No Cook Dinners [slow cooker gnocchi in creamy pork sauce]

Every weekend, before I leave for the grocery store, I ask my husband if there’s anything he wants for dinner that week.  He doesn’t usually have strong feelings any one way or the other, but occasionally, he’ll put in a request for one of his favorites.  The other day, he asked for risotto.  “Oh,” I told him, “We haven’t had that in a while because it involves standing at the stove.”

And that’s the truth.  What we’ve been eating involves me prepping something, and walking away while it cooks.  But the other reason we haven’t had risotto recently is because you can’t really freeze it for later.  I’m in the midst of stocking my freezer like there’s no tomorrow in preparation for a busy spring.

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I did add risotto to the meal plan for the week ahead when he asked.  I did not move slow cooker gnocchi in creamy pork sauce from that night’s menu.  It meets both of my current cooking criteria in that it is a dump and walk away dish, and can easily be frozen for later.  It feels like something fancy that you’d order from a restaurant, but it’s going to become a staple in our dinner rotation.  I doubled the gnocchi the original recipe calls for because it was too meat-heavy for me.

To make slow cooker gnocchi for an army, you will need:

  • 1 onion, small diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 lb. pork shoulder
  • 2, 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
  • pepper
  • 1 C heavy cream or half and half
  • 4 lbs. dried gnocchi*

Put the onion and garlic in the bottom of a large slow cooker (this is probably the most I’ve ever filled mine).  Place the pork shoulder, fat side up, on top.  Pour one can of crushed tomatoes on top of the pork, and sprinkle with pepper.  I used crushed tomatoes with basil, but if you’re using plan, this could be a great opportunity to add some dried basil and/or oregano.  Pour the other can of tomatoes on top.  Cook on low for about 10 hours.  At that point, stir in the cream and gnocchi, and cook another hour.  Serve with gobs of Parmesan cheese.

*It’s super important that you use dried, as opposed to fresh gnocchi, in order for it not to turn to mush.  My grocery store carries DeLallo dried gnocchi in the pasta aisle, and that’s what I used here.  I suppose if you could only find fresh gnocchi, you could cook it separately, and spoon the sauce on top.

 

On Impatience [chocolate peanut butter pop tarts]

The (Not So) New Girl has this whole Anniversa-birth-entine’s Day weekend of love every year, because she knows how to have a good time.  I can only hope to contribute in some small way, by bringing a sweet to the table.  Her request this year?  None other than the chocolate peanut butter pop tarts that showed up halfway through list week.

Happy to oblige, I set to making them on my Presidents’ Day off.*

IMG_9410.JPGThey don’t look too shabby, right?  But, dear readers, working with dough frustrates me to no end.  Knowing I wouldn’t have the patience to cut a stick and a half of butter into 3 1/2 C flour by hand, I went about mixing this in the food processor, as I’ve done with many other doughs of yore.  But I pulverized the butter so it completely disappeared, added too much water when it looked like things weren’t going to come together, and as such, completely ruined any chance I had of these turning out well.  The dough was tough, and hard to work with.  Sigh.  I’m so impatient in the kitchen.  I need a yogi to teach me calming mantras that will help me.  Because I so want to be the person who has the patience to bake with dough.  In the meantime, I have a box of puff pastry dough in my refrigerator for the next time I crave homemade Pop Tarts.

*What does it say about my life right now that as I went to pull the recipe for these back up, I typed chocolate peanut butter podcasts?

 

An Ode to Shutterbean [apricot glazed chicken]

The blogs I’ve read regularly over the years have shifted as I breeze in and out of life’s many stages.  But Shutterbean remains.  Tracy is one of my all time greats.  Her blog hits just the right mix of food and non-food related posts, and it’s ever so class-ily polished without seeming inauthentic.  And her site is probably the one with my highest pin-to-table ratio.  The recipes she puts out are the ones I want on my table, without fail, night after night.  Like this boozy milkshake from the other day, or her Ten Ways to use Annie’s Mac and Cheese, that continues to blow my mind.

