Slow Cooker Chicken & Sausage Jambalaya

I prefer to use slow cooker liners. Whenever I buy a box of them, there is invariably a little handout inside that includes a few recipes. They are great for folks starting out with slow cookers!

Reynolds produces liner bags for slow cookers. They, like Crock-Pot, offer recipes from their test kitchens. I rounded up a few more and will share them here, in a couple of fall posts. Why fall? Slow cookers are wonderful for making warm, filling meals that are especially welcome on cooler or cold nights.

Please keep in mind that some of my Cajun friends might take exception to this recipe, and that it’s from Reynolds’ kitchens, not mine.

CHICKEN & SAUSAGE JAMBALAYA
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 7 hours on Low or 3 hours on High
Servings: 6

Ingredients:
1 lb chicken thighs, boned, skinned, cut into bite sized pieces
8 ounces smoked turkey or chicken sausage, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 to 2 tablespoons Creole or Cajun seasoning
Salt, to taste
1 can (14.5 oz) petite-diced tomatoes with onion, celery and green pepper
2 medium red, green or yellow bell peppers, seeded, cored and cut into 2 inch strips
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium yellow squash, cut into bite size pieces
12 oz pre-cooked deveined and peeled shrimp
hot cooked rice
2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley

Directions:
Set up your slow cooker by placing the liner bag inside, fitting it snugly to the bottom and sides.

Place chicken and sausage in the crock. Sprinkle with seasonings. Pour in diced tomatoes. Top with vegetables.

Cover and cook 7 to 8 hours on low OR 3 to 4 hours on high, until the chicken is done.

Carefully remove the lid to allow steam to escape.

Add cooked shrimp and stir gently.

Cook 10 more minutes on low.

Spoon jambalaya directly from cooker into bowls of cooked rice.

Sprinkle with chopped celery and serve

 

Note: Do not lift or transport liner with food inside.

Note: Allow crock to cool before removing the liner and tossing it.

 

–Ann Cathey

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Slow Cooker Sausage Lasagna

I prefer to use slow cooker liners. Whenever I buy a box of them, there is invariably a little handout inside that includes a few recipes. They are great for folks starting out with slow cookers!

Reynolds produces liner bags for slow cookers. They, like Crock-Pot, offer recipes from their test kitchens. I rounded up a few more and will share them here, in a couple of fall posts. Why fall? Slow cookers are wonderful for making warm, filling meals that are especially welcome on cooler or cold nights.

SAUSAGE LASAGNA
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 4-6 hours on Low
Servings: 6

Ingredients:
1 lb uncooked ground Italian sausage
1 onion, chopped
1 can (28 oz) crushed or diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
6 uncooked lasagna noodles, broken in half
1-1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded, divided
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:
Set up your slow cooker by placing the liner bag inside, fitting it snugly to the bottom and sides.

Cook sausage and onions 8-10 monutes in a large skillet over medium-high heat, breaking up meat as it cooks. Drain well.

Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil and oregano; cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes.

Spoon 1/3 of the sausage mixture into the slow cooker, spreading evenly over the bottom.

Arrange half the noodles on top.

Combine 1 cup of the mozzarella and ricotta cheeses in a medium bowl. Spoon half of the cheese mixture evenly over the noodles.

Repeat to add another layer.

Top with remaining 1/3 sausage mixture. cover and cook for 4-6 hours on low.

Carefully remove lid to allow steam to escape.

Mix the remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses; sprinkle over top of the lasagne.

Cover and let stand for 30 minutes until the cheese melts and lasagna sets up slightly.

Serve directly from the slow-cooker.

Note: Do not lift or transport liner with food inside.

Note: Allow crock to cool before removing the liner and tossing it.

 

–Ann Cathey

Savory Schmeres

This pair of recipes may be used as dips, schmeres, spreads, dollops, or any other way you can think of to serve them. I personally like them in small dollops on a cheese cracker or spread on biscuits hot out of the oven.

