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Old-Fashioned Beef & Root Vegetable Stew

Winter weather calls for hearty, comfort foods like this delicious stew. What is even better on a cold winter’s night is to come in from the rain (or snow) to the smell of your dinner ready and waiting for you. What better way to warm up and relax after a long, hard day than to be able to sit down to a steamy bowl of stew without having to do any cooking.

One thing that is nice about this stew is that it can be prepped in a fairly short amount of time (other slow cooker recipes have so many preparation steps that they hardly feel like time savers at all). Brown the meat, chop the veggies, throw it all in the pot and go. You can do this the night before and keep everything in your fridge over night if you are crunched for time in the morning.

Everyone in our house loved this stew. It’s a total classic and will definitely feature prominently in our winter slow cooker rotation. It goes great with crusty sourdough rolls for dipping.

The meat gets so tender from the slow cooking process that it is perfect toddler food as long as all the pieces are cut into reasonable sized chunks. It’s a little messy as finger food, but it is possible for your little one to feed this to himself…just make sure bath time is just around the corner. Otherwise use a spoon.

Leftovers of this stew reheat and/or freeze well.

If you want to try it yourself…


Beef and Root Vegetable Stew (source: Canadian Living Slow Cooker Collection)

2 lbs. stew beef cubes

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 each onions, carrots and parsnips, peeled and cubed

2 potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 cup peeled rutabaga

3 cups beef broth

2 bay leaves

2 tsp dried marjoram or thyme

3/4 tsp each salt and pepper

2 cups frozen chopped green beans or peas

  • Trim beef and cut into 1-inch cubes, if necessary. In large bowl, toss beef with 1/4 cup of the flour. In large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; brown beef. Transfer to slow cooker.
  • Add 1/2 cup water to skillet; bring to boil, scraping brown bits from bottom of skillet. Scrape into slow cooker along with onions, carrots, parsnips, potatoes and rutabaga. Stir in broth, bay leaves, marjoram, salt and pepper.
  • Cover and cook on low until beef and vegetables are tender, about 7 to 8 hours. Skim off any fat. Move meat and vegetables to 1 side of slow cooker.
  • Whisk remaining flour with 1/3 cup water; whisk into liquid in slow cooker. Stir in beans or peas.
  • Cover; cook on high until thickened and steaming hot, about 15 minutes. Discard bay leaves.

Makes 8-10 servings. Requires a 5-6 L slow cooker.

Note: When a stew contains sweet vegetables like carrots and parsnips, it may need a splash of lemon juice, cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar to balance the flavours. Taste before you serve and decide.

Per serving: 256 calories; 23 g protein; 8 g total fat (3 g saturated fat); 22 g carbs; 3 g fibre; 44 mg cholesterol; 480 mg sodium

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Vegetable Beef & Rice Soup

I was a little skeptical when we decided to make this soup. I’m not the biggest fan of ground meat in soup. Chili I can do. Stew I can do. But soup, not so much. I am so glad I didn’t listen to my gut. This soup is AMAZING! There is no way to effectively describe just how good it is in words, so I will just have to insist that you try it yourself.

It is easy to prepare. All you need to do is brown the meat, chop and sauté the veggies and throw it all in a slow cooker and let it cook while you’re at work or out running errands. It’s a great soup for hardworking families and busy days. While the recipe asks you to add frozen peas and lemon juice at the end of the cooking process, we have forgotten this step both times that we have made this soup and it still tastes great. In fact, it tastes so good, we will probably never try it with lemon juice and peas—why mess with a good thing?

Our little soup loving boy was all over this soup the first time we made it. The second time he wasn’t thrilled with the ground beef (guess he takes after me), but toddlers are finicky and unpredictable when it comes to food, so we’ll say he gave it one thumb up instead of two.

Leftovers of this soup reheat well. It’s so good there probably won’t be anything left to freeze.

