FU! Intro and Advice

I want to include some cooking or signs that cooking is a part of my life on my portfolio. Originally, I had planned on having one recipe per category. However, as the portfolio developed the recipes looked out of place. I don’t want a single page/section of cooking, at least at this moment I don’t want to do that. At this moment, I am toying with using the introduction (here is a link to a different intro) and advice section from FU! Crockpot.  Give the intro and advice a read and let me know what you think. I am still on the fence, and I have some time to go a different direction.

****

FU! Crockpot

The Kitchen Upstairs

One man’s quest for sanity and good food in the face of adversity

This is not your typical cookbook. There are recipes, plenty of them, but along with each recipe is the story of how this all came to pass. Let me start with, we cooked every at least once and we liked them. No need to give you recipes for food we did not even eat, and let me tell you there were plenty of those.

The only equipment required for these recipes is a slow cooker (3 quart), a small George Foreman Grill, a cutting board, and assorted tools-knives, cheese grater, forks, and spoons (ours were all plastic). A measuring cup or two would be great, but we did not pull one of those out of storage until 2 months in. Finally, if there is an ingredient we had difficulty finding we will tell you where we found it. Lemongrass comes to mind.

How did FU! Crockpot come about? A little back-story. First, the original title was FUCK YOU! Crockpot. I was complaining about having to cook dinner in the crockpot in a room that would make most dorms giggle. Over time and discussion, the titled morphed into The Kitchen Upstairs and back to FU! Crockpot.

Second, my wife was looking for a new college to finish her Pharmacy Degree. At the time, we had an apartment with plenty of room to cook. Barb found a college, unfortunately, due to timing we needed another place to live until we moved to the new college. Her parents were nice enough to let us move in with them and that was the extent of it. We had talked about cooking for them as a way to pay for our stay. Barb’s mother declared that she “loved” to cook and would not share the kitchen. This was fine with me after I saw the kitchen, if there was a single space without grease, mold, thick layer dust or debris on it, I might have considered cooking, but since there wasn’t, my wife and I decided it was best to avoid the kitchen.

After a couple of months of eating out and blowing a lot of money, I was not happy, and we were no longer healthy like when I used to cook all of the time. Desperate for an answer that would result in us saving money, which we needed for the move, and to get all of us feeling better, my wife suggested we use the small crockpot. Since we could not use the kitchen, I began cooking in our room on the second floor.

Let me tell you that first meal was like a slice of heaven. At least three nights a week with enough leftovers to last for days. Suddenly, bills were paid off, there was money in the bank, and we were feeling better. We added a George Foreman Grill, mini-fridge, and cutting board to allow me to do more than use the slow cooker. Slow cooked food was our primary diet for those months. I wrote down recipes and kept notes. When we finally moved out of the kitchen upstairs, I had a desire to put our experiences into a fun cookbook. You are holding the fun.

Enjoy.

 

Crockpot Advice

I learned everything you are about to learn by reading or through firsthand experience. Seriously, several dozen slow cooker cookbooks and months of experience later and this is the advice you get from me.

The lid is clear for a reason. There is no need to take the lid off to “see” the food, to “smell” the food or to “taste” the food. I am horrible at all three; you will find me constantly checking the dish, usually “taste testing.” Here is the “official reason” why, each time you open the lid, you add 20 minutes to the cook time. Sounds long, the reality is opening the lid does increase the cook time. However, it is not 20 minutes per instance, more like 20 minutes overall. If you are like me though, you will still open the lid to see when the dish is “done.”

Preheating is not just for stoves. This was both a revelation and a “Duh!” thing to learn. Until I learned that piece of advice, I tossed everything into the crockpot and then turned it on. Turn the crockpot on before you toss stuff in, dishes cook in the right amount of time and burning is lessened because the food is sitting a shorter period of time.

