Posts Tagged 'Slow cooker cooking'

Foodie Friday…on Sunday

A day late and a dollar short? I think not. I prefer to be two days late…but offer an awesome recipe that is worth far more than a buck!

Winter is the perfect time for good old homestyle comfort food. One of my favorites is Chicken Pot Pie. Since I went vegetarian, I don’t use real chicken. I use the MorningStar fake chicken strips…or nothing at all. It’s really better with just veggies! I won’t say it’s the healthiest recipe in the world because it uses the “Cream of” something soups which can be high in fat and sodium, but it is sure a tasty treat. Here’s the recipe. If you’re a meat eater, just substitute a can of Cream of Chicken soup for one or both of the other Cream of somethings, and use real cooked chicken breast instead of fake meat!

Vegetarian  (or not) Chicken Pot Pie

1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of something else soup (celery? Potatoe? Whatever you like)
1 can (or frozen equivalent) mixed vegetables (drained)
1 small can peas (drained)
Pearl onions, quartered (or regular white onion, chopped)
Minced Garlic or garlic powder
Black pepper
sliced mushrooms (optional) or other fresh veggies you happen to have in fridge
½ package of Morningstar chikn strips or equivalent cooked chicken breasts meat
1 pkg Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust

Mix everything except the pie crust together in small crockpot. Cook 4-6 hours on low (or shorter on hi). Heat oven according to pie crust instructions. Cut pie crust to make a bottom and a top (if you want both). Top crust should be slightly bigger (1/4 inch) than bowl. Place bottom piece in oven-safe ramekins and push to bottom. Spoon mix on top of crust. Top each bowl with the top crust piece. Pinch crust around edges of ramekins to seal. Bake according to pie crust directions until crust is golden brown.

Makes 2 large servings using 1.5-2 qt. Crockpot. Double for more servings.


Domestic Whine

Yes, that’s whine, not wine. Though I am quite fond of the latter, too.

Over the last year I’ve been broadening my cooking horizons dramatically, particularly with slow cooker recipes. Since I’m now living on less than half my previous income (no day job now, just writing full time), I’ve tried to find ways to keep the grocery expenses down, and the slow cooker is also great for that. I may have gone a little too far, though…

There are many great slow cooker recipes for chicken. I have always bought boneless, skinless chicken breasts when making them–preferably the fresh ones from the meat counter, not the frozen bags (though I certainly resort to the frozen ones when the other isn’t handy). So…I was reading a crockpot cooking blog and saw instructions for how to cook a whole chicken in the slow cooker. Once cooked, the poster said to strip off all the meat by hand and use it for slow cooker chicken recipes, chicken salad, chicken tortillas/burritos/tacos, etc. Since whole chickens can be bought on sale as low as $0.79 per pound, it seemed like a good idea. Seemed being the important word here.

I bought a 4.25 pound whole chicken. It fit perfectly in my medium-sized cooker. I prepped all the spices to rub on and then cup open the chicken bag.

Can I just say…YUCK! As in…squick. Gross. Revolting.

I have found I do not, absolutely freaking NOT like cleaning fowl. I should have known this. Since my formative years I have pretty much refused to eat any meat that remotely resembles the living being it used to be. I do best with ground meat — no sign of a cow there. I can deal with filet cuts and even steak on a bone (still doesn’t look much like cow). But I try not to look at the turkey on thanksgiving (I wait for the meat to come out on a platter, already carved, then snag some white meat). I am not the type to stick my hand into the crevice of a chicken and pull out the slimy parts. Or to peel off the skin or break the bones and cut off wingtips.

Still, I can’t afford to waste food these days, so I persevered. Mostly with my eyes closed. It’s a wonder I didn’t loose a finger.

Thankfully I finished and the chicken actually turned out quite good — very moist, and falling off the bone, which was good because pulling off all the meat to use in other recipes was almost as bad as cleaning and dressing the bird in the first place.

I smiled. I had a nice big tupperware of meat that looked nothing like a bird. Then I read the rest of the recipe — how to use the carcass to produce homemade chicken broth. Aha! Another way to save money, since many of my recipes call for chicken broth. Also, since I hadn’t added salt, my home made broth would be much healthier (i.e., low in sodium) than the canned stuff from the grocery store.

Little did I know the horror had just begun. I added water and some new recommended spices to the carcass and put it on low for another 10 hours overnight. The next morning, just before I needed to finish up the broth, I got a search call. I had to switch the broth off and put the crock in the refrigerator until afternoon. By the time I got home, I had a cold, slimy dead chicken swimming in cold, slimy broth with congealed fat on top.

Not to be deterred, I closed my eyes again and dug my hands in–after a nice wash with antibacterial soap, of course–to peel the remaining meat off and find every single one of those disgusting, annoying little bones.

