Pulled Pork Tacos

Pulled Pork Tacos

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Creeking

Photo Credit: My friend Liz over at superveggiemom.com

Summer. If I had it my way, we would leave the house in the morning and wander back around dinner time, only to venture out again for chasing fireflies. There would be creek wading, crawdad hunting, fossil searches, water fights, tag playing, and an occasional break relaxing on a blanket carefully placed in the shade.

Let’s face it. This only happens a handful of times during our crushingly busy summer, and since I want to bask in the sun and not fret over the always-looming question “what’s for dinner?” I toss this in the slow cooker and don’t look back. Not once.

It’s easy, kid-pleasing (for mine, “No slaw, please. But, add avocado!”) and not too filling after a hot, long day. I don’t know what to tell you about left overs, because we never have any. If you do, I’d love to know how you managed them.

 

 

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Classic Chili (Gluten Free)

2016-02-11 14.20.18Classic Chili

I think I was meant to be a hibernating mammal. The only thing I can think about during these cold days of winter is sleeping. And soup. Hot, filling, stick-to-your-ribs, soup.

I have many requirements for soup. They must be flavorful, even the spoonfuls void of the main ingredients. They have to be easy so I can walk away (or run eight errands) without things going array. Last, they have to be just as good when made gluten free, my family can tell when substitutions go wrong.

I present to you this chili. It gets an A+ in all categories, and is a great gluten free alternative to the chili served at that fast food restaurant featuring a little girl with red pig tails. Put it in your slow cooker and come home to a cozy meal. Post-meal nap is optional, but highly recommended.

 

Cheesy Mex Chicken with Fritos (Slow Cooker) (Naturally Gluten Free)

Cheesy Mex Chicken

I hopped on my bike and headed down the country road with the white bridge in site. The creek was just a short ride and I leaned my bike against the rail and jumped over it into the tall grass. I shimmy-ed down the steep bank and found a foothold on one of the large stones my sister and I placed there. It was hot and I was eagerly seeking the cool, bubbly, water in the shade under the road. I carefully made my way across by jumping stone-to-stone and landed on the large flat one that served as my shoe stool. If I ruined another pair, I knew my days at the creek were numbered.

My bare feet sunk into the wet, sandy dirt and my body instantly felt the relief. This summer was boiling and the creek was lower than usual. I patted some water on my face and started turning rocks. Crawdads, minnows and tadpoles scurried along as I inspected the creek bed.

This last week I took my daughter ‘creeking’ for the first time. While it was not at ‘my’ creek, it certainly brought back many faded memories.

Photo Credit: My friend Liz over at http://superveggiemom.com/

Photo Credit: My friend Liz over at http://www.superveggiemom.com

The summer heat is upon us, the kids have activities all over the place, and getting dinner on the table is getting harder and harder. This recipe has many perks – quick to put together, leave in it in the crock pot, no ovens to heat up the kitchen, and utterly cheesy and kid-pleasing. Add fresh cilantro, a squeeze of lime and avocado, because it’s summer, and you can.

Cheesy Mex Chicken with Fritos

Ingredients

2 (10 ounce) cans Ro-tel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies (Original), drained
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained (check ingredient label for gluten)
2 tablespoons instant tapioca (found in the baking isle of most grocers)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs*, trimmed
salt and pepper
1 cup Fritos corn chips, slightly crushed, plus more for garnish
1 1/2 cup Mexican cheese blend (grated)
1/2 cup frozen corn, thawed (or one package freezer sweet corn)
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro

Garnish
extra Fritos
diced avocado
1/2 lime, cut into wedges

*my grocer did not have these, so I de-skinned and de-boned two packs of regular chicken thighs

Preparation

Drain tomatoes. Add to crock pot. Drain and rinse beans. Add to crock pot. Stir in tapioca and cumin. Nestle chicken into crock pot and salt and pepper.

Set crock pot on low for 4-5 hours.

Remove chicken and place on cutting board. Shred into large bite size pieces.

Stir one cup Fritos, 1 cup Mexican cheese blend, corn and cilantro into slow cooker. Gently stir in chicken and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook on high for about 10 minutes until cheese is melted in.

Portion into bowls and top with Fritos, cheese, avocado and a small wedge of lime.

Notes: If left in crock pot, it may thicken too much. Add very hot water, one half cup at a time, until desired consistency is reached.

Slow Cooker Beef Roast (Gluten Free)

Crock Pot Roast

Dressed in new clothes and carrying a new back pack, I stood at the end of the gravel drive way and kicked some stones around with my spot-free velcro-topped shoes. Hearing a vehicle in the distance, I squinted down the two-lane country road with my hand across my brow. The sun was just coming over the hill and it was big, blazing, and threatening to make it one of the hottest first days of school yet.

