Monday, 29 December 2014

Spiced beef

According to wikipedia Spiced beef is a cured and salted joint of rump or silverside beef, which is traditionally served at Christmas or the New Year in Ireland.

I remember eating spiced beef as a child, it was always a Christmas special, though not usually eaten on Christmas day. Downey's butchers in Terenure, near where I grew up, was known for its spiced beef, and it was a favourite of my father's. In the last few years, I have usually cooked a spiced beef in the run up to Christmas, and it is a special dinner. This year I bought it from James Whelan butchers, planning to cook it on the 23rd December, when the family (including my mother) would be together to enjoy it.

It was my mum who suggested I try cooking it in the slow cooker. I was afraid that it might get a little overdone, but since I was at work on the 23rd, and I didn't want her to have to cook it, I decided to give it a try - and I'm glad I did. This is definitely how I'll cook it in future.


This took almost no preparation at all. I chopped up two onions and put them at the bottom of the crock pot, and set the spiced beef on top. I then poured over a 500ml can of Guinness. I put the lid on the cooker, set it to cook on low and left it for 8 hours.

Shortly before eating, we prepared some mashed potato and some peas - because we were too lazy to prepare any other vegetables.

The Outcome

The spiced beef was absolutely as it should be, and certainly not overcooked. It was tender and full of flavour - not at all dried out. The mashed potato was a perfect pairing.

The Verdict

If you can get your hands on a good piece of spiced beef, this is absolutely the way to cook it. Between the 5 of us, we finished off every piece. Ms Fussy Eater cut off all of the delicious spices, of course, but that's her choice. The Teenager had no such qualms and ate his dinner heartily.

No pictures, I'm afraid.

Beef curry II

A couple of weeks back, in mid-December, it was getting cold and dreary, with short days and not a lot of light even during daylight hours. I had a wanting for a decent beef curry and thought I'd see what I could do with the slow cooker. I looked up a few recipes, but couldn't find exactly what I wanted. I did consider the beef curry from back in September, but I wanted something different - good as that was.

In the Australian Women's Weekly easy slow cooking I found a recipe for massaman beef curry which looks great in the accompanying photo, but it uses peanut oil and includes roasted peanuts in the ingredients. With two nut allergy sufferers in the house, it just isn't suitable. But I liked the idea of using coconut milk and I always have a selection of curry paste in the house. So, I decided to make my own version.

Beef curry served with rice

I sliced up two onions and fried them until brown in a small amount of (olive) oil. They then went into the bottom of the crock pot. I then browned about 600g round steak, cubed, in the large frying pan and added 2 tbsp rogan josh curry paste. This I stirred for about 1 minute until the beef was well coated with paste. I added the beef to the crock pot along with 1 can of low-fat coconut milk, a chicken stock cube, a cinnamon stick and two bay leaves. Finally, I cut 3 medium potatoes into cubes and mixed them in.

The crock pot was left to cook on low for about 8 hours. After that time, the cinamon stick was discarded and I added 1 tbsp light brown sugar and 1 tbsp fish sauce. We served the curry, as in the picture, with some brown rice.

The Result

This was a really good curry. The meat and the potato both held their shape and texture, while the sauce was spicey with a good kick. The coconut milk gave a good balance without being sweet in any way. Eating it with the rice was probably a little bit carb-heavy, but given the miserable, wet, cold, dreary weather, I think we could do with a little more carbs.

The Verdict

Hubby and Mr Teenager really enjoyed this meal and both went back for more. Ms Fussy Eater was pleased to discover that the obvious chunks of vegetables were actually potato and not anything more sinister (such as squash or parsnip). The sauce was smooth without being creamy, so she was happy enough to mix it into her rice. We all appreciated the extra warmth of the sauce.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Chicken Burrito Bowls

I'm not a big Pinterest user. I created an account a couple of years ago, but have never found a real use for it. It seems quite useful as a bookmark tool, for interesting websites, but only if the site of interest has an image associated with it. More recently though, I've found a good use for it in collecting recipes of interest. I've created a board just for Slow Cooker Recipes, and whenever I come across an interesting recipe I pin it to the board. Then, when I'm planning meals for the week, I have a growing collection of recipes to try.

This recipe for Chicken Burrito Bowls I came across some weeks ago and have been meaning to try. The recipe is pinned from Slow Cooker from Scratch, but the full recipe is from the kitchn. The recipe involves two stages, with the rice being added later in the process. Normally I wouldn't be able to do this, so I noted that the version on the kitchn recommends cooking the rice separately if necessary.

On Wednesday, hubby and I took the day off to go Christmas shopping, so it was an ideal opportunity to try this out. The preparation was dead easy, no pre-cooking or browning, simply throw everything in. When we got in, later that day, I decided to just add the rice to the crock-pot and turn it to high for about an hour. This approach worked a treat.


On Wednesday morning, I put all the ingredients, apart from the rice, into the crock pot. These were: about 5 chicken breasts, a tin of chopped tomatoes, a chicken stock cube, 2tsp hot chilli power, 1tsp each salt and cumin, a tin of black beans, a handful each of frozen corn and frozen peas. I gave it all a bit of a stir and left the crock pot to cook on low for about 7 hours.

When we came home, I considered cooking the rice separately, but I could see a lot of juice in the crock pot and thought it would be much nicer to cook the rice in that. So, I added about 240g brown rice, again stirred it up, then switched the crock pot to high. Less than an hour later it was ready.

The Outcome

As expected, the chicken was well cooked and could be easily broken up into chunks and shreds in the pot. The rice had absorbed all the juice, and so we ended up with something quite substantial. The beans, corn and peas added some colour and texture to the dish. The flavour was good and I think we were all quite suprised at how tasty it all was.

The Verdict

Three of us really like the dish: simple, easy and tasty as it was. We covered our rice mixture with grated cheese, and hubby and I added a little quacamole and sour cream. Hubby declared it all to be delicious, and just what was needed after a day's Christmas shopping in the cold and rain. Mr Teenager didn't utter a word as he finished off a large bowl and went back for more. He didn't seem to notice the black beans and corn, which he would ordinarily have turned up his nose at. Only Ms Fussy Eater lived up to her name. She had a cold coming on and was probably not feeling too hungry anyway. She picked a little at her chicken but wouldn't eat anything else.

Unfortunately I didn't get a photo this time, but do take a look at the pin.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Chicken Tikka Masala

We have been using the crock pot quite a bit recently. Our daily lives are driven by work, school and after-school activites and there's just no time (most evenings) to prepare, serve and eat a family dinner. On Tuesday's, for example, Ms Fussy Eater has guitar from 5 to 6; Mr Teenager has guitar from 7 to 8; and Hubby has his music group from 8:45. Anything we start preparing from 6:15 (when we get in) won't be ready for us all to eat before 7, so usually we eat when Mr Teenage comes home, and before Hubby has to leave. It's a logistics nightmare!

Chicken tikka masala with rice

So, this recipe from the Australian Women's Weekly easy slow cooking look particularly easy and appealing. Both children have recently discovered a love of "chicken curry" and they both like the flavours and the spices.

Erin Dine-ins
When shopping for the ingredients, however, we couldn't get a jar of tikka masala paste! The supermarket was just out - an empty space on the shelf where it should have been. This was a drawback - using a different paste would make a curry, but it wouldn't be chicken tikka masala. As we progressed around the shelves however, we came across a new product from Erin called Dine-ins, which includes a tikka masala version. Basically it is a little pot (very small) of concentrated paste and another pot of spices. We decided to give it a try.

The recipe calls for 1kg skinless chicken thigh cutlets. We used 4 chicken oyster thighs and 4 chicken oyster thigh legs. This was more than enough for 4 people. In fact, hubby has been bringing it for lunch on at least two separate occasions.


In the morning, between preparing breakfast and getting the kids ready for school, I skinned the chicken pieces. This was the most time consuming piece of the whole recipe. They were then put into the crock pot with 1 can tinned tomatoes; 2 onions sliced thinly; and the contents of the Dine-ins spice and paste. We stirred this together and then left it cooking on low for the rest of the day.

Later that evening, all we had to prepare was some rice.

The Outcome

This produced a really lovely curry, with great flavour, in a chunky sauce. The recipe added 60ml pouring cream, but we didn't think it was necessary. To get a creamier texture, you could certainly add it. The chicken was tender and came off the bones very easily.

There was more than enough curry for four of us, we could probably have fed six people. Mr Teenager went back to for a second helping.

The Verdict

This was a big hit with the whole family. Although it was really quite spicey, Ms Fussy Easter finished everything on her plate and said it was "very nice". Mr Teenager, as mentioned, had two platefulls and said it was delicious. Hubby was also very satisfied.

Since then, we've managed to procure a jar of tikka masala paste, but we've also purchased a couple of other Erin Dine-ins to try them out.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Beef Provencale

As expected, we've been using the crock pot more often as the weather turns colder, the evenings get darker, and we're all busy with work and school. Next week is mid-term break, the clocks will go back and it'll be Halloween before we realise.

