Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hawaiian Chicken

I got this recipe from a fellow blogger and wanted to try it immediately because it is so simple and she said it was so good.  After making it, I'll say that I definitely agree and it is also a perfect recipe for the grad student because it is extremely easy, both in terms of time and budget!  I'll include the recipe at the end of this post, in case anyone else wants to try it out.

First, you put some chicken breasts into the crock pot.  My blogger friend used four chicken breasts, but I used six, mostly because the larger packages of chicken breasts were the ones that were on sale when I went to the store.

The next step was my adaptation of the recipe she gave me.  I added onion and green pepper that I had cut into chunks.  She had mentioned that she wanted to try adding onion next time, but I decided, after googling various Hawaiian chicken recipes and finally finding a Hawaiian vegetables recipe, that I'd try it with both onion and green pepper.

Then you add BBQ sauce and canned pineapples with juice.  She said that you should use 1/3 of the bottle, but since I had added more chicken and the vegetables, I decided to dump the whole bottle in.  She also said to use half of the juice from the can of pineapples but, again, since I had added more to the recipe, I just used all.  Then I cooked it on low for 8 hours, since most of my chicken recipes in the crock pot recommend cooking on low for 6 to 8 hours, but you could also do it on high for 3 to 4 hours.

This is what it looked like when it was done cooking.

After cooking, take you shred the chicken in the crock pot, then serve it over rice.  We actually had some leftover steamed rice from getting Chinese takeout over the weekend, so we used that, but I'd normally make some brown rice to go with it.

In terms of calories, this is an amazing dish.  I originally calculated estimating six servings (because we put in six chicken breasts) which comes out to 325 calories per serving, plus about 160 calories for a 1/2 cup of brown rice, for a total of 485 calories.  But, we actually got about 8 servings out of this dish, making it 244 calories per serving, for a total of 404 calories with the rice.  I served it with a nice salad to round out the meal.  In terms of cost, this is beyond amazing.  I actually already had an onion from my organic produce delivery and some BBQ sauce that I purchased when it was on sale, so it only came out to $1.07 per serving!  Even if you have to purchase everything, it would probably only be around $1.35 per serving (as long as you make sure to buy whichever type of BBQ sauce is on sale!).  Overall, it's a really cheap recipe which is good for my stipend, and it was really easy to make, which was really good for last week when, as I mentioned in my last post, I basically had a deadline every single day Monday through Thursday.  It's nice to not have to take much time to put dinner together one day, and then to have it available to eat as leftovers for the rest of the week when you don't want to take too much time out of studying to cook.

The full recipe:

Hawaiian Chicken with Vegetables
4-6 chicken breasts
1 onion, cut into chunks
1 large green pepper, cut into chunks
1 bottle of BBQ sauce
1 large can of pineapple chunks in juice

Place the chicken breasts in the bottom of the slow cooker.  Add the onion and green pepper chunks on top.  Pour over it 1 bottle of BBQ sauce and the can of pineapple with juice.  You may choose to use only half of the juice if you want a thicker sauce.  Cover, and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or HIGH for 3-4 hours.  After cooking, shred the chicken into pieces in the slow cooker and mix together with the other ingredients.  Serve over rice.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Apple Cranberry Bread

Last week was really hectic for me.  It was one of those end of the semester weeks where you have something that you have to do every day.  I had a conference paper due to the respondent on Monday, a draft of my dissertation prospectus due to my seminar on Tuesday, an Italian translation exam on Wednesday, and was presenting/getting feedback on my prospectus on Thursday.  Needless to say, I didn't have any time to update before that and after that I crashed for a couple days and more or less did nothing.  I'll try to make up having missed last week with an extra post this week.

Friday, December 2 was my department's Advent celebration, so I decided (like I did last year and the year before) to make a dessert in the crock pot.  Because I've been trying to be healthier recently, instead of making cookies or cake like I had before, I decided to try out the Apple Cranberry Bread from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker cookbook.  Of course, the other reason I decided to make this was that the fresh cranberries were on sale when I went grocery shopping the week before, so I looked for something to do with them.

