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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Week 35 : Fruity Chops

1 jar peach/mango salsa
2 apples, chunked
2 peaches, chunked
2 cups apple juice
1 cup water
2 Tbs cinnamon
pork chops

In Crock Pot, stir together salsa, juice, water and cinnamon.  Place pork chops in pot.  Arrange apples and pears over the top.  Cook on LOW 8 hours.

Well, I thought I would be seasonal and use those fresh Palisades peaches that everyone is running to the store to buy out.  I think I just might give up using pork chops/roasts in the Crock Pot.  The flavor in this one is delicious, but the chops were very dry.  Perhaps a little less time in the slow cooker would've produced a different outcome.  Another pork flop!  I'm not really a pork chop girl to start with and this recipe didn't help the cause! 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Week 34 : Cincinnati Chili

2 lbs lean ground beef
4-5 cups water 
15 ou tomato sauce
2 Tbs vinegar
2 tea Worcestershire sauce
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 ou unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup chili powder
1 1/2 tea salt
1 tea cumin
1 tea cinnamon
1/2 tea cayenne pepper
5 whole cloves
5 whole allspice berries
1 bay leaf

Place the ground beef in a large pot and pour the water over.  Bring to a boil and whisk the ground beef until fine and thoroughly cooked.  Place in the refrigerator until cool and the fat has separated.  Skim fat off the top.  Pour beef and water into slow cooker.  Place remaining ingredients in the Crock Pot.  Cook on LOW about 4 hours.

This sounds strange doesn't it?  Well, let me educate you a bit about Cincinnati Style Chili.  In Cincinnati, they have chili parlors dedicated to just this dish.  Served over spaghetti, hot dogs, french fries, even in burritos!  Let's talk about the lingo.  Start with the 3-way: spaghetti, chili and cheese.  Move up to the 4-way: spaghetti, chili, cheese and kidney beans OR diced onions.  Last is the 5-way: spaghetti, chili, cheese, beans AND onions.  My personal favorite is the 4 way with beans.  A Cheese Coney is also always a good way to go.  Bun, hot dog, mustard, chili, cheese and onions.  All of these go nicely with a side of oyster crackers.  Certainly a trip to Skyline Chili is a must when visiting Cincinnati.  

Keep in mind that this is not like your usual chili.  Think of it as a cross between chili and spaghetti sauce.  It is meant to be a little thin.  If you feel this recipe comes out too thin, just give it a try first.  If it is still too thin for your taste, just bring to a boil and let some of the water cook off.  I actually thought it came out a bit thin.  I ended up cooking on LOW for 3 hours and then cracking the lid open and finishing it on HIGH for 1 hour.

A few tips.  The first step is crucial for the consistency of the chili.  Place the beef in the cool water and just start whisking it as it heats up.  The beef will just fall apart and become real fine.  It is done cooking when it is no longer pink.  If you want to save time, I suppose you could just use the meat right after it is done cooking, but be aware that it might turn out greasy.  I think it might also work to just drain the beef and use fresh water in the pot, but the water won't have the beef flavor.  If the beef sits long enough in the water, it will get that nasty white film of grease on the top that you can just pull right off.  The original recipe says to let it sit over night, but I let it sit about 4 hours and it was fine.  I used the whole allspice and whole cloves for this recipe because I had them.  I'm sure you could substitute about 1 tea of ground for each of these spices.  Also, it had a bit too much heat to it, so maybe use just half the amount of cayenne pepper.  If you decide to go for a 3- or a 4- way, add the kidney beans (one or two cans of drained and rinsed) about 15 minutes before end of cooking time.  Most people sprinkle raw onions on top, but if you prefer cooked, also add these close to end.  At Skyline, the cheddar cheese they use is the best around!  It is grated so finely and they place mounds of it on every dish.  Just for sentimental reasons, it is worth it to me to buy a chunk of cheddar and grate it very thin.  And pile it on!!!

