Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Crackpot Happiness

When Hubs and I got engaged, I became terrified.  I realized that I didn't know how to cook!  I'd been watching my mom cook my whole life, and, of course, EATING my whole life, but until I got engaged, I'd never thought much about actually COOKING (heaven forbid)!

So, my marvelous mom and fabulous mother-in-law took pity on me and threw two INCREDIBLE bridal showers!  For one, people had to bring their favorite recipes on cards mailed in their invitations, and the other was a Pamperd Bride shower, where the guests bought Pampered Chef cooking gadgets for ME.  It was an incredible way to start out married life, with a kitchen full of high-quality products and a boatload of recipes.

That being said, I must confess that hands down, my all-time FAVORITE kitchen gadget is my Crock Pot!  Seven and a half years ago, Mrs. K and Mrs. M bought me a Crock Pot and a "Fix it and Forget it" cookbook.  They look like they are about 20 years old and have been through a war, that's how much I use them!

At first, I thought it way too old-ladyish.  What can you cook in a Crock Pot besides meatballs?  I don't even like meatballs (except for Grandma P's homemade meatballs, mmm...)!  But then, I got desperate.

I was teaching.

I was WAY too tired after a whole day of herding cats to make a meal, and I was sick of eating quick-fix food.  So, I dug through the closets and cabinets and pulled out the Crock Pot and "Fix it..." book.  (Perhaps it's more PC to say "slow cooker" but I like to say Crock Pot, mostly because in one of my cookbooks [CCC 2003, page 60] , my mom's recipe has a typo that says "May be put in crackpot to simmer or stove top," which makes me laugh so hard!  Crackpot!)

The experimentation began.  My husband, bless his heart, will try anything I cook (at least once).  I'm not sure if because he's an adventurous eater or he just knows what's best for him, but I love him for it.  After the meal, I'd ask him if the recipe was a "keeper," and if it was, it would get entered into our special cookbook.

The special cookbook was a shower gift from Aunt J.  It cost her very little, but its contents are priceless.  She wrote on the front page of a blank journal:

Dear Kim,
This book is to fill with your favorite recipes.  Whenever you come across a good recipe, be sure to write it down on an old receipt, scrap paper or even a napkin.  Then write it in this book.  You will find that you will use this book most of the time.  I sometimes take mine to the grocery store with me.  Love to you and Happy Cooking!

And she was right!  It's bulging with my favorites cut from magazines, rewritten from other cookbooks, snipped off of boxes, newspapers and all taped in there, along with several of the recipe cards from my shower. 

It's FULL of crock pot recipes.  Honestly, I sometimes think I could write a book about crock pot recipes.  But then I realize it's already been done.  Because many of my recipes came from it.  So I don't.

I LOVE smelling a roast cooking in the Crock Pot on a cold Minnesota winter afternoon, after coming home from a hard day of middle school.  All you have to do is set the table and make a salad, and voila!  a hot, homemade, healthy dinner.  There's nothing like it! 

Except for chili.
And Chicken Tortilla Soup.
And Chicken in a Pot.
And Sour Cream Beef.
And Slow Simmered Beef Stew.
And Chicken Cacciatore.
And Wild Rice Hot Dish.
And Golden Glow Pork Chops.
And Pork Chop Dinner.
And Violette's Lasagna.
And Homemade BBQ (Mom's Crackpot recipe!)
And Spiced Cider

I'm getting hungry.

My friends found out I'm an old crackpot lady and have been asking me for recipes ever since.  Here's the easiest and yummiest, all-time favorite crack pot recipe I have (from Fix it and Forget it):

Chicken Tortilla Soup
4 chicken breast halves
(2) 15 oz. cans black beans, drained
(2) 15 oz cans Mexican stewed tomatoes, or Ro-tel (I like diced tomatoes with green chilis better than stewed, but that's just what I do)
1 c. salsa
1 Tbs. cumin (DO NOT SKIP THIS INGREDIENT!!!! Trust me.)
(1) 4 oz. can chopped green chilis
(1) 14.5 oz can tomato sauce (I've used tomato soup before, too)
tortilla chips and grated cheese

Combine all ingredients except chips and cheese in Crock Pot.  Cover, cook on low 8 hours.  Just before serving, remove chicken and slice into bite-sized pieces.  Stir into soup.  Serve topped with cheese and chips.

Here's one we just did two weekends ago, when it was chilly here:

Hot Spiced Cider (from
1/4 c. brown sugar (I reduced it to 2 Tbs. based on reviews and it was good)
1/2 tsp. of whole allspice (okay, I used ground, but it still was good)
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp. of salt (can anyone tell me why?)
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 large orange, quartered with peel
2 quarts of apple cider

The recipe says you can make it in your coffee pot, but I'm not into cleaning coffee pots, so I dumped it into my crackpot and turned it up on high for a couple hours.  Delicious!

I'll write some more recipes for you later.  Gotta try a couple out again before I pass them on to you! 

Love to you and Happy Cooking!

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