The saga of the kitchen, dining room, living room and den flooring projects continues and prevents me from posting some new recipes. I’ve lived through this many times before and even recognize the many ebbs and flows of this type of process. We are definitely in the “frustrated” stage of the project. The whole house is in disarray and will be for a few more weeks (the hardwood floor goes down next week) and it’s at this stage that you long for a clean, organized home.
I liken these types of projects to giving birth. Once the baby arrives you forget about all the pain and rejoice in the outcome. I am so waiting for that time. Before I go into some of my favorite slow cooker recipes I thought I’d share a few pictures of my kitchen to give you some perspective of what I am currently going through.
The picture below gives you somewhat of an idea of what the kitchen looked like when we moved in. Not bad you might say, but there were definitely some challenges. The gas cook top was not what was originally there. When buying a condo I told my husband I would not even consider one that did not have a gas stove. I’ve been a gas girl all my life and know that most if not all professional chefs cook with gas so there was no room for negotiation there.
We took out the cooktop you see in the picture below to install the gas cooktop in the picture above (the gas cooktop was the one the builder took out and replaced with the electric cooktop when doing the remodel). Our condo had been previously owned but purchased back by the builder and converted to the model for the development. (the development was done in two phases and our condo was in one of the first phase buildings). “Upgraded” appliances were installed as part of the conversion. I say upgraded in parenthesis because the new appliances were actually not very good and my husband and I wound up replacing all of them except the refrigerator. I also found it interesting that the electric cooktop they originally installed looked like Mickey Mouse, my bizarre sense of humor.
The original kitchen design called for the cooktop and oven to be separate. You can see a small portion of the original oven on the far right of the very first picture above (note the stainless outline at the bottom far right of the picture). The problem with having the oven located there was the thermostat for our heating and cooling system was on the wall directly opposite the oven. Using the oven had a direct effect on the thermostat and we certainly didn’t want that. So we decided to eliminate the cooktop and separate oven combination and get a stove with an oven (see the picture below), install it in the space where the cooktop was (requiring removing the cabinets underneath) and adding cabinet space where the oven had been. It worked out great.
After that, the final problem we wanted to resolve was the engineered wood flooring (you can see it on the bottom of the first picture above). It really doesn’t look that bad in the picture but it was cheap stuff, scratched easily and was hard to clean. Both my husband and I have had wood floors in our previous kitchens and always wound up replacing them with tile. Tile is more durable and easily stands up to the wear and tear of work done in a kitchen. Just be careful not to drop your wine glasses, though. Tile is not forgiving in that regard.
So at this point the tile is laid and setting for a day before doing the grout. My husband does excellent work and is a perfectionist so the work sometimes is painstakingly slow. In the end I know I will be so pleased but in the interim living in a war zone has its ups and downs.
The one thing we’ve already noticed is the tile is brightening up the kitchen. With the dark cabinets and the dark floor the kitchen was a pretty dark place. The tile is changing all that and brightening it up considerably.
And so, because of all this, once again I do not have a new recipe to share this week. But the good news is I have so many recipes amassed from the many years of doing this blog that I can share some of my recipes that have not seen the light of day for quite some time.
This week I decided to focus on some of my personal favorite slow cooker recipes. Over the years I’ve learned that slow cookers are actually very versatile. Years ago when I would make something in a slow cooker (or crock pots as we used to call it then) my food would come out bland and overcooked. Now I’ve mastered some techniques that have helped me create some wonderful slow cooker dishes. Those are the ones I want to share with you today.
So let’s talk slow cooker favorites…
I’ve chosen these particular recipes because they are easy, impressive and your guests (or family for that matter) will never think they were made in a slow cooker.
- SLOW COOKER GROUND BEEF STEW: I really like this recipe because the end result is a thick and luscious stew. The secret is using a large amount of tomato paste. For a 15 ounce can of tomato sauce I recommend using an entire 6 ounce can of tomato paste. For this recipe you want the sauce to be really thick before the stew starts to cook. If the sauce still looks a little thin after mixing the sauce and paste I recommend adding more tomato paste. Don’t be afraid if you think it’s too thick. The residual fat from the browned ground beef will loosen up the sauce in the cooking process but not to the point of making it runny. The consistency of this stew is similar to a nice thick chili. And the flavor of this stew is fabulous. I assure you, this recipe can easily become a family staple.
2. CREAMY MEATBALL AND TORTELLINI SOUP: Years ago I never would have thought of making soup in a slow cooker. But actually it is a perfect tool for making soup. This was the recipe where I learned I can vary my temperatures during the cooking process versus just cooking a recipe on low or high all the time. I made sausage meatballs for this recipe but if you don’t want to take the time to remove the casings and shape the meatballs you can just cut the sausage up in links and throw it in that way. This is a great dish for a chilly night. Serve with a salad and some crusty bread and you have one heck of a meal that takes virtually no effort at all to make.
3. SLOW COOKER TURKEY AND DUMPLINGS: Remember when you only used to have turkey around the holidays? I happen to love turkey and so I try to find as many ways of serving it all year round. I used turkey tenderloins in this recipe, cooking them whole and then shredding them. The surprise ingredient is refrigerated biscuits that I cut up and used as the dumplings. This is a flavorful and hearty dish and a great way to incorporate turkey more routinely into your meal plans.
4. JAMBALAYA: This was my breakthrough recipe using a slow cooker. From past experience, this was the first time that I made something in the slow cooker that didn’t look or taste like mush. If you are inclined to try any of these recipes, I would start with this one. This is a traditional chop and drop slow cooker recipe. The difference is you don’t add all of the ingredients at once so everything is cooked properly but not overcooked. My husband and I absolutely love this recipe and I am sure you will too.
5. SLOW COOKER COUNTRY STYLE PORK RIBS: I have been making this recipe for years. It is definitely a recipe for someone who is just learning to cook as it is, if you follow the instructions, absolutely foolproof. The sauce is rich and thick and the pork is fall-off-the-bone delicious. You can serve this with rice or potatoes and a vegetable of your choice and have a superb meal. If you want a great recipe that is a complete no brainer, this is the one for you.
And there you have it – the saga of my kitchen remodel coupled with my favorite slow cooker recipes. I’m not sure if I will be able to post a new recipe next week, but I certainly hope to. If not, I will share some of my former recipes that have not surfaced for a long time and probably something sweet versus savory. We’ll just have to see how it goes. Thanks for hanging in there with me. Next stop, doing the grout and the hardwood floor installation in the rest of the condo!