THE Three-Envelope Slow Cooker Pot Roast

three-envelope-slow-cooker-pot-roast-dinner-is-servedBehold the one and only slow cooker pot roast recipe that takes under one minute to prep and requires only a slow cooker and a pair of kitchen shears!

If it seems like I have quite a few slow cooker pot roast recipes on my blog, you would be correct. Four of them to be exact!  Do we really need another one?  Well yes of course we do!  Especially one that is hands down the most basic and simple and can be assembled in about a minute or less in the morning.  Intrigued?  Read on…

I first spotted this recipe a few years ago on Facebook. At that point I had already perfected my original Classic Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Garlic Thyme Gravy so this recipe, which uses just three packets of gravy/salad dressing mix and water seemed to be a step back.  Actually a few steps back.three-envelope-slow-cooker-pot-roast1

Pardon my food snobbery but this is not the way I cook!

As is often the case fate intervened one day. I found myself with a chuck roast that was near its expiration date and neither the time nor the ingredients to make my classic pot roast. But lo and behold, I did have on hand these three magical packets of seasoning so I decided to give it a go.20170127_133713550_ios-1

Much to my surprise/chagrin, the roast was delicious!  My fears that the gravy would be overpowering or salty or just plain weird, were totally unfounded. I mean I didn’t even brown the roast and it was STILL delicious.  How can that be?

I did make some minor modifications to the original recipe, diluting the seasoning mx a tad. And because I love carrots with pot roast  added them in along with about 1/2 of a large onion, sliced.  On the back end, you’ll want to strain and degrease the cooking liquid as well.

But for the most part that’s it.  Pure comfort food with the minimal amount of effort. I’ve added an Equipment Note below highlighting the key kitchen tool for this recipe: the best ever pair of kitchen shears.  No kitchen should be without one!

Until next time…be well, eat well and love lots!

three-envelope-slow-cooker-pot-roast2

THE Three-Envelope Slow Cooker Pot Roast

  • 1 chuck roast, about 3 pounds
  • 1 (0.7 oz) packet dry Italian Salad Dressing Mix
  • 1 (1.0 oz) packet Ranch Dressing Mix
  • 1 (0.75 oz) packet Brown Gravy Mix
  • 2 cups water
  • 2-3 cups peeled carrots or parsnips (optional)
  • 1/2 large onion sliced (optional)
  • Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Trim any large pieces of fat from roast and place in a slow cooker.  Combine the three packets of salad dressing and gravy mix with the 2 cups of water, whisking to combine.

Scatter carrots and onion (if using) over roast and pour only about 1 1/2 cups of the gravy mixture over all.  Note I do not use the full 2 cups as that is just slightly more liquid than you’ll need.  Discard remaining liquid.

Cook on low for between 8-9 hours.

Using a slotted spoon, remove roast and vegetables and transfer to a platter to keep warm. Strain liquid through a fine mesh metal strainer.  Using a spoon or a gravy separator, remove any excess fat from the gravy.

Pour over roast and vegetables, top with chopped parsley and serve.

Serves 4-6

***Equipment Note***

20170128_153814127_iosWhen you think of kitchen essentials, a pair of scissors probably does not come to mind and yet a solid pair of shears like these from Pampered Chef can multi task and become one of your most valuable tools.

From cutting up chickens, to snipping chives, trimming an artichoke, cutting up clusters of grapes and yes, opening packages of seasoning mix, a good pair of shears can do it all.  I especially love these from Pampered Chef as they are spring loaded and make even the toughest tasks, easy on the hands.

My only caveat would be: keep your kitchen shears IN THE KITCHEN!  You don’t want to use these for craft projects or cutting through cardboard boxes, etc.  Not only do you risk dulling the blade, but they’re likely to get lost (I speak from experience!).

No well stocked kitchen should be without them!

 

 

 

 

Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce

slow-cooker-bolognese-dinner-is-served-coverHard to imagine a dish more worthy of Sunday Supper than a bowl of tagliatelle served with a hearty Bolognese Sauce, warm Italian bread and a bottle of red. I grew up in a non-Italian household with the quick “Americanized” version of this sauce (browned ground beef and a jar of marinara)  and not ashamed to admit I still make that version for the family when I’m pressed for time.  Simply referred to as “spaghetti,” it may not be the real deal but we all enjoy it.

This year, I have decided to go back to my Sunday Supper roots and resurrect some of the classic recipes, made from scratch with no shortcuts.   I’ve made Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese Sauce many times, but wanted to give my new slow cooker (see Equipment Notes after the recipe) a try, so made some adaptations and came up with a sauce that will comfort one and all.

