Slow Your Roll Recipe FAIL: Coconut Ginger Chicken and Veggies

If you read my adventures in slow cooking crazy, you’ll know I’m on a serious slow cooker roll. I thought I’d share my recipes so you can slow your roll too!

This recipe comes from Aimee at Simple Bites. It’s one of the more complicated slow cooker recipes I used, but the comments on the blog were so positive, I thought it was probably worth it. I modified it to work with my freezer bag system, but otherwise I didn’t change a thing. However, what came out was kind of bland. It was still edible, but I wasn’t psyched to eat it–which is a shame because it smelled AMAZING. There are a few things I may have done wrong here: I couldn’t find fresh ginger, so I used dried ginger, and my curry wasn’t of the best quality. (I also skipped the cornstarch since I’m corn-free, so my sauce was a little thin but I was expecting that and leaving out cornstarch doesn’t affect flavor). I’m also starting to wonder if freezing my recipes dilutes the flavors. I may add extra herbs and try this one again since it smelled and looked so delicious.

Any suggestions on how to up the flavor factor in this recipe?

The good news is that this recipe makes a LOT of food, so it’s a lot of bang for your buck.   Husband and I each ate 2 servings as is. Then I chopped up the rest (2 additional servings) and turned it into curried fried rice with plenty of Sriracha chili sauce and gf soy sauce for some flavor and kick. That took care of both of us for dinner and I had enough left over for a big lunch the next day.

 

 

 

Slow Cooker Coconut Ginger Chicken and Veggies

  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 inch cube of ginger, roughly chopped
  • 1 small sweet onion, peeled, quartered
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breasts), cut into four
  • 2 cans coconut milk, not shaken
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup peas or frozen vegetables of your choice

For the spice blend

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground tumeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt

IN THE BAG: Combine ingredients from the spice blend together and set aside. In a mini food processor, combine garlic, ginger and onion and pulse until it forms a paste. In a deep sauté pan or Dutch oven, heat olive oil and melt butter. Add pureed aromatics and stir well. Cook for a few minutes, then add spice blend. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Move aromatics to one side of the pan and add chicken pieces to the pan. Cook chicken slightly on all sides, using a sturdy wooden spoon to move it around the pan. It should get thoroughly coated with the spice mixture. Open the cans of coconut milk and remove the cream from the top using a soup spoon. You should have about 1 cup. Pour the coconut milk over the chicken and with both cans, it should just barely cover the chicken. Let cool and then store in freezer bag. In a smaller bag within the larger bag, store coconut cream whisked thoroughly.

TO COOK: Cook on low for 4 hours. Add coconut cream and stir well. Add frozen peas or other vegetables of your choice. Cook for another half an hour or until you deem the chicken cooked and the vegetables hot.

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Slow Your Roll Recipe: Chicken Caesar Sandwiches (or Salads!)

If you read my adventures in slow cooking crazy, you’ll know I’m on a serious slow cooker roll. I thought I’d share my recipes so you can slow your roll too!

This recipe is awesome for football nights–it makes awesome sandwiches that can be eaten on the couch in front of the game. I got this recipe from the lovely Kristy at Sweet Treats & More, who adapted it from Betty Crocker. It’s totally delish and really different than most slow cooker meals–Kristy knows what she’s doing, y’all! It was so good that I forgot to take a picture of it. I think I inhaled it rather than actually chewing…whoops! Anyway, this picture comes from Sweet Treats & More. I’ll post an update with my photo next time I make this. We had plenty of leftovers and the recipe listed below made us 5 gluten-free sandwiches (the Udi’s bread I use is on the smaller side) and 2 salads topped with chicken. That’s a ton of bang for your buck!

Slow Cooker Chicken Caesar Sandwiches

  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 bottle of your favorite Caesar Dressing (I used Brianna’s Asiago Caesar)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
  • Buns or bread

IN THE BAG: Chicken. In a smaller bag within larger bag include parsley, cheese, salt, and pepper.

