Crockpot Recipe: Asian Pulled Pork

As the weather gets warmer, I like to use my crockpot to help keep the kitchen cool.  This recipe came about when I had a full day scheduled at work but wanted to have something delicious and easy for dinner… enter my handy-dandy crockpot!AsianPulledPork CP

I created a sauce to pour over a large pork loin, using a varying amount of the following ingredients:  James River Cellars Montpelier wine (NOTE: This a Cabernet Franc blanc/rose’ wine that smells like strawberries and tastes of cranberries – I love this wine with pork recipes.  You could also use Boordy Landmark Dry Rose’ which has the same sort of properties but is a dry wine), hoisin sauce, soy sauce, blackberry jam, garlic, honey, salt and pepper.  

I started dinner by slicing a large sweet onion and layered the onion on the bottom of the crock pot.  I then laid the pork on top and poured the sauce over everything and set the crockpot on low for 6-8 hours.

Once the pork was completely cooked, I removed it and put it into a bowl to shred, using two forks.  The pork is now ready for the addition of a delicious sauce to make it into a yummy dinner for my family.

I ladled the cooking liquid out of the crockpot and warmed it in a small saucepan.  As yet, I hadn’t added anything more to the liquid than what I’d poured over the pork earlier in the day.  The sauce was too thin for my taste, so I mixed up a slurry of cornstarch and Montpelier wine to thicken the sauce as it cooked a bit.  Once the slurry was added to the sauce, it took about 5 minutes to tighten up and become wonderful.  NOTE:  If you prefer to add some more spices for the pulled pork, this would be a great time – you could add a pinch of Five-spice powder or use more of the original flavors.  Have fun and be creative!

After the sauce was thickened, I tossed it with the pulled pork and served it on homemade rolls (only cuz I had them on hand…. I could have easily picked up some rolls at the local grocery store on the way home if needed).    This recipe ended up being a huge hit with my family and I hope it will become a favorite of yours as well!

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Crock Pot Recipe: Tuscan Chicken and Sausage Stew

I love using my crock pot.  Having a slow cooker can help you make a lovely, healthy meal any night of the week.  All it takes is a little thought beforehand and a few minutes in the morning before you leave the house (or start working from home).  This was a recipe that I thought looked particularly yummy, but the ingredients needed to be changed out before I could make it for my family.  I know that they balk at large pieces of mushroom or the texture of artichoke hearts, so I did some substituting and came up with a version that worked well for me.

Since I started with an actual recipe (thanks to Weight Watchers for the inspiration) so the ingredients are much more accurate that I typically offer on my blog.  I used “The Force” for this recipe, but vaulted from the actual recipe, so I’ll be kind today and share it with you that way.

Ingredients:TuscanChickenSausageStewMB

  • 8 small chicken thighs, skinless and boneless, cut into 2″ cubes
  • 1 package Turkey Polska Kielbasa, cut into 2″ chunks
  • 1 cup, chopped Onions, raw
  • 1/2 cup Chicken broth, canned, low sodium
  • 1/2 cup James River Cellars Montpelier Wine – you could use a nice Chardonnay, if you prefer
  • 1 cup, cubes, all varieties Squash, winter type, baked, no fat or sugar added in cooking, butternut
  • 1 cup, sliced Pepper, raw
  • 4 cloves Garlic, raw
  • 3 tsp, leaves Spices, oregano, dried
  • 1 tbsp Spices, rosemary, dried
  • 2T cornstarch, if needed for thickening

In true “not originally mine” style, here are the steps to follow when you make this recipe, using the ingredients I’ve used in my own swap.

Instructions

  1. Chop onion and butternut squash into chunks – place on the bottom of a crock pot.
  2. Collect the thighs and sausage that you’ve already cut into 2″ chunks and layer them on top of the onions/squash
  3. Layer peppers (in a variety of colors) on top of meats, then top with spices.
  4. Add broth and wine.
  5. Cover and cook until chicken is tender and vegetables are cooked through, 4-5 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low.
  6. If you want to thicken the broth at the end, whisk 2T of cornstarch with some of the cooking liquid (in a separate cup) until there are no lumps, then return it to the pot and allow the broth to thicken.
  7. Serve over polenta (which my family doesn’t like) or mashed potatoes (which my family *does* like).

