Tag Archives: freezer friendly

Bolognese Sauce

I usually plan dinner parties weeks in advance – tinker with the menu, what wines to serve, what kind of tabletop I want to have etc until I settle on exactly the look, taste and feel I want.  However, there is something to be said for spontaneity and this sauce and the dinner party it spawned is a good reminder to me that I should trying to be less planned.  I have been working on my bolognese sauce for a couple of years, trying to meet my husband’s exacting standards.  I had been getting pretty close so when our good friend Dave was staying with us for the weekend I thought it would be a good way to try out the latest incarnation.  We were having a bunch of people over to watch the Patriots so the notoriously long cooing sauce could just sit and bubble away while the game was on.  Well smelling the sauce for a couple of hours drove my friend Baker to distraction – he offered up a deal.  Could he and his fiance Erikka stay and have dinner with us if he provided fresh pasta??  That was much too good for me to pass up and so suddenly a dinner for 3 because a party of 5 with a fresh pasta lesson to boot.  I was able to round up a nice salad to start and figured out some sort of dessert with what I had in my pantry.  Baker schooled us all on making pasta by hand (something that I am determined to conquer this year).

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It was one of the most fun nights in recent memory and the sauce was just perfect with the fresh pasta strands.  This sauce would actually be good on cardboard so if you don’t have fresh pasta just used boxed like I had planned to.  This makes a ton and freezes really well so you too can have an impromptu dinner party!

Bolognese Sauce (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  fresh pasta in the house!
Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
  • 5 ounces chicken livers, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 6 ounce can of tomato paste
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • parmesan rind (optional)
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • parmesan for serving
  • pasta (fresh or dried) for serving – its also great as pizza sauce!

Add the olive oil to a large pot and heat over medium temperature.  Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic to the pot and season with salt and pepper.

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Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned.  Add the chicken livers and the thyme and increase the heat to medium high.  Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the livers no longer look raw.

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Add in the ground beef, pork and lamb and cook until no longer pink, breaking up the pieces with your utensil occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, then add the tomato paste, pepper flakes and the parmesan rind (if you have one).  Cook the tomato paste for a couple of minutes until it is totally incorporated with the rest of the sauce.  Add the red wine, stir to combine, and then stir in the cream.

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Bring to a simmer and then turn down the heat to low and cook for 2 hours at a minimum, 3 to 4 hours if you have the time.  If at any time the sauce looks a little too dry you can add in a splash of wine or cream to loosen it up.   Remove the rind before serving. This sauce keeps well in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months.

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Bolognese Sauce

  • Servings: 6-8
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Special Equipment:  none

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
  • 5 ounces chicken livers, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme leaves
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 6 ounce can of tomato paste
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • parmesan rind (optional)
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • parmesan for serving
  • pasta (fresh or dried) for serving – its also great as pizza sauce!

Add the olive oil to a large pot and heat over medium temperature.  Add the carrots, celery, onion and garlic to the pot and season with salt and pepper.  Cook for about 8 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned.  Add the chicken livers and the thyme and increase the heat to medium high.  Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the livers no longer look raw.  Add in the ground beef, pork and lamb and cook until no longer pink, breaking up the pieces with your utensil occasionally, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, then add the tomato paste, pepper flakes and the parmesan rind (if you have one).  Cook the tomato paste for a couple of minutes until it is totally incorporated with the rest of the sauce.  Add the red wine, stir to combine, and then stir in the cream.  Bring to a simmer and then turn down the heat to low and cook for 2 hours at a minimum, 3 to 4 hours if you have the time.  If at any time the sauce looks a little too dry you can add in a splash of wine or cream to loosen it up.   Remove the rind before serving. This sauce keeps well in the fridge for several days or in the freezer for several months.

Vaduvan Butternut Squash Soup

I looooove making big batches of healthy soups and then freezing them in individual containers to have at lunch all throughout the cold months.  However, the same flavors over and over again can get a little boring after a while, which is when I consult my trusty spice rack (wall actually but that’s another story).  Butternut squash is perfect in soups as it gets super smooth and velvety when pureed without a lot of fat or cream.  I have my standard roasted butternut squash soup but again that can get boring after a while.  I decided to experiment with vaduvan, one of my favorite spices, and it totally perked up the squash.  I have used this spice before in my carrot with vaduvan yogurt sauce so hopefully you already have it in your collection.  If not they sell it at Hill’s Kitchen in DC or plenty of places online.  Vaduvan is a milder, more complex in my opinion, version of curry powder.  I find that curried butternut squash soup only tastes like curry but the vaduvan really lets the squash and other flavors come through.  I also used apple cider which is always in my fridge come fall to add a hint of sweetness to the soup.  Lastly I incorporated some greek yogurt to balance out that sweetness with some tang – you could also just add a dollop to the soup right before you serve it.  This soup freezes beautifully so make up a big batch this weekend and you can enjoy it for the rest of fall.