Start with the holy trinity of flavor bases: onion/carrots/celery.  First chopped then finely minced (note the personalized Dinner Is Served cutting board!)slow-cooker-bolognese-dinner-is-served-3

Add a few pinches of classic Italian herbs:slow-cooker-bolognese-sauce-dinner-is-served-1

And let us just pause for a moment to admire this freshly opened bottle of Savory Spice Shop’s California Basil:slow-cooker-bolognese-dinner-is-served-2

And some best quality tomato products:slow-cooker-bolognese-dinner-is-served-4

Along with a little vino (red instead of the traditional white wine), and balsamic vinegar.  Then just let your slow cooker do all the work!  A last minute addition of creamy mascarpone cheese or cream cheese provides that extra dose of richness.

I have to say, this sauce is MADE FOR the slow cooker. The meat is incredibly tender and the sauce develops such a unique complexity. I will still approve of the “quickie” version for a busy weeknight but weekends are made for slow, old-school kind of cooking.

Until next time…be well, eat well, love lots!slow-cooker-bolognese-dinner-is-served-cover2

Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce

  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 pound mild bulk Italian sausage
  • 1/2 cup EACH chopped onion, celery, carrots
  • 1 TBS chopped garlic
  • 1 can whole tomatoes (28 oz), preferable imported Italian San Marzano
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup low sodium beef broth
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 TBS balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seed
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone or cream cheese

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add beef and sausage and cook until no longer pink. Drain through a sieve and place on a paper lined plate; set aside.

Mince the onion, carrot, celery and garlic in a food processor and transfer to a 4-6 quart slow cooker. Pour the whole tomatoes along with their juices into the food processor and pulse a few times until chopped.  Add to the slow cooker.  Add all the additional ingredients except for the mascarpone cheese.  Stir.  Cover and cook on low for 4 hours.  Just before serving, stir in mascarpone or cream cheese.  Serve over pasta and garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese or slivered fresh basil.

Serves 6

EQUIPMENT NOTE

On Christmas Day, I was heating some cocktail meatballs and sausage in my slow cooker when my old faithful totally died.  Bummer!  I looked up my order history on Amazon and turns out the model was six years old.  Eh…not a super great lifespan, in my opinion.

I decided to go with another brand, Cuisinart, as a replacement and found this ultra cool model on Amazon.com. It not only slow cooks, it has a heating element to brown food and a steamer insert (perfect for steaming artichokes, corn, etc.).  I love the lighter weight interior and non stick surface.  So far I am totally in love with it and fingers crossed it will make it past 6 years!cuisinart-slow-cooker

 

 

 

 

Slow Cooker Short Ribs with Chipotle Rub & Dark Beer

Braised Short Ribs Dinner Is Served

I know, it’s grill season.  Trust me, we suffered through a winter-like spring here in the Midwest so yes, bring on summer!  Bring on the charcoal and smoking chips!  Put away that slow cooker!

Well….hold on just a minute.

As tempted as I am to stow away the slow cooker in favor of my Weber kettle, I think about this recipe and decide it’s not QUITE time to give the crock pot the summer off. After all, who doesn’t love tender, slow cooked beef on a tortilla with fresh guac and a slushy margarita. THAT…is summer to me.

This recipe was inspired by a not-so-ordinary gift from my son. After visiting a friend in the city, he arrived home with a 3# package of thinly sliced short ribs (the perks of having a friend whose parents own a grocery store)  These are the sort of gifts I love!  And I admit a bit of a challenge, this one.Flanken Short Ribs

Never before had I seen short ribs sliced in this manner. On to Google, and discovered this to be a “flanken” cut, often used in Korean cuisine.  Yep, a first for me.

Expert meat people instructed that this cut should be cooked quickly over high heat, but for some reason I chickened out on that whole approach.  I thought back to an Italian-inspired braised short rib ragu recipe I made a while back. So tender with  a concentrated beef flavor. This time, though, I was feeling more Southwest flavors. I had zero time to tend to braising, so into the slow cooker they went along with a smoky, spicy chipotle rub, some onions and a cup of dark Mexican beer.  Beer Braised Chipotle Short Ribs - DInner Is Served3.jpg

Now to tweak the original recipe.  The flanken ribs had great flavor but not enough meat for this purpose, so the first substitute was traditional English cut ribs.  The chipotle rub was amazing…no changes there.Beer Braised Chipotle Short Ribs - DInner Is Served4

If you don’t cook a lot, I understand the reluctance to keep this many spices on hand.  In that case, look for a good-quality chile/Southwestern seasoning blend like this Mesa Rosa Chipotle Seasoning blend from Urban Accents.  Otherwise, this recipe is incredibly simple. Just slice an onion, brown the seasoned ribs and throw it into the slow cooker with a cup of Negro Modelo.

