Tag Archives: slow cooker

Slow Cooker Tomato Beef Sauce and Quickie Baked Pasta

beef pasta 1


I know I sound like a broken record, but I’m still crazy busy and haven’t had time to cook or bake anything very exciting!  Unfortunately since I’ve been working on client work, rather than personal pieces, I can’t show anything (until it’s published).  Here’s a peek at a sketch I did that will appear as part of a story in Highlight’s magazine for babies, Hello!  I also did the cover for that issue.

I had a lot of fun painting this little on and her mom!

I had a lot of fun painting this little one and her mom!

I’m also working on another Hidden Picture for a Let’s Play Hidden Pictures book, and working another Anne Rockwell story as well as several other projects.

 

The slow cooker has been my friend still, and last week, I threw together a baked pasta with an active prep time of about 15 minutes.  Here’s what I did:  In the late morning I threw a bunch of ingredients into the slow cooker (no pre-sauteing or anything! I also didn’t measure –the recipe is an estimate) and cooked it on low for about six hours.   Then 30 minutes before dinner, I preheated the oven to 350, boiled some water and cooked some rotini pasta. Next I assembled the pasta dish with the sauce and parmesan, and topped it with some shredded mozzarella  and baked it until it melted — about 10 minutes.  That’s it– dinner done.  I didn’t even add oil at the start, as I figured the meat and liquids would be sufficient, and they were.  The meat was moist and juicy, and the sauce was delicious.  It was a bit hit with my son, who had seconds. 🙂

I’ve also been (quickly) experimenting with cauliflower flat bread (see my previous version here) and chia pudding in my attempt to eat more whole foods even in the midst of stress and work.

cauliflower pizza with caramelized onions

 

I’ll post more on that later!  In the meantime, enjoy this easy, fast, and delicious beef pasta dish!

beef pasta 2

 

Easy Beef Pasta in Slow Cooker

1 lb. lean ground beef

1 small onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 small can of tomato paste

1 small can of diced tomatoes

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

kosher salt

pepper

1/3 cup red wine

1/2 lb. dried pasta of choice

1/2 lb. shredded mozarella (I used smoky)

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1.  Put beef through red wine into slow cooker.  Cook on low for about six hours, stirring every two hours or so.

2.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Cook pasta according to package instructions.  Drain.
3.  Return cooked pasta to pot and pour in beef sauce and grated parmesan.  Mix thoroughly.

4.  Pour pasta mixture into a casserole dish and sprinkle with shredded cheese.  Bake in oven until cheese is melted, about 10 minutes.

 

 

13 Comments

Filed under Art Related, Beef, Slow Cooker

Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions and Easy Weeknight Mini Pizzas

Mini Pizza with caramelized onions, artichoke hearts, and mozzarrella

Mini Pizza with caramelized onions, artichoke hearts, and mozzarrella



I recently completed another Skillshare class (Character Illustration from Concept to Final Artwork)!  I almost didn’t take this one because I felt character development is something I’m pretty capable of doing.  But it also has an Illustrator and Photoshop component, and I felt I can always learn more about creating digital art.  I’m really glad I did take it, because I was introduced to some key things that I will definitely use in my work — for example, importing layers into Photoshop from Illustrator (who knew!!?).  I don’t know if I will end up working exactly this way in the future, but going through the process was really valuable and a great learning experience!  And I did learn things I am using now that I didn’t before. 🙂 Here is my work process for this assignment: I first did sketches of pirates and chose a final one to take to final: roughs

This is the one I decided to work with.

This is the one I decided to work with.

This is my pirate after I drew every shape in Illustrator.  it was WAY tedious!

This is my pirate after I drew every shape in Illustrator. it was WAY tedious!

This is the pirate after rendering it in Photoshop -- I realm I am a lot more comfortable in!

This is the pirate after rendering it in Photoshop — a realm I am a lot more comfortable in!

This is a full illustration incorporating the character.  I will use this as a promotional piece.  I used a lot of techniques I learned in the Skillshare class, so I'm really happy I took it.

This is a full illustration incorporating the character. I will use this as a promotional piece with my artist rep. I used a lot of techniques I learned in the Skillshare class, so I’m really happy I took the class!

With these various projects going on, the slow cooker has been my friend.

My bestie!

My bestie!

Our favorite dish is Slow Cooker Pulled Pork.  It’s so great to throw everything in the cooker and forget about it.   In 6-8 hours, you’ll have tender, tasty meat. Ooey and gooey, and yummy I tend to avoid chicken in the slow cooker, unless it’s dark meat though.  White meat tends to dry out. Recently, I knew I wanted to saute some onions for easy Mini Pizzas I was planning for a quickie dinner.  That morning, I had the brainstorm of throwing some sliced onions in the slow cooker and letting it cook all afternoon while I was out.  That cut down on about 20 minutes of sauteing later in the evening– 20 minutes of precious time I could be working!  I just used one onion and drizzled it with some olive oil.  It cooked on low for 4 hours.  But next time, I will buy a bag of onions and a bunch at one time.  This might take closer to 6 hours to cook. onions 2
You end up with soft, sweet, meltingly tender onions.  They can be store in the refrigerator and used throughout the week in omelets, fritattas, quesadillas, burritos… I’ve even put them on my salads.  They are soo good!

