Friday, June 10, 2011

It's All About The Pot

Oppressive heat and humidity can pretty much guaranty I will be looking for ways to feed the family that does NOT involve turning on the oven. Or stove top. Or toaster oven. Or microwave... This week we had plenty of that kind of weather, and a friend reminded me of the beauty of the crock pot. It puts off no heat while it sits quietly on the counter, cooking up whatever yummy concoctions you can come up with. The challenge for me was to overcome my image of crock pot food being heavy, comfort-type meals better suited for cold weather. I'm happy to say I made two successful crock pot meals that were equally easy, healthy, and enjoyable on a hot day.

Crock pot meal #1: Crock Pot Turkey Joes
My version of sloppy joe's has a sneaky way of adding in extra nutrition, and cutting down on fat. I was inspired by Jessica Seinfeld's book, but don't have the patience or time to make numerous purees of vegetables to "hide" in my kids' food. And, my kids do a pretty good job of eating their vegetables. But, nonetheless, sometimes an extra boost can help make up for the popsicles and ice cream truck treats that come with summer. I started this a little after noon, and it was great for dinner around 6:00. Best of all I didn't have to stand over a hot stove browning meat!
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 1/2 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 packet Sloppy Joe seasoning
  • 1 small can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 jar organic/ all natural spinach and carrots baby food (trust me, you can't taste it a bit)
With crock pot on high, mix in the turkey and seasoning packet (don't follow directions on packet to add water). The turkey will absorb the seasoning and begin to cook. Stir occasionally for the first half hour.

Next, add tomato sauce, baby food, beans, and ketchup. I also sprinkle in onion powder and garlic powder, but it's not necessary. Mix well, put on the lid and let it go! I turned down the heat to "keep warm" after an hour and propped the lid open slightly to let out steam so I didn't end up with chili instead.
Serve on your choice of whole grain bread or bun with a fresh fruit salad and you have yourself a tasty summer meal.

Crock Pot Meal #2: Taco Bar Chicken with Rice
This is a fun meal for entertaining or feeding a crowd without heating up the kitchen. The chicken and rice cook in the crock pot, leaving only fresh veggies and condiments to prepare. It's also nice for picky eaters since you serve it taco bar style allowing everyone to choose their own toppings.

In the crock pot:
  • 2-4 cups shredded chicken (prepared store bought rotisserie chicken works great, or make your own shredded chicken in bulk, freeze and store for quick no-cook recipes in the future. Check out Making Bulk Shredded Chicken in Crock Pot)
  • 1/2 cup rice
  • 1/2 cup orzo pasta
  • taco seasoning packet
  • 1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes with green chili
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • lime pepper (optional, to taste)
On the side: (the possibilities are endless!)
  • diced tomatoes
  • diced jalepeno
  • shredded cheese
  • shredded lettuce
  • diced avocado or prepared guacamole
  • sour cream
  • taco and/or hot sauce
  • chopped onion
  • sliced black olives

Combine all ingredients in the crock pot and mix well. Simmer on high for about 10 minutes covered, and then add in shredded chicken, replace lid, turn to low and let it go. Once all liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, mix well to fluff rice and pasta, and turn to "keep warm" until you are ready to eat.

Serve with whole wheat soft tortillas, hard shell tacos (la Tierra brand is my all time favorite) or even pita pockets. I love a squeeze of lime and dash of chipotle powder on mine. Often, I don't even bother with a side dish for this, since you have the meat, rice, and vegetable toppings all rolled into one delicious package.

What are your favorite crock pot recipes?

Happy crock potting!

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