Further Adventures in Crockpotting! (A Sequel)

Things just go better when I use my crockpot. It doesn’t take a lot of advance preparation or planning to throw something in the crockpot before I leave the house in the morning, so it’s easy on the brain. Having something ready to eat when I get home from work and I’m tired and frazzled from the day is also a huge stress reliever. I’m trying to make 2017 the Year of the Crockpot at my house!

Here are a couple of tasty additions to my 2017 Crockpot Roll Call:

Balsamic chicken with kale and tomatoes – a new family favorite

There is a store specializing in spices, oils, and vinegars near my office. I popped in there one day to check it out and walked out with an expensive bottle of fancy balsamic vinegar. It’s dark and thick and smells heavenly. I used it to make a flavorful crockpot meal with chicken breasts, diced tomatoes and chopped kale for dinner on a cold Friday night this winter. The tomatoes were just an ordinary can of diced tomatoes. I dumped them in the bottom of the crockpot and laid the chicken breasts over top. I took a bag of frozen pre-chopped kale and dumped it over the chicken. I heavily drizzled my fancy balsamic vinegar over the top. My plan was to serve it with angel hair pasta (my favorite kind of pasta). I made it on a Friday, just for my husband and I, because I knew my teenage daughter was going out and would not be eating with us. But, my husband put a wrench in my plans when he came home with a carry out pizza!

No problem! I took the crock out of the base and (after allowing it to cool for a little bit) I stuck it in the fridge. It was just as delicious the next day served with pasta and parmesan cheese. There is one thing I will do differently the next time I make this. I should have added the chopped kale in the last hour of cooking instead of leaving it in there all day. It tasted just fine to us, in that none of my family complained, but it was very soft after hours of cooking and ended up very dark in color, probably due to absorbing the balsamic vinegar. I think the kale would be more appetizing with less time in the crock.

My family didn’t complain about the kale, but they also didn’t eat a lot of it. After we’d gobbled up the chicken, there was a good amount of the kale and diced tomatoes left behind. This is where I reveal my extreme frugality.

I don’t throw food away. Not even slightly brown, extremely well done, balsamic flavored kale. I carefully picked out any slivers of chicken I could find and packaged up the leftover diced tomato/kale mixture and stashed it in the freezer. My freezer always has an assortment of odds and ends in it. I use these random bits in my cooking all the time. That’s why I could never perfectly replicate any one meal again!

Vegetable soup with balsamic kale – using crockpot leftovers!

Anyway, the kale went into the freezer. Not a very long time afterwards, I wanted to make some tomato based hamburger vegetable soup. I thought the kale would be an interesting addition to my soup, so I dug it out of the freezer and dumped it in. I immediately regretted doing that. It was way too much kale, overwhelming the soup. I ended up removing about half of it with a slotted spoon and throwing it away.

I said it was a tomato based soup, which is certainly true. But my hamburger vegetable soup also had broth in it – turkey broth. A while ago, I saw a cooking suggestion online to use chicken broth in place of beef broth in soup for a richer taste. I have been doing this and agree that chicken (or turkey) broth is a better broth for soup. I make and freeze my own turkey broth at Thanksgiving from the turkey carcass.

I don’t bother to buy beef broth for anything anymore. I do, however, use a product called “Better Than Bouillon” and I added a spoonful to my soup.

Better Than Bouillon really is better!
Better Than Bouillon really is better!

The resulting soup was a success! Between the turkey broth and the Better than Bouillon beef flavoring, my soup would have been pretty good, but the balsamic kale kicked it up a notch. It just added a depth of flavor to the tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, and chunks of ground beef. What a flavorful meal on a cold night! Click on this link to see how delish my kale soup looked: Vegetable soup with balsamic kale

It’s such a good feeling to have real meals at home, especially when it is this easy! I love being creative with my leftovers, and when my family likes the result, it’s even better.

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