Vaduvan Butternut Squash Soup (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:
Special Equipment:  blender (immersion preferably)

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 2 1/2 pound cubed butternut squash
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vaduvan
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 5 ounces non fat plain greek yogurt

In a large stock pot or dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 to 7 minutes until the onions have softened but not browned.

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Add the squash cubes and mix thoroughly to combine.  Cook for another 3 minutes.  Add the vaudvan spice, again mix to combine and cook for another 2 minutes.

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Add the chicken stock and cider to the pot and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, until the squash is tender.

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Using an immersion blender (or carefully transferring to a stand blender) puree the soup until smooth (add water if the consistency is too thick).

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Season with salt and pepper and add the yogurt, then puree again until the yogurt is totally incorporated.  Serve right away, store in the fridge for several days or freeze for several months.

Vaduvan Butternut Squash Soup

  • Servings: 10 cups
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Special Equipment:  blender (immersion preferably)

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 2 1/2 pound cubed butternut squash
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vaduvan
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 5 ounces non fat plain greek yogurt

In a large stock pot or dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook for 5 to 7 minutes until the onions have softened but not browned.  Add the squash cubes and mix thoroughly to combine.  Cook for another 3 minutes.  Add the vaudvan spice, again mix to combine and cook for another 2 minutes.  Add the chicken stock and cider to the pot and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, until the squash is tender.  Using an immersion blender (or carefully transferring to a stand blender) puree the soup until smooth (add water if the consistency is too thick).  Season with salt and pepper and add the yogurt, then puree again until the yogurt is totally incorporated.  Serve right away, store in the fridge for several days or freeze for several months.

Slow Cooker Lamb Tagine

When I was a kid and got a present I would immediately use it, even if that meant wearing a parka in July or playing with my ice cream stand at Christmas.  I haven’t grown up all that much because when my brand new slow cooker arrived in the mail it was less than 24 hours before I broke that baby in.  My friend Tommy had convinced me to upgrade from my old school crock pot to one with a digital timer.  After some research I settled on the Set n’ Forget from Hamilton Beach and have been really happy with it so far.  The best thing about having the timer is that I put the lamb tagine in before I went to work and set it for 8 hours – once it hits the proscribed time the slow cooker switches to a warming mode.  I was worried that the food would be overcooked and dry but it was perfect.  I always wondered how people were cooking in their slow cooker and working a full work day but now I can be one of those people!  Browning the lamb at 7:00am wasn’t the highlight of my day but coming home to an almost complete meal was – I served this dish alongside some couscous which only requires boiling water.  Viola, a dinner party!

Le Souk Ceramique Citronique Design Cookable Tagine - 30 (Tunisia)

A tagine is actually an earthenware cooking vessel from Northern Africa (and the name of dishes made in it).  Its conical shape helps seal in moisture to braise chicken or lamb dishes just like its more modern slow cooker friend.  I would love to have this hand-painted one from Tunisia, maybe not to cook in but to use as a serving dish, but tagines are pretty large for a single use item!  So the slow cooker it is, just make sure to serve it up in a pretty dish before devouring it.  I included some traditional Northern African flavors like the olives and preserved lemons to give this dish a lot of contrasting flavors.  If you have never cooked with preserved lemons before this is a great way to start – you can buy them in a jar or make them yourself (I did once and went back to buying them as I couldn’t tell the difference).  Because they are processed in salt the lemon rind becomes edible and has a lovely smooth flavor unlike the sharp citrus bite of fresh lemons.  They last forever in the fridge and really punch up the slow cooked lamb.  I like the Les Moulins Mahjoub brand but any will do.  This dish also freezes really nice so make up a big batch this weekend and squirrel some away for a rainy day.

Slow Cooker Lamb Tagine (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  my new slow cooker!
Special Equipment:  slow cooker

  • 2 – 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds of lamb leg, trimmed and cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces on a diagonal
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cardamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 cup port (or red wine)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 of a preserved lemon, rinsed, seeded and chopped finely
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup green pitted olives
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium high heat.  Put the flour in a bowl and season it with salt and pepper.  Working in batches (should take 2 to 3 max) dredge (i.e. toss the meat in the flour and then shake off the excess) the lamb cubes adding them to the hot oil.  Only do enough that can fit in the pan.  Brown the pieces all over, cooking a couple of minutes on each side, before adding them to the slow cooker.

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Add more oil if necessary to brown all the batches of lamb.  Then add the onion, carrot and garlic to the skillet, lowering the heat to medium if necessary to keep from burning.  Cook for 5 minutes or so until the onion begins to soften, then add all of the spices along with salt and pepper.  Cook for another minute or so, stirring until all the veggies are combined with the spices.

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Pour in the port and use it to deglaze the pan (i.e. get all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan).  Dump everything in the skillet in to the slow cooker on top of the lamb.  Add a 1/2 cup of water and stir everything together.

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Set for 8 hours on low or 5 hours on high.  Once it has finished cooking you can refrigerate for several days or freeze for several months.  Right before serving (or while you are reheating it) stir in the chopped preserved lemon, raisins and olives, stirring to combine.  Let those ingredients heat through and then serve with the parsley sprinkled on top.