At the moment, we are using the crock pot about 3 times per week - on Sundays and then two mid-week dinners. With the kids so busy with after school activities, hubby back at his musical society, me on the parents' association, and both of us doing mom/dad taxi, it's amazing that we all manage to sit down to eat together at the same time, most evenings.

Beef Provencale
Beef Provencale
Yesterday (Tuesday) we had this delicious beef stew, based on a recipe from a weightwatchers magazine. As usual, we prepared it all the night before, including browning the beef. That saved time yesterday morning, and by the time I got home from work the stew was bubbling and hubby had prepared his famous mashed potato.


I browned about 500g stewing beef, cut into chunks. I put the beef, along with the juices left after I deglazed the pan with a splash of water. To this we added: 2 onions, cut into quarters; 8 peeled garlic cloves, left whole; a can of chopped tomatoes; 1tbsp tomato puree; 2 tbsp dried thyme; a beef stock cube; a red pepper, cut into strips; and a splash of water. This mixture was left overnight in the fridge.

Next morning I simply set the slow cooker to cook on low, and left it all day - about 10 hours in total. When hubby got home, he prepared his mashed potato.

The Outcome

I think I am getting better at judging the quantity of liquid to add into a dish like this. The reciped called for 300ml beef stock, but the only liquid I added was the little bit from the pan, the can of tomatoes, and the splash of water to rinse out the can. As a result, the stew was perfect in terms of its quantity and consistency of sauce. The meat was beautifully tender and there was a lovely flavour.

There was easily 5 good helpings of stew - 6 at a stretch. Only three of us ate (see below) and we all had second helpings. There was plenty left over, which hubby will take to work for his lunch on two days.

The Verdict

Ms Fussy Eater had been sick earlier in the day, so she just had mashed potato. Mr Teenager wolfed his helping down and then demanded more - so that's a good sign. Hubby said it was delicious, and just the thing for a damp, dark night.

This definitely goes on the list for repeating.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Slow cooker cheesy lasagne

The other evening, I found myself in a twitter chat about using a slow cooker. This is not something that I usually discuss on twitter, but somebody had tweeted a question about suitable recipes and a number of people responded. I found myself in a small group chat about what can or can't be cooked, and one person said that they liked to make lasagne. Now, lasagne isn't something that I'd considered making in my crock pot, I thought it was largely reserved for stews and dishes with a sauce, or else long, slow cooking of meat, so I have to admit that I was quite intrigued. I asked if the person (who tweeted) had any hints, and she pointed me to this recipe for Slow Cooker Cheesy Lasagne on

At this point, I should say that I make a damn good lasagne, the conventional way. I was taught by a fellow student, many years ago, who had an Italian girlfriend at the time. I don't have a written recipe, but my version is really good, and my family Loves it (with a capital 'L'). But, for my first time, I didn't trust myself to use my own recipe and instead I decided to follow (more or less) the slow cooker recipe.

However, I did notice that the slow cooker recipe contains a LOT of cheese. I do like cheese, but in general I try to stick to a low fat diet, so I had to make a couple of adjustments to the recipe to bring the fat content down. I used low fat cottage cheese (rather than the full fat recommended) and I halved the amount of mozarella. I also used about half the quantity of lasagne sheets. The lasagne still filled my crock pot almost to the brim, so it was plenty for 4 of us.

Cheesy lasagne
Slow Cooker Cheesy Lasagne
I made this on Sunday. It takes just 4 to 6 hours in the crock pot, and I didn't want to overcook it, so it wasn't suitable for making on a weekday. But on Sunday I just prepared everything and switched it on at about 1pm. Our delicious dinner was ready to eat at 6:30pm, giving me plenty of time to get out to the Galway BakeFest in Leisureland with Ms Fussy Eater.


I browned about 450g lean minced beef with a chopped onion and 2 cloves of garlic, minced, in a large pan. Once browned, I added about 800g passata, a large tablespoon of sundried tomato paste, a pinch of salt and a decent sprinkling of dried oregano.

In a separate bowl I combined 350g low fat cottage cheese, about 40g freshly grated parmesan, and 200g grated mozarella cheese. This is quite a thick, sticky mixture.

I put a layer of the meat into the bottom of the crock pot and covered this with a layer of (wholewheat) lasagne sheets. I had to break the sheets up to get them fitted into the pot, because it's an oval shape. I used about 3 sheets, so the lasagne was in a double layer in some spots. Then I spooned about 1/3 of the cheese mixture on top of the lasagne. I repeated this twice more, finishing with a layer of cheese.

I then switched the crock pot on low and left it for about 5 and half hours.

The Outcome

This looked very odd as it was cooking, especially with the lumps of cottage cheese on top. Ms Fussy Eater looked in at one stage, about an hour into cooking, turned up her nose and exlaimed "Eugh, I'm not eating that!".

Later that evening, though, the aroma was too delicious for her to turn up her nose. On opening the lid of the pot, it was clear that the lasagne was quite saucy, and it didn't come out in clean layers (see the picture above). The pasta itself was very well cooked and the cottage cheese had transformed itself, somehow. The recipe fed the full family of 4, with generous portions.

The Verdict

Despite appearances, the lasagne was very good. The whole family devoured it in about 15 minutes and there were no leftovers.

Mr Teenager, on first seeing it, asked if he could put it into a sandwich (he was recently introduced to Sloppy Joes). He declared it to be delicious. Ms Fussy Eater also finished off her portion very quickly, leaving nothing on the plate. She also agreed that it was very good, but said she preferred the "normal" lasagne. Hubby, who has always enjoyed lasagne, was very pleased with the result of the experiment.

I think I will probably make this again, especially if I want the time during the afternoon to do something else. It was great to put everything together early in the day and then forget about it. I might try adapting my own recipe to see how that works out. But in the meantime, another success story.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Beef Curry

Now that the children are both back at school, and their activities are kicking in, the crock pot is going to become an essential piece of equipment in the kitchen. We don't seem to have a single evening when there isn't something happening - basketball, guitar, piano, musical society, parents' association....

This was particularly true this week, with both hubbie and me very busy at work, and we had to plan well all week. On Tuesday evening, I prepared this beef curry, which cooked away all day Wednesday and was ready for Wednesday evening, when hubbie got home late and Ms Fussy Eater got back from basketball training.

Slow cooker beef curry
Beef curry with rice
I had some prepared beef (about 650g) and was wondering what to do with it. I was trying to choose from the Slow Cooking Properly Explained recipe book, between a beef curry and beef in barbecue sauce. So, I asked Mr Teenager what he'd prefer. He managed to look up from his laptop long enough to say "curry", and so the decision was made.





First, mix together 2tbsp flour, 1tbsp curry powder (I used hot), 1tsp each ground cumin, turmeric and ginger, and a pinch of salt. Then toss the prepared beef in the mixture to coat.

I heated 1tbsp olive oil in a pan and fried a chopped onion and crushed garlic clove until soft, then added the beef and browned it all over. I put the onion and beef mix into the crock pot, with any remaining flour and spice mix.

Added to the beef is: 150ml beef stock, 400g chopped tomatoes, 2tbsp mango chutney, dash of Tabasco, 1tbsp lemon juice and 2 apples, chopped.

The recipe calls for cooking apples, but I used eaters from the garden. The recipe also uses 25g sultanas and 25g cashew nuts - but we have nut allergies in the house, and nobody except me would eat the sultanas. So, I left them out.

I left the crock pot in the fridge overnight (while the flavours developed) and next morning left it to cook on low for about 10 hours.

The Result

The smell in the house that evening was amazing. The recipe produced a beautifully rich curry with a thick tomato sauce. There was no evidence of the apples at all (which is just as well, because Ms Fussy Eater would spend her time picking them out of the sauce) and the curry had a lovely, gently sweet flavour. I expected it to be hotter, since I'd used hot curry powder, but it was actually just nicely spicey. Next time, I might add more curry powder. We ate it with rice and it really was a lovely meal.

The Verdict

Mr Teenager certainly enjoyed it, declaring it to be delicious. Ms Fussy Eater was tired after 90 minutes of basketball training, but she had a small helping and pushed her rice around the plate a little bit. She was heard to say that it was "quite nice" which is high praise. There was no evidence of vegetables in the meal, which is always a plus, for her.

This was definitely a success and could well become a regular on our menu.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

To be honest, I haven't made much use of my crock pot over the summer. With the kids off school, and our days a bit more relaxed, not to mention holidays, it just didn't seem necessary. I did make the best whole chicken in a crock pot a couple of times, and also some versions of the slow cook bacon, but I didn't try anything new at all.

