Thursday, November 29, 2012

My 30 Days of Crock Pot Cooking!

I hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving.  I really love this time of year.  I have to say that Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  I love that the focus is on being thankful for the things with which we have been blessed.  Every year, we make paper leaves and write our lists of things for which we are thankful.  We go around the room and read them off.  At our house, I usually hang them on a little "tree" where we can see them for a few days.  Then I save them.  I have them all put away. We will look back at them someday.

I have been too busy lately to blog, but things have been going along.  I'm still trying to stay on top of the clutter, and sometimes I'm successful!  :) Lately, I've been thinking about ways to keep our meals yummy, healthy and interesting without working tooooo hard on it every day.  For years, I have successfully planned weekly menus and followed them to keep the stress out of my week.  I have also done a lot of bulk "freezer cooking," which I LOVE for simplifying my busy life.  Something else I really like is using my crockpot!  I came across a Facebook page by "The Crockpot Girl" (  She encourages people to use their crockpot to make life simpler. She has a recipe book available, and posts lots of recipes on her Facebook page.  Last week, she started the 30 Day Crockpot Challenge.  People are trying to use the crockpot to cook something(s) every day for 30 days.  I didn't get to do every day last week because we were traveling, although I did make a Pumpkin Pie Pudding on Thanksgiving day in the crockpot.

I think it would be fun for me to post my thoughts and experiences as I do this challenge this month. Let's see So here it is so far!

Last week, day one was Tuesday, and I made breakfast in the crockpot the night before--Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal!  This recipe is vegan, but I'm sure you could use regular milk with a little vanilla instead of vanilla almond milk.  Most of my family LOVES this.  In a family the size if mine, of course, it's hard to find something everyone loves.  Simeon (age 5) LOVES this recipe, and he asks for it all the time.  If there are leftovers, he will ask me to save them so he can eat it for a snack later.  Here is the recipe, from The Vegan Slow Cooker cookbook:

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal (I multiply this recipe times 5 to feed my crew)
1/2 cup steel cut oats
2 cups unsweetened vanilla-flavored almond milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (store-bought or homemade), just plain pumpkin
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
Pinch of ground cloves
Brown sugar, for serving
Chopped pecans, for serving (optional)

Night Before:
Oil the crock of your slow cooker.  Combine the oats, milk, pumpkin, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves in the slow cooker.  Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.

In the morning:
Stir the oatmeal to get a consistent texture.  Serve in bowls topped with brown sugar and chopped pecans.

I wasn't able to do day 2, but day 3 was Thanksgiving, and I made my contribution to our feast in the crockpot!  Pumpkin Pudding.  This recipe is from Crock Pot Girl. I made 4 times the recipe in two crock pots because we were having tons of people, but it was waaaaay too much!  This stuff is filling!  I could have just doubled I to serve "8" and it would have been plenty!

Day 4 and 5 we were in Dallas, so missed those two days as well.  Now we're home, and I've been in on the challenge Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and yesterday (Wednesday)!!

Sunday, I pulled out my large (6qt) crockpot to make TurkeyBreast with Orange Sauce and then I used one of my new 4-qt crockpots to make Sweet Potatoes and Apples.  This meal was *super* easy, and I had it all in the crockpot before church in the morning!  This was so wonderful in freeing me up for the afternoon to spend time with the family and help Todd clean out our garage.  There were no leftovers at all but all 11 of us were full and satisfied!  I think next time I may need to make more of the sweet potato dish!!

Here are the recipes, from Fix it and Forget it Recipes for Entertaining:

Day 6
TurkeyBreast with Orange Sauce (Serves 6, or more if children)
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1/2 tsp. pepper
2-3 lb. boneless, skinless turkey breast
1 1/2 cups orange juice

1. Place onions in slow cooker.
2. Combine garlic, rosemary, and pepper.
3. Make gashes in the turkey, about 3/4 of the way through at 2" intervals.  Stuff with herb mixture.  Place turkey in slow cooker.
4. Pour juice over turkey.
5. Cover. Cook on low 7-8 hours, or until turkey is no longer pink in center.

