Category Archives: crockpot


crockpot shredded chicken

Use Your Crockpot To Beat The Summer Heat

It’s getting hot here in Texas

And the humidity isn’t far behind. Once the humidity hits stepping outside is like walking into a sauna.

With all of that heat and humidity it’s no wonder dinner time is seen as more of a chore in the summer. After all, who wants to heat up the kitchen when it’s already hot and sticky outside? And here in Texas we’re not the only ones. Although we get the heat early, summertime and hot temperatures are about to hit all around the country. The good news is in spite of the heat outside, you can still have a delicious meal without raising the temperature indoors. It’s easy when you use a crockpot.

So, how does crockpot cooking beat the heat? Simple, it uses less heat than an oven or the stove top. In addition to using less heat to cook the food, a crockpot also doesn’t heat up the environment the same way. This means you don’t need to crank up the air conditioning, run a fan, or start your swamp cooler to reduce the additional heat from ovens and stoves.

Crockpots are also a great energy saving device and the operating costs are very low. Especially when compared to electric stove and ovens, but even when compared to gas. So not just from a heat standpoint, but from a cost to operate standpoint as well, this makes crockpots a great resource.

Not just for winter anymore

If you’re like most people you think of crockpots as being more for wintertime use. Great for making soups, stews, and chili. But truthfully crockpots are good all year round. I love mine and use it for making snacks, breakfast, and even for making shredded meats for summer salads. Crockpots are actually very versatile and can be used for a wide variety of meals and foods.

Benefits of Crock Pot Cooking

As well as being less expensive to run, crockpots have a number of benefits that make them a great addition to any kitchen:

  • All the work is done ahead of time making mealtime and cleanup a lot easier. If you’re making breakfast, you’re starting it the night before so there’s less cleanup while you’re trying to get out the door. If you’re making dinner, it makes getting dinner on the table faster and easer at the end of a long day.
  • A lot of crockpot dinner recipes are a meal in a dish. Make a salad or a side dish to go with it and you’ve got a nutritious meal for your family. If it’s a stew or a chili you can bulk it up with extra veggies and up your daily count of veggie servings.
  • Cleanup is a breeze. Usually with crockpot cooking there’s the cleanup from the prep and then just one dish (the crock) to clean when you’re done. This means you’re not only spending less time cooking, you’re also spending less time cleaning up.

Have a couple of crockpots is, in my humble opinion, a good idea. I have one large one for main dishes or large items and one small one for side dishes, appetizers, desserts, and that sort of thing. They’re versatile, easy to use, and make life much simpler.

Take it to the next level

Combine crockpot cooking with the Fast Fun Freezer Meals program and you’ll really beat the heat. This program allows you to get 20-24 servings of dinner in the freezer ready-to-cook in 90 minutes or less. Sounds unbelievable but it’s true. And when you’re ready to cook simply pull your meal out of the freezer the night before. Pop it in the crockpot in the morning and at the end of the day you’ve got a hot, delicious meal, but the kitchen is still cool. Make a salad or side dish and dinner is done. Best of all cleanup is a breeze because you did most of it when you prepped the meal.

Less work, less time in the kitchen, no hot sticky mess. Crockpot dinners are definitely the way to go.

Kitchen Tools

I frequently get questions from people wanting to know what sorts of tools I have in my kitchen.  I get the impression that folks think I have a huge gourmet kitchen with all of the latest gadgets and fancy equipment.  While I have at time had kitchens that are very large, right now I have an extremely tiny, inefficiently designed kitchen with approximately 3 feet of usable counter space.  We’re eventually going to redesign the space but for now we work with what we have.  And I’m here to tell you that it is possible to make real food meals even in a tiny space.

I do, however have a number of important tools that I use on a regular basis.  This is a list of appliances, it does not include other kitchen tools which are a definite must have such as a good chef knife, paring tool, grater, etc.  Here are five of my favorites and how I use them.    These are listed in no particular order:

Crockpot – I can’t say enough about this wonderful appliance.  I write about crocking frequently and share a number of great recipes.  It truly is one of my most versatile appliances, I use it for breakfast, dinner, snacks, and as a means of preparing some of my foods such as rehydrating beans.   One of these days I will buy my dream crockpot/slow cooker, a VitaClay.

