Total Pageviews

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Week 14 : Spinach Pesto Lasagna

12 lasagna noodles, uncooked
26 ou pasta sauce
8 ou pesto sauce
24 ou cottage cheese
12 ou spinach
1 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
16 ou mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 cup water

Spread enough pasta sauce on the bottom of the Crock Pot to coat entire surface.  Begin layering lasagna:  4 noodles, pesto sauce, pasta sauce, cottage cheese, spinach, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.  Repeat this 1-2 more times until pot is full.  (I started with two layers total and let it cook for 1 hour.  Then I added another layer.)  Shake water in empty pasta sauce jar and pour over top.  Cook on LOW for 4-5 hours.

First, let's talk about the noodle placement.  I had to play around with this for a bit to make them fit properly.  Basically, I came up with two whole noodles across the length of the pot.  Break two noodles in half and overlap them on the sides. (See pic below!!)  Easy enough.  I was a bit skeptical about putting uncooked pasta noodles in the pot, but they turned out perfect.  Next, the layers.  The spinach takes up a lot of room so the pot fills up quickly.  After two layers, I was full!  But, we all know what happens when you use fresh spinach.  You start with what looks like more than enough to feed a small army and end with enough to feed one or two soldiers!  Needless to say, after one hour of cooking, the lasagna had decreased in size and only filled up half the pot.  Perfect- add another layer!  (It is breaking the cardinal rule of Crock Pot cooking to lift the lid during cooking- it adds 20 minutes to cook time every time you can't resist!  However, this is worth the 20 minutes!)  I sprinkled some dried parsley on top just to make it look prettier.  (I also snapped a before pic because I thought it looked delicious and I know what cooked spinach looks like!) 

I came up with this combo after reading many different versions of this recipe.  It was scrumptious!!  I brought it to, yet another, ER potluck and the entire dish was empty!  I served it with the fam's secret marinated green olive salad (I could be disowned for giving the recipe away, but there are many similar online).  I am wanting to try some new combos with it though now that I know how great the basic was.  Mushrooms, sliced Italian sausage, sun dried tomatoes, olives....

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Week 13 : Split Pea Soup, Vegan Style

1 1/2 cup dried peas
6 cups vegetable broth
2 cloves garlic
2 stalks + 3 in piece celery
handful of baby carrots, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
3 whole cloves
1/2 tea salt
1/2 tea pepper
1/2 tea cumin
1/2 tea curry powder
1 small bay leaf
1 Tbs brown sugar

Poke cloves into 3 inch piece of celery stalk.  Place all ingredients, except brown sugar, in Crock Pot.  Cook on LOW for 12-15 hours.  Remove celery with cloves and bay leaf.  Add brown sugar.  Depending on what consistency you want, place soup in food processor and pulse a few times.  Soup should be thick and slightly chunky.

What is this Vegan recipe all about?  As a sacrifice for Lent, my friend has chosen to become vegan and asked for a little help.  Now, I gave up chocolate and it is going to be a long enough 40 days and 40 nights.  I figured he was in for a tough time too, but I had no idea until I actually started looking for vegan recipes.  Imagine going that long without a piece of bacon or slice of cheese!!  Or a dollop of sour cream!!  This was my first attempt of intentionally cooking vegan.  Not sure its my thing.  The soup tastes good, but its a little different for my taste.  It didn't so much taste like pea soup, but more of a sweet carrot soup.  And it's not very pretty- notice the carefully placed croutons in the pic to make it fancier!  Not sure this is a winner in my book.  But rest assured, no animals were harmed in the making of this recipe.  In fact, my dog even got a few baby carrots out of it!

*Note: After giving this more time, I am actually really enjoying it!  I would probably make this again.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


So it's no surprise that I have a lot of friends and family that have become my followers- and that is, indeed, very special and exciting to me.  But what is also very exciting is to have followers I don't even know!  This post is dedicated to those who I have become "blog buddies" with simply because we have one thing in common- we love to cook and want to share our ideas with you.  A link to each of these blogs can be found on the right hand column of my blog.  These buddies span the States and I want to introduce you to them!  Let's go East to West!

So, I'm not sure who lives further east, so I will start with the one I've known the longest.  Christopher N. is a dear friend from Cincinnati, Ohio.  Chris and his friend Amy decided to share their passion for cakes, and all things cake (including a video by the band Cake- this took me a while to get!).  They cleverly named their blog Gateau Chateau (I believe the literal translation for this is Cake House or Castle).  Visit this for some tasty treats and ideas.  And I am sure they would be happy to answer any cake related questions you have.

