Pork Verde Rice Bowls

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before, buy one of my absolute favorite kitchen gadgets is my slow cooker. I recommend everyone get one. I got a really nice one a couple years ago for Christmas and I still just love it.
 

I tend to use it mostly in the Fall/Winter, even though you’d think it would get a lot of use in the Summer since you can cook lots of things without heating up your kitchen, but that just isn’t how it seems to work out. Maybe because Fall/Winter is more comfort food type weather and slow cookers are good for comfort food? Who knows.

Anyway, the other day I made these delish pork verde rice bowls. I know sometimes pork gets a bad rap when it comes to nutrition, but pork tenderloin is actually a very lean source of meat. It is super tender, low in fat, low in calories, and high in protein (per 3oz serving: 120 cal, 3g fat, 22g protein). It is also an excellent source of vitamins and minerals such as B6, B12, zinc, and iron. According the USDA, a 3oz serving of pork tenderloin is actually leaner than a skinless chicken thigh.

Now that you can eat pork guilt-free, here’s a yummy recipe that makes tons of leftovers.

 Pork Verde Rice Bowls

2 pound pork tenderloin (or if you have bad “amount” judgement, 4 pounds, hence all the leftovers)

1 jar salsa verde

½ yellow onion, diced

1 bag frozen corn

1 4oz can diced green chiles

1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

Cooked rice for serving (brown or white, whatever you want)

Cheese, avocado, sour cream/plain greek yogurt for topping

 

In a slow cooker, add your tenderloin and cover with entire jar of salsa. Cook for 8 hours on low. When done, shred and let sit in the salsa juices to soak up some flavor. Add salt if needed.

 

In a skillet over medium heat, add a little olive oil, the onion, corn, green chiles, black beans, chili powder, cumin, and a little salt. Mix together and cook until completely warmed through and the corn is no longer frozen. Taste for salt and pepper.

 

In individual bowls, add some rice, then top with some pork and some of the corn mixture. Serve with whatever toppings you like.

 

Store the leftovers in the fridge and make more bowls, or wrap in a tortilla and make a burrito, wrap in a tortilla and top with enchilada sauce and cheese and bake for some yummy enchiladas, serve with eggs in the morning. The possibilities are pretty broad here.

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Slow-Cooker Ham

Typically, in my family growing up, we only had ham twice a year: Easter and Christmas. My parents would go to the Honey Baked Ham store and pick up their ham. On Christmas or Easter morning, we would put it on the counter and let it come to room temperature and eat it that way. They come fully cooked, so that makes things easier. Throw in some sides and the holiday meal was all set. 

Serving ham at Christmas is a tradition believed to have originated with the Germanic people at a tribute to Freyr, who was the Norse god of harvest and fertility and often associated with boars. In Norse tradition, the sacrifice of the boar had the intent of imploring Freyr to show favor to the new year. The boar was roasted and carried into the banquet hall to music and great fanfare. The tradition may have its origins in Classical Germania, Scandinavia and England, but it has definitely spread worldwide and ham is now a traditional Christmas dish all over the globe.

Back to 2016… I wanted to try something a little different this year, so for our little dinner party we had the other night, I wanted to see what my slow cooker could do. Well, now I’m hooked. This is how I will always make ham! I don’t make it often, but when I do, this is going to my new go-to.

Start with a spiral cut ham. You can easily find these during the holidays at the grocery store. Or you can get them year-round at the Honey Baked Ham store. I’ve never noticed them at the grocery store any other time of year, but then again, I wasn’t looking. Farmer John’s does sell hams all year, but they aren’t spiral cut. I got mine at the happiest grocery store on earth: Trader Joe’s. I know for sure they only have them seasonally.

Anyway, you just need the ham, some Honey Dijon mustard, and brown sugar.

***Apologies in advance for the pictures in this post. I was having lighting issues!!***

Coat the outside of the ham in the Dijon. You can pretty much put on however much mustard you like, there just needs to be at least a light coat for the sugar to stick to. After you’ve applied the mustard, add a pretty thick coat of brown sugar. Again, there’s no measurement here. Just eyeball it and use what you like.



