Tag Archives: crock pot

Flashback Meatballs

1 Jun

There are a few party recipes that were very popular when I was a kid, and every once in a while I really crave them.  Sometimes nothing can compare to a big bowl of Chex Mix (the original recipe, not any of the variations), ripple potato chips with french onion dip, cream cheese topped with chili sauce and crab from a can, or meatballs cooked in a sauce made with grape jelly.  It’s this last recipe that I’ve searched for the longest.  When I’ve asked people how to make it, it’s always the same answer – one bottle of chili sauce and some grape jelly (amount varies).  It’s never quite as good as I remember it as a kid, but maybe it’s because now I’m the one making it.  Food always seems to taste better when someone else makes it for you.

I make a lot of meatballs, but the one thing I don’t like about making them is that they can be kind of tedious.  So when I found a recipe last year for meatballs that can be cooked in a crock pot and don’t require any pre-cooking, I was thrilled.  They were pretty good, but the flavor wasn’t quite what I had in mind.  And, the recipe called for 1.5 lbs of ground beef and since the beef in my freezer is in 1 lb. packages, that strikes me as completely inconvenient.  To fit the size of the beef packages in my freezer and to bring back that old grape jelly-laden memory, I made a few changes.

These meatballs are darn easy to make and very tasty.  Throw some on a plate, grab a pile of toothpicks, close your eyes and you’ll feel like you’re back in 1982.

Flashback Meatballs
Serving size: 3 balls
Serves: 10

1 c. grape jelly
1 bottle chili sauce
1 slice white bread
1 lb ground beef
1 egg, lightly beaten
Salt and pepper

In a crock pot, mix together jelly and chili sauce.  Fill the chili sauce bottle about 1/3 full with water and add to the sauce.  Stir until well combined.  Set crock pot to low.

In the white bread to a food processor and pulse into crumbs.

In a large bowl, combine beef, breadcrumbs, egg, salt and pepper.  Form into small-sized (about 30) meatballs.

There are two methods for cooking the meatballs:

Slow method: Add the raw meatballs to the crock pot and gently stir to coat with sauce.  Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours, stirring occasionally.

Speed method: Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and cook meatballs for 30 minutes at 350° F, turning halfway through cooking.  Transfer the meatballs to the crock pot and stir to cover with sauce.  Heat on low for at least an hour to allow the meatballs to sauce up.

Estimated calories:  240 cal/serving

Print it: Flashback Meatballs

Italian Meatball Soup

23 Nov

Next week, when you’re so sick of turkey and turkey related goods, this is the meal to make.  It is easy, delicious, and light, all of which will be totally welcome.

Making this soup is super easy and most of the cooking is done in the crock pot.  Dice up a few things, open a can, toss in the rest and let it cook for 6-8 hours if you can wait that long.  It is hard, because this recipe will make your house smell like heaven (if heaven smells like Italy, which some might argue would be just).

Before you get started, there is one thing about this recipe that is very different from those that I usually make.  Most of the time, I am fully in favor of substituting ingredients based on what is on hand.  This recipe is the exception – there is one ingredient that you CANNOT DO WITHOUT.  Penzey’s Sandwich Sprinkle.

Never heard of it?  Neither had I, until this summer when I was at a Penzey’s store with my cousins Julia and Jenine.  They told me about how much they loved the Sandwich Sprinkle.   “It makes any sandwich awesome,” they said.  “You can put it on anything and the kids will eat it,” they told me.  They are trustworthy gals, so I picked one up.  To be very honest, I expected to like it fine but thought it was unlikely to be THAT remarkable.   And seriously, not only were they right, but I do not think that they did it justice.  I put it on sandwiches, use it to make croutons, mix it with cream cheese for my bagel, add it to soup, you could even SHAKE IT ON YOUR TONGUE AND BE HAPPY.  It is that delicious, and you should order one today.  Get a good-sized one, you won’t be sorry.

Italian Meatball Soup

Serves: 8
Serving size: 1 c.