Low and slow all day, the slow cooker is made for dishes like this.  Tender, with intense beef flavor and complex spices, this meat can go just about anywhere. My creation: served “burrito” style with a flour tortilla, yellow rice, a spoonful of Ann’s Essential Guacamole, sour cream, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime.

The possibilities are truly endless.  Use this amazing flavorful meat as the star of your nacho platter, or on tostada shells or even serve atop some creamy polenta and topped with stewed tomatoes for a comfort food kind of dinner. Check out other recipe notes and tips following the recipe and a bonus: my recipe for Ann’s Essential Guacamole.

Enjoy summer cooking low and slow my friends. This one’s a keeper!

PicMonkey Collage

~Slow Cooker Short Ribs with Chipotle Rub and Dark Beer~

3 1/2-4# Beef short ribs, English cut (see recipe notes)

Chipotle Rub

  • 1/2 tablespoon ground red chipotle powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoons paprika (smoked paprika if available)
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano (Mexican oregano if available)
  • 1/4 tsp teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 cups sliced white or yellow onion

1 cup dark beer, preferably Negro Modelo

Canola or vegetable oil for browning

For Serving

Combine Chipotle Rub ingredients together and store until ready to use.

Place ribs in a large bowl and combine with enough of the seasoning mix to coat, tossing well.  Let stand at room temperature approximately 30 minutes.

Heat a thin film of oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add ribs and brown on all sides.  Remove to a platter.

Place sliced onions in the bottom of a slow cooker.  Top with browned ribs.  Pour beer over all.  Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Using a slotted spoon, remove ribs and onions to a rimmed cutting board.  Shred meat using forks and place in a bowl.  Strain cooking liquid and skim fat from the top (a good quality fat separator is perfect for this!)

Add some of the degreased cooking liquid to the meat and toss.  Place a large spoonful of yellow rice on a tortilla.  Top with warm shredded beef, guacamole, then sour cream and cilantro.  Squeeze some fresh lime over all and serve.

Serves 6-8

RECIPE NOTES

  • If your grocery store does not carry beef short ribs, the next best thing would be a bone-in chuck roast.  In a pinch, a boneless chuck roast will do just fine!
  • If early morning browning of the meat is not feasible, you can skip this step but…I would recommend coating the meat in the seasoning mix the night before to kick up the flavor.
  • If you don’t have  these spices on hand, grab a good all-purpose seasoning like Urban Accent’s Mesa Rosa Chipotle Seasoning or any other Southwestern-inspired blend. Just keep an eye on salt contents of blends and adjust salt as necessary.

 

Classic Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Garlic and Rosemary

Pot Roast CoverThings that cause amateur food bloggers to fall off the wagon:

  • Full time job
  • Being a parent
  • Being a wrestling (or fill-in-the-blank sport) parent
  • winter/dark at 5:00/NO GOOD NATURAL LIGHT FOR PHOTOS!

Indeed a perfect storm of all the above have caused me to take a brief hiatus from blogging. But trust all is well, and slowly but surely I am getting back into the swing of things in the kitchen. Dusting off my faithful slow cooker and ready to share with you this  slow cooker pot roast recipe that I more or less pulled out of my hat last week.

A few years back, I was introduced  to Three Envelope Slow Cooker Pot Roast which is quite possibly THE easiest slow cooker recipe in the history of slow cookery.  My Classic Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Garlic and Rosemary is a version of that roast. In place of the “three envelopes” I’ve chosen just one envelope of Knorr Au Jus Gravy, enhanced with a little tomato paste. I then piled on the vegetables because, well,  who wants to come home after a busy day and fuss with more food prep!?Classic Slow Cooker Pot Roast 1

Because this is a “classic” pot roast, I stuck to the basics: carrots, onions, parsnips and potatoes. The vegetables take on a wonderful flavor after cooking low and slow all day long.

Flavor enhancements are a must! I like to rub my chuck roast with a simple savory rub comprised of salt, pepper, granulated onion and garlic. All pantry staples!Classic Slow Cooker Pot Roast 3

And finally to top it off, fresh rosemary and chopped fresh garlic. If rosemary is a deal breaker for you, fresh thyme makes an excellent substitute.Classic Slow Cooker Pot Roast 5

Last but not least, check out my Time Saving Tips at the end of the recipe, with “make ahead” suggestions and product recommendations. Enjoy and happy cooking!

