Monday, September 24, 2012

Fall Has Arrived (+ Standby Slow Cooker Recipes)

My Facebook status today was:

"Yesterday was the first day of fall. As sad as it is to see the summer go, we can look forward to big slow cooker meals on the cheap! I almost forgot how far you can go with just a few cheap ingredients placed in a one-dish fall meal in the crock pot. Yesterday: lentil chili. Today: mushroom risotto"

Many questions follow suit after any mention of a good slow cooker meal. We all know how a slow cooker meal can benefit our weekly routine. We all hope to create a slow cooker plan that we'll actually follow through on, but we rarely ever do. Well - at least I don't. My mom and I always seem to be sharing, saving or pinning crock pot blog and appetizing recipes, but we never seem to actually do anything with them. When I actually do take the little bit of time required to complete something in that little lovely appliance, I'm beyond excited about it and wonder why I don't do it every week.

I finally followed through this weekend. It was easy (as in: quick to throw together). It was cheap. It was appetizing. After a friend and reader requested some recipes, I thought I'd share it with you, along with a few other successes I've had.

Lentil Chili (Vegan-friendly)
Original Recipe from Chum Mom
J and I worked together on making this yesterday. It's one of those dishes where two people can be working on either side of the pot because you literally just need to throw everything in it - order does not matter. The purpose of this meal was to have healthy veggie-filled lunches for the week and we succeeded.

Only differences from the original? Kidney beans instead of chickpeas, no cilantro, mustard powder or cayenne (but did 1 tsp of chili powder and 1 tsp of paprika instead) and halved the entire recipe (we have a small slow cooker). 

The costs associated with this chili are so minimal: 2 carrots (out of a big $2.99 bag), 2 celery stalks (again, out of a clump for $2.99), bouillon cubes, $1.29 can of diced tomatoes, $0.99 can of kidney beans, 1 cup (out of a 2 cup bag for $1.29) of dry red lentils. So cheap considering how far it will take us this week.

Smoky Bacon Chili (Paleo-friendly)
Original Recipe from PaleOMG.

PaleOMG is a blog full of great meat-filled, caveman-lover recipes. If you ever have to make a meal for non-vegetarians that may have dietary limitations, check this blog out - or any paleo blog, really. They're free of most common intolerances. 

This chili is as opposite as you can get to the above recipe. Bean-free and meat-filled, this was still a major hit. I used pork instead of beef and only red peppers (not yellow and green). I added 2 drops of liquid smoke to regular diced tomatoes, instead of fire roasted. I also think I may have made half the recipe (we had this eons ago).

We served this over a 1/2 of a baked sweet potato each (we baked some ahead of time for the week as well!). This was mega J-approved. 

Mushroom Risotto (potentially gluten-free and vegetarian-friendly)
Original Recipe from Allie's Changing Kitchen
I love risotto but never have the time or energy to stand by a stove to make it right, or to find an appropriate parmesan-free recipe. This turned out well, tasty, but I'd definitely play with some more spices and flavours the next time I try it.

Sautee: 1 cup of sliced mushrooms + 1/3 cup of chopped onions + 2 cloves of garlic

Add in: 1 cup of arborio rice + 1/4 cup of mushroom broth (made from mushroom bouillon, veg. would be fine, too). Saute until liquid is absorbed.

Add mixture to slow cooker, plus: 1 3/4 cup of broth (so 2 cups in total) + 1/4 of white wine + 1 tbsp of onion flakes + 1 tsp of paprika + salt + pepper.

Cook on high for 1 hour and 30 minutes (check, because I overcooked mine a little bit).

Once finished, mix in 1/4 cup of almond (or any) milk + 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast. Add more of any of the above flavourings if you want. I topped mine with homemade bacon bits but you could omit to keep it veg - friendly.

Need More Inspiration?
Here are a few other recipes from the past that have worked out well for us. My advice for those looking to get started with using slow cookers to ease the weeknight cooking pain? Stews and chilis. So many varieties. So hearty. Hard to mess up.

Panama Pork Stew
Chicken Curry Stew
Balsamic Chicken

Questions about any of the above recipes? Comment or bug me on Facebook or Twitter! Pin It

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