Next, we will travel a little south, to Florida.  Learn, Laugh, Cook is a blog written by Mandy, who visits the humorous side of cooking.  She even has a cookbook that bears the same title!  This week?  Ugly Foods That Taste Fabulous.  (Friday's segment featured a recipe submitted by Yours Truly!)    So, if you want a giggle while you are trying to prepare your dinner, click on her link and read through her trials in the kitchen!

Staying south, we will visit Chris in Arkansas.  Chris is a self proclaimed biker chick who also happens to enjoy spending time in her kitchen.  Her blog is entitled "Cooking with Kick."  Not only are her recipes tasty, they are so easy to follow.  As she says- if you can boil water, you can make her recipes.  I made one of her recipes the other night and it is to die for!  Chris wants to share her talent of Southern Cooking with those of us in the rest of the country!

Ahhhh, my home state, Colorado, and home to a lovely friend, and neighbor while I was growing up, Robin.  Robin played a big part in this blog's existence by starting her own blog first.  And I would like to thank her for that encouragement!!  Random Kitchen Adventures with Robin details just that- Robin's lessons from cooking.  Robin features her favorite recipes, and I have a sneaky suspicion her kids' favorite recipes.  Again, these recipes are very detailed and easy to follow and are accompanied by beautiful pics!  Robin's recipes are true crowd pleasers- I even gave her homemade hot cocoa out for Christmas presents this year!

And last, only geographically speaking, is Marla, from sunny California.  Making Memories in the Kitchen, is going to follow Marla and her daughters through the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook- a la "Julie and Julia" style.  This blog is just getting up and running and the first adventure is already posted!

So coast to coast I have followers and supporters!  It's nice to give them a little support back!  So, after you are finished with your Crock Pot for the week, visit one of these sites and enjoy what my new bloggin' buddies have to offer!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Week 12 : Corned Beef and Sauerkraut

1 corned beef brisket
1 large jar of sauerkraut
several small red potatoes

Spread sauerkraut along the bottom of your slow cooker.  Place corned beef on top; sprinkle spice packet over top of beef.  Insert red potatoes around the beef in the pot- about 6-8 depending how big they are.  Cook on LOW for 7-8 hours.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  What is a St. Patty's Day without a corned beef recipe?  Traditionally, I make corned beef and cabbage in the Crock Pot every year.  And, traditionally, every year, I throw 7/8 of a head of cabbage away.  I don't like plain cabbage and I don't want to pretend to like it for one week a year any more.  So, this year I am starting my own tradition!  (However, if you would like the cabbage instead, the recipe is the same except you need to add some water to the pot and the cabbage goes on top.)  Now, it is always tempting to cut that layer of fat off of the brisket.  Resist the urge!  I have done it in the past and the meat turns out dry.  Whenever I cook a brisket, roast, whatever, that has that layer of fat on it, I always put the meat in with the fat side UP.  This allows the juices to seep into the meat while cooking, but also leaves that layer in place on the top.  When the meat is finished cooking, it makes it easy to just scrape off that layer and discard.  Another reason for the change in tradition?  REUBEN SANDWICHES!!!  A perfect way to use up the leftovers!  Simply spread some Thousand Island dressing on some dark rye toast, place a piece of Swiss cheese, and pile on the corned beef and sauerkraut!  Yum!

This is also the trial week for the slow cooker liners.  I was a little nervous about these at first.  The plastic is a little stiff and doesn't fit snugly to the pot.  This doesn't allow the lid to create a good seal at first and I was worried too much heat would escape, and therefore lengthen the cooking time.  Not the case at all.  As the liner heats up, it becomes more pliable and the lid tightens up.  The best part?  No soaking or scrubbing of the pot for me now!

So after you eat your bowl of Lucky Charms on March 17th, throw one of these in your Crock Pot for a delicious dinner to honor the Patron Saint of Ireland!  (And be sure to finish it off with a glass of Irish whiskey!)

Saturday, March 12, 2011


I thought I would take some time out from Crock Potting to give a few morsels of information.  Let me first start by thanking each and every one of you for your overwhelming support during my adventure!  As of right now, I have an amazing 52 followers and 1,905 pageviews!!  I know I have many silent followers as well, as I have been getting compliments all around.  I have been viewed in 9 countries:  United States (of course), Canada, Russia, United Kingdom, Kenya, Mexico, Malaysia, Germany and exciting!  I never dreamed I would be viewed from across the globe.

