Thursday, June 16, 2011

Summer Crockpot Week: The Results Are In

Overall the week was a huge success. Starting the crock pot the night before, or in the morning, or whenever I had the energy to think about dinner made the house smell delicious all day and meal prep was mostly a matter of setting the table, pouring drinks, and maybe heating up a side dish. But some of the meals turned out better than others.

  1. crock pot French dip sandwiches
    I rubbed a roast with French onion soup mix and dropped it in the crock pot with some beef broth in the morning. By dinner time it was tender enough to shred easily with a fork. We served the meat on French rolls with a little melted mozzarella cheese on top. The juice from the crock pot served as au jus for dipping. Ellie and Paul loved this dish and devoured their sandwiches. Ada doesn't eat dinner. I found it a bit greasy; next time I'll trim the beef more carefully and make sure I use fat free broth.

  2. crock pot chicken pizza (served over spaghetti squash or pasta)
    I put a couple of chicken breasts in the crock pot at lunch time and covered them with canned tomatoes and some canned pizza sauce. (This is quick and easy prep, not gourmet cooking!) By dinner time the chicken was tender and easily shredded with a fork. Shortly before serving I baked a spaghetti squash (following the instructions on the sticker on the veg) and boiled a little pasta. I served the chicken and sauce over spaghetti squash and put a few noodles on top for camouflage. This dish was a hit with all, but I found the sauce a bit acidic. Next time I think I'll use a light pasta sauce and call it chicken spaghetti. The spaghetti squash was incredibly easy to make, looked just like pasta, and had an incredibly mild squash flavor that hid behind the tomato.

  3. crock pot burritos
    This was by far my favorite dish of the week. Paul's too. I rubbed a beef roast with taco seasoning and put it in the crock pot with broth, Rotel tomatoes, black beans, and corn. A couple of hours before serving I thought the dish looked a bit watery so I added half a cup of brown rice. Perfection! Wrapped in a tortilla it looked liked something I'd order at Qdoba. Serve with salsa and eat in the basement during a tornado.

  4. crock pot Jamaican jerk chicken
    This one was good, too, though the children didn't care for it quite as much. I rubbed a couple of chicken breasts with Jamaican jerk seasoning and put them in the crock pot with broth, limes, cilantro, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and corn (I think. I'm not sure I added the tomatoes or corn and I probably added extra spices). This was served over brown rice and garnished with fresh limes and shredded coconut. I found the meat a little dry; I'll cook it on low next time.

  5. crock pot vegetable jambalaya
    Jambalaya, normally a skillet favorite here, was my biggest disappointment of the week. The taste was fine, but the vegetables suffered greatly from spending too much time in the crock pot so I ended up serving jambalaya-flavored mush. I intended to make this as a vegetarian dish but ended up adding some turkey sausage. This was a good thing, since the sausage was the only texture in the dish. I don't remember which vegetables I added but I know I used vegetable broth, brown rice, garlic, onion, Louisiana seasoning, bell pepper, peas, broccoli, tomatoes, corn, and maybe some tomato paste. I think jambalaya is a much better stove top meal than a crock pot meal. Alas.

This week I used no crock pot at all. We had homemade mac & cheese (the children prefer Kraft), homemade baked chicken nuggets with baked sweet potato fries (huge hit), French toast with low sodium bacon and fresh organic mixed berries (quick meal before a dance recital), and homemade crusty pizza calzones (universal joy). Also side salads, etc., usually from a bag.

My favorite warm weather dish is my mom's taco salad, but it takes a bit of last minute prep - time and energy that are hard to find at the end of the day. We eat it a few times each summer, frequently when we have guests. What's your favorite summer meal?

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