Now, the thing about these recipes that you bake in the slow cooker is that you're not really saving time because you have to do the same exact amount of work as you would baking something in the oven.  I still find it really cool, however, that you can bake in the slow cooker and the longer cooking time could still be useful if there's other things that you have to do OR you have to go out of the house and so can't leave the oven on OR if you're cooking other things and need to keep your oven free.

Before preparing the ingredients, you're going to want to do two things.  First, grease a baking dish that fits into your slow cooker, then put a large pot of water on the stove to boil.  Both of these things will be used later.  Then you mix the dry ingredients together: flour, flax seeds, baking powder, salt, and ground cinnamon.  Separately you beat together the wet ingredients, one of which, as you can see in the image above (on the right), is orange juice.  You don't have to use fresh orange juice, of course, but because the recipe also calls for orange zest and says that the amount you need is the juice of 1 large navel orange AND because my parents got me the juicer attachment for my KitchenAid for my birthday this year, I squeezed the juice fresh.

Anyway, you beat together all the wet ingredients, which include sugar, olive oil, egg, and the orange zest/juice.  Then you add the dry ingredients and stir in the apple and cranberries.  Now, I took the bowl off the mixer and "folded" in the apple and cranberries but I'd actually recommend doing it with the mixer if you can--the dough is really hard to manipulate by hand.
After everything is mixed together, you pour the mix into the greased pan and place it in the slow cooker.  Then take the water off the stove, which should be boiling by now, and pour it into your slow cooker around the pan until the water comes 1 inch up the side of the baking pan.  The bread takes about 4 hours to cook, though test it with a toothpick in the center to be sure.  I'm also a bit paranoid about the baked goods in the crock pot because the moisture of the crock pot makes the dish seem uncooked.  I actually checked it after 4 hours, then left it on to cook a little longer while I got ready for the Advent celebration.

So this is what it looked like when it was done.

The cook thing about this bread is, as the cookbook says, it can be "a great snack, a nutritious desert and can even be eaten for breakfast."  I cut it into 12 pieces and put it on a paper plate to bring to the Advent celebration--unfortunately because I was trying to get everything done and get out the door in the end, I forgot to take a picture of the final presentation.  My husband and I took a taste before we went out the door, however, and it was AMAZING.  As my husband said, "$#%^&%* bomb."

Now, the cookbook says that this dish serves 8, but clearly it matters how you cut it.  Since I cut it into 12 pieces, the calories come out to be about 205, but if you cut it into bigger pieces, obviously it would be more calories.  The really cool thing about this recipe, however, is that making this bread cost me all of $4.99 to make (so, all of $0.42 per serving)!  The only things I purchased were the fresh cranberries and whole wheat flour.  If you bake regularly, you'll probably have most of the ingredients on hand and so will only need to purchase, maybe, the flax seeds, cranberries, and an orange.  I already had the orange, via my organic produce delivery that I get each week, and the flax seeds because my mom got me to start putting some on my cereal.  Technically the recipe calls for half all-purpose flour and half whole wheat flour, but I'm sure if you didn't want to spend the money to get whole wheat flower and only had all-purpose flour (or vice versa) it'd be fine.  Anyway, to sum up: this was really good, I highly recommend it, and I'd make it again with the leftover cranberries if I didn't have some plans for chutney, which can also be made in the crock pot.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Honey-Mustard Pork

Be warned: this is a long post.  It's almost two posts in one, so I'd recommend taking some time to read it when you want to procrastinate.

It's been a long time since I updated, but I'm finally back and will be trying my best to update once a week from now on.  I took my exams on the very last day of October and am very happy that I can move on to my dissertation research... you know, the stuff I came here to study in the first place!  After that, we were in California for a wedding and then I presented at the American Academy of Religion annual meeting in San Francisco, so was at the conference for a few days.  It was great to see some old friends from undergrad there (shout out to Steve and Andy!).  Then came, Thanksgiving--thanks so much to our friends Bodhi and Sophia for hosting us for the holiday!  Sophia made a perfect turkey (in the oven, not in a crock pot) and the meal was amazing.  To sum up, I've been very busy since I last posted!