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The most recent star at our weeknight table was apricot glazed chicken.*  To make it, all I had to do was whisk together a sauce, boil it for ten minutes, and pour it over some chicken thighs, before setting them in the oven for a chunk of time (my husband makes the rice in our family, so that was one less worry for me).  And what resulted was a dinner I know we’ll make again and again.

To make apricot chicken for 6, you will need:

  • about 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1, 13 oz. jar apricot jam (I used Bonne Maman)
  • 1 T honey
  • 1 T spicy mustard
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper.  Set in a baking dish and set aside.  In a small saucepan, combine all other ingredients, whisk, and bring to a boil, stirring consistently for ten minutes.  Pour over chicken, and bake for 45-50 minutes, basting occasionally with sauce.  (I could totally see myself adding scallions and/or toasted, sliced almonds on top if I’m feeling more cook-y.)

*In one of the first comments on the post, Tracy shares that to get her notoriously picky son to eat the chicken, she told him it was like “that Chinese orange chicken” he likes.

On Gals

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I talked to three people between the ages of 20-35 about their Valentine’s Day plans, and though their relationship statuses were many and varied, they all had one thing in common.  They had nothing at all planned for Valentine’s Day, and each had plans for Galentine’s Day.*  This was my first year celebrating; the idea came from Kim, who had been rewatching Parks and Rec during our unofficial winter break snowcation.  Kim.  Great move.

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We had brunch in Annapolis, sang along to every song that came on the restaurant’s soundtrack (I almost asked if it was a Spotify playlist I could start listening to), and laughed so loud that it made people stare. Also, there were hash browns and chocolate chip pancakes.

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This can’t just be a once a year thing.

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*It should be noted, I also got this awesome card in the mail from a long time bestie, K.Reza.

Baked Goods without Chocolate [raisin bran muffins]

I start every post with, “If you’ve been reading a while then you know,” don’t I?  But this blog has been around for what feels like ever, and so really, what new information am I sharing here day in and day out?

Dear readers,

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, then you probably already know, I don’t understand the point of baked goods if they don’t have chocolate.  Like, not at all.

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Which is why it shocked me that I have such a weakness when it comes to The (Not So) New Girl’s Raisin Bran muffins.  They’re amazing.  But they don’t have chocolate.  Only raisins.  Does not compute.  I’m a person who doesn’t believe in oatmeal raisin cookies, preferring instead to swap out those little dehydrated grapes for the good stuff.  But there’s something about these muffins.  They’re incredibly addictive.  And moist.  I know people have strong feelings about that word.  But in this case, I don’t know of a better descriptor.

Above all else, the best thing about Raisin Bran muffins is that YOU CAN KEEP THE BATTER IN THE REFRIGERATOR FOR A MONTH AFTER YOU PREP IT! It’s unreal.  Unreal, I tell you.  I have no idea whether or not you can do this with any and all muffin batters, but this is the one I’ve seen where the recipe straight up tells you it’s the way to go.  I made a dozen for a staff meeting on a recent morning, and have the rest of the batter sitting and waiting for mornings that need something special.

To make enough batter for 24 raisin bran muffins, you will need:

  • 2 eggs, beaten slightly
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 1/2 C flour
  • 1/2 C oil
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 pint buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1, 15 oz. box Raisin Bran
  • 3/4 tsp. vanilla

Mix ingredients and refrigerate batter for a day.  Grease muffin tins.  Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes.  (Refrigerate up to 1 month)

Those People with Butchers [slow cooker burgundy beef tips]

I remember reading The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook in high school, and Ina telling me to ask my butcher to cut meat in a certain way.  At that point in my cooking life, all I knew how to do was saute chicken breasts, and crumble sausage for dishes that closely resembled this.  And I wondered who these people are with butchers who will cut things exactly as asked.

I am those people!

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I have a little grocery store where I will go and chat it up with the butcher.  Which is also how Slow Cooker Burgundy Beef Tips (I know, I know, it doesn’t look great, but it tastes great) turned into some other kind of meat that the butcher told me would do in its place.  Thanks butcher.  I’m so glad you’re in my life.  This dump and forget it dinner, too.