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Slow Cooker Lamb Tagine

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Print

Special Equipment:  slow cooker

  • 2 – 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds of lamb leg, trimmed and cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces on a diagonal
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cardamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 cup port (or red wine)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 of a preserved lemon, rinsed, seeded and chopped finely
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/3 cup green pitted olives
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium high heat.  Put the flour in a bowl and season it with salt and pepper.  Working in batches (should take 2 to 3 max) dredge (i.e. toss the meat in the flour and then shake off the excess) the lamb cubes adding them to the hot oil.  Only do enough that can fit in the pan.  Brown the pieces all over, cooking a couple of minutes on each side, before adding them to the slow cooker.  Add more oil if necessary to brown all the batches of lamb.  Then add the onion, carrot and garlic to the skillet, lowering the heat to medium if necessary to keep from burning.  Cook for 5 minutes or so until the onion begins to soften, then add all of the spices along with salt and pepper.  Cook for another minute or so, stirring until all the veggies are combined with the spices.  Pour in the port and use it to deglaze the pan (i.e. get all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan).  Dump everything in the skillet in to the slow cooker on top of the lamb.  Add a 1/2 cup of water and stir everything together.  Set for 8 hours on low or 5 hours on high.  Once it has finished cooking you can refrigerate for several days or freeze for several months.  Right before serving (or while you are reheating it) stir in the chopped preserved lemon, raisins and olives, stirring to combine.  Let those ingredients heat through and then serve with the parsley sprinkled on top.

Roasted Garlic and Why You Should Roast Lots

As it starts to cool down (kinda, sorta) I start to think about all the yummy fall flavors I can cook with and being reunited with my oven!  Toasty, deep flavors are what fall is about and one of the best is roasted garlic.  So much sweeter and smoother than raw garlic its a terrific thing to have at the ready to boost flavor.  Just like in my caramelized onions post I recommend making a whole bunch of roasted garlic at once and then freezing it so you can add it to pretty much anything.  Below I have the method and a couple of ideas on how to use roasted garlic but really the sky is the limit.  While it is still warm out I recommend it spread on grilled pizza or bruschetta or mixed in with yogurt to create a veggie dip.  Once you have roasted garlic on hand you are going to come up with lots of good uses for it – share them in the comments so we can all get into the action.

Roasted Garlic (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  staving off vampires
Special Equipment:  none

  • one to many heads of garlic
  • 1 drizzle of olive oil

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  While the oven is heating slice the top off of as many heads of garlic you want to roast – just enough to expose the cloves about 1/4 of the inch from the top.

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Place each head you are making (I usually roast 5 or 6 at a time) on a piece of aluminum foil.  Drizzle each with a little olive oil and then wrap the head totally with the tin foil.  Place all the garlic foil balls in the oven directly on the grate and roast for 30 minutes.  Take them out of the oven and let them steam in the foil for 5 minutes, after that unwrap the garlic and let cool more enough you can handle them.

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Grab the base of the garlic head and squeeze, all of the cloves should be soft enough to come right out of their papery skin.

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Use right away or store in a plastic container in the fridge for up to a week or in a plastic baggie in the freezer for up to 6 months.  The frozen garlic only takes a second to defrost so you can add it directly from the freezer to the soup, sauce or dish you are using it in.

Roasted Garlic

  • Servings: as much as you would like
  • Print

Special Equipment:  none

  • one to many heads of garlic
  • 1 drizzle of olive oil

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  While the oven is heating slice the top off of as many heads of garlic you want to roast – just enough to expose the cloves about 1/4 of the inch from the top.  Place each head you are making (I usually roast 5 or 6 at a time) on a piece of aluminum foil.  Drizzle each with a little olive oil and then wrap the head totally with the tin foil.  Place all the garlic foil balls in the oven directly on the grate and roast for 30 minutes.  Take them out of the oven and let them steam in the foil for 5 minutes, after that unwrap the garlic and let cool more enough you can handle them.  Grab the base of the garlic head and squeeze, all of the cloves should be soft enough to come right out of their papery skin.  Use right away or store in a plastic container in the fridge for up to a week or in a plastic baggie in the freezer for up to 6 months.  The frozen garlic only takes a second to defrost so you can add it directly from the freezer to the soup, sauce or dish you are using it in.

Ideas for Using Roasted Garlic

Garlic Bread – Possibly the easiest garlic bread you will ever made and so much more mellow than most.  Once you have grilled or toasted bread with a little olive oil, salt and pepper just spread on a thin later of roasted garlic and top with parsley.

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes – Just add to mashed potatoes along with milk and butter to make them out of this world.  I would say 3 cloves will do you but add as much as you would like.

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Garlic Mayo – Smash the cloves into a paste and add to mayo with a little salt and pepper for an awesome sandwich spread.  Use it on burgers or the best BLT you have ever made.