I’ve been trying to be better about using a “recipe builder” application (for my iPad) so that I know the actual nutrition analysis of my recipes.  I got a FitBit Flex from my husband for Christmas this year, so I’m coupling that with the (free) MyFitnessPal app to get a better handle on my own health.  To that end, I’m working to make better choices with regards to the foods that I make.  This stew actually makes six servings, with the following nutritional information:  Calories 302, Total Fat 14g, Saturated 3.9g, Polyunsat.  2.9g, Monounsat. 5.4g, Cholesterol 80mg, Sodium 903mg, Total Carbs 16g, Dietary Fiber 2.5g, Sugar 2.8g, Protein 25g, Vitamin A 129mcg, Vitamin C 20mg, Calcium 51mg, and Iron 3.3mg.

I hope you’ll consider playing around with this recipe.  I really loved it, and had it for the next few meals before it was gone.  At only 302 calories, it seemed reasonable and tasty at the same time.  Enjoy!

Recipe: Easy Chicken Divan

I was recently tasked with using our new Cabernet Franc Blanc wine (James River Cellars’ 2012 Montpelier) in a recipe and this fabulously easy recipe was the result.  It uses both Montpelier wine AND Monterey  Jack cheese in a sauce that has it’s beginnings in my childhood, so for me, this was a win-win recipe.  I hope you find it that way as well!

EasyChickenDivan

I started with a leftover chicken carcass that I pulled from the freezer.  Typically, I’ll purchase a roasted chicken from our local grocery store and cut out the breast meat to use in a meal early in the week.  Once the white meat is gone, I like to bag up the chicken remains and pop it in the freezer for just such an occasion.  While the original recipe called for a can of cream of mushroom soup, I wanted to make my version a little healthier, so I put the frozen chicken into a large stock pot with about 2 inches of water and set it to a low simmer until the chicken was soft and easy to pick off the bone.  Most of what was left on the bone was dark meat, which suited me just fine.  I transferred all the meat into a large casserole dish and tossed the bones in the trash.   I quickly cooked a bag of broccoli florets in the microwave and layered them on top of the chicken in the dish.  Now to make the sauce that would pull everything together.

The remaining liquid in the pot had a deep chicken broth smell and taste, so that was the beginning of my sauce.  I added one pat of butter and a few spoons full of flour and whisked everything together until the flour had been thoroughly cooked and all lumps were gone.   I slowly introduced the Montpelier wine (you could certainly use a white wine, but a lightly dry rose’ would handle the flavors a bit better, in my opinion) and added a handful of Monterey Jack cheese, whisking again until the cheese melted nicely and the wine was thoroughly incorporated.  I also added a few spoons of Miracle Whip Lite and a generous amount of curry powder.  NOTE: I like to sweet/tangy addition of Miracle Whip in this recipe, so if you really want to use traditional mayonnaise, I would suggest adding a touch of sugar.  Once your sauce is smooth, creamy, and tasty (you HAVE to taste-test the sauce to make sure your flavors are combined well), pour the sauce over the chicken/broccoli in your casserole dish.

Using the same stock pot that you used to warm your chicken (and then make your sauce) add some butter, olive oil, salt, crushed garlic, and pepper.  Allow the seasonings to blend over medium heat and then toss in a few hands full of bread crumbs.  Toast the bread crumbs until they have soaked up the seasoned butter/oil mixture and become a bit crispy.  Layer them on top of your casserole dish and plan to bake your final dish at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

You can absolutely plan to serve this with a simple green salad and some bread, but we love it just by itself.  The flavors combined nicely and everything tasted clean and fresh.  While it reminded me of my Aunt Treva’s Chicken Divan, it seemed a little healthier to me… maybe part of that is mental, but I do know that I was using fresh ingredients so I did feel better about how I made this version.