TO COOK: Place chicken in a slow cooker, cover and cook on low heat for 6-7 hours. Remove chicken from cooker using a slotted spoon.  Place on a cutting board and pull chicken into shreds. Place chicken back in the cooker and pour dressing, Parmesan cheese, parsley, and pepper over the top.  Stir until mixed evenly. Cover and cook on high heat for 30-35 minutes or until mixture is hot. Serve on top of salad or as sandwich filling with potato chips and a side salad.

Slow Your Roll Recipe: Henri’s French Chicken

If you read my adventures in slow cooking crazy, you’ll know I’m on a serious slow cooker roll. I thought I’d share my recipes so you can slow your roll too!

This first recipe has been a standby of mine since college when my friend’s mom, Henri, made this on a visit to her house. It didn’t start out as a slow cooker recipe, but it converted nicely!

 

Henri’s French Chicken

  • Chicken breasts
  • 1 cup Queso Fresco, shredded (If you don’t live in an area that stocks Mexican cheese, you can sub in any soft white cheese. I like to use Boursin)
  • 1 cup White Wine
  • 1 cup Chicken broth
  • Pearl onions
  • Baby Carrots, halved
  • Red Potatoes, quartered
  • Garlic
  • Italian Parsley to taste, chopped
  • Rosemary to taste, chopped

IN THE BAG: Combine all ingredients.

TO COOK: Cook on low 8 hours. Serve with side salad.

Slow Cooking Crazy

So the past few months have been a little busy (understatement of the year). Between almost non-stop travel for friends’ wedding weekends, a full summer social calendar, and plenty of late nights at the office, my husband and I haven’t been the best at making sure we eat healthy dinners.

I finally hit my limit last week and decided that something had to change. So I came up with a plan to prep a bunch of slow cooker meals, freeze them, and then have them ready to cook all day while I was at work. I figured that a few days worth of prep would pay off big time over the next few months when I would only need to make a side salad or stir fry some veggies each night to go with the pre-prepared main courses. Here’s what I did:

Step 1: Take stock and organize

I spent one of my rare weekend afternoons at home going through my pantry, fridge, and freezer and cataloging every item in each of them. This is my “in stock” list. Then I threw out anything past it’s expiration date and scrubbed all my shelves and bins before organizing what we had. Once I had clean, organized, and cataloged my fridge, freezer, and pantry, I was ready for step 2.

Step 2: Bind it up

I gathered a pretty binder, dividers, and a few pockets for loose stuff to create a meal planning binder. I made a section for my in-stock list, shopping lists, recipes, coupons, and a calendar. Then I printed off all of my go-to slow cooker recipes plus a bunch I’d pinned on my “Slow Your Roll” board. I also printed some pretty blank calendars for the next few months with plenty of writing space for step 3.

Step 3: Write it out

I started with blank calendars and filled in standing meals out (like dinner every Sunday with my parents and date night with my husband every Friday), parties and dinner parties on our social calendar, travel dates, and holidays (thanksgiving, for example, means leftovers for a few days). I was left with about 4 nights a week of dinners I needed to fill in. Then I went through my collected recipes and looked for several that had some overlap in ingredients (carrots, onions, peppers, ect…). I planned to make a double batch of each recipe, so I went through my calendar and filled in my slow cooker meals until I had several months all filled in. (I made sure to make some nights as leftover nights too!) With my calendar filled in and my recipes selected, I made a grocery list of everything I’d need to make double batches of each recipe. Then I cross referenced my shopping list with my “in stock” list to ensure I didn’t buy stuff that I already had on hand. I pulled out any coupons I had for items on the list and was ready for step 4.

Step 4: Shop ’til you drop

I got my husband to help for this part, since I was shopping big. First stop was Costco for big packs of meat, bags of veggies, and plenty of gallon-sized Ziplock freezer bags. Next up, I went to Kroger and Whole Foods for smaller amounts of stuff that I needed and gluten-free specific items. I was making 48 individual meals, which meant a lot of food. But when I did the math, each meal clocked in at $12, or $3 a serving–not too shabby for me! I’m not the best about budgeting 🙂

Step 5: Prep and freeze

After I hauled all the groceries in from the car, it was time to cook. I started by writing out important steps for each recipe on the ziplock bags–like if I needed to add any ingredients before cooking or what to serve with the dish. Then I chopped, diced, sliced, and generally spent 3 evenings cooking like my life depended on it. Although, I guess it would be more accurate to say prepping like my life depended on it. There was actually very little cooking involved–just mixing sauces, and making sure all the ingredients for each meal were prepped and put not the correct bags.

