Quinoa in the crockpot?

As much as I’ve enjoyed the quinoa recipes I’ve tried so far, they all fit the same pattern: rinse and cook the quinoa in the rice cooker, chop and mix remaining ingredients, mix in the quinoa. I’ve tried some that required baking, but it was still pretty much the same process, just with an additional step of dumping the mixture into a new pot and sliding it into the oven (yay, more dishes).

What if quinoa could be cooked in the crockpot? One dirty pot after prepping a complete meal and a whole lot more freedom in terms of timing. Dinner can be hot and ready whenever I want, without needing me to start cooking in that 20-30 minute window before everyone is hungry. This particular recipe is especially easy since it doesn’t even require much chopping. With the short (for a slow cooker) cooking time, this also makes for a delicious lunch; just toss it together after breakfast and it’ll be ready for you by mid-day.

Recipe: Tex Mex Quinoa

Adapted from Chelsea’s Messy Apron

Yield: Serves 6-8

Cook Time:

active prep: 15 minutes

hands-off cooking time: 3-4 hours

Ingredients:

1.5 cups uncooked quinoa, well rinsed

1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained

1 can green chiles (mild or spicy)

1 cup frozen corn, unthawed

1-2 bell peppers

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 onion, chopped

2 T chili powder

1.5 t ground cumin

3 cups chicken or vegetable broth (or water)

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1-2 T lime juice

2-4 T taco seasoning 

1.5 cups shredded cheddar

Optional toppings/additions: diced green onions, sour cream, diced tomatoes, avocado or guacamole

Directions:

  1. Rinse the quinoa well.
  2. Place the washed quinoa, drained and rinsed black beans, undrained diced tomatoes, frozen corn, and diced green chiles in the slow cooker.
  3. Chop the bell peppers. Add the chopped peppers, minced garlic, and chopped onion to the slow cooker. Stir everything together. Add in the chili powder, ground cumin, taco seasoning, and broth (or water). It should look soupy; see picture below. Stir again and cook for 3-4 hours on high or until the water is completely absorbed and the quinoa is cooked through. All slow cookers cook a little differently so make sure to occasionally check the dish to make sure the quinoa isn’t burning or sticking all to the sides.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in the chopped cilantro, fresh lime juice, and green onions if desired. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Stir in the cheddar cheese and enjoy immediately.

Note: The leftovers taste great wrapped in tortillas for burritos or mixed with greens. We’ve also made delicious nachos with the mixture by adding cheese, salsa, the optional toppings, and chips.

This is what it looks like when the ingredients first go in; it should look a little soupy.

This is what it looks like when the ingredients first go in; it should look a little soupy.

Moroccan Marathon

Picking recipes is something of a hobby of mine, but sometimes I spend too much time thinking of all the things I could make and have trouble actually picking what’s for dinner so I asked my husband to pick a recipe for us to try. He definitely spend a lot less time deciding on a recipe than I do, but that is in large part because he does not actually read the recipe at all. This is how we ended up spending 3 days working on a single dish, Moroccan Stew we found through Gojee. For someone cooking without an infant in the house, or with a fully stocked kitchen, this probably won’t take as long. Fortunately the results were delicious and tasted unlike anything we’d made before. The chickpeas added some nice texture and the figs melted into the sauce, giving it an unexpectedly nice fruitiness.

One of the first steps of the recipe is to make the spice mixture used to marinate the meat. The spice mixture is called Ras el Hanout. Our local grocery store doesn’t stock the spice mixture, but we discovered weeks later that you can purchase it inexpensively at Cost Plus. This recipe seems like one that could be adapted pretty easily to go in the crockpot (follow the recipe through step 3, then dump everything in the slow cooker and let it work its magic).

Ras El Hanout

3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons ground coriander
3 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons allspice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne

Combine all the spices together. Store in a cool, dark place.

The original recipe called for 2 teaspoons of turmeric as well, but even after making a grocery run, we didn’t have any and made do without. The recipe can be halved. Even after halving the recipe, you won’t use all of the mixture and will have some to store for future recipes.

Hearty Lamb Stew with Chickpeas and Figs.

Moroccan Stew - packed up for lunch with cilantro and quinoa.

Moroccan Lamb Stew

Ingredients:

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground paprika
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 – 3 pounds lamb shoulder or leg, cut in 2 inch chunks
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 – 14 ounce can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
2 cups chicken stock
12 dried Calimyrna or Turkish figs, halved
1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons ras el hanout
1 – 14 ounce can chickpeas, drained
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Harissa or red chili paste
Fresh cilantro sprigs

Directions:

1. Combine 1/4 cup olive oil, coriander, cumin, paprika, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl. Mix to form a paste. Place lamb in a large bowl. Rub paste all over lamb. Let sit at room temperature for 2 hours or refrigerate covered up to 24 hours.

2. Preheat oven to 325 F. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large Dutch oven or oven proof pot with lid over medium-high heat. Add lamb in batches and brown on all sides, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Transfer lamb to a plate or bowl.

