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Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

Category Archives: Crock Pot

Roast-Chicken Cover

With its crispy skin and juicy meat, roasted chicken is one of the tastiest, most satisfying dishes you can make. If you’ve never roasted a chicken before, or if it’s been a while since you did, I’ll take you through the steps:

Here’s what you’ll need:

One whole chicken, about 4 to 5 pounds

A roasting pan with a rack

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Butter or olive oil for rubbing on and under the chicken skin

Carrots, celery and onion

2 cups of chicken stock or broth

1 tablespoon each of butter and flour for thickening the gravy

An instant-read thermometer for testing the temperature of the chicken

A mesh strainer, for straining the gravy

Optional: Garlic, fresh herbs and citrus fruits such as lemons or oranges

Kitchen twine for trussing

Roasting a chicken will take you about an hour and a half from start to finish, which also includes making gravy.

Basic Roast Chicken

Preheat your oven to 425°F.

Remove the neck and giblets from the chicken’s body cavity and pat the chicken dry, inside and out, with paper towels.

Rub the outside and inside of the chicken with butter or olive oil, then season with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper — both inside and out.

Truss (tie the legs together) the chicken securely with cooking twine. This step is optional, but it will help your roasted chicken cook more evenly.

Thick slice half an onion and quarter one single celery stalk and one single medium carrot. Scatter these veggies in the bottom of a roasting pan. They will flavor the gravy that you will make later.

Set a roasting rack over the vegetables and place the chicken (breast-side-up) on the rack.

Transfer the roasting pan to the oven. After the chicken has roasted for an hour and 15 minutes, check the temperature with an instant-read thermometer inserted into the deepest part of the thigh. The thermometer should read at least 160°F. If not, continue roasting, and check again in 15 minutes.

When the chicken is done, remove the roasting pan from the oven, carefully lift out the rack with the roasted chicken on it and transfer the chicken to a clean cutting board. Let it rest there for 20 minutes, uncovered, while you make the gravy.

Place the roasting pan with the roasted vegetables on the stove top. Remove the large pieces of vegetables. Add a tablespoon of butter and heat over medium heat until the butter melts. Add a tablespoon of flour and stir to form a paste. Pour in the 2 cups of chicken stock or broth into the pan and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer over medium heat until reduced and thickened. Some cooks like to strain the gravy to remove any bits of vegetables but I like to leave them in there.

Season the gravy to taste with Kosher salt and black pepper. Once the gravy is finished and the chicken has rested, you can carve the chicken and serve it with the homemade gravy.

Flavoring Tips:

You can stuff the chicken with fresh herbs or other aromatic items. Thyme, rosemary, sage and marjoram are great choices, but any fresh herbs will do. For flavor and aroma add a couple of lemons or oranges cut into wedges and fennel fronds. Add a few peeled cloves of garlic to the carrot-celery-onion mixture before roasting.

Here are some additional ways to roast chicken.

How-to-Roast-a-Whole-Chicken-in-the-Crockpot-Step-3

How to Roast a Whole Chicken in the Crock Pot

Serves: 4-5

Ingredients

  • 1 (4 lb) whole chicken, insides removed and patted dry
  • 1/2 tablespoon of paprika
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose seasoning
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

Mix together paprika, all-purpose seasoning, garlic powder and salt.

Place 4 medium-sized foil balls in the bottom of a crock pot. This will act as a stand to prevent the chicken from drying out.

Rub seasoning over the entire chicken (including the inside). Place on top of the foil balls. Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 – 4½ hours, or LOW for 6½ – 8 hours.

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Roast Chicken with Maple Glaze

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 3), peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 8 wedges
  • 1/3 cup cranberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 chicken (3 to 4 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
  • 6 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

Directions

Heat the oven to 425°.

In a large roasting pan, mix the sweet potatoes, onion and cranberries with 1 tablespoon of the oil, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Push them to the edges of the pan, leaving a space in the center for the chicken.

Rub the cavity of the chicken with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper. Twist the wings behind the back and tie the legs together. Put the chicken, breast-side up, in the center of the roasting pan. Coat the chicken with the remaining tablespoon oil, sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper, and dot with the butter. Roast the chicken for 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the maple syrup, thyme and the remaining 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Remove the roasting pan from the oven and stir the potatoes. Brush the chicken with about 2 tablespoons of the glaze and drizzle the potatoes with about 1/2 tablespoon of the glaze.

Return the pan to the oven and cook, stirring the potatoes and brushing the chicken with the remaining glaze 2 more times, until the chicken and potatoes are just done, about 30 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken and vegetables to a serving plate and keep in a warm spot for about 10 minutes.

Skim off the fat from the roasting pan. Pour the pan juices over the chicken and the sweet potatoes.

salsaverde chicken

Roasted Chicken with Spicy Salsa Verde

4 servings

Ingredients

  • One 4-to 5-pound chicken
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced and seeded
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 small onion, peeled
  • 1 small bunch fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Salsa Verde:

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons salt-packed capers, rinsed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint
  • 1/4 -1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 salt-packed anchovy fillets, rinsed and minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 hot pepper, seeded and minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Make the salsa verde:

Combine the extra-virgin olive oil, parsley, capers, mint, red pepper flakes, anchovies, garlic, lemon zest and juice, hot pepper and shallots in a bowl and stir to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow the flavors to meld for at least 15 minutes before serving; if planning to serve after more than an hour, add the lemon juice at the last minute to keep the color vibrant. Yield: 1 1/2 cups.

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 1 hour before cooking.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Lift the chicken skin up and wedge 3 lemon slices and 1 bay leaf between the skin and each breast. Put the garlic, onion, thyme and remaining lemon slices in the cavity of the chicken. Rub the entire chicken liberally with olive oil.

Put the chicken in an ovenproof saute pan or roasting pan breast-side up, slide it into the oven and roast until the thigh reaches 160 degrees F, or until the cavity juices run clear, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 to 20 minutes.

Cut the chicken into 8 pieces and drizzle with the Salsa Verde.

lemon chicken

Roast Chicken with Lemon Shallot Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 4- to 5-lb. chicken
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 medium lemons
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 1 pound shallots
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup reduced-sodium or homemade chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine

Directions

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Loosen skin of breast and thighs and work some salt under the skin. Rub remaining salt all over chicken and in the cavity. Chill, uncovered, at least 3 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 375°. Zest lemons. Slice 1 lemon; juice half of the other.