It took a while, but now that I’m done, I have enough meals frozen to last me through Christmas. I’m not going to lie–there were a few challenges to this plan that I hadn’t anticipated. My freezer is now so full that it pops open if you close the fridge too hard and it can be difficult to remember where I put each meal to retrieve it for defrosting and cooking. I’m also pretty sure that my husband thinks I’m crazy–I asked him a question when he was drifting off to sleep and his answer was “What’s wrong with you? The freezer is full. No more food.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement. I asked him about it the next morning and he said seeing all tHat food on the counter, my hours of prep, and the packed freezer was like watching a slow train wreck and has referred to it as my slow-burn crazy ever since. But even he admits it’s a good idea. It just seemed like I had jumped off the deep end until I explained it to him.

I’m still not sure how this will all work or if we’ll even like all of the meals, but I love the idea and I’ve got all my fingers crossed that this is a system that could really help me out. I love the idea of a little planning and prep meaning much less work for months at a time. So if it works, I think I may be adding a deep freeze to my Christmas list. One would look awfully nice in our basement. Anyone else tried this system? Or have another system that they use? Or just a deep freeze that they can recommend? I can’t be the only one with slow burn crazy going on when it comes to my slow cooker, can I?

Mom’s Planning Kiddie Birthday Parties Rejoice!

Chuck E. Cheese is testing gluten-free products! The littlest gluten-freebie fans of the animatronic mouse may soon be able to have their birthday parties at the beloved restaurant chain while enjoying gf pizza and chocolate cake. If I were a gluten-free kid I’d be psyched.

Now, I’m not claiming that Chuck E. Cheese could ever be considered healthy, but I do think this is a gf win! I loved birthday parties there as a kid. Sure they weren’t very creative, but there was pizza, cake, a robot show, games, and you could trade in tickets for plastic prizes that feel apart within a few hours. How is that not awesome to a kid?

Sometimes us gluten-freebies just want to feel normal. Most of the time I’m cool with my dietary restrictions, but every once in a while I would love to walk into a normal chain restaurant and just order something off of the menu without asking a gazillion questions and making a fuss–and I’m a grown woman who knows and understands why that will probably never be possible (although sometimes I like to daydream about a completely gluten-free world. Sigh.) I would imagine that it’s tough to be a gf kid who can never eat the food at birthday parties and gets labeled a “weirdo” for their gf eating habits. Now they can have a completely generic birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese (only in Minnesota for now) just like everyone else.

Gluten-Free Celebs: Good or Evil?

Kim Kardashian has joined the ranks of celebs who admitted to using a gluten-free diet to lose weight. Miley Cyrus, Zooey Deschanel, Scarlett Johansson, Billy Bob Thornton, Ryan Phillipe, Victoria Beckham, Selma Blair, and many others have all been linked to gluten-free diets for a variety of reasons. Some have celiac’s, wheat allergies, sensitivities, or just want to feel better or get slimmer (Obviously, a gluten-free diet won’t necessarily make you lose weight. There are plenty of gf foods with as much fat and sugar as any other junk food out there!). But the question is: how do you feel when a celebrity announces that they have gone gluten-free?