3. Add onion and carrot to the same pot. Saute, stirring up the brown bits, for 2 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and continue to saute 1 minute. Add tomatoes, chicken stock, figs, cinnamon stick, ras el hanout, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper.

4. Return lamb and any collected juices to the pot, submerging it in the stock. Add additional chicken stock to cover, if necessary.

5. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover pot. Transfer to oven and bake until lamb is falling apart tender, (about 2 hours).

6. Transfer pot to stove. Remove lamb and vegetables with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Bring stock to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil uncovered until sauce is reduced by about half and thickened, skimming fat.  Stir in chickpeas. Taste to check for seasoning. If necessary add a tablespoon of brown sugar to the stock. Return lamb and vegetables to pot.

Recipe may be prepared up to 24 hours in advance. Cover and refrigerate. To serve, skim any collected fat from surface. Rewarm over medium-low heat or in a 325 F. oven. Serve with prepared quinoa or couscous. Pass bowls of harissa and fresh cilantro around the table as condiments.

We made a quick pot of quinoa in our rice cooker as we finished up the recipe and it was delicious! Be prepared for your entire house to smell of the rich, spiced aroma of the dish.

Slow Cooker Ratatouille

The following is the recipe I use for Ratatouille.  It’s adapted from a recipe posted by Geema on RecipeZaar.  Depending on the thickness of your veggie slicing and the size of your crockpot, you might not be able to fit all of the veggies you chop into the pot for the Ratatouille.  We always pop the leftovers in a tupperware and dice them up to add into everything else we cook over the next few days.  So far, I’ve diced up some of the leftovers to toss with a drained can of tuna for a quick mayo-less tuna salad, and chopped up some more, gave them a quick saute, and then made some veggie scrambled eggs.  There’s just something about having already washed, peeled, and chopped veggies waiting the fridge that makes it a lot easier for me to see the possibilities for adding in more veggies to my diet.

Anyways, about the recipe: I love eating it plain, heated or cool, topped with some grated parmesan, tossed with pasta, as a pizza sauce, eaten with chunky bread on the side, or, as I’ve been doing this week, with some melted Muenster on matzah on the side.  It is colorful, healthy, and easy to pack for lunch the following day, so it is perfect to make when you’re trying to set up bento or lunches for the week.  Use a heavy hand when adding the dried herbs, they really make the dish.

Slow Cooker Ratatouille

Ingredients

  • 1-2 large onions, cut in half and sliced
  • 1 large eggplant, sliced, cut in 2 inch pieces
  • 4 small zucchini, sliced
  • 2-4 minced garlic cloves, depending on your love of garlic
  • 2 large red bell peppers, de-seeded and cut into thin strips
  • 2 large tomatoes, cut into 1/2 inch wedges
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon  fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • red pepper flakes, to taste

Directions

1.  Layer half the vegetables in a large slow cooker in the following order: onion, eggplant, zucchini, garlic, green peppers, tomatoes.

2.  Next sprinkle half the basil, oregano, sugar, parsley, salt and pepper on the veggies.

3.  Dot with half of the tomato paste.

4.  Repeat layering process with remaining vegetables, spices and tomato paste.

5.  Drizzle with olive oil.

6.  Cover and cook on LOW for 7 to 9 hours.

7.  Refrigerate to store.  May freeze up to 6 weeks, but we always end up eating ours fresh. Serves 8.

Note: If you want to be sure this is kosher for Passover, check the ingredients on the can of tomato paste.  The can I used was 100% tomato, but one of the other options on the shelf included corn syrup or corn starch.

Slow Cooker Lasagna

I love lasagna; the flavors and layers melting together, the garlicky tomato sauce, the ooey gooey cheese, the visual appeal of all those neat layers stacked up just waiting for someone to dig in.  In the past, I’ve enjoyed making a big batch and freezing some to eat later.  I needed to tweak my recipe and try something new though when it was my time to bring lunch for my coworkers again.  I needed a hearty and filling vegetarian recipe that could cook for hours unattended in the work lunchroom and be ready right on time for lunch without everyone needing to heat up their own individual portions.

I wasn’t sure it would be possible until I started encountering some slow cooker lasagna recipes online.  Some didn’t include enough flavor, others not enough layers.  I finally ended up taking ideas from a couple different recipes and making my own.  My coworkers loved it and the few leftovers reheated wonderfully the next day.

A word of warning, this adaptation of moving lasagna from oven baked dish to slow cooker was not done to skip steps or make cooking lasagna easier.  I wanted a full-flavored lasagna and enjoy making neat layers and piecing together the puzzle of lasagna noodles.  The goal was to make a transportable lasagna that I could make well in advance of serving time but have it hot and ready to serve when we were ready to eat.  This recipe definitely met my goals.  I hope you enjoy!