Vitamix – I use my vitamix on a regular basis to make smoothies and other great recipes.  It’s great for frozen desserts as well as for mixing nut butters, making alternative milks, and more.  I don’t use it for dry mixes as I don’t have a dry grains container but if you bought one you could do that too.

Immersion Blender – my immersion blender is the handiest, dandiest, most wonderful small appliance ever invented.  I use mine for making dressings, mayonnaise, blending soups and more.  I no longer use my applesauce mill (although it’s a way cool looking appliance) because I use the immersion blender instead.  It’s worth it to get the one with the attachments so you can chop herbs and other things in the little container attachment.

Pressure Cooker – I can’t believe I waited so long in my life to get one of these.  They are, quite simply, fabulous!!!  I make many meals in the pressure cooker mostly because it’s so very quick and easy.  Our family favorite is my curried rice and beans but I would highly suggest getting Lorna Sass’s terrific book Cooking Under Pressure; everything I’ve made from this book has been great.   If you’re going to get a pressure cooker of your own consider getting a combination pressure canner and cooker.

KitchenAid Mixer – for many years (and I mean A LOT) I mixed everything by hand and it sure took a long time to get things done sometimes.  Especially around the holiday season with all that baking.  Then my amazing DH bought me a KitchenAid Mixer and I’ve never looked back.  I use it for more than mixing cookie dough.  When I make a meatloaf or meatballs, it all goes in there and I let the machine do the work.  If you get some of the fancy attachments you can make pasta, sausages, ground meat, and more.  This is definitely a cool machine to have around.

And one more thing…

One Gallon Jar – okay, so not an appliance, but still, you need one (or more) gallon glass jars if you’re going to make kombucha.  This is a permanent fixture as I keep my culture going.  On a side note, this is also an excellent reason to avoid harmful chemical exposure from plastic and recycle other glass jars.  1/2 gallon ones are great for a kombucha scoby bank.  Snapple jars (friends give these away by the dozens) are great for taking your kombucha drink with you.  And I collect other jars to store all sorts of dry goods or even leftovers in. Glass jars are definitely a good thing.

Interested in finding out what I cook in my kitchen?  Be sure to get a copy of The Pantry Principle.  It has delicious recipes for breakfast, soups, condiments, desserts, and more.

disclaimer:  some of the links above are affiliate links; I do make a tiny commission which helps to support my blogging if you choose to buy through them.  You are, however, under no obligation to purchase through these links.

crockpot shredded chicken

Pot Pie Makeover

The comfort of pot pie

One of my favorite meals is pot pie.  When the weather gets cold and wintry, there is nothing more warming and delicious than a pot pie.  It’s also a wonderful convenience dish. Filled with meat and vegetables, it’s a meal in one dish.

What’s in the box?

For many people pot pie is something that comes in a box from the freezer section at the grocery store. While certainly convenient, these tend to come with a variety of ingredients that are not a great choice. Here, for example, is the ingredient list from

Stouffer’s White Meat Chicken Pot Pie:
Water, Chicken Meat White Cooked, Flavor(s) Chicken, Chicken Powder, Chicken Broth Dehydrated,
Food Starch Modified, Carrageenan, Cellulose Gum, Dextrose, Flavor(s), Salt, Whey Protein
Concentrate, Mono and Diglycerides, Cream Whipping, Apple(s), Flour Bleached Enriched, Wheat
Flour Bleached Enriched, Carrot(s), Celery, Chicken Fat, Egg(s) Yolks Dried, Niacin, Milk Non-Fat
Dry, Onion(s), Peas, Polysorbate 80, Iron Reduced, Salt, Sodium Citrate, Chicken Base, Contains BHA,
Contains BHT, Canola Oil, Caramel, Corn Syrup Solids, Lard, Maltodextrin, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2),
Soy Lecithin, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Corn Starch Modified

44 ingredients! Going through this list one by one would be a rather long endeavor so I’ll skip to the chase and point out that there are GMO’s, lots of chemicals, known carcinogens, possible MSG, probably pesticides, and potentially heavy metals in this box.  There’s also a nasty ingredient called carrageenan which can cause intestinal distress and has some other unpleasant side effects. Not very tasty in my book.

