A Very Basic Fall [cream of chicken noodle soup]

Do I get points for being over three weeks into fall and not having worn leggings as pants yet?  Hope so.

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Here are the basic fall trends I’m into and not:

Pumpkin:  No thanks.  I make one pumpkin dessert a year (currently eyeing this one) + pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving.  That’s it.  That’s all I need.  Hold the pumpkin spice lattes, please.

Plaid:  In theory, I am all about plaid.  In practice, I have, and thus, wear, almost none.

Duck boots:  Yes, yes, yes, and yes.  I love them, they are perfect for the rain, and they are one of my favorite fall classics.

Apple picking:  This is another one where in theory, it’s a great idea.  In practice, it’s a long day that involves lots of schedule coordinating, and lots of apples.  If I had a huge family to feed, though, I’d be swimming in this applesauce, and living off of this cake with our hypothetical harvest.

Soup:  Bring me all the soup.  After surviving the most blazing parts of the summer, in which all one can hope for is a trip to the beach or the pool, I am always so anxious to get to soup season.  I always make it way to preemptively early, in hopes that maybe my doing so will kick mother nature into gear, and bring us cooler temperatures and crisp fall air.  If you’re doing fall right, at least in my book, you’ve got a pot of soup, stew, or chili on the stove at least once, if not twice, each week.  It’s the epitome of comfort.  Friends of ours did a different soup every week last fall and winter, and I’m thinking it could be our family’s next ritual.  As always, stay tuned, dear readers.

My most recent foray was (surprise!) a slow cooker soup.  Slow cooker cream of chicken noodle soup, to be precise.  Your table needs this.  It’s all the comfort of chicken noodle plus the richness of cream.

To make soup for 6 (except the way I kept eating more, it would probably only feed 4), you will need:

3 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
5 cups chicken broth/stock
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 can corn, drained
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1/4 cup evaporated milk
8 oz homestyle dry egg noodles
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a skillet. Add onions, carrots, and celery and saute for about 4-5 minutes or until veggies are just soft. In a slow cooker combine chicken stock, cream of chicken soups, and evaporated milk. Whisk. Add cooked chicken, sauteed vegetables, and corn. Cook on low for 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Add noodles, cover, and turn slower cooker to high. Cook on high for 1 more hour. Serve with bread or crackers.

I’m Rolling My Eyes at Myself [slow cooker ketchup]

I don’t want to say that I’m a food snob.  I try really hard not to be.  But this one time, I needed ketchup, and I was at Whole Foods, and they don’t have non-snobby ketchup.  So I bought snobby ketchup.  And when I say snobby, I mean some organic ketchup that had way more flavor than regular ketchup, and I didn’t put it on regular old hot dogs, but I put it on things where I could really taste the difference and where it felt fancy.

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And then my husband and I were perusing The Kitchn’s slow cooker archives, and we saw slow cooker ketchup.  He got really excited about it, and he gets really excited about so few things, so we added it to the menu.

It’s truly amazing.

And now I’m going to be that person who only uses the fancy homemade ketchup that she made.

I put it on tater tots, so you know I’m not that fancy.  Tater tots are the best vehicle for ketchup.

To make a batch, you will need:

  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • Pinch ground allspice

Put everything in the slow cooker.  Cook it on low, uncovered, for 6 or 7 hours.  Puree everything with an immersion blender or food processor.  (I let mine cool completely before I processed, but you don’t have to.)  Serve with whatever makes your heart sing.  People put ketchup on the strangest foods.

A Roast Fit for The Times [mississippi roast]

I might have hit the slow cooker dinner Holy Grail. I recently lamented that seemingly every slow cooker recipe I find is some variation of chicken and cream of mushroom soup. Enough with the cream of mushroom soup.

Cathy touted this roast as one of her family’s favorite dinners, and I pinned it immediately. I put it on our family’s weekly meal plan, and didn’t think too much about it. The night came to make it, we fell appropriately in love, and when I set about to write this post, I found out about a zillion other people have too.


So many people, in fact, that The New York Times wrote about it. Mississippi roast has an utterly charming backstory, as all the best recipes do.