Until last week, when the kids went back to school. Ms Fussy Eater progressed to secondary school, joining her brother Mr Teenage on the school bus. This means that they both have longer days and are not hanging round the house any more. They get home about 5pm and get homework done before Hubby and I get home from work. Unless they manage to prepare something for themselves - and seriously, Mr Teenager can barely manage to pour boiling water over pot noodles - they are usually hungry.

So, last week we selected two recipes from the Australian Women's Weekly easy slow cooking book. The first of these we had on Tuesday - meatballs in tomato sauce.


Meatballs and spaghetti is a huge favourite in our house, especially with Ms Fussy Eater. But she has a favourite recipe, for Spanish meatballs, made with minced lamb. We're tried other recipes, but she's never satisfied. So, it was a little risky to try this, but the picture looked so good!

I made the meatballs the night before, putting them (in layers) into the crock pot and leaving them overnight. I made the sauce separately in a jug, and poured it over the next morning. It took a bit of preparation.


On monday evening I soaked 2 slices of bread (brown/white mix) in 125ml milk for 10 minutes. Then I whizzed this up in the food processor with an onion, a carrot, 3 cloves garlic. This mixture was added to about 600g lean minced beef, with an egg, 2 tbsp sundried tomato paste, and some dried oregano. I shaped the mixture into small-ish balls, resulting in about 30 meatballs, which I put into the crock pot bowl and left in the fridge overnight.

To make the sauce I softened a chopped onion and 2 more cloves of garlic in a little olive oil. Then I added a can of chopped tomatoes and a can of cherry tomatoes (these were whizzed together in the food processor to avoid any lumps). I also added another 2tbsp sundried tomato paste and 250ml beef stock. This was left in a jug in the fridge overnight.

Next morning I simply poured the sauce over the meatballs and left it to cook on low for about 6 hours. We served it with spaghetti.

The Result

I honestly expected to come home to find all the mince stuck together at the bottom of the dish, and that I'd have to just mix it up and serve as bolognaise. But, actually, the meatballs all held their shape beautifully, dispersing themselves around the sauce, which was beautifully rich in texture, colour and flavour. The breadcrumbs in the mix made the meatballs light and not at all dense, like you might find in other recipes.

The Verdict

This was really delicious and everybody had second helpings, and there was still some leftovers. Mr Teenager just covered his plate with parmesan (a usual behaviour) and devoured it. Ms Fussy Eater complained initially that it wasn't the favoured recipe, but then ate everything down quite enthusiastically. She did concede that it might be her second-favourite recipe for meatballs and she wouldn't mind if we made it again.

I think we will make it again!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

The Best Whole Chicken in a Crock Pot

UntitledThe weekend before I cooked the Luscious Italian Chicken recipe was very, very busy. On the Saturday morning, I accompanied Ms Fussy Eater to Dublin to see 1 Direction live at Croke Park. We left home that morning at about 8:45am, and went on a bus with 45 other mums and young ladies, stopping off at Dundrum shopping centre for a couple of hours, before proceeding on to Croke Park. 1 Direction played to more than 80,000 fans that evening, while it lashed rain. Ms Fussy Eater enjoyed the event immensly, and I have to say that I had a good time too. We got to bed, after a long bus journey home, at 3:30am.

So, I was in no mood to cook the next day. We ate mostly rubbish, leftovers from a family event the previous week. By Monday, we needed some proper, wholesome nourishment. A whole cooked chicken was just perfect.

I've cooked a while chicken in the crock pot before, with good results. The Slow Cooked Chicken with Tarragon was excellent, as was the Fall off the Bone Chicken. Ever adventurous, I decided to try another version and found this recipe for The Best Whole Chicken in a Crock Pot over on 100 days of real food. It's not unlike the Fall off the Bone version, but it was absolutely delicious.


The recipe calls to combine the spices in a bowl: 2tsp paprika, 1tsp salt, 1tsp thyme and 1/4tsp cayenne pepper, 1/4 tsp black pepper. It also calls for a few things I don't have, so I used 1tsp onion salt and a crushed clove garlic. I cut up 2 onions, quite small, and put them in the bottom of the pot. The chicken sat on top, and I just poured/rubbed the mixed spices over it. Then I left the chicken cooking on LOW for the whole day while I was at work - about 9 hours.

When I came home, I prepared a big pot of mashed potato.

The Outcome

As before, the chicken just falls apart when we tried to take it out of the pot. There is almost no carving involved. The chicken is tender, suculent, perfectly cooked and full of flavour. But the best part of this dish is the flavoursome and rich stock left behind in the pot. Each person got a mound of mashed potato, tasty chicken and some delicious sauce poured over. There could be nothing more wholesome.

The Verdict

I don't think you can go wrong with mashed spuds and chicken. We all loved it and everybody went back for second helpings.

The chicken was quite large, so we had quite a few leftovers, which went into sandwiches and salads during the week.

Hubby has declared this the best of the three whole chicken recipes.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Luscious Italian Chicken

Wow, it has been a busy couple of weeks. Mr Teenager finished his second year at secondary school and went off to Irish College. From the lack of communication, it appears he's getting on fine. His last week at school was a busy one in the house, and I used the crock pot twice. The first time was for a whole chicken, which I'll write up soon. The second time was midweek, while we had a guest staying, and I picked this reciped for Luscious Italian Chicken, from the Skinny Slow Cooker Recipe Book. I picked it because it seemed a little bit unusal for a slow cooker recipe, with a creamy sauce, but also because it looked very easy to prepare.

Our guest that evening is a reader of this blog, and she made me promise not to identify her, so I won't. But she did seem to enjoy this dish, which I'm really pleased about.


First thing that morning, I combined 1tsp each of dried oregano, rosemary and thyme. I put 4 quite large chicken breasts into a bowl and mixed the herbs in to coat the chicken. These then went into the crock pot with: 2 tins of condensed mushroom soup (I used Campbell's); about 150g mushrooms, sliced; 2 small onions, chopped; 1 garlic clove, crushed. The reciped called for 2 tbsp fat free cream cheese, but I didn't have any, so I mixed in 2 tbsp fat free fromage frais instead. All of this was mixed together. I put the lid on the pot and switched it to HIGH.

I left a note for our guest, who was due to arrive later that day, to turn the crock pot to KEEP WARM when she got in. I estimate that it cooked for about 6 hours. By the time I got home, the smell was delicious and our guest couldn't wait to get tucked in! We cooked up a big pot of mashed potato to accompany.

The Result

This was a really good dish. The chicken was good perfectly, not overcooked at all. Although there were five of us, there was plenty in the four chicken breasts. The sauce really was deliciously creamy with good mushrooms flavour. Unlike many slow cooked recipes, it was not at all watery. The mushrooms were still chunky enough that they could be picked out easily for Mr Teenager and Ms Fussy Eater.

The Verdict

Everybody really enjoyed their dinner that evening. Our guest was very impressed with the crock pot and the meal it had produced. Without the mushrooms, Mr Teenager was quite happy to eat all his chicken and potato with a good helping of sauce. Ms Fussy Eater had to have any excess sauce removed, but was quite happy with her chicken.

We all gave this a thumbs up and it is certainly included in recipes that must be cooked again.

Unfortunately, I didn't remember of get a photo before everybody ate, so you're just going to have to imagine how good it looked!

Monday, 19 May 2014

Sweet Asian Chicken

UntitledMr Teenager was still at home, sick, on Thursday. So, his dad decided to work from home that day, to keep an eye on him. We had already decided to try this recipe for Sweet Asian Chicken, from the Skinny Slow Cooker Recipe Book, which doesn't take too long to cook, so it was good that Hubby was there to monitor it. In fact, Hubby prepared the whole thing, from start to finish.


This didn't take much preparation, apart from chopping meat and vegetables, and it was all done on Wednesday evening. To serve 4 people, we used just 3 large chicken breasts, which were cut into pieces. Into the crock pot went the chicken pieces, along with: 2 garlic cloves, crushed; 1 onion, chopped; 1/4 cup honey; 2tbsp tomator puree; 4 tbsp soy sauce; 2 carrots, cut into batons; some crushed chilli; 1 cup orange juice; and 1tsp cornflour mixed with a little water.

Next day, the crock pot was switched on to LOW and left for about 6 hours. At the end, we cooked some plain noodles - one of the children's favourites.

The Result

This was a tasty dish with some good flavours. The chicken was well cooked. There was plenty of sauce, which went quite well with the noodles. The carrots were a little too soft, but not mushy. This fed the family of 4 people quite comfortably, with no leftovers.

The Verdict

Usually Ms Fussy Eater likes Oyster Sauce with her noodles, and we often just pick out the bits of chicken and carrots that she will eat. This time, to our dismay, we found we had run out of Oyster Sauce, so she had to go without. We didn't give her too much of the juice, just plenty of chicken and carrot, but the flavour was not disguised the way it usually is. To our surprise, Ms Fussy Eater admitted to quite liking the sauce. Success!