To make beef tips for 6, you will need:

  • 2 lbs. beef sirloin tips, cut in 1 inch pieces (or whatever your butcher hands you when he says this will do because they don’t have beef tips)
  • 8 oz. sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 8 oz. sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • 1/2 C dry red wine
  • 1 envelope onion soup mix
  • pepper

Throw everything in the slow cooker and mix well.  Cover and cook on high for 4 hours, or until beef is tender, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.  Serve over egg noodles or rice.

Currently

IMG_9281 Making: our wedding album.  6.5 years later, I finally completed it, and clicked order (from Moleskine + Milk Books, per AGOMYR’s recommendation).  Cannot wait till it arrives, right around Valentine’s Day.
Cooking: absolutely nothing!  The Group text made me brunch and I am still working my way through the insane amount of leftovers.
Drinking: milk. Also milkshakes.
Reading: A Window Opens.  Which, if you follow @aglassofmilkreads, you know I started ages ago.
Wanting: more snow!
Looking: forward to spring, too, because I will be sitting and reading on the screened in porch for all of it.
Playing: Candy Crush (hides head).
Deciding: to bite the bullet and add Showtime to my Amazon Prime.
Wishing: spring would hurry up and get here so I can read on our screened in porch.
Enjoying: the dent I got to make in my to-do list with 6 bonus days off of work.
Waiting: for Wooden Nickels and Pops to come visit and bring me every single kind of everything from Carlino’s.
Liking: Spotify’s acoustic covers playlist.
Wondering: how my grocery bill ends up higher than I anticipate on every single trip.
Loving: that this blog has had posts up consistently again.
Pondering: little things I can do for people to make them smile (more on that soon).
Considering: that I sleep better when I haven’t watched Homeland right before bed.
Watching: Adele’s carpool karaoke again and again.  And really, just the part where James Corden sings and she goes, “That was amazing!”
Hoping: to do a couple of nice things for people in the next week or two.
Marveling: at NPR’s book concierge.  It’s new to me.  How did it take me so long to find?
Needing: to replace my Gardenia Passion.
Smelling: pizza.  But that’s because I have wanted to order it forever, and I haven’t, and now I notice it when I get gas (next to Dominos) and when I walk by the cafeteria after work.
Wearing: the same 5 outfits on rotation.  I need the weather to make a decision.  Is it going to be cold or warm?
Following: all the trailers and promotional stuff coming out for Fuller House.
Noticing: that setting a goal to read every day is working for now.
Knowing: the amount of clutter in my house right now is ridiculous and unacceptable.
Thinking: that I just don’t know if I can wait till August before I see the beach.
Feeling: warm fuzzies as we get closer to Valentine’s Day.
Admiring: this sweater Ali tipped me off to.
Sorting: laundry.  Endless laundry.
Buying: groceries to stock the freezer for the months ahead.
Getting: little gifts in the mail to some wonderful people.
Bookmarking: this list of podcasts.
Disliking: how long it’s been since I’ve made cupcakes.  I have everything I need to make these, but then I saw these….we’ll see.
Praying: I filled out our taxes right.  Why is it so complicated?  And I’m a smart lady!
Opening: so many forms.  Doctors.  Taxes.  Boring!
Giggling: at this quiz, that thinks I’m 13.
Snacking: on Raisin Bran muffins (recipe to come).
Coveting: these.
Wishing: for just one or two more snow days.
Helping: myself stay organized by making lists on lists.
Hearing: Carole King on repeat

Stationery Round Up

 

I’m in a season of life that has me writing at least one thank you note per day.  It’s a great place to be.  As such, I’m fresh out of my old stationery, and I’m almost fresh out of the new stationery I just ordered.  Which means I’ve sent over 100 thank you notes in under 3 months.  Which is totally awesome.  (Which reminds me of this, which was, also, awesome.)

And leaves me searching for my next batch of note cards.  Which would you choose?