This particular recipe is Ms. Chapman’s original, artificial mixes and all. The paper has a more homemade version that skips the MSG, but right now, I just can’t be bothered.

To make Mississippi Roast for 6, you will need:

  • 3 lbs chuck roast
  • 1 packet ranch dressing mix
  • 1 packet au jus gravy mix
  • 6 T butter
  • 1/4 C water
  • 5-6 pepperoncini

Pour water in the bottom of the slow cooker. Add roast and sprinkle the two mixes on top. Place butter and peppers in slow cooker and cook on low 8 hours. Use two forks to shred beef, and serve hot.

The Story Behind the Menu – Labor Day Weekend [slow cooker carnitas tacos with salsa]

Who: Friends who couldn’t let go of summer.

What: A Labor Day barbecue that wasn’t quite be a barbecue because our patio isn’t finished.

When: Saturday afternoon

Why: Because we love them, and because we can’t make plans at night anymore.

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The thought process: These are the very best kinds of friends; the ones for whom anything goes.  So the thought process went something like this.  Let’s have friends over.  On Saturday.  Okay.  (And slight kidding aside, I knew this slow cooker recipe was doable whilst also wrangling a child.)

The menu:

What worked: Everything worked.  It was a great day with great food and great friends.  And I will tell you the pork worked, I think, in large part, to the quick kiss it gets from the broiler.  Pulled pork is not always my favorite food; I often find it greasy.  But this was not in the slightest, and I’m filing that broiler step away for use with all future pork roasts.

What didn’t: The recipe called for peach salsa, which I had seen at Whole Foods the weekend prior.  So I took a shortcut, banking on it still being in the stores.  But alas, only mango.  I was bummed.  My guess is everyone else was just fine.

To make slow cooker carnitas tacos for 6, you will need:

  • 3 to 4 pounds boneless pork butt or shoulder
  • 5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Juice of 2 limes plus 1 lime cut into wedges, for serving
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 12 ounces beer
  • tortillas
  • salsas of your choice
  • your favorite taco toppings

 

Place the pork shoulder and chopped garlic into a big bowl. Sprinkle the meat with salt, cumin, chili powder, black pepper, cinnamon, and cayenne. With your hands, rub the seasonings into the meat.

Transfer seasoned pork to the slow cooker. Add in lime juice, orange juice, and beer. Cover the pot and cook on low for 8 hours.

After 8 hours, transfer the meat to a large bowl and shred it apart using two forks. The pork should fall apart easily.

Next, preheat broiler and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spread the pork into an even layer and broil for 5 to 10 minutes, rotating the pan, until the pork is evenly crisped.  Serve with tortillas and all your favorite salsas and toppings.

 

 

Chicken McHelen [crock pot creamy italian chicken]

In our family we grew up eating Chicken McMom and Chicken McBarney. These were affectionately named for family members and meant to poke fun at McDonalds McEverythings. So it’s only fair that after getting this recipe from my Aunt Helen, it takes on her moniker.


And now I have to revoke my claim that all I’m looking for in life is a good slow cooker recipe without cream of mushroom because this is a good slow cooker recipe with cream of mushroom. It’s head and shoulders above the endless others I’ve tried. 

To make Chicken McHelen, you will need: 

  • boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 package Good Seasons Italian dressing mix
  • 1/2 stick (4T) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 cans golden mushroom soup (which I couldn’t find, so just used regular cream of mushroom)
  • 1, 8 oz. package cream cheese with chives

Melt butter in a large skillet. Add dressing mix and stir to coat. Add white wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up brown bits. Stir in soup and cream cheese. Place chicken in slow cooker. Add sauce on top, and cook on low, 6-8 hours. 

A Slow Cooker Round Up [slow cooker pork chops and slow cooker chicken cordon bleu]

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Okay, here’s the thing with the slow cooker. I love it and hate it at the same time. It is undoubtedly, the way I manage to get dinner on the table some nights. I am a delight most mornings–still running on coffee, sunlight boosting my mood, the heat of the day not yet so oppressive that I can’t even. So I’m happy to prep some ingredients early in the morning, and get them cooking before noon hits. Because when that happens, all bets are off. No matter how much I’ve done in the day, there’s always one more task I wish I had crossed off, or there doesn’t seem to be a way to keep my child from whining, and the caffeine has long since left my system. That’s no time to pull a meal together. And for these purposes, the slow cooker is my best friend. 