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Italian Pork Chops

The last time I cooked pork chops in the slow cooker, it was a huge success. I'm sorta surprised that I haven't cooked them since. This week was a good opportunity. As I said in my last post, it was a busy, busy week, when I felt that I was constantly trying to catch up with myself. To complicate matters, Mr Teenager came down with a bad cold on Wednesday morning, probably after the very wet Car Boot Sale, and had to stay at home from school. While I couldn't be with him all day, I went to work later than usual, and left earlier to work from home. This gave me plenty of opportunity to ensure that the Italian Pork Chop recipe, again from Slow Cooking Properly Explained, was cooking for just the right amount of time.


On Tuesday evening, we got together the ingredients and assembled them in the crock pot. I trimmed the fat from the chops (I used 5 nice thick ones) and browned them quickly on both sides in a non-stick pan.

Into the bottom of the pot went: 1 onion, chopped; and one red pepper, chopped. The recipe actually called for a green pepper, but I prefer the flavour of red. The chops went in on top of the onion and pepper.

Then we added: 2 courgettes, sliced; 6 tomatoes, skins removed and chopped; 4 green olives, sliced; 1tsp dried oregano; 1 tbsp red wine vinegar; one chicken stock cube, and a splash of water.

Next morning, I remembered to turn the crock pot on LOW, and left it for about 6 hours. Initially I was going to serve this with rice, but at the last minute I cooked up some wholewheat pasta. It was a good accompaniment.

The Result

The large amount of courgette in the dish meant that the sauce was copious and quite thin. I think next time I'll use less courgette. Otherwise, the flavour was lovely, and the meat was beautifully tender, almost falling apart. Eating it with the pasta worked very well. Mr Teenager, despite his bad cold, coated his dinner with an avalanche of parmesan, and then ate up everything on his plate.

There was lots of sauce, too much for 4 people. Again, we had leftovers, which hubby will take for lunch at work.

The Verdict

This was a good family dish, and very easy to prepare. Even Ms Fussy Eater finished her meal, although she was not given any courgette on her plate. There were no complaints, and Mr Teenager gave it a thumbs up.

So - another successful pork chop recipe for the collection.

Beef in Red Wine

UntitledThis last week was a busy one. At the weekend, we had lots of activity, including the Car Boot Sale at Mr Teenager's School, so I spent lots of time last Saturday baking for the cake stand. The weather on Sunday was atrocious and we spent about 5 hours standing outside in the wind and the rain (and cold) raising funds for the school. On Sunday afternoon, after we came home, we lit a fire and I fell asleep on the sofa. I don't think I quite recovered all week.

On Monday I had a big day at work, with a visitor coming from the UK to give a seminar, which was to be streamed and recorded. No pressure! I though it would be nice to invite my visitor and her husband to dinner on Monday evening. So, we chose this recipe for Beef in Red Wine from the Slow Cooking Properly Explained recipe book.

We did all the preparation on Sunday evening, after I had roused myself from the sofa, and let the crock pot overnight in the fridge. On Monday morning, I got the slow cooker all set up. The recipe said to cook the casserole on LOW for up to 10 hours, so I knew I could safely leave it all day.

After the seminar, while I was having coffee with my guest at about 3pm, she casually asked what was on the menu that evening. It was at that point that I suddenly had the horrible realisation that I had forgotten to switch the slow cooker on! Panic stations! I phoned my neighbour, who very kindly let herself into the house and turned the crock pot on. At that stage it was too late to give it the long, slow cooking that it needed and instead I had to cook it on HIGH for a much shorter amount of time. All the same, when I got home shortly after 6pm, I was hugely relieved to smell the wonderful aroma of garlic, thyme and red wine cooking together.

In total, the casserole had about 4 hours of cooking on HIGH. I suspect that the dish would have been even nicer if it had cooked longer and slower, but I have to admit that it was pretty good. We served the beef in red wine with brown rice, but I think it would also go very well with some mashed potato.


On Sunday night we cut about 750g of round steak into cubes. We fried 1 onion, chopped finely, in a little olive oil, until browned, then added the beef. Once the meat was browned on all sides, it went into the crock pot with the onion. To this we added: 12 black olives; 1 garlic clove, crushed; 5 large tomatoes, skinned and with seeds removed; 150g button mushrooms; 300ml red wine; 1tsp dried thyme.

This was cooked on Monday for about 4 hours on the HIGH setting - but see above.

The Result

When I got home, the aroma from the pot was just wonderful. The sauce of the casserole  looked quite thin, though, so I added 1tsp cornflour mixed with a little water. Once served, the rice soaked up a lot of the juice anyway.

There were 5 of us for dinner, Ms Fussy Eater was out at her gymnastics class. There was plenty for everybody, with enough left over to make a generous lunch for hubby next day.

The Verdict

Well, our guests seemed to enjoy it, and all the plates were cleaned. I'd like to try this recipe again, with a longer, slower cooking. I think the meat wasn't as tender as it could have been.

I didn't get a picture of the dinner, so please enjoy a photo from the Car Boot Sale instead.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Shredded beef tacos

It's been a little while since I last posted on this blog. I was travelling last week and my mother-in-law came to visit, so the crock pot stayed in the cupboard. I do love my MiL, and I appreciate all she does for us, but when I come home I find all sorts of strange things in my fridge and on my pantry shelves. It takes me a couple of days to get everything straightened out the way I like it.

Shredded beef tacosJust before I went away, we made this recipe for Shredded Beef Tacos, from the Australian Women's Weekly easy slow cooking book. I had a nice piece of round steak and considered making a stew, but the weather was getting warmer and the children like the notion of assembling their tacos at the table, so I went with this instead.


I was off work, so didn't need to get prepared the night before. Instead, on the day, I assembled everything in the crock pot. First I mixed together 1/4 tsp chilli powder and 1tsp each of ground cumin, ground coriander and paprika, and then rubbed this all over the beef (about 2 lbs of good quality round steak). I put this into the crock pot and added: a beef stock cube; 2tbsp sundried tomato paste; 2 garlic cloves, crushed; and half a cup of water. This was cooked, on the low setting, for about 7 hours.

When cooked, I took the beef out of the pot and shredded it roughly, using two forks. The shredded meat went back into the sauce.

The Result

We served the shredded beef with flour tortillas and an assortment of sides: shredded lettuce, guacamole, chopped tomatoes, sour cream, grated cheese. Each person assesmbled their own tacos according to their own tastes. For Ms Fussy Eater, this means nothing except beef, and very little sauce. For Mr Teenager, large helpings of grated cheese are involved.

The beef was delicious, in quite a spicey sauce. The original recipe calls for a sliced red chilli, which I didn't add. I'm quite pleased because I don't think Ms Fussy Eater would have been able for any further heat. There was a lot of shredded beef, probably enough for at least six people. We had our fill and there were leftovers which went into sandwiches during the next few days.

The photo was taken after we had eaten our dinner, so it depicts just the leftovers!

The Verdict

Ms Fussy Eater enjoyed her two tacos, even without anything more than the shredded meat in them. Mr Teenager declared the whole thing to be delicious.

I would certainly make this again, perhaps even adding the extra chilli.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Mexican pull-apart pork

This last week has been a traumatic one, in the run up to Easter. Our lovely au pair, Roberta, left us to return home to Italy on Friday. We only had one slow-cooked meal during the week, on Monday. Unfortunately, that was also the day that Mr Teenager broke Roberta's glasses with the basketball, completely by accident. But poor Roberta was devastated and refused to eat anything. Ms Fussy Eater invited herself to her friend's house for dinner. So, in the end, it was just three of us for dinner. But it was a good one!

I had a pork fillet in the freezer, so we decided to try this mexican pull-apart pork from the Australian Women's Weekly Easy Slow Cooking book. It involved just a little bit of preparation on Sunday evening, and then was left to cook all day on Monday. As per the recipe, we served it with some flour tortillas and sour cream, adding some salad and grated cheese. It could also be served with rice, or even mashed potato.

mexican pulled-apart porkPreparation

On Sunday evening, we put into the crock pot: 2 red peppers, sliced; 2 onions, sliced; a jar of tomato-based pasta sauce (the recipe called for a jar of salsa, but this was the closest thing we had); one cup of barbecue sauce; 4 cloves of garlic, crushed; 3 tsp ground cumin; 2 tsp cayenne pepper and 1tsp dried oregano. Then I added the whole pork fillet, making sure it was coated in the sauce. The crock pot was left, covered, in the fridge overnight.

Next morning, I just set the slow cooked on low and left it for about 9 or 10 hours until I came home from work. I switched it to the keep warm setting while I prepared the salad, cheese and sour cream.

I carefully lifted the pork fillet out of the pot onto a carving dish and used two forks to pull it apart into shreds. The meat went back into the sauce and the whole thing was stirred.

The Result

We put the crock pot in the centre of the table. Each of us took a flour tortilla and loaded it with meat, sauce, sour cream, salad and grated cheese. Then we rolled it up and attempted to eat the hot, spicey, delicious wrap with our hands. Some of the sauce dripped out, but was easily scraped up using spoons. We each had two of these, which was plenty.