Pot Roast Cover 2

Classic Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Garlic and Rosemary

1 2 ½-3 pound boneless chuck roast

1 tsp Kosher salt

½ tsp each: pepper, granulated onion and granulated garlic

1 tsp olive oil

1 packet Knorr Au Jus Gravy

1 ½ cups water

1 tsp tomato paste

1 cup sliced sweet onion, about 1/2 of a large

1 # red skinned potatoes (about 4 large), scrubbed and cut into 1 ½-inch pieces

2 cups peeled and coarsely chopped carrots

1  to 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped parsnips, about one medium

1 TBS chopped fresh garlic

5-6 sprigs fresh rosemary

1 bay leaf

1 TBS cornstarch

1 TBS red wine or water

Chopped fresh chives (optional)

Combine salt, pepper and granulated onion and garlic in a small bowl to blend. Pat chuck roast dry with a paper towel and sprinkle spice blend all over roast.  In a large skillet, heat olive oil until shimmering.  Brown roast on both sides until well browned, about five minutes per side.

While roast is browning, combine au jus mix and water, whisking to combine.  Add tomato paste and whisk.

Place onions, a few rosemary sprigs and bay leaf on the bottom of a slow cooker. Place browned roast on top.  Scatter carrots, potatoes and parsnips around roast.  Pour au jus gravy mix on and around roast. Scatter chopped garlic on top and place remaining rosemary sprigs on top.

Cook on low for at least 8 hours or up to 9 ½ hours.

Using a large slotted spoon or strainer, carefully remove roast and vegetables to a platter (make sure all rosemary stalks and bay leaf are removed). Tent with foil to keep warm.  Strain and de-grease liquid and transfer to a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Whisk cornstarch and wine in a small bowl, then whisk into gravy.  Continue to simmer until slightly thickened, about five minutes.  Add additional salt and pepper to the gravy if necessary.

Break apart roast using a fork.  Sprinkle chives over all and serve with hot gravy.

Serves 4-5

time_saving

  • Onions, garlic, carrots and parsnips can all be chopped the night before. Just store in a zipper bag in the fridge
  • Peeled baby carrots can be used in place of whole carrots
  • The seasoning mix and gravy can both be mixed the night before. Store seasonings at room temperature and refrigerate the gravy.
  • Tired of throwing away unused tomato paste from a can? Try Savory Spice Shop’s Tomato Powder. Just dilute with water to whip up a little paste or sauce.  Keeps well in the fridge for months, so you can have quick tomato paste on hand whenever you need it!
  • While you’re checking out the Savory Spice Shop site, try a bottle of their Onion & Garlic Tableside Sprinkle. You can use 1 tsp of the blend in place of the granulated onion and garlic in this recipe. It’s salt free, so also a great way to add a dash of flavor for those on sodium restricted diets!

Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Garlic & Rosemary - Dinner Is Served

Savory Slow Cooker Turkey Breast

Savory Slow Cooker Turkey Breast | Dinner Is ServedPretty sure I have mentioned on more than one occasion that I have a small kitchen, with about 5 ft. of usable but non-continuous counter space. It’s something that to be honest, I use to complain about. A lot.  But as with many struggles in life, you grow to accept the limitations, and these days instead of complaining, I just find creative ways of dealing with it.

That said, Thanksgiving has always proven to be a challenge. Definitely “think outside the box” time. And more than ever the appliance for which I am most thankful is my slow cooker.Savory Slow Cooker Turkey Breast | Dinner Is Served

In the past, I’ve put mine to use for preparing and serving mashed potatoes. ( Highly recommend this recipe from Cooking Classy! )  I’ve also put my smaller cooker to use to keep gravy warm.

This year with a larger-than-average group assembling at my house and most of them white-meat lovers, I’ve decided to cook an extra turkey breast in..you guessed it: the slow cooker!Savory Slow Cooker Turkey Breast 2 Dinner Is Served

You’ll definitely want to boost the flavor a bit and for that, I love this garlic and rosemary paste.Savory Slow Cooker Turkey Breast 3 Dinner Is Served

Just spread a little underneath the skin and again on top of the breast after browning. It adds just the right amount of savory touch.

Really that’s all there is too it.  Just simmer away in some chicken stock for about 5-6 hours. You can make slice the breast ahead of time and re-heat. Added bonus too: the reserved liquid makes a fantastic gravy (instructions follow recipe).

Of course you can make a slow cooker turkey breast any day of the year! But especially on Thanksgiving, if you are also blessed with a small kitchen, large crowd and need a little extra turkey to serve, this recipe is a lifesaver.