So what’s the answer?  

For me it’s making my own pot pie.  14 simple real food ingredients (15 if you include the seasoning on the meat).

Before when making pot pies I used to cook a chicken or a turkey and then dice up the leftover meat to use in a pot pie.  Certainly a convenient way to make use of the leftover meat, but rather time consuming.  Recently I had an epiphany.  Why not shred the meat instead.  I theorized that the shredded meat would be just as nice in the pot pie, but could potentially be made much easier than having to roast a bird, carve off the meat and then cut it up.

Using my crockpot, one of my favorite kitchen appliances, I made shredded meat overnight.  I actually wanted to try making pot pie and chili with shredded meat so I cooked enough meat for both dishes.  Using two turkey breasts and six chicken thighs (to get a good mix of white and dark meat), I put them in the crockpot with seasonings (I used Kirkland’s No Salt Seasoning and some fresh ground pepper) and 1/4 cup of nourishing broth.  I let it cook on low all night.  In the morning when I got up the meat was fully cooked and so tender that it shredded without any difficulty simply using two forks.  

Sidenote:  I use my crockpot overnight on a fairly regular basis.  I figure just because I’m asleep doesn’t mean my crockpot can’t be working for me.  Nourishing broth, soaking beans, overnight cereal, marinara sauce, all kinds of things work well in the crockpot overnight to be ready to use when you wake up in the morning.

Updating your pot pie

As much as I like pot pie, over the years I’ve become less and less enamored of the idea of eating my meals encased in a crust of dough, especially a gluten based dough.  Although it’s possible to make gluten-free pie crust, I’m not very good at it (and not particularly interested in spending the time on it these days).  So I’ve come up with an alternative.  I make dumplings and serve that as the top “crust.”  It’s delicious without being overwhelming in the way of simple carbs. It also requires a little less labor.  The dumplings are great because they provide just the right amount of toothsomeness to the pot pie; the right balance to top off the delicious filling.

Here’s my basic-ish recipe for a pot pie.  This recipe is for mushrooms and peas because that’s what I had on hand when I made it last.  Usually the vegetable part of a pot pie is somewhat flexible which is one of the things that makes it such a wonderful dish to have in your repertoire. The recipe does include bone broth which makes it tastier and more nourishing.  Enjoy!

GF Dumpling Pot Pie
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Ingredients
  1. Gluten Free Dumpling Crusted Pot Pie
  2. 10-12 baby bella mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  3. 2 T. organic butter
  4. 1/4 C. gluten free flour (these days I'm using Namaste and really like it)
  5. 1 C. nourishing broth
  6. 2 C. whole fat organic milk
  7. 1 heaping t. dried onion
  8. 1/2 t. dried thyme
  9. 1 t. sea salt
  10. 3 C. shredded chicken
  11. 2 C. peas, frozen or fresh
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. Grease a 2 quart casserole dish
  3. Melt butter in a large sauce pan
  4. Add mushrooms and stir gently until mushroom soften
  5. Add flour and toss gently, coating mushrooms
  6. Add broth and milk, stirring well to incorporate fully and bring to a boil
  7. Reduce heat and add onions, salt, and thyme, cook 5-7 minutes until sauce begins to thicken
  8. Add meat and peas
  9. Top with dumpling crust
  10. Bake 30-35 minutes
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy http://www.theingredientguru.com/
GF Dumpling
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup gluten free flour
  2. 2 t. baking powder
  3. 1 t. dried parsley
  4. 1/2 t. dried dill
  5. 1/2 t. fresh ground black pepper
  6. generous pinch sea salt
  7. 1/4 cup organic butter
  8. 1/2 cup whole fat organic milk
Instructions
  1. Combine flour, baking soda, and seasonings mixing well
  2. Slice butter into thin pats and then blend into flour mixture until it resembles cornmeal
  3. Add in milk and combine fully until it forms a dough
  4. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto top of filling
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy http://www.theingredientguru.com/
crockpot chicken and sweet potato stew