There was lots of meat and sauce leftover, and the dish could easily have served all five of us. There were no complaints from the two men, one of whom brought a helping to work next day for lunch. Mr Teenager was on his Easter break from school, so he finished off another helping of it the next day.

The Verdict

I asked Mr Teenager what he thought of the dinner. His response - Can we have it again tomorrow? This was definitely a success. I think that Ms Fussy Eater would even go for it, if she didn't get too much sauce, and didn't have to put anything other than the pork into a tortilla.

It was so easy to prepare, I think this recipe will become one of our regulars.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Italian pork and pepper ragú

Italian pork and pepper raguLast time we were grocery shopping I picked up a couple of pork loins on special offer. They tend to be quite versatile: you can cook them whole in the oven or in a pan, or cut them into rounds for a stir fry, or into smaller pieces for a casserole. We had a packet of skinny sausages, which can be difficult to find. We intended to eat them as a treat on Mothers' Day, but Ms Fussy Eater asked if Hubby would make American style breakfast pancakes instead.

So, when I found a recipe in my new Australian Women's Weekly easy slow cooking recipe book for Italian pork and capsicum ragú, I thought I'd try modifying the ingredients slightly to suit what we already had available.

We prepared the ingredients on Sunday night. It didn't take too long: a bit of chopping and some browning of meat. The photo in the book looked pretty good and I was confident we were in for a hearty meal the next day.


Hubby trimmed one of the pork loins of all visible fat (he's very good at this - much more patient than I am). The recipe called for pork belly. We then browned the pork in a pan, with a little spray oil, in batches, and put it all into the bottom of the crock pot. Next, we browned the sausages in the same pan, and added these to the pork.

To the meat we added: 2 red peppers, sliced; 2 onions, chopped; a can of mixed beans; 6 cloves of garlic, crushed; a can of chopped tomatoes; a chicken stock cube; 1tbsp tomatoe puree; 1tsp dried oregano; 1/2 tsp chilli flakes. This was all mixed together and left in the fridge, covered, overnight.

Next morning the crock pot went on, at the low setting, before I left for work. By the time I came home, about 10 hours later, it was ready. We served it with some wholegrain pasta.

The Result

The ragú had a nice, rich tomato sauce. It wasn't too think, since I didn't add the water for the stock - just the stock cube. It was mildly spicey, from the crushed chilli, but not so much that anybody would notice. It just had a nice bit of heat - perfect for a wet Winter's day (which it was not, on Monday). The pork was perfectly cooked; tender, without falling apart. Likewise, the sausages were still intact. A very nice dish, which could have been served with rice or mashed potato, instead of the pasta.

This recipe made plenty. It easily fed 4 adults plus Ms Fussy Eater, with another two portions left over.

The Verdict

The teenager appeared to enjoy his meal, though he left behind the onions on his plate. Ms Fussy Eater was less than enthusiastic, although she did finish off her sausages. Both Hubby and I enjoyed the dish very much. It's probably more of a Winter dish, than a surprisingly sunny Spring evening.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Braised bacon ribs

Braised RibsWhile browsing a few weeks ago in Eason's, I came across The Australian Women's Weekly Easy Slow Cooking recipe book. I like this series of recipes, and the book was only €10, so I decided to add it to my vast collection of recipe books.

Last weekend, while we were planning meals for the week (the only way, when you have two working parents) Hubby picked out a recipe for braised asian-style beef ribs. We put it on the list and made sure to add any unusal ingredients to the shopping list. When shopping later that day, we managed to get mirin (a Japanese condiment, similar to sake, but with lower alcohol and more sugar). However, when we asked at the butcher about beef ribs, he explained that there isn't much demand for these and they would need to be ordered in advance. A little stumped, Hubby found some low-salt bacon ribs and we decided to adapt the recipe to use these instead.


So, on Wednesday evening, Hubby put together the sauce, which was left in the fridge overnight. This involved combining: 1/2 cup hoisin sauce; 1/4 cup soy sauce; 1/4 cup mirin; 1/2 cup honey; a 2 inch piece fresh ginger, grated; 3 cloves garlic, crushed; a fresh red chilli, sliced thinly; 2tsp sesame oil; and 2 strips orange rind. All this just involved a lot of measuring, and a little peeling and chopping.

Next morning, I cut each rack of ribs (2 racks, each about about 850g) into 3 pieces so that they would fit into the crock pot, then poured the sauce over. I switched it on low just before I left for work, about 8:30am, and left it all day.

When I got home at about 6:30pm, we switched the slow cooker to "keep warm". I put a tray of baby potatoes into the oven to roast, while I went to a meeting in the school. When I got home, at almost 8pm, we were finally ready to eat. By this time the ribs were cooked well, so that the meat was almost falling from the bones. It was still possible to cut the ribs into singles and we ate them with our fingers.

The Verdict

The ribs were good. However, even though they were low-salt bacon, there was enough salt in them to combine with the soy sauce in the sauce to make the overall taste very salty. We drank a lot of water! Although Mr Teenager liked them, and did go back for more, he couldn't finish. They were just a bit too salty. Ms Fussy Eater refused to eat the ribs at all, and just filled herself up with the roast baby potatoes.

So, overall, not our best effort. I certainly wouldn't make this disc with bacon ribs again. I might make the effort to order beef ribs sometime, or it might work with pork ribs.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Rustic Chicken Stew

Rustic Chicken StewGet ready for a deluge of crock-pot recipes this week! This evening's dinner was Rustic Chicken Stew, from the Skinny Slow Cooker Recipe Book. Served with some creamy mashed potato, this was a huge success. The weather was particularly dreary today, cold and wet, so we needed something to warm us up, and this was just the ticket. It involved a bit of prep last night, but it took no longer than 20 minutes to get everything together.

Anchovy paste is a new ingredient for me - I had to buy it specially for the recipe and wasn't sure I would find it. But, yesterday we were shopping in Tesco, for a change, and there it was. It tastes a little bit fishy and a little bit salty. It adds quite a distinctive flavour to the dish.


Last night, I trimmed about 1kg of boneless, skinless chicken thighs of  visible fat and coated them lightly with flour. While I got on with the rest of the chopping, Hubby browned these in a pan with a little bit of spray oil. They went into the crock pot with: one chopped onion; 2 cloves of garlic, crushed; 1/2 each of red and yellow pepper (it was all I had) slicked thinly; 2 tins chopped tomatoes; 1tsp dried rosemary; about 12 pitted green olives; and a squeeze of anchovy paste. The recipe also called for 2 cups of chicken stock, but I just added in a stock cube, rather than extra liquid. The contents of the pot were mixed up, covered, and left overnight in the fridge.

This morning I simply put the pot into the machine and asked the au pair to switch it to low at 10am. When I got home (about 6:40pm) the stew was bubbling away nicely, and I switched it to the keep warm setting until the potatoes were ready.

The Outcome

I was really pleased with the consistency of this dish. The chicken was tender and well cooked, but not completely falling apart. The sauce was chunky, rather than liquidy. The flavour is quite unusual, I'd almost say there was ginger in it, except I know that there isn't. But it does have a lovely rich flavour, which goes perfectly with the creamy mash my husband makes.

There were 11 chicken thighs in the pot, so plenty for 5 people. Four of us have eaten, and we're waiting for Miss Fussy Eater to get home from gymnastics. She'll probably just have some chicken from the pot, and a little sauce. So, there will be some (meat free) leftovers.

The Verdict

We liked this dish - easy to eat. The potato soaks up a lot of the sauce, so the whole thing can be eaten easily with a fork. Mr Teenager said it was "really nice" and finished up everything on his plate. Hubby went back for seconds. Ms Fussy Eater has just been served hers!

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Slow Cook Bacon

Slow Cooker HamLast Sunday was my best crock pot experience yet! We had a small piece of bacon (ham before it's cooked) which looked about big enough for 4 people. We'd had a tough week, with Miss Fussy Eater having her tonsils out on Wednesday, and Mr Teenager off school with a bad cold and cough since Tuesday. I had also come down with cold/cough, so we really weren't up to much at all.

I had a look around for a recipe for a small ham but found nothing of interest. I also realised that cooking a raw ham is not usual in the US. Any recipes I found assumed that the ham (e.g. Christmas ham) was already cooked and only needed heating through. In Ireland, it's very common to have a small piece of bacon, smoked or unsmoked, often boiled in a pot, with cabbage. So, I decided I'd just go ahead and make up my own recipe, with whatever I had on hand.


On Sunday morning, not too early, I chopped some onions and carrots and put them at the bottom of the pot. I put the bacon joint on top. I found about 1/2 cup of apple juice in the fridge and added that, along with about 1/2 cup water. Then I just turned the crock pot on low and left it, for about 6 or 7 hours.