Savory Slow Cooker Turkey Breast 4 Dinner Is Served

Savory Slow Cooker Turkey Breast

  • 1 bone-in or boneless (rolled and tied) fresh turkey breast (about 5#)
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 TBS fresh minced rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 4 TBS olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup roughly chopped celery
  • 1 cup roughly chopped onion
  • 3/4 cups chicken or turkey stock

Puree the garlic, rosemary, salt, pepper & paprika in a mini food processor. Add 2 TBS of the olive oil ad process until a paste forms (this can also be done with a mortar and pestle).

Rinse the breast under cold water and pat thoroughly dry with paper towels.

Using your fingers, loosen the skin on the turkey breast and spread about half of the paste onto the meat, distributing evenly. Pull skin back over meat (use toothpicks to secure skin if necessary). Sprinkle with a little extra salt and pepper.

Heat the remaining 2 TBS olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sear turkey breast on all sides until golden.

Place celery and onions in the bottom of the slow cooker. Place turkey on top of vegetables, breast side up. Spread remaining paste over top of breast, distributing evenly.  Pour in chicken broth.  Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours, until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

Remove breast from slow cooker and let rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.

Serves 6

~~~~~~~~For Gravy~~~~~~~~

Strain the solids from the slow cooker and skim off any fat. You should have about 1-2 cups of stock,  Add additional chicken or turkey stock to bring to 4 cups. Bring to a simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes. Keep warm.

In a second saucepan, melt 2 TBS unsalted butter over medium heat. Whisk in 2 TBS all-purpose flour and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes or until mixture is golden.  Slowly whisk in reserved stock, whisking constantly, until smooth.

Reduce heat to low and simmer gravy, stirring occasionally, until it has thickened. If desired, add in a few drops of Kitchen Bouquet® in for a deep rich brown color.  Season to taste, adding additional salt and black pepper if desired.

Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup

Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup 1Wasn’t it just last week that I was commenting to someone how mild our winter has been thus far in the Chicago area? Well apparently I neglected to knock on wood because today we are MORE than making up for our snowfall deficit with the “Superbowl of Snowstorms.”  I have officially declared it an “all pajama day” at our house, along with getting the fireplace going and of course the game later on.

Days like this also call for hearty and comforting soups, like this Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup, a recipe passed on to me a few years back by my sister. I actually made this soup earlier last week and it’s the perfect thing to make for a crazy busy work week.  Just prep some onions/carrots/celery the night before: Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup 3

The next morning, into the slow cooker it goes with some chicken stock (I use my Smitten Kitchen Slow Cooker “Uncluttered Chicken Stock” which I always have on hand in the freezer). For a true vegetarian version simply substitute vegetable stock. Add a can of tomatoes:

IMAG0973Some beans of your choice (I used Great Northern Beans this time around) And of course the secret ingredient for any minestrone soup: a Parmesan rind.  Low and behold, look what they carry at my most awesome grocery store, Mariano’s: Parmesan rinds!

IMAG0993

Into the slow cooker it all goes and simmers away for a good 8 hours (on low)

Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup| Dinner Is ServedThen about thirty minutes prior to serving, stir in some chopped zucchini, spinach and al dente ditalini pasta.Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup 2

As for my snow day today, I’ll be cooking up a big batch of my favorite Andouille Sausage and Chicken Jambalaya, enjoying the winter wonderland, some football and later, a glass or two of red wine by the fire.

Winter Wonderland 2015

Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup

5-6 cups homemade chicken stock (or reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken broth)

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 (15-ounce) can beans (either Great Northern, Cannellini, Kidney or Chick Peas), drained and rinsed

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

1 cup onion, chopped

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

2 bay leaves

1 Parmesan cheese rind

Salt and ground black pepper

2 cups slightly undercooked (al dente)  ditalini pasta

1 medium zucchini, chopped

2 cups fresh baby spinach

Parmesan or Romano cheese for serving

  •  In a slow cooker, combine 5 cups broth, tomatoes, beans, carrots, celery, onion, oregano, basil, thyme, Parmesan rind, bay leaves, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours or on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours.
  • Thirty minutes before the soup is done cooking, add ditalini, zucchini and spinach. Cover and cook 30 more minutes. Add additional cup of chicken stock if soup is too thick. Remove bay leaves and Parmesan rind and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle parmesan cheese over top.