Sweet Potatoes and Apples
Makes 8-10 servings
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 large tart and firm apples peeled, cored, and sliced
1/2-3/4 tsp. salt
1/8-1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. sage
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 cup maple syrup
Toasted sliced almonds or chopped pecans, optional

1. Place half the sweet potatoes in slow cooker.  Layer in half the apple slices.
2. Mix together seasonings. Sprinkle half over apples.
3. Mix together butter and maple syrup.  Spoon half over seasonings.
4. Repeat layers.
5. Cover. Cook on low 6-8 hours or until potatoes are soft, stirring occasionally.
6. To add a bit of crunch, sprinkle with toasted almonds or pecans when serving.
7. Serve with pork or poultry.

 Monday I made a Garbanzo Soup that was very well-received by most of the family.  I was able to freeze the leftovers for another full meal in the next few busy weeks!  I was pleased at how well everyone liked it.  We are trying to limit meat to only a few times per week, so this was prefect!

Day 7
Garbanzo Souper
1 lb dry garbanzo beans
4 ozs. raw baby carrots, cut in halves
1 large onion, diced
3 ribs celery, cut in 1" pieces
1 large green bell pepper, diced
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2 28-oz. cans vegetable broth
1 broth can of water
8-oz. can tomato sauce
8 ozs. prepared hummus
1/2 tsp. sea salt

1.  Soak beans overnight (or do quick soak method).  Drain.  Place in bottom of slow cooker.
2. Add carrots, onion, celery, and green pepper.
3. Sprinkle with basil, oregano, rosemary, and thyme.
4. Cover with the broth and water.
5. Cover.  Cook on high 6 hours.
6. Half an hour before serving, stir in tomato sauce, hummus, and salt.  Cook until hot.

Tuesday was Turkey Chili. Everyone liked it, and it was super easy.  I also had plenty left over to freeze for another meal in the future.  I doubled this recipe from Fix it and Forget it Recipes for Entertaining.

Day 8
Turkey Chili
Makes 6-8 servings
2 lbs. ground turkey (browned)
16-oz. can pinto or kidney beans
2 cups fresh or canned tomatoes, diced
2 cups tomato sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1 small onion, chopped
16-oz. can Rotel tomatoes
1-oz. package chili seasoning

1. Crumble ground turkey in bottom of slow cooker.
2. Add remaining ingredients.  Mix well.
3. Cover.  Cook on low 6-8 hours.

Yesterday I made Baked Acorn Squash as our main dish.  Todd and I liked it a lot.  The kids did ok with it.  About half of them liked it pretty well, the others ate because they had to...not their favorite.  This would be a great side dish to serve company. The leftovers will be my lunch and Todd's lunch over the next day or two. I made 3 times this recipe from Fix it and Forget it Recipes for Entertaining.

Day 9
Baked Acorn Squash
Makes 4 servings
2 acorn squash
2/3 cup cracker crumbs
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/3 cup melted margarine or butter, melted
4 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 Tbsp. orange juice

1. Cut squash in half lengthwise. Remove seeds.
2. Combine remaining ingredients.  Spoon into squash halves. Place squash in slow cooker.
3. Cover. Cook on low 5-6 hours, or until squash is tender.

Day 9-10 Last night before going to bed, I made Crock Pot Apple Oatmeal to be ready when we wake up in the morning!

Apple Oatmeal
I double this recipe to feed my crowd.
4 cups milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. melted butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups oats (not quick oats)
2 cups apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 cup dates or raisins (optional)
Spray a large crockpot with nonstick spray.  Combine and mix well.  Cook on low overnight or 8-9 hours.  Stir well before serving.

Today I will be making Veggie Soup in the crockpot.  Stay tuned for more details later today or tomorrow. 
Quick comment about equipment.  I was thinking about getting a crockpot buffet cooker/server, which has three 3-qt crocks in a big unit.  I thought how cool that would be to have and make a whole meal in the crocks at one time.  I was slightly concerned with the size of the crocks, however, because we can finish off what is in a 6-quart crockpot sometimes!  Over Thanksgiving, there was a unit like the one I wanted on sale at Kohl's, but the crocks were 2 1/2 quarts each. It was $35 on sale!!  What a deal. As I was standing in line with my mother- and sister-in-law (Black Friday shopping buddies), we passed a stack of 4-quart crockpots that were on sale for $10 each.  My mother-in-law suggested I get two of those instead of the 3-unit buffet server.  It would cost less, take up less space and give me more cooking space!  I have 2 large crockpots at home already, so now can do a whole meal with leftovers and even have a beverage as well!  Seems like a lot, but on Sunday it proved to be a great thing!  I really like to freeze leftovers, so the bigger crockpots will allow for that!  Yay!

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