Slow Cooker Red Pepper, Pineapple and Chickpea “Stir Fry”

I recieved some red peppers from my mom last night (isn’t costco great for making people buy more than they can use, and then generously share it with you mom?) and wanted to use them in something tasty.  I’m picky about dishes with peppers – I like the dish to “feature” the pepper as I find it a strong flavour that can overwhelm other things easily, especially green pepper – these reds are milder and sweeter.

I also wanted to use some pineapple, and wanted to try stir-frying the veg for a bit of caramelized flavour while still allowing the slow cooker to gently thicken the sauce and fully infuse into the chickpeas.  The sausages were just a bonus, I’d make this without for sure.

And speaking of “thickening the sauce” this is another opportunity to experiment with the large quantity of arrowroot flour that I was given by a “I don’t know what this is or what to do with it” neighbour.  It is supposed to act like cornstarch but be in some way healthier as a thickener.  I’d just like to get some use from it!

You could also, I’m pretty sure, do this as a “dump it all in the slow cooker” recipe, without frying things first (with the exception of cooking the meat! if you want a shortcut, use pre-cooked sausage chopped up, or some other leftover meat)- I just do that because I have time today and like to try it out for the taste.

This would also be an easy and tasty vegetarian dish, without the sausage!

Slow Cooker Red Pepper, Pineapple and Chickpea “Stir Fry”

1 1/2 cups orange juice
3 tablespoons arrow root flour (cornstarch if you don’t have two bags of arrowroot in your pantry…)
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons black bean paste
1 tablespoon sambal oelek (chili garlic paste)
2 onions, chopped in chunks
10 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch ginger, minced
3 large long sweet red peppers, seeds and ribs removed, chopped in chunks
pineapple slices or one small can drained pineapple rings
3 cups chickpeas (or one drained can)
5 large honey garlic or other sausages, removed from casing to make ground sausage meat
Sesame oil or vegetable oil for frying

Whisk together orange juice, and all other sauces/seasonings along with arrowroot in the bottom of the crock.

Grilled pineapple slices – Will thought they looked like slices of frying meat!

Fry pineapple slices/rings in sesame oil until nicely browned on either side.  Set aside to cool, then chop into chunks.  In the same pan, fry the peppers until they get some color.  Dump peppers and pineapple into crock.

Peppers getting some colour before going in the pot!

Fry onion, garlic, and ginger in sesame oil in the same pan until golden and fragrant, then dump into crock.  Dump about a 1/4 cup water into the pan to remove any brown bits, and dump this in the crock too!

Fry the sausage meat until cooked through and browned, and add to crock.   Add chickpeas into crock and stir everything together.  Cook on low for 6-7 hours, or high 4-5 hours.

The complete dish, ready to set and forget in the slow cooker.

I’ll publish a final photo and our opinions tonight!

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Homemade Stock or Broth

Believe me, I’ve read all about the “proper” way to make stock and broth, from Escoffier, to Careme to Rombauer’s “The Joy of Cooking” (which some of my friends and family have referred to as my bible).  But this is the way I’ve been doing it in the last few years – it is my compromise balancing flavour, preference for home-cooking, need to be frugal versus the convenience of something store-bought or processed.

It goes against the grain  to use “perfectly good” vegetables such as whole carrots, celery and onions in a broth recipe which requires me to discard them after I use them.  I’m also not fussy about “mixing meats” by throwing whatever I have in the pot – chicken, ham, pork or beef.

My compromise is to save all my tasty vegetable trimmings, such as stems of fresh herbs, carrot tops and tails, inner layer onion skins (give great golden colour) and so on, and toss them in a freezer bag.  The same goes for all meat bones – chicken, turkey, beef, pork, from roasts, steaks, whole birds etc.  They get frozen too.

When I have time to putter, I plop everything in a large roasting pan – and bake at about 400’F for about 30 – 40 minutes.  I will add additonal garlic and onions as needed.  Usually I add those tiny whole garlic clove that are at the middle of a head of garlic and are a pain to peel.

Here are the typical ingredients:

Large freezer bag of vegetable trim such (in this batch):

stalk/core of cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, kale, etc.
corn cobs
top and bottom of onions, carrots, and zuchinni
onion skins
crushed small cloves of garlic (unpeeled)
and any tired vegetables, raw or cooked leftovers (I had about 1 1/2 cups of mixed brussel sprouts, carrots and sweet potato)

Bones:

2 -3 large ham bones
a few beef ribs
a few pork roast bones
chicken bones

Also:
a few bay leaves
a handful of peppercorns
any other dried herbs you want to mix in

All of this goes into a roasting pan at 450’F for 35 minutes, until things are nice and brown – this was right out of the freezer, as you can see:

It should get a nice colour and start to smell like you are cooking something tasty, allthough it is all stuff that would have ended up in the garbage!

Place all the browned pieced in a large stock pot and cover with water.