Pat chicken dry, inside and out. Rub zest under as much of the skin as possible and rub any remaining zest inside the cavity. Rub chicken all over with 1 tablespoon olive oil and the thyme. Put lemon slices in the cavity.

Set a V-shaped rack in a heavy roasting pan large enough to hold shallots. Put chicken in the rack, breast side up. Add shallots to the pan and drizzle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, turning them to coat.

Roast chicken until chicken leg moves easily and skin is brown and crisp, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours (remove shallots after 1 hour and set aside). Tip chicken so juices from cavity pour into roasting pan. Transfer chicken to a carving board and let rest, covered with foil.

To make the sauce: Pour pan drippings into a measuring cup with a pouring lip. Trim tops from shallots and squeeze soft insides into a blender. Pour off all but about 1 tablespoon fat from pan drippings and add drippings to the blender. Add 1/2 cup broth and the wine and pulse until smooth.

Pour sauce back into the roasting pan. Cook, scraping up brown bits and adding more broth if you want a thinner sauce, over medium-high heat on your biggest burner (or straddling 2 burners) until sauce turns a nutty brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in the reserved lemon juice. Carve chicken, discarding lemon slices and serve with the sauce.

Roast Chicken with Butternut Squash

Roast Chicken with Pumpkin

4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 chicken (3 to 3 1/2 pounds), quartered
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 1 small sugar pumpkin or butternut squash (about 2 1/4 pounds), peeled and cut into 1-inch slices
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 3 tablespoons water

Directions

Heat the oven to 450°.

Coat the chicken quarters with 1 tablespoon of the oil, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Arrange the chicken quarters, skin-side up, in a large roasting pan.

Mix the pumpkin cubes with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and the sage.  Add the pumpkin to the roasting pan.

Bake, stirring the pumpkin occasionally, until the chicken breasts are just done, about 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and remove the breasts from the pan. Tilt the roasting pan and spoon off most of the fat from the pan.

Return the pan to the oven. Continue cooking until the chicken legs and the pumpkin are done, about 10 minutes longer. Remove the chicken and pumpkin from the pan.

Pour off the fat from the roasting pan. Set the pan over moderate heat and add the water. Bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan to dislodge any brown bits. Boil until reduced to approximately 2 tablespoons. Add any accumulated juices from the chicken. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and pumpkin.

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Stracotto  translates literally from the Italian as “overcooked,” but the term has come to refer to beef stews and braises – especially in northern Italy.The important part of the recipe is the slow cooking of the meat at a very low temperature to tenderize even the toughest cut of beef. The recipe starts with a soffritto of onion, carrot, celery and, sometimes, finely diced pancetta or the fat from prosciutto and continues with the addition of red wine, beef broth, tomatoes and tomato paste.

There are as many versions of this dish as there are cooks. In much of Tuscany, the meat to be roasted in the pot is seasoned with a minced mixture of celery, carrot, onion and parsley, but never garlic, whereas the cooks of Arezzo use garlic and juniper berries to season the meat.

In Lombardy, the meat is marinated overnight  in the red wine. In northern Italy, especially the Parma area, leftover stracotto becomes a filling for ravioli.

In Florence, before the discovery of America and the importation of tomatoes, stracotto was cooked with agresto – a sauce made from crushed, tart grapes, boiled and flavored with cloves, cinnamon and the juice of a squeezed onion. Chianti is the wine of choice in preparing this dish in Florence and porcini mushrooms are often an important ingredient.

In Bologna, a veal roast is used for this dish. In Sicily, the meat is cut into chunks, stew like, before braising.

Italian Jews also make stracotto with wine and tomatoes that is eaten both as a shabbos lunch and as a Friday night dinner. Rome resident, Celeste Pavoncello Pipenro, recalls eating stracotto throughout her life, “I remember Grandmother Celeste cooking stracotto in a special crock pot that she used just for this dish. It was very important to her to cook the stracotto in the crockpot. Also, my father, Marco, cooks the stracotto quite often and he puts some chocolate in with the meat just to add a different flavor.”

The dish originated in the Piedmont area of italy and here is an early recipe translated from Italian to English.

Piedmontese Pot Roast of Beef with Barolo Wine

Ingredients for 6 persons
1 Kg of lean beef, Italian parsley, sage, garlic, onion, carrot, celery, a
little flour, one bottle of Barolo wine, olive oil, butter, nutmeg, salt
and pepper.

You place in a casserole dish some spoonfuls of butter, olive oil
and sliced onions. Saute these ingredients, then brown the meat
after dredging it in the flour. Cover with the parsley, garlic, the
herbs and the rest of the chopped vegetables. Brown the meat on
all sides to seal it, then add the Barolo wine. Simmer a while to
reduce the liquid & evaporate the wine, then add salt and pepper.
Cover and place in a preheated oven(150C/300F/Gas 2). Continue
cooking for approximately three hours in the covered casserole.
Slice the meat and serve the dish with its gravy, straining the gravy if
you prefer smooth gravy.

Barolo wine is traditionally used for this dish in Italy and in Italy it is possible to find inexpensive Barolo wines that are perfect to cook with. Unfortunately, that is not the case in America. Because you don’t want to pour a fifteen or twenty-dollar bottle of wine over a four-dollar piece of meat, I recommend cooking with a flavorful inexpensive red wine and reserving the Barolo to serve with dinner. For tender, flavorful meat, it is best to prepare this dish several hours or, even better, a full day ahead of time. Reheat it in the oven before serving.

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Italian Pot Roast (Stracotto)

I also include slow cooker directions for those who prefer that method for this recipe.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 lb chuck roast
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
8 oz Cremini mushrooms, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups dry red wine
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons sage leaves, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 cup beef stock
1 container crushed tomatoes (26-28 ounces)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Polenta, recipe below, or Spaghetti

Directions

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Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Salt and pepper the roast, then brown it on both sides.

If using a slow cooker, put the roast in the cooker. If you’re using a Dutch oven, put the roast on a plate.

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Sauté the vegetables in the oil that remains until they’re soft and a little browned.

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Add the wine to stir up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan and bring to a boil for 2-3 minutes.

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Add the herbs, tomato paste, tomatoes and beef stock.

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For the Dutch oven put the roast back in the pot and bring the mixture to a simmer and keep at just a simmer for 2 ½ to 3 hours.

