365 Simple #39-45 – Simple Crock Pot Meals

Slide1I love simple.  Can you tell?  I love using a couple of simple ingredients to make great food, great personal care products, and great home products.  I also love knowing that simple doesn’t have to be boring.  Simple meals, for instance, can be super tasty meals. To that end, and due to the fact that in most areas of the country the temperatures are dropping and hot crock pot meals are once again welcome, I’m going to give you three crock pot recipes that will cover the entire week and beyond.  Hope you find these tasty and helpful.  And simple.  Gotta be simple.

#39 – Mexican Chicken

Okay, chicken is a no brainer with a crock pot.  This is a super simple way to get enough chicken to cover three evening meals (if your family has larger appetites then throw in two chickens or extra chicken pieces).  I begin by buying a whole chicken.  It is cheaper pound for pound, plus I want the bones!  I source the best chicken I can find.  I know it is difficult to compare prices and purchase the $20 chicken when a $7 chicken is sitting right there.  But when you break it down, less than $7 for the meat for an entire meal for a family isn’t unreasonable and the health benefits of a chicken that was raised on pasture and not in an unhealthy and inhumane cage or chicken house cannot be understated.  That is my choice, you make your own based on your ethics and budget.  No judgment here!

Take a jar of your favorite salsa and pour it into the bottom of the crock pot.  Then take a 1/4 cup of dry taco seasoning (here is the link to the simple make your own seasonings I posted previously) and sprinkle that over the salsa.  Mix it in and place the whole chicken into the crock pot.  Scoop a bit of the salsa on top.  Cover and cook for about 6 hours.  Don’t put the crock pot on the slowest setting of 10 hours because it will dry out too much, even at such a low heat.  When you’re ready to get dinner on the table simply allow the chicken to fall off of the bones and use about half of the chicken for shredded chicken soft tacos or something similar (reserve at least one half breast for later).  I suggest using corn tortillas since you’ll need the tortillas for later in the week.   The chicken will be moist and tender and have a nice Mexican flavor due to the salsa and taco seasoning.

#40 – Tortilla Soup

As you debone the chicken, just throw the bones back into the crock pot.  Once you’re finished deboning, add enough water to the liquid already in the pot from cooking the chicken to cover the bones, then add a splash of apple cider vinegar.  Place the cover on the crock pot and set it for the longest timed setting; mine is 10 hours (I just leave it on overnight – which makes firefighters shudder, I know).  When the broth is finished, simply strain all of the liquid into a large soup pot and throw away all of the bones and everything else, reserving the liquid only.  You can refrigerate or freeze the broth at this point and keep it for a later time or continue on to make the soup.  I like to stick it in the refrigerator long enough for the fat to harden on the surface.  I skim that off and proceed with soup making.

Simple Tortilla Soup

Pour the chicken broth into a large soup pot and bring to medium heat.  While broth is heating take 2-3 corn tortillas, cut into long strips, and fry quickly in hot oil until crisp. Add fried tortilla strips, a can of tomatoes (15 oz or larger), a can of black beans, a can of corn or 1 cup frozen corn, and a sprinkle of taco seasoning or 1/2 cup salsa to the pot. Simmer long enough for the tortilla strips to break down and flavors to blend.  Don’t forget to taste to make sure the seasonings are right for your palate.  You may need to adjust with extra salt and/or spices such as cumin, garlic, etc.   At this point you can also add additional vegetables such as zucchini finely sliced and finely chopped carrots to get extra vegies in.  Simmer until the vegetables are tender.  Add 1 cup shredded chicken (use all the little bits and dark meat pieces, reserving the half breast for your third meal).  I also add sliced black olives to the pot, just cuz we like them so much!   Pour into bowls and garnish with crushed tortilla chips, cheese, onion, sour cream, avocado or whatever else sounds good.