You may also notice that I took some time to make some changes to the format of the blog--changed around the main picture that I use and the style.  Let me know what you think of the new look in the comments!  I also want to point out a couple of the new features of the blog:
  1. On the right side of the web page, under my "Why Slow Cooking in Graduate School?" section, you'll find a "Follow by Email" box in which I assume you can put your email address to get updates every time I update the blog.  I honestly have no idea if it works, so if someone wants to try it out and let me know, that would be really awesome.
  2. Underneath that, you'll find some new links.  The first one is to my Big Blog of Crock store, a store I created on Amazon to bring together in one place all of the books and slow cookers that I recommend on this blog to make it easier for readers to find them.  The second is to the Gourmet PhD blog of one of my close friends who is also trying to cook and eat well while doing her PhD.  As she explains in her "Who's Who" section, we "have been making mischief since we first met, many moons ago, as wayward Catholic school teachers. In the intervening years, we both became graduate students and would-be food bloggers, so it’s no surprise we’re still close friends."  The final link (unless I add more later) is to the Nutrition Action Health Letter, put out by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.  My mother gets me and my siblings a subscription to this every year and they give you information about the latest studies on food and nutrition and make recommendations about how to eat healthier.  My favorite part, however, is the three recipes that are included in each issue.  In fact, the Chicken Tagine that I posted about in October 2010 was from one issue.
  3. Finally, underneath that you'll see the top five, all time, most popular posts of my blog.  If you have a favorite post that's not appearing on the list... uh... I guess you need to click on it more.
So, those are the new features of the blog.  Check them out and let me know what you think in the comments.


So, on to my actual post.  Since I've been away from blogging for so long, but have still been cooking with my crock pot, I have a huge backlog of posts to make.  Some are from so long ago that I've almost completely forgotten about how it went, which is unfortunate.  So, for today's post, I'll bring you the recipe that I made today: "Honey-Mustard Pork".  This is from a book that we just recently got as a gift from a friend, 101 More Things to Do With a Slow Cooker.  He also gave us 101 Things to Do With a Slow Cooker, but I just haven't used that yet.  (The author, Stephanie Ashcraft, has a whole series of the 101 Things to Do books.)

I was drawn to this particular recipe for two reasons: first, boneless pork chops were on sale at my local grocery store and, second, this recipe couldn't be any easier.  There's no chopping and the absolute minimum of prep work.  (Though I will note that this is not a complete meal by itself, so you'll have to add something to what you make in the crock pot.)  You start by greasing your crock pot.  I used some cooking spray that I have on hand to do that quickly, but obviously whatever way you normally grease things for cooking is what you should do here.  Then you dip the pork chops in flour and place them in the greased crock pot before sprinkling them with black pepper.

In a separate bowl you make the sauce that these are going to cook in.  The only ingredients are condensed chicken with rice soup, water, and mustard.  You mix these together and them pour them over the crock pot.

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

Quick sidebar: Toward the end of September we received a wedding gift from one of my husband's rock climbing friends and his wife, the slow cooker with a timer that I've wanted for a long time!  It is awesome and has truly revolutionized how I use the slow cooker.  No longer do I have to select the day that I cook on based on when I can be home to turn the crock pot to warm!  I can make a recipe that only needs to cook for 6 hours on days when I go to the gym in the morning and am at school until the late afternoon!

If you follow the link above you'll see that this model also has a probe so you can set the slow cooker by time or by the final cooking temperature that you want the food to end up at!  Obviously, the latter setting is especially good for roasts, which I haven't made recently, but of course I'll share how it goes when I do make one!

Anyway, this is what it looked like after it cooked on low for 8 hours.