Pour a few inches of warm water in the roasting pan, and put it back in the oven (turned off, but still very hot while it cools) for about 10 minutes.  Remove the roasting pan and scrape all the browned bits out of the pan.

Top up the stock pot by pouring this water in along with however much more water you need to almost fill the pot.

Bring to a boil, then simmer on medium low for about 2-3 hours.

Allow the broth to cool, then strain it into a large bowl.  I pull out large pieces into a collander, then strain out finer pieces with a mesh sieve.

From there, you can pour into freezer bags or containers, label, and be ready and set to make delicious soups and other dishes with your own stock!

 

Cook’s Illustrated Braised Winter Greens

My mom bought a bunch of Kale and since we were having dinner at her house (this is why the photos look much nicer than they are in my tiny icky kitchen!), we decided to try out this recipe from the  Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook which I recently picked up (with some difficulty – it is HUGE) from the library.

Yummy sounding variation include frying bacon cripsy first, removing, and then using the fat to fry onions and greens in, then adding in the crumbled bacon.  This sounds like a Very Good Idea, which I will try in the future.  The original recipe also called for adding a few splashes of lemon juice with the broth but I forgot!  Probably would have been nice!

The stalks can be easily removed by folding the leaf in half and then cutting along the stem at an angle, so just the leaf is left.  I saved the kale stalks to use in stock tomorrow.

Braised Winter Greens
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, minced (about 1 cup)
5 medium garlic cloves, mined or pressed (about 5 teaspoons)
kale or collard greens, ribs removed, leaves chopped into 3-inch pieces and rinsed (the book mentioned 24 loosely packed cups, but I think we had a lot less – anyway the method is more important than the measures)
2 cups vegetable broth (from a cube)
Ground black pepper

Chopped Kale with the stem removed, and the onion.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering.  Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and beginning to brown, 4 to 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Sauteed onion and garlic, with half of the greens wilting in the pan.

Add half of greens and stir until beginning to wilt, about 1 minute.

Add remaining greens, broth, water and 1/4 teaspoon salt; quickly cover pot and reduce heat to medium-low.  Cook, stirring occassionally, until greens are tender, 25 to 30 minutes for kale and 35 to 45 minutes for collards.

Wilted greens and onions, mixed in with the raw Kale and ready to simmer.

Remove lid and increase broth heat to medium-high.  Cook, stirring occassionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated (or, if the greens are tender enough you could drain off the liquid and save it for soup or stock – it is full of flavour), 8 to 12 minutes.  Remove pot from heat; season with salt and pepper and serve.

Fully cooked Kale – it loses some of its beautiful bright green colour, but is still delicious!

Result:  These were wonderful – I’d only cooked them once before and while we liked them, I didn’t know to cook them enough or to remove all of the stem, so our experience was pretty tough and chewy.  These were tender but still had some texture – a great way to make tough greens, now I want to try collard greens too as I’ve not had those!

Slow Cooker Mediterranean Beef and Bean Stew

I had capers, olives, and lemons hanging around, which is unusual in my kitchen, and this seemed a good way to put them to use.  I took a bunch of pictures while cooking this, but I accidentally deleted them!

Slow Cooker Mediterranean Beef and Bean Stew

1 pound /0.5kg beef, aprx.(I had some marinating steak, stew beef would be fine too)
1 lemon
1 can or 3 cups beans (I had pre-cooked frozen Romano beans)
1 can sliced olives, drained
1 can tomatoes, drained
2 tablespoons capers
2 large onions, chopped
2 carrots, peeled
10-12 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon sage
1 tablespoon oregano (my herbs are fresh herb purees I froze into ice cube trays after harvesting whatever was left from my mom’s garden!)
1 tablespoon thyme

Drain the olives and tomatoes, reserving the liquid for later.

Slice the lemon into thick slices and remove any visible seeds.  Fry the lemons in a dry pan until they are carmelized.  Place lemons in bottom of slow cooker.

Pat dry beef, season with salt and pepper and brown in the same frying pan, place beef in cooker.

Process garlic and carrots in food processor until minced.  Fry chopped onions in the same frying pan until soft and brown, then add garlic and carrot and continue to fry until golden and fragrant. Dump this mixture into slow cooker.

Return pan to heat and add olive and tomato liquid.  Reduce liquid and scrape up any brown flavour from the frying pan.

Add herbs, beans, tomatos, olives, and reduced liquid to slow cooker.  These picturesmake it look gross, but it isn’t – all my pretty pictures of assembled ingredients and browning foods got deleted, sadly!

Ingredients including browned steak and lemons in the cooker ready to go.

Cook on low for 7 hours.

I left these thin steaks whole after browning because I expect the meat to fall apart while cooking.  If it doesn’t I will remove the steaks and chop them up.  My intent was to have small pieces of meat throughout.

It may look like a uniform beigy brown mess, but it tasted great!