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If the liquid begins to boil, you may need to place the lid ajar. You don’t want a rapid boil, just a few lazy bubbles or the meat will get tough.

If you’re using a slow cooker, add the vegetables, wine, stock, herbs, tomato paste and tomatoes to the cooker and turn on low for 6-8 hours.

When the meat is tender, remove and cut into thin slices. To thicken the sauce, especially if made in the slow cooker, boil for a few minutes. Remove the bay leaf before serving.

Serve the sliced beef with creamy polenta or spaghetti and a green salad. An Italian red wine, like Masciarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, will be great to use in the recipe and to drink with dinner.

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Quick Creamy Polenta

3 cups water or beef broth
1/2 teaspoon salt, if using water
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup quick cooking polenta

Directions

Bring the water/broth to a boil. Add salt and butter, then while stirring, slowly pour in the polenta. Stir until there are no lumps, then turn the heat down to a bare simmer. After 5 minutes, turn off the heat and cover the pan until ready to serve.


basketAlmost every Italian city and town has its specialties and there are regional specialties also; the end result is a huge number of local cuisines rather than a single national cuisine. However, there are some dishes that you will find almost everywhere and that are now standards among the many Italian communities scattered across the globe.

Vegetables play a large part in Italian cuisine because the fertile soil, especially in the south, provides bountiful amounts of vegetables and herbs. A typical cold salad might include raw or cooked vegetables tossed with herbs and cheese. Other popular dishes are cianfotta, a stewed dish of eggplants, peppers, zucchini and onions with basil and olive oil that is served cold. Pepperoni imbottiti stuffs red and yellow bell peppers with breadcrumbs seasoned with black olives, capers, garlic and anchovies and, of course, the famous parmigiana di melanzane or eggplant parmigiana.

There’s an old saying that “good cooking begins in the market” and never is this more true than with Italian cuisine which relies heavily on fresh produce. The most commonly used vegetables include tomatoes, garlic, onions, bell peppers (capsicum), eggplants (aubergine), cabbage, zucchini (courgettes), artichokes, fennel, mushrooms, celery, asparagus, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower and lettuce. These vegetables are traditionally chopped and added to baked pasta dishes, risottos and pizza or turned into salads, soups, appetizers and side dishes.

Vegetables can easily be the highlight of a meal. For example, a grilled mushroom cap filled with arugula bean salad, roasted vegetables paired with creamy polenta or a vegetable laced risotto offer substance as a main meal. With a little crusty bread and some aged cheese on the table, you also have a healthful meal. Here are some vegetable main dishes you might find on the Italian table.

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Warm Farro Pilaf with Dried Cranberries

Serves 6

An Italian wheat grain, farro is chewy and tender, like barley but with a milder flavor. Pearled or cracked farro cooks much faster than whole regular farro and it doesn’t require soaking before it’s made. The farro in this recipe can be made a few days ahead or even frozen.

Ingredients

For the Farro

  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium carrot, cut in half
  • 1 celery rib, cut in half
  • 1/2 small onion in one piece
  • 1 ¼ cups pearled farro
  • 4 cups vegetable broth

For the Pilaf

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced (2/3 cup)
  • 1/2 lb kale, center stem removed, chopped (4 packed cups)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts

To make Farro:

Heat oil in saucepan over medium-high heat. Add carrot, celery and onion. Cook 3 to 5 minutes or until vegetables start to brown. Add farro and stir well. Pour in broth, and bring mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cover. Cook 20 minutes or until just tender; drain. Discard carrot, celery and onion. Cool Farro.

To make Pilaf:

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté diced onion 5 to 7 minutes. Add kale and cook 5 to 7 minutes or just until wilted. Reduce heat to medium and stir in garlic and Aleppo pepper. Cook 1 minute, then add farro, and sauté 3 to 5 minutes or until warmed through. Remove from heat and stir in dried cranberries and pine nuts. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Serve warm.

butternut squash

Parmesan-Butternut Squash Gratin

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash (2 1/2 lb)
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup Italian seasoned panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Heat oven to 375°F. Spray 13×9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish with cooking spray. Peel, halve lengthwise and seed squash; cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Arrange with slices overlapping slightly in the bottom of baking dish.

In a 2-quart saucepan melt butter over medium heat. Reduce heat to low. Add garlic; cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until garlic is soft and butter is infused with garlic flavor. Do not let butter brown.

In a small bowl mix bread crumbs, cheese and 1 tablespoon of the butter-garlic mixture.

Brush squash slices with remaining butter-garlic mixture. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and bread crumb mixture.

Bake uncovered 30 to 40 minutes or until squash is tender when pierced with fork. Increase oven temperature to 425°F; bake 5 to 10 minutes longer or until the squash is lightly browned. Before serving, sprinkle parsley over top.

vegetable casserole

Roasted Vegetable and Bean Casserole

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 pounds cipolline onions, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, trimmed and peeled
  • 1 bulb fennel, cored and cut lengthwise into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 3 cups cooked dried cannellini beans or equivalent canned, rinsed and drained
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme for garnish

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the potatoes, onions and fennel in a roasting pan. Add the olive oil and toss well to coat.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Roast, turning occasionally, for 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes and beans and roast another 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes and cipolline are fork-tender and golden brown. Garnish with thyme.

spinach pizza

Deep Dish Spinach Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh spinach, thoroughly washed and stemmed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • Cornmeal
  • 1/2 recipe quick whole-wheat pizza dough (recipe below)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup freshly shredded Provolone cheese
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/4 cup thick tomato sauce (recipe below)

Directions

Heat oil in a large skillet and add garlic; saute for 30 seconds. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Remove from heat. Chop spinach.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly oil a 9-inch round baking pan 1 1/2 inches deep and sprinkle the bottom of the pan lightly with cornmeal. Roll dough into a 12-inch circle and fit into pan. Dough should just cover the bottom and sides of the pan with no overhang.

Mix cheeses together and spread 1 cup of the cheese mixture over the bottom of the dough in the pan. Spread the spinach over the cheese, covering the cheese completely. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of cheese over the spinach layer. Spread the tomato sauce over the spinach.

Bake in the preheated oven 20 minutes. Take the pizza out of the oven and sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top of the pizza. Return the pizza to the oven and bake 5-10 minutes until the cheese is melted and the filling is bubbly. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before cutting.

Yield: one 9-inch deep-dish pizza, serving 6 to 8.