Serves 6-8

Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup 4

 

Slow Cooker Pot Roast Sandwiches with Swiss Cheese & Thyme Au Jus

Slow Cooker Pot Roast Sandwich with Swiss Cheese and Thyme Au Jus | Dinner Is Served

Is it just me or has the late Thanksgiving just thrown everything off kilter?  I feel like Christmas is just around the corner, and I’m starting to panic a bit (and I’m not a panicking kind of person).  To add to my already full plate, wrestling season is now in full swing for my son and weekend speech team meets for my daughter, multiple concerts, parties….ahhhhh!!!

Well when the going gets tough around these parts, it makes me love my slow cooker even more.  Having a meal essentially ready for everyone when I get home and before the evening activities start is a blessing.  And this recipe in particular…oh my.  I’ve been meaning to share it with you since forever because it is indescribably delicious.

So let’s get going with the game plan, shall we?  The night before, whip up this magical fantastic sauce, which I can pretty much guarantee you have all these ingredients in your pantry.

Slow Cooker Pot Roast Sandwiches with Swiss Cheese & Thyme Au Jus

Then chop up some carrots and slice a little onions.  Refrigerate everything and go to bed!

Slow Cooker Pot Roast Sandwiches with Swiss Cheese & Thyme Au JusThe next morning, things could not be easier.  Just throw the veggies and the magical sauce into your slow cooker, season your pot roast and place on top, set your cooker for 7-8 hours and go about your day.  When you return home, you will be met by an aroma so seductive, you’ll want to dive right into that meat!  But wait, because it gets better.

After you remove and shred the meat and strain the sauce, now get out a few pieces of Texas toast and spread with a little horseradish mayo:

Slow Cooker Pot Roast Sandwiches with Swiss Cheese & Thyme Au Jus

Top with some of that delish pot roast and a slice of Swiss cheese like this:

Slow Cooker Pot Roast Sandwiches with Swiss Cheese & Thyme Au Jus

Then run them under the broiler till the cheese is all hot and melty and serve with that wicked good thyme au jus.  Seriously, you’ll need a moment or two alone with this meal.  Added bonus: if you have hungry teens in the house and you serve this to them, they will love you so much, they might even offer to do the dishes.  That’s how good it is.

So with twenty-three shopping days till Christmas, I best be getting to the mall now.  Here’s to panic-free and stress-free cooking in the weeks to come.  I need it!

Slow Cooker Pot Roast Sandwiches with Swiss Cheese & Thyme Au Jus

For the Roast:

2 medium or 1 large onion, thinly sliced

2 carrots, chopped

1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth

1/4 cup Worcestershire Sauce

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

2 TBS dried thyme OR 1 large bunch fresh thyme

2 TBS tomato paste

1 bay leaf

1 boneless chuck roast, about 3-4 pounds

Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper

For the Sandwich:

 1 cup mayonnaise

2 TBS prepared horseradish

8 slices Texas toast, toasted

8 slices Swiss cheese

In a 4-6 qt. slow cooker, combine carrots, sliced onions, broth, Worcestershire, Dijon mustard, thyme, tomato paste and bay leaf. Season roast with salt and pepper on both sides.  Place on top of the vegetables.  Cover and cook on low heat 6-7 hours or on high 4-5 hours.

Transfer meat to a large bowl or rimmed cutting board and shred with two forks, adding a few TBS of the cooking liquid to moisten.  Set aside.  Strain vegetables out of liquid and transfer the au jus to small saucepan; keep warm over low heat (discard solids).

Preheat broiler and place rack to about 6-8 inches away from heating element.

Toast the bread and place on a sheet pan.  Combine the horseradish and mayo and spread a thin layer on each slice of toast.  Top each piece of toast with some of the shredded meat.  Top each with a slice of Swiss cheese.  Broil until cheese melts, about two minutes.  Serve sandwiches with the warm au jus.

Serves 8

Weekend Slow Cooker Steak and Bean Chili

2013-10-28 10.51.42I asked. You replied, and here it is.  At this point you can just skip to the recipe if you like.  Or you read what makes this a very wonderful chili.

I should clarify that I asked on my Facebook page what kind of recipes my followers would like to see me post.  It didn’t take long for a theme to evolve: slow cooker, soups, stews…chili.  I totally get that.  So I got to work and adapted my personal favorite beef and bean chili recipe for the slow cooker.  A few tweaks later and well, here you go!

20131028_104952

Now down to the nitty gritty about chili making.  First and foremost, chili is a very personal matter.  Right up there with ribs, Italian meat sauce, pizza and even mac & cheese.  There are thousands of variations and even more opinions about what is best.  So rather than tell you exactly how you should make your chili, let me instead offer my advice on the three most important aspects of chili making:

Meat