Later that day I prepared some mashed potato. Then I took the meat out of the pot (smelling delicious and so tender you could carve it with a fork) and examined the juice left behind in the pot. I realised that it wasn't excessively salty and tasted really quite good. So, I mixed in about 1tsp of cornflour (mixed with some water) and turned the pot to high.

As I pulled the cooked ham into chunks, I had a bit of a brainwave! I was reminded of some of the delicious ham and bean cuisine we had encountered in the Vendée region of France, and decided to throw into the pot, with the slightly thickened ham stock, onions and carrots, tin of butter beans. Finally, I served the ham with the mashed potato, with ladels of the bean stew.

The Result

This was absolutely delicious; full of flavour. Although the ingredients were simple and inexpensive, the result was just perfect for a house full of convelescents on a rather dreary, cold day. The ham was devoured and the potato was perfect to soak up the delicious bean stew.

There was a very small amount of meat left over, which Mr Teenager took in his sandwiches during the week. There was quite a bit of the bean stew left, which made an excellent lunch (as a bowl of soup) for me the next day.

The Verdict

Mr Teenager could not get enough of the meat. He refused the beans and picked out the onions. Otherwise he was wholly enthusiastic and had two full portions. Miss Fussy Eater was less enthusiastic, but we'll forgive her because of her recent surgery.

I really hope that I can recreate this meal, because it was darned good.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Chilli Con Carne

Chilli con CarneMiss Fussy Eater had her tonsils out last Wednesday. We spent the day in the hospital with her, then I came home (where Mr Teenager had spent the day off school with a heavy cold) while hubby stayed overnight in the hospital with her. The next morning I wanted to cook something quick and easy, not knowing what time she would be allowed leave hospital and also wanting something that would go down fairly easy.

I decided to try this Chilli Con Carne, from the Skinny Slow Cooker Recipe book, holding back on the spices. I've done two chilli recipes before in the slow cooker: Chilli By George and Sarah's Chilli Con Carne, and this one looked equally quick and easy.


On Thursday morning I browned about 700g lean minced beef with two chopped onions. This went into the crock pot with one tin chopped tomatoes, about 100 ml passata, a beef stock cube and a tin of kidney beans. To this I added 1 tsp each of brown sugar, dried oregano, cumin, mild chilli powder and paprika. I didn't add the garlic powder (still don't have any) or the salt, both listed in the recipe.

I mixed all this together and then put the crock pot on low and left it, for about 10 hours.

Later that day, after we got back from the hospital and had a somewhat more relaxing afternoon, we had the chilli with some brown rice and a quick guacamole I made from some avocados, onion, tomato and lime juice.

The Outcome

The chilli cooked beautifully and was just the right texture - not too watery. There was plenty of it, even with a hungry teenager, with a little left over. It was all eaten so quickly there was no time for a photograph!

I deliberately went easy on the chilli powder, because of Ms Fussy Eater's poor throat. The chilli was actually delicious, lots of flavour. In future I will add hot chilli powder, instead of mild - simply because we like a bit of spice.

The Verdict

The Teenage really loved it and had seconds. He would have gone back for thirds, but was advised not to. Hubby also enjoyed it and declared it the best chilli so far. Ms Fussy Eater put up a good attempt, but didn't eat the small portion I had given her. That was only to be expected, and I had made some jelly and ice cream for dessert.

Of the three chilli recipes so far, this has to have been the best.

Update (29 March 2014)

We made this again during the week, with equally good results. This time we served it with a little rice, but also some tacos and trimmings. I managed to get a photo this time.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Beef Casserole

Beef CasseroleI do like a nice beef stew and have very fond memories of my mum's stews, usually served with boiled potatoes. It makes a good, hearty, winter midweek dinner and our weather has been so wet in the last few months, it was past time I made a stew in the crock pot.

I went with the recipe for Beef and Mushroom Casserole from Dianne Page's Slow Cooking Properly Explained. I didn't have the mushrooms, but the kids won't eat them anyway. I prepared this one morning, before work, and left it cooking all day.

I wouldn't normally put potatoes in a stew, instead serving them separately - usually mashed. But, this recipe calls for sliced potatoes. I put them in, thinking that they might help to thicken the gravy. I don't know if that worked, but they were an interesting addition.


I didn't have time to brown the meat, but I did toss the beef (about 600g round steak, cut into cubes) in 1tbsp flour. I put this into the crock pot with 2 onions, chopped quite small; 3 carrots, sliced; 450g potatoes, sliced; 2 sticks of celery, sliced. To this I added 1 litre of stock (made with a cube), some salt and pepper and some dried parsley. I forgot to put in 1 tbsp tomato purée, which would have added to the flavour.

I gave the whole thing a good mix and made sure all the meat and vegetables were covered by the liquid. Then I put the slow cooker on low and left it all day (approx 10 hours).

Hubby got home first. Not realising that there were potatoes in the casserole, he cooked a big pot of brown rice. So, we had extra carbohydrate that day.

The Result

When we opened the pot the smell of the casserole was delicious. The meat was beautifully cooked, very tender and tasty. The vegetables retained their form, and even the potatoes remained in their slices. The gravy was a little thin, but the rice helped to soak it up. The flavour was good, but I think the tomatoe purée would have improved it. If anything, the stew lacked a little flavour. Saying that, it was eaten up with almost no leftovers.

The Verdict

The teenager went back for second helpings. Ms Fussy Eater was less enthusiastic, but she is also complaining about having to eat brown rice at the moment. She was due to have her tonsils out less than a week later, and had been having trouble with her throat for quite a while. She ate all her meat and carrots, but left some of the rice, and anything that resembled onion or celery, on her plate.

I think, if I make this again, I may add the mushrooms, as recommended by the recipe. I might also add some extra flavours - I don't think the parsley on its own really did it for me!

Slow Cooked Chicken with Tarragon

Chicken with Tarragon It has been a little while since I last blogged - there's a lot going on in the house at the moment. But that doesn't mean I haven't been using the slow cooker! I bought another book on my kindle - Slow Cooking Properly Explained, by Dianne Page. This gives me another set of recipes to drool over.

For Sunday dinner, almost two weeks ago, we decided to cook chicken again. Following the success of the Fall Off the Bone Whole Slow-Cooked Chicken, I contemplated making it again. But, in my quest to try as many new recipes as possible, I went instead for this Slow Cooked Chicken with Tarragon, from Page's book.

Since I had the whole day to look after this, I went with the recommendation to use the high setting on the crock pot. Interestingly, Dianne Page suggests that "whole birds are best cooked on HIGH only - to ensure thorough cooking". This makes sense, I guess, though isn't always practical. Anyway, it meant that I only started preparing this in the early afternoon, for dinner at 6pm.


I started by heating about a tbsp olive oil and a tiny knob of butter in a pan and then browning the whole chicken all over. I did notice, when I last cooked a whole chicken in the pot, that the skin was very pale and unappetising, though the chicken was delicious. This first step did definitely improve the appearance of the chicken, without necessarily adding any fat to the result.

The whole chicken was put into the crock pot and seasoned with some salt and pepper. I then added the juice and rind of a lemon and a generous tsp of dried tarragon. The recipe just called for the juice of half a lemon, but my chicken was bigger and I thought it would add more flavour.

Then the chicken cooked on high for 4 hours. An hour before the end of cooking time I prepared some roast potatoes and roast vegetables.

The reciped suggests making a gravy by mixing 1tbsp cornflour into the strained juices from the pot, but I just dribbled the juices over the chicken when serving - gravy wasn't necessary.

The Result

Yummy! This was really delicious, tender chicken. As you can see in the picture, it did fall apart when taken out of the pot, and carving was easy (or not necessary). The flavour of the lemon and tarragon was pleasant and not overpowering. The meat was tasty and not at all dry.

There was plenty for 5 of us, with almost a whole breast left over for sandwiches during the week.

The Verdict

Both children devoured their dinner, polishing off a leg each, with Mr Teenager going back for more. Their only complaint was a lack of crispy chicken skin.

On balance, I think I preferred this recipe to the previous one, though either was delicious.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Lovely lemony Garlicky Chicken

This last week has been a bit stressful. Hubby was away, travelling for work, and while he was gone we had a number of mishaps. Nothing too serious - we ran out of gas on Monday, which we use for cooking; then we ran out of oil on Tuesday, which we use for heating the house and water; and on Tuesday night the car refused to allow me to refuel, leaving me stranded at home with no transport. All of these problems were easily fixed, by contacting (and paying) the right people. But it was a stressful couple of days. 

Great then that we didn't have to worry about our delicious dinner on Tuesday evening, prepared in the crock pot! At the time of preparation, we only knew about the first issue, with no anticipation of the more complicated evening ahead!

Lovely lemony garlicky chicken comes from the Skinny Slow Cooker Recipe Book. It took just a little bit of preparation on Monday evening, when everything was assembled in the crock pot and left in the fridge overnight. 