When the pork chops are done cooking, you take them out, leaving the liquid behind.  Taking them out can be difficult because the meat after slow cooking is so tender that it just falls apart.  The cookbook says then to puree the liquid in a blender to make gravy, but I used the immersion blender to get it done with less mess and fewer dishes (and with the amount of dishes this entire meal made, my husband--who washed them tonight--is probably very happy that I didn't also use the blender).  You serve the pork chop with some gravy on top.

Now, since the book recommends that you serve this dish with mashed potatoes, I decided to make mashed sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli to go with it.  And, of course, a salad--my mother should be proud how I add a salad to every single meal I post about.  Overall, this dinner was good.  Nothing super special that I would rave about, but a good, solid, and really easy meal to make.  The only complaint I have is that there is nothing in the dish that makes it "honey-mustard."  As the recipe is written, there is too little mustard to make a difference and, weirdly, the recipe doesn't specify that you have to use honey mustard, so there is nothing to make it "honey."  I used Dijon mustard because that is what we already had.  My recommendation?  If you want to make pork chops this way, add more mustard, maybe 1-2 tbsp... at least.  The gravy was good and all, but I think it would be better if it had more "kick" to it from the mustard.

Now, in this recipe makes it a little difficult to calculate the calories because the amount of flour the recipe calls for is more than gets added to the actual dish and you definitely don't use all of the gravy just putting it on top of the pork chops!  The number of servings in this dish also depends on the number of pork chops used.  The recipe actually calls for 4-5 pork chops, but I used 6 because the larger packs were the ones on sale.  So, as I made the recipe, if you go by the measurements in the cookbook, you get just over 190 calories per serving.  In actuality, I'd estimate the calories per serving (for the pork chops with gravy only) at about 175 calories.  In fact, the pork chop with the mashed sweet potatoes and broccoli is probably only about 335 calories.  Really small if you're watching your weight because you spend more time in the library than you do at the gym!  (And guys, you can be like my husband and have an extra pork chop and still only be at about 510 calories.)  Budget-wise, you can't beat this.  What's awesome about this recipe is that so many of the ingredients are things that many people will have on hand as staples: flour, pepper, and mustard.  The only two items I had to purchase were the pork chops and the condensed chicken with rice soup, a total of $6.00 for $1.00 per serving.  Of course, you do have to buy the side dishes, but the broccoli was only $1.99 and sweet potatoes at my store are about $0.99 each for the big ones (I actually had them already because we got them in the organic produce delivery we get each week, but if you had to get them, that'd be how much they are).  Overall, not bad and you'll get at least 2-3 meals out of this if you're married or cooking/eating with a roommate and a whole week's worth if you're on your own!  Though if you were going to eat these pork chops for a whole week, I'd recommend switching up your side dishes to make it interesting.  What sides would you put with honey-mustard pork chops?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Comprehensive Exam Time

Unfortunately, I'm in the midst of studying for exams, so my blogging has to take a back burner to exam prep.  See you all again post-exams in November!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tomato-Black Bean Soup

One of the other dishes that I made back in May before I moved in with my husband was the Tomato-Black Bean Soup from the Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook.  I really liked this dish because it was very chili-like, almost like a vegetarian chili, but because you add water in the end, it ends up being lighter than chilis normally are.  The thing that was greatest about this dish for the graduate student is that because most of the ingredients come from cans so it is (a) cheap and (b) really quick and easy to put together.  Now, my mother would probably insert something here about not eating so much canned food because of the high sodium and the whole risk of BPA, but on a graduate student budget, there isn't always another option.  (And don't worry, mom, I normally try to get the low sodium options if they're not too much more expensive.)

Anyway, if you don't believe me about how easy this recipe is, there are only two directions.  The first is: throw everything into the crock pot and stir, then turn it on and cook on low for 5-7 hours.  The ingredients are canned black beans (rinsed and drained), canned chopped roasted green chilies, canned Mexican stewed tomatoes with green chiles, canned diced tomatoes in juice, canned corn (drained; you can also use fresh or frozen corn, but if you're already in the canned foods aisle, you might as well cut your shopping time so you can get back to reading and get the canned corn as well), sliced green onions, pressed garlic cloves (these two ingredients are the only actual prep steps in this recipe), chili powder, and ground cumin.

