Change It Up – Crock Pot

Square

You’d think that someone who seems to be such an avid chef such as myself would be as familiar with slow-cooked specialties as, well, any other person who cooks regularly. Boy have I got you all fooled. The fact is, I got a Crock Pot years and years ago when I was first starting college and, sadly, the only time it got any love or use whatsoever was when one of my roommates had a hankering for a pot roast and I was only too happy to offer the services of my little slow cooker (in the hopes that I’d get a sampling of the meal myself). Then I loaned out the thing and I can’t be quite sure where it has gotten off to now…

But, Matt and I received a new Crock Pot as our wedding gift, and I finally decided it was time to put aside my reservations about slow cookers and put it to use. You see, the sole reason why I had not used my Crock Pot before was because I lacked planning when it came to my food preparation: as a busy student, it was all I could do not to cram everything I could get my hands onto right into my mouth the second I got home from classes and work. I was lucky most days if I had the patience to make a pb & j. But with marriage has come a sense of responsibility not to let Matt starve as I so often seemed to–because, as they say (actually, it’s just me that says it): a full stomach equals a happy husband. And a less grouchy me, as well. Additionally, I’ve started cooking much more as I’ve realized how much healthier freshly-prepared food often is (and how much better it tastes!).

So I decided to finally give the Crock Pot a whirl this last Sunday. I took it out of the styrofoam and plastic and groaned inwardly as I thought about trying to figure out a complicated instruction manual. Much to my surprise (I’m sure all of you Crock-Pot-lovers are just laughing right now), it was as simple as plugging it in and turning the knob to “Low” for 7 hours. The simplicity of the preparation made me feel a bit sheepish that I had never bothered to figure it out before. Just think of all those wasted Sundays when I came home to cold cereal and Tootsie rolls!

Anyway, my slow-cooked meal was a huge success, and it even made everyone jealous when I brought the leftovers into work. I’m going to include the recipe here so that you can all try out this positively scrumptious entree (seriously, one of the best recipes I’ve made in a LONG time) that only has 300 calories a serving (I know, I could hardly believe it myself).

Change It Up Successful? Uh, yeah. I’m hitting myself upside the head that I’ve taken this long to figure out the awesome-ness that is a slow cooker. And if anyone has any good Crock Pot recipes, let me know! You can post a comment or just email me at torrief@gmail.com. Thanks!

Chicken Cacciatore (taken from Ms. Paula Deen herself)

2 lbs. chicken (I used two chicken breasts and two legs, like the recipe suggested)
1 green pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 cans diced tomatoes (I used the Italian-style diced tomatoes for more flavor)
Hot pasta (I used penne noodles)

Heat up the olive oil in a large skillet. Rub salt and pepper on both sides of the chicken and place in skillet; cook until both sides are browned (doesn’t need to cook all the way through–just until skin is brown).
Meanwhile, chop up green pepper and onion and place both in the bottom of the slow cooker (mix around so the flavors will get evenly blended).

Put browned chicken on top of the vegetables in the slow cooker and sprinkle garlic powder evenly over the chicken. Pour both cans of diced tomatoes on top. Cover and cook on low for 7 hours (I actually cooked mine for just over 6, but the recipe says 7).

Serve over hot pasta (I cooked about 8 oz of penne and it worked out perfectly).

Makes 6 servings.