Cook the ham on low for 3-4 hours. The ham is fully cooked already, so you aren’t really “cooking” it necessarily. The end result is a super tender and warm ham with a bit of tang from the mustard and some sweetness from the brown sugar, both flavors compliment the salty ham so well.

And what’s really nice? You get lots of great use out of the leftovers. Stay tuned and I’ll share some ideas with you!



Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes (Thanksgiving Tip)

I recently discovered a kitchen trick that I have immediately added to my arsenal: Slow Cooker mashed potatoes!! 

OK, I’m sure you’ve been doing this for a long time. I’m almost positive I’m late to the slow cooker mashed potato party, but I’m here now and I’m excited.

I recently started sharing some tips and tricks for Thanksgiving on my Instagram (hint: follow me on Instagram!) and I just shared this one. It is so easy, I can’t believe I’ve been wasting precious stove space all these years!

Usually when making mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving, I would just boil the potatoes like usual on the stovetop and then mash them and add my other ingredients (milk, butter, cheese, sour cream, cream cheese… whatever you like). It was always saved to the last minute so they would be warm, but the last minute is the most chaotic, amiright? Making the mashed potatoes this way will be a stress reliever, if nothing else. Here’s what you do: 

(Apologies ahead of time for the bad pictures. I was having issues…)

Cube about 3-4 pounds of potatoes (I used Yukon gold, but I’m sure you could use russet or red)

Add them to the slow cooker with about 1-1/2 cups of water and some garlic.


Cook on low for 3-4 hours, or until fork tender.

Drain the water and mash the potatoes with whatever ingredients you like right in the slow cooker. Don’t forget to salt them to taste too. 


That’s it. And if they are done earlier than the rest of the meal, you can just put the lid back on and set it to warm until you are ready to serve! I wouldn’t do this step too early, though, because you don’t want to risk drying them out.

Slow Cooker Baked Beans

It’s May. Memorial Day is coming up and everyone knows what that means: Summer Kickoff!! 

I’ve found that as I’ve grown older, summer doesn’t have that same feeling to it like it did when I was in school. Don’t get me wrong, I still love summer with the pool parties and BBQs and warm weather. But there was something about getting out of school for 3 months that made it extra special. I still have to get up and go to work every day, and stare out the windows at the beautiful weather and the beach. So, yeah, not quite the same. 

When we first bought our house back in 2008, the backyard was, to put it nicely, horrendous. I couldn’t even go back there, it was so bad. I really wanted to be able to entertain and have a place for my eventual kids to play. It wasn’t long before we started to rip out everything. And by “we” I mean my husband. I helped a little with the bricks, but it was a lot of sweat equity on his part. We finally got everything all cleared out and called in a company to level it all out and put in pavers and grass. We added a BBQ and, most recently, a smoker. Some patio furniture rounded it all out and we now have ourselves a really nice space for entertaining. 

There are some more things we want to do with the space (like update the furniture, get something to replace our gazebo because the top keeps getting ripped to shreds whenever it gets really windy, and find space for a garden), but we are pretty happy with what we’ve created and like to entertain during the summer and other warm months (which we get often here). 

My husband tends to man the grill and smoker while I’m in charge of sides. This recipe I’m about to share was born out of necessity. OK, that may be dramatic, but I stand by it. I needed a good baked beans recipe. I love baked beans but I just couldn’t get a recipe just right. I like the Bush’s beans in a can, but I would prefer to make them from scratch. 

After playing around with ingredients for a while, I think I’ve finally got a winner on my hands. My husband even said they were the best baked beans he’s ever had! They are sweet and soft and perfectly compliment any BBQ. And you know what’s even better? You make them in the slow cooker!! And do most of the prep work the day before!! So while the hubby is out over the hot grill, my beans can be cooking away without me even being there! 