Portrait Illustrated Flat Notes & Calling Cards

For something non-traditional, Rifle Paper Company’s personalized portrait stationery

Debossed Panel Informal Notes - Square

For a bargain, American Stationery’s debossed panel notes (I also love these as a more informal option)

For a trendy, gold look, Linda and Harriet for Paperless Post’s With Hugs and Kisses cards

For the preppiest stationery in town, Boatman Geller’s anything

For the most classic, Crane & Co’s ecru note cards

(Side note–I heard about this book on The Awesome Etiquette Podcast and I’m intrigued. I wasn’t super into it just by looking on Amazon, but the reviews seem higher than usual.)

 

You Can Never Have Enough Mac and Cheeses Up Your Sleeve [slow cooker mac and cheese]

To everything there is a season.

There is a time and a place for Wooden Nickel’s macaroni and cheese.  It’s the classic, and it’s perfect, and if you for some weird reason, deem it necessary to only have one macaroni and cheese recipe in your arsenal, let it be this one.

But then there is baking sheet macaroni and cheese, because sometimes you need mac and cheese quickly, and you need to feed an army.

And then there’s slow cooker macaroni and cheese because sometimes you don’t have time to deal with dinner.

In keeping with CV(D)’s request to showcase these glorious recipes I dump in the slow cooker, and promptly ignore, I did make The Kitchn’s macaroni and cheese.  AGOMYR had made it, and liked it but didn’t love it.  Which gave me pause.  But ultimately, no great mac and cheese recipe should go untested, so I had to give it a try.

IMG_9306First things first, it is completely un-photogenic.  So please accept this shot of my kitchen counter with a bowl on it, instead of the awful one of the slow cooker I took closer up.

Second, it’s really not bad at all.  AGOMYR noticed a bit of a graininess to it, and I almost wonder (and here I’m about to say something I never thought I’d say), did it have too much cheese?  It had 3 1/2 C, and I couldn’t move off the couch for about 2 hours after eating it.  It’s like eating a brick of cheddar.  Which isn’t bad.  And is something I’ve probably come scarily close to doing before.  But it just seemed a bit much.  Next time (yes, there will still be a next time), I’m ditching the half cup they want you to throw on top at the end.

The beauty of this particular recipe, of course, is that you dump everything in the slow cooker and walk away.  The Kitchn suggests you return with 10-30 minutes left of cooking to sprinkle a layer of cheese on top, but we already know I’m skipping that next time.  And with a call for that much cheese, you can use up whatever is left in the fridge.  For me that was some Parmesan, mozzarella, and cheddar.  Anything that melts easily (the aforementioned cheeses, or fontina, or gruyere if you’re fancy) will be just fine here.

To make slow cooker macaroni for 6, you will need:

3 1/2 cups shredded cheese
1 pound elbow macaroni
2 cups 2% or whole milk
2 (12-ounce) cans evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard, or 1 teaspoon dijon or yellow mustard (I didn’t have that and used cayenne instead because it’s what I use to complement the cheddar in these)

  1. Combine ingredients in the slow cooker: Set 1/2 cup of grated cheese aside, then combine the rest of the ingredients in the slow cooker. Stir to make sure that everything is evenly distributed and the pasta is evenly coated. Smooth the top so the pasta is submerged.
  2. Cover and cook on LOW for 2 to 4 hours*: The pasta is done when it has absorbed all of the liquid and the pasta is soft. It will look soupy up until the last half-hour of cooking, and then it will quickly finish cooking and absorb all the liquid. If this is your first time making this recipe, start checking the pasta after about 2 hours, then continue checking it every 20 to 30 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. Every slow cooker will be slightly different; once you’ve made this recipe once, make a note of the cooking time for future reference.
  3. Sprinkle the reserved cheese over the pasta in the last 10 to 30 minutes of cooking. Cook until the cheese has melted or the rest of the liquid is absorbed into the pasta.
  4. Serve: Serve this macaroni and cheese straight from the slow cooker. Leftovers will keep refrigerated for up to 5 days.

*I have an All Clad slow cooker, and my macaroni was perfectly done after just 2 hours.