They would have the cattle barn fans set in the corners of the school hallways. Turned on top speed they could make the whole school vibrate, and the low and loud growl came in stereo everywhere you turned. Luckily the school grounds had very nice and tall shade trees, and on days like this class would be held outside under a canopy of leaves.

The start of school was always the start of a hectic schedule. The days of bike riding, rock collecting, and the constant pestering of my sister were ending (ok, I never stopped pestering her…) and were replaced with school during the day, and homework, apple picking, garden harvesting and canning in the evenings and on weekends.

Now years later, my environment has changed but the onset of Fall still brings a busy schedule unlike any other time of the year. While my days of apple picking and garden harvesting are gone, they have been replaced by increased baking orders, new teaching sessions for dance, and a back to school push that has me drowning in permission slips, health forms and supply hunting for my children’s classrooms.

While my days get shorter, I still manage to get dinner on the table and (try to) avoid the take-out trap as much as possible. There are two ways I accomplish this. My slow cooker, and easy recipes that are tried and true.

 

Slow Cooker Pot Roast

(adapted from my friend Vintage Thread‘s recipe)

 

Ingredients:

1 – 2.5 to 3 pound beef roast

1 can Gluten Free Cafe’ Mushroom Soup (or one can Campbell’s condensed mushroom soup.)

1 package dried onion soup mix (if making gluten free, be sure to check the label.)

salt and pepper

Crock Pot Roast2

 

Preparation:

Salt and pepper both sides of roast and place in slow cooker. Pour or spoon mushroom soup over the top. Sprinkle with entire package of dry soup mix.

Set the slow cooker to 6-8 hours on low.

 

Best served with white rice or mashed potatoes and a green salad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Slow Cooker Pork & Polenta

Slow Cooker Pork and Polenta3

I have a problem. I may have to find a SCA (Slow Cooking Anonymous) meeting.

I just bought my 5th slow cooker.

To be fair, I run a baking business out of my home kitchen and my ovens are nearly always on, and filled with biscotti, breads, or scones. This makes it very hard (at times) to get dinner on the table at a reasonable hour – so I have turned to slow cookers to fill the needs of my family (Do they really need a home cooked meal every night?) and the needs of my business. It’s a delicate balance, and five slow cookers seem to be the magic number – or at least I’ll keep telling myself that.

I have scoured all the normal resources for slow cooker meals, and let me tell you – there is a lot of bad stuff out there. There is nothing worse than letting a meal cook away, yummy aromas wafting through your kitchen, only to find soupy and dry (how does that happen anyway?!) slop on your plate and wrinkled noses on your children’s faces.

This. THIS, however, is a dish that has a  thick sauce, tender meat*, and even contains a starch that is neither mushy (no pun intended!) or tasteless at the end. Here is the kicker – it is SO good you don’t even need the meat. Make this without the pork and you have a wonderful and tummy-filling  Meatless Monday.

 

* This meat dish is the most tender if you use pork shoulder (also called Boston Butt). If you are in a pinch, or don’t want to break up a large pork shoulder, country style boneless pork chops can be substituted.

Cooking Time 5 1/2 hours to 7 1/2 hours

Ingredients

8 ounces slices white mushrooms

1 cup chopped onion

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

0.4 ounce package dried portobella mushrooms, chopped

2 tablespoons instant tapioca

salt and pepper

2 pounds pork shoulder

18 ounces (1 tube) cooked polenta (also called cornmeal mush here in the midwest)

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

 

Preparation

Combine white mushrooms, chopped onion, tomato paste, olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes in a medium bowl. Microwave 2 1/2 minutes, stir, then cook for another 2 1/2 minutes. Drain.

Slow Cooker Pork and Polenta1

– Place drained cooked vegetables, dried portobella mushrooms and instant tapioca in slow cooker and stir until combined.

– Slice pork shoulder into 2 inch cubes. Lightly salt and pepper. Nestle pork into vegetable mixture in slow cooker.

– Set slow cooker on high for 5 hours (or low for 7 hours).

– When 5 hours (or 7) have expired, slice polenta into 1/4 inch rounds and shingle over top of pork filling. Top with Parmesan cheese.

– Set slow cooker on high for an additional 30 minutes, letting the cheese melt and polenta warm through. Serve.

 

I think it is nearly impossible to take a good picture of a crock pot dish…. Please note – I did not use all the polenta called for in the recipe and regretted it. Use it all, and shingle (overlap) more than I did here:

Pork and Polenta4