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Roasted Garlic Hummus – Either add it to your own recipe or dress up store bought.  If you are making your own sub in the roasted garlic for fresh to give it a sweeter, less pungent taste.  I would say sub 2 to 1 for fresh.  If you are adding to store bought remember there is already garlic in there so be conservative and add a little at a time, best in the food processor, until it’s as garlicy as you would like.

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Ice Cream Pie with Blueberry Sauce

You never know what will inspire a new dish – this time it was realizing that I had bought way too many graham crackers for smores, forgetting that its 1000 degrees in DC in the summer.  Last thing I have wanted to do it post up in front of our fire pit.  So I decided to turn these babies into a crust.  Usually I do this for cheesecake but that also meant more work and more time in the oven so I went even more low tech and filled it with ice cream.  And so was the creation of the ice cream pie.

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I used vanilla ice cream because we had some in our freezer but you could really use any flavor of ice cream you fancy.  The blueberry sauce is also really adaptable, use any kind of berries you would like, frozen or fresh.  Basically what I am saying is you have zero excuse not to run out and make this immediately!

Ice Cream Pie with Blueberry Sauce (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  graham crackers plus ice cream = pantry cleanout dessert
Special Equipment:  food processor, 8 to 9 inch pie pan

  • 1 1/2 graham cracker crumbs (pulse the graham crackers in the food processor to make the crumbs – it will be approximately 12 crackers five or take)
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 pints of vanilla ice cream
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  In a bowl combine the graham cracker crumbs with the butter, sugar and punch of salt.  It will have the texture of wet sand.  Press the mixture into your pie pan.  I like to use the bottom of a measuring cup to press the crust in evenly – you want to make sure the whole pan is covered and that the thickness is pretty even.

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Bake for 10 minutes and then cool.  While the crust is cooling, take out the ice cream and let soften.  Once the crust is completely cool, spread the softened ice cream into the crust, filling the “pie.”  It’s ok if the ice cream is pretty soft, it’s going right back in the freezer.

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Once the pie is filled, cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 2 hours, or up to two days.  To make the sauce, combine the blueberries, sugar, water and cornstarch in a saucepan over medium high.

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Bring to a boil and then decrease the heat to medium.  Let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the berries have broken down and the sauce has thickened.  Off the heat stir in the lemon juice.  Let the sauce cool and then serve with the pie (or you can store the sauce in the fridge for several days).  Take the pie out of the freezer 5 minutes before you want to serve it so it’s easier to cut.

Ice Cream Pie with Blueberry Sauce

  • Servings: 6-8
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Special Equipment:  food processor, 8 to 9 inch pie pan

  • 1 1/2 graham cracker crumbs (pulse the graham crackers in the food processor to make the crumbs – it will be approximately 12 crackers five or take)
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 pints of vanilla ice cream
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  In a bowl combine the graham cracker crumbs with the butter, sugar and punch of salt.  It will have the texture of wet sand.  Press the mixture into your pie pan.  I like to use the bottom of a measuring cup to press the crust in evenly – you want to make sure the whole pan is covered and that the thickness is pretty even.  Bake for 10 minutes and then cool.  While the crust is cooling, take out the ice cream and let soften.  Once the crust is completely cool, spread the softened ice cream into the crust, filling the “pie.”  It’s ok if the ice cream is pretty soft, it’s going right back in the freezer.  Once the pie is filled, cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 2 hours, or up to two days.  To make the sauce, combine the blueberries, sugar, water and cornstarch in a saucepan over medium high.  Bring to a boil and then decrease the heat to medium.  Let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the berries have broken down and the sauce has thickened.  Off the heat stir in the lemon juice.  Let the sauce cool and then serve with the pie (or you can store the sauce in the fridge for several days).  Take the pie out of the freezer 5 minutes before you want to serve it so it’s easier to cut.

Slow Cooker Lamb Tacos

I hope you all saw my post on Thursday about the fantastic new Mexican resturant in DC, Espita Mezcaleria.  Everything I ate there was delicious but the lamb barbacoa tacos were out of this world.  Before my second bite I told Patrick I needed to figure out how to make these at home.  I have had lamb tacos before but usually they consist of grilled lamb that has been thinly sliced or ground lamb served in hard shells.  The Espita tacos had richly sauced braised lamb folded into their homemade tortillas.  A slow cooker seemed like the best way to ensure that the lamb got fall-apart tender.  Lamb shoulder would be perfect for this but it can be difficult to find most of the year, whereas lamb leg you can pretty much always  track down.  I bought my lamb boneless and pre-butterflied because that’s all they had at the store but I promise it’s really easy to do and a good skill to have.  Here is a helpful link if you have never “butterflied” before, which is essentially cutting the meat open like a book.