Quick Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough

Ingredients

  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

Directions

Dissolve yeast in 1 cup of water, stir in olive oil and set aside until bubbly.

Combine the all-purpose flour with the whole-wheat flour and salt in a food processor bowl. Process for a few seconds to blend. With processor running, slowly pour yeast mixture through the feed tube and continue to process until a firm, smooth and elastic ball of dough forms. If the mixture is too dry, you may have to add another tablespoon or so of warm water. If it is too soft, add a little more all-purpose flour, one tablespoon at a time.

Remove dough from the processor bowl, divide in half and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate half the dough for this recipe for at least 10 minutes or up to one day. Freeze the other half of the dough for another use.

Yield: dough for two 9-inch deep-dish pizzas or two 12-inch flat pizzas

Thick Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 16-ounce can whole plum tomatoes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Pinch crushed red pepper

Directions

Heat olive oil in a large skillet, add onion and garlic and cook over medium low heat, stirring, until the onion is soft but not brown. Add remaining ingredients including liquid from the tomatoes. Crush tomatoes with the back of a spoon.

Adjust heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce is very thick and no longer liquid, about 30 minutes. Stir sauce from time to time to prevent sticking.

Yield: 1 1/4 cups

stuffed peppers

Slow Cooked Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients

  • 6 large sweet bell peppers
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 3 small tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 small sweet onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup canned red beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 cup cubed Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 can (4-1/4 ounces) chopped ripe olives
  • 4 fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 3/4 cup meatless spaghetti sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Directions

Cut tops off peppers and remove seeds; set aside. In a large bowl, combine the rice, tomatoes, corn, onion and beans. Stir in the Monterey Jack cheese, olives, basil, garlic, salt and pepper. Spoon into peppers.

Combine spaghetti sauce and water; pour half into an oval 5-qt. slow cooker. Add the stuffed peppers. Top with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese.

Cover and cook on low for 3-1/2 to 4 hours or until peppers are tender and filling is heated through. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese.

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??????????Whether oven roasted, smoked, braised or cooked in a crock pot, pork shoulder is one of those cuts of meat that just gets better the longer it cooks. Pork shoulder is probably one of the cheapest cuts of meat around but smells so good when it cooks, it will make you want to hang out in the kitchen.

Both a pork shoulder and a pork butt come from the shoulder area. Cuts labeled “pork shoulder” or “picnic shoulder” are from the thinner, triangle-shaped end of the shoulder, whereas the “butt” is from the thicker, fatty end of the shoulder. As such, pork shoulder is better for cooking whole and slicing, whereas pork butt is perfect for making pulled pork and other recipes in which the meat is meant to fall apart. Yet both pork shoulder and pork butt benefit from long, slow cooking and are great cut up and used as stew meat and in chilis.

Pork Shoulder Cuts

Bone-in Pork Shoulder

Pork Butt

Boneless Pork Shoulder

How to Cook Pork Shoulder in the Oven

  • Let the pork shoulder sit and come to room temperature for half an hour prior to cooking.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C).
  • Put the pork on a rack in a roasting pan, so it does not sit in its own juices. Place the pork fat side up so it will baste itself.
  • Pierce the pork with a knife in a few different spots. This will allow the juices to spill out and baste the meat.
  • Coat the pork with your favorite seasonings, marinade or rub.
  • Roast pork for about 3 hours. The skin should be crispy.
  • Check the pork with a meat thermometer to determine if it is done cooking. The internal temperature should reach at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius).
  • Let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving.

How to Cook Pork Shoulder in a Slow Cooker

  • Coat the pork with your favorite seasonings or rub. Let it sit for 30 minutes so the rub sticks to the meat.
  • Add other desired ingredients to the crock pot, such as vegetables or herbs for more flavor.
  • Place the pork shoulder into the crock pot on top of the other ingredients.
  • Cover 1/2 to 3/4 of the pork shoulder with liquids of your choice, such as water, unsweetened apple juice or stock. 
  • Place the cover on the crock pot and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or until the pork is very tender.

How to Cook Pork Shoulder on the Grill

  • Preheat the grill to medium high heat. Use olive oil or nonstick cooking spray on the grill grates to prevent the meat from sticking.
  • Pierce the pork shoulder with a knife a few times over the surface.
  • Coat the pork with your favorite seasonings, rub or marinade.
  • Grill the pork shoulder for approximately 3 hours.
  • Check the pork with a meat thermometer to determine if it is done cooking. The internal temperature should reach 160 degrees F (70 degrees C).
  • Let the pork shoulder rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving.

Storing Pork Roasts

Sealed, prepacked fresh pork cuts can be kept in the refrigerator 2 to 4 days. If you do plan on keeping the raw, fresh pork longer than 2 to 3 days before cooking it, store it well-wrapped in the freezer. Generally, fresh cuts of pork, like roasts, can be kept in the freezer up to 6 months.

Follow these steps to help keep your pork fresh in the freezer:

  • Use one of these freezer wrap materials: specially-coated freezer paper (place the waxed side against the meat); heavy-duty aluminum foil; heavy-duty polyethylene film; heavy-duty plastic bags.
  • Cover sharp bones with extra paper so the bones do not pierce the wrapping.
  • Wrap the meat tightly, pressing as much air out of the package as possible.
  • Label with the name of the pork cut and date.
  • Freeze at 0 degrees F or lower.

pulled pork sandwich

Family Favorite – Pulled Pork Sandwiches

I use a boneless pork shoulder for this recipe instead of a pork butt (or Boston butt) because it is leaner. For best flavor prep the meat one day ahead.

12 servings

Dry Rub:

  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 3 tablespoons coarse sea salt
  • 1 (5 to 7 pound) boneless pork shoulder or pork butt

Mustard Barbecue Sauce:

  • 1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1 cup yellow mustard
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Mix the paprika, garlic powder, brown sugar, dry mustard and salt together in a small bowl. Rub the spice blend all over the pork. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Put the pork in a roasting pan and roast it for about 6 hours. An instant-read thermometer stuck into the thickest part of the pork should register at least 170 degrees F, but basically, what you want to do is to roast it until it falls apart.

While the pork is roasting, make the mustard sauce. Combine the vinegar, mustard, ketchup, brown sugar, garlic, salt, cayenne and black pepper in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer gently, stirring, for 30 minutes until the sauce is thickened slightly. Take it off the heat and let it sit until you’re ready for it.

