Crockpot Action

I did not always feel this disorganized.  I am not sure of the exact moment when it happened but somehow I believe that the word ‘kids’ was definitely involved.  It has become a never-ending struggle to balance all of the things I should be doing with all of the things I want to be doing.  Lucky for me, I live in the Age of Pinterest.  It is here, in the digital age that I can pin ideas to boards for inspiration of all kinds, from caring for apples trees to zebra photography.  It is here, in My Pinterest World that I keep seeing pins for Crockpot recipes.  I had actually pinned a few to my food board.  Last week I decided that passively pinning crock pot meals was simply not good enough.  I endeavored to take action on one of my pins and do what the pin suggested.  I read over this post and printed off the grocery list.  I had many of the items already residing in my pantry which made me feel fortunate and as if I might actually have some things together at the Anderson household.  This was only a fleeting thought as I navigated through a mine field of Legos and My Little Ponies to safely reach my pantry.  (In case you were wondering, I made it!)

The tag line that caught my eye on the pin?

“Spend 1 hour in the kitchen preparing 5 meals for the Crockpot and you only have to clean up 1 mess!! Recipes for: Garlic Honey Chicken, Beef Burritos, Chicken Fajitas, Hawaiian Chicken, and Teriyaki Pork Chops.”

So, I got the goods, made the meals and it was all as easy as the pin suggested.  (Yee-haw!)

To have five meals resting in my freezer was a bit like winning free dinner for five nights.  Okay, it wasn’t exactly free but it gave me freedom from trying to figure out what to make for dinner five times.  Five times!

The tip for placing the Ziploc bag inside the blender to mix the marinade was exactly what a girl like me needed.  Genius.

Because our tater tots are three and five, they don’t consume a whole lot of dinner which gives us the added benefit of leftovers.

Would you like to give your freezer and your family five easy dinners?  Click Here for the Printable Recipes & Grocery List

You are the next contestant on I Can Use My Crockpot! 

Special thanks and promotional consideration to Janell at Saving You Dinero

Pot Roast

I am a little embarrassed to admit that I have never made a pot roast.  Yes, that’s right.  I am (almost) 37 years old.  I have a husband.  I have been married for six years.  I have two children and one oven.  I have never, ever made a pot roast.   Until my favorite blogger and woman extraordinaire, Ree Drummond (also known as The Pioneer Woman) posted a recipe for the Perfect Pot Roast last week.  For some reason, Ree always manages to give me the courage I need to perform what seem to be extraordinary tasks.

First things first.  I needed a roasting pan.  I headed to our local store and grabbed a roasting pan.  (Now, this would also be your clue that I have never really roasted any meat.  Please don’t tell anyone.  I fear the culinary police may arrest me for negligence.)  I also hit up the local grocery store for a few of the necessary recipe items.  As luck would have it, I salvaged rosemary and thyme out of my herb garden just last week.  They are growing happily in the window sill above my kitchen sink.  I hope to keep them alive through the winter.  (Insert prayers for green-thumb-window-sill-magic here, please.)  This is a picture pre-roasting…

Wonderful smells wafted from my oven while the the inaugural roasting event took place.  I followed Ree’s instructions and just let it be.  I didn’t peek once.  I also followed her lead and made mashed pototaoes to accompany the roast.  Meat and potatoes man in the house?  Yes, ma’am.  Happy husband?  Yes, ma’am.

I am delighted to report that the meat was tender, juicy, and succulent.  Everything I would hope for my pot roast to be.

Who knew?  I can actually make pot roast.  Good pot roast.  (I don’t fear the culinary police quite as much now.)

I encourage you to give it a whirl.  It makes a perfect Sunday family dinner.

Click Here for Ree’s post which contains a lot more detail, with gorgeous step-by-step photos.  Enjoy!