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It really doesn’t have to be perfect at all since it’s all going into the slow cooker – if you are butterflying for the grill you want to make sure the meat is even thickness.  This recipe is a little more fussy than most of my slow cooker recipes – you want a decent amount of liquid to cook the lamb in but then you should cook it down to help concentrate the flavor.  If I really had all day I would have cooked all of the liquid down to the 1 1/2 cups needed but the house smelled too good to wait.  The lamb at Espita had a nice smokey, spicy sauce on it so I thought chipoltes were in order.  I used the dried peppers in the cooking process and then chipoltes in adobo to flavor the sauce.  If you cannot find dried chiptoltes in the store, any dried chili pepper will do.  As for the chipolte puree, I just take a can of the chipoltes in adobo (which you know about from here) and puree it in the food processor.  I use what I need and then keep the rest in the fridge for whenever I want to add a little kick (it will last indefinitely because of the vinegar content).  If you don’t want to do that just take one or two of the chipoltes, smash it with a fork and add them to the lamb along with some of the adobo sauce.  I served the tacos with chopped raw onion, some purple cabbage and a squeeze of lime.  I also added some of my Habanero Hot Sauce which I will be posting on Tuesday (yowza it’s hot!).  This would be perfect for Cinco de Mayo celebrations, just make it this weekend, pop it in the freezer and then defrost for next weekend!

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Slow Cooker Lamb Tacos (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  the lamb barbacoa tacos at Espita
Special Equipment:  slow cooker, blender or food processor

  • 3 dried chipolte peppers, stems removed
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 1/2 to 3 pound boneless leg of lamb, butterflied
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 gloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon coriander
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups of beef stock
  • 1-2 tablespoons chipolte puree (a can of chipoltes in adobo pureed)

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the dried chilis and toast them in the dry pan for 3 or 4 minutes, flipping once, until they darken a bit and you can smell the chili.  Remove and put into the slow cooker.  Add the oil to the pan and salt and pepper the lamb while you wait for the oil to heat.  Once the oil is hot add the lamb to the pan and brown on one side without disturbing it for 5 minutes.

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Flip and cook for 5 minutes more until both sides are nice and brown.  Remove the lamb from the pan and add to the slow cooker.  There should be enough fat from the lamb and the oil in the pan but if not add a touch more canola oil   Add the onions to the pan and lower the heat to medium. Cook for a minute or two and then add the garlic, cumin, oregano, coriander and salt and pepper.

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Cook for another 2 minutes until the onions are softened.  Add the can of tomatoes and use the liquid to deglaze the pan of any brown bits stuck on the bottom.  Add the contents of the pan into the slow cooker with the lamb and chipoltes.  Add beef stock so the liquid comes up at least three-quarters of the way up the lamb (you may not need all 3 cups).  Turn on the slow cooker to low and cook for 5 to 6 hours.

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Carefully pull out the lamb and place it on a cutting board to cool (it’s ok if it falls apart a bit as you do this as you are just going to shred it anyway).  I used a large spatula and a wooden spoon to get it out of there.  Pull out the dried chipoltes and toss.  Pour the rest of the content of the slow cooker and its liquid into a blender or  food processor (carefully!) and blend until smooth.  Transfer one and a half cups of the puree to a saucepan and bring it to a simmer.  Simmer over low for 30 minutes until the liquid has thickened a bit, stir in desired amount of chipolte puree.

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While the sauce simmers shred the meat once its cool enough to handle, it should fall apart very easily.  Once the sauce it done combine it with the shredded lamb.  You can serve right away or store in the fridge for several days or the freezer for several months.

Slow Cooker Lamb Tacos

  • Servings: 4-6
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Special Equipment:  slow cooker, blender or food processor

  • 3 dried chipolte peppers, stems removed
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 1/2 to 3 pound boneless leg of lamb, butterflied
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 gloves of garlic, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon coriander
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups of beef stock
  • 1-2 tablespoons chipolte puree (a can of chipoltes in adobo pureed)

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the dried chilis and toast them in the dry pan for 3 or 4 minutes, flipping once, until they darken a bit and you can smell the chili.  Remove and put into the slow cooker.  Add the oil to the pan and salt and pepper the lamb while you wait for the oil to heat.  Once the oil is hot add the lamb to the pan and brown on one side without disturbing it for 5 minutes.  Flip and cook for 5 minutes more until both sides are nice and brown.  Remove the lamb from the pan and add to the slow cooker.  There should be enough fat from the lamb and the oil in the pan but if not add a touch more canola oil   Add the onions to the pan and lower the heat to medium. Cook for a minute or two and then add the garlic, cumin, oregano, coriander and salt and pepper.

Cook for another 2 minutes until the onions are softened.  Add the can of tomatoes and use the liquid to deglaze the pan of any brown bits stuck on the bottom.  Add the contents of the pan into the slow cooker with the lamb and chipoltes.  Add beef stock so the liquid comes up at least three-quarters of the way up the lamb (you may not need all 3 cups).  Turn on the slow cooker to low and cook for 5 to 6 hours.  Carefully pull out the lamb and place it on a cutting board to cool (it’s ok if it falls apart a bit as you do this as you are just going to shred it anyway).  I used a large spatula and a wooden spoon to get it out of there.  Pull out the dried chipoltes and toss.  Pour the rest of the content of the slow cooker and its liquid into a blender or  food processor (carefully!) and blend until smooth.  Transfer one and a half cups of the puree to a saucepan and bring it to a simmer.  Simmer over low for 30 minutes until the liquid has thickened a bit, stir in desired amount of chipolte puree.