But is it just me, or does almost everything that goes in the slow cooker ultimately end up tasting like cream of mushroom soup? 

For the record, I love cream of mushroom soup. 

But it’s not what I want for dinner every night.  I save it for special occasions, like when I make green bean or hash brown casseroles. 

Though I never thought I’d say this, I’m slightly excited for the advent of cooler weather, only so I can bring some slow cooker soups to this rotation, and add some variety to the flavors that come out of my trusty machine.

These are the latest offerings out of the slow cooker. Both good. Both cream of mushroom-y, if you’re feeling it. 

slow cooker pork chops:

  • 10¾ oz (325 ml) can low-fat cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 medium potatoes,peeled and sliced
  • 1 medium yellow onion,peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 pork chops

Combine first 6 ingredients and mix well. Layer potatoes and onions on bottom of slow cooker. Pour soup mixture on top and toss to coat. Put pork chops on top of vegetable mixture. Cover slow cooker and cook on low for 6-7 hours. 
slow cooker chicken cordon bleu:

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I thought these got dry, so I’m using thighs next time)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 C milk
  • 6 slices deli ham
  • 6 slices Swiss cheese
  • 1 bag of your favorite dry stuffing mix
  • 1/4 C melted butter

Mix soup and milk together, and pour a thin layer on the bottom of your slow cooker. Add chicken, placing a slice of ham on top of each piece, and cheese on top of that. Cover with remaining soup mixture. Add stuffing, drizzle with melted butter, and cook on low, 4-6 hours. 

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.

 

A 5 Minute Dinner [creamy crockpot white chicken chili]

Of the myriad of kind things AGOMYR did for me in the days leading up to CV(D)’s baby shower, one of most helpful was letting me borrow her slow cooker.  We both have (and love) the All-Clad version, so I knew exactly how hers would work, and planned on a double batch of Nutella French Toast Casserole.  We set a date for our hand-off, but then AGOMYR texted, asking if we could push it back by a couple of days.  Her weekend getaway had been foiled due to rain, and she was hoping that a homemade chili night would make up for that.  I told her that was absolutely fine, as long as she shared the recipe with me.  I was thrilled to have her send me a recipe for white chicken chili, because that’s not one I have in my arsenal quite yet.

creamy white chicken chili.

It’s not that I thought AGOMYR would lead me astray, but I didn’t anticipate how much of a hit this would be.  I was wary of white beans (not my fave, but I found a can of smaller white beans that were great here), and my husband was not convinced anything with just a dash of cayenne would satisfy his chili needs.  Hah!  We made this on a lazy Saturday, and every time I opened the lid to stir it (which was really only about 3 times), we proceeded to marvel at the smell.  When we finally got to dig in and eat it, both of us went silent, and polished off our bowls in about 5 minutes.  Gross?  Maybe, but if that doesn’t vouch for a recipe’s worth, I don’t know what does.

To make chili for 8, you will need:

  • 3-4 chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • 14.5 ounce can chicken broth
  • 4.5 ounce can chopped green chiles
  • 15 ounce can white corn, drained (I seriously considered upping this to two cans, and wish I had)
  • 2 15.5 ounce cans white beans, drained (Cannellini or Great Northern are good)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon Better Than Bullion chicken base
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • your favorite chili toppings – AGOMYR and I have discussed the benefits of shredded cheddar, crushed tortilla chips, avocado, cilantro, and lime.  I’m going to add that pico de gallo might not be a bad choice either.
  1. Place chicken breasts on the bottom of a crockpot, and add chili powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, chicken broth, green chiles, corn and beans. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
  2. About an hour before serving: In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium high heat. Whisk in flour, and allow to bubble and brown a bit. After a few minutes, gradually whisk in the milk and chicken base.
  3. Allow the sauce to simmer for 4-5 minutes, whisking frequently until it is slightly thickened. Add salt and pepper.
  4. Pour sauce into crockpot and mix to combine.
  5. Add sour cream and mix.
  6. If chicken has not already shredded with stirring, take out large pieces, shred them with two forks, and return to the crockpot.
  7. Let the chicken chili cook on low 1 more hour if you can.