For this batch, though, I put them on our mini pizzas for a FAST week night meal!

How about you all– what are some slow cooker recipes you can’t live without that make life easier?

onions 1

Slow Cooker Caramelized Onions

Some onions, sliced vertically in to 1/4 inch slices

Drizzle of olive oil to coat

Pinch of kosher salt

1.  Put sliced onions in slow cooker and drizzle with olive oil.  Season with salt.  Stir.
2.  Cook on low for about 4-6 hours.

pizza 2

Mini Pizzas

Mini or Regular sized whole wheat pitas

Your favorite marinara sauce (or homemade!)

Shredded cheese

Slow cooker onions

Chopped artichoke hearts

Any other topping you would like!

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (I use our toaster oven).

2. Spoon some sauce on each of the pitas.  Top with toppings.

3.  Cook in oven about 8-10 minutes depending on how crunchy you like it (place directly on rack).

4.  Slice into wedges and eat! 🙂

25 Comments

Filed under Art Related, Dinner, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Easy Weeknight Pork Enchilada Casserole

Ooey and gooey, and yummy

Ooey and gooey, and yummy


Imagine this:  It’s a weeknight and you need to make dinner fast.  Instead of take out (which actually takes some time because you have to order and then go pick it up or wait for it to be delivered), make this!

I used leftover slow cooker pork shoulder, but you could easily use shredded rotisserie chicken instead.

I was inspired by this recipe from Cooking Light.  Instead of seasoned ground beef, I used pre-cooked pork, and instead of the enchilada sauce, I got really lazy and used bottled barbecue sauce.  We love Trader Joe’s Bold and Smoky Kansas City Style Barbecue Sauce.  It’s tangy and tasty, but not spicy (for the little one).  tj sauce

Saute some onions, and mix in the pork or chicken and the barbecue sauce.  Add a handful of cheese.  Layer mixture in pie pan with flour tortillas. Top with a bit more sauce and cheese and bake until melted.  Easy peasy!

In the pie pan

In the pie pan

Cut into wedges and serve.

ooey gooey up close

Easy Weeknight Pork Enchilada Casserole

Non-stick spray

¼ cup onion, diced

1 teaspoon oil

2 ½ cups leftover pulled pork (see recipe here) or shredded rotisserie chicken

1/3 cup barbecue sauce

4 flour tortillas

1/2 cup grated cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a pie dish with spray. Set aside.
  2. Sauté onion with oil in a large pan until soft.  Add pork and 1/3 cup of the barbecue sauce. Stir together to combine and sauté gently until heated through.  Stir in a handful of the grated cheese, and remove pan from heat and set aside.
  3. Place one tortilla in pie dish.  Spread 1/3 of pork mixture on top. I divide the mixture in the pan first by making a “peace” sign with three equal portions, so I have a clear idea of what 1/3 of the total is.   Cover with another flour tortilla.  Continue to layer with another  1/3 of pork mixture, another tortilla, and last 1/3 of pork mixture.  Cover with last tortilla.
  4. Spread rest of  barbecue sauce on top layer.  Sprinkle with grated cheese.  Bake in oven for about 10 minutes until cheese melts.  Cut into wedges and serve.

6 Comments

Filed under chicken, Dinner, Pork

Pea Soup Andersen’s Inspired Slow Cooker Pea Soup


It’s getting colder each day here in New York — you know what that means:  Perfect soup weather!  It’s our favorite thing to eat this time of year.

Jamie’s favorite soup – vegetable soup with alphabet pasta – inspired me to write and illustrate Soup Day.

The recipe is at the end of the story.

Other tasty soups to warm you in cold weather:

French Onion Soup

Roasted Tomato Soup

Creamy Green Soup

Butternut Squash Harvest Soup

Last week I was going through our pantry to collect food to donate to areas in our neighborhood which had been had been hit hard by the hurricane.  Among the things I came across was a half filled container of dried peas. I had no idea which presidential administration they were from– perhaps the Clinton era?  I decided to risk it and try to make some pea soup in my slow cooker.
A lot of recipes I came across called for a ham hock thrown in, but I was too busy to go on a hunt for one, so I used 1/2 cup chopped apple smoked cured nitrite free bacon from Trader Joe’s.  It was about 4 slices, and I trimmed off the excess fat.

