Take my advice

Last week I harped about not having many Crock-Pot recipes that I enjoyed and I subconsciously suggested that I should take a lesson from the Boy Toy because he crocks alot.  So I took my own advice and asked him to share one of his favorite recipes and now I'm getting even more lovin' from my Crock-Pot.

Cacciatore means "hunter" in Italian and it's typically a rustic dish that includes chicken, bell peppers, onion, and tomatoes.  The meat is typically braised and everything simmers together in one pot for about an hour, which makes it a perfect recipe for the slow cooker. 

I used a combination of white and dark meat chicken because that's what I had on hand, and if you have a splash of red wine just begging to be used, by all means, throw it in too.  When Boy Toy makes this for his kids, he chops the veggies small so they are undetectable (he's sneaky like that) and serves it over rice.  I dished mine up over pasta but you could also just use a nice crusty Italian bread to sop up the yummy sauce. 

I prepared a double recipe and portioned it into freezable containers.  On the nights that I don't feel like cooking from scratch, I'll just thaw out a portion and prepare the rice or pasta.  Easy peasy and delicious! 

Crock-Pot Chicken Cacciatore
Serves 8

Printable Recipe

8 chicken thighs, with the bone, skin removed
28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced into strips
1/2 green bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 large onion, sliced
1 teaspoon oregano
1 bay leaf
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
fresh herbs such as parsley, for garnish

Season chicken with salt and pepper and place in slow cooker.  Pour tomatoes over the chicken, top with onions and peppers.  Add oregano, bay leaf, more salt and pepper and give it a stir to combine everything.  Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours. 

Before serving, remove bay leaf and adjust seasonings if desired.   If you'd like your sauce a bit thicker, you can remove the lid and continue to cook on high for about another hour. 

Crock Pot Love

My Crock Pot and I have a love/hate relationship.  I love the convenience of using it and I love most of the foods that come out of it (we can count the so-called "lasagna" as a colossal failure.) But I hate the fact that I can never seem to find more recipes that float my Crock Pot boat, and believe me, I spend alot of time surfing Pinterest for recipes when I should be doing my real job in my spare time.

Whereas Boy Toy uses his Crock Pot incessantly, I use mine mostly only for roasts (this one being my favorite), an occasional soup (although none of them have turned out to be blog post worthy) and for making these caramelized onions from the lovely Becky Turner of Random Musings of a Deco Lady (we miss you Becky!)  Maybe I should take a Crock Pot lesson from the Boy Toy because he cranks out some tasty dishes from that thing. 

This recipe is one of my favorites to prepare when I catch pork roasts on sale.  I served it with BBQ sauce instead of the gravy as a sandwich for the kids and actually got two compliments from the Little Miss and the Teenage Boy ate FOUR sandwiches, which I deem to be an unspoken compliment.  I enjoy it alongside typical BBQ trimmings - a helping of homemade mac & cheese and coleslaw. 

It is fall-apart tender and any leftovers can be frozen and enjoyed later.  What's not to love?

Crock Pot Pork Roast with Gravy

printable recipe

4 to 5 lb. pork loin roast
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 medium onions, sliced
1 bay leaf
1 cup water
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Rub roast with salt and pepper. make tiny slits in meat and insert slivers of garlic. In Crock Pot put 1 sliced onion on bottom. Add roast then remaining onion and other ingredients. Cover and cook 1 hour on high. Turn to low and cook 9 to 10 hours or until done.

GRAVY: Remove roast, onions, clove and bay leaf. In separate cup or bowl, blend 2 tablespoons cold water with 2 tablespoons cornstarch to form smooth paste. Set Crock Pot on high and pour in paste. Stir well and let come to a boil (10 to 15 minutes) until thickened.

I'm learning to love you

Sweet potatoes are something that I've had to learn to like through the years.  Held in a higher regard and deemed healthier than white potatoes,* I used to only enjoy sweet potatoes when baked and slathered with mounds of butter and honey (and no Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner is complete without a sweet potato casserole piled high with melted gooey marshmallows, am I right?)  But surely all of the added fat, sweetness and calories cancels out anything remotely healthy about the tubular root. 

Up until a few weeks ago, I would've described my feelings for sweet potatoes as "Take 'em or leave 'em.  I just eat them because they say I should."  But then I started ordering organic produce from Backyard Produce and having it delivered right to my door.  I included something called garnet sweet potatoes in one of my orders and fully expected a bunch of impressive looking gourmet ruby-colored potatoes to show up on my doorstep.  Instead, they were your Average Joe regular looking sweet potatoes.  But as I sat down to enjoy my dinner that evening, I realized they were far from just an average sweet potato that had done nothing much to win my affections before. 