You can boil water in a crockpot. You can boil water in a crockpot. Seriously. It takes a lot of time and is not effective. If you, like us, find yourself stuck in an area without a usable stovetop, this works. Turn slow cooker on HIGH, put water in, and ignore for a long time. Eventually, the crockpot will get hot enough for the water to start a low boil. Put anything in the water and the boil will go away, but give it some more time and it will start up again.

Noodles! Noodles are a pain in the ass! We have done several dishes that had noodles and a few that we thought could use noodles, the results were mixed. The best advice that I have is to follow the recipe and it should work out. Egg noodles turn to a thin mush very quickly. If you decide to use them, add them near the very end of the cook time; last three minutes or less and watch closely.

Pork Fat RULES! Despite what you may think, you can cook bacon in a crockpot. Whole strips are a pain because they will stick together and to the crock. When you try to stir or move the bacon around it breaks apart. Slicing thick-cut bacon into smaller pieces works better and cooks evenly.

Elbow Grease: If I had to choose one feature that I like best about crockpots, it is they clean up easily. I don’t care how badly charred, burned, or otherwise stuck to the sides a dish got, with a few minutes of soaking in hot soapy water, and some scrubbing, the crock is clean as new. However, this does lead to the thing I like the least you cannot season it.

Cleanliness..: Is everything. Wash your hands! Wash your cutting board! Wash everything! Clean hands, tools, and dishware after handling any raw food. Do not use utensils that touched raw food on cooked food. Keeping things clean will keep you from getting yourself and others sick.

Measurements are..: Guidelines, not hard and fast rules. If you like more of one ingredient, use more, but in small increments. Do not just double up. Add a little more, taste, and repeat until you get the flavor you want. You CAN double up or halve an ENTIRE recipe if you need to make more or less.

Times are..: even more of a guideline than ingredients. Every crockpot, every piece of equipment, is different and you know how it works. Our crockpot, for example, cooked everything 1 to 3 hours FASTER than the recipes stated. Our George Foreman Grill had a “sweet” spot where everything cooked at the right temp and a “suck” spot where it took forever to warm up. So get to know your equipment and use that knowledge when cooking.

 

 

Crock of Chicken Soup

Our girl is finally asleep on the floor. Barb is starting to feel better. Our girl is not. Such is life around here. With sick people in the house my head turns toward making soup, chicken soup. And after watching the movie Chef, I enlisted the assistance of our boy to make this crock of soup…yeah we will keep that name.

Equipment

7 quart slow cooker

Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 64 oz of chicken broth
  • 2 to 4 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 white or yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large shallot, sliced
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced or minced
  • 2 cups corn
  • 2 to 4 tsp pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp sage
  • 2 tbsp butter
  •  1/3 cup cream

Directions

  1. Turn on slow cooker to low, allow to preheat
  2. Trim fat off of chicken
  3. Pour chicken broth into slow cooker
  4. Add chicken breasts
  5. Add bouillon cubes. I tend to add 1 per 2 cups of broth if I am using the low sodium broth
  6. Cover and allow to cook for 2 hours
  7. While the chicken is cooking prepare all of the vegetables and gather spices
  8. At two hour mark, check chicken, if done or close to done add:
    1. All vegetables
    2. All spices
  9. If chicken not done cook for a half-hour, then add all vegetables and spices
  10. Cook for an additional hour, remove chicken:
    1. Cut chicken into cubes and return to crock or
    2. Shred chicken and return to crock
  11. Add butter and cream, stir to mix
  12. Cook for an additional half-hour
  13. Turn heat down to warm and serve

There you have a very quick chicken soup using ingredients found around most houses or easily at the grocery store. The amount of any ingredient can be increased or decreased without affecting the over all flavor. Optional ingredients to add could include cubed potatoes, bacon (near end of cooking or as a garnish), chives, or noodles. Noodles can be added to the crock or cooked separately. I recommend cooking separately, only because my experience with noodles and slow cookers has been disastrous.

Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to a week.