You Make It, You Own It [slow cooker nutella french toast casserole]

One of my favorite rules from the first Dinner: A Love Story cookbook, is that once someone makes a recipe in the Ward/Rosenstrach household, it becomes his forever.

“Often I would see a recipe in Gourmet and be so eager to get started on it that I couldn’t wait for him to come home from work to pitch in.  Likewise, he’d scour our growing cookbook collection and select meals that I had no interest in making with him–meals, actually, that I wouldn’t have ever selected in the first place.  A lot of keepers came out of this trial-and-error period, but more important, a dinner rule that is still in effect twelve years later took root:  When one of us discovers a new recipe, cookes it for dinner, and it’s a success, it is the cook’s responsibility to prepare that dinner from that point forward.  Forever.  Ad infinitum.”

(From this cookbook, which is an all-time fave of mine, both for the recipes, and the life advice.)

In the same vein, I don’t make French Toast.

slow cooker nutella french toast casserole.

But I did make Slow Cooker Nutella French Toast Casserole, which is really something different entirely.  CV(D) made this for our first annual brunch in the country.  Technically, that makes it her recipe to make forever, but I bent the rules here because a) she doesn’t live in my house, and b) it was for her baby shower, and I couldn’t well ask her to cook for her own event.

This is such a great recipe to keep in your back pocket the next time you have company coming for brunch.  It cooks in two hours, and nobody doesn’t like Nutella.

A couple of notes:

  • The amount of Nutella in the casserole is just enough to give the dish some flavor, so it’s all about a drizzle on top when it’s warm, so it will melt into the crevices between the chunks of bread.
  • The recipe calls for almond milk, which I rarely have.  However, I was feeding a crowd, and made one with regular milk and one with coconut milk.  The coconut milk was noticeably more flavorful, and that’s what I’ll use from here on out.

To make Slow Cooker Nutella French Toast Casserole for 8, you will need:

  • 1, 1 pound loaf brioche or challah bread
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups coconut milk (I used full fat)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 heaping tablespoons Nutella, plus more for topping
  • Pinch salt

Cut the bread into bite sized cubes (1-1/2 inches).  In a bowl, whisk eggs, milk, cinnamon, vanilla, Nutella, and salt.  The Nutella will be a little clumpy still, and that’s fine.  Put bread in the bowl of a slow cooker, and pour egg mixture on top.  Cook on high for 2 hours.  Serve with a healthy dollop of Nutella.

Cultivating Traditions [crock pot balsamic pork roast]

It’s weird to think of something my husband and I do as a tradition.  Our little quirks and eccentricities can’t qualify as traditions, can they?  They’re just routines, or habits. We haven’t been together long enough to have traditions, have we?

Dear readers, we totally have.

And if you’ve been spending enough time with someone that you’ve repeated a certain habit or routine more than twice, I’m going to declare you have too.

crockpot balsamic pork.

One thing I made a habit of doing in our last house was cook a hearty Sunday dinner most weeks of the year.  At least, most weeks when it made sense to get a hearty Sunday dinner on the table.  It was probably more of a fall/winter thing.  Summer Sunday dinners became grilled affairs.  But anyway.  It was a cold-weather tradition.  It helped shape our weeks, and it was something I looked forward to planning and executing.  Now that we’re in a new space, it’s something I need to consciously think about again.  It’s no longer part of the routine, but I would love for it to be again.  We pulled out an old crock pot favorite to kick things off in La Moneda.  Cheers to finding many more hearty Sunday dinner ideas.

To make crockpot balsamic pork for about 6 people, you will need:

  • 2 pound boneless pork shoulder roast (sirloin roast)
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Season the pork with salt, garlic powder and red pepper flakes and place it into the slow cooker. Mix together the broth and vinegar and pour it over the pork, then pour the honey over and set the timer for 4 hours on High or 6-8 hours on Low.