Today I will concentrate on casseroles and pies. These go together as I am saying please make good quantities when you make casseroles so that you have left overs! Well cooked down meat is tender and flavorsome and makes perfect pie fillings. This gives you at least another meal and one that is different and could be frozen.
If you have any casserole recipes you love making them in the slow cooker is just so easy. The only variation might be you will possibly need less liquid in your recipe. Alternatively do it as per usual and later if it is too much liquid toss in some baby potatoes, or some rice or something to soak up the juices. It is not a problem.
It is optional to brown meat before you put it in the crock pot. Many recipes say to. I NEVER do. The whole idea to me is easy, less dishes, less washing up... so I never do. And things are always rich in color and fine. But that is a choice.
I will give some of my total cheats recipes in case you need a starter. Or you could buy some of those packet mixes that you throw over your meat and add some vegies to. If this gets you going then go for it. Overall this is still healthier than getting takeaway any day! This is very easy cooking!
Some of my easiest combinations are:
Chicken... could be fillet, thigh, pieces... add lots of vegies thickly sliced... carrot, celery, onion, a drained tin or corn, beans or peas... anything you want. Throw over a can of cream of chicken soup. Cook all day. Stir a couple of times along the way. Is yum and a simple country chicken flavor. Serve on night one with mashed potato or over rice. The rest becomes chicken pies.
Beef... any... sliced or cubed. Onions, carrots, mushrooms, capsicum (optional). Sprinkle with a little soy sauce. Pour over a tin of tomato soup. Let cook all day. Serve with potatoes with sour cream. It is yummy. I used a lot of sliced mushrooms in this. And again the left overs make wonderful beef pies. Beef and Mushroom pies actually!
Lamb... shanks, chops, fillets... onions, any vegies including tiny potatoes or potatoes quartered... pour over a jar of tomato pasta sauce or a can of tomato soup or some other tomato mix. Add a few sun dried tomatoes if you have them. This cooks down to a rich flavor and if it's shanks to the point where the lamb is falling off the bone. It is so good! The left overs still make pie, I just remove them bones and the filling is perfect. This is really good with mashed potato too as the sauce is very rich.
Apricot chicken. Chicken, dried apricots or a drained tin of apricots or both. A small tin apricot nectar. A packet of french onion soup mix. Carrots, anything else you want. Serve with rice. I do not make pies from apricot chicken. Andy likes this meal so I make it but it doesn't seem like pie filling to me!
These are simple and versatile. I tend to use lots of vegies. If I am planning potatoes ie to add sour cream and potatoes I just pop whole potatoes in and they will be cooked too.
They are all surprisingly good and will use up the vegies you have on hand. I tend to use way more vegetables than meat. As the flavors cook down everything tastes beautiful. These are all good hearty meals in cold weather.
Then to your left overs...
I keep puff pastry in the fridge always! With your left overs simply line a pie dish with pastry, add your filling and top with pastry. Or top with mashed potato and make a kind of shepherds pie. This is really good!
I freeze pies the right size for us or make individual portion sized pies. They look nice I think. For children or smaller pies a muffin tray becomes a pie maker. Just cut circles to fit and add tops! This gives you 12 individual pies that can be frozen or used for dinner another night. So handy! Pies are so portable, can be a whole meal, freeze perfectly and transform your casserole into something different! I always think pies are nice gifts.
If my pies are going into the freezer I lightly bake them and not over brown them. (So that when they are heated they don't end up dry or too dark).
With pies in the freezer you never need take away. You always have meals for when things go crazy and you are too busy. And people will rave over your famous pies. How do you get the filling so tender they ask?
I also always keep tomato relish and various sauces that are good with all of these. I think a relish is great with a pie.
Really, your own family favorite casserole recipes will work. Otherwise if you have certain ingredients to use up try googling for recipes. I like to use up what I have.
The other thing that is simply fantastic in the crock pot is a curry. Long slow cooking develops flavors and tenderizes meat. I am a terrible spicy cook. Terrible. So I am not even sharing a recipe here. If you have curries you like I say make them in the crock pot. But Andy likes a curry and so do the girls. Sooo I cheat. I add a flavor base and there are many to choose from that are brilliant. The first time I did these everyone was so impressed. I confessed I did nothing except toss it all in and pour over a packet of mixture. And no one cared they were too busy eating.
On the weekend I made a large amount of Butter Chicken this way. It was wonderful and made three meals, two for us and one for the new baby family!
Curries could also come under the stretch a meal classification as the extras that go with a curry mean a little bit goes such a long way. You can have your rice, naan bread, a little cooling salad (I just finely chop cucumbers and tomato) and a raita. Mum has mint in the garden. I pick a big bunch, wash it and get rid of thick stalks and any nasty bits and then blend that into a couple of cups of thick yoghurt. Add a dash of cumin. Blend until smooth. I like a really creamy yoghurt for this. It is so easy and lovely. (and makes it seem like I did more than just use a packet mix!)
All these bits and pieces mean your curry goes a long way and is delicious. I serve this as a serve yourself meal and it seems really nice but is so easy.
It is winter here and warming meals are just the thing. All the girls who are in summer, I hope this will be helpful later when things cool off!
For all of these ideas my general rule is to get them on by mid morning and let them go until dinner. I always use high setting. And I always have my crock pot at least half full. If you have a small amount I would cook on low. Overall I would rather cook on high and turn it down later than the other way around. Mix your ingredients so your liquid part is coating things. Stir a couple of times. If you are out stir before you leave and when you come back in the door.
Slow cooking is so good to bring out the flavor of things, tenderize the meat and bring a richness to your meal. Perfect for stews, curries and casseroles. So easy. And food like this improves over a day or two so making enough for two meals or your pies gives you at least one night off.
Getting dinner on in the morning and not having to cook in the evening can be a life saver. This one thing has helped me so much in my life!
Have a wonderful week! It rained here last night so I am very pleased I did heaps of washing over the weekend and it is all dry. Now the rain looks like settling in.
I am off to the supermarket so that I can finish my post for Wednesday on Pantries and Preparedness. Talking to the supermarket staff about the baby formula etc I made another discovery. One that boggled my mind! And one that greatly affects what I think about storing some reserves. That is coming on Wednesday. I had better get busy! xxx