Back to tending to the sick. 🙂

 

 

 

Start The Year Off With Soup (updated)

I am going to try to work with the new posting interface.  That is not a resolution, just a statement, and potential explanation if things go tits up.  Our girl seems to be enjoying her New Year’s Healthy Chicken Soup. That is her name and requirements for the soup that I made for today. She would not even consider trying the soup until today. I will share this recipe in the making as my notes indicate, so bare with the mess. 🙂

Equipment

  • 7-quart slow cooker
  • pan
  • oven

Ingredients

  • 3 chicken breasts whole
  • 6 cups of chicken broth or stock
  • 6 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • 6 small and/or medium potatoes, cubed
  • 4 to 6 carrots, peeled, cut into quarters
  • 2 cups corn
  • 2 tsp sage
  • salt and pepper to taste

Here is what I did

  1. The chicken, broth, and bouillon went into the slow cooker on LOW. I let this go for 3 hours, I had lots of time.
  2. At the three hour mark, I diced the onion and sliced the garlic. They went into a pan over medium heat with a pat of butter until the onions caramelized. Keep stirring to keep anything from burning. Add this to the slow cooker.
  3. An hour later add the butter, shallots, and potatoes. Check the chicken, which should be ready for shredding. Remove the chicken, shred and return to slow cooker.
  4. Peel the carrots. Quarter the carrots. Add carrots, corn, and sage to the slow cooker.
  5. At this point I let the whole thing cook for another hour before reducing the temperature to warm.

The results were a good bowl of soup and proclaimed healthy by our girl. It should be noted that she is not a health professional, yet.

Update: Working on my second bowl, I added a healthy (see what I did there) dollop of sour cream and the soup was that much better. 🙂

FU! Slow Cooker: Cocada Pudding Made With Coconut Milk

Cocada PuddingI want to point out that while the title says that this is an FU! Slow Cooker recipe, this is NOT made with a slow cooker.  I labeled this an FU! entry  to make finding this recipe easier and for archiving purposes.  Sorry for any confusion.  Now, for those people who have had a certain TV Mexican Dinner (don’t judge) you are aware of a really great tasting cocada pudding.  Barb and I enjoyed eating the cocada pudding so much that we found a recipe and immediately made a major revision.  The original recipe called for water and milk, ours uses only coconut milk.  Very tasty.

Equipment

  • 2 quart Sauce Pan
  • Stove Top
  • Measuring Spoons

Ingredients

  • 2 cans of coconut milk (our cans were 13.33 oz)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 3″ cinnamon stick, broken into two or three smaller pieces
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Thickener

  • 4 tbsp cornstarch + 1/2 tsp salt

Directions

  1. Into the sauce pan, over LOW heat, add 3/4 cup coconut milk, sugar, and cinnamon pieces.  Stir and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Remove the cinnamon sticks.
  3. Add shredded coconut to pan, continue stirring and simmering for an additional 5 minutes.
  4. Add in remaining coconut milk, raise heat to MEDIUM LOW, continue stirring.
  5. Add in cornstarch and salt mixture, slowly, make sure that cornstarch is incorporated, do not dump entire 4 tablespoons of cornstarch in at one time.  Continue to stir.
  6. Bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute.  The cocada should be very thick, viscous, at this stage.
  7. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla.
  8. Taste. Smile.
  9. Serve warm or chill in refrigerator and serve cold.
  10. Top with toasted coconut.

Some notes

The shredded coconut could be increased to 1/2 cup.

The 3/4 cup sugar could be increased to 1 cup if you do not find the cocado pudding sweet enough.

The cinnamon sticks could remain in the sauce pan for step 3 and remove after the 5 additional minutes of simmering.

FU! Slow Cooker: Pot Pie Innards

As per previous FU! entries, this is the original recipe.  Shortly I will make this, take “photos”, detailed notes, modify, and post the “final” version.  I have made this version many times before.

The original name of this recipe was chicken and ham something or the other, but when you eat this provided you have had a frozen pot pie, this will make you think, “Tastes like the insides of a pot pie.” I make no claim if that is a good or bad thought, but frozen pot pies were a comfort food when I was younger.  When I make the “final” recipe, I am going to try to freshen up the ingredients where I can and where cost effective.