Result:  This tasted delicious. served on top of some bulgur. The steak was fall apart tender, but I did chop it up to make sure there were meat bits throughout. Will spiced his up with some hot sauce and enjoyed it.  It would have looked prettier if I’d had some fresh spinach or parsley to garnish it with.

Crispy Breaded Pork Chops

I tried this method of breading and frying thin pork chops last night, from the  Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook which I got from the library although I changed the ingredients a bit.

Crispy Breaded Pork Chops

3 thin boneless pork loin chops (you could use any cut here, but thin is necessary due to quick cook time)
1/3 cup cornstarch, seasoned with salt, pepper and thyme
1 egg whisked with 2 talespoons dijon mustard
1 cup panko bread crumbs

Dry the chops then score them with shallow cuts in a diamond pattern (diagonal one way then the other) about 1/16th of an inch deep (I think this stops the chops from curling up at the edge in the heat and helps coating stick).

Press chops into cornstarch so they are completely coated then shake off excess.  Dip chop into egg mix, then press into crumbs until no more crumbs stick.

Chops ready to be breaded.

Place chops on rack over a pan to sit for 10 minutes.

Chops breaded and resting for 10 minutes.

Heat 1/3 cup of oil in a pan until it is shimmering, medium high heat.

Chops in the pan.

Fry chops for 3-4 minutes per side until golden brown and crispy.

Result:  These were fabulous.  Next time I might bake them on the rack.  The pork stayed very moist and juicy, but there was no pink whatsoever in the colour.  These thin chops are usually in danger of being dry when I fry them plain.  We had them with roasted vegetables and (for the first time!) cheese grits.

 

Sad Carrots Made Happy, and Other Roasted Vegetables

I’ve been reading through the massive Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook which I got from the library recently, and trying out various recipes.   They have such precise methods for how to cook things, and such interesting and well-tested reasons for doing so that it is always fun to see how their recipe work out.

I’m sure they would be much better made with fresher happier carrots but I want to use up some I’ve had in the fridge for too long.  I used my big beautiful liddded roasting pan, which was a christmas gift, and which I only get to use occasionally as we don’t cook things that big that often!

Roasted Carrots
carrots
other vegetables (I used brussel sprouts and a peeled cubed sweet potato)
2 tablespoons melted butter
salt and pepper
1 tsp thyme
garlic and/or onion powder, or peeled cloves of garlic

Peel and cut carrots into large pieces, toss with butter (and garlic cloves) and season  to taste.

Vegetables ready to go into the oven.

Place carrots and other vegetables,  in a roasting pan with a lid, or cover tightly with foil.  Bake at 425’F for 15 minutes.

After 15 minutes of covered cooking, the vegetables are a bit softened and smelling lovely.

Remove lid/foil, stir, and bake uncovered for 30 more minutes.

Cooked vegetables, browned and crispy!

Result:  This is a great way to roast vegetables, and I’d use it for any!  The lid/cover cooking really helps to complete the cooking with great results.

Chicken Barley Pot Pie with Savory Green Crumble Topping

I love using leftover stews to make pot pies – its easy, quick, and it makes the leftover stew a bit more interesting and special than just reheating in the microwave.

I saw this interesting version in the massive Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook and thought it looked like a great idea, so thought I’d try out my own version, with leftover Chicken Barley Stew for the filling.  I’m planning on eating the leftover dumplings for breakfast anyway!

Leftover stew ready for topping.

Savory Green Crumble Topping

2 cups flour
3 handfuls baby spinach
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp. dried herbs (sage and thyme)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
6 tablespoons Becel
3/4 cup plain yogurt, thinned with milk

Dry ingredients ready to process.

Combine flour, spinach, baking powder, salt, pepper, herbs and cayenne in food processor and process until flour is flecked with green spinach.

Processed flour and spinach.

Add Becel and liquid and process til combined.

Drop in 1/2inch to 3/4inch pieces onto parchment lined baking sheet.  Or if you are feeling wild and crazy and are out of parchment, just put them on an ungreased baking sheet.  Its flour and butter, is it really going stick?  We’ll see. (It didn’t stick).

Crumble ready to go in the oven.

Bake at 450’F until fragrant and browned, 10-13 minutes.

Crumbles browned from the oven and cooling.

Let the crumble topping cool.

Crumbled crumbles topping the casserole.

Now you can fill a greased casserole dish with your filling, top with the crumble (I crumbled the larger crumbles) and bake at 450’F for 15 minutes (if your filling is already hot) until browned and bubbly.  Or for 25 minutes, if you have pre-assembled casserole and are baking from the fridge.  I bet this would be a good freezer casserole too – I may try it!

Fresh from the oven and cooling for dinner – I almost over-browned it!

Result:  This was excellent- kind of like having a yummy bread stuffing for a topic – I would definitely re-use this recipe idea for topping other stews and casseroles, it was quick, easy and a lot less fuss than other pot pie style toppings!  Very filling too!

My presentation sucks – all my dinners look basically the same. But they taste good.