Crockpot Chicken And Sweet Potato Stew

With the shorter, darker days and the dipping temperatures, we all know that winter has arrived.   And on those cold, dark days, sometimes it’s difficult to be inspired when it comes to making dinner.  Especially when you’ve got a hungry crew to feed.  While I use my crockpot all year round, at this time of year I somehow feel that it’s my best friend.  There is nothing better than setting everything up in the morning and coming home to a delicious, hot meal, cooked and ready to go.  If you’re looking for a new recipe that combines all the best of winter comfort food, today’s blog post has the answer. 

Winter can be a lovely time of year. You really can’t beat a beautiful, fresh snowfall.  At least this is what I like to tell myself when it is dark at 4 pm and frigid outside.

One thing that can make winter more enjoyable is snuggling up at home with a good book and a large bowl of warm winter stew. I am very excited to share this new stew recipe with you that I created for such a scenario. I also wanted this to be a healthy stew to kick off 2013 on the right foot. One of the things I like best about this recipe is the combination of rosemary with chicken and sweet potatoes. Rosemary is one of my favorite spices because of its distinct aroma and fresh taste. As an added bonus,  rosemary is rich in antioxidants which help strengthen your immune system. Sweet potatoes also have great health benefits. Not only are sweet potatoes rich in iron and fiber, they also contain a lot of Vitamin C, which can help you fight off those pesky winter colds. This recipe is easy to make and can be altered to include other veggies if you wish.

Chicken and Sweet Potato Stew
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Ingredients
  1. 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into chunks
  2. 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-2 inch cubes
  3. 1 cup of celery, chopped
  4. ½ onion, chopped
  5. 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  6. 2 cups chicken broth
  7. ½ teaspoon of dried rosemary (or 2 teaspoons of fresh rosemary)
  8. 2 bay leaves
  9. 1 teaspoon salt
  10. ½ teaspoon ground pepper
  11. 1 ½ tablespoons white wine vinegar
  12. ½ pound white button mushrooms, sliced
Instructions
  1. Place chicken at the bottom of the crock pot
  2. Add all of the other ingredients (except the mushrooms) over chicken
  3. Stir to combine
  4. Cook on low for 4-5 hours, checking after 4 hours for doneness
  5. Add mushrooms and cook on low for 1 more hour.
Notes
  1. This can be served as is or over rice or quinoa
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy http://www.theingredientguru.com/
Alli Berry is a Crock Pot cooking blogger and offered to share her wonderful stew recipe with us. You can check out more fabulous recipes on her blog, What a Crock!

Crockpot Breakfast Casserole

Overnight breakfast success

Recently I received an email from Susan who wrote in wanting to know if I had any great recipes for breakfast.  She had seen the crockpot granola I shared and was intrigued by my idea of using the crockpot to cook breakfast over night.  I love using my crockpot for all different kind of recipes.  And really, there’s no reason not to use it.  Crockpots are simple to use easy to clean up, and an energy efficient way to cook.
 
And they’re not just for dinner. There’s nothing better than coming downstairs to a nice hot breakfast, ready and waiting. But you didn’t have to cook it. Because you made it in the crockpot. After all, if you’re willing to leave it on all day to make dinner, why not leave it on overnight to make breakfast? Especially when you’re cooking for a crowd. After all if you’ve got a house full of guests that’s the time you don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen cooking anyway. So let your crockpot do all the work and you’ll look like a kitchen star.
 
This casserole is one we enjoy. While it takes a little bit of prep time it’s so delicious and totally worth it. 
 