A garnet sweet potato, I learned after a bit of research, gets its name not because of its flesh color but instead its skin has a more reddish hue than other varieties of potatoes.  And let's just say that I was blown away by the amount of flavor packed into these spuds.  Organic foods have more flavor than non-organic or genetically modified items because they aren't pumped full of the equivalent of steroids to make their production larger and bulkier. When you interfere with the natural process, you essentially grow any flavor right out.  These potatoes had the perfect amount of  sweetness and flavor and I chose to roast them with fresh rosemary and a drizzle of olive oil which concentrated the flavors even more. 

Thank you Backyard Produce for delivering right to my door and for introducing me to how sweet sweet potato love can be!  To find out more about Backyard Produce's delivery service and see if you are in one of their many delivery zones, check out their website and get signed up today. 

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Fresh Rosemary

Printable Recipe

Sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into medium-sized chunks
Olive oil for drizzling
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Fresh rosemary, leaves removed from stem and chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Drizzle potatoes with olive oil (about 2 or 3 tablespoons, depending on how many potatoes you use.  You just want a light coating of oil) and sprinkle generously with salt, pepper and fresh rosemary.  Toss potatoes to coat and spread them on a baking sheet in a single layer. 

Roast for about 15-20 minutes, stirring once, or until potatoes start turning golden brown.  Season with more salt and pepper, if desired. 

*When the health benefits of a sweet potato versus a white potato are studied a bit closer, it seems that both have benefits in their own right and one isn't necessarily more healthy than the other.  There is not alot of difference between the spuds nutritionally - calorie, fat and protein counts are relatively similar.  Sweet potatoes contain anti-oxidants, beta-carotene and Vitamin C whereas white potatoes contain folate and have more dietary fiber.  The glycemic index of both depend on how it's prepared for consumption.  I may not be a doctor and I've certainly never played on on TV, but I'm prescribing my theory of "all things in moderation" when it comes to incorporating either sweet or white potatoes into my diet. 

My Little Candied Kumquat

My weekly produce deliveries from Backyard Produce have allowed me to be a bit more daring than I normally would be on my regular visits.  I'm usually on a mission when I shop - to get in and get out quickly.  I have my list and try not to deviate (too much) from said list. 

A few weeks ago, I made the daring decision to include kumquats in my delivery from Backyard Produce - something I've always been curious about but have never purchased (and most likely wouldn't ever have.)  Kumquats resemble an orange in color and have a similar thick peel but are only about the size of the end of your thumb.  They are native to south Asia and the Asia-Pacific region but have been cultivated in North America for nearly 150 years now (and I'm just now brave enough to try them?!?)  The growing season ranges from January through June for those grown in California and November through mid-March for fruits harvested in Florida. 

I wasn't sure what to expect or do with the kumquats.  Do I peel them?  Are they sweet?  How exactly should I use them?  The answers to the first two questions are no and HECK NO! The skins aren't quite as thick as an orange peel and provide the only bit of sweetness amongst an otherwise extremely tart fruit.  For such a tiny thing, it packs a punch of zing - it took me a few minutes to come back to my senses after popping one into my mouth for taste-testing. 

Preliminary recipe research showed that most people enjoy them sliced and raw on a salad but they were a bit too sour for me to enjoy that way.  Others baked with them but quite frankly, I was too lazy to deseed them, so I opted to turn them into candied kumquats to enjoy spooned over the Hillsborough Farm goat cheese (also from Backyard Produce) and crackers.  I think it would make a fantastic topping for vanilla ice cream as well. 

Dare yourself to try something new by picking up a container of these little jewels on your next shopping trip and if you're interested in receiving fresh organic and natural produce delivered right to your door, check out Backyard Produce's website for how you can get started. 

Candied Kumquats

Printable Recipe

4 cups roughly chopped kumquats (about 1-1-1/2 lbs)
1 cup water
2 cups sugar

With a pairing knife, roughly chop the kumquats.  Discard any seeds that are easy to get too, but they're edible so don't worry if you don't get them all. 

Heat the water and sugar over high heat until boiling.  Reduce heat and simmer for 4 minutes.  Add the kumquats and simmer for 10 minutes.

Drain the kumquats through a sieve over a bowl.  Return the syrup to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes to reduce the syrup.  Combine the kumquats and 1/4 cup syrup together.

Serve or jar and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. 

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