Friday, December 19, 2014

Pork Possibilities!

I was so excited when I found out that our next sponsor was Hamilton Beach! The slow cooker I have been using for the past few years was a 2 quart high/low model. The  Hamilton Beach Set & Forget® 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker puts that old one to shame! This is a wonderful slow cooker and the large 6 quart size is perfect around the holidays to cook a large quantity of food for friends and family. Put it in the night before or morning of and a great meal is cooking while you can focus on other things like actually getting a chance to enjoy your company! It truly makes cooking for a crowd much easier.

I cooked a large piece of pork that made many, many meals for my husband and I. The great thing is that there are so many possibilities for the leftovers!

Pulled Pork with Sweet and Spicy Rub

8 pound pork shoulder
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons hot paprika
1 Tablespoon hot chili powder
1 Tablespoon granulated onion
1 Tablespoon granulated garlic powder
1 Tablespoon mustard powder
10-15 good grinds each of salt and pepper
1 large onion, sliced thick
Avocado oil

Trim the excess fat from the pork shoulder. Mix the next 7 ingredients in a small mixing bowl with a fork. Do it slowly and use the fork to break up the brown sugar until everything is incorporated. I did these 2 steps the day before, wrapped the shoulder in saran wrap and let it rest in the fridge until the next morning.
When you are ready for the slow-cooker, take out the pork from the fridge and let it sit a while to get back to room temperature. Heat up a large (large!) sauté pan over medium-high heat and drizzle a little avocado oil to coat the pan.  Carefully sear all sides of the meat. Slice a large union into thick slices.  Layer them on the bottom of the slow cooker and place the pork on top. Set & Forget it on low for 12 hours.
The pork will be so tender the bone comes right out and the meat will shred easily with forks.  The first night I served the pork with sides requested by my husband for a delicious pork dinner: Arroz con Gandules and Fresh Corn.
Spicy BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Slaw
Leftover pulled pork
Rolls of your choice
Spicy Chipotle BBQ Sauce:
½ small onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup cider vinegar
½ cup yellow mustard
1/3 cup brown sugar
few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
3 chipolte peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
1 tablespoon avocado oil
Simple Slaw:
1 small head cabbage, sliced
1 large carrot, shredded
1 small onion, sliced thin
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon celery seed
salt and pepper, to taste
To start the ketchup, heat a sauce pan over medium heat and all the avocado oil to coat. Add the onion and garlic and allow to sweat out for approx. 5 minutes. Next, add the ketchup, vinegar mustard, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and chipotle peppers. Stir and mix everything together.  Let simmer for about an hour and a half.
The slaw is easy and simple. Mix together well the cabbage, carrots and onion. Then add the mayonnaise, vinegar, celery seed and salt and pepper. Mix together again until nicely dressed.
To serve:
I heated up some leftover pork in a non-stick skillet, use your desired amount. No need to add any extra oil. Once the pork has become warm, add enough sauce to your liking. I like extra sauce! Allow to combine with the pork and heat through. I like to serve this on little potato rolls that have been toasted with the slaw right on top!
BBQ Pulled Pork Mac n’ Cheese
Leftover pulled pork
Cheddar Mac n’ Cheese:
1 short cut pound pasta, I used Cellentani
½ stick butter
¼ cup whole wheat flour
2 cups milk, I used 2%
1 cup sharp yellow cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup sharp white cedar cheese, shredded
¼ cup parmesan cheese, shredded
few dashes of hot sauce, use your favorite I used Franks Red Hot
½ teaspoon mustard powder
fresh ground pepper, to taste
Boil the pasta in a large pot until al dente, read the box for correct cooking times.
In a large pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Once the butter is all melted, add the whole wheat flour and stir until it comes together and becomes darker in color.  Then add the milk, hot sauce, mustard powder and fresh ground pepper. Stir gently to combine and until the milk becomes thick. Continue to stir and add in the cheese, a bit at a time. Take off the heat and toss with the pasta until the sauce and pasta is all combined.
To serve:
I served this the next day using leftovers, so all I needed to do with heat and combine everything through.
In a non-stick sauté pan, heat up the desired amount of pork. Once it warms through, add the desired amount of BBQ sauce until both are hot and combined. Do this on one side of the pan so you can heat up the mac n’ cheese on the other side (again, your desired amount.) Once the pork and pasta are all warm, mix it all together!
This was one of my husband’s favorite ways to eat the pork. Other great uses for leftover pulled pork include nachos, tacos, pizza, quesadillas, empanadas, soup, chili.. there are tons of possibilities! 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Ginger Spiced Applesauce

Applesauce is one of my favorite things to make in a slow cooker. It is so simple and quick to make and you can add whatever flavor enhancers your prefer. I love a nice spiced applesauce in the fall; it works as a side dish, by itself, or on top of some vanilla ice cream (give it a shot…it's delicious.)