BACON JALAPENO JAM
Prep Time: 30 minuntes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Serves: 10

Ingredients
1¾ lb. thickly sliced bacon, cut into 1” pieces
2 jalapeño peppers, thinly sliced
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
? cup cider vinegar
½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
¼ cup pure maple syrup
½ cup strong brewed coffee
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 bags (large) Kettle Brand Original Chips

Directions
Cook bacon over medium-high heat in a large skillet, stirring occasionally, until bacon is lightly browned, about 25 minutes. Transfer bacon pieces to a large plate or tray to drain.

Saute jalapeño, onion and garlic in bacon fat until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes, then add the vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup and coffee.

Bring mixture to a boil, stirring and scraping up browned bits from skillet.

In a crockpot, combine the bacon and the vinegar mixture, stirring briefly to combine.
Cook on high, uncovered, for 1 hour.

In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and two tablespoons of the cooking liquid; stir into the bacon crockpot mixture.

Continue to cook on high, uncovered, for 3 hours. Carefully transfer mixture to a blender or food processor and pulse mixture until coarsely chopped.

Transfer to a serving bowl and allow to cool before serving with chips.

Mixture can easily be made and refrigerated in an airtight container up to 2 weeks before using.
MEATY ONION RELISH
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours
Serves: 10

Ingredients 
2 cups drippings from pork loin, roast beef or other roasted meat
4 large sweet yellow onions
1tsp black pepper
1tsp garlic powder or minced garlic

Directions

Peel and dice onions.

In crock pot, combine all ingredients. Set on medium and allow to cook until all onions are soft and clear.

Turn heat to high for 10 minutes. Add arrowroot powder and allow to thicken, stirring often.

Allow to cool before placing in a bowl to serve.

Relish may be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks before using. Also good for canning project.

This relish relies on the spices used for the roasted meat as a major part of the flavoring. It will be a little different with every batch, depending on the drippings. Bits of meat and fat may be included, adding to the savory flavors.

 

I apologize for the lack of photos, but these were oddities in my kitchen. Hopefully you will give them a spin and let us know what you think.

Enjoy!

–Ann Cathey

Slow-Cooker Tips

Every appliance in your kitchen will have certain little tricks or things to keep in mind when being used. From bread makers to toaster ovens to crock pots, every appliance has a learning curve.

Here are some tips for using a slow cooker, regardless of which company produced the unit. Some things are universal.

* Most slow cooker recipes are designed for 5 to 6 quart crocks. Keep this in mind when deciding on which recipes to use so that you are prepared for both servings and storage of leftovers.

* When applying a slow cooker liner, open the bag and place it inside the slow cooker’s crock.  fit the liner snugly against the bottom and sides of the crock. Pull top edge of the liner over the rim all the way around. In the event he liner is a tad small, wrap the edges up, then twist the top around (allowing  lots of air to escape) and allow the lid to hold it in place. This is a tricky technique and should be handled with care – any time you open the bag, the escaping steam will be highly concentrated and scaldingly hot.

* Always be careful when removing the lid from a hot slow cooker to allow the steam to escape. Lift at a tilt and keep your hands and face away from the escaping steam to avoid being burned.

* When a dish is cooking, leave the lid alone unless instructed by the recipe. Each peek into the pot or quick stir allows significant heat to escape and adds about 20 minutes to your cooking time.

* If you are using a liner, and you do have to open the lid once cooking has begun to give the dish a stir, remember to stir gently. Shifting the liner, or potentially tearing it with rough handling, is not a helpful action.

* When using a liner, never try to lift food out of the crock by the liner. Always remove food to storage containers. When liner is empty, remove and place in waste receptical.

* Fill your slow cooker 1/2 to 3/4 full for best results. This ensures the liquid will not cook away and food stay moist and tender. Adjust the recipe as needed to fit your slow cooker.