Slow-Cooker Baked Beans 

1 pound dry white beans (or navy beans)

6-8 slices of bacon, chopped

1 medium onion, diced finely

3 cups of water (plus more for soaking the beans)

½ cup of ketchup

¼ cup molasses

½ – ¾ cup brown sugar (depending on how sweet you like it. I erred on the side of more.)

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

3 tablespoons whisky or bourbon *optional

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

1 tablespoon salt

½ tablespoon black pepper

Pinch of cloves

1/8 -1/4 cup cornstarch 

Day before prep work:

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Add the beans to a big bowl and cover completely in water. Let them soak overnight. *Don’t skip this step or your beans will not be soft enough*

In a skillet, crisp up your bacon pieces, set aside. Saute your onions, set aside.

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Mix together your sauce: Ketchup, molasses, brown sugar, vinegar, whisky (if adding), mustard, salt, pepper, cloves. Set aside. 

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The next morning, drain the beans and add them to the slow cooker. Discard the “bean water.” Add the bacon, onion, and sauce. Top with 3 cups of water. 

Set it on low for about 10-12 hours. 

When they are just about done (about 30 minutes or so left), skim out a little bit of the liquid and whisk in some cornstarch to make a slurry. I say between 1/8 and ¼ cup because it all depends on how thick you want the sauce to be and how much water had already evaporated during the cooking process. Just use your best judgement for how you want it to be. 

Add the slurry back into the slow cooker and stir it around. Put the lid back on and let it finish cooking and thickening up. 

These are my new go-to bean recipe for any BBQ. I am so happy with the way they turned out!

   

Slow Cooker Teriyaki Chicken Bowls 

Growing up, my mom used to make teriyaki chicken a lot. I mean, really a lot. It sort of became a bit of a running joke in the family. It was good, but we just had it a lot. Now, my mom is and always has been an excellent cook and she definitely made other things, but we very often had teriyaki chicken. She would put the chicken in a baking dish, pour some Lawry’s Teriyaki marinade over top and bake in the oven. Serve with some veggies and bread and you’ve got yourself dinner.

Now that I am a busy working mom, I get why that was such a go-to meal for her. I mean, really, duh! Looking back, it is such a no-brainer. It fit all four major categories parents strive for in a meal: quick, easy, healthy, and delicious. When you’ve got a job, a house to maintain, and three kids all with different schedules and whatnot going on, you’re lucky to hit just “quick and easy” let alone, all four! 

Fast forward many years later to me cooking for my family and I’ve changed up my mom’s teriyaki chicken game a bit. In my opinion, it is still just as easy, healthy, and delicious. It’s not really quick, per se, because you use your slow cooker. But at the same time, because you are using a slow-cooker, you aren’t stuck in the kitchen the whole time. 

A little side note/kitchen tip before I start the recipe: I always have a supply of boneless, skinless chicken breasts in my freezer. You can get a pack of 24 at Costco for, like, $20. They have them at the regular grocery store too, but you don’t get as many and they cost more (not everything at Costco is a deal, but these are). For this recipe, you can use them frozen, but other times, I’ll just take a couple out of the freezer the night before or in the morning before I go to work, and then they are ready for me to use however I want for dinner that night.   

Now back to the recipe: 

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts frozen* (you can do this with thawed meat too, just adjust your cooking time)

1 bottle teriyaki sauce/marinade

¼ cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon honey

Broccoli

Carrots

3 tablespoons cornstarch

*2 may not seem like a lot, but trust me, when you shred it, add the veggies and serve with rice, you’ll get lot out of this. I would say at least 6 servings.

To your slow cooker, add the chicken, teriyaki sauce, brown sugar, and honey.

Cook on low for 4 hours or high for 6 to 7 hours.

In the last hour of cooking, add your veggies. This cooks the veggies, but also lets them keep a bit of their firmness. If you want them to be softer, cook them longer. 

  
When you add your veggies, you can also make a cornstarch slurry to thicken up the sauce a bit. Ladle out some of your cooking liquid, whisk in a few tablespoons of cornstarch. Add the slurry back into the slow cooker and stir around for a second. Put the lid back on and let it keep cooking.

