Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Easy Peasy slow cooker meals!

Slow cookers are awesome if you can set them up so you can come home after a long day at work and walk into the house and dinner is already made.  They have the added bonus of turning cheaper cuts of meat into delicious foods due to the long, slow cooking time.  There are zillions of recipes out there for all sorts of things, but let's face it ... if you're like me, there's no way in heck you can prep a stuff in the morning with kids and hubby underfoot getting ready for work and school,   and in the evenings once I've wrestled the kids into bed, I'd rather watch an episode of Downton Abbey on Netflix or cruise Facebook for crumbs of info from the world outside my parenting bubble.  So here are a few super easy things to throw in your slow cooker:

1.  Beef or Pork Pot Roast.  Place the roast in the slow cooker. Pour a cup or two of beef or vegetable broth over the top.  Add some garlic and onions if you feel like it.  (Tip:  I keep pre-chopped onion and garlic in the freezer, so I can just grab some whenever I need it).  Turn the slow cooker on low for about 4-8 hours (depending on the size of your roast, your slow cooker manual should have a guide), or use the temperature probe if your slow cooker has one.  Optional:  add some potatoes around the roast.  (If they are really large, cut them in half).

2.  Roast Chicken.  Place the chicken in the slow cooker.  Pour a cup or two of chicken or vegetable broth over the top.  Cook on low for 6 hours.  Optional:  add some potatoes around the chicken. Note:  the skin doesn't crisp up, so you will want to pull it off before slicing up the chicken.

3.  BBQ Ribs.  Place the ribs in the slow cooker (either attached, or cut apart, depending on your preference).  Dump about a third to half a bottle of your favourite BBQ sauce over the top.  Cook on low for about 3 hours.

4.  Honey Garlic ribs.  Place the ribs in the slow cooker (either attached, or cut apart, depending on your preference).  Dump a bottle of store bought honey garlic sauce over the top.  Cook about 3 hours.

5.  Italian Chicken breasts.  Place 4 frozen skinless, boneless chicken breasts in the bottom of the slow cooker.  Sprinkle with Italian dressing mix OR pour on some Italian salad dressing.  Add one to two cups of chicken or vegetable broth, or water.  Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, until chicken breasts are cooked through.  Optional:  add some potatoes around the chicken.

6.  Reheat Soup, chili, pasta sauce, etc.  Pop a frozen container of soup, chili, curry, or pasta sauce you've previously made into the slow cooker and turn it on to low for a few hours so it's ready to go when you come home.

Do you have a favourite super-easy slow cooker recipe of your own?  Please share!

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Homemade Muffin Time & Money Saver

For years, I've always had store-bought muffin mixes on hand.  But over the past year I've been doing an increasing amount of cooking and baking from scratch. And I'm always on the lookout for tricks to offer convenience and savings alongside home-made goodness.

So I decided to try making my own muffin mixes.  Now, these don't turn into add-water-only recipes (though there may be a way to do that using powdered milk and eggs).  But by pre-measuring the dry ingredients and storing them in a jar, I save a bunch of steps when it comes time to making the muffins, and also ensure that I have everything on hand.  (Especially the chocolate chips, which somehow always vanish from the cupboard!)

Basically, you take your favourite recipe, measure all the dry ingredients and put them in a large mason jar or other container.

Prepping the chocolate chip banana mix

Close the container, and put a note on the outside listing the remaining ingredients to be added, and the oven temperature and recommended length of time for baking.

3 blueberry muffin and 3 chocolate chip banana mixes completed
Easy peasy!

This morning, I made up 6 jars of muffin mix.  It took me 20 minutes today, but that included clearing off the counter before I could get started, hunting down the camera to take some photos in the middle, refilling my flour and sugar bins afterwards, and washing all the measuring cups. Just the mix prep could be done in 10 minutes, and I often make up a mix or two when I have taken out the ingredients to make one batch on the spot.

  • Use a funnel to help fill the jars more easily.
  • Measure one ingredient at a time into each jar (eg: measure 2.5 cups of flour into each container, then move on to the next ingredient).
  • You may want to give the jar a good shake with the lid on to help mix up the salt, baking powder, etc so it's evenly mixed already when you go to use it. 
  • Once you've written out the instructions for finishing a recipe once, photocopy it or scan and print it for additional copies.
  • Look for recipes that don't have too many wet ingredients to add in order to complete the muffins.
Here is our favourite recipe, the Chocolate Chip banana one.  It has only 3 wet ingredients to add (mashed bananas, egg, and melted butter.  You can use oil instead to save the melting step):
From the Munster United Church cookbook, 2004