This applesauce is a bit different though…instead of using any traditional liquid or sugar, I instead used some Angry Orchard Apple Ginger Hard Cider and, oh boy, is it yummy and it screams fall.

For this applesauce, I used my Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker. The Hamilton Beach Set & Forget Slow Cooker, allows me to set a specific cooking time and then it automatically switches to warm, just in case I get busy while this is cooking away. I don’t have to worry about it burning. 

Ginger Spiced Applesauce
by Jenny

6 medium to large apples – I used Granny Smith for the tartness, but you can use either Macintosh, Cortland, or any other apple you prefer.
3/4 cup Angry Orchard Apple Ginger Hard Cider
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 - 1 teaspoon ground ginger

Peel, core and dice the apples in large pieces – discard the peels and cores.  

Add all ingredients to slow cooker and set on low for about 4 hours*.  

Apples will become extremely soft/mushy. Mash apples with a fork or potato masher and enjoy!  

Keep in an airtight container for up to one week.

Extremely easy to make, throw it all in the slow cooker and come back in a few hours for some very tasty (if I do say so myself) applesauce! Best part – it is naturally gluten-free. If you choose to not use the hard cider, you can substitute that for 1/3 cup of water and 1/4 cup of honey.

*These instructions are specific to the Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker, so if you are not using this one, you may need to adjust it slightly.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

I love the holiday season; especially all of the cooking that is involved with it. However, there are days where, if you are like me, get overwhelmed with making sure everything is all set before everyone arrives. This is the perfect time to bring out your slow cooker! I use my HamiltonBeach 6 qt. Set ‘n Forget Programmable Slow Cooker.  I use this slow cooker because of the programming capabilities that it offers. You can set it to program, probe, or manual – I make this recipe using the program mode so I can set the specific time, choose between high and low heat, and when programmed time is up, it automatically switches to warm…which let’s face it = less stress!

This recipe can be adjusted to your level of spice preference, it is super easy to make…simply place all of the ingredients into the slow cooker, Set ‘n Forget! Makes for a delicious appetizer for any holiday party or gathering.

To make sure this is gluten-free, simply read all of the ingredients and allergen warnings. I haven’t tried it yet, but if you wanted to make a dairy free version, simply substitute out dairy free versions of the ingredients listed below.

Buffalo Chicken Dip
By Jenny

2 ½- 3 cups shredded cooked chicken breast (either boiled chicken breast, store-bought rotisserie, or even canned chicken will work well)
16 ounces 1/3 fat cream cheese
2 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
2 cups ranch dressing (try to avoid the low fat or fat free – it separates too much)
1 – 1 ½ cups hot sauce (Franks is my favorite for this)

Red Bell Pepper Strips
Celery Strips
Tortilla Chips

Prepare chicken – boil until cooked throughout and shred, or shred a rotisserie chicken. Set aside. Cube the cream cheese
Place all ingredients into the slow cooker in layers (cream cheese, cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, ranch dressing, hot sauce, chicken, and then repeat). Cover the slow cooker and set it to cook for 2 hours on low.* Open, and stir dip well.
To serve, either place the dip in a large bowl, or leave in the slow cooker. Enjoy with vegetable strips such as peppers and celery or with tortilla chips.

*These instructions are specific to the Hamilton Beach 6 qt. Set ‘n Forget Programmable Slow Cooker, so if you are not using this one, you may need to adjust it slightly.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Vin Brule

"Vin Brulé" is an Italian mulled wine (Vin Brulé actually means boiled wine/burnt wine in French, but the term is used throughout Italy.) It is usually served around the Christmas holidays, and is one of "those" recipes, where each region/family has their own interpretation. Many people add extra citrus, nutmeg, cinnamon, etc. to theirs, but my simple recipe was given to me by a dear friend/former college roommate from Verona.

Her family's tradition quickly became my family's tradition, and we have been enjoying this treat for the last 15+ years. We tend to serve up Vin Brulé after Christmas Eve church services and dinner, while we are opening gifts. But… I have become quite popular for bringing it with me to friends' holiday parties as well. Making it in a slow cooker, such as the Hamilton Beach Set & Forget® 6 Quart Programmable Slow Cooker, allows you to easily take it with you to a friend's house. It also stays warm in a slow cooker, and it allows for a very quick clean up. You can easily double this recipe for a larger crowd, but it does not reheat well after the first day. Please enjoy this recipe, from my house to yours, and also be sure to check out the Hamilton Beach website for more great products. Happy holidays!

Vin Brulé
by Chris
As shared with me by my dear friend, Diana

1 1.5-liter bottle of dry red wine (cheap is okay!)
3/4 cup of sugar (or more, to taste), divided
2 large oranges, cut into 8 wedges each (cut an orange into halves, then each half into quarters)
Approximately 65-70 whole cloves
Cinnamon sticks, sliced lemons, nutmeg, and any other spices or citrus fruit, if desired (optional)
1-2 oranges, cut into wedges, for serving (optional, if desired)

Carefully pour the bottle of wine into your slow cooker. Add 1/4 cup of sugar, stir, and place on the high heat setting. Allow to warm for 30 minutes. While wine is heating, cut the 2 oranges into wedges, as directed above. Insert 4-5 (I used 4) whole cloves into each wedge by piercing the skin with the sharp point of each clove.