When the pork is done, take it out of the oven and put it on a large platter. Allow the meat to rest for about 20 minutes. While the pork is still warm, you want to “pull” the meat. Use 2 forks: 1 to steady the meat and the other to “pull” shreds of meat off the roast. Put the shredded pork in a bowl and pour half of the sauce over. Stir well so that the pork is coated with the sauce.

To serve, spoon pulled pork mixture onto the bottom half of a hamburger bun and top with some of the mustard sauce.

porketta

Porchetta-Style Roast Pork

Porchetta, or roast suckling pig seasoned with garlic and herbs, is a traditional Italian dish. Here, the flavors of porchetta are used on a roasted pork shoulder. You’ll need to start this dish one day ahead, as the pork has to marinate overnight.

Makes 8 servings

ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 5 1/2- to 6-pound boneless pork shoulder, excess fat trimmed
  • 6 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for brushing
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth

Directions

Stir fennel seeds in small skillet over medium-high heat until slightly darker in color and fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer seeds to a spice mill and cool. Add kosher salt, peppercorns and dried crushed red pepper. Grind to medium-fine consistency (not a powder).

Place pork in 13 x 9 x 2 inch glass baking dish. Rub garlic all over pork, then coat with spice mixture. Loosely cover pork with waxed paper. Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Brush a large rimmed baking pan with oil. Place roast, fat side up, in the center of the baking pan. If any of the spice mixture has fallen off, return it to the meat and drizzle evenly with 2 tablespoons oil. Roast pork 30 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 300°F. Roast pork until very tender and a thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 190°F, after about 3 hours 15 minutes. Transfer pork to a cutting board but do not clean the baking pan. Let pork rest 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, pour all pan juices from the baking pan into 2-cup measuring cup. Let sit for a few minutes and spoon off any fat that rises to top. Place reserved baking pan across 2 burners on the stove. Pour wine and broth onto the pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, scraping up any browned bits. Boil until wine mixture is reduced to 3/4 cup, about 4 minutes.

Add degreased pan juices and whisk to blend. Pour pan sauce into small bowl (sauce will be thin). Thinly slice roast and serve with the sauce.

 

Pork Ragu Over Pappardelle

Slow cooked pork shoulder adds much more flavor to the ragu than using ground pork.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds of boneless pork shoulder
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic 
  • 1/2 teaspoon peperoncino flakes (crushed red pepper)
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3 cups (one 28-ounce can) canned Italian plum tomatoes, crushed 
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 lb pappardelle (wide) pasta

Directions

Trim the fat from the exterior of the pork. Cut it into bite-sized pieces, about 3/4-inch cubes, trimming more fat as you divide the meat. Pat the pieces dry with paper towels.

Pour the olive oil into the big pan, set it over medium heat and add the pork. Spread the pieces in the pan and season with salt. Cook the pork slowly for 15 minutes or so, turning and moving the pieces occasionally as the meat releases its juices and they cook away.

When the pan is dry and the pork starts to sizzle and crackle, clear a spot on the bottom and add in the chopped garlic and peperoncino. Stir them for a minute or so in the pan until the garlic is fragrant and sizzling, then stir and toss with the meat cubes.

Raise the heat a bit, pour in the white wine, stir and bring to a boil. Let the wine bubble until it is nearly evaporated and the pork is sizzling again. Pour in the crushed tomatoes, 1 cup of water and freshly grated nutmeg. Stir well.

Cover the pan, bring to a boil and then adjust the heat to maintain a steady simmer. Cook for about 1 1/2 hours until the pork is tender and falls apart under gentle pressure and the sauce has thickened. If the liquid is still thin toward the end of the cooking time, set the cover ajar and raise the heat a bit to reduce it rapidly.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Serve ragu over the cooked pappardelle.

pork shoulder

Mediterranean Braised Pork Shoulder

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 pound boneless pork shoulder, cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 celery rib, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 fennel bulb, cut in 1/4″ wedges
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 thin-skinned oranges, cut in eighths
  • 1/2 cup Cerignola or Kalamata olives
  • 2 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade or low-sodium if using canned)
  • Fennel fronds for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 300° F.

Secure each piece of pork with kitchen twine, so they will stay together while braising. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a Dutch oven. Brown the meat on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove meat from the pan and transfer to a rimmed plate.

Add the fennel wedges, onion, celery, carrot and garlic to the pan and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the chicken broth, oranges, thyme and bay leaf. Return the pork to the pan with add any accumulated juices on the plate.

Bring to a boil. Cover and braise in the oven for 1 hour. Remove the lid and cook the pork for 2 hours longer, turning the meat over and adding the olives after the first hour. The pork should be very tender, if not, cook for another 30 minutes.

Transfer the pork, fennel, oranges, vegetables and olives with a slotted spoon or skimmer to a serving bowl. Remove the string from the pork and tent with foil.

Place the Dutch oven on the stove over medium-high heat. Simmer until the liquid has reduced slightly, about 10 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper seasoning.

Cut the pork into small chunks and spoon the sauce and vegetables over the pork, sprinkle with the fennel fronds. This dish is often served over polenta or couscous.

pork chili

Southern Style Pork Shoulder Black-Eyed Pea Chili

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika (pimenton)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 5 pounds, fat trimmed pork shoulder cut into 2 inch chunks
  • 2-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and very finely chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers, finely diced
  • 1 – 12 ounce bottle ale
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 2 cups canned whole Italian tomatoes, crushed
  • 2 canned chipotles in adobo, seeded and minced
  • 1 pound black-eyed peas, picked over and rinsed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Shredded cheddar and sour cream for serving

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the coriander, paprika and cumin and toss with the pork to coat in a large plastic ziplock bag. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large Dutch Oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add 1/3 of the pork and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until well browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer the pork to a plate and repeat the process twice with 2 more batches of pork. Transfer all the pork to the plate. Only add more oil, if necessary, to keep pork from sticking to the pot.

Add the onion, garlic, jalapenos and bell peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.

Return the pork to the pot along with any accumulated juices from the plate. Add the ale, chicken stock, tomatoes, chipotles and black-eyed peas and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over very low heat until the meat and beans are tender, about 2 1/2 hours. Season the chili with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve the chili in bowls with cheddar and sour cream.

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What is the difference between a crock pot and a slow cooker?