Equipment

  • 3-quart slow cooker
  • can opener
  • cutting board and knife

Ingredients 3-quart

  • 2 chicken breasts, diced
  • 2 cups ham, diced
  • 2 cans  cream of mushroom soup
  • 12 oz frozen peas
  • 8 oz frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 1/4 cup yellow onion, diced
  • 1/4 tsp marjoram, dried
  • 1/4 tsp thyme,dried
  • salt and pepper to taste

Thickener

  • 2 tbsp cornstarch + 2 tsp water

Directions

  1. Preheat: Turn on slow cooker: LOW heat (4 to 5 hour time) or HIGH heat (2 to 3 hour time), to preheat.
  2. Prep: Trim the fat off of the chicken and cut the chicken into small cubes, 1/4 inch or as small as you can.  If you did not buy diced ham, cube the ham into a size similar to the chicken.  Repeat with celery and onions.  Open the cans and packages.
  3. Soup Time: Time to make soup.
    1. Place into the pre-heated crock the chicken, ham, soup, peas, corn, celery, onion, marjoram, an thyme.
    2. Cook for 3:30 hours on LOW or 1:30 on HIGH
    3. Add thickener, stir well, cook for remaining time.
  4. Serve: Dish out the chicken soup.  Rolls go very well with this soup.
  5. Leftovers: Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Something that I am noticing is that the recipe is missing carrot and potatoes.  Looks like the final recipe will be very different.

FU! Slow Cooker: Chicken Soup With Tortilla Strips Lessons

Tortilla Chicken SoupYesterday I made the Chicken and Tortilla Soup using fresh, well not canned, ingredients.  A new goal of mine when compiling the recipes is to replace canned ingredients with fresh (ish) where there is a cost benefit, no reason to break the bank. With that goal in mind I was at the grocery story purchasing ingredients and here are my first lessons:

  • At the moment, fresh ingredients are running around the same prices as canned, I “saved” .37 cents. 😦
  • More importantly, pay attention to the recipe and the size of the cooking vessel.  Rookie mistake, I purchased ingredients for a 3-quart batch, even though I was cooking in a 7-quart. 😦
  • I purchased roma tomatoes, one serrano pepper, and two pablano peppers to replace the canned tomatoes and canned of chilies.  I have to say that being able to purchase ingredients with flavors I know felt better than purchasing a can and hoping the flavors are good or what I had in mind.
  • I weighed ingredients to match up with can sizes, i.e. 15oz can of tomatoes was 1 pound (16 oz) of tomatoes (this has application to other recipes more than this one). The peppers I went with more than 2 oz in weight because I knew I was going to seed them and I wanted more pepper in the recipe.
  • Lastly, I need to work on my photography skills. 😦

Changes to the Recipe

Changes to the original recipe are in red.

The biggest change is that there is an ingredient list for 3- and 7-quart slow cookers.

Equipment

  • 3-quart or 7-quart slow cooker
  • stove top, oven, broiler, or grill
  • can opener
  • cutting board and knife

Ingredients 3-quart

  • 2 chicken breasts, shredded
  • 1 pound roma tomatoes, diced or 1 can 15oz, diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 serrano pepper and 2 pablano peppers, seeded (or not if you want heat), diced or 1 can, 2oz, green chilies, chopped, undrained
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients 7-quart

  • 3 to 4 chicken breasts
  • 2 pounds roma tomatoes, diced or 2 cans 15oz, diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 serrano peppers and 4 pablano peppers, seeded (or not if you want heat), diced or 2 cans, 2oz, green chilies, chopped, undrained
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste

Toppings

  • 2 flour tortillas per person, cut into 1/4″ to 1/2″ strips
  • 1/2 avocado, peeled and diced
  • 2 to 3 sprigs of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • cheddar or monterey jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • sour cream