Perfect Pot Roast

Ingredients

  • 1 whole (4 To 5 Pounds) Chuck Roast
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 whole Onions
  • 6 whole Carrots (Up To 8 Carrots)
  • Salt To Taste
  • Pepper To Taste
  • 1 cup Red Wine (optional, You Can Use Beef Broth Instead)
  • 2 cups To 3 Cups Beef Stock
  • 3 sprigs Fresh Thyme, or more to taste
  • 3 sprigs Fresh Rosemary, or more to taste

Preparation Instructions

First and foremost, choose a nicely marbled piece of meat.  This will enhance the flavor of your pot roast like nothing else.  Generously salt and pepper your chuck roast.

Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Then add 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil (or you can do a butter/olive oil split).

Cut two onions in half and cut 6 to 8 carrots into 2-inch slices (you can peel them, but you don’t have to). When the oil in the pot is very hot (but not smoking), add in the halved onions, browning them on one side and then the other. Remove the onions to a plate.

Throw the carrots into the same very hot pan and toss them around a bit until slightly browned, about a minute or so.

If needed, add a bit more olive oil to the very hot pan. Place the meat in the pan and sear it for about a minute on all sides until it is nice and brown all over. Remove the roast to a plate.

With the burner still on high, use either red wine or beef broth (about 1 cup) to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom with a whisk to get all of that wonderful flavor up.

When the bottom of the pan is sufficiently deglazed, place the roast back into the pan and add enough beef stock to cover the meat halfway (about 2 to 3 cups).  Add in the onion and the carrots, as well as 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary and about 3 sprigs of fresh thyme.

Put the lid on, then roast in a 275F oven for 3 hours (for a 3-pound roast).  For a 4 to 5-pound roast, plan on 4 hours.

Italian Heaven

I am not Italian.  I wish I was.  I eat and drink like I should be.  I love Italian food, Italian wine, and the boot shaped land mass that is Italy herself.  My husband proposed to me by cutting out pages of a book on Venice and laying my engagement ring flat inside.  (I had no idea – I thought he was giving me a BOOK!)  Thus, we drew Italian themes into our wedding and travelled to Italy for our honeymoon.  What can I say?  I am a wanna-be Italian!  So, when my mother-in-law made this cannelloni for a special occasion recently, my wanna-be Italian self practically died and went to heaven.  First of all, it’s pasta based (need I say more?).  It has spinach (green equals healthy!) and the crowning glory of this dish is that it includes a red sauce AND a white sauce.  Oh, the joy!  It requires time and love on your part to put together but, my friend, it is well, WELL worth the effort.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 box Manicotti shells
  • 3 cups tomato sauce
  • 4 Tbsp parmesan cheese
  • Italian Seasoning

Filling:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup garlic, finely chopped (I like to use my zester and used about 3-4 cloves)
  • 1 – 10oz pkg chopped frozen spinach, thawed & squeezed dry
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 5 Tbsp parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbsp cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 lb ground beef, pork or chicken

Besciamella (White Sauce):

  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 4 Tbsp flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper

Filling:  Heat olive oil, onions and garlic over moderate heat until soft but not brown.  Stir in spinach and cook for 3-4 minutes.  When moisture is all cooked away and spinach sticks lightly to pan, transfer to large bowl.  Melt butter in pan and brown meat, breaking up any big chunks.  Add meat to spinach mixture; add cheese, eggs, cream and oregano.  Stir gently to mix.

Besciamella:  Melt the butter in heavy sauce pain on stove.  Add flour, then slowly add milk, cream, salt and pepper.  Cook like a white sauce, stirring constantly until thick.  Let cool a little.

Boil one box Manicotti tubes for 5-6 minutes.  Drain and lay on aluminum foil to keep separate and prevent sticking.  Pour one cup of tomato sauce in bottom of 9 x 13 pan and sprinkle with Italian Seasoning. Stuff each tube with filling and lay in baking dish.  Top with Besciamella sauce and remaining tomato sauce and 4 Tbsp parmesan.  Bake uncovered for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

You could make these ahead of time and refrigerate.  Just be careful of the whole cold glass dish from refrigerator to hot oven and vice versa.  You may want to use a metal baking dish if making ahead.

May you enjoy this dish as much as I do, with loved ones, wine, and a salad!