#41 – Curried Chicken Salad

The shredded chicken from the original Mexican chicken recipe will take on various flavors depending on the seasonings added.  Just because it started off with a Mexican flavor profile doesn’t mean it has to stay that way!  Curry powder is a strong flavor that will blend well with the seasoned chicken and will be a nice change of pace for your taste buds.

Simple Curried Chicken Salad

Take the leftover chicken, you should have 1-1/2 cups  (hopefully you set aside at least one half breast plus more) and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon  curry powder and (depending on your preferences) 1/2 cup plain yogurt plus 2 T mayonnaise or all mayonnaise, salt & pepper.  Mix in toasted almonds, grapes cut in half, 1/3 cup raisins or dried cranberries, 1/3 cup celery, green onion, diced apples, or anything else that you like in your salads.  Serve over finely shredded iceberg or romaine lettuce.

#42 – Barbequed Brisket

Nothing is simpler than taking a small beef brisket, putting it into the crock pot set for 8 hours, and pouring a jar of your favorite barbeque sauce over it.  Once the meat is cooked you only need to take two forks and pull on the meat to shred it.  The natural beef juices and the barbeque sauce will blend to make a nice gravy to serve with the meat.  Brisket can be served on quality hamburger buns and topped with coleslaw (yep, coleslaw right on top of the meat) for a surprising twist on Sloppy Joes.

#43 – Using the brisket leftovers

I’m simply going to give you a list of entrees you can make with the leftover shredded brisket meat because there are so many!  Use it in place of ground beef when making chili.  Use it in vegetable beef soup.  Make brisket nachos.  Finely chop and use it in vegetable fried rice.  Throw it into pasta sauce.  Serve over baked potatoes.  Make brisket quesadillas.  Use your imagination, it’s beef after all!

#44 – Pork Loin in Gravy

This is another no brainer crock pot dish.  You don’t need an expensive cut of pork, a pork shoulder roast in place of pork loin would work as well.  It cooks low and slow so it will come out fork tender no matter the cut of the roast.  Just spray your crock pot with a no-stick spray, place vegetables of choice like carrots and onions on the bottom of the pot, and place the pork loin on the vegies.  Sprinkle with dry onion soup mix (click here for the recipe I posted a few weeks ago), 1/2 cup beef, chicken, or vegetable stock, and cover and cook for about 6 hours.  The juice can be made into fantastic gravy and served over roasted or mashed potatoes – white or sweet.

#45 – Chili Verde

If you’re not yet sick of Mexican food, you can use this ridiculously easy tip for making chili verde with your leftover pork.  Simply cube or shred your leftover pork roast and pour a 16 ounce jar of your favorite green salsa – La Victoria or Las Palmas or whatever you prefer.  Chili verde simply means green chili, but its main ingredient is tomatillos in place of red tomatoes.  Add some chicken broth to make it more soupy if you prefer and eat it from a bowl with tortilla chips, cheese, and all things yummy.  You can skip the broth and serve it in tortillas enchilada style as well.  It will also make a great soup base by adding more chicken broth or stock and sautéed vegetables such as onions, celery, and carrots.  Jalapenos go well with this dish to ratchet up the spice factor and give it extra zing!

Here is how I might use all of these items during a one week period:

Monday:  Mexican chicken soft tacos.

Tuesday:  Pork loin in gravy served with mashed sweet potatoes and salad.

Wednesday:  Barbecued beef brisket Sloppy Joes with tangy coleslaw and oven baked fries.

Thursday:  Tortilla soup served with quesadilla triangles.

Friday:  Brisket chili with lots of toppings and sweet cornbread with honey butter

Saturday:  Curry chicken salad served on bed of shredded lettuce, cucumbers, diced tomatoes and apples.

Sunday:  Chili verde nachos with lots of jalapenos and sour cream.  It’s Sunday after all, it makes great football watching food!

So there you have it.  A week of meals using your slow cooker only three times.  The recipes aren’t all that time consuming and can easily be thrown together at dinner time.  I hope you try one or all of them.  Let me know how you liked them and any additions/subtractions/improvements you made.

Bon Appetit!

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