101 in 1001 #52: Master 5 crockpot recipes.

Dirty little secret: I've always been apprehensive about my crockpot. 

I know that's lame, but given my culinary talents are limited to pretty much scrambled eggs and of course baking, the crockpot always seemed absurdly intimidating to me. The thought of just leaving something to sit for hours and ending up with something edible seemed nearly impossible to me...I'm such a micromanager that the "set it and forget it" thing really drove me crazy. Over the course of the last year, though, I've made a focused effort to cook a lot more...including taking on the crockpot! Without further ado: 

1/10/16: 21-Day Fix Friendly Stuffed Peppers

I started off ambitiously with an actual recipe rather than just throwing everything in, trying out these stuffed peppers. I've always loved peppers, but had never had them stuffed before, so I had high hopes. I updated the stuffing a bit by leaving out the rice to make these low-carb, and used diced cherry tomatoes and onions instead of green-chile stewed tomatoes. 

Frivolous aside, I thought the peppers were so cute. I set them and left them for just under six hours on low, and my apartment smelled awesome all afternoon. They came out almost too mushy though, and I think the filling could probably have used a little seasoning or something to add more flavor...the turkey was a bit bland. 

Would I make again? Yes, probably, but I'd add more zip somehow and cook for a shorter amount of time. 

1/17/16 (and repeatedly every couple weeks thereafter!): Salsa Shredded Chicken

Oh my god this was legitimately the easiest and most delicious win ever. Take five chicken breasts, dump a big jar of Pace Restaurant-Style Salsa (I used Medium) over it, and leave it on high for four hours. It took two seconds to prepare all of it, and about two minutes to shred it right in the crockpot after the chicken was done. 

I adapted the recipe and left the chicken in the crockpot on "Keep Warm" for four hours after the shredding to enable more of the salsa juice to soak in. The result was absolutely perfect...I made chicken tacos with a little shredded cheese, avocado and Tabasco Chipotle sauce for lunch every day for a week and loved having an insanely good lunch to look forward to. Since it makes such an absurdly large amount of meat, I also hosted a few girls' nights with a taco bar and all the fixings...including margaritas! Bonus? It's incredibly healthy as well! 

Would I make again? Already have. Love it! 

2/2/16: Italian Chicken and Quinoa Soup

I took a little time off from the crockpot because I had so many leftovers from my first forays, but dove back in during the Great Groundhog Day Blizzard because what's better than cozying up with soup in a blizzard? This recipe was not quite as easy as the salsa chicken (duh), but still took me under twenty minutes from start to finish to prepare...and most of that was chopping veggies. 

I went a bit nuts on the seasoning...a ton of dried basil, oregano, Italian seasoning, and like twice the red pepper flakes the recipe called for. It cooked for just under four hours on high while I drank tea, worked, and watched the snow fall. Finished product? 

Smelled amazing, tasted amazing. I let it sit for about ten minutes to cool down a bit before digging in, shredding the chicken, and getting a bowl dished for myself for dinner. I topped it with a little Parmesan and had to stop myself from sneaking seconds while I divided it into five more Tupperwares for lunches. So good. 

Would I make again? Already have, and have added even more seasoning the last couple times because it's just that delicious when it's super flavorful. 

8/5/16: Raspberry Balsamic Meatballs

I made these for a party at Claire and Rabes's place, and have repeated them a couple times when I know they're likely to be eaten. Again, they're crazy-easy and impressive (a general theme with the crockpot, it seems). Using frozen meatballs was an added bonus - although if I were really going to try, I'd probably make my own. HA. It's the crockpot. Let's be real - I'll never make my own. 

Bonus: any meatball recipe I've tried has been incredibly easy to double (or triple, in some cases). This one is best eaten in one sitting though - the pectin in the raspberry jam separates out and gets kind of icky after the fact. 

Would I make again? I have! And several other meatball variations. Excellent party appetizer! 

8/31/16: Spinach Artichoke Dip

Who doesn't love spinach artichoke dip? I made an absolutely obscenely giant batch in the crockpot for a gathering of friends to plan our theater season, and ended up with leftovers for MONTHS (I just thawed and served the last batch a couple weeks ago!). That said, probably not my favorite recipe I've ever used - a little bland, if you ask me. Greg and Laura's mom, our Labor Day host, has a way better version I'll be stealing as soon as possible. 

Would I make again? Probably not. That said, it was good - it's hard to mess up spinach artichoke dip! 

BOOM. Challenge accepted. Coming up as the weather turns colder: more soups and stews (I'm thinking French onion!), breakfast casseroles/frittatas/oatmeals, and maybe some more meat dishes! 

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