Again. Gross.

Anyway, the chicken is done and the broth is done. I don’t think I’ll be trying that again, though. I’ll just pay a few cents extra for the frozen chicken breasts and canned broth.

In the meantime though, keeping the horrific memories of cold chicken carcasses carefully out of mind, I am enjoying the chicken meat.  I have had several chicken sandwiches, made a chicken noodle casserole, and today I’ve got a nice crock of one of my favorite recipes, chicken tortilla soup, steaming for lunch. I’ll also make chicken and spinach quesadillas to go with it. And I still had enough meat left to freeze several cups for the future.

Mmm. Smells good in here. So good it’s hard to concentrate on writing. May have to make it an early lunch.

Here’s the very easy chicken tortilla soup recipe for other slow cooker devotees:

Chicken Tortilla Soup


4 cups water

1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes

1 cup shredded chicken (I used one cooked chicken breast)

1 can (4 oz) chopped green chile peppers

1 envelope (2 oz) noodle soup mix with chicken broth

½ tsp ground cumin

½ tsp salt (I omit)

½ tsp black pepper

½ cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

1 onion, chopped

½ cup tortilla strips or crushed chips (I used Fritos)


Combine water, tomatoes, chicken, chile peppers, soup mix, salt and pepper in crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours. Top with cheese, tortilla strips and onion.


Ever have one of those days where something totally unexpected occurs? Not a big thing like you win the LOTTO, but just a small thing that shakes you out of your routine? Well, I tried this new slow cooker recipe on Sunday: Pork Chops with Apple Chutney. The plan was to put it on in the morning so that it would be ready around 2:30 because I needed to leave shortly after 3 pm for team training (search and rescue dogs). Then I would also have another small serving around 10 pm when I returned. Sort of a late lunch / late dinner schedule.

I got the meal in as planned in the morning, and the apples and brown sugar smelled soooooooo sweet all day that it totally distracted me from getting anything else done in the house. My stomach rumbled everytime I walked by the kitchen. It was like apple pie and apple crisp and apple struedel all rolled up in one.

At 2:30 it was ready and I was dying to try it. I don’t eat a lot of sweets, but it had smelled so wonderful all day that my mouth watered for some sticky-sweet apppley gooey pork chops.

Then I took my first bite.

Wow, was it hot! Not just oven (or slow cooker hot), but spicy hot! It actually burned my throat. The cayenne pepper totally overwhelmed the brown sugar and cinnamon, even though I had put in a full six tablespoons of brown sugar! After I caught my breath and downed a few big gulps of water, I tried the chutney again, a little more cautiously. It wasn’t bad at all — just completely different from what my palate had been expecting. Imagine being blindfolded, having someone tell you they’re going to feed you a chocolate covered strawberry and then sticking a jalapeno pepper in your mouth!

The pork chops were terrific. Extremely moist and tender. The chutney was very good — just a little hot for my taste, but still edible and very flavorful.

Verdict: I’ll try this one again for sure. I’ll just cut the cayenne pepper in half!

Here is the recipe:


4 pork loin chops (I used boneless)
1/4 teaspoon salt (I omitted)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
6 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (Cayenne) — Did I measure wrong? It was soooo hot!
1/4 cup dried cranberries (or cherries or golden raisins)
2 medium baking apples, peeled and chopped (about 2 cups)

1)Spray 3-4 quart slow cooker with cooking spray (I never do this). Sprinkle pok with salt and pepper, place in slow cooker.

2)In small bowl, mix brown sugar, vinegar, ginger, cinnamon, red pepper and cranberries. Sppon over pork in cooker. Top with apples.

3) Cover; cook on LOW for 4 to 4.5 hours.

Per serving: calories – 400, Total Fat – 13 g, Sodium – 220 mg, Dietary Fiber – 1 g

Potato Soup and the Whispering Universe

On twitter yesterday, I posted that I was trying a new soup recipe in the slow cooker: Steak and Potato Soup. Here is the recipe:

Steak and Potato Soup


1.5 Lbs. Boneless Beef Sirloin, Cut into Chunks

2 Med. Potatoes, Cut into Chunks

2 Cups Frozen Green Beans

1 Onion

16 oz. Jar Salsa

14 oz. Can Beef Broth

1 teasp. Basil

2 Cloves Garlic

Top with Cheese


Throw everything in except the cheese, cover and cook 8 to 10 Hours on Low. Garnish with shredded cheese when serving.

Okay, so I thoughtt his sounded really good. Normally I wouldn’t spend the money for sirloin just to put in soup, but I found some on “manager’s special” (meaning it was marked down because the sell-by date was the next day and they had to get rid of it) at Kroger so I gave it a try. I have to say — the soup was just “okay”. 

