Spicy Chicken, Tomato, and Rice in the Slow Cooker

It’s been a long time (like, four years) since I published a recipe post. I used to publish them a lot, testing out new recipes and variations on old recipes and scarfing down the failures and successes alike, until I noticed a correlation between recipe blogging and the upward progression of the numbers on my bathroom scale, especially once we moved to the suburbs and my incidental physical activity decreased dramatically. So, I cooled my jets on food-related posts for a while.

Then when I was in Utah recently (yes, I’m mentioning Utah again, but it’s just a passing mention this time), I stumbled upon a simple skillet-to-oven way to cook chicken. When I got home, I modified it for the slow cooker and decided to share the results with the Internet. Read More

Too Much Pork for Just One Fork*

To maintain balance in the universe since I posted a tofu-and-bok-choy recipe last, I’m posting a recipe for a big old hunk-o-meat this time.

It probably seems odd to eat vegan sour cream with pork. It makes a little more sense when you consider that it’s the “can’t eat dairy” reason rather than the “don’t eat animal products” reason that keeps me from the real stuff.

This is the third time we’ve made this recipe, but the first time I’ve tried it with the cilantro sour cream. Man, that cilantro sour cream is good. We use whatever pork roast we get from our local meat CSA (through Christiansen Farm). This time it was a fresh ham roast (as you recall from my previous fresh ham post, a fresh ham is uncured and so tastes just like pork rather than like ham as we usually think of it).

We serve this with rice and/or gluten-free corn muffins to sop up the super-yummy sauce. Also, I use fewer jalapeños and less chipotles in adobo than the recipe calls for, to make this more palatable to the kiddos. If you aren’t cooking for kiddos (or if your kids are big on spicy food), use the full amounts.

Slow-Cooker Pork Pot Roast with Sweet Potatoes, Orange, and Cilantro

Reprinted from The Best Slow & Easy Recipes from Cook’s Illustrated (America’s Test Kitchen, 2008) www.cooksillustrated.com


3 T vegetable oil

2 medium onions, minced

3 jalapeño chiles, seeds and ribs removed, chiles minced (I use 2 chiles with seeds and ribs removed. For more heat, use all three and leave in the seeds and ribs)

6 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed (about 2 T)

1 T ground cumin

1 T tomato paste

1 t dried oregano


1 c low-sodium chicken broth

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 c orange juice

2 T soy sauce

2 T Minute tapioca (I use tapioca starch)

1 strip zest from 1 orange

2 t minced chipotle in adobo sauce (I use 1 t)

2 (2.5- to 3-pound) boneless pork picnic shoulder roasts, trimmed and tied (I don’t trim or tie, and I use whatever pork roast we get from the CSA. They’re usually 2-3 pounds, and I only use one)

Ground black pepper

1.5 pounds sweet potatoes (about 2 medium), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

6 T minced fresh cilantro leaves (I only use the 2 T called for in the cilantro sour cream. I don’t add cilantro to the rest of the sauce.)

1 c sour cream (Tofutti vegan sour cream if you’re like me and can’t handle dairy)

1 T juice from 1 lime

1. Heat 2 T of the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onions, jalapenos, garlic, cumin, tomato paste, oregano, and 1/4 t salt and cook, stirring often, until the onions are softened and lightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the chicken broth, scraping up any browned bits.

2. Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker and stir in the tomatoes, orange juice, soy sauce, tapioca, orange zest, and chipotle until evenly combined. Season the pork with salt and pepper and nestle it in the slow cooker (I don’t bother seasoning it).

3. Toss the sweet potatoes with the remaining 1 T oil and season with salt and pepper. Following the illustrations on page 206 (please buy the book to see this illustration. In fact, this is a great book to have on-hand anyway. I really love the recipes in it. Most are very easy to modify to be GF/CF, too), wrap the sweet potatoes in a foil packet. Set the vegetable packet on top of the pork in the slow cooker. Cover and cook, either on low or high, until the pork is tender, 9 to 11 hours on low or 5 to 7 hours on high.