I cut up about 450g chicken breast into small pieces. Re-reading the recipe, I think it calls for the breasts to be left whole, but I was already distracted from the gas incident. It worked with chicken pieces anyway. I put the chicken into the crock pot with 3 large garlic cloves, crushed; two lemons, sliced; and one onion, chopped quite small. I added 500ml chicken stock, made from a cube, and 1 tsp honey. Then I put a bunch of fresh basil on top, very roughly chopped. Lots of flavour there, then. 

The next morning, I set up the pot and reminded the au pair to switch it on about 1pm, expecting to eat at about 6:30. Little did I know that at 6:30 I would be calling a plumber to come and bleed the boiler after a delivery of heating oil!

The Result

As I panicked that evening about the cold in the house and the lack of hot water, I was somewhat comforted by the aroma of the chicken cooking with garlic, lemon and basil. As the plumber worked on the boiler, I prepared a large pot of mashed potato. We sat down to eat just a little later than expected, safe in the knowledge that the heating was fixed. We didn't know yet about the car!

Indeed, the chicken was full of flavour! The garlic could have been stronger, but the lemon was not overpowering. The long, slow cooking had mellowed the flavour and the rind was softened so that it could easily be eaten with the chicken and potato. The basil had cooked down into a delicate, gentle accompanying addition to the overall dish. I had worried that all the tastes would be competing with each other, but this wasn't the case. 

Unfortunately, in all the panic, I forgot to get a photo of the end dish!

The Verdict

I thought this dish was pretty good, and will make it again. The sauce was very thin, but I didn't add the recommended cornflour - maybe I will do that next time. 

The teenager was quite keen on the chicken, but refused to eat the tiny bits of onion, any of the lemon rind or the basil. No surprises there! Ms Fussy Eater had some chicken and potato much later in the evening, served by the au pair, because I was preoccupied with the car. So, I am not sure of her reaction. 

The au pair loved the dish. I suspect the basil and lemon combination may be fairly familiar for her. She has no trouble eating the lemon rind. 

So, overall, a good result. We had a little bit leftover, by the way, but not enough for another portion. 


Saturday, 22 February 2014

Simple Chicken Curry

Easy chicken curry
This week we decided to try a simple chicken curry, again from the Skinny Slow Cooker Recipe book. Again, it looked like there was a bit of preparation involved, so we threw everything together in the crock pot the night before, and kept it in the fridge overnight. It only took about 20 minutes, but 20 minutes is valuable time in the morning when you are trying to get everybody up and out.


The recipe calls for 500g chicken breasts. I used more, maybe 600g, because I was cooking for 5 people. But the rest of the ingredients were left unchanged. 

We cut the chicken, still frozen, into small pieces and threw them into the pot with: one onion chopped fairly small; 3 cloves of garlic, chopped; 1 generous tsp sundried tomato paste; about 1 thumb of ginger, peeled and grated; 1tsp each of garam masala, turmeric, ground cumin and hot chilli powder; one and half cups passata. This was mixed and left, covered in the fridge overnight, giving the chicken plenty of time to thaw. 

Next morning I gave it another stir and left the crock pot ready to go on, asking the au pair to switch it to low at 1pm. 

When I got home, about 6:30pm, I just put on a pot of rice to cook. When it was all ready, I turned off the crock pot and stirred in a large cup of low fat Greek yoghurt (the Liberte brand is delicious). 

The Result

To my horror, the curry curdled when I added the yoghurt! This made it look not so appetising - a fact noted by both kids when they saw it. However, the flavour was delicious. The extra hot chilli powder made it spicy, but not overly so, while the ginger and other spices, combined with the tomato, really added to the overall taste. The yoghurt cooled everything down and, while it wasn't as creamy as I'd hoped, it was a very good curry. 

I left out 1tsp low fat butter from the recipe. I wonder if that contributed to the curdling!

The Verdict

Once he got over the appearance, the teenager loved this dish, and went back for a second helping. There was no picking out of onions! He asked if I would make the curry again the next night! 

Ms Fussy Eater was less enthusiastic, but with some good excuses. She had been at a friend's sleepover party the night before, and I suspect that there was very little sleep involved! So, she was very tired and cranky. She was also still suffering from a sore throat caused by swollen tonsils (she has to have them out next month) and is refusing more food than normal. She ate some of the chicken though. 

There was a little bit of curry left over, about another single portion, which Hubby took for his lunch next day. 

So, overall, definitely a recipe I will make again. I will have to try to stop the curdling next time round. 

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Oriental Beef with Butternut Squash

Oriental beef with butternut squash

The second recipe I tried this week in the crock pot was adapted from a recipe I found in the Weightwatcher magazine for March 2014. This was a huge success, resulting in a hearty casserole that was just bursting with flavour. It was polished off so quickly that I didn't even get a chance to snap a photograph!


I learned my lesson from Tuesday morning, and did all my preparation on Wednesday evening, putting everything in the crock-pot dish and leaving it in the fridge overnight. On Thursday morning I just had to place the dish into the pot and switch it on!

Into the bottom of the pot went about half a large butternut squash, peeled and chopped into large pieces. I added to this 2 onions chopped, 1 star anise, 1 tsp Chinese five spice, 100ml orange juice, a piece of fresh ginger (finely sliced using a potato peeler), 5tbsp soy sauce, and about 600g lean stewing beef in chunks.  I didn't add any further water or liquid. This was all mixed together. 

I figured this would take about 8 hours to cook, so I asked the au pair to turn on the pot at about 10am. When I got home, about 6:30, I turned it to "keep warm" and prepared a large pot of mashed potato. 

The Result

This smelled wonderful as soon as I entered the house. The star anise and 5 spice gave it a really lovely flavour. The meat was perfectly cooked, very tender, without falling apart. The squash was well cooked, but still identifiable. It went very well with the mashed potato, which soaked up all the delicious sauce. 

The Verdict

There were no leftovers. Hubby went back for seconds. The teenager picked out the onion and ginger, but otherwise said it was very tasty. Miss Fussy Eater said it was a bit spicy, but she still finished everything on her plate. This will definitely be a favourite in our house. Low fat and inexpensive, while still yummy!

Sweet and Sour Pineapple Pork

Sweet and sour pineapple pork

Last week we made two evening meals in the slow cooker. The first of these was a sweet and sour pork from the Skinny Slow Cooker recipe book.


I prepared this recipe on Tuesday morning, before I left for work. In retrospect, I should have had everything organised the previous night, because it took me a good 20 minutes. I didn't brown the pork first, which was recommended in the recipe, but I don't think it made much difference. In future, though, I will have everything ready just to switch the pot on in the morning. 

So, I coated about 900g of lean pork pieces in 1tbsp flour. Into the crock pot went: 1 onion chopped, 1 red pepper chopped (the recipe called for green, but we prefer red), and 2 carrots cut into batons. Add to this the meat, the juice from one large tin of pineapple, 1 tbsp brown sugar, 1 tsp salt, 2tbsp lime juice and 1tbsp soy sauce. I added a small cup of water and mixed everything together. 

The recipe said to cook for 5 hours on low, so I left instructions for the au pair to switch the pot on at about 1pm, which she did. When I got home about 6:20 I added the chopped pineapple from the tin and put the machine to the "keep warm" setting. I just cooked a pot of rice to accompany. 

The Result

The sweet and sour pork had a good flavour, if a little mild. The sauce was quite thin and I am not convinced that the flour added anything. In future I might leave it out. Perhaps if I had browned the meat first, then coated in flour, it might have made a difference. The meat was very tender, and the pineapple still quite fresh. Overall, I was pleased with this and will make it again, probably with a few adjustments. 

The Verdict

The teenager quite liked it, though he was surprised at the pineapple - he's not used to pineapple except when it's just eaten as a fruit. He picked out all the onion, but that's quite normal. Otherwise he finished off everything. Ms Fussy Eater just had a plate of rice with some pork and carrots fished out of the pot. She hasn't been well recently and I didn't want to push things. She ate what she had on the plate, so that's a success. Hubby really liked the meal. Despite the recipe being for 6, we finished it all that evening between 5 of us. 

Monday, 10 February 2014

Fall Off the Bone Whole Slow-cooked Chicken


A couple of weeks ago I bought a book on amazon, for my kindle - The Skinny Slow Cooker Recipe Book. But I didn't even open it, until yesterday. It has 40 recipes for the slow cooker, all healthy and low in fat. I intend to try a few of these, and started yesterday with this Fall Off the Bone Whole Slow-cooked Chicken.

As I have previously mentioned, we like to have a proper Sunday dinner together. Roast chicken is often a favourite, but yesterday we decided to give this recipe a go.


I started by slicing two onions into rings, and putting these at the bottom of the crock-pot. Then I mixed together a tsp each of paprika and dried thyme with two crushed garlic cloves (I didn't have the onion and garlic salt specified in the recipe). This I spread over the top of the chicken, which weighed about 2kg. Then I put the chicken on top of the onion, put on the lid, and switched the pot to low. I left it for about 8 hours. 

