Posts tagged crockpot

Black out dinner

Ah, it was dinner by candlelight on Tuesday night. Now before you go thinking this was some romantic meal that I planned for Mr. Squid, truth be told I have a wind-drenched snowstorm to thank for our hours by candelight. That’s right, our power was knocked out for most of the afternoon and into the evening.

The occasional power outage doesn’t bother me. I’ve got my forehead camping light stashed in my nightstand and enough candles to keep things cozy when I need to use ‘em for light. And it just so happens that I’d already put dinner in the slow cooker earlier in the day so our meal kept warm even though the power went out a few hours before dinnertime.

Our dinner? One of my favorites because it’s simple, healthy and easy enough to make with limited visibility. I add four frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts to the slow cooker along with two jars of pasta sauce (per Cooks Illustrated picks, I’ve been using Classico lately). That’s it. Let it cook on low for five to six hours and then make a pot of pasta to serve with it. Luckily, we have a gas range so I was able to light the burners no problem and even made some garlic bread for dipping.

You’ll notice the strange blue glow in the picture above. That’s not my camera flash, but the light from my forehead flashlight.

Your turn–has anyone else been without power lately?

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Flavor boosters hiding in your pantry

Okay is anyone else out there suffering from a bit of the wintertime blahs? I know, I know just a few months ago I couldn’t wait to get in the kitchen and crank up the oven to 425 degrees to make calzones. But now that I’ve exhausted most of my favorite snowy day food recipes, it’s time to get creative. Time for some recipe makeovers!

Now, these aren’t complete makeovers, mind you. Instead I want to give you a few ideas about how to tweak the recipes that you already have to give them just a little more flavor. And most of these ingredients are just waiting in your pantry, stuck behind a bag of flour or hiding behind the canned tomatoes.

Vinegar

Give your veggies a boost by adding a few splashes of vinegar on them just before serving. One of my favorite pairings is green beans and a little bit of apple cider vinegar. But other dishes can benefit from just a hint of sourness.  Spaghetti sauce? How about a drizzling in a little Balsamic vinegar. Rice? What about a hint of regular white distilled vinegar.

Onion powder

Even if I add chopped fresh onions to a dish, I’ll usually sprinkle in some onion powder too. I’ve noticed that when I use my crockpot, which is frequently, the slow cooking makes for tender meats, but sometimes also flavorless ones– unless I use plenty of powdered spices. Along with onion powder, I also sprinkle meats with garlic powder (but not garlic salt) and sometimes chicken broth powder.

Worcestershire sauce

Yeah, I can’t pronounce it right either, but I like the deep flavor that Worcestershire sauce can give to gravies. But I don’t stop there. I’ve noticed that adding a few drops in creamier dishes like stroganoff adds a zing and richness. My secret ingredient in mac ‘n cheese? A few drops of Worcestershire.

HEAT

Break out the cayenne pepper! If you’re a regular reader you know I like a bit of heat in my meals. Any creamy sauce at my house–from alfredo to hollandaise–gets a dash of cayenne pepper or a few red pepper flakes. My theory? The tickle that chile gives your food makes it more interesting to your taste buds.

What about if you don’t have any of these flavor boosters in your pantry? Not to worry. All of these ingredients are inexpensive and easy to find at the grocery store. And with a couple of exceptions, I buy the store brand. With the Balsamic vinegar and the Worcestershire sauce, I splurge for the good stuff (there is no substitute for Lea & Perrins).

Looking for more ideas on what to stock in your pantry? Check out these pantry must-haves. I’ve been looking through the site as part of the Motherboard team. Once a week, I’ll be posting about the exciting things not to miss on the their site, and their affiliates.

Now it’s your turn. What kind of flavor boosters do you use in your meals?

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