Friday, August 1, 2014

5 Crockpot Recipes You Can't Live Without

Summer is winding down, and school supplies are lining the shelves at the local stores. It's about to become the busiest time of year: school, after-school activities, sports, more traffic... You get it. Life is about to get busier while the days get shorter (literally, but I love my extra hour of sleep when we "fall back" an hour!). How on earth are you supposed to get all this done and put dinner on the table in a timely fashion?! Enter, my best friend during the season of winter: the crockpot.  Crockpot recipes often contain "cream of something" soup. Not ideal, and certainly not healthy. I have made an effort to try and cut back on the amount of processed foods in our diet. I can't say that I've been 100% successful (particularly in the crock pot arena), but I certainly have made headway in cutting back! (Pats self on back). Generally I do this by avoiding crockpot recipes, but I do have a few I keep in my regular repertoire. What I've done is compile a list of my absolute favorite crockpot recipes that stay in my regular dinner rotation (complete with ingredients and directions).

1. Slow Cooker Loaded Potato Soup (**Disclaimer: this isn't healthy, but it's AMAZING!)
5 pounds Russet potatoes, washed but not peeled. Diced into 1/2 inch cubes
10 cloves of garlic, minced (If you use jarred, it's 5 teaspoons)
64 ounces (8 cups) chicken stock or broth
16 oz cream cheese, softened (we chose low-fat)
4-5 strips of bacon, cooked and chopped
Optional: Ham, cubed

1. Add potatoes, garlic, and chicken stock to slow cooker. (You can add 1 tablespoon salt. I just leave it off and allow people to salt their own soup - everyone has different tastes/preferences)
2. Cook on high for 6 hours or low for 10 hours.
3. Add softened cream cheese and puree into potatoes with an immersion blender until the cream cheese is well incorporated and about half the soup is blended. There should be a creamy appearance, with some small chunks of potatoes throughout.
4. **Optional step. Add ham and stir well. Cook for another 10-15 minutes.
5. Top with cheese, bacon, chives, etc. Enjoy!

2. Weight Watchers Slow Cooker Potato & Bacon Chowder (4 Weight Watchers Points!)
Original Photo courtesy of Pinterest
2 cups potatoes, cut into small cubes
4 oz. Canadian-style bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 large carrot, diced
3 medium garlic cloves, minced (jarred garlic, use 1/2 teaspoon)
4 cups fat-free chicken broth
1/2 uncooked barley
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp dried thyme, crushed
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 cup fat-free half and half

1. In slow cooker, combine potatoes, carrots, garlic, broth, barley, bay leaf, thyme, pepper, and bacon. Cover & cook on low for 4-6 hours.
2. Stir in half-and-half. Heat through, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

3. Slow Cooker Chicken & Dumplings
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, each cut in half
Salt & Black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Pinch of dried thyme (optional)
4 chicken bouillon cubes
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can Grands biscuits (8 ct.)

1. Add the cream of chicken soup to the slow cooker. Pour in 4 cans worth of water.  Drop in the
Original Photo Courtesy of Pinterest
bouillon cubes and add the garlic powder and thyme. Using a fork or a small whisk, mix everything together in the slow cooker.
2. Season chicken with salt and pepper, and drop in to the slow cooker.
3. Cook on low for 5-6 hours.  Then break up the chicken a bit. I generally just do this right in the slow cooker. We like to shred the chicken so it's in fairly small, thin pieces.
4. Cut each biscuit in to 8-10 pieces. You can use scissors or a knife for this step. Add the pieces into the slow cooker.  Stir in, making sure that you cover all sides of each biscuit piece with the liquid mixture.
5. Cover, and cook for 2 more hours. Check on the soup every so often, just to ensure that the biscuit pieces don't stick to the inside of the crockpot or brown on the top too much. Just press the biscuits down, don't stir the mixture.
6. Give the mixture a good stir just prior to serving.

4. Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup salsa (I used mild simply because T hates anything super hot. This is where you can have some fun!)
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup (my least favorite thing about this recipe, but hey - at least it's only one can!
1 packet taco seasoning
1/2 cup sour cream
6 tortillas (J & T like the extra fluffy, and I'm all over here like "I'll have a corn one, please.")

1. Place the chicken in the bottom of the crock pot (The beauty of this - we dumped in the chicken still completely frozen). 
2. Sprinkle taco seasoning on chicken breasts. 
3. In a separate bowl, combine soup and salsa.  Pour over chicken.  
4. Cook on high for 4 hours.  
5. Shred chicken (I use the 2 fork method) and stir in sour cream. Serve on tortillas.

5. Beef Stroganoff  
1-2 lbs cube steak, cut into one-inch strips
2 cans condensed golden mushroom soup
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1-14 oz can beef broth
8 oz. mushrooms, cleaned and diced
4 ounces cream cheese, warmed to room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream

1. In the crockpot, combine the meat, soup, Worcerstershire sauce, broth, and mushrooms. Cook on low 5-6 hours.
2. Stir in cream cheese and sour cream, about 1/2 hour before serving. Make sure to stir the mixture every ten minutes to break up the cream cheese.
3. Cook egg noodles according to package directions. Stir in to the crockpot mixture for approximately a half hour.
4. Add cornstarch and/or water to change the thickness of the sauce to your liking.
5. Serve (I generally prefer bowls and large soup spoons!) and enjoy!

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