I like most soups with a clear broth, but this soup just didn’t seem hearty enough. I think when I re-heat it today I’ll add a can of Cream of Potato soup to make it thicker. I try to avoid the “cream of” soups because of the fat and sodium content…but I guess I’ll make an exception. Hopefully it’ll kick up the steak and potato soup from “okay” to “good.”

Moving on the the whispering universe. One of the coolest things about being a writer is the unexpected way little pieces of a story come together like a puzzle even when you don’t realize it. It’s like the universe whispered directly into your brain and you wrote what it told you without even knowing why until one day everything goes “click” and you smile over the way things turned out. And take credit as if you’d planned it that way all along. 🙂

For example, I created the hero for the upcoming releae LEGACY OF STONE, third in the gargoyle series, years ago when I wrote the first book, He only appears for a few seconds in the prologue, as an infant in his sister’s arms. But he had a name, and it was established, so I couldn’t change it as he showed up again, all devilishly handsomely grown up, in later books. His name was Levi. I don’t know why. I just liked the sound of it. My grandfather’s middlename was Levi, and I’m the only family member who takes after him and his love of equines (he was a mule trader, I’m a huge horse lover). I also have a horse named Levi. I’ll have to post a picture of him one day. He has a white spot on his shoulder shaped like a perfect heart. But I digress.

Over the next book I developed the character of Levi a bit farther. He was separated from his family as an infant. He grew up not knowing about or understanding the shapeshifting ability he’d inherited. He thought he was an abomination — a freak. He thought he was alone in the world. He belonged no where because of his difference. I decided that what Levi really needed in life was to be rejoined with his people. To become part of something and not be alone any more.

When I finally sat down to write his story, I had to decide what type of creature he shifted into when he changed. I decided on a sea monster to go with the theme of him thinking he’s a monster and because I had this kind of cool shipwreck scene in mind for the opening of his book.

Here it is, almost four years since I first wrote the name “Levi” on a manuscript page. Levi’s story is done and in the publisher’s hands awaiting the production process. And I’m researching a new book, doing some online searches on mythology and come across the story of the Leviathan. yes, the LEVIathan. It seems he’s a sea monster. Hmmmm. Never knew that’s what a leviathan was. At least I don’t ever remember knowing that.

Then later I’m flipping through my baby names book trying to decide on a name for a character in my new story and once again I stumble across the name Levi. Would you have guessed that according to my big thick book of baby names, the name Levi means “joined, attached.” As in, I had decided Levi needed to be rejoined to his people and become a part of something, not alone any longer. Yet I had no idea as I decided on that name or wrote the three books.

Weird, huh? But that happens to writers all the time. Same thing is happening on the unicorn story I’m working on now,


Back to work now. Someone (something?) is whispering in my ear.



Why the crock pot obsession?

Okay, so some people have already been asking me…what’s with the crock pot obsession?

I really don’t have a crock pot obsession. What I have is a need for instant gratification. When I’m hungry, I want to eat. Now. If there is no decent meal ready, I will opt for the bag of chips in the cabinet and make dinner out of that or hop in the car and hit the Sonic down the road for a cheeseburger. In my twenties, that worked out fine. I had good genes, I was physically more active — I could eat pretty much whatever I wanted and never gain an ounce.

Now…not so much.

So by throwing dinner in the crock pot in the morning when I’m not so hungry, I am able to indulge my need for instant gratification in the evening when I am ready to eat. Dinner is ready, hot and welcoming. And much healthier than chips and cheeseburgers.

Mystery solved.

Tomorrow – day one of the new book!

Also, if anyone is interested, I was thinking of posting an excerpt of Legacy of Stone sometime this week, since so many people have been waiting so long for it. Let me know if you’re interested.

Available Now!

western romance novel boxed set

7 men as tough as the West. 7 women ready to Cowboy Up

Available Now!

Psychological Suspense short story with a bonus inspirational short story included

Coming Soon from Vickie Taylor

Fantasy Romance Novella

What am I reading today?

GOOD OLE BOYS - Denise Barker - Just started, but I'm intrigued so far!

Last five books read:

TEXAS GOTHIC - Rosemary Clement-Moore - Awesome! Great fun and spooktastic at the same time!

MISS PEREGRINE'S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN - Ransom Riggs - Really creative idea. Enjoyed it very much!

BOOTSCOOTIN' BLAHNIKS - D.D. Scott - Very enjoyable, fun book!

THE GOOD DAUGHTER - Diana Layne - Awesome! Get it now!

GOT YOUR NUMBER - Stephanie Bond - Fun little mystery!

What’s on my TBR List?

GOOD OLE BOYS - Denise Barker

Reader’s Guide to E-publishing

Find your next e-book here!

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