And speaking of my followers...many of you have asked if there is a way to get my new post updates by email.  Ask, and you shall receive, maybe.  I have added a new feature to my blog.  In the upper right hand corner above the followers list, there is a new link titled "Subscribe to The Crock Pot Challenge by email".  Simply click on the link and input your email address.  You will be sent a confirmation email to that address.  Open this email and click on the link.  That's it!  Hopefully this will work, as I can't sign up for it myself and am just experimenting.  If you do choose to sign up for this, please leave a comment below and let me know how it is working out.  If it isn't working, I will take it away.

Lastly, I would like to thank Lydia for being so thoughtful and bringing me a box of a helpful product she found.  Check out the pic above of the slow cooker liners.  My friend Robin, of  "Random Kitchen Adventures with Robin" fame (check out her blog too!), first told me about these, but I hadn't gotten around to picking them up yet.  These are designed to fit into slow cookers up to 6.5 quarts.  Think your dish will be pretty tough to scrub out?  Simply line your pot with this and your clean up will be a snap.  I am trying it out with this week's recipe so I will let you know I think.  I am sure for recipes like the Fruit Cobbler this will be a life saver!! 

I hope everyone is having as much fun with this blog as I am and I hope you continue cooking with me!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Week 11: Hot Buttered Rum

2 quarts warm water
1/2 cup butter
2 cups brown sugar
3 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
2 cups rum

Combine all ingredients, except rum, in Crock Pot.  Cook on low for 4-5 hours.  Add rum.  Ladle into mugs, top with whipped cream and nutmeg.

Let's first start by welcoming a new Crock Pot to the brigade!  I decided that since I was trying so many different things, I needed another pot.  The one I had is awesome, but it's huge.  This new pot is only 4 quarts and will be perfect for recipes like this one, dips, and desserts.

Now onto the recipe....OH MY GOODNESS!  This is delicious.  (That's an understatement.)  This treat is so warm and smooth that you might forget there is a lot of alcohol in it!  When you first turn it on, the butter starts to melt and makes a strange film over the top.  I kept the pot heating up and occasionally would run a whisk through.  It turned out fine in the end.  In fact, the only problem with this recipe is that we ran out so quickly.  (Maybe I should have used my other huge Crock Pot!)

Finally, thanks to Christopher N. for referring me to this recipe.  And if you haven't already, visit his blog- Gateau Chateau, the place for everything CAKE!!!!  The link can be found to the right under my lists of blogs I follow.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Week 10: Chile Rellenos, Kinda

4-6 fresh green chilies
8 ou. Monterey Jack cheese
8 ou. cheddar cheese
1 can stewed tomatoes
4 eggs
3/4 cup evaporated milk
2 T flour

Slice chilies into thin strips.  Spray pot with non-stick cooking spray.  Layer shredded cheeses and chilies in pot.  Pour tomatoes over top.  In a separate bowl, beat eggs, milk and flour together.  Pour over casserole.  Cook on LOW 4-5 hours, HIGH 2-3.

A special thanks to Rachel F. for providing me with the fresh, roadside stand Colorado green chilies the first week of March!  And also for the tips about how to handle them.  I've never actually used the fresh ones and she told me tips about rinsing and slicing them.  She suggests washing your hands with vegetable oil after touching them if they are making your fingers burn or smell.  (I cheated and just used gloves!)  Also told me that they will get hotter the longer they sit- days 3 and 4 of leftovers may get a bit warm!  This recipe originally called for canned whole green chilies, so if you think the fresh will be too hot, or you can't get fresh now, the cans will be fine.  This recipe also called for the low fat version of both the cheeses.  I feel that the low fat cheese never melts quite right, so I used the regular.  After I closed the lid and started everything cooking, I thought about adding a can of corn to the mixture- but it was too late, so maybe next time.  This came out the consistency of a fluffy omelet and is very tasty.  However, I would think about using a can of Rotel tomatoes or a small jar of salsa instead of plain stewed tomatoes.  Serve with refried beans, black beans, guacamole, sour cream, Spanish rice....

The original recipe I worked off of this week can be found in the Fix-It and Forget-It slow cooker cookbook.