One recipe may say to use a crock pot and another recipe may say to use the slow cooker. Are they interchangeable? Is one better for a certain type of meal than another?

A Crock-Pot is a slow cooker. But a slow cooker is not necessarily a Crock-Pot. Oh no!

A crock pot is a type of slow cooker with a stoneware pot that sits inside a surrounding heating element. A slow cooker is a pot, usually made of metal, which sits atop a heating surface. However, when you are shopping for such a cooking device, manufactures use the names interchangeably.

How The Slow Cooker Gets The Job Done.

The base of the slow cooker has a doubled-walled metal compartment that contains the heating elements. As the elements heat up, they warm the insulated air trapped between the two metal walls. Heat is then transferred to the air between the inner metal wall and the stoneware pot. The hot air heats and cooks the food slowly and evenly. As the heating elements do not make any direct contact with the stoneware pot; there are no hot spots and, therefore, no need for stirring.

Crock pots and slow cookers both have three parts–a pot, a lid, and a heating element. However, a crockpot has only two cook settings, “Low” and “High.” There may also be a “Keep Warm” setting to allow the pot to warm before serving. The temperature at these settings remains constant. A slow cooker has a number of different settings, usually numbered one to five. The heating element on a slow cooker usually cycles on and off. Some slow cookers have a timer that can be set to cook for a number of hours.

Crock pots and slow cookers come in various sizes to suit family size and specific purposes. However, crockpots are generally heavier than metal slow cookers, and may be more difficult to manipulate when washing. Since crock pots are made of stoneware, they also break more easily when dropped.

File:Crock pot parts.jpg

Advantages of Slow Cooking

1. There is only one dish to clean.

2. It is a great way to use extra vegetables and inexpensive meats. Less expensive or tough meats, such as chuck roasts or steaks and stew beef, are tenderized through the long cooking process. Put it in the crock pot, add some seasoning, and you end up with a tender, tasty meal.

3. Cooking in a crock pot makes your house smell really good.

4. Slow cooked food is more flavorful and tender. The extended cooking times allow better distribution of flavors in many recipes. The lower temperatures lessen the chance of scorching of foods which tend to stick to the bottom of a pan and burn easily in an oven.

5. It’s convenient to cook in a crockpot. You can put all the ingredients in and then do your thing: go to work, school, yoga, whatever. And when you come back, the meal is ready.

6.The slow cooker frees your oven and stove top for other uses, and should definitely be considered as an option for large gatherings or holiday meals. Many people swear by their slow cooker for Thanksgiving dressing (or stuffing)

Some Tips:

Whenever you purchase a new slow cooker, use it the first few times, on HIGH and on LOW, before leaving it unattended to make sure the vessel operates correctly.

Remember to place the cooker on a cookie sheet, granite counter top, the stove top, or a similar surface. The bottom can get quite hot.

Slow cooker recipes often say to brown meat before adding to the slow cooker, but this isn’t necessary, though it gives meat a nice color. If you add paprika to chicken before putting it in the slow cooker, a brown color is created while cooking.

Flouring meat before adding it to a slow cooker helps to keep it moist and thicken the sauce.

Don’t lift the lid while cooking, or the food will take longer to cook.

A few of the areas where a slow cooker does not perform as well:

– Large cuts of meat such as boneless prime rib or leg of lamb are still best when oven roasted.

– Except for stews and chowders, the slow cooker does not cook fish very well.

– The slow cooker collects a lot of the juices since the steam does not escape during cooking and these juices can become diluted and watery, which can affect the flavoring of the food.

– If not careful, a slow cooker can overcook food, especially some of the more tender meats and poultry.

Cooking For Two

Most slow cooker recipes are intended to serve four to six people, so cooking for two usually requires recipe adjustments. Generally, you can just cut a recipe in half, but be careful about quantities of spices and texture ingredients like baking powder and eggs. If the recipe already calls for a small amount of spices or herbs (like 1 tsp. oregano) you can probably leave the original amount, even for a smaller recipe. If you reduce spices too much, you’ll end up with bland food.

Remember that smaller portions also cook faster. It helps to be around the house the first time you try a new recipe so you can check its progress, but this isn’t always possible. For two-person meals, plan to reduce the heat or cooking time, or sometimes both. Cook your food for about three-quarters of the time the larger recipe suggests, and turn down the heat one or two notches to avoid scorching. If you’re going to be at work all day, put the crock pot on a low setting. You can always turn the heat up to finish the meal when you get home, but if your food is burnt or overcooked, there’s not much you can do.

Another option for two-person cooking is to make the larger serving recipe and freeze the leftovers. Extra food can be frozen in individual or two-person portions and thawed at your convenience, saving you even more time.

 Slow Cooking Recipes

The recipes below are designed to take advantage of what a slow cooker does best – long, low-heat cooking with lots of moisture. They do not require multistep preparations and can be assembled the night before, refrigerated in the cooking dish and placed on the cooking vessel just before you leave for work.

 

Slow Cooker Italian Pork Chops                                                                                                                       

6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 pork rib chops (with bone), cut 1/2 inch thick (about 2-1/2 pounds), trimmed of fat
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 28 ounce container Pomi chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 medium zucchini or 2 bell peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 4 ounces dried orzo pasta, cooked according to package directions

Directions:

Place onion in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Place half of the pork chops on top of the onions. Sprinkle with half of the Italian seasoning, garlic, salt, and pepper. Repeat layering with remaining pork chops, Italian seasoning, garlic, salt, and pepper. Top with tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Add zucchini or pepper pieces to cooker.

Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 9 hours or on high-heat setting for 4 to 4-1/2 hours.

Using a slotted spoon and tongs, transfer meat and vegetables to a serving platter; cover and keep warm. In a medium saucepan stir together cornstarch and the cold water; stir in cooking juices from cooker. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly; cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Serve over meat and vegetables. Serve with orzo.

 

Slow Cooker Italian Chicken Pasta Soup                                                                                                   

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup diced carrots (about 2 medium)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion (1 medium)
  • 1/2 cup halved pitted ripe olives
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 carton low sodium chicken broth (32 ounces)
  • 1 can low sodium Italian-style diced tomatoes, undrained (14 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup uncooked small shell pasta

Directions:

Mix all ingredients except pasta in a 3 1/2- to 4-quart slow cooker.

Cover and cook on Low heat setting 8 to 10 hours.

About 30 minutes before serving, stir in pasta. Increase heat setting to High. Cover and cook 20 to 30 minutes or until pasta is tender.