* Always remove leftovers from your slow cooker and the liner (if you use one) and store or freeze in a separate container. Liners are not intended for food storage and should be properly disposed of. Cooked foods should not be allowed to stand at room temperatures (above 65F) for longer than about an hour.

Hopefully you will find some of this information useful in your own kitchen. I have run afoul of several of these things, hence writing them up as a warning to others. That steam is a real scorcher!

–Ann Cathey

Eggplant Lasagne

Don’t curl your lip until you hear me out. Seriously.

A friend recently mentioned that eggplant could be used in a lasagne instead of the traditional flat pasta. For me, being diabetic, this concept would be a huge bonus in my enjoyment of Italian cuisine, so I decided to give it a go.

As with any lasagne, this is not an inexpensive project, running between $35-40 before any sides like garlic bread or salad. On the flip side, it will feed a goodly number of people.

I used my crock pot to test this dish, though you are welcome to use a conventional oven, baking at 350F for between 1-2 hours depending on the depth of the baking dish you choose.

Eggplant Lasagne
Prep Time: 60 minutes
Cook Time: 6 hours on High
Servings: 8-12

Ingredients:
2 med eggplant, sliced
salt
1 lb hamburger
12 oz tomato paste
20 oz crushed tomatoes, partially drained
24 oz tomato based spaghetti sauce of choice
2 tsp garlic powder (NOT garlic salt!)
2 tsp onion powder (NOT onion salt!)
2 tsp parsley, dry or fresh
1 tbsp wheat germ (for added fiber)
1/2 oz basil leaves, coarsely chopped
8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
15 oz seedless black olives, drained, sliced or crushed
1 lb mozzarella, shredded
1 lb ricotta
8 oz Provolone, sliced or shredded
6 oz Parmesan, shredded or shaved

Prep 01

Eggplant in zipper seal bag layered with salt to pull out moisture.

Clean and slice the eggplant to about 1/8″ thickness, either in rounds or long flat pieces. Place in a zippy bag in layers, sprinkling salt between each layer. Seal and refrigerate overnight. This treatment will not only pull moisture out of the eggplants slices, it will also reduce any potential bitterness.

 

Prep 02 Salted Eggplant and drainage

Excess moisture collecting in bag.

Prep 03 Rinse

Rinsed eggplant.

When you are ready to assemble the dish, rinse the sliced eggplant and pat dry to further reduce additional moisture.

 

In a large bowl, mix dry spices including the parsley, pasta sauce, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, olives, and wheat germ. Slice the black olives, or simply crush them between your fingers for a chunkier texture. Pitted olives have a hole on one end and a cross shaped cut on the other. Putting pressure on the sides of the olive will cause it to split into between 2 and 6 odd shaped chunks.  Cover the bowl and set aside.

 

Prep 04  sauce

Building the sauce.

Prep 05 Meat

Ground beef.

Crumble hamburger and pre-cook until completely cooked through. Drain off any fluid. For a less fatty dish, rinse the meat and allow to drain thoroughly before adding to sauce.

Prep 06 BAsil

Slicing basil.

 

Slice mushrooms. Roll and slice basil leaves.

 

 

Set up the crock pot with a liner and/or olive oil spray, as preferred.

First Layer Composite - Taylor

Photos by M. Taylor

Spread just enough sauce along the bottom of the crock to ensure other things won’t stick. Lay down first layer of eggplant slices. Add a layer of mushrooms, basil, mozzarella, ricotta, and a little parmesan and provolone. Cover with a layer of sauce.

 

Second Layer Composite - Taylor

Photos by M. Taylor

Repeat layering, adding the meat in on the next layer, until all ingredients are used up. Make sure that the very top of the dish is covered in cheeses.

Third Layer composite - Taylor

Photos by M. Taylor

Push any cheese bits that may fall under the lip of the lid away from the edge enough to ensure that the cheese should not touch the lid during cooking. This will help avoid a later mess that can be difficult to clean off the chrome, rubber, and/or glass of the crock pot lid.