Sweet potato crockpot breakfast casserole
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Ingredients
  1. Slow Cooker Breakfast Casserole
  2. 2 large sweet potatoes, washed and shredded
  3. 1 onion, chopped
  4. 1 bell pepper, chopped
  5. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 3 tablespoon coconut oil
  7. 1 pound cooked meat - organic and preservative free
  8. 1 cup shredded cheese - we prefer white cheddar
  9. 1 dozen organic eggs
  10. 1 cup whole organic milk
  11. 1 teaspoon herbs of choice - suggestions include oregano, basil, chives, thyme, but you can use whatever you prefer
  12. 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  13. 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Instructions
  1. Grease inside of crock
  2. In a pan saute potatoes in 2 tablespoons coconut oil until starting to brown, remove and set aside
  3. In remaining 1 tablespoon of coconut oil saute onion, peppers and garlic until warmed through and starting to soften
  4. Layer in the crock 1/3 potatoes, 1/3 vegetables, 1/3 meat, 1/3 cheese, repeat layers, top layer will be cheese
  5. Mix together eggs, milk, herbs, salt and pepper
  6. Gently pour egg mixture over layers in crock
  7. Cook on low 8-10 hours (or overnight) until eggs are set
Notes
  1. Delicious served with a little salsa on top
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy http://www.theingredientguru.com/
 

The Giving Season

hot chocolate | photo: Itizdacuriz

Every year around the holiday season I always find that I need a few small gifts.  Not willing to brave the shopping frenzy at this time of year I turn to the idea of making gifts at home.  I find many people truly enjoy receiving these more personal gifts.

Confession time.  I’m a fairly decent knitter but rather slow at it so whipping out a bunch of hand knitted gifts just isn’t going to happen.  (I’m still working on a gift for someone that was supposed to be last year’s present.)  I have visions of all of the fabulous crafty gifts that abound on the internet that look so easy.  Following directions closely my version comes out “nice” but certainly not as full of wow factor as the originals; so that’s not gonna happen either.

But…food…I love food.  And I love giving food.  And most people I know like getting food.  That makes it a perfect gift in my book.  The best part is that you still have time to put it all together, wrap it up in a pretty ribbon and gift it to that someone special without braving the crowds. the carols, and the olfactory assault that is commercialized holiday shopping.

  1. Chocolate Granola – This recipe is from my friend Christine and is always a huge hit.  Made in the crockpot it’s super easy; set it to cook all day (stirring when you remember) while you are doing other things.
  2. Crockpot Snack Mix – There are four recipes on this post Tropical, Tex-Mex, Asian, and Curried; they’re all delicious.  Another fabulous use for your crockpot.
  3. Crockpot Nuts – Okay, by now you’ve figured out that I love my crockpot.  These snack nuts are so tasty that I always have to make extras because they’re just that good.
  4. Vanilla Sugar – This is a fabulous gift to give, especially to someone who is a baker.  One vanilla bean pod split and shoved, seeds and all, into a wide mouth pint jar full of evaporated cane juice crystals.  Tie a pretty ribbon on it and you’re good to go.  It does need to sit for 2-3 weeks to allow the aroma to infuse so stick a note on it if necessary.
  5. Hot Cocoa Mix – This is based on a recipe from a major food manufacturer.  I’ve changed it by substituting better ingredient options and removing the requirement for name brand products. 
  • 1/4 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1/3 Cup evaporated cane juice crystals (optional – made into vanilla sugar. yum)
  • 1 1/2 Cups organic milk powder 
  • 1/2 Cup chopped good quality chocolate (I prefer Belgian chocolate)
  • Layer ingredients in order given into a wide mouth pint jar, close and decorate with ribbon
  • Instructions for preparation:  Gently heat 4 cups of organic milk to just below boiling, add contents of the jar, whisking well until fully combined.  note:  if not using vanilla sugar include instructions to use 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla.  
  • Garnish with organic whipped cream and shaved chocolate.  Makes 4 servings  
Whatever your holiday of choice, I hope it’s a happy and healthy one.
raw nuts in bowl

Snack Healthy With Crockpot Nuts

Previously I had posted some delicious snack mix recipes for the crockpot.  And in case you’re wondering, a crockpot and a slow cooker are the same thing. Crockpot is a brand name that has become a common usage term.  They’re all slow cookers and in my opinion they’re one of the best kitchen devices you can own. I wanted to share another great use for your crockpot, seasoned nuts. At this time of year a lot of nuts are available in the grocery store fairly inexpensively.  Making seasoned nuts is easy, tasty, and extremely versatile. Seasoned nuts even make great gifts when packaged in a cute jar with a bow or fabric top.

