Further Adventures in Crockpotting!
Summer started and College Daughter came home and my normal routines fell to the wayside. I haven’t made anything in the crockpot for a couple of weeks now and my family is unhappy about it! We tend to eat out more often when I don’t have anything in the crockpot, which is bad for three reasons:
This is self explanatory. Crockpot recipes are easy on the budget, but going out, even for “cheap” fast food is a budget killer.
It’s time consuming.
Wait, isn’t it quicker to go out for something to eat rather than cook something? Maybe, if you live next door to a restaurant that has legendary fast service. In my experience, going out to a sit-down-and-order-at-the-table restaurant can take a couple of hours. First you have 15-20 minutes of discussing and debating where to go. Then you have to put on your shoes and maybe pants. Then you have to drive there, possibly through road construction, and find a place to park. Some of our preferred restaurants have limited parking so we might find ourselves circling the block, getting hungrier and crankier by the minute. Then you have to go inside, give the hostess your name and the number in your party so that they can give you one of those light up coasters that you clutch like a talisman while you wait to be seated. Then you need time for everyone to look at the menu and have another debate about whether or not to order an appetizer. (Spinach and artichoke dip AGAIN? Fine.) Place your order, wait for the food to come, eat it, ask for a box to take home leftovers, wait for the box, wait for the check, wait for them to run your card or get your change, and then, finally, you can go fight the traffic and road construction to get back home to your couch where you wanted to be this whole time with your shoes and bra off.
Trying to eat healthy in a restaurant is really tough, and when it is possible, it’s a real drag. Let’s say you are at Red Robin and you walked in there with the firm intention of ordering a side salad and a glass of water. But the fries! They put them on the table before you even order like chips and salsa at the Mexican place! Maybe eat just one. The next thing you know, you are noshing down on a Royal Red Robin, which, if you didn’t know, is a bacon cheeseburger with an egg on it and it almost makes driving through all that damn road construction worthwhile.
So, even though it is summer and my routine got off there for a while, my family is counting on me to get back into the crockpot groove. Most flattering, College Daughter said she has been looking forward to trying out my some of my crockpot creations since her little sister told her that I’ve “gotten much better” at it. Hmm.
Here are a couple of additions to my 2017 Crockpot Roll Call from earlier this year:
Italian chicken breast – the best possible use of Italian salad dressing!
Many years ago, I was a waitress at Red Lobster. Although it is a seafood restaurant, back then they also served a mouthwatering grilled chicken. Since I worked there, I got to see how they made it and it was so easy, I continue to copy it myself all these years later. They marinated the chicken in Italian salad dressing. I prefer to use Kraft Zesty Italian Fat Free salad dressing. It makes a great grilled chicken, but is also good over chicken in the crockpot. Add a little Italian parsley if you are feeling fancy and serve with rice made the Grandma Cheap Cheap way!
Roast beef with blue cheese – so good with carrots.
I like to rest my pot roast on something to keep it mostly up out of the broth. Carrots are perfect for that. I’ve taken to just scrubbing the carrots well rather than peeling them. It saves a few minutes of time. I also like to use up odds and ends while I’m cooking – for this roast, I tossed some wilty celery pieces in along with the carrots. I’m sure I must have added a tablespoon of Better Than Bouillon beef base to the liquid in the bottom of the crockpot, because I usually do when cooking beef. I highly recommend it. Then, I got creative and tried an experiment! I covered the roast in Ken’s Steakhouse Chunky Blue Cheese Dressing, and topped it with Italian parsley. It’s my favorite dressing, but I had gotten carried away when it was on sale and bought more bottles that we could use at one time.
It looked good when I took the photo that morning, but when I got home that night, it looked a little weird. I expected the blue cheese dressing to sort of melt down and become a creamy sauce. Instead, the roast ended up with sort of a whitish skim over the top. It wasn’t very appetizing to look at, so I flipped the roast so that it was on the side lying on the plate instead of on top. No one seemed to notice. The salad dressing infused the broth so that instead of being a normal brown broth it was a much lighter tan color. The gravy I made out of it was really, really good, like To Die For good. And the carrots! Oh my gosh, the carrots cooked in beef broth and blue cheese are so good that I feel like there should be a special name for them. Ken’s Carrots, maybe. I know with roast beef and gravy, most would expect mashed potatoes, but I served it with angel hair pasta and fresh chopped spinach. I could eat angel hair pasta and fresh spinach with literally any entree.
It’s so nice to have real meals at home, where sock feet and PJ bottoms are acceptable attire and especially when all you need is some salad dressing and a crockpot to make it happen!