Assuming you want to go the red meat route, then I highly suggest going for thinly sliced round steak.  Freeze for about an hour or two, then dice into little 1/3-inch pieces.  This tends to be a very cost effective method, as round steak is very economical.  It adds texture and flavor and lets you trim the excess fat.  You will spend perhaps five minutes of your life dicing up the meat.  Trust me, it’s worth it.

If ground beef is truly your preference, then by all means use it.  Many stores and butchers carry coarsely ground beef which is sometimes labeled “chili beef.”  If it’s freshly ground by a butcher you trust, you should be ok.   So what NOT to use?  Finely ground beef that looks like this:

ground-beef-targetThe stringy texture is all wrong.  Remember we’re making chili here, not Sloppy Joes!

chili-spices

Pretty much stating the obvious here but you MUST add spices to your chili.  Otherwise you may as well be making spaghetti sauce (or the aforementioned Sloppy Joes).   Your choice of seasoning is what makes the chili unique to you, so have fun with it!

The star of my spice road show is definitely Penzey’s “Chili 9000” seasoning.  It has so many amazing spices in it (including a little cocoa powder), I can’t even begin to explain how much I love this stuff.  Another favorite secret weapon is Savory Spice’s Tomato Powder which not only thickens the chili but adds a concentrated burst of tomato flavor.  Finally for that little “kick in the pants” I like to throw in some smoky Chipotle Powder.

Where you take it from here is up to your tastes and sense of adventure.  I’ve seen chili recipes incorporating ingredients like strong coffee or dark beer.  I came across a recipe posted by a woman who won an international chili contest a few years back who used at least five different kinds of chili powder and added them at various stages of the cooking process.

Whether you’re destined for the chili big leagues or just a loyal fan,the important thing is to think big and BOLD!

take your time

Last but not least, remember that chili is all about low and slow.  If you have only thirty minutes to throw together dinner on a busy weeknight, then chili is probably not your best bet.  It’s made for the slow cooker and now that I’ve adapted my recipe, I’m pretty sure this is how I’ll be cooking mine from now on.

Enjoy and as always thank you for your comments, suggestions and feedback.  I love cooking for you!

Weekend Slow Cooker Steak and Bean Chili

2 TBS olive oil

2 pounds round steak, diced into 1/3-inch pieces OR 2 pounds coarse ground beef (see Note 1>)

1 large yellow or white onion, diced (about 1 ½ cups)

1 large green bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced

2 medium or 1 large jalapeno pepper, cored, seeded and minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 28-oz. can tomato sauce

1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes, undrained

1 6-oz. can tomato paste or 2 TBS tomato powder (see Note 2>)

1 28-oz. can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Spice Mix:

2 TBS chili powder (preferably Penzey’s Chili 9000)

1 TBS each, ground cumin, oregano & basil

½ – ¾ tsp ground chipotle powder (optional)

2 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper

1 tsp. Kosher salt

To Finish:

Balsamic vinegar

Freshly chopped cilantro

Sour cream or crème fraiche

Coarsely grated cheddar cheese

Saltine crackers

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add diced round steak and brown for about 5 minutes. Drain excess fat (see Note 2>).  Add diced onions, green pepper, jalapeno & garlic to skillet. Continue to sauté for about 5 minutes longer.  Add spice mix to skillet; stir and continue to cook for 1 additional minute.

Transfer meat & vegetable mixture to slow cooker.  Add tomato sauce, whole tomatoes, tomato paste (or powder) and kidney beans.

Cover and cook on low heat 8-10 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.  Taste for seasonings and, if desired, add about 1 TBS balsamic vinegar.  Top with cilantro, sour cream or shredded cheese.  Serve with saltine crackers.

Serves 6-8

Note 1>  If using round steak, freeze for about an hour or so.  Remove from freezer, trim off fat and dice into ⅓-inch pieces.

Note 2> Looking for a super easy way to drain fat from browned meat?  Grab that turkey baster, tilt your pan and remove the fat to a heat resistant container and discard.

Slow Cooker Corned Beef with Whiskey Orange Glaze

Slow Cooker Corned Beef with Whiskey Orange Glaze Dinner Is Served

I’m generally a plan ahead kind of person, so it completely goes against my nature to throw a blog post together at the last moment.  And as many times as I have made this over the years, I only managed to snap a measly two photos.  Actually in a way that’s a good thing: this corned beef so totally amazing,  it’s gone before you know it!

Anyway, I know the high holy Irish, dye-the-Chicago-River-green holiday is right around the corner and a lot of you may be staring at that big piece of corned beef wondering if there is any better way to prepare it other than just tossing it into some boiling water.  Well if you happen to have a slow cooker, the answer is an enthusiastic YES!  Even better, this method will take you approximately five minutes of prep time in the morning and a wee bit of time (insert Irish brogue), just before serving alongside your buttered cabbage and pint of Guinness.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all of my food friends.  I’ll leave you with a little Irish blessing for the day:

May your troubles be less,
And your blessing be more.
And nothing but happiness,
Come through your door.

Sláinte

shamrock-border

Slow Cooker Corned Beef with Whiskey Orange Glaze

3 -4 pounds corned beef brisket, rinsed and trimmed

1 1/2 pounds small red potatoes, skin left on and scrubbed

1/2 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

1 cup lager style beer

Glaze

1/2 cup orange marmalade

1/4 cup Irish whiskey or apple juice

2 TBS ketchup

2 TBS white vinegar

Combine beef, potatoes, carrots and beer in a 4-6 quart slow cooker.  Cover and cook until beef is fork-tender, 4-5 hours on high or on low for 8-9 hours.  Remove beef and vegetables; discard cooking liquid.

Whisk together ingredients for the glaze and brush over the corned beef.  Preheat broiler to high and position oven rack to 6-8 inches from heating element. Transfer meat to a broiler pan coated with non-stick spray.  Broil until glaze caramelizes, about 5 minutes.

Thinly slice beef against the grain; quarter the potatoes.  Sprinkle with a little chopped parsley and serve with horseradish sauce and braised green cabbage.

Serves 4-6

Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Garlic Thyme Gravy

Alternate title to this post “Channeling June Cleaver.”  Because every time I think of pot roast, I think of the Cleaver family meals and I’m pretty sure they were always eating pot roast or meat loaf.  And gosh darn it, June pulled it off every single time in her nicely pressed dress, high heels and pearls.   I am nowhere near being a 50’s fashionista, but what I lack in couture, I more than make up with kitchen gadgetry.

When  it comes to pot roast, I’ll take my slow cooker over cultured pearls any day!

Slow cookers and pot roast = a match made in heaven.  That said, I am a recent convert to slow cookery.  Prior to my going back to work in the fall of 2010, the only slow cooker I owned was a relic Crock Pot from the 1980’s (pretty sure that’s the Paleolithic era, correct?).  In my mind all it was suitable for was serving hot apple cider at a party.  I also admit to being somewhat of a food snob.  Crock Pots were the realm of the “I’m Too Lazy to Really Cook” crowd.  You know, throw in a cheap piece of meat, a couple cans of cream of anything soup and cook it till it’s mush.

OK, so I was really wrong.   I quickly realized after starting work, that I just couldn’t pull off getting dinner on the table with lightening speed.  Not even Rachael’s 30-minute-meals could save me.  I thought about trying the Crock Pot again, but the vintage model definitely had to go.  After doing some thorough research I settled on this mighty fine Hamilton Beach programmable 6-quart model, for a mere $40.  Collected a batch of new recipes.  We’ve been living happily ever after.

As for this pot roast, I will say there is a fair amount of front end time, but it is way worth it.  And when it’s done, it’s done.  No last minute gravy making, etc.  You want a bit of over the top?  Serve these with a side of mashed potatoes made with a little creme fraiche and garnished with chives.

Oh Ward, Wally and the Beave would be so proud.  And I doubt they’d even notice I traded in the dress and pearls for sweat pants and sneakers.

Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Garlic Thyme Gravy

3 TBS vegetable oil

1 3-4 lb chuck roast

Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper

1/4 cup all purpose flour

2 TBS tomato paste (see Note>)

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth

1 TBS Worcestershire sauce

2 cups sliced onions

6 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch pieces

3 large celery ribs, cut into 3-inch pieces

6 cloves garlic, chopped

3-4 sprigs fresh thyme

2 dried bay leaves

Chopped parsley (optional)

Preparation

Remove roast from fridge about 30 minutes prior to cooking.  Pat dry and season with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Heat oil in a large saute pan and brown roast on all sides, about 10 minutes.  Transfer roast with a slotted spoon to a 4-6 qt. slow cooker.

Stir flour into saucepan and cook for about 1 minute.  Add tomato paste and cook for about 1 additional minute.

Deglaze saute pan with wine, cooking until liquid evaporates.  Stir in broth and Worcestershire sauce; bring mixture to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits.

Transfer broth mixture to the slow cooker.  Add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme and bay leaves.  Cover and cook on high setting for 4-5 hours or on low setting for 8-9 hours.

Remove roast from cooker and cut into serving pieces.  Spoon any fat from the gravy in the slow cooker.  Serve roast with vegetables and some spoonfuls of gravy and fresh chopped parsley for garnish.

Serves 4-6

Note> Recipes that call for just a tablespoon or two of tomato paste can pose a challenge if all you have available is a small can.  The leftovers frequently end up getting discarded or buried in the back of the fridge.  My solution is to purchase tomato paste in a tube.  And most recently, I’ve discovered a fabulous tomato powder at the Savory Spice shop near my house.  It can be reconstituted to create paste, sauce or juice.  A must have and available online!