. I find that this is the perfect thing to do the evening before you want to have it for dinner, when there are still dinner dishes piled in the sink {because who wants to do dishes more than once on any evening?} and you still have your cooking groove – because yes, that is a thing. A bit of work the night before makes for a smooth transition to crockpot heaven in the morning. A simple plug in of the appliance, placing in the ingredients, and folding in the tomatoes – DONE! All that’s left do you once it’s almost time for dinner is to prepare the noodles, and pour a glass of a bold and spicy red wine. I can’t be the only one who loves a good red with this type of sauce, eh?

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Crockpot Bolognese Sauce

{adapted from Kelsey Nixon via the Cooking Channel}

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 large carrot, finely chopped

1 celery stalk, finely chopped

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

Kosher salt and cracked black pepper

6 ounces tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon each rosemary, basil and oregano

1 cup dry red wine

2/3 cup milk {I used 1% because it’s what I had on hand}

Two 28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes

1 pound ground pork

1 pound ground sirloin

Several cheese rinds {I always keep these in the freezer – this time, I had one each of  Romano and Parmesan}

Pasta, for serving

To prepare:

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, carrots, celery and onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook about 3 minutes. Add the tomato paste, thyme and nutmeg, and continue cooking until the vegetables have softened and started to brown, about 2 minutes. Deglaze with the wine, pulling up any bits from the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.

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In the same pan, drizzle in a few more tablespoons olive oil. Add in the pork and sirloin, seasoning liberally with salt and pepper. Cook until browned through, then remove any drippings from the pan.

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Carefully transfer the vegetable mixture and meat mixture to the slow cooker. Stir in the milk and tomatoes. Toss in the cheese rinds.

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Cover and cook on high for 4 to 6 hours or on low 8 to 10 hours. Serve with your pasta of choice and, of course, a hearty glass of red wine!

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This, like many of my earlier recipes, is a great one to make a large batch of and freeze for later use. While great reheated and served atop pizza, it’s fun to get a little creative with this sauce! – try ladling it atop pizza, stirred in with a saute of veggies, or even on top of mashed potatoes. It is truly a multipurpose sauce.