Normally, I buy the packets of Cincinnati Chili spices from Kroger in Ohio.  A few years ago, I made the recipe from the packet in the Crock Pot, since it takes 2-3 hours on the stove anyways and I wasn't able to stay and watch the stove.  But, these packets are not available to all and I feel this culinary experience needs to be shared with all!  I was thrilled when I came across a recipe that tasted so much like the real thing.  I know that this is a bit more time consuming than most recipes, but trust me, it is definitely worth the effort!  Hopefully you will make and enjoy this as much as I do!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Week 33 : Nick's Spicy Thighs

1 med onion, cut into 1/4 inch thick rounds
8 medium Yukon gold potatoes
8 chicken thighs
1 cup cilantro leaves, loosely packed
10 medium tomatillos, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
1 small can jalapenos, drained, reserving 2 Tbs juice

Spread the onion on the bottom of the slow cooker.  Sprinkle with salt.  Layer potatoes, chicken, cilantro and tomatillos, sprinkling each layer with salt.  Top with jalapenos and drizzle with reserved juice.  Cook on LOW 8 hours or HIGH 6 hours.

Let me first start by thanking Nick R. for his contribution of this recipe.  And also, for being a good sport as we picked the name.  Nick opted out of naming the recipe for me, so he put his trust in a jury of his peers and this is what we got.  Unfortunately, Nick would not give us a picture of his actual thighs for the blog this week!

This recipe has such a different flavor for me.  Very good.  I have never even bought tomatillos before and got one of those looks from the produce guy when I asked what they looked like!  I wish I had put more in the pot because cooked like this they are delicious.  I also have never used chicken thighs.  The original recipe called for skinless thighs, but I couldn't find any at the store.  I am all about throwing everything in the pot and going, so I did not remove the skin prior to cooking the thighs.  However, the skin peels off very easily after cooking.  I also have never used Yukon Gold potatoes before.  Oh my!  These potatoes have a noticeably different taste.  Very creamy.  The original recipe also only called for 4 large potatoes.  I put lots in since I figured 8 thighs would last quite a few meals.  WRONG!  Figure on at least 2 thighs per serving, which makes 4 potatoes more sense!  Which brings me to my next point.  Only 4 servings for this recipe.  Most of the recipes on here make enough to feed a small army, but not this one.  If you are looking to increase the number of servings, I would use chicken breasts and add as many as you want to the pot- making sure, of course, that they don't dry out.  The recipe also called for the canned jalapeno slices.  All I could find was the diced and they worked just fine.  However, if you are looking for heat, you are not going to get it with this recipe.  As with the white chicken chili I made, I was expecting it to be spicier with the jalapenos.  I am wondering if cooking them a long time takes the heat out of them.  I brought a sample to a friend last night and we think this could be the case.  So, my suggestion would be to use fresh jalapenos and add them later, closer to the end of the cooking time.  Overall, I would definitely make this recipe again! 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Week 32 : Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

1 lb box of macaroni
5 Tbs butter
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
1 can cheese soup
8 ou sour cream
1 1/4 cups whole milk
3 eggs, beaten
3/4 tea dry mustard
3/4 tea pepper
1/2 tea salt

Boil macaroni until tender.  Over low heat, melt butter and cheddar cheese in a saucepan.  Add cheese/butter mixture to Crock Pot.  Add all additional ingredients and stir well.  Add cooked macaroni and stir.  Cook on LOW for 1 and 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

So, after last week's terrible display, I decided to turn to the kitchen goddess who never disappoints....Paula Deen!  I was sure to have a winner with this recipe!  Who doesn't love home made mac n' cheese!?!?  In the summer time, I like to use my oven as little as possible, so this is a good alternative to my usual baked home made macaroni and cheese.  The only downside is that you don't get the crispy, crunchy top in the casserole dish!  But, I feel this is a good trade-off.  I used rotini noodles instead of elbow macaroni because, well, they're more fun!  I don't know if I would melt the cheese and the butter together in the saucepan again though.  It came out a saucepan of melted butter and a clump of cheesy goo.  I would suggest melting the butter in the microwave and then just adding 2 cups of shredded cheese to the Crock Pot and let it melt as the pot heats up.  I kind of feel like this was a wasted step and another dish to clean!  After a little heat and a little stirring, the cheese did melt evenly into everything.  I also don't think it takes 3 hours to cook, as the original recipe calls for.  I have had it on for an hour and a half (maybe only 20 minutes longer than my baked version!) and it is perfect now.  Any longer and it might start burning to the side of the pot.  And boy was I right about this recipe!  This is the creamiest mac n' cheese I have ever had.  Be creative!  Add some fresh broccoli during the last 10 minutes of cooking or stir in some cooked chicken.  Thanks to Paula for saving me this week!  Now that your side dish is made, turn on the grill outside for the rest of dinner and enjoy eating on your cool evening patio!