I based my recipe on this one, because it mentioned Pea Soup Andersen’s – a beloved roadside restaurant in the Central Coast of California where I am from.

Jamie and I posing as Happea and Pea-wee in the parking lot.

It didn’t call for ham hock or bacon, but I decided to throw in some bacon just the same.  I also used 4 cups of chicken broth and 2 cups of water instead of all water, and I decided to cook it in my slow cooker instead of on the stove.

The resulting soup was smoky, flavorful, and creamy — just as good as its inspiration!  The amount of dried peas I used cost about $.75, so the whole batch cost about $3.25!  It made about ten generous portions, half of which I have stored in our freezer for future winter days.

If you are ever on the Central Coast, though, tootling along the 101, do stop by and check out Pea Soup Andersen’s.  It’s not just the soup and sharp cheddar sold there that are  great — the whole atmosphere of the restaurant and gift shop is unique.  Just a few miles away is Solvang, a town filled with restaurants, toy stores, bakeries, and gift shops built in the traditional Danish style of architecture.  It is kind of like walking into part of an amusement park–kitschy but cute.  (I think it is the reason why I never had a phobia of dentists — my childhood dentist had a practice there and I loved visiting all the gift stores and eating Ebleskevers afterwards!)  🙂


Pea Soup Andersen’s Inspired Slow Cooker Pea Soup

4 slices smoked bacon trimmed of fat and chopped up, about ½ cup

2 cups dried peas, rinsed and cleared of debris

4 cups chicken broth

2 cups water

1 celery rib, chopped

1 medium carrot, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1 bay leaf

¼  teaspoon dried thyme

salt

pepper to taste

  1. Pour everything into slow cooker.  Cook on low for about 8-10 hours or high for about 6-8 hours.  Check to see how soft the peas are.  I cooked mine for low on 2 hours, but they didn’t seem to be getting soft and I knew they were really old!  So I cooked them on high for the next 4 hours.
  2. Remove bay leaf.  Puree soup in batches in blender until smooth (only fill blender half-way and leave an open vent at the top, either covering with a towel or using a lid with a vent – alternatively, use an immersion blender instead!).  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Reheat and serve.

Makes at least 10 generous servings.
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Filed under Soup, Soup, Travel

Slow Cooker Pork Shoulder

One of the many quick uses for slow cooked pork—Cheesy pork quesadilla. Mmm.

Here’s another — pork burger with cheese and grilled onions.

If you want to economize and save time, try investing in a slow cooker.   It’s one of the best appliances I’ve ever bought — and cheap too!  I think it was $20-something at Target.

I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t taken full advantage of it — there are so many things you can make with one!   Our favorite though is  slow cooker barbecue pork shoulder.  When pork shoulder goes on sale, it is one of the cheapest cuts of meat at $.99/lb. in our area.  I buy a 4-pounder, slow cook it, and freeze half of it — it makes so much.

The meat becomes so tender and tasty, and it can easily be used in quesadillas, burritos, burgers, on top of pizzas.  It is also good by itself with some of the sauce and rice or noodles.  I often eat it as is with my cauliflower “rice”.
To prep the pork shoulder, I remove the huge slab of skin and fat that I know some people would cringe to hear that I discard.  You can roast the skin to make cracklings, and save the rendered fat, but it’s not my kind of thing. Here’s a great overview if you want to try it out though!

That is a lot of skin for pork “crackling” I don’t plan on making…

Then you just throw the pork in the slow cooker and top with onions and some ketchup, tomato paste, brown sugar, cider vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce.  I forgot the brown sugar the last time, and it came out fine. You might feel you don’t even need it.  To make your life even easier, you could also just buy a bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce and throw that in instead.  You just have to weigh your priorities — a little extra time to measure ingredients, or a little extra money for the bottled stuff. Either way, this is a very forgiving easy way to cook a lot of tasty meat without much effort!

*By the way, if you are in the Brooklyn area this weekend, come check out Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene. It is a fantastic independent book store and they have a great selection of books and events.  Denis and I will be reading there Saturday, September 22, at 11 am.  We’d love to see you if you can make it!*

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

4 lbs. bone-in pork shoulder, fat and skin removed

2 medium onions, sliced vertically

1/2 cup ketchup

¼ cup tomato paste

¼ cup brown sugar (optional)

¼ cup cider vinegar

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

  1. Cut onion in half lengthwise, and then cut into half round slices.
  2. Place pork in slow cooker pot, then sprinkle onions on top.  Pour rest of ingredients over meat and onions.  Cook at low heat for 8 hours.
  3. Remove bone and discard.  Shred meat with forks.  Serve with sauce.

Note:  I use some of the meat the day of cooking.  Then the next day after it has been in the refrigerator, I remove the excess oil at the top and divide into smaller containers and freeze the meat and sauce for a quick week night dinner later on.

33 Comments

Filed under Dinner, Pork