Ingredients:

1 – 1.5 jar(s) (25- to 26-ounce) marinara sauce

1 can(s) (14 1/2-ounce) diced tomatoes

Crushed red pepper (to taste)

1 tablespoon each dried basil, oregano, parsley

1 package (8- to 9-ounce) oven-ready (no-boil) lasagna noodles

1 container (15-ounce) part-skim ricotta cheese

1 package (8-ounce) shredded Italian cheese blend or shredded mozzarella cheese

1 package(s) (10-ounce) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

½ onion, chopped

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 cup veggie crumbles (tofu/soy ground beef substitute)

Directions:

  1. Cook the onion and veggie crumble in the olive oil.  Add the minced garlic and stir to combine. Remove from the heat.
  2. In medium bowl, combine marinara sauce, crushed red pepper flakes, dried herbs, and tomatoes with their juice.
  3. Mix the ricotta with shredded cheese, keeping at least ¾ cup in reserve.
  4. Spray 4 1/2- to 6-quart slow-cooker bowl with nonstick cooking spray. Spoon 1 cup tomato-sauce mixture into bowl. Arrange one fourth of noodles over sauce, overlapping noodles and breaking into large pieces to cover as much sauce as possible. Spoon enough sauce to cover over the noodles, then top with one third of the ricotta mixture. Spread half of spinach over cheese.
  5. Repeat layering 2 more times beginning with noodles, but in middle layer, replace spinach with veggie crumble/onion mixture. Place remaining noodles over spinach, then top with remaining sauce and shredded cheese.
  6. Cover slow cooker with lid and cook on low setting for 2.5 to 4 hours, or on high setting 1.5 to 1.75 hours or until noodles are very tender.

Notes:

I like my lasagna moist and the noodles fully cooked, hence the extra half jar of sauce.  For mine, since I knew I’d be cooking it for a little over four hours, I also added 6 oz. of V-8 to keep it from drying out.

If you like meat, you can replace the veggie crumble with ground beef and brown the meat with the onions and garlic in Step 1.

Halloween Chili

Every year we host a pumpkin carving party for a few of our friends.  Usually, the meal centers around a big pot of vegetarian chili served with cornbread as a warm, healthy entree that reduces the guilt induced by the following gorging on candy.  This year, we had a bigger batch of attendees and needed two pots of chili so I branched out a bit.  In addition to trying a new vegetarian chili recipe, I also tried a pumpkin turkey chili.

It looks like a lot of ingredients, especially for the second recipe, but the flavor was worth it.  A few people tried mixing the two with great results.  We served the chili with fresh baked cornbread muffins on the side.

Recipes follow:

Pumpkin Turkey Chili

– serves 6 –
Adapted from All Recipes.and Serious Eats

Ingredients

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chiles
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pound ground turkey
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (14.5 ounce) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups (1 14.5 ounce can) pumpkin puree
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 tablespoon cumin
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper to taste (at least 2 good shakes)

Ground cinnamon (1-2 shakes)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (optional)

Procedure

1. Heat oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

2. Saute the onion, bell pepper, green chiles, and garlic until tender, about 10 minutes. Make room in the center of the skillet, add turkey, and brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, beans, and pumpkin. Season with chili powder, cumin, pepper, salt, and cayenne.

3. Reduce heat and simmer at least 20 minutes. Stir in fresh cilantro. If preferred, serve topped with Cheddar cheese.

Note: Since I was serving this buffet style at a pumpkin carving party, I poured it into a slow cooker after letting it simmer for 20 minutes.  With the slow cooker left on low/keep warm the entire evening, it remained at the perfect temperature.  We had bowls of fresh chopped cilantro and shredded cheese on the side for people to add to their individual servings.

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili

Recipe adapted from Recipezaar

SERVES 8

Ingredients

  • 1 (11 ounce) can condensed black bean soup
  • 1 (15 ounce) can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (16 ounce) can vegetarian baked beans
  • 1  (29 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (15 ounce) can whole kernel corn drained
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 zucchini, chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced chilies
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro (optional)

Directions

1. In a slow cooker, combine black bean soup, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, baked beans, tomatoes, corn, onion, bell pepper, zucchini, chilies, and celery.

2.  Season with garlic, chili powder, cumin, parsley, oregano, basil (and cilantro if using).
3.  Cook for 6-8 hours on low.

Slow Cooker Minestrone

This thick and healthy soup is one I’ve made several times for my coworkers and for my husband based off a Betty Crocker recipe. It’s great for freezing; just don’t add the pasta until you’re reheating it.  I love it on cold or rainy days.

Ingredients:
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
4 cups V-8
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup sliced carrots (2 medium)
1 cup chopped celery (2 medium stalks)
1 chopped onion
1 cup sliced zucchini
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes (undrained)

1 cup frozen corn

crushed red pepper to taste (optional)

1.5 cups uncooked pasta

Directions:

1. Add all ingredients except for pasta to slow cooker.

2. Cook on low heat for 7-8 hours.

3. Stir in pasta and cook on high for 15-20 minutes until pasta is tender.

Note:

I use the Trader Joe’s prechopped carrots, celery, and onion combo (Mirepoix).   The pieces are in the perfect size, and that way I don’t need to handle the raw veggies I’m allergic to.

Serving suggestions: sprinkle with grated parmesan or serve with grilled cheese or toasted bread.  You might prefer to cook the vegetables separately and add when the cooking is finished.