Your slow cooker allows you time to enjoy nature

Pair a one-pot dish with a crisp, organic salad, and you will have lots of time to be outside, basking in the spring sunshine.

 by Joanne Henning Tedesco — 

We are now entering that short period of time in Arizona when the seasons are changing and we get to enjoy the warm — not hot — weather. It is a perfect opportunity to spend time outdoors and experience our magnificent desert, without the risk of getting overheated. This is where your trusty slow cooker can come to the rescue. Pair a one-pot dish with a crisp, organic salad, and you will have lots of time to be outside, basking in the spring sunshine.

Start by going to your favorite farmers’ market, where you can always find an abundance of marvelously fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, as well as those specialty food items you may have never seen before. Ask the vendors for ideas on how best to prepare their tasty treasures. We are so fortunate to have such wonderful farmers’ markets in Arizona. Let us all do our best to support them.

 

Black Bean Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 30 ounces black beans, canned, rinsed and drained
  • 6 green bell peppers, seeded and cored
  • 1 cup reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese, grated
  • 1 cup tomato salsa
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup fat-free sour cream

Preparation:

In a medium skillet, sauté the onion until golden. Season with cayenne pepper, oregano, cumin and chili powder. In a medium-size mixing bowl, mash half of the black beans with sautéed onions. Mix in the remaining beans. Place the bell peppers in the slow cooker and spoon the black bean mixture into the bell peppers. Sprinkle each pepper with cheese. Pour the salsa over the cheese. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours. Serve each pepper with a dollop of sour cream. Yield: 6 servings.

 

Chili Meatloaf

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds ground turkey or beef
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2/3 cup Italian-style seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chili sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Salsa (for topping)

Preparation:

In large bowl, mix all ingredients, except salsa. Shape into a round loaf and place in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for about 5 to 6 hours, or until juices run clear. Remove from slow cooker and top with salsa, if desired. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

 

Meatballs with Cranberry Glaze

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 8-ounce can jellied cranberry sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2/3 cup chili sauce or steak sauce

Preparation:

Combine ground beef, onion, thyme, egg, breadcrumbs, salt and pepper, and mix well. Roll into one-inch balls and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 350° F. degrees for 30 minutes, or until browned. Place meatballs in slow cooker. Mix together cranberry sauce, brown sugar, vinegar and chili or steak sauce. Mix well and pour over meatballs in slow cooker. Stir to coat meatballs. Simmer for an hour or so before serving.

 

Spicy, Sweet Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into rings
  • 1 16-ounce jar picante sauce
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard

Preparation:

Place chicken breasts in a slow cooker. Top with bell pepper. Combine picante sauce, sugar and mustard. Spoon over chicken. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours. Yield: 4 servings.

 

Raisin Cinnamon Bread Pudding

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray, vegetable or olive oil
  • 10 slices Raisin Cinnamon Swirl bread, cut into pieces
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs, beaten

Preparation:

Spray inside of 5-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Place bread cubes in the slow cooker. Mix milk, water, vanilla and eggs, and pour over bread cubes. Spoon-stir the bread with the milk mixture to coat all. Cover and cook on low 2.5 to 3 hours. Serve warm with ice cream or cold with whipped cream.

 

Sources: www.gourmet.com, www.bonappetit.com and Joanne’s recipe box.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 31, Number 2, April/May 2012.

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