For me, if the celeb suffers from celiac or an allergy, I usually want to send them a gf-free cookie basket. But the ones who treat the gluten-free lifestyle as a fad diet really make me angry. That sort of flippant treatment of a diet that is the only cure for the disease I suffer from kind of makes me want to punch those celebs in the face. Cutting out all grains (including gf grains) will help you lose weight, but that doesn’t make you gluten-free. It means you are on a no-grain diet. You will not get sick if the waiter accidentally puts salad dressing containing wheat on your salad or if your salmon has a glaze made with soy sauce on it. You probably won’t even realize that you consumed gluten, so you certainly won’t complain to the restaurant or bother to correct that waiter’s assumption that the dish he served you was NOT, in fact, gluten-free. So chances are, he’ll recommend that same not-gf dish to someone with celiac’s and make them really sick. And, because of the followings these celebs have, they often inspire others to emulate them–ensuring that waiters and restaurants all over the country think things are gf that are not. See why this makes me angry?

I used to be delighted when a celeb announced that they followed a gluten-free diet. When Jenny McCarthy promoted the gf lifestyle back in 2006, I saw a whole new host of gf products show up in my grocery store. It was like Christmas for my taste buds. But, as time has gone on, it seems like celebrities aren’t inspiring more products–they’re just diluting the seriousness of an issue that affects so many people!

Am I crazy to feel this way? Are y’all pro gf celebs and anti me punching them?

GF Pizza Delivered?

I could get gf pizza delivered to my door in NYC and I’m sure gluten-freebies in big cities like Chicago and San Francisco may be able to do the same, but the rest of America was out of luck–until now! Domino’s announced today that they will be offering gluten-free pizza! it sounds almost too good to be true, right? Of course, only time will tell if they are able to separate their gluten-free utensils, ovens, and prep spaces from their gluten-filled ones to ensure no cross-contamination occurs. Are you willing to try Domino’s new gf pies?

Faux Pho

One of my biggest comfort foods from my NYC days was Pho, delicious Vietnamese soup loaded with beef and hot rice noodles. I’d pick up a carton of it from a deli and curl up at home on a cold night with a big, steaming bowl of it. I’m sure they serve it somewhere here in Nashville, but since I’ve been on Phase 1, I’ve been looking for delicious, filling fare with no rice or rice noodles (a staple of Pho!) so I decided to create my own. It’s not just like traditional Pho (you can learn more at PhoFever), but my Faux Pho certainly captures the essence of this comforting soup! It’s perfect on a rainy day, but is pretty darn good anytime. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

Pacific Organic Vegetarian Pho Soup Starter 

chopped radishes

chopped green onions

chopped celery

chopped basil

Mung Bean Sprouts (I used crunchy sprouts as the store was out of mung)

thinly sliced flank steak (or any cut you prefer of beef)

2 large spaghetti squash

Directions:

1.) Cut each spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and place each half insides down on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until insides are soft and scrape out easily. Scrape the squash’s insides (which will look like noodles) out into a bowl and set aside.

2.) In a large stockpot, lightly brown radishes, onion, and celery until they begin to soften.

3.) Add in the Pacific broth and bring to a boil.

4.) Add in sprouts, basil, and spaghetti squash “noodles.”

5.) After about two minutes, drop in thinly sliced bits of flank steak. Stir a few times and then serve piping hot!

How to Eat My Way Out of House and Home: An Answer

In reading Jen’s post, I realized this isn’t something the 3 of us gluttons have discussed, but it is a big deal! Eating gluten-free is expensive and it hurts to see gf food go into the trash because I didn’t plan properly. Back before Matt and I were see Dr. Woo Woo, I’d make a meal plan, but we’d get tired or lazy or have a bad day (or all three) and decide we needed to eat out instead of cooking whatever was on my menu. Then we’d have leftovers from eating out, which would take over another slot, and before I knew it I’d have way more groceries than we could consume just rotting in my fridge. I’ve become incredibly cognizant of this since both my husband and I are gluten, grain, dairy, and sugar free right now. Eating out is no longer so easy, so I’ve made it my mission to eat what we buy and not have so much wasted food!

So how am I doing it?

1.) Organization. This step is crucial! Once Dr. Woo Woo handed us down Phase 1 and 2 diets, I went home and cleaned out my fridge, pantry, and freezer.