1 lb. cooked meatballs, halved or quartered
4 c. beef broth
28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 c. carrots, diced
1 c. potato, peeled and cubed
2 T. onion, diced
1 t. Penzey’s Sandwich Sprinkle
1/2 t. Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset (Italian Herb Blend)

Add all ingredients to a crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Estimated Calories:  170 cal/serving

Print it: Italian Meatball Soup

– If you’d like, you can add some shredded parmesan to the soup, like I did in the picture.  I thought it was good, but liked it just fine without it so I skipped it every other time I had the soup.  If you add parmesan, 1 T. of shredded parmesan adds 21 cal/serving
– I used Penzey’s Tuscan Sunset herb blend, but if you don’t have that, you could try another Italian herb blend.  It is pretty good though, so if you’re ordering some Sandwich Sprinkle anyway you might want to give it a try.
– For the meatball recipe, I used a modified version of the kind made at Buca (this recipe, but without the romano cheese and panko instead of the Italian breadcrumbs).  However, you could use any recipe you like, frozen meatballs, seasoned or plain.  Just make sure they are cooked before you throw them into the pot.

Creamed Chicken Over Biscuits

3 Nov

Many times, I feel like I need to make a choice between having the comfort food I crave and consuming something healthy. This is disappointing, of course, because I really want both.  The pleasure in eating something that is tasty and comforting does not last very long if I feel like I blow through a lot of calories to eat it, especially if it was particularly rich or heavy.  Calorie remorse is the enemy of happy consumption, and I avoid it at all costs.

Creamed chicken over biscuits is one of those decadent sounding things that you’d expect would be a terrible choice for the calorie conscious.  In the hands of Paula Deen or without regard to portion size, it sure could be.  This recipe is heavy on the vegetables, includes flavorful chicken and a creamy gravy, all served over a biscuit.  And comes in at 117 calories per serving.  As a point of comparison – that’s almost the same as just one ounce of cheddar cheese.  And if you’re like me, that means that you can have the comfort food for dinner and still feel okay about eating that cheese later because you were so darn calorie-thrifty.

The creamed chicken part of this recipe is super easy to make, requiring only a little prep and cooking time in the crock pot.  I used canned biscuits (see all my biscuit notes below), so the time between when we got home and when we sat down for dinner was only as long as it took for the biscuits to bake and to serve it up.  The kids loved this meal, particularly the biscuits.  Even the child who just earlier this week said he “did not care for dough”.

Creamed Chicken Over Biscuits
Serves: 10
Serving Size: 2/3 c. creamed chicken + 1 small biscuit

1 c. cooked chicken
1 c. frozen green beans
1 c. potato, peeled and cubed
1 c. carrot, diced
1/2 T. olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
3 T. flour
3 c. chicken stock
1/2 c. soy creamer
Salt and pepper
1 can small biscuits (10 per can)

Add chicken, green beans, potato, and carrots to a crock pot.

In a large skillet, add olive oil over medium high heat.  Add onion and cook until transluscent.  Add flour and stir constantly for about a minute, until all the oil is absorbed and starting to turn a little golden in color.  Add chicken stock 1 c. at a time, bringing to a boil between each addition.  Add soy creamer and stir until combined.  Pour mixture into the crock pot and stir.  Cook on low for 6 hours or until the potatoes are tender.  Season with salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven and bake biscuits according to the package directions.

Split biscuit in half and place in a bowl, top with 2/3 c. creamed chicken.

Estimated Calories:  117 cal/serving

Print it: Creamed Chicken Over Biscuits

– Feel free to use milk or cream in place of the soy creamer used here.
– There are LOTS of kinds of canned biscuits to consider.  I chose a store brand (Food Club) that had small-sized biscuits that were also non-dairy.  If non-dairy is important to you, it is easy to overlook canned biscuits as an option, especially since most are described as “buttery” or “buttermilk”.  I’ve found that many times, store brands are non-dairy, inexpensive, and pretty tasty.
– More about the biscuits.  The biscuits I used in this recipe were 50 calories each, so adjust your calories accordingly.  At our house, we each ate more than one, but because they were only 50 calories each, I didn’t feel bad in having a second.
– Last thing about the biscuits.  Next time I would buy two cans because they went so quickly, and everyone wanted a few extras.

Venison Cutlets with Good Brown Gravy

24 Oct

I’ve been struggling lately to figure out what to make for dinner that everybody will eat and enjoy.  In order to achieve both, it has to fit the following criteria:
1. Healthy
2. Not much meat
3. No visible onions, mushrooms, zucchini
4. The time between we get home and when we eat has to be fairly short
5. Actually tastes good

I don’t think I’m alone here (except maybe for #3).  It is tough to figure out what will work for our family, and also have  a little variety in our diet.  In planning yesterday’s meal, I decided to use the one thing that practically guarantees that my kids will eat it – gravy.  This recipe was pretty simple – a little prep work then slow cooking all day in the crock pot.  This kind of meal is perfect for me because it is easy to get things prepped and ready in the morning, then let the crock pot do the bulk of the work so I can just serve dinner when we’re hungry.