So, this is what the soup looked like before cooking.  Aren't all the different colors great?

And this is what it looked like after cooking on low for 5-7 hours.

Now, you'll notice from the image above that once the "soup" is done cooking, it doesn't look all that much like soup.  And that is to be expected since the only liquid that was added to the soup was whatever came in the cans of tomatoes, so not much at all.  Which brings me to the second step, which is to add some boiling water to make it more soup-like, if you want.  I did this to make it more like as soup, as you can see from the image on the right.

The recipe recommends that you serve this soup just as you would serve chili: with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream.  So, as I said in the beginning of this post, although it is in the chapter about soups in the Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook, it is very chili-like.  The great thing about this recipe too is that it was really cheap to make!  I actually had canned black beans already because I had gotten some way back when my roommate and I made a Costco run and I had the diced tomatoes already because I purchased a few extra cans at one point when I had a coupon.  The garlic, chili powder, and cumin are also ingredients that I normally have on hand.  So... I only spent $6.81 on everything for this recipe!  That comes out to $1.14 per serving for six servings!  For this recipe, because almost everything is canned, the big ticket items are the spices, but those are also the things that most people will have on hand from previous recipes.  Of course, even if you did have to get everything for this recipe, you'd still only come out to $2.60 per serving.  As for calories, even with the beans in this soup, the calorie count comes out pretty low per serving, about 220 calories per serving.  The toppings (cheddar cheese and sour cream) will add about 100 calories to that, though I was thinking as I was looking at the picture that that dollop of sour cream looks to be a little more than one tablespoon, which was the serving size I was using to count the calories, so, obviously, your mileage may vary.

Anyway, my overall analysis is that this is a really good dish for a graduate student.  It's cheap enough that it'll help stretch your stipend and it's low-calorie enough that it won't make you feel like you have to spend extra time in the gym instead of in the library.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Soy-Sake Asparagus - Take 2

I was travelling this weekend for the wedding of one of my in-laws, so I didn't have the time to work on my blog post this weekend.  So, I thought that instead I'll just make a quick post about my second attempt at the Soy-Sake Asparagus, which I made this past Wednesday as a side dish to the "Gregory's Jamaican White Fish" that I was making from the Vera Bradley: Cooking with Friends cookbook that I received as a bridal shower gift from my aunt.

You'll recall from my last post about the Soy-Sake Asparagus that the recipe comes from the Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook.  This time, I was doing my grocery shopping at Trader Joe's and they had asparagus, but it was almost $4.00 for the bunch.  However, they also had white asparagus on sale for only $1.99 and I thought:  Hey, I've never had white asparagus.  Might as well try it out.

The recipe itself is exactly the same as in my last post, except that I was using the white asparagus instead of green.

Overall: this recipe was just as yummy as it was using green asparagus.  I think that generally I prefer the flavor of green asparagus, but this was a fun adventure, trying out something new.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Beef Daube

As you may recall from the note at the bottom of my Crock-Baked Beets and Pollo Colorado post, I got married on August 20.  (In fact, you can read about Gourmet PhD's adventures in New England food due to being in the Boston-area for my wedding and having delayed flights on the way back on her food blog.)  Obviously, I not only didn't get any reading for exams done during the two weeks surrounding the wedding, I also didn't have a chance to update my blog.  Now I'm back and I have a backlog of posts to make.

Speaking of food blogs and websites, I was very excited to recently discover the Crock Pot Girls who have a Facebook page and a web page (that is a bit under construction).  They facilitate recipe sharing for slow cooking, so I'm very excited to start exploring their site.