  • Non-perishables that I knew would be back on the menu after we graduated to Phase 3 went on the reeaaallly high or bottom shelves in the pantry (aka not on eye level). The stuff I’m most tempted by went so high I’d need to get a ladder to get it down. Usually laziness will prevent me from getting the ladder out to climb up there!
  • Once the bad stuff was in a bag to donate, I organized so that everything was easy to find. I even have a spot for my husband right at his eye level with “Matt Snacks” in a bowl. These include homemade trail mix, rice crackers, cans of soup, and otherthings he can grab and eat without worrying if they are OK for his diet.
  • As for the fridge, I cleaned out all of the past-date condiments, and got rid of any leftover cheese, dips, milk, and other tempting goodies. Then I organized the doors and shelves by type–being sure to put easy snacks at eye level in the fridge. These include baggies of carrots and celery sticks with individual containers of hummus and guac, Tupperwares full of clean, sliced berries, sliced celeriac root for making baked fries, goat cheese and sliced nitrate-free deli meat, and sliced peppers.
  • The freezer got a deep clean as well and then things got sub-divided into bins. One holds meat, one has frozen veggies, one has gluten-free phase 2 frozen meals for Matt, and one has frozen fruit. There’s even plenty of room for me to make and store popsicles and homemade sauces. I always make sure to put the “need to use” first items (like meat that’s been in for a month or so) at the front so I use it up before it goes bad!

2.) Once I had a blank slate in terms of food storage, I made a meal plan for the week. This took a while since I was trying to make sure each meal coordinated with the others ingredients-wise. After all, why buy a piece of ginger for just one recipe? It will probably go bad before you get to use the rest. So I made sure that any herb or other ingredient on my list could be used in multiple meals or added to a salad. I also made sure to work in the scant ingredients left in my fridge after the “Great Fridge Clean of 2012.” I also documented breakfasts, lunches, and snacks for myself and my husband. Next, I shopped. I hit up Costco, Whole Foods, and Kroger to get all of my loot for the week.

My Meal Plan 

Breakfasts: Egg cups and smoothies (eggs, sliced turkey, peppers, onions, goat cheese, almond milk, frozen berries)

Lunches: Salads (baby spinach, celery, carrots, cucumbers, beets, radishes, red onion, strawberries, grilled chicken, veganaise chicken salad, veganaise tuna salad, avacados)

Snacks: Veggie sticks with hummus or guac (carrots, celery, peppers, individual hummus cups, 100 calorie packs of Wholly Guacamole), crackers with chicken or tuna salad, pears with almond butter

Dinners: 
Monday: rotisserie chicken with steamed broccoli 
Tuesday: Strawberry & Spinach Salad with scoop of tuna salad
Wednesday: Filet Mignon with asparagus and baked celeriac root fries
Thursday: sliced turkey rolls (goat cheese, sliced peppers, spinach), sliced veggie sticks, berries (This was our airport dinner)
Friday-Sunday: Out of Town
 
Desserts: Mixed sliced berries or smoothies (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, almond milk, vanilla protein powder, almond butter)

3.) Once I got all the food home, I cleaned it thoroughly and got chopping. I cut everything up based on how I would use it and stored it separately. I made big baggies with the mix of veggies I needed for each dinner recipe and then made smaller containers for chopped salad toppings (I kept them separate so I could vary ingredients per salad so I wouldn’t get too bored). I also made batches of egg cups for grab-and-go breakfasts, with leftover rotisserie chicken I chopped half, and made chicken salad with the rest. I made tuna salad too. Then I made sure it was organized in the fridge and everything was easy to find. I also walked my husband through where everything was and went over the meal plan with him so that we were both on the same page. (Matt says it looks like hippies have moved in. I couldn’t help but agree–but I’m OK with it!)

4.) I packed my lunch the night before (and sometimes Matt’s too) and included snacks. I also portioned out vitamins and made sure breakfast was easy to find and heat up. With everything prepped and easy to go, it made life so so much easier. I was able to grab lunch and breakfast easily and din’t end up skipping meals, which meant everything got eaten instead of thrown away. And prepping dinner ingredients ahead meant I had no excuse not to cook. It helped a lot.

The outcome: We threw away some pears and