This recipe uses a pretty basic approach to making a brown gravy – pan fry some meat, remove it, add onions and garlic and broth then stir up all the good bits to make some sauce.  I added ketchup and mustard to give it more flavor, and used corn starch to thicken the sauce before adding it to the crock pot.  It was very simple, and met all of my criteria.  Everyone at it, and even asked for more.  Mostly gravy.

Venison Cutlets with Good Brown Gravy

Serves: 5
Serving Size: 3 oz. venison, 1/2 c. gravy

2 T. flour
1 t. Montreal Seasoning
1 lb. venison cutlets, cut into 1 oz. pieces (about 3” x 3”)
3 T. non-dairy butter, divided
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, finely diced
2 T. flour
4 c. beef broth, divided
1/4 c. ketchup
1 T. Worcestershire
1 t. Dijon mustard
2 T. cornstarch

In a small bowl, mix flour and seasoning blend.  Pat cutlets dry with a paper towel, then dredge in flour and set aside.  In a large skillet, melt 2 T. non-dairy butter over medium high heat.  Add cutlets and pan fry until both sides are browned.  Remove from pan and place in crockpot.

Add remaining non-dairy butter to the skillet, add onion and garlic.  Cook for one minute, reduce to medium.  Add flour and cook for 2-3 minutes or until all it is dry and turning darker in color.  Add 1/2 c. beef broth and stir constantly until thickened and bubbly.  Add another 1/2 c. beef broth and stir until thick and bubbly.  Add 2-1/2 c. broth, ketchup, Worcestershire, and mustard, and bring to a boil.  Mix remaining 1/2 c. broth with cornstarch, then add to the gravy.  Cook and stir for about a minute or two until thick.  Pour over cutlets in the crockpot.

Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Serve cutlets with gravy.

Estimated Calories:  244 cal/serving

Print it: Venison Cutlets and Good Brown Gravy

– Regular butter or margarine can be substituted for the non-dairy used here
– If you don’t have venison, you could substitute any thinly cut meat such as beef or veal
– I served this with spaetzle, but it would be very good with a baked potato, mashed potatoes, or buttered egg noodles
– Sorry if I put the song in your head

Shredded Pork

2 Oct

Shredded pork is one of my very favorite things.  It is super easy to make, can be used in many different ways, and has delicious flavor.  This recipe for shredded pork turns a low-cost cut of pork into a flavorful base that is good enough to stand up on its own, and with the addition of a few ingredients can turn into loads of other meals.  It is better the second day, and freezes well.  It is basically the king of versatility.

In this recipe, I’ve kept the ingredients pretty simple – a pork roast, liquid, and a seasoning blend.  I like Montreal Seasoning, but have also used other spice blends with great success.  The key to this recipe is to cover it and let it cook all day, then shred it once it falls apart.  I separate the cooking liquid to remove most of the fat, then add a bit of flavoring at the end.  I prefer to make this a day ahead and reheat it just before serving.  It is excellent for a crowd, especially when made the day before so you can get all of the work out of the way and simply reheat.

Ways to Use Shredded Pork
– Sliders: Add BBQ sauce and serve on soft dinner rolls
– Enchiladas: Roll up inside a tortilla, place in baking dish, pour green enchilada sauce over the top, add shredded cheese, bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Top with pico de gallo.
– Sandwiches: Add mustard, serve on baguette with pickles and banana peppers
– Main Dish: Drain liquids and serve on plate with roasted vegetables
– Chili: Add a packet of chili seasoning, pinto beans, diced tomatoes, season to taste

Shredded Pork
Serves 12

3-1/2 lb pork roast (boston butt or pork shoulder)
1 T. Montreal Seasoning
4 c. water
3 c. chicken broth
1 T. ketchup
1 T. prepared mustard
1 T. cider vinegar

Rub Montreal Seasoning on the outside of the pork roast. Place roast fat side up in the crock pot, and cook on low for 8 hours or until it pulls apart with a fork.

Remove roast and set aside. Pour remaining liquid into a fat separator, and let sit until the fat rises to the top. Shred pork roast with two forks, discarding any bits of fat. Return to the crock pot. After the fat and liquid have separated, return only the liquid part to the crock pot. Add enough liquid to cover. Add ketchup, mustard, and vinegar. Stir and set crock pot to warm until ready to serve.

Estimated Calories: 247 cal/serving

Print it: Shredded Pork