Butternut Squash Soup in the Slow Cooker

One of my favorite autumn soups is rich butternut squash!  The prepping of the squash is the only thing that takes up any time so you might want to give yourself ample time (guesstimate about a 10-30 minutes per squash) to peel and cube it.  And don’t forget to save the seeds for roasting!

Ingredients:
1 butternut squash med-large (roughly 3-4 lbs)
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup applesauce or 1 large apple peeled, cored and cubed
1/4 cup margarine or similar
3 cups broth (vegetable is good but chicken is fine if you aren’t vegan, beef is a not a good choice here)
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick 3 inches long (removed when done cooking)
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 teaspoon fresh ginger
8 oz cream cheese (or coconut cream as a vegan option)
Sour cream (or vegan equivalent)

Instructions:

  1. Peel and grate your ginger (this is how I always have fresh ginger on hand).
  2. Peel, de-seed and cube your butternut squash.
  3. Peel, core and cube your apple if you are not using applesauce.
  4. Add everything to your cooker except your cream cheese and sour cream.
  5. Add enough broth or water to cover ingredients if your 3 cups aren’t enough.
  6. Put on high and find something fun to do for the next 4-5 hours (you can put this on low and cook it for 6-8 hours while you’re at work).
  7. Your soup is done once everything has liquified. You can help this along by stirring the soup every once in a while during cooking.
  8. Once it’s done, cut up cream cheese and allow it to melt in the soup.  As it melts, whisk briskly to help incorporate it and break up any squash chunks.
  9. Ladle into bowls, add a dollop of sour cream (this REALLY brings out the taste and makes the dish) and serve!
This soup freezes well though leave plenty of room for it to expand in the freezer.  When thawed, heat and whisk it back into the consistency it was previously.  Yes, you CAN freeze it with the cream cheese in it.  You can freeze cream cheese by itself though it doesn’t always have the best consistency once thawed so it’s best used for baking or soups such as this.  Enjoy!

Deven’s Divine Italian Sauce

One major plus about growing up in New York is the Italian food! I make an all-day sauce in the slow cooker that is just amazing! Here’s the recipe!
Ingredients:

  • 2 cans of 29 oz tomato Puree
  • 1 can 28 oz diced tomatoes
  • 6 cans 6 oz tomato paste
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic in oil
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup of diced onions
  • 1 tablespoon basil
  • 4 crushed bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons oregano (I like my sauce with extra oregano so add this to taste)

Directions:Open and empty all cans into the slow cooker. Fill one of the large cans halfway with warm water and swish to remove any remaining tomato juice. Pour from one can into the next until all cans are satisfactorily clean. Then pour the water into the slow cooker. Add all other ingredients and stir. Set slow cooker on high for four-six hours (or until sauce thickens)

Tips & Hints: This is a big recipe and should almost completely fill a 6 quart slow cooker. Reduce recipe to fit yours or use a large pot on the stove top. This sauce freezes VERY well with or without meat already added. Be sure to leave room when freezing for slight expanding. Fresh tomatoes can be substituted for diced but extra puree should be added to compensate the less liquid. You will also have to cook longer to allow for them to soften completely. Sun-dried tomatoes add a unique and robust flavor with just enough olive oil that you don’t need to add any more to the recipe, least of all with the minced garlic in olive oil (I make it myself for added flavor and freshness).

And there you have it! I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Creamy Leek & Potato Soup (aka Creamy Irish Root Soup)

Quite some time ago, we had a delivery from Portland’s OrganicsToYou filled with the biggest leeks you’ve ever set your eyes on!  I was quite happy to learn they could be frozen (sealed air tight as they will stink up your freezer and all your food in it otherwise!) and knew that I would be testing out some soup recipes later in the summer.  Well… it’s later in the summer and the perfect time to create a new recipe.  Of course “new” means I sort of threw it together without measuring anything so most of the measurements below are guesstimates except for the Bisquick because I happen to use a measuring cup to scoop it out.

Ingredients (6 quart slow cooker measurements):

  • 2 cups chopped leeks (I used both white and green portions of leeks)
  • 4 cups chopped raw potatoes (I had quite a few golden potatoes that really made this dish!)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped carrot greens (I freeze these whenever we get carrots specifically for stews)
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery or 1/2 tablespoon celery salt
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic in olive oil (again, I simply throw fresh garlic in the food processor and store in the fridge with olive oil in a jar)
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 6 beef bouillon cubes
  • 1 cup chicken stock (yup, mine is from my freezer after making my whole chicken in the slow cooker)
  • 1 tablespoon or 1 packet beef stew mix
  • Water
  • 1 cup Bisquick
  • heavy cream (optional)

Directions:

  1. Add all of the ingredient except the Bisquick and heavy cream into your slow cooker.
  2. Fill with water until ingredients are covered.
  3. Set your slow cooker on high for four hours.
  4. Go enjoy a few chapters of your favorite book.
  5. Come back after four hours and ladle out a few cups of water, whisk the Bisquick into the water until it’s thoroughly incorporated.  Add thickened stock back into the slow cooker.
  6. Check potatoes for tenderness.  If they are not fully cooked, set for another hour on high and check again.
  7. Turn off the cooker and let sit until ready to serve.
  8. When you’re ready to serve, ladle into a bowl and add heavy cream to taste/consistency.  Stir thoroughly.
  9. Sprinkle with grated cheese for garnish and enjoy!