I love nuts as a snack.  They’re high in protein and are a healthy source of fat in the diet. Nuts also have lots of micronutrients (different ones for different nuts) adding to nutrient variety in the diet (in other words don’t always eat the same ones.  It’s important to note that peanuts are not included here.  First of all they’re not a nut, they’re a legume. Second, they’re not as healthy an option as true, raw nuts.   

Increase your nutrition

Soaking the nuts will help break down the enzymes that protect them from germinating too early.  Breaking down these enzymes will make the nutrients more available.  How long you soak nuts depends on what type they are.  You can use this soaking/sprouting chart that I found online as a reference.  To soak nuts I prefer to add 1 T. of an acidic medium to the soaking water, usually liquid whey left over from making homemade Greek yogurt, but in a pinch lemon juice will do.

You do need to dry the nuts after soaking before you make these recipes.  You can either use a dehydrator or cook them on low (200 F) in your oven.  When they are completely dry they are ready to eat as is or spice them up a bit.

Crock Pot Roasted Nuts

4 c. raw soaked nuts
1/2 C. melted coconut oil
seasonings

Cook on low for 2-3 hours, stirring every 30 minutes, with the lid off
When done turn off the crockpot and let the mixture cool completely in the crock before jarring up

How you season them is up to you.  I have a couple of mixes that I like but feel free to go ahead and make up your own.

1 T. Penzey’s taco seasoning + 1/2 t. hot sauce or 1 t. red pepper flakes

1 T. tamari sauce + 1/2 t. garlic powder + 1/4 t. sea salt

1 T. curry powder + 1/2 t. ground cinnamon

1 T. sucanat + 2 t. ground cinnamon + 1/4 t. nutmeg

2 t. vanilla + 2 t. sucanat + 1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice

More great recipes

A crockpot is one of the most versatile kitchen implements you can own (and use). The important thing is to use it. Perfect for breakfast, dinner, food prep, there are a lots of great ways to incorporate a crockpot into your food plan, saving you time, money, and cleanup in the kitchen (and who doesn’t love that?).  Here are some more great recipes to get your crockpot mojo going:

Energy Bars

Energy bars are a great snack to have in your pantry.  They are handy and healthy for after school, wonderful if you need a little something in the afternoon to tide you over until dinner, great for after a workout, and easily portable for on the road.  Unfortunately many of the commercial bars are loaded with chemicals and preservatives (which should be avoided as much as possible).


You can bypass the chemicals and preservatives in commercial energy bars if you make them yourself.  My favorite way to do this is to start with a batch of my own Great Granola.  It’s easy to make in your slow cooker, delicious, healthy, and very reasonably priced.  The overall cost of these homemade energy bars is typically less than purchasing them in the store.


To boost the nutrition of my energy bars I add sesame seeds, which are high in copper, manganese, calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc.  They also add fiber and a great nutty flavor.  Another addition is almond butter.  Almonds are an alkalizing nut with heart healthy monounsaturated fat.  Studies have shown they can limit the rise in blood sugar which normally happens after you eat; they also provide antioxidants.  Almond butter can be purchased in a number of grocery stores from the grind-your-own machine, you can make it very easily in a food processor, or you can purchase commercial varieties.  If you purchase commercial almond butter look for one with no added oil, sugar, or preservatives.


After making the bars I wrap them individually in wax paper and store them in an airtight container.  They keep well although given their popularity I have yet to figure out exactly how long they will last.