Try it with your own favorite childhood recipe… maybe you’ll come up with an updated recipe of your own!

Recipe: Teriyaki Shrimp Stir Fry

I have to give my husband credit for the inspiration for this recipe.  I asked what he wanted me to make (using a pound of shrimp) for dinner and he rattled off a list of options that included the name of this dish.  I wasn’t thinking “teriyaki” until he threw that idea out… but it sounded yummy to me, so I set about rifling through the fridge to come up with ingredients that might work as a teriyaki sauce.

What I found, already in my fridge, were the following items:  half a jar of orange marmalade, Bragg Liquid Aminos (something like soy sauce, that *isn’t* soy, that my niece mentioned once on her blog so I bought it), homemade BBQ sauce, and a bottle of James River Cellars Montpelier wine (this new vintage is 100% Cabernet Franc, made as a semi-sweet blanc/rose’ wine… soooo yummy).  Since I hadn’t cooked with Montpelier yet, I was eager to try and find a way to use this fun wine.  NOTE: If you don’t have access to this specific wine, you’re welcome to substitute your favorite semi-dry/semi-sweet white wine or a lightly dry rose of your choice.  You could also just substitute chicken stock, if you prefer, but I really like the back note of wine in this dish.

TeriyakiShrimpStirFry

I defrosted a pound of frozen shrimp (I always like to have this on hand for quick and easy dinners that I know my husband will love) and sliced them in half, length-wise.  I love doing this with shrimp because they end up looking like little cork-screws of shrimp and they cook so quickly.  Feel free to cut them up or leave them whole… it’s entirely up to you!

I sauteed the shrimp in good olive oil until they were slightly toasty and browned.  Again, cook your shrimp according to your family’s preference… this is simply the way we like to have shrimp.  I wanted to add some sort of vegetable into dinner, so I used about a cup of broccoli slaw and tossed that with the cooked shrimp until it started to look a little glossy from the olive oil.  NOTE: If you’ve never used broccoli slaw before, you can find it in most grocery stores in the bagged vegetable area.  I love this stuff and try to keep it on hand to add to dinners whenever possible.  It cooks amazingly fast and is a nice addition to stir fry dinners.  I also like to use it in egg rolls, but that’s for another post on another day…

Once the veggies were well incorporated, I added the sauce that I’d made, using the ingredients i found in my fridge.  To be more specific, I used the half jar of orange marmalade, a few tablespoons of liquid aminos (this stuff is really salty, so go slow when adding and taste as you go), 2-3 Tablespoons of BBQ sauce, and 1/4-1/3 cup of Montpelier wine.  I tasted the sauce to make sure all the flavors combined well and adjusted as needed.  I let the sauce simmer with the shrimp/veggies until it had reduced a bit and didn’t look quite so wet in the pan.

Once the stir fry was done, I plated dinner in two different ways.  My husband really likes rice, so I like to keep microwaveable brown rice in the cupboard for meals.  I heated his rice and chose to put my dinner over a bag of Shiritake (tofu) noodles.  Let me say that I really like substituting regular pasta with these spaghetti-shaped noodles.  They’re low cal, low carb, gluten-free, vegan, and only about 30 calories for the entire bag (which is the amount I always eat).  They need to be rinsed REALLY well, as they are kept in a brine of some sort, but I find them to be a fun substitute that works well for me and how I want to eat.  I’m very visual, so I want to see a big plate of food or I feel like I haven’t eaten enough (no matter what my stomach actually says) and will snack more later.  NOTE:  The link I’ve included is the the Google search page for Shiritaki noodles… I didn’t want to limit you by suggesting a specific brand, since I’ve tried a few and don’t really have a favorite.

This dinner was super-simple and used things that I already had in my fridge or pantry.  I love being able to create something for dinner that doesn’t need tons of unique/single-use ingredients.  Orange marmalade is a terrific example of something that I keep on hand for tons of different uses.  Find your favorites and you’ll be able to pull dinner together in a snap – this was even faster (and cheaper) than take-out!

Enjoy!