4. (I don’t do any of this step except opening the sweet potato packet, stirring the potatoes in with the pork, then adding a touch of salt and pepper. I should probably scoop off the fat like they say, but I don’t.) Transfer the sweet potato packet to a plate. Transfer the pork roasts to a cutting board, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 20 minutes. Let the cooking liquid settle for 5 minutes, then gently tilt the slow cooker and remove as much fat as possible from the surface using a large spoon. Carefully open the foil packet (watch for steam), then stir the sweet potatoes along with any accumulated juices into the stew. Stir in 1/4 cup of the cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Mix the sour cream, the remaining 2 T cilantro, and lime juice together in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Untie the roasts (if you’ve tied them) and slice them into 1/2-inch thick pieces. Arrange the pork and potatoes on a serving platter and pour 1 cup of the sauce over the top. Serve, passing the remaining sauce and cilantro sour cream separately. (Or do like I do and cut the pork into rough hunks, then put a hunk on your plate with some potatoes, cilantro sour cream, and lots of sauce (and the rice you cooked separately), letting the other adults eating serve themselves from the slow cooker. Then spill the sauce as you bring your plate to the table because you should have taken your husband’s advice and used a bowl if you were going to get that much sauce. Cut up some pork and potatoes for the kids and then chow down, soaking up the sauce with your corn muffins and then licking your fingers.)

*The title of this post is a reference to the album of the same name by Southern Culture on the Skids. I saw them in concert at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, North Carolina, where they threw chicken wings and banana pudding into the audience. Then, in the closest thing I’ve experienced to a celebrity sighting, I later saw the band at Henry’s Bistro (also in Carrboro and where I discovered gin-and-tonics).

Slow-Cooker Smothered Pork Chops

We’ve made Cook’s Illustrated’s non-slow cooker Smothered Pork Chops (especially the variation that includes collard greens) multiple times. But today, we were going to the Utah RV Show, so I wanted something that I could stick in the slow cooker so it would prepare itself in our absence. Luckily, there’s also a Slow-Cooker Smothered Pork Chops recipe in the Cook’s Illustrated The Best Slow & Easy Recipes. I whipped that up this morning while my husband was at music class with the kiddos and it cooked while we were  looking at RVs in Sandy, Utah. (More on the RV Show tomorrow.)

It turned out almost as good as the non-slow cooker version, just with a slightly thinner sauce. We loved it. The chops (which we bought locally from Christiansen Farm) were so tender, we could cut them with a fork. We served it with brown rice and Brussels sprouts. The sauce was super yummy on rice.

My son’s demanding my attention and my daughter’s begging to play a board game before bed, so without further ado…



Slow-Cooker Smothered Pork Chops

from Cook’s Illustrated The Best Slow & Easy Recipes cookbook


4 ounces (about 4 slices) bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

3 medium onions, halved and sliced thin

4 t light brown sugar

3 medium garlic cloves, minces or pressed

1 T minced fresh thyme leaves, or 1 t dry (I used dry)


3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1/4 c soy sauce

2 T Minute tapioca (I used tapioca flour, which as a GF-type cook, I always have on-hand)

2 bay leaves

6 bone-in blade-cut pork chops, about 3/4-inch thick (I used 4 pork chops. I have no idea what cut they were. They were probably about 3/4-inch thick, though.)

Ground black pepper

1 T cider vinegar (I used rice vinegar. That’s what we stock in our kitchen. We like its incredible mildness.)

1 T minced fresh parsley leaves (I didn’t use these. Garnish isn’t something that moves me.)

1. Cook the bacon in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving the fat in the skillet, and refrigerate until serving time. (I’m trying to move away from paper towels, but I didn’t know what else to use in this situation. So I used one. Just one.)

2. Pour off all but 2 T of the bacon fat left in the skilet and place over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onions, 1 t of the brown sugar, garlic, thyme, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to the skillet and cook, stirring often, until the onions are soft and caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of the chicken broth, scraping up any browned bits.