If you want to try it yourself…


Vegetable Beef & Rice Soup (source: Canadian Living Slow Cooker Collection)

8 oz. lean ground beef

2 large carrots, diced

1 large onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, diced

Half sweet red pepper, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp crumbled dried rosemary

1/2 tsp. salt and pepper

6 cups beef broth

2/3 cup parboiled whole grain rice

1 cup frozen peas

1 tbsp lemon juice

  • In large skillet, sauté beef over medium-high heat, breaking up with fork until crumbly and no longer pink, about 8 minutes. With slotted spoon transfer beef to slow cooker.
  • Drain fat from skillet. Fry carrots, onion, celery, red pepper, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 6 minutes. Scrape into slow cooker.
  • Add 1/2 cup of the broth to skillet; bring to a boil, scraping up brown bits from bottom of skillet. Scrape into slow cooker along with remaining broth, 2 cups water and rice. Stir to combine.
  • Cover and cook on low until vegetables are tender, about 5 hours.
  • Stir in peas and lemon juice. Cover and cook on high until steaming hot, about 15 minutes.

Makes 8-10 servings in a 4-6 L slow cooker.

Per serving: 129 calories, 8 g protein, 4 g total fat (1 g saturated fat); 16 g carbs; 2 g fibre; 13 mg cholesterol; 629 mg sodium

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Vegetarian Chili


Photo: Arieanna on Active Mama


We’ve discovered that Zayden loves tomato-based soups and figured chili would be an easy sell. But a hearty, meaty chili just didn’t seem like a summer food, so we decided to try a vegetarian version that my fellow Active Mama, Arieanna, had blogged about awhile back. Just like Arieanna, we chose to use black beans instead of black bean soup for this recipe. It was super easy to prepare–just throw everything into your slow cooker. We opted to finely chop all the veggies in our Mini Prep rather than cutting them by hand to be sure they were small enough for Zayden to handle. The beans he can handle whole.

This tasty chili is definitely a family-friendly meal. We all enjoyed it, and it tasted even better the second day.

If you want to try it yourself…


Grandma’s Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili (source: All Recipes; original recipe)

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    Apple Crock Pot Oatmeal

    Apple OatmealTHE VERDICT:

    We love our slow cooker oatmeal as followers of this blog know, so we were eager to try this recipe. It was easy to put together as only the apples needed to be prepped; everything else could just be thrown into the pot. The results were pretty tasty though I think the Four Grain Hot Cereal is still my favourite. The only thing I would change would be the cooking time. I think 7 hours would probably be sufficient. The bottom got a little burnt after 8 hours of cooking time.

    If you want to try it yourself…


    Apple Crock Pot Oatmeal (source: www.wittyliving.com; original recipe)

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    Vanilla-Coconut Rice Pudding with Fresh Mango

    Rice PuddingTHE VERDICT:

    A dessert that takes less than 10 minutes to prepare and then cooks itself? And it tastes like coconut and vanilla? Sign me up!

    As you know, we love our slow cooker, but we had never used it to make a dessert before now. This dessert was such a success that I can see many more sweet experiments in the future. We just threw the ingredients into the pot as soon as Justin got home from work and dessert was ready by the time we were done dinner. That being said, we didn’t follow the recipe to the letter. The coconut oil that is supposed to pool in the centre of the pudding while cooking never materialized, so we decided that we didn’t need to saute the fruit. We also elected to use mango instead of papaya as good quality mangoes are easier to find. Finally, we ignored the stipulations about cooling the pudding and ate it while it was still warm, which was wonderful. This “cheat” is definitely worthwhile when the dessert is fresh, but any leftovers taste delicious chilled (we had none of the problems with runniness as described in the recipe).

    If you want to try it yourself…


    Vanilla Coconut Rice Pudding with Sauteed Papaya (source: Slow Cooking magazine, a Woman’s Day special interest publication)