While the sauce simmers shred the meat once its cool enough to handle, it should fall apart very easily.  Once the sauce it done combine it with the shredded lamb.  You can serve right away or store in the fridge for several days or the freezer for several months.

Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs

While it’s starting to feel a bit more like spring here in DC, it’s still pretty cool in the evenings, meaning warm comforting dishes are still in demand.  Nothing beats a classic spaghetti and meatball dinner, which can please just about anyone in your family.  My dad used to make this dish for me when I was little and it’s the first thing I remember cooking right alongside him.  I have flirted with a lot of other recipes, most of them much more complicated, but none were as good as my dad’s.  One big change from what he used to do is broiling the meatballs versus cooking them in a skillet.  It uses a lot less oil but also is a lot cleaner because you don’t have hot oil spitting at you.  I find that the meatballs stay together a lot better this way as well once added to the sauce.  I may have taken some liberties with the fennel seeds and parm rind but the student should always try to surpass the master right??  This dish really is best if you have the time to let the meatballs and sauce cook a while together, hours if you have them.  The good news is that it’s just as good if not better reheated so you can make them and then freeze and pull out whenever you want some comfort food.  Paired with a caesar salad (my dressing is awesome and so easy) and some garlic bread it’s a great end to the day.

Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  my dad’s cooking
Special Equipment:  none

For the tomato sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup of red wine
  • two 28 ounce cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 parmesan rind (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

For the meatballs

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • more basil and mozzarella boccochini for serving (optional)
  • 1 pound spaghetti

In a large skillet or wide dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions, garlic, fennel seeds, crushed red pepper and a pinch of salt and cook for about 7 minutes until the onions are soft and translucent.  Add the tomato paste and stir to combine.  Cook for another minute or so then add the wine to deglaze and get any bits off of the bottom of the pan.  If you have a parmesan rind throw it in there along with the basil and sugar.

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Add in the cans of tomatoes, being careful not to splatter any on yourself.  Stir to combine and then increase the heat to medium high until bubbles form.  Turn the heat back down to low and let simmer while you make the meatballs.

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While the sauce simmers combine the beef with the rest of the meatball ingredients.    This is easiest to do with your hands but don’t over work the meat, combine just enough so all the ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the mixture.  DSC02904Turn on your broiler.  Using your hands form meatballs around the size of golf balls and place them on a baking sheet (if you have cooking spray it never hurts to coat the pan so the meatballs easily come off).  DSC02906Place the baking sheet in the broiler and cook for about 15 minutes until the meatballs are nice and brown.  Add them to the sauce, I like to use tongs for this, being careful not to break the meatballs.  Nestle them in and use a spoon to make sure the meatballs are covered in the sauce.  At this point you could serve the whole thing but I like to let it all simmer together for at least another 30 minutes if not an hour.  The more time you give this the more the sauce will flavor the meatballs and vice versa.  When you are near ready to serve, boil the pasta, drain well and serve the meatballs and sauce on top along with the chopped basil and mozzarella if you have it (remember to fish out the parmesan rind if you used it).  The meatballs and sauce will last in the fridge several days or frozen for 6 months.

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Classic Spaghetti and Meatballs

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

Special Equipment:  none

For the tomato sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup of red wine
  • two 28 ounce cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 parmesan rind (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

For the meatballs

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • more basil and mozzarella boccochini for serving (optional)
  • 1 pound spaghetti

In a large skillet or wide dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions, garlic, fennel seeds, crushed red pepper and a pinch of salt and cook for about 7 minutes until the onions are soft and translucent.  Add the tomato paste and stir to combine.  Cook for another minute or so then add the wine to deglaze and get any bits off of the bottom of the pan.  Add in the cans of tomatoes, being careful not to splatter any on yourself.  If you have a parmesan rind throw it in there along with the basil and sugar.  Stir to combine and then increase the heat to medium high until bubbles form.  Turn the heat back down to low and let simmer while you make the meatballs.

While the sauce simmers combine the beef with the rest of the meatball ingredients.    This is easiest to do with your hands but don’t over work the meat, combine just enough so all the ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the mixture.  Turn on your broiler.  Using your hands form meatballs around the size of golf balls and place them on a baking sheet (if you have cooking spray it never hurts to coat the pan so the meatballs easily come off).  Place the baking sheet in the broiler and cook for about 15 minutes until the meatballs are nice and brown.

Add them to the sauce, I like to use tongs for this, being careful not to break the meatballs.  Nestle them in and use a spoon to make sure the meatballs are covered in the sauce.  At this point you could serve the whole thing but I like to let it all simmer together for at least another 30 minutes if not an hour.  The more time you give this the more the sauce will flavor the meatballs and vice versa.  When you are near ready to serve, boil the pasta, drain well and serve the meatballs and sauce on top along with the chopped basil and mozzarella if you have it (remember to fish out the parmesan rind if you used it).  The meatballs and sauce will last in the fridge several days or frozen for 6 months.

