Monday, November 29, 2010

Turkey with Pecan-Cherry Stuffing

Normally with this blog I wait until after I've eaten all of something that I've made in the crock pot, so that I can accurately evaluate the calories and the cost per serving of the recipe.  However, in this case because I made a special crock pot Thanksgiving meal, I though it would be more appropriate to blog about the recipe this week, even though I won't have the same analysis that I would otherwise.  (Also: warning, this will be a very image-heavy post because I took a lot of pictures this time.)

Since I was staying at school for Thanksgiving this year, I thought I'd take the opportunity to make a Thanksgiving meal for myself, but using the crock pot!  I've admired the "Turkey with Pecan-Cherry Stuffing" recipe in the Crock Pot Incredibly Easy Recipes cookbook for a while now, but because it is only supposed to cook for five or six hours, I felt like it should be done on a day that I was staying home.  As you'll see, this is not one of those ones that you can just leave on and let cook as long as you want.

As you can see from the first picture above, there is not a lot of pre-preparation to do, especially if you get pecans that are already chopped like I did.  The only thing I had to do was cook rice, and I got brown rice for this recipe to be healthy.  While the rice was cooking, I peeled the skin off the turkey breast and cut slices in it, only going part-way through the breast though.  As you'll see from the picture from the book below, I was concerned about the look of this, but this was the shape of my turkey breast so I just kept following the recipe.  The recipe says that the breast should be 3-4 lbs, and this was about 3.9, so it should've been fine.

After the rice cooked, I mixed together the "stuffing."  I think I may have had too much rice for the recipe though: it calls for two cups of cooked rice.  I used one cup dry, assuming that it would make two cups cooked, but it's possible that it cooked up to more than that.  Thus, when I added the pecans, cherries, and poultry seasoning it didn't seem like everything ended up in the right proportions so I added more pecans and cherries.

This is what the stuffing looks like all mixed together, before I "stuffed" the turkey.

Now what you're supposed to do is stuff the stuffing where you sliced part-way through the turkey.  I actually made some more slices once I started stuffing the turkey because I had so much stuffing left over.  Then I tried to transfer the turkey to the crock pot, but it was so unwieldy that the only way I was able to get it into the crock pot in one piece was with my roommate's help!

As you can see from this picture, I ended up just putting the rest of the stuffing on top of the turkey to cook in the crock pot with the rest.  I didn't want to just throw the extra away, but the spoon had been going back and forth into the raw turkey breast so I wasn't about to do anything with it without cooking it.  So, the recipe says, to cook the turkey breast on low "5 to 6 hours or until [the] turkey registers 170... on [a] meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of [the] breast, not touching stuffing."  After 6 hours I tested the turkey in two places: the first registered 170, but the second was only 160, so I decided to leave it on while I made the rest of my Thanksgiving dinner: green beans and mashed potatoes.

The last part of the recipe is a simple sauce for the turkey breast, used instead of gravy.  I made it with apricot preserves (though the recipe says you could use peach or plum also) and Worcestershire sauce.

This gets mixed together and spread on top of the turkey.  Then you let it sit for 5 more minutes, covered, before taking it out to serve.  Of course, the problem with having such a large turkey breast that it took two people to get it into the crock pot is getting it out after I've taken my roommate to the airport!  To say that it was difficult would be an understatement.

This is the train wreck it looked like after I took it out of the crock pot.

And yet, this is what it is supposed to look like according to the cookbook!

Of course in spite of the disastrous appearance, as a meal, this was really good!  I made roasted-garlic mashed potatoes and green beans to go with it.  The only problem is that the turkey came out a little dry.  This was completely my fault, however.  I shouldn't have let my paranoia about cooking the turkey enough get the best of me when I tested the temperature.  I think the turkey was probably done... I just let it cook too long while I was making the rest of the meal.  So if I were to do this again, I'd stop after six hours, for sure.

So, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, normally I'd tell you about the number of calories per serving and the cost per serving, but since I have not finished eating this, I can't tell you how many servings it will take.  The cookbook claims that it will make 8 servings, but I honestly think I'll be eating this until I go home for Christmas break!  So, it's definitely a good recipe to make if you want it to last.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Senator Barry Goldwater's Arizona Chili

I apologize for skipping last week.  I meant to update, but had a presentation in my Italian class on Dante's Divine Comedy which took up my time.  It's coming to the end of the semester so my updates may end up being more sporadic, but I'll do my best (besides, the crock pot is awesome for the end of the semester when you don't want to have to cook a full meal every night).

On October 12, after my chili craving not being satisfied by the Lentil Chili, I decided to make the most basic chili recipe I could find in the Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook, Senator Barry Goldwater's Arizona Chili.  This is one that you need to start the night before, because the pinto beans need to soak overnight in cold water.  So I sat and sorted beans while watching Law & Order: SVU, my favorite distraction.  The only veggie prep is to chop two onions, but because of the way the recipe tells you to cook everything, you don't necessarily have to do it the night before.