Anyway, one of the great things about crock pot cooking is that almost any regular soup recipe can be adapted for the crock pot.  You may remember that I did this back when I made the chicken tagine.  So, back in the beginning of May (May 3, to be exact) I did just it again.  Basically, my roommate and I had some white wine that had been in the fridge for too long and could really only be cooked with at that point.  So, I pulled out my Joy of Cooking and checked the index for things that could be made with white wine.  What I found, and decided to adapt for the crock pot, was a "Beef Stew with Mustard, Herbs, and White Wine (Beef Daube)."  The Joy of Cooking explains that "the word daube comes from daubiere, the French word for a covered casserole.  This is a refreshing change from the heavier flavors that we associate with beef stew."

Although I generally followed the recipe, I was kind of free adapting it for my own tastes.  The recipe as listed in the Joy of Cooking only has beef, tomatoes, and onions in the stew (not counting spices, of course).  I added celery and carrots to make it a little more stew-like for my taste.  I'll include my recipe at the end of this post.

You can follow the pictures from the top of my post to see how I made this stew.  I covered the beef with seasoned flour and then browned it on all sides before adding it to the crock pot.  With the beef, I added the veggies and spices: onion, celery, carrots, garlic, dried parsley, dried thyme, dried marjoram, a bay leaf, and dried celery flakes.  I added the wine and Dijon mustard to the frying pan I had cooked the beef in and mixed that together before adding it to the crock pot.  Then I turned it on to LOW and cooked it for the whole day.  I'd recommend 6-8 hours, or at least until the beef is cooked.

This is what the stew looked like when it was finished cooking.

Unfortunately, because it's been so long since I made this recipe, I don't remember how many servings I got!  My guess would be 6-8 servings, since most of the soups that I've made in that crock pot have turned out to have that many, so I'll estimate the cost and the calories based on that estimate. Depending on how big of a serving you serve, this could be 510 to 382 calories (510 for six servings, 382 for eight).  With a salad, this could be a full meal.  Even adding a piece of bread or a small roll to it wouldn't really kill you calorie-wise (and force you to actually get out of your window-less graduate student office to go to the gym).

In terms of cost, the good thing about this recipe is that a lot of the ingredients, especially the spices, mustard, and olive oil, are things that you'll normally have on hand in your kitchen.  I actually only purchased the beef, onions, and celery flakes for this recipe, making it only cost me only from about $1.15-$1.50 per serving.  Obviously, if you had to buy everything, it would cost a lot more, especially in the cost of purchasing the spices. I'd estimate in that case the cost would be about $5.75-7.60 per serving (of course, assuming, that you're buying a cheap bottle of wine to cook with).  So, ultimately, I'd say that this is a good, cheap and pretty healthy recipe if you have some white wine that needs to be used up.

1 cup all-purpose flour
approx. 1 tsp. salt
approx. 1/4 tsp. black pepper
approx. 1/2 tsp. paprika
2 lbs. beef stew meet
olive oil
16-oz can diced tomatoes with juice
2 medium onions, sliced
2-3 carrots, chopped
2-3 stalks of celery, chopped
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. dried celery flakes
3 cups dry white wine
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard

Mix the flour, salt, pepper, and paprika together in a bowl.  Coat the pieces of beef stew meat with the flour mixture.
Heat 2-3 tbsp. of olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add the beef to the olive oil in batches and brown on all sides.  Remove the beef from the frying pan and place in crock pot.  Add the tomatoes, onions, carrots, celery, and the remaining spices to the crock pot.
Pour off most, but not all, of the fat from the frying pan.  Add the white wine and bring it to a boil, scraping the leftover bits of meat from the bottom of the pan.  Reduce the heat to simmer.  Add the Dijon mustard and whisk to blend.  Pour this mixture into the crock pot and stir everything to combine.
Cook on LOW for 6-8 hours, until the beef is cooked through.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Easiest Black Bean and Brown Rice Chili

I've been meaning to sit down and write this post for several days now, but after spending the whole day reading for exams, the last thing I want to do is sit down at my computer and do anything that my brain has to be involved in.  Hence today I decided the thing to do is to update the blog before I start doing my reading.

