Food



Top 5 Healthy Crock Pot Recipes for Busy Moms

Crock-Pot

Today on the Quiltcast, Amy and I talked about how we balance our mom jobs and our day jobs–and one of the tools we mentioned is our slow cooker! Both of us love to use our crock pot to get dinner done–in fact, mine is going upstairs right now (See below, Kathy’s White Bean and Chicken Chili). Using a crock-pot, of course, gives me a little more time for this:

August-Encourage-3

For me, it is important when I am feeding my family that the meal not only be fast and not too fussy, but that it be nutritious, real food too. And, as we discussed on the Quiltcast, I have a pretty bad time with MSG and preservatives, so that’s just another reason I don’t like to add canned soups, etc, to our meals.

Without further ado, these are 5 Crock Pot meals that I use on a regular basis in my home. Because we’re all busy, but we all want to be healthy. Throw one in your slow cooker tomorrow morning, and have dinner done before breakfast is over!

xoxo

April

Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches:

These are so good! We get crusty rolls and broil some cheese and italian spices  on top before making our sandwiches. Yum! I use the recipe here to make my own Onion Soup Mix without bouillon or MSG.

Split Pea Soup:

This is a perfect comfort food, and a great way to use leftover ham. Even better, my kids love it! If you have fussy children who don’t like texture, you may want to leave the ham out until the veggies are all cooked, remove the bay leaf, and puree the soup in a high speed blender before adding the ham.

Harvest Ham and Root Veggies:

This is such a simple recipe, I can’t even find a link for it. Here goes: Use a 1 to 1 1/2 pound boneless ham, 6 carrots, and 3 medium sweet potatoes. Peel potatoes and carrots, and quarter or cut into bite size pieces. Place carrots and potatoes on the bottom of the crock pot. Place ham on top of vegetables. Pour 1 cup of pure maple syrup (not extract, and not waffle syrup) over ham and vegetables. Cover, cook on LOW for 6-8 hours. (Original recipe found in Crock-Pot Slow Cooker Best-Loved Recipes.)

Kathy’s White Bean and Chicken Chili:

This is one of those “Throw it all in and forget about it” kind of crock pot meals. Just the kind I like. On the beans, I have usually done this with canned beans, but it’s so much more delicious with dried beans. See the link below if you haven’t ever used dried beans.

Place 3 chicken breasts, 1 can of black beans, 1 can of great northern beans, 2 cups of salsa, 1 cup of diced tomatoes, and 2 tsp of cumin in greased crock pot. Cook on low heat 6-9 hours. Break chicken into bite sized pieces with two forks before serving.

Black Beans (Side or Soup):

I confess, I really love me a meatless meal. The nice part about this recipe is that with a little tweak or two, you can change a pot of beans from a side into a soup. So, if you prefer some meat with your beans, use this as a side recipe. If, like me, you’d like to make these beans the star of the show, well, follow the soup recipe or use them as a topping for some rice. These recipes are both stovetop variety, but can easily be put in a crock pot as well for a few hours, and has the advantage of being a little faster than a large cut of meat that needs to cook all the way through. I use organic beef broth if I’m making the soup, and use dried beans, instead of canned beans. Here’s a great link on using dried beans.



Can’t wait. (Plus a giveaway.)

They’re starting to turn red.

Blushy orange.

Plump and ripe.

Full of surprises.

I can’t wait.

Speaking of surprises, this plant (shown above) definitely surprised me. I had never seen or expected these blossoms. So, since you’re all so clever, how about you tell me what you think they are? Everyone who comments with a guess will be entered to win something fun from my stash–this is impromptu so I don’t know exactly what the prize is yet, but it will be of the fabricy variety. So tell me! Do you know what this plant is?

Good luck, and here’s to hoping you have beautiful ripening things in your gardens, too.



Recipe: Easy Raspberry Freezer Jam

Remember how I said I was going to have too many raspberries? The time has come. In fact, I think there are still some out on the bushes now, probably drying up. Honestly, I picked as many as I could without evaporating. It’s HOT out there.

Anyway, I got a LOT.

And I had just learned how to make freezer jam from a house party my sister threw. It was easy. And yummy.

So easy in fact, that I decided it would be the perfect “activity” for my kids to do.

Turns out making freezer jam utilizes several skills that come quite naturally to three-year-olds.

Mashing things, for example.

Stirring something for only 3 minutes. (Even they have that long of an attention span).

Sneaking tastes on the side.

And smearing it on any piece of bread that will stand still long enough. Even if it is a hot dog bun.

Yum.

And all I had to do was pour it in the jars.

They even put the lids on and took them out to the freezer for me. (This was one of several batches.)

Raspberry Freezer Jam

2 T Ball Realfruit instant pectin

2/3 cups sugar

1 2/3 cups mashed raspberries

Mix the sugar and pectin thoroughly.

Add in the mashed berries.

Stir for 3 minutes.

Put in clean jars.

Put the lid on.

Freeze.

Doesn’t get easier.

 



Canning.

There’s something about bottling your own food that is just so incredible to me.

I mean, I understand why it works, and the science behind it all, but it still continues to amaze me that I can put in a day’s work in the early fall, and have home grown peaches in the middle of January. Or fresh salsa in February. Applesauce in March.

You get the idea.

So, each year about this time, I start collecting my gear from the downstairs storage room, and begin planning what I will “can.”

This year? Peaches, applesauce, salsa, pears, and spaghetti sauce. Not pickles. Probably never pickles ever again.

I tried doing pickles once. It was epic. I had boxes and boxes of cucumbers from our co-op garden, and I was SO ambitious. I was determined to make the best pickles any of us had ever tasted.  They turned out so badly that I don’t even want to attempt smelling pickling spice for fear of severe nausea. Some spoiled entirely. Others, smelled delicious but were so mushy it was horrible. Every one of our 20+ quarts had something tragically wrong. Sweet Jacob tried to work his way through them, only throwing away the very worst, but even he was relieved when I’d had enough and dumped every single bottle down the garbage disposal.

Like I said. I will probably never do pickles again.

Probably.

It still bothers me that I failed so badly at them when all my other canning exploits have gone rather well.

Maybe I’ll try them another time.

Probably not.

Anyway, back to what I WILL be doing this year. I started peaches today. Just sliced, nothing fancy. Salsa and spaghetti sauce next week. Pears after that. Applesauce last, of course. That’s when I can get several boxes of the best apples.

It feels so good to know that my kids are eating apples from farms right here in our little city. Tomatoes from our own backyard.

I just love canning. Incredible, I tell you.