Directions

  1. Preheat: Turn on slow cooker: LOW heat (4 to 6 hour time) or HIGH heat (2 to 3 hour time), to preheat.
  2. Chicken: This is a matter of preference, this recipe works well with chicken that has been cubed or shredded.
    1. Cubed: Cut the chicken breast into 1/2″ square cubes and add to slow cooker.
    2. Shredded: If you have a preferred method to shred chicken use that otherwise; put the whole chicken breasts into the slow cooker. Cook for half the cooking time.  Stick a fork into chicken breast and twist.  If the meat falls apart easily, remove from the soup to a cutting board.  Using two forks pulls the breast apart by moving the forks in opposite directions across the breast.  Continue this until all of the breast has been shredded. Return shredded breasts to soup for remainder of cooking time.  If breast does not fall apart easily, cook for a half-hour more and check again.
  3. Soup Time: Time to make soup.
    1. Place into the pre-heated slow cooker the chicken, tomatoes, green chilies, chicken broth, yellow onion, garlic, and cumin.
    2. Cover and cook.
    3. Remember to check chicken half-way through cooking time if you plan on shredding the chicken breasts.
    4. At end of cooking time, turn heat down to WARM.
  4. Serve: Dish out the chicken soup and into each bowl or on top of each bowl, place a handful of tortilla strips. In addition, the following are great additions to the soup:
    1. avocado
    2. cilantro
    3. cheese
    4. squirt of lime
  5. Leftovers: Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

The soup had a fresher taste than previous versions made with canned ingredients.  However, fresh ingredients require the time to prep them, and the desire to do the prep work, if you are not feeling the urge, use canned ingredients.

FU! Slow Cooker: Pulled Pork and Slaw

Pulled Porkslaw 3I owe you a Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe and you shall have it soon. I know this because I picked up the fresh ingredients yesterday. However, I was in the mood for pulled pork, BBQ sauce and slaw sandwiches. Which is how we ended up here today.

Equipment

  • 7-quart slow cooker
  • food processor
  • bowls and pot
  • stove top

Ingredients 7-quart

Pork

  • 2 pounds pork
  • 1 cup chicken broth

BBQ Sauce

  • 1 cup ketchup
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

Slaw

  • 1/4 head cabbage
  • 1/4 head red cabbage
  • 1 or 2 carrots

All of the above

  • Buns or bread to serve on
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions Pork

  1. Preheat: Turn on slow cooker: LOW heat (5 to 8+ hour time) to preheat.
  2. Into the preheated slow cooker place the pork and chicken broth.
  3. Add any seasoning that you prefer for pork, definitely add salt and pepper.
  4. Cook until the pork falls apart in large chunks: amount of time varies with size of pork and slow cooker. I allow the pork to cook for four hours before I even check the first time.
  5. Pull pork out of the slow cooker and let cool.
  6. Using a fork or your hands, pull out the fat and discard. Shred the pork.
  7. Wash the crock.

Directions BBQ Sauce

This is a sweet BBQ sauce that Barb likes.

  1. Into a small pot place ketchup, vinegar, honey, and sugar.
  2. Over medium heat stir until sauce boils. Taste.
  3. Add more sugar if you want sweeter.
  4. Boil for a minute and remove from heat.

Pulled PorkslawDirections BBQ Pulled Pork

  1. Preheat: Turn on slow cooker: WARM.
  2. Put shredded pork into slow cooker.
  3. Pour BBQ sauce over pork.
  4. Mix. (photo is my shredded pork with BBQ sauce mixed in)

Directions Slaw

  1. Into the food processor, via the chute, with the slicing or shredding blade (how do you like your slaw?) add the cabbage, red cabbage, and carrot.
  2. Remove from food processor into a bowl.
  3. Mix together.
  4. Add slaw dressing-I have to admit that this time we used a jar dressing. 😦

Serve: Onto a bun place BBQ pulled pork, top with slaw and eat. Add cheese or other favored toppings.

Leftovers: Store any pork leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. Slaw lasts about a week in refrigerator.