Patrick’s Irish Stew

Growing up in an Irish family in Boston, you pretty much take it for granted that everyone celebrates St. Patrick’s day.  I didn’t realize until I left the nest that EVERYONE celebrates St. Patrick’s day.  And who could blame them?  The Irish are the friendliest people you will ever meet, love to drink, eat, dance and have a good time.  No wonder everyone wants to be Irish!  St. Patrick’s day is a terrific excuse to have a party or at the very least a nice tall Guinness.  However, I had to take my celebrations to a whole new level when I met my husband, Patrick.

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In Adare, Ireland

Every March 17th I make this incredible soda bread made with brown butter and rosemary and have plenty of Irish whiskey and beer on hand to share with our friends.  This year I thought my man should have his very own stew with all of his favorite things included.  Jameson, Guinness and coffee pretty much fuel Patrick so I added those to a hearty beef stew and came up with the perfect way to celebrate this year.  Sláinte!

Patrick’s Irish Stew (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  my hubby
Special Equipment:  large dutch oven with a cover, butchers twine (optional)

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds of beef chuck cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 3 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 leek, cleaned and sliced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons Jameson Irish Whiskey
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 1/2 cups of beef broth
  • 1 1/2 cups of Guinness
  • 1/2 cup coffee
  • 2 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup frozen pearl onions
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Make sure all of the pieces of beef are around the same size, if not cut them until they are.  Sometimes I am lazy and buy the precut stuff (or it is on sale) but often they are all weirdly shaped.  It’s worth taking the time to cut them all the same so they cook at the same time.  Salt and pepper the beef cubes.  In a large dutch oven heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium high heat.  When hot add half of the beef cubes, making sure not to crowd them.  Let them cook about 5 minutes and don’t mess with them much or they won’t get brown.  Flip and cook the other side for 5 minutes and then remove them to a plate.  Add another tablespoon of oil (if necessary) and add the remaining beef cubes, repeating the 5 minutes then flip and 5 minutes more routine.  Add the second batch to the plate and toss in the bacon.  Let the bacon cook until starting to crisp, about 3 to 4 minutes and then add in the chopped onion, leek, carrots, garlic and butter.

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Leeks, onions and carrots = the Irish flag!

Salt and pepper everything.  Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes until the onion and leek have softened.  Sprinkle on the flour and stir to combine.  Cook for another minute until all the flour is absorbed.  Add the Jameson and let cook for 1 minute.  If you have butchers twine tie the herbs together and add, otherwise just toss them in.  Add the beef broth, Guinness and coffee and stir to combine.

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Bring to a simmer then cover and put it in the oven.  Cook for an hour and a half, stirring once.  At the very end fish out the herbs then stir in the frozen pearl onions and frozen peas and cook for a minute or two more either in the oven or on the stovetop until they are heated through. The stew can be served right away, kept in the fridge for a couple of days or frozen for several months.

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Patrick's Irish Stew

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Print

Special Equipment:  large dutch oven with a cover, butchers twine (optional)

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds of beef chuck cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 3 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 leek, cleaned and sliced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons Jameson Irish Whiskey
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 1/2 cups of beef broth
  • 1 1/2 cups of Guinness
  • 1/2 cup coffee
  • 2 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup frozen pearl onions
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Salt and pepper the beef cubes.  In a large dutch oven heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium high heat.  When hot add half of the beef cubes, making sure not to crowd them.  Let them cook about 5 minutes and don’t mess with them much or they won’t get brown.  Flip and cook the other side for 5 minutes and then remove them to a plate.  Add another tablespoon of oil (if necessary) and add the remaining beef cubes, repeating the 5 minutes then flip and 5 minutes more routine.  Add the second batch to the plate and toss in the bacon.  Let the bacon cook until starting to crisp, about 3 to 4 minutes and then add in the chopped onion, leek, carrots, garlic and butter.

Salt and pepper everything.  Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes until the onion and leek have softened.  Sprinkle on the flour and stir to combine.  Cook for another minute until all the flour is absorbed.  Add the Jameson and let cook for 1 minute.  If you have butchers twine tie the herbs together and add, otherwise just toss them in.  Add the beef broth, Guinness and coffee and stir to combine.  Bring to a simmer then cover and put it in the oven.  Cook for an hour and a half, stirring once.  At the very end fish out the herbs then stir in the frozen pearl onions and frozen peas and cook for a minute or two more either in the oven or on the stovetop until they are heated through.  The stew can be served right away, kept in the fridge for a couple of days or frozen for several months.

The Only Way to Celebrate National Banana Bread Day

February 23rd is National Banana Bread Day but really, shouldn’t every day be banana bread day?  Kids and adults alike love it, it’s super easy to make and is basically dessert for breakfast!  The women of my family, when they see 3 bananas sitting on the counter that are a little less than perfect, all think the exact same thing – time to make Nanny’s banana bread!!

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Brown and smushy bananas – time for bread!