So the thing about this recipe is that, like the Boston Baked Beans, you have to pre-cook the beans, with three whole garlic cloves, on high for two to two and a half hours (the cookbooks says, "until tender but not mushy").  The cookbook says that you could do this the night before and refrigerate the beans overnight, but I chose to get up early and do it in the morning.

After starting the beans cooking, you can chop the onion if you didn't do it the night before.  Then you brown the onion and ground beef on the stove.  This doesn't take much time, so you can do something in the meantime, like take a nap.  Or, like me, you could do a workout video, shower and get dressed for the day.  :)

After the beans cook, you drain them and take out the garlic cloves, as these are not part of the chili.  Then the mean, onions, and beans go into the crock pot.

The only other ingredients are to add some flavor and sauce: tomato paste, chili powder, and ground cumin.  Then you add enough water to cover the beans and stir everything to mix it up really well.

This is what the chili looked like before I turned it on.

And this is what it looked like after cooking on low for eight to nine hours.

The recipe calls for adding 2 tsp salt in the last hour of cooking.  Adding things mid-way through cooking is difficult for the grad student; you really have to time it so that you can get back home in order to do those things.  Of course, if you've been reading this blog, you know that I don't add salt to most recipes anyway, so that doesn't matter for me.

The recipe recommends serving it with shredded sharp cheddar cheese, chopped fresh tomatoes, and chopped green onions.  It also recommends cornbread or saltine crackers on the side, so I made corn muffins to go along with this recipe.  I picked up a simple Jiffy corn muffin mix when I went shopping so I'd have it just for this recipe.

My roommate and I had the chili the first night after I made it.  We ultimately decided that it was a solid, basic chili recipe, but I cannot emphasize enough how really basic it is.

Of course, it's not too bad for a week of dinners--I got six servings total out of the recipe, which is pretty much what was expected (the recipe says that it serves four to six).  Chilis can often have a lot of calories.  I was looking at cans of chili in the store earlier today and each can said that there were 250 calories per serving... but a serving is half a can... and who ever eats only half a can of anything (except maybe my mother).  My chili comes out about the same: just over 260 calories per serving.  But that's still for the actual serving you eat (as opposed to the "fake" serving in the can of chili).

In terms of cost, I only spent $13.14 on all the ingredients for this dish, and that includes splurging on extra lean ground beef so it'd be healthier.  That comes out to $2.19 per serving, not bad at all if you're trying to stretch your stipend!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Lentil Chili

Has it really been a month since I last updated this blog?  Time has gone by so quickly, so I must apologize for being delinquent in my updates.

On October 5, I made Lentil Chili from the Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook.  I had a bit of a craving for chili, but I didn't want to make just your standard chili and I thought that this recipe would be a good way to switch it up a bit.

I have to apologize because I completely forgot to take pictures as I was assembling the chili. That said, this is one of those great recipes for a grad student (or anyone who is equally busy) because you just throw all the ingredients together.  As you may be able to see from the image, there are relatively few ingredients... except for the seasoning.  You throw in yellow onion, red bell pepper, jalapeno, celery, carrot, garlic, and lentils.  For seasoning, it takes brown sugar, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, oregano, thyme, and dry mustard.  It is all cooked in chicken broth.  The recipe says that you should cook it on low for six to eight hours "stirring occasionally, if possible."  It was most definitely not possible for me to stir occasionally, and it came out fine, having just mixed it all together at the beginning and then letting it cook.

For the last hour, you're supposed to add olive oil and salt.  I, predictably, left out the salt.  I would like to note, however, that I let this cook a lot longer than just eight hours and it came out fine--one of the great things about the crock pot is that you can just let many of the recipes keep cooking without a problem if you can't get home eight hours after you turn it on.  I normally leave for school around eight and return sometime between five and six on the days that I make crock pot recipes.  I generally select recipes that already need to cook for a long time (so, none that are only 3-4 hours) and turn it on last thing before I leave the house.

I followed all of the serving suggestions from the cookbook: topped with sour cream, chopped fresh tomatoes, chopped green onions, and chopped fresh cilantro and served over brown rice.  I think that serving it over the rice really helped make this dish last.  The recipe says that it serves four to six and I think I got about ten servings out of it!  This means that this is very low calorie: maybe only about 70 calories per serving for the lentils alone.  For the entire meal, I'd add about 50 calories for the toppings and 100 for the brown rice (though it could be less depending on how much you use) for a total of only 220 calories per serving.

In terms of cost, this was a very cheap meal to make, especially since I already had some of the ingredients, namely all of the seasonings and the olive oil--the items which would be the most expensive to purchase.  But, everything else only cost me $17.05, so just about $1.70 per serving!

What did I think about this chili?  It was really good.  But, it did not satisfy my craving for chili.  It's called a chili in the cookbook, but if you want chili, this will not do.  Next week you'll get to see the chili I did make because this dish did not satisfy my craving.