Anyway, one of my absolute favorite things to make in the crock pot is chili.  And, honestly, like soups, chili is just a natural crock pot food.  The Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook has a whole chapter dedicated to chili, so I've been going through and trying the different varieties.  On April 5 of this year, I tried the "Easiest Black Bean and Brown Rice Chili."  This chili is a vegetarian chili that was initially created when one of the authors was cooking with kids.  The description says: "There are no onions to chop, nothing to saute, and it is indeed easy enough for kids to make."  When I read that for the first time, my mind substituted "and a perfect recipe for the grad student to make on the way out the door in the morning" for the phrase about kids.  I had also received a request for vegetarian chili recipes that I totally dropped the ball on before, but this is the first of two vegetarian chili recipes that I tried during the spring semester.

So this recipe could not get any easier.  Everything just gets thrown in to the crock pot: black beans (canned), tomatoes (canned), brown rice (uncooked), and one chipotle chile (canned, but not one can, just one chile cut into small pieces).  The recipe actually has a warning about the one chile instead of one can: you will get absurdly spicy chili if you add a whole can of these.  The spices added to these few items are onion powder, garlic powder, ground cumin, and dried oregano.  And really, as I said before, this recipe could not get any easier.  After throwing everything together, you stir it all and then turn it on low for six to eight hours, which also makes it good for the grad student who has to be at school all day.

This is the chili after being stirred.

And this is what it looked like after cooking.

The cookbook recommends serving the chili with a spoonful of plain yogurt or to eat it as a burrito (wrapped in a tortilla).  I tried it with the yogurt, but I wasn't such a fan of that.  The chili itself is good, but I'd rather have it with traditional chili toppings like cheese and sour cream.  Now, the recipe says that it serves four, but I'm pretty sure that I got at least six servings out of it (unfortunately, I didn't write down exactly how many servings I got and I can't remember back to April).  So, without the yogurt, it would be around 205 calories per serving (and even if you did bigger servings, the four servings the recipe says it makes only comes out to 309 calories per serving).  The yogurt, especially if you get the plain nonfat yogurt, only adds about 30 calories per serving.  This recipe will not add to your waistline when you're stuck in the library and can't get across campus to the gym!

Now, this recipe was awesome for me cost-wise because I normally have some black beans and canned tomatoes hanging around the house and all of those spices are ones that I normally have too so the only things I bought were the chiles and the yogurt.  So I spent less than 80 cents per serving!  If you had to buy everything, including all the spices, I'd estimate that it would be about $3.45 per serving.  However, since people normally have such spices on hand (right?), it's actually about $1.45 per serving.  Seriously: this recipe will help stretch your stipend!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Updates: Cinnamon Apple Oatmeal and Broccoli Soup

This week I'm visiting my sister in the DC area (and I should note here that both my brother and my sister own crock pots, thanks to gifts from me) so I don't have any of my blogging stuff with me to write a full post.  So, I thought I'd take this opportunity to write an update on two of the recipes I posted about earlier, but tried again.

Now, if you remember from my recent Cinnamon Apple Oatmeal post, I said that the oatmeal cooks overnight on low.  However, there is an alternate way to make it and because I had been out at a concert the night before I wanted to make it, I had to try this alternate way earlier this week.  Instead of cooking it on low overnight, I cooked it on high for just two hours (the recipe says 2-3 hours).  As you can see from the image on the left, the oatmeal came out much less mushy than the overnight version.  The apples tasted fresher.  Overall, I liked it this way too.  However, the water that got absorbed in the overnight version was still very liquidy in this version.

Now, because the water wasn't absorbed completely, the oatmeal, when served, was a little bit watery.  It was still tasty, however, and ultimately I'd recommend either way, depending on what texture you want your oatmeal to be.  Ultimately, I think I'm going to stick with the overnight version when I make this in the future.