    1 cup basmati rice

    1 can unsweetened coconut milk

    3/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. sugar

    Pinch salt

    1/2 vanilla bean

    1 cup half and half

    1 large egg yolk

    1/2 papaya, seeded, peeled and sliced 1/4 in. thick

    • In a 4 qt. slow cooker, combine rice, coconut milk, 3/4 cup sugar and the salt. Fill the coconut milk can with water and add it to the slow cooker. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape seeds into the slow cooker; add the vanilla bean pod. Stir to combine.
    • Cover and cook on High for 2 hours, or until rice is soft and mixture is thick; do not stir. There will be a hollow filled with clear coconut oil in the centre of the pudding, spoon the oil out and reserve 2 Tbsp. for sauteeing the papaya before discarding the rest.
    • In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of the half and half and the egg yolk, then gradually pour it into the pudding, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Remove vanilla bean pod.
    • Transfer pudding to a large bowl, stir in the remaining half and half, let cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours or up to 6 hours (if refrigerated as long as a day it will become runny).
    • Heat the reserved coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the papaya slices and remaining sugar; saute, turning occasionally for about 6 minutes or until fruit is soft and caramelized.
    • Scoop chilled rice pudding onto plates and top with sauteed papaya.

    Makes 6 servings.

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    Breakfast Risotto with Rhubarb Compote

    Breakfast Risotto with Rhubarb CompoteTHE VERDICT:

    We love starting our day with a hot breakfast, but until we discovered the joys of slow cooker porridge, a hot breakfast was a special treat on weekends or involved going out to eat. Since making this important discovery, we have sought out breakfast recipes for the slow cooker at every opportunity, including this recipe for Breakfast Risotto. Slow cooker recipes, especially breakfast recipes can be rather hit or miss, but this one was a success. Like most slow cooker recipes, it was quick and easy to prepare. It paired very well with the rhubarb compote though I think it would also taste delicious on its own, especially if you use nice, tart apples to prepare it.

    Rhubarb is currently in season, and our weekend trip to our local farmers’ market at the Lonsdale Quay inspired me to incorporate it into a few dishes this week. If you like rhubarb as much as I do, then this compote recipe is definitely one you should try. It is incredibly simple to prepare, and its small number of ingredients really allow the rhubarb flavour to shine. It was a wonderful addition to this breakfast, but would also taste great at dinnertime over pork tenderloin or for dessert poured over ice cream. We combined leftover compote with leftover quinoa as a spontaneous dessert, and it actually tasted pretty good. This week we plan to use the compote to flavour plain yogurt as a snack.

    If you want to try it yourself…


    Breakfast Risotto (source: www.wittyliving.com; original recipe)

    Rhubarb Compote (source: www.epicurious.com; original recipe)

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    Four Grain Hot Cereal

    Four Grain Hot Cereal

    Four Grain Hot Cereal


    Ever fantasize about going to bed one night and waking up to discover that a warm, nutritious breakfast is ready and waiting for you? It’s possible. Most people think slow cookers are only good for making stews and other dinner dishes, but they are the best kept breakfast secret ever. Just spend a few minutes assembling this tasty porridge the night before and you will have a wonderful hot breakfast waiting for you before you are even fully functional in the morning.

    This is one of our favourite meals as well as our favourite slow cooker recipe. The ingredients can be found in most bulk sections at the grocery store. It takes almost no time to assemble and makes enough for at least two days worth of breakfasts, and we can usually stretch it to three. As you may have guessed, it reheats beautifully and is just as delicious the next day. Justin likes to stir a bit of yogurt into his while I prefer mine plain.

    The only downside is clean up. Like all porridges, it’s a little sticky, so make sure you rinse out your bowls before heading out the door in the morning so that you don’t have to scrub the breakfast dishes too hard later.

    If you want to try it yourself…


    Four-Grain Hot Cereal (source: Better Homes and Gardens Ultimate Slow Cooker magazine)

    3 cups water

    2 ½ cups apple juice

    ½ cup regular barley

    ½ cup steel-cut oats

    ½ cup dried cranberries

    ½ cup dried apricots

    ¼ cup wheat berries

    ¼ cup quinoa

    ¼ tsp. salt

    ¼ cup honey

    • In slow cooker, combine the water, apple juice, barley, oats, cranberries, apricots, wheat berries, quinoa and salt.
    • Cover and cook on low heat setting for 6-7 hours.
    • Stir in honey just before serving.

    Makes 6-8 servings. Per serving: 331 calories, 5 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 108 mg sodium, 70 g carbohydrates, 8 g fibre, 7 g protein

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