3 Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker and stir in the remaining 2 c broth, remaining T brown sugar, soy sauce, tapioca, and bay leaves until evenly combined. Season pork chops with salt and pepper and nestle them in the slow cooker. Cover and cook, either on low or high, until the meat is tender, 7 to 8 hours on low or 4 to 5 hours on high. (I started out on high, thinking we didn’t have enough time to finish it on low. After about two hours, I conversed with my husband about it and we agreed that we should switch it low for the remainder of the time. Turns out, we ate later than we expected and would have had plenty of time to cook it on just low. The two hours on high just gave this ex-vegetarian peace of mind that the meat was cooked through.)

4. Transfer the pork chops to a serving platter with a large spoon, tent with foil, and let rest for 20 minutes (I think we left it for about 5). Let the cooking liquid settle for 5 minutes, then gently tilt the slow cooker and remove as much fat as possible from the surface using a large spoon. Remove the bay leaves, stir in the vinegar, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Reheat the bacon in the microwave on high power until heated through and crisp, about 30 seconds. Pour 1 cup of the sauce over the chops, sprinkle with the crisp bacon and parsley, and serve, passing the remaining sauce separately.

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Barack Obama Bean Soup

Day 4 word count: 7263

What’s up with me and the late nights? Perhaps if I stopped procrastinating my writing so much, I’d finish up at a more reasonable hour. Ah, well. I take heart in something I just read in Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. In an interview with Olympic runner Toshihiko Seko (I didn’t know who he was, either), Murakami asked if Seko ever just felt like he’d rather sleep in than go for a run. “He stared at me and then, in a voice that made it abundantly clear how stupid he thought the question was, replied, ‘Of course. All the time!'”

If an Olympic runner, who is someone you’d think would be well suited to running, often doesn’t feel like running, then it seems it would be perfectly natural for me, regardless of how well suited I am to writing, to often have trouble getting myself to actually write. This is, after all, the reason I made NaNoWriMo my goal for this month. Did I think it would suddenly be easy once I jumped into it? Perhaps I hoped it would, but that’s a little different. 1,667 words a day is doable, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it easy.

Change of subject:

Tonight, we had one of our favorite slow-cooker meals, Barack Obama Chili. Except in our house, we have to call it “Barack Obama Bean Soup.” If we call it “chili,” my daughter won’t eat it, but if we call it “bean soup,” she loves it. Go figure.

I got the recipe from A Year of Slow Cooking, which also includes dozens of other super-yummy slow-cooker meals.

Today, I used fresh tomatoes from our garden, which we’ve been ripening in a cardboard box under the dining room table since we pulled the plants out around the time of our first snow about two weeks ago. I doubled the garlic and the chili powder, used ground beef (which I browned before adding), and was liberal (tee-hee!) with the other spices. And I forgot to add the beans until mid-afternoon when I added a can of black beans in addition to the can of kidneys the recipe calls for.

Here’s a picture of just the tomatoes:


A variety of chopped fresh tomatoes in the slow cooker.

I love taking photos of our tomatoes all cut up together because I love the combination of colors. We grew Pink Brandywines, Dr Wyche’s yellow/orange, Big Rainbow red/orange, Green Zebra, Cream Sausage, Cherokee Purple, a red cherry tomato I forget the name of right now, and we had a volunteer Mexico Midget red cherry tomato that self-seeded from last year. In the chili are all of these except the cherries and the Cherokee Purples.

And here’s a photo of everything together (except the beans) just before I fired up the slow cooker:


Everything but the beans.

And voila! The finished “bean soup” after a little more than 7 hours on low:

No matter your political affiliation, this is a very yummy and different chili. The author of A Year of Slow Cooking also has a recipe for John McCain’s Ribs in the slow-cooker. The only reason I’ve not tried this one is because I can’t get passed the name. I don’t think I can eat something called “John McCain’s Ribs” without feeling like a cannibal.

We ate it with a spinach salad with red onions and sweet glazed walnuts and balsamic vinaigrette. If you guessed I got this from Feeding the Whole Family, you must be a regular reader of my blog. (And I don’t know why the link to the Sweet Glazed Nuts recipe isn’t working.)


Spinach salad with sweet glazed nuts and balsamic vinaigrette.