After the wine has warmed for 30 minutes, remove the slow cooker lid, stir the wine, and add the clove-studded oranges. If you would like to add other ingredients, such as sliced lemons, cinnamon sticks, or nutmeg, do so now. Replace lid and set to cook on high heat for another hour.

After the hour is up, stir the wine, add another 1/4 cup of sugar (stir again), and cook on high heat for 30 minutes once more. At this point taste the wine, as it could be done. If you still find the wine to not be sweet or citrusy enough for your taste, feel free to add yet another 1/4 cup of sugar and the place on high heat for another 30 minutes. Continue tasting every 30 minutes until you are happy with the flavor.

When you are pleased with the wine, place the slow cooker on the warm setting, and it will remain at a nice temperature all evening. If you are transporting the wine in your Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 6 Quart Slow Cooker, be sure to clamp the lid down in order to prevent spills. When you reach your destination, un-clamp the lid and place on the warm setting in order to heat/ keep warm. The clamps should only be used for transport. Although this wine will reheat, it is much better served fresh on the day it was made. You can easily double this recipe if desired. Please enjoy responsibly, and have a wonderful holiday season!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore

My husband and I love Italian food and chicken cacciatore is one of our favorites. The Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 6 Quart Programmable Slow Cooker is perfect for this dish. It's nice and roomy and when your set time is up, it will automatically switch to "warm", so there are no worries if you can't get to your dish right away. It comes with a handy temperature probe for cooking meats, so you don't have to worry about taking the lid off (which lets all the heat out) just to check your meat temperature. There are clips that lock the lid down, which is great when you have to transport your delicious dish to those holiday gatherings!

Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore
by Susan W.

4 chicken leg/thigh quarters
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (plus more if needed)
5 fresh tomatoes, peeled* and chopped
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
8 ounce can tomato paste
2 Tablespoons red wine
3 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning chicken
3/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning chicken
2 bay leafs
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

Rinse and pat dry the chicken leg/thigh quarters. Season lightly with kosher salt and pepper. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown chicken pieces in olive oil, two minutes on each side (my skillet fit just one at at time.) Transfer chicken to slow cooker and add a little more olive oil to the pan if necessary while continuing to brown all pieces.

In a large bowl, combine peeled, chopped tomatoes, chopped onions, minced garlic, tomato paste, red wine, Italian seasoning, sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt and 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper. Stir well and pour over the chicken in the slow cooker, making sure to get the sauce in between the chicken pieces. Tuck bay leafs into the sauce.

Set slow cooker to "low" and set the timer for 6 hours. When the time is up, add sliced mushrooms, set the timer for another 1 1/2 hours and continue to cook, making sure the slow cooker is still set to the "low" setting. When the timer goes off the second time, the cooker will switch to "warm".

When done, remove chicken meat from the bones (it should be falling off the bone at this point.) Place meat back into the slow cooker, stir and keep cooker on the "warm" setting. Discard bones.

Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Serve chicken over hot spaghetti and don't forget a nice green salad and some great bread!

*To easily peel tomatoes: Make an "x" in the bottom of each tomato with a sharp knife (do not cut too deep, you only need a shallow cut.) Boil a pot of water and have a bowl of ice water standing by. When water is rapidly boiling, place one or two tomatoes at a time in the boiling water and leave in for just 15 seconds. Remove from boiling water and then immediately immerse tomatoes in ice water to stop the cooking process. Continue until all tomatoes are done. Remove from ice water and viola! Skin will peel right off!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Slow Cooker Chickpea and Farro Soup

This time of year, I absolutely love turning to my slow cooker for dinner. It’s one of the busiest times of the year at my job, and when you add that to the stress of the holidays and the fact that it’s pitch black when I get home each evening, it’s really hard to work up the motivation to cook. I’d much rather be greeted by my slow cooker, which has been working away at a warm and cozy meal for me all day.

This hearty chickpea and farro soup is perfect for a cold, snowy day – and the leftovers make great lunches for the rest of the week.

Slow Cooker Chickpea and Farro Soup
by Lauren

1 cup dry chickpeas
2 carrots, peeled and cut into half-moons
1 rib celery, chopped
1 Vidalia onion, chopped
8 cups vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 cup farro
2 cups baby spinach
Parmesan cheese

Fill a medium pot with water. Add the chickpeas and bring to a boil. Boil 15 minutes. Drain.

Add the chickpeas, carrots, celery, onion, vegetable stock, bay leaf, and peppercorns to your Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker. Cook on high 5 hours, or until the chickpeas are soft.

Add the farro and cook another 2 hours, or until soft. Stir in the baby spinach.

Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.