Monday, October 25, 2021

Home Cooking in the Crockpot

My crockpot has been getting a workout these last few weeks.  This week was the last week for the Adult Ed classes Deus Ex Machina and I were taking this fall.  We had two - Qigong on Wednesday nights (which will continue mid- November) and Country Line Dancing on Thursdays (which will resume in January, hopefully!).  Both classes were a hoot, and really, line dancing is some crazy good exercise ... if you do it the way I do - lots of hips and flailing arms :).  

There's no time to eat before class with work schedules being what they are, and so we eat after, but there's no time to cook dinner after class, if we hope to eat before 8:00pm.  So, I've been putting our dinner in the crockpot for the past several weeks, and it's been amazing.  Honestly, that crockpot has, totally, paid for itself - just in the savings from not eating out.  We won't even add the cost savings from the fact that there are always leftovers that Deus Ex Machina takes to lunch.

We've had a lot of different meals.  My favorite is to throw a pork roast with seasonings for Carnitas.  The meat is served with corn tortillas or chips, lettuce, grated cheese, salsa, and sour cream.  Sometimes I will cook rice to serve with it instead of the corn tortillas.  

Really, any roast in the crockpot is a good choice.  Beef roast topped with a tomato sauce, peppers, and onions is Yankee Pot Roast, and served over mashed potatoes.

Another favorite is to add stew meat, potatoes, carrots, onions, and spices for beef stew.  The other day, I had to drive to work because my daughter needed a ride to her job, and I came home at lunch and threw stew in the crockpot.  It was done by the time we got done with our Qigong class.

Sometimes, though, I just want the comfort of a good Mac&Cheese, but to make it the right way, which is not from a box and includes baking it, can be time consuming.  Really good Mac&Cheese includes a lot of cooking terms: boil, grate, mix, bake ....  

I found a crockpot version that is so simple, I can't even imagine doing Mac&Cheese any other way, now.  And there's no need to pre-boil the pasta.   Just throw everything into the crockpot, close the lid, wait an hour, stir, leave it alone for another hour or so, and serve, and it's AMAZING!

The original recipe called for Velveeta cheese, which I don't ever use.  So, I adapted it for my kitchen, and because I wanted it to be a full meal, I added ham and broccoli, both of which are optional and can be left out. 

Here's my recipe, using gluten-free penne or macaroni, and no Velveeta cheese.

Creamy Crock-pot Mac & Cheese

Ingredients:

12 oz pasta (I've used Penne and macaroni, both of which came out really good)

14 oz shredded cheese (I used a mix of cheddar, Monterey Jack, and Pepper Jack)

4 oz Feta (an additional 4 ounces of a shredded cheese would also work)

3 1/2 c Half and Half

1/2 c butter, cut into 1" slices

1 lb ham, cubed (optional)

1 c  chopped broccoli pieces (optional).

How To:

1.  Put pasta topped with ham and broccoli in the bottom of the crockpot. 

2.  Put butter on top of pasta, ham, and broccoli

3.  Add shredded cheese.

4. Pour in with Half and Half.

5.  Cover with lid and cook on high for one hour.

6.  Stir well.

7.  Replace lid and cook for an additional hour.


The only worry is to check the pasta to make sure that it's not overcooked and mushy, but even if it is a little well-done, it's still creamy and delicious, and so much easier than dealing with multiple pots and baking pans.  

I like simple meals that taste really good and don't use many dishes ... because I love to cook, but I hate washing dishes.  

7 comments:

  1. Love my crock pots! I already did, and then a friend gave me a set for Christmas a couple of years back - a big one and a little "dip" size one. I actually use the little one for heating up soup for lunch several times a week.

    Going to have to try this mac & cheese recipe - the boy is a big fan of mac & cheese. One of my favorites is to put chicken breasts in the crock pot with pasta sauce or BBQ sauce and let it go all day, with rice or quinoa in the rice cooker. A few minutes before dinner we shred the chicken with forks and let it cook a bit longer to soak up the sauce, then use it to top whatever the grain was; garnished with some shredded cheese or herbs... yummmm. The guys use the leftovers (when there are some haha) in tortillas the next day.

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    1. Mine is a Pampered Chef Roc Crock. I like it, because I put the crock in the oven, too. It's oven safe up to 500°.

      How do you like your rice cooker? I've heard it's the only way to cook rice.

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    2. I'm up to four now. LOL My main one is a CrockPot brand programmable I've had for, oh golly, 15+ years? Then I have a smaller one that was a hand-me-down from my mom - I originally took it for melting beeswax for candles but have just kept it for cooking after all. Then the Mickey Mouse set (a 5qt plus the mini dip one) was Christmas 2019 from my friend the Disney fanatic. I think this move I'll go ahead and phase out the oldest one. It's my "Old Faithful" but who knows what the retirement house will be like. Better to let someone else get use of it.

      I absolutely love the rice cooker. It's a Zojirushi that I bought at the PX when we were in Japan, I've had it since probably 2009? I don't own many small appliances - if the blender dies, I won't bother replacing it - but the rice cooker and the slow cooker are must haves for me. This is what I have: https://www.zojirushi.com/app/product/nswxc (not an affiliate link).

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  2. Oh that Yankee pot roast sounds good! I love crock pot stew! Really nice especially in the winter when you want something that's going to roast for a while. Sadly we can't do too much Dairy tummy issues but that mac and cheese sounds great! I used to just make these Skillet version when I was working with three kids at home. Cook the pasta while I made a white sauce with two kinds of cheese, no time for baking! Just drain the pasta out of the sauce having some proteins and off we went. I took Tai Chi classes for a year and loved it! Chi gong sounds really cool too

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    1. We debated on whether to take Tai Chi or Qigong, and decided on the Qigong. The classes were taught by the same teacher, though, as we found out the first night of class. What we were told, that night, is that Qigong is the basis of Chinese medicine, and all forms (Tai Chi, Reiki, etc.) are built off Qigong. It's a wonderfully relaxing and invigorating practice.

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  3. Wow, this sounds so easy! I love crock pot cooking, especially on days I have a lot of outside projects. So nice to have dinner ready after chores are done.

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    1. It is so easy - but just remember to stir about halfway through, and check to make sure it's not overcooked.

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