Great Granola Energy Bars
makes 16


3 C. granola
3/4 C. sesame seeds
1 C. almond butter
1/2 C. raw honey


Toast sesame seeds lightly in a pan until golden
In a double boiler combine almond butter and honey
Stir together as it begins to soften and melt
When very warm and liquid add in sesame seeds
In a large bowl thoroughly combine granola and honey, almond butter, sesame seeds
Oil a baking pan (I use either grapeseed or walnut oil)
Pour mixture onto pan
Lightly oil your hands and press mixture onto the pan
Allow mixture to cool completely before cutting into bars

Crockpot Snack Mix

I recently made a batch of Christine’s Crockpot Granola.  I really like making it as it’s very easy and it tastes great.  While my overnight crockpot cereal is a huge hit you can only make enough for a couple of days.  With the granola I can make enough for a week or more (depending on how fast we eat it).  I posted the fact that I was making a batch of granola on FaceBook and got a comment from Sandy who didn’t know that you could make that in a crockpot.  Well folks, yes you can.  You can actually make a lot of things in a crockpot, one of the reasons I love mine so much.

My crockpot history

I own two.  A small 2 quart and a larger 5 quart.  I’ve considered getting a 6 quart but have no idea where I would store it in my rather small kitchen.  First things first, let’s clear up the terminology.  A crockpot is the same thing as a slow cooker.  Crockpot is simply a brand name from the Rival Corporation.  Slow cooker is what everyone else calls it because crockpot is trademarked.  I call mine a crockpot because I happen to own a Rival brand and that’s what I’ve been calling it for 30 years.

I got my first crockpot, which is my 5 quart when I was in college  (and yes, I’m still using it all these years later, that sucker works like a charm).  I went to a college where you needed to feed yourself on the weekends because the kitchen closed down. After a couple of weeks as a freshman I called my Mom and told her that I needed a hotpot and would she please buy me one.  She asked me what I wanted it for.  I said to make soup, sauces and things like that.  I came home a few weeks later and there was a crockpot sitting on my bed.  I was, needless to say, thrilled.  She asked if that was what I wanted.  I replied that I had been looking for a hotpot which cost about $6.  She offered to return the crockpot and buy me a hotpot (better deal for her). I hugged the box to my chest and announced that I would definitely be able to use this.  And indeed I did.  For four years I was very popular on the weekend as several of us would pool our food and make soups or a huge pot of spaghetti sauce and eat together.  It was great.

After I got married I learned that a crockpot is a lifesaver when you have two working professionals. You come home and dinner is ready.  It became one of our most used kitchen appliances.  Then we started having kids and it became even more important to plan meals that would be simple, easy and fit into our increasingly busy schedule. Now we’re empty nesters but our crockpots still get used regularly and are one of my favorite time saving tools. 

Dry cooking in a crockpot

Dry cooking in a crockpot can be tricky. That’s because the point of a crockpot is to seal in moisture. This reduces the amount of moisture you need to cook with and creates a slow braising effect. You need to adjust for dry/low moisture recipes; one trick is to leave a wooden spoon in the crock propping the lid open.  You also need to make things that won’t burn or stick.  Snack mixes are a good choice.  You get a tasty, crunchy treat where you control the salt, sugar, fat and flavor content without all of the chemicals, preservatives and artificial colors of store bought snack mixes.  Although I use cereals as the base for these mixes I tend to buy only cereals that do not have any objectionable ingredients.  I also use raw or soaked nuts and add sea salt as needed for flavor.  I prefer not to use roasted nuts because they are not as healthy for you.

Here are our favorites:

Crockpot Tropical Snack Mix
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Ingredients
  1. 3 C. rice squares cereal
  2. 2 C. oat squares cereal (look for gluten free)
  3. 1 C. dried banana chips, unsulfured
  4. 1 C. dried pineapple, unsulfured
  5. 1 C. macadamia nuts, raw and unsalted
  6. 1 C. shredded coconut, unsulfured and unsweeteend
  7. 1/2 C. coconut oil, organic, melted
  8. 1 T. honey, raw and local preferred
  9. 1 t. cinnamon
  10. 1 T. sucanat
  11. 1/2 t. sea salt
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients into the crockpot
  2. Turn it on low for 3-4 hours, propping the lid open with a wooden spoon
  3. Stir every 30-40 minutes
  4. When it is done (the mixture seems very dry), turn off the crockpot, uncover and let the mixture cool completely in the crockpot
  5. Store in an airtight container
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy http://www.theingredientguru.com/
Crockpot Tex Mex Snack Mix
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Ingredients
  1. 3 C. corn squares (organic and low sugar)
  2. 2 C. rice squares
  3. 2 C. corn chips (organic)
  4. 1 C. pecans or walnuts, raw
  5. 1 stick melted butter (organic)
  6. 1/2 t. hot sauce
  7. 1 T. Penzey's Taco seasoning
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients into the crockpot
  2. Turn on low for 3-4 hours, propping the lid open with a wooden spoon
  3. Stir every 30-40 minutes
  4. When done (the mixture seems dry), turn off, uncover, and let cool completely in the crockpot
  5. Store in an airtight container.
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy http://www.theingredientguru.com/
Crockpot Asian Snack Mix
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Ingredients
  1. 4 cups rice squares cereal
  2. 1½ cups sesame crackers
  3. 1 C. cashews
  4. 1 C. dried peas with no artificial color (these are hard to find)
  5. 1 stick melted organic unsalted butter
  6. 1 T. Tamari sauce
  7. 1 t. Chinese five spice
  8. 1/2 t. sea salt
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients into the crockpot
  2. Turn it on low for 3-4 hours, propping the lid open with a wooden spoon
  3. Stir every 30-40 minutes
  4. When it is done (the mix seems dry) turn off the crockpot, uncover and let the mix cool completely in the crockpot
  5. Store in an airtight container
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy http://www.theingredientguru.com/
Crockpot Curried Snack Mix
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Ingredients
  1. 4 C. rice squares cereal
  2. 1 C. cashews, raw and unsalted
  3. 1/2 C. chopped walnuts, raw and unsalted
  4. 1/4 C. candied ginger, diced finely
  5. 1 C. shredded coconut, unsulfured and unsweetened
  6. 1 t. curry powder
  7. 1/2 C. ghee
  8. 2 t. Tamari sauce
  9. 1/2 t. sea salt
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients into the crockpot
  2. Turn it on low for 3-4 hours, propping the lid open with a wooden spoon
  3. Stir every 30-40 minutes
  4. When it is done (the mix seems dry) turn off the crockpot, uncover and let the mix cool completely in the crockpot
  5. Store in an airtight container
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy http://www.theingredientguru.com/

Chocolate Granola

Today we have a special treat as my friend Christine shares her chocolate granola recipe. I’ve always loved granola because it’s a quick healthy breakfast, a great snack; it’s also quick and easy to make. One of the other great things about granola is how it can be changed around to suit individual tastes. The idea of making it in a crockpot, is a big “wow” because it doesn’t get any easier than that.

Christine shared the following thoughts with me, “A friend had told me a little about using dark chocolate. Apparently, it contains ‘good’ fats, that our bodies need to digest properly. I began to think about the other good fats I’ve been trying to feed my family, coconut, olive oil, and nuts, etc. Chocolate granola sounded like a good breakfast food. I knew from prior experience that a little coconut oil at breakfast helped me control my appetite. I found a basic recipe and substituted some things and added a few. It smelled wonderful – kind of like chocolate potporri all day. When all seven of us like something, its a keeper! This one will be a regular breakfast item for our family.”

With the addition of ground flax and coconut oil this recipe provides some great fatty acids (flax seeds have omega-3 while coconut oil has medium-chain fatty acids). These healthy fats help provide saiety, or fullness, which means it helps fill you up. Dark chocolate and cocoa provide antioxidants, especially epicatechin (found also in green tea) which protect against cardiovascular disease.

Here’s Christine’s recipe, as she says it’s a big hit with her family, I’m sure it will be for yours as well.

Chocolate Granola
Mix in crock pot:

7 C. organic old fashioned oats
1/2 C. ground flax
1/4 C. organic brown sugar
1/2 C. shredded coconut
Pinch of sea salt
½ C. raw honey
2 T. maple syrup
¼ C. coconut oil
2 T. cocoa powder

Mix well and heat on low all day, stir once in while.

After slightly browned (4-6 hours on low) stir in:
½ C. 70% chocolate or darker, finely chopped
1 C. chopped almonds & walnuts

Cool completely then store in an airtight container


Chocolate granola photo courtesy of Christine Michael Gibson