Even if you don’t have occasion to eat the bread right away (though really why wouldn’t you?) bake it, wrap it in tin foil, and stick it in your freezer.  You will be so glad to pull it out when you have impromptu house guests or you are stuck inside during a snow storm.  Probably goes without saying but this banana bread goes perfectly with my Nanny’s amazing Hot Cocoa.  Normally I encourage you all to experiment away, but with this recipe I humbly suggest you make it just as written (especially make sure to include the tablespoon of cold water).  It can be hard to share beloved family recipes because so many emotions and memories are attached.  However, sharing food is an expression of love and I like the idea that the love my grandmother gave to her family can be replicated in yours.  So let’s make a deal – if you decide to throw in chocolate chips or blueberries or something just don’t tell me!

Marguerite’s Banana Bread (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:   my nana
Special Equipment:  none

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 over ripe bananas
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cold water

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease a loaf pan (I like to use the wrapper from the butter but cooking spray works too).  Mix the sugar, butter, eggs and bananas together in a medium bowl with an electric mixer.  Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a separate small bowl.

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Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and combine, then add 1 tablespoon of cold water.  Mix until the water and all the ingredients are incorporated.  Pour batter into pan and bake for 1 hour.

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from this…

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…to this!

 

Marguerite's Banana Bread

  • Servings: 1 loaf
  • Print

Special Equipment:  none

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 over ripe bananas
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cold water

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and grease a loaf pan (I like to use the wrapper from the butter but cooking spray works too).  Mix the sugar, butter, eggs and bananas together in a medium bowl with an electric mixer.  Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a separate small bowl.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and combine, then add 1 tablespoon of cold water.  Mix until the water and all the ingredients are incorporated.  Pour batter into pan and bake for 1 hour.

 

 

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

Yikes it is cold out there!  Lucky you if you are reading this from somewhere warm but DC is freeeezing, like Boston style cold.  I moved 400 miles south for a reason!  Anyway the best way to fight of the cold is nice warm comfort food, bonus points if it’s a little spicy too.  Pop this baby in the slow cooker and you will have meals for several nights or freeze some and you will happily discover it in your freezer during the next snow storm.  Cooking Indian food can be a bit intimidating especially when you see a list of like 6 different required spices.  However, after you make the $10 investment up front pretty much the same spices are used over and over again so you can make awesome dishes like Turkey Biryani or Spinach and Chickpea Saute.

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I use chicken breasts here because I prefer the flavor and texture over thighs.  Most slow cooker recipes will have you use thigh meat because the extra fat helps keep the chicken from dying out in the long cooking process.  However, this dish is super saucy and the tomato helps tenderize the chicken so the result is, as my friend Lainie calls it, “falling apart chicken goodness.”  If you like thigh meat use it by all means and report back.  Obvious pairings for this dish are nice fluffy basmati rice and naan to dip in it – stay tuned for a Indian Dinner Party post which this dish is the star.  Stay warm!

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala (printable version at the end of the post)

Inspiration:  high of 20 degrees?  no thank you
Special Equipment:  slow cooker!

  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into large chunks
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped or grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes with their juice
  • 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup cream

In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil over medium high heat.  Add the chicken (in batches if you need to) and cook for about 5 minutes or until browned on all sides – don’t worry if they are still raw inside, in fact they should be.

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Place the chicken in the slow cooker.  In the same skillet (adding the other tablespoon of oil if you need it) sauté the onion, garlic and ginger with a pinch or two of salt for about 5 minutes.  This should help pick up any brown chicken bits from the pan.  Add in the tomato paste and all of the spices and cook for another minute or two until the spices are fragrant and the tomato paste is deepening in color.  DSC02375Add in the diced tomatoes and stir, picking up anything stuck to the pan.  Dump everything in the slow cooker with the chicken then add the crushed tomatoes.  Season with salt and pepper and stir so everything is combined.

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Set the slow cooker to high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours (I prefer the low setting if you have the time).  After 4 or 8 hours the chicken should be very tender/almost falling apart – stir in the cream and taste for seasonings.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Masala

  • Servings: 4 to 6
  • Print

Special Equipment:  slow cooker!

  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into large chunks
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped or grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes with their juice
  • 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup cream

In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil over medium high heat.  Add the chicken (in batches if you need to) and cook for about 5 minutes or until browned on all sides – don’t worry if they are still raw inside, in fact they should be.  Place the chicken in the slow cooker.  In the same skillet (adding the other tablespoon of oil if you need it) sauté the onion, garlic and ginger with a pinch or two of salt for about 5 minutes.  This should help pick up any brown chicken bits from the pan.  Add in the tomato paste and all of the spices and cook for another minute or two until the spices are fragrant and the tomato paste is deepening in color.  Add in the diced tomatoes and stir, picking up anything stuck to the pan.  Dump everything in the slow cooker with the chicken then add the crushed tomatoes.  Season with salt and pepper and stir so everything is combined.  Set the slow cooker to high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours (I prefer the low setting if you have the time).  After 4 or 8 hours the chicken should be very tender – stir in the cream and taste for seasonings.

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