When it’s done, serve the chicken and veggies over rice.

  

Slow Cooker Cranberry Roast

Pot roast is such a classic dish, right? I love a good pot roast. With the tender meat, the savory gravy, the roasted vegetables. And it’s perfect cold weather food, which despite what you may think, we do actually get some of here in Southern California! Like right now for example. The air is thick with fog and it is 66 degrees! Laugh all you want, but that’s cold here.

Anyway, a classic pot roast is an American variation on a French dish called boeuf a la mode (which does not mean “beef with ice cream” thank goodness) with German and Jewish immigrant influences. The French immigrants brought to the US a method of cooking called a l’etouffee or Braising. This method takes a typically tougher piece of meat and cooks it in a liquid low and slow to tenderize it. German immigrants to Pennsylvania brought over sauerbrauten, and Jewish immigrants had their own versions. America, being the melting pot that it is, borrowed from the immigrant cultures for what we consider classic pot roast, but they are all roughly the same: braised meat in a gravy-type sauce with vegetables.

I make pot roast somewhat often, but I have to confess that I’ve never made one in the oven! I always use my slow cooker. And why not? It always comes out perfect.

Like I mentioned before, I love a good traditional pot roast, but this one is made with a bit of a twist. Trust me, though, it’s a delicious twist! And it could not be easier. It’s only 3 ingredients!

3 pound roast (I’m not going to lie, I use whatever is cheapest in the meat department)

2 packages onion soup mix

1 can jellied cranberry sauce (not the kind with whole berries; the kind that still looks like the can when you take it out.)

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Put the roast in the slow cooker. Sprinkle the onion soup mix on top. Add the cranberry sauce.

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Cook on low 8-10 hours.

You will think that you need to add liquid, but you won’t. Trust me.

Serve with a side of whatever veggies you want. Normally with a pot roast, you cook the meat and the veggies together, but with the addition of the cranberry sauce, I haven’t done that with this recipe yet. I usually just make something separate

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Chili

I’m sure you were all on the edge of your seat after my previous post, so I thought I would let you know the good, oh-so-important news: I did get my slow cooker. My mother-in-law gave it to me for Christmas (see? I was right about that box I saw!) and it is every bit as glorious as I hoped it would be.

You can use the insert on the stove top to cook anything that may need to be precooked beforehand (like ground beef or searing meat), it has a timer you can set so you really can set it and forget it. No more “Wait, what time did I start that again?” Also, once the time is up, it automatically switches over to the “warm” setting so it stops cooking! It’s pretty magical and I highly recommend it to any and every one.

Of course, I had to use my new toy as soon as possible, so we had some friends over for game night and I made a big pot of chili. It was perfect for the cold El Nino weather we’ve been having.

There seems to be at least 7,000 recipes for chili out there. Everyone has their own special twist to it and most are really good. I don’t think even I make it the same every time, but this one is a pretty basic recipe that was warm, comforting, and delicious.

Here is my basic chili recipe. It makes a lot, so be prepared for leftovers, which is perfectly alright with me! It also freezes really well.

1 green bell pepper, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pounds ground beef
2 ½ tablespoons ground cumin
4 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes
2 15 oz cans kidney beans, drained
2 15 oz cans water

In a skillet (or the insert of your crockpot, if you can), heat up the olive oil and add the pepper, onions, and garlic until almost soft. Then add the ground beef and cook until brown. Drain off rendered fat. (Fun fact: I forgot to do this step, so after it was all cooked, I had the fun task of skimming it all off the top. It worked out, but man that was tedious!)

Put the meat and veggies in your slow cooker, and add cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, tomatoes, and beans. Mix together. Then fill up one of your 15 oz cans with water twice and add it to the mix.

Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 6.

Top with some shredded cheese or your favorite chili toppings and make your favorite cornbread recipe (here is mine).

I don’t have a “final” picture because right as game night was getting started our power went out! We ate chili and played Cards Against Humanity by candlelight. You’ll have to trust me that food looked and tasted quite delicious!!