Slow Cooker Lentil Stew with Polenta                                                                                                            

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 28 oz container Pomi chopped tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup quick-cooking polenta or substitute 1 (18-ounce) tube of store bought polenta, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds

Directions:

Layer lentils, onions, bell pepper and garlic in the bottom of a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker. Pour in the tomatoes and sprinkle with oregano, crushed red pepper flakes and salt. Pour in broth and vinegar, cover and cook on low until lentils are very tender, about 7 hours.

Prepare the polenta according to package directions and serve with the stew. If you like firm polenta instead of soft, then follow these directions:

When polenta is thick and smooth, pour it into an 8 inch greased square pan. Spread the polenta evenly. Bake in a 350 degree F. oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan. Cut into serving pieces.

Heat store bought polenta slices before serving

Slow Cooker Chicken in Wine Sauce                                                                                                                   

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium red-skin potatoes, quartered
  • 4 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 3 pounds chicken thighs or drumsticks, skinned
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon. dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon butter or Smart Balance blend
  • 3 tablespoons Wondra all-purpose flour
  • Snipped fresh thyme (optional)

Directions:

In a 5- or 6-quart slow cooker place potatoes, carrots, celery, and onion. Place chicken pieces on top of vegetables. Sprinkle with parsley, salt, rosemary, thyme, pepper, and garlic; add broth and wine.

Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 9 hours or on high-heat setting for 4 to 4 1/2 hours. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken and vegetables to a serving platter; cover with foil to keep warm.

For gravy:

Strain juices into a large saucepan and whisk in flour and add butter. Turn on heat and cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. If desired, sprinkle chicken and vegetables with snipped thyme. Pass gravy with the chicken and vegetables. Makes 6 servings –  (3 1/2 ounces cooked meat, 1/3 cup gravy, and 3/4 cup vegetables).

Slow Cooker Ratatouille                                                                                                                                                   

Ratatouille is versatile and can be used on pizza, pasta or as part of a casserole or a lasagna.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large onions, cut in half and sliced
  • 1 large eggplant, sliced, cut in 2 inch pieces (peel if you prefer)
  • 4 small zucchini, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large green (or any color you like) bell peppers,seeded and cut into thin strips
  • 2 large tomatoes, cut into 1/2 inch wedges
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Directions:

Layer half the vegetables in a large crock pot in the following order: onion, eggplant, zucchini, garlic, green peppers, tomatoes.

Next sprinkle half the basil, oregano, parsley, salt and pepper on the veggies.

Dot with half of the tomato paste.

Repeat layering process with remaining vegetables, spices and tomato paste.

Drizzle with olive oil.

Cover and cook on LOW for 7 to 9 hours.

Place in serving bowl and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

May freeze up to 6 weeks.

Slow Cooker Country Italian Beef                                                                                                                                    

6 to 8 servings

Serving Size: 1  2/3 cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds boneless beef chuck pot roast
  • 8 ounces tiny new potatoes, halved or quartered
  • 2 medium carrots or parsnips, peeled and cut into 1- to 2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1-14 1/2 ounce can low-sodium beef broth
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 – 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves

Directions:

Trim fat from roast. Cut roast into 2-inch pieces; set aside. In a 4- to 5-quart slow cooker combine potatoes, carrots, onion, and fennel. Add meat to cooker; sprinkle with rosemary.

In a medium bowl whisk together broth, wine, tomato paste, tapioca, pepper, and garlic. Pour over all meat and vegetables in cooker.

Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or on high-heat setting for 4 to 5 hours. Stir in basil just before serving.

 


The modern slow cooker was developed by Rival Industries with the trademarked name Crock Pot. This name is sometimes used informally to refer to any slow cooker. Rival purchased and refined the design of a bean-pot called the Beanery from Naxon Co. of Chicago.

In the early ’70s, the Rival Company, known for its “Juice-O-Mat,” “Ice-O-Mat,” and “Can-O-Mat” convenience appliances, resurrected the idea of slow cooking. The company acquired the rights to the “Beanery,” a primitive slow cooker, and gave the appliance a much-needed makeover. The Crock-Pot slow cooker was born.

The timing couldn’t have been better. During the energy crisis of the 1970s, Americans were encouraged to conserve electricity, and Crock-Pots operated at a very low wattage. In addition, many women were abandoning their traditional roles as homemakers and the Crock-Pot and its motto—”Cooks all day while the cook’s away”—fit their new lifestyle.

The slow cooker is a versatile appliance that’s just as suited to vegetarian foods as it is meat and poultry, everyday meals, and entertaining occasions. You can make hearty, healthy dishes for the whole family.  Simply add ingredients to the slow cooker, get on with your day, and come home to a kitchen filled with tempting aromas.

The slow cooker, which is essentially an electric pot with a stoneware insert, can do what no oven or stovetop burner can: cook food at consistently low and even temperatures for what might be as long as 10 or 12 hours. Dinner cooks while you’re out.

Flavor is one of the big advantages to meals you cook in the pot. You can get a deeply flavored meal at the end of an 8- or 10-hour slow simmer. Time-saving is another reason for the slow cooker’s popularity. Plus, they’re practical, since a slow cooker holds up to five quarts, you can definitely plan to have leftovers.

There is planning involved, however. The pot is perfect for cheaper cuts of meat that need long, gentle cooking to become tender: beef short ribs, brisket, pork shoulder, and lamb shanks. Fish and dairy products, however, don’t fare as well; both will break down during the cooking. Chicken can get mushy, so pay strict attention to cook times for chicken recipes.

Always put vegetables in first. Vege­tables take longer to cook than meat does, so for layering purposes, start with vegetables, then meat, and finally seasonings and small amounts of liquid. To prevent overcooking, fresh dairy products, pasta, or instant rice should be added during the last 30 minutes of cooking time, or as your recipe directs.

Judith Finlayson, author of Slow Cooker Comfort Food: 275 Soul-Satisfying Recipes and The Vegetarian Slow Cooker: Over 200 Delicious Recipes, answers some slow-cooker questions.

How do I prevent meat from drying out?

To prevent poultry from drying out, use chicken thighs—they have more fat and won’t dry out as quickly, says Finlayson. Cook thighs for about six hours and breasts for a maximum of five hours on low heat. Beef, depending on the cut, is much more forgiving, she says. For better results, use stewing beef, short ribs, or brisket as opposed to a rib steak or a sirloin.