Ready to serve

Ready to serve!

Allow to cook on high for 6 hours. A wooden skewer should pass down through the middle of the dish with little to no resistance.

Allow to rest for a few minutes after turning the heat off, about as long as it takes to bake up the garlic bread and toss your salad or other accompaniment. Serve and enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

Emplate - Asher

Photo by Asher

Please drop us a line if you try this one out, and let us know how your version turned out!

— Ann Cathey

Additional photos by M. Tanner and Asher (Thank you!)

 

 

Crock Pot Sweet Spreads

Have you seen the price of jams and jellies lately? Why not make your own? You can get as crazy with flavors as you like, and make enough to share. Here are a few recipes to get you started.

These recipes are written more like concepts than with the usual ingredients list due to the many variations that are available for each.

APPLE BUTTER
Warm apple butter is like a taste of fall on a spoon, and it’s even better homemade. Peel, core and dice six pounds of Gala apples and put into the slow cooker. In a separate bowl mix one cup of sugar, one cup of brown sugar, one tablespoon of. cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon of cloves, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and one tablespoon of vanilla extract. Combine with the apples and cook on low until the mixture has cooked down. Uncover and cook for 2 more hours. Blend until smooth and serve or store.

BACON JAM
Bacon jam is an amazing savory AND sweet onion garlic spread that is, we need to repeat, amazing. In a slow cooker, combine 1/2 cup of cider vinegar, 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1/4 cup of maple syrup, and 3/4 cup of coffee. Add 1 1/2 pounds of bacon that has been lightly browned and drained. Mix in two small diced onions and three garlic cloves that have been cooked until translucent. Cook on high for four hours. Coarsely chop in a processor and serve warm on toast points.

Spread some of these taste treats on a warm biscuit after you make them, and let us know how you enjoyed the results.

–Ann Cathey

Crock Pot Mac and Cheese

I finally got to try out one of the crock pot recipes I have been posting about. The Crock Pot Mac N Cheese, to be specific. As I am want to do, I just had to fiddle with it, double it, and see how it came out.

Crock Pot Mac & Cheese

Serves: 4-6 hungry people as a main dish, or 8-10 as a side scoop
Prep-Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 min on High then 3 hours on Low

Ingredients:
3 cups milk
24 ounces evaporated milk
1 cup melted and cooled butter
3 eggs
1/2 tsp each powdered garlic, powdered onion, and dried dill

6 cups shredded cheese
1 pound dry macaroni
8 ounces sliced ham

Directions:
Thoroughly spray your crock with cooking spray. If you use a liner, as I did, spray it anyway.

In a large bowl, whisk together the first group of ingredients and spices. Make sure the eggs are integrated well. Pour into your crock.

Add cheese, macaroni and ham. Stir gently to combine.

Cook on High for 30 minutes, stir gently, then reduce the heat to Low and continue cooking for 2 more hours.

Do not overcook or you may wind up with a cheesy glutinous mass like I did the first time.

If you half this recipe, do not half the eggs. I doubled everything in the original recipe except for the eggs.

Some things I noticed when pulling this together are that the wet mixture is rather thick feeling when whisked. This gave me high hopes as to the creaminess of the end product.

DSC_0377Just before you put the lid onto your pot, the contents look somewhat like a cream of cheese soup.

The aroma that starts wafting out of your kitchen at about 45 minutes is amazingly rich. I’m surprised that alone didn’t make me gain a couple of pounds.

DSC_0378

When it’s all done, there should be a nice crusty look to the top of the dish when you open the pot.

 

 

DSC_0379

The results came back fast. This mac-n-cheese is definitely a creamy, cheesy, melty sort of comfort food. It didn’t last long enough for leftovers to get to the fridge. The ham added a bit of flavor, an extra texture, and some extra protein. Next time I need to double the ham!

A nice crusty baguette, sliced and toasted, makes an excellent accompaniment.

— Ann Cathey