The other recipe I "tried" again was the Broccoli Soup with Garlic and Olive Oil.  If you recall from that post, I made the soup twice, once with chicken broth and once with vegetable broth.  Because I was going out of town after I made the version with vegetable broth, I ended up freezing some of the soup so it wouldn't go bad... and then I forgot about it until I moved into my new apartment and moved all my frozen food from one freezer to the next.  You may also recall from that post that I said that you could either mash up the soup or use an immersion blender and I commented that I wanted to try it with the immersion blender.  So, one day for lunch I pulled the soup out of the freezer and heated it up, using the immersion blender while reheating it.

Honestly, I liked the soup much better as a pureed soup than just the broccoli chunks in the broth.  So, my recommendation on this one is: buy an immersion blender.  You can get one from Cuisinart on Amazon for under $30 or splurge and get the one with the whisk and chopper attachments, which is the one that we received as a gift.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Vegetarian Split Pea Soup

So, back in February, when I posted about the French Split Pea Soup, one of my colleagues commented to me, "What about American split pea soup?"  I took this as a challenge and looked through my cookbooks to find what could be considered an American split pea soup.  In the Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook, I found Vegetarian Split Pea Soup and made it on March 1.  Now, the reason I considered this "American," is that according to the description in the cookbook, this recipe is similar to that of Pea Soup Andersen's, a restaurant in the middle of California which does have really good pea soup!

As you can see from the above image, the good thing about this recipe for the grad student is that you can do a lot of the prep work the night before.  I chopped the shallots, carrots, and celery the night before and so only had to throw in the split peas and the spices in the morning before heading off to school.  As you can (somewhat) see from the image on the right, the spices include a bay leaf, thyme, sage, and salt (which I probably didn't put in, but it was a long time ago so it's hard to remember!).  The good thing about this recipe as well for the grad student is that you just use water so you don't have to spend any extra money on chicken or vegetable broth.  You then just stir everything together and cook it for 12-15 hours, which is really good if you're going to have a long day at school.

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

And this is what it looked like after cooking on low for 12-15 hours.

After the soup is done cooking, you remove the bay leaf and puree the soup.  I used my roommate's food processor at the time, but it was awkward and messy to switch the soup from the crock pot to the food processor and back.  I highly recommend an immersion blender (which I do have now, so future pureed soups will be done that way).  You serve the soup with a little bit of cayenne pepper on top.  The cookbook suggests serving it with warm bread or croutons, but I opted not to do this.  Now, I didn't really like this recipe.  It was too watery and there wasn't enough flavor, not thick like split pea soup should be.  So, sorry Kyle, but the French win on this one.

I ended up adding a piece of the pork from my French Split Pea Soup adventure to this and cooking it overnight.  This cooked off the water a bit and the pork added more flavor.  Now, it is very true that perhaps if I had added the salt originally, my results would have been different.  But honestly, I think my evaluation is that I prefer the non-vegetarian version better.  Apologies to all my vegetarian friends.  However, if anyone would like to try the recipe with the salt added, let me know and I'll send it to you and you can either comment with your results or let me know and I'll do an "update" post (or, if you want to write a guest post, I'll be happy to include it here).

So, ultimately, I think that because I recooked the soup, it messed up how many servings I should have gotten out of it.  The recipe says that it makes four to six servings, but I think I only got 4 out of it: one which I ate as the vegetarian  version and then three more that I ate after adding the pork.  But, look at that picture to the left: doesn't that look more thick and yummy than the watery version that I added the ham to above (sorry that the color is a little off in the picture, I was using my cell phone)?  Well, I think so.  I guess my final analysis is that this recipe wasn't that great and I probably won't bother trying to make it again, especially since I have several other split pea soup recipes that I can try.

So, for the sake of recipe analysis, let's pretend like I didn't add the pork so I'll estimate that you'd get about five servings out of this.  Each serving is less than 175 calories (so to make it a meal, you might actually want to have some bread with it, and a salad).  In terms of cost per serving, we already had bay leaves, sage, and cayenne pepper, so my cost per serving, had I followed the recipe in the end, would have only been about $1.72 per serving.  If you had to get all the spices, your costs would increase dramatically (to about $3.50 per serving), but in theory these are spices that you have on hand from previous recipes and such so it's not that expensive to make at all.