How can I prevent flavors from becoming muddy?

“Start with a good recipe and quality ingredients and you will be a long way from having muddy flavors,” says Finlayson. For fresher flavors, add chopped herbs and vegetables with shorter cooking times about 10 minutes before the meal is ready.

How can I clean my slow cooker without lots of soaking and scrubbing?

Though the slow cooker’s insert can be heavy, cleaning shouldn’t be a problem. Slow cookers retain moisture which should prevent scorching on the bottom, says Finlayson. Difficulty cleaning may indicate a technical issue such as the heat being on too high for too long.

Can I cook frozen meats in my slow cooker?

Cooking frozen meats in the slow cooker is an absolute no, says Finlayson. Harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses, flourish in moist environments at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Using frozen meat may cause food to remain at an unsafe temperature for too long.

Is it safe to leave the slow cooker on when I’m not home?

Leaving the slow cooker on is perfectly safe. In fact, it’s comparable to leaving a light bulb on while you’re out, says Finlayson.

Why does my food get overcooked, even on the low setting?

Slow cookers are all manufactured differently and they don’t all cook at the same pace, says Finlayson: “Know your slow cooker. Use quality recipes, and if you are consistently cooking faster or slower, adjust your time accordingly.” Keep in mind: There are no precise guidelines, and it may take a bit of trial and error to fix the issue.

Can I cut a slow cooker recipe in half?

If cutting a recipe in half, you should also reduce the size of your slow cooker so that the heat distributes evenly, says Finlayson. If you only own one slow cooker, make the whole recipe and freeze the leftovers or stick to soups and stews, since the size of the slow cooker isn’t as important as it is when cooking grains.

Chicken Cacciatore

Makes: 6 servings

Cook: 6 hrs to 7 hrs (low) or 3 to 3 1/2 hours (high)

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 to4 pounds of meaty chicken pieces (breast halves, thighs, and drumsticks), skinned
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups thinly sliced fresh cremini and/or button mushrooms
  • 1- 14 1/2 ounce can low sodium diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/4 cups chopped green bell pepper (1 large)
  • 1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
  • 1 cup chopped carrots (2 medium)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh basil
  • 2 tablespoons snipped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Pasta, cooked, optional

Directions

Place flour in a plastic bag. Add chicken pieces, a few at a time, shaking to coat. In an extra-large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook chicken, half at a time if necessary, in hot oil about 12 minutes or until browned, turning occasionally. Transfer chicken to a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker.

Add mushrooms to skillet; cook and stir over medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to cooker. Add drained tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, carrots, wine, salt and pepper to mixture in cooker.

Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 6 to 7 hours or on high-heat setting for 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Before serving, stir in basil, parsley and thyme.
Serve over pasta with salad on the side or skip the pasta and serve with Italian bread.
       

spinach-ricatta-lasagna_300                                                           

Slow-Cooker Spinach and Ricotta Lasagna With Romaine Salad  

Serves 6

Total Time: 4hr 15m

Ingredients

  • 2-10-ounce packages chopped frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed to remove excess moisture
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan (3 ounces)
  • 3 cups marinara sauce, see post: https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/19/hello-world/
  • 6 regular lasagna noodles (not no-boil)
  • 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella (6 ounces)

Salad

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 small head romaine lettuce, cut into strips (about 8 cups)
  • 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

Directions

In a bowl, mix together the spinach, ricotta, and ½ cup of the Parmesan. In a second bowl, mix together the marinara sauce and 1/2 cup water.

Spread 3/4 cup of the marinara mixture in the bottom of a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker.

Top with 2 noodles (breaking to fit), 3/4 cup of the remaining marinara mixture, half the spinach mixture, and 1/2 cup of the mozzarella; repeat.

Top with the remaining noodles, marinara mixture, mozzarella, and Parmesan.

Cover and cook on low until the noodles are tender, 3 ½ to 4 hours.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the lettuce, cucumber, and onion. Toss to combine and serve with the lasagna.

Tip:  If your slow-cooker insert is broiler-safe, broil the cooked lasagna until the cheese is golden, 3 to 5 minutes.

Italian Meatball Stew                                                                                                                                                              

Total Time: 5 hrs 10 mins

Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs extra lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1/2 cup fine dry breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 2 cups low sodium beef broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoning salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry basil, crushed
  • 1 (16 ounce) package frozen Italian style vegetables, defrosted

Directions

In a large bowl combine beef, bread crumbs, eggs, milk, cheese, salt, pepper and garlic. Form into 2 inch balls. Place meatballs in bottom of crock pot.

Combine tomato paste, broth, seasoned salt, oregano and basil.  Pour mixture over meat. Cover.

Cook on low 4 1/2 to 5 hours. Stir in vegetables. Cover and cook on high 10-15 mins until mixture is hot.

Slow-Cooker Bean and Barley Soup                                                                                                                        Hearty Bean and Barley Soup Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried Great Northern beans, picked over and rinsed
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 (14-ounce) can no salt added diced tomatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus additional for seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian herb blend
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 ounce dried Porcini mushrooms, optional
  • 3 cups baby spinach leaves (about 3 ounces)
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Directions

Put beans, water, tomatoes and their juices, garlic, celery, carrots, onion, barley, bay leaf, 1 1/2 tablespoons salt, herb blend, pepper, and Porcini mushrooms (if using) in a slow cooker; cover and cook on LOW until the beans are quite tender and the soup is thick, about 8 hours.

Stir in the spinach, cheese, and vinegar, cover, and let the soup cook until the spinach wilts, about 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt and black pepper, to taste.

Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and drizzle each serving with olive oil.

Italian Smothered Steak

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 lb. boneless beef round steak
  • 1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 jar (26 oz) tomato pasta sauce or homemade marinara sauce, see post: https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2012/04/19/hello-world/
  • 1 package (9 oz) refrigerated cheese-filled tortellini
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise in half, then cut crosswise into slices (about 1 cup)

Directions

Cut beef into 6 serving-size pieces; sprinkle with salt and pepper. In 3- to 4-quart slow cooker, layer beef and onion. Pour pasta sauce over top.

Cover and cook on Low heat setting 8 to 9 hours.

About 20 minutes before serving, stir in tortellini and zucchini. Increase heat setting to High. Cover and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until tortellini are tender.



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