Close to the end of cooking, we prepared some mashed potato, mashed carrot and parsnip, and some lightly cooked courgette. 

The Result

The chicken looked a bit pale, though it was brightened somewhat by the colour of the paprika over the top. It fell apart as I lifted it out of the pot, making it very easy to serve legs and wings, and chunks of breast. We served 5 good portions and still had a whole breast left over. There was also about 400ml of chicken stock, which has been retained for soup. 

The Verdict

Everybody enjoyed the chicken, which was tender and tasty. Both children finished off a chicken leg, the only complaint was that the skin wasn't crispy. The breast was tender and not at all dry. The teenager enthusiastically declared it all to be delicious. 

Definitely we will use this recipe again. 

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Slow Cooker Ham

On Sundays, we normally try to have a good old-fashioned family Sunday dinner, often a roast. Last Sunday, we thought we'd have a roast chicken, but unfortunately by the time we got to the local shop, there were no whole chickens available. Instead, we bought a nice piece of bacon; enough for dinner plus leftovers. This is always a favourite with the family, either boiled on the stove, possibly in coca-cola (a la Nigella) or baked in the oven. 

This time I decided to cook it in the crock-pot. I didn't follow a recipe, just went with my own instincts.


I chopped an onion and two carrots roughly and put them in the bottom of the pot. I trimmed the piece of bacon of any visible fat and put it on top of the vegetables. Then I put about half a cup of water into the pot, put the lid on and set it to high. We left it for about two and a half hours, and enjoyed the aroma from the crock pot as the ham cooked away.

In the meantime, we prepared some potatoes and vegetables, roasting them in the oven with some garlic. 

The Result

When we first opened the crock pot, the meat wasn't quite ready, but we could cut enough from it for dinner. We put the rest back into the pot, on high, for another half hour. It was absolutely delicious, with a lovely flavour from the meat, and a tasty stock which was poured over the plates, and some kept in the fridge for another day. The meat was very tender, though not falling apart. Mr Teenager went back for seconds and thirds.

There was plenty left over for some sandwiches during the week, and we also used some to make a delicious pasta dish on Monday - something resembling a healthy carbonara, where the stock was also used to make a yummy (if a little salty) sauce. 

The Verdict

Everybody agreed that the ham tasted delicious, especially the teenager, who gave it 17/10. Ms Fussy Eater, who was developing tonsillitis at the time, had no complaints. I will definitely use this cooking method again - very healthy, but full of flavour. 

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Trisha Yearwood's Slow Cooker Pork Loin


Last Sunday we started a new healthy eating regime. I had a pork loin in the freezer and thought it would make a good, healthy Sunday dinner. I did a bit of a search for a slow cooker recipe and one thing that seemed to come up constantly was Trisha Yearwood's recipe. Lots of people said it was delicious, so I found this version, which satisfied all my healthy eating requirements.

My piece of meat was about 3 and half pounds, so a little bigger than in the reciped. I left out the tbsp oil, and used less cornstarch in the gravy. I used a clove of garlic, crushed, instead of the garlic powder.

First thing on Sunday morning, I removed as much visible fat as possible from the pork loin. I followed the reciped, mixing the garlic, ginger, thyme and pepper, and then rubbing this all over the pork. I didn't brown the meat, but put it straight into the crock-pot adding the ckickend stock, lemon juice and soy sauce. The pork then cooked, on the low setting, for about 8 hours.

About an hour before eating, hubby prepared some potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, courgettes and garlic, and we put this into the oven to roast, with a bit of spray oil.

As the afternoon progressed, the most wonderful smells were coming from the crock-pot, even the teenager noticed!

The Result
When we opened the pot, the pork was almost falling apart. There was a lot of juice, which I removed and used a little bit of cornflour to thicken slightly. It was still possible to slice the pork, but we couldn't have done this if we'd left it any longer. Served with the gravy and roast vegetables, it was delicious. The teenager and hubby both had second helpings.

There was quite a bit of meat leftover, which the teenager had in his school lunches all week - making big sandwiches into which he also poured cold gravy.

The Verdict
Unfortunately Ms Fussy Eater wasn't with us on Sunday, so she didn't get a chance to report. However, the teenager gave the pork loin a very strong 17/10 (yes, seventeen). The au pair also seemed to enjoy it.

Chilli by George

I haven't updated the blog for a week, but that doesn't mean I haven't been using the crock-pot!

About 10 days ago we tried another chilli recipe, this time from

I used about 600g of minced beef and one tin of chopped tomatoes. I didn't use tomato juice or pinto beans.  I substituted red pepper for green pepper. But I did use the same spices, in the quantities given.

I prepared this before going to work, so was short on time. I browned the minced beef and threw it, and everything else, into the crock-pot. There it cooked, on the low setting, for about 9 hours. I just had to prepare some rice and grated cheese when I got home.

The Result
The chilli was pretty good, but not as flavoursome as Sara's chilli. I think it lacked the beefiness from the stock cubes. Also, despite not including tomato juice, it seemed to have more liquid. In future, I think I will stick with Sara's chilli.

The Verdict
Both children gave this 8/10, though they ate every last bit of it.

I forgot to take a photo of this before it was all eaten.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Honey Sauced Chicken

On Tuesday I had my first failure - well, not quite failure, but certainly not the success I was hoping for.

Looking for a chicken recipe, I decided to try chef in training's Honey Sauced Chicken. The recipe suggests cooking on low for 3 hours (or high for 1 and half hours). Therein lies the problem. I usually leave the house around 8:30 and am rarely home before 6.

As soon as I arrived home I knew the chicken was overcooked, almost burnt on the outside. The sauce smelled and tasted pretty good. We ate it, all the same. Nobody complained, but we knew it wasn't right.

I will try this recipe again, but sometime when I am in the house. Definitely not on a work day.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Slow cooker pork chops


Today was always going to be a long day. After travelling to the UK last week, I was just back in the office to a full email inbox. I knew I had to get home on time to get dinner and then head out again to open evening at the secondary school. Ms Fussy Eater will be starting there in September, and it was important for her to get a chance to see around.

But the open evening started at 7, which meant we needed to leave the house around 6:30. Aiming to be home around 5:30, I knew I wouldn't have much time.

Enter the Crock Pot.

Today I decided to try this recipe for Pork Chops on It sounded easy and tasty.

Instead of 1/4 cup of oil, I just added a drizzle. I don't know what chicken seasoning is, so left that out. I had no dried basil, so I used some Italian dried herbs. I had 6 chops, but kept the rest of the amounts the same.

I decided to put some chopped onion, carrot and celery at the bottom of the pot, before adding the rest of the ingredients. This, I think, added some flavour, but also some texture to the juice produced by the slow cooking.

This morning I spent about 5 minutes chopping the carrot, celery and onion quite small. They went into the bottom of the pot. I put the chops on top, and then just added the rest of the ingredients straight into the pot.

Then I put the temperature on low, and left it for the day - about 9 hours. When I got home, I prepared some mashed potatoes. Because of the vegetables in the bottom of the pot, I didn't need to add anything else.

The Result
We had beautifully tender pork chops, with a good flavour and a delicious, chunky juice. Served with the mashed potato, the juice was easily mopped up.

The Verdict
There were no leftovers; everybody cleaned their plates. Mr Teenager declared it to be delicious, and gave the dish 8/10. Ms Fussy Eater concurred. The Au Pair also expressed her approval. This is definitely one I will cook again.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Lemon Pesto Chicken

Lemon Pesto Chicken

 I read the recipe on Moms with Crock Pots for Lemon Pesto Chicken and thought it sounded delicious and, more important, easy. Today was my first day back at work since Christmas, so it seemed like an ideal day to put the new machine to the test.

I really made no adjustments to the recipe, though I cooked it for longer than suggested (out of necessity - I wasn't home on time).

This was incredibly easy. I used five chicken breasts, covered with a tub of fresh pesto (from Dunnes Stores) and put the halved lemon on top. It took less than 5 minutes to gather the ingredients and put them into the pot. The only preparation was halving the lemon.

When I got home I just cooked enough pasta for 4 (Ms Fussy Eater had decided to eat at her friend's house).

The Result
The chicken was so tender it fell apart, combining with the pesto and lemon juices to make a substantial pasta sauce. There was less juice than I expected. There was just about enough for 5 portions, though we only needed 4. So, there are some leftovers in the fridge.

The Verdict
Mr Teenager volunteered that it was "very nice" though the combination of lemon and pesto was "weird". The Italian au pair concurred.

I was happy with this dish, it tasted good and was very easy. I think it will become a regular in our mealplan. In future, I think a side salad would be a good idea, and I'd like to try cooking it for a little less time. But that will have to wait until I have a day off work.