Slow Cooker Roasted Potatoes

Now that I’ve introduced you to baked potatoes in the slow cooker, here’s a recipe for slow roasted potatoes.  This is a great recipe to create in bulk and freeze in meal size proportions (freezing information is below the recipe).
Ingredients:
  • Potatoes (I create huge batches of 10 lbs. in my 6 quart slow cooker)
  • Neutral flavored oil (I use Safflower or grapeseed oil – olive oil is often too heavy)
  • Garlic powder
  • Seasoning Salt
  • Onion Powder
  • Options:
    • Minced garlic instead of garlic powder
    • Minced onion instead of onion powder
    • Rosemary
    • Dill
Directions:
  1. Peel and rinse your potatoes as normal, making sure to remove any new growth (eyes), soft spots or areas that look on the verge of spoiling.
  2. Quarter potatoes into large 1 inch chunks.
  3. Drop them in the slow cooker.
  4. Drizzle oil over potatoes while stirring to LIGHTLY coat them (keeps them from looking gray while cooking) and add any spices at this time.
  5. Set cooker on high and cover.
  6. Cooking time depends on how many potatoes you have in your cooker.  Generally, set your timer for two hours and stir the potatoes.  (If you are freezing any portions: You are looking for them to be just slightly undercooked to allow them to remain firm after thawing.  Freeze portions using a food saver or an air-tight container.)  If they aren’t ready, continue cooking on high and checking hourly (stirring each time so not to over cook the bottom ones while the top of the pile stays raw) until done.  10 lbs in my 6 quart cooker took about five hours in total.
  7. Potatoes are done when they are soft but not falling apart.
  8. Option:  You can add a bit of butter here if desired OR quickly fry them in a pan til the edges are crisp!
Freezing Information:
A great way to make meals easier during the week is to create portions of your meals ahead of time and store them in the freezer until you’re ready for them.   There are a few rules regarding freezing potatoes in general:
  • Don’t freeze whole potatoes.  They become solid bricks.
  • Always partially cook your potatoes before freezing.  Raw potatoes do not freeze well and become tasteless once thawed.
  • Using a food saver that removes any air and seals the packaging not only prolongs the amount of time you can freeze food but also helps them retain their flavor (not to mention keeps freezer burn away).
  • Package them in MEAL SIZE portions or individual portions.  Large batches thawed then refrozen leaves too much room for contamination and spoiling.
  • Potatoes that have been stored at room temperature for two weeks to a month are best for freezing (as they are thoroughly ripened and the most flavorful).
  • Thaw potatoes by microwaving or baking.  Boiling will turn them to mush.
  • If you plan on using your potatoes for fries and not mashed or chunks then simply make them into fries, allow to cool and seal.  The above method would make the potatoes too soft for creating fries.
  • If you wish to have potatoes ready for mashing in the freezer: Prepare the potatoes as normal by peelings, rinsing and cubing them.  Boil the potatoes till they are about two-thirds cooked (should still be quite firm when speared with a fork).  Drain and allow to cool.  Package potatoes in meal size portions and use a food saver to remove any air from the package and freeze.  You can also fully create the mashed potatoes as you would normally and freeze meal portions though remember, any frost on the potatoes may result it more watery potatoes.

Deven’s Broken Lasagna

Disclaimer: As the image shows, if you are someone that judges their lasagna success with perfectly square stacks of layered pasta and cheese, DON’T try this recipe.  Why? Because it is what the name implies… broken.
With that out of the way… let me introduce you to one of my favorite dishes now converted to the slow cooker!  Having spent so much of my adult life in New York, where Italian food is on every corner, making lasagna is second nature to me.  And if you’ve ever made lasagna before, you’ve already got a good idea of how it should work.  All you’ll really need is a few pointers for converting your recipe to the slow cooker.
Ingredients (6 quart slow cooker):
  • 3 packages of 9 oz. “No boil” lasagna noodles
  • 32 oz. red sauce
  • 1 lb. shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 32 oz. Ricotta cheese
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 16 oz. frozen spinach
Directions:
  1. In a large bowl, mix everything but the pasta.  Yes, you read that right, everything.  Even the sauce.  Go head, I promise it still tastes amazing.  Cream then together until fully incorporated.
  2. In a large plastic bag, break up your pasta.  This is to keep it from flying across the kitchen.
  3. Combine the cheese mixture and your broken pasta pieces in the cooker until well mixed.
  4. Set your cooker to low.
  5. Set your timer for 3 hours.
  6. At the end of the 3 hours, check your noodles to ensure they are the right consistency for your tastes (if you like al dente, check the noodles after two hours and continue to cook to perfection).
  7. Serve as is!
I know it doesn’t exactly look like lasagna but I can assure you, it is VERY tasty and a great way to make a family favorite without slaving away and babysitting your stove!  And it freezes VERY well!

Honey Wheat Bread from the Slow Cooker

I’ve been asked about baking bread in the slow cooker from start to finish and after seeing how wonderfully it rises in it, I knew a bit of research would give me the information I needed.  Now here’s the AWESOME part: it works with my favorite bread recipe!  *Does the kitchen happy dance!*
Ingredients:
  • 2.5 tsp granulated yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp and 1 tsp vital wheat gluten (rising agent)
  • 1/4 honey (or sweetener of your choice)
  • 2.5 Tbsp peanut oil
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm almond milk
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 3 & 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • Parchment paper
  • Bowl with water to dip your hands in
  • loaf pan smaller than your slow cooker; OR something to shape your loaf with; OR nothing of the sort if you don’t mind a dome of bread
Directions:
  1. Set the slow cooker on high with enough water to barely cover the bottom.  Cover and set aside.
  2. Fold your parchment paper into a rectangle that will fit snugly in your cooker or loaf pan. Set aside.
  3. Fill a bowl with some water (for dipping your hands) and place nearby.
  4. If your milk and water are cold, combine them (equals 1.5 cups total) and microwave for 30 seconds.
  5. Mix all ingredients EXCEPT flour in a large bowl.
  6. Whisk briskly to incorporate the ingredients as much as possible.  This takes a bit as the vital wheat gluten likes to clump.  Doing this makes for a more evenly rising loaf so don’t skimp on the whisking.
  7. With a large wooden spoon, slowly mix in the flour.
  8. Once you have a mixture too difficult to stir (roughly the second cup of flour), dip your hands in the bowl of water and begin kneading.  Continue to knead until all the flour is added and thoroughly mixed.  Keep dipping your hands as necessary to keep the dough from sticking to them and the bowl too much.
  9. Then transfer the dough to the parchment paper and shape into a loaf.
  10. Remove the lid from the slow cooker, place the dough in the parchment within (you can use ceramic plates, shallow bowls or anything similar to help shape the dough if you don’t want it round and your loaf pan doesn’t fit in the cooker; just make sure it’s not metal or plastic.
  11. With a knife, slide down the center of the top of the loaf.  Drizzle honey across the top and sprinkle with oats.
  12. Cover the cooker and set it for high for three hours.
  13. Come back in three hours and confirm bread is done (should be fully risen and pulling away from the sides of the parchment).  If you want a loaf with a crisper exterior, you can pop it into the broiler or on the top shelf in the oven at 350 degrees till sufficiently browned/crisped.

Let them eat Crockpot Cake!

Okay, so maybe Marie Antoinette didn’t say it exactly like that but if she had a Crockpot, I bet she would have!  I’ve heard rumors that you can back a cake in the crockpot but you know me, I have to find out for myself.  Now let me say that I wasn’t going to go crazy with a super-duper-completely-from-scratch recipe only to discover that you can’t actually bake a cake in a crockpot.  So I used a boxed cake.  Devil’s Food to be exact.  And I have to say… it came out tasty, moist and just like a regular over-baked cake.  OK, not exactly like an oven-baked cake because it was the shape of my semi oval crockpot and didn’t look very pretty (but I wasn’t going for aesthetics this time).  It was an experiment and now that I know, I can expand upon this.  Here’s my notes on baking a cake in the slow cooker:
Needs:
  • Boxed cake mix – including any requirements from the back of the box such as eggs, oil and water
  • Parchment paper OR Baker’s Joy (I do NOT use Baker’s Joy personally but have heard that it is the best product for this type of baking)
  • NOTE: You can use cupcake foils if they are stiff enough to stand on their own with the batter in them.
  • Crockpot/slow cooker
Directions:
  1. Mix batter as instructed on the back of the cake mix box.
  2. Line crockpot with parchment paper (I measure out the bottom of the pan and make neat folds for more aesthetically pleasing cake) or use Baker’s Joy.
  3. Pour batter into crockpot.
  4. Cover the top of the crockpot with paper towels (to absorb the moisture and allow the cake to actually bake).
  5. Put lid over the paper towels, pulling the towels taunt across so they don’t droop into the rising cake.
  6. Set your cooker on high for an hour.
  7. Check your cake after an hour with a toothpick.  Poke the cake in the center with the toothpick as far down as it will go and pull it back.  If it has batter on it, the cake is not done; cover with paper towels & lid and continue to bake for another half hour.  If it comes back clean, it’s done.
  8. Once done, immediately remove the cake by lifting the parchment paper and placing it on a cooling rack.  If you didn’t use a liner, allow the cake to cool enough to be able to handle it and remove from crockpot.
  9. Allow cake to completely cool before frosting/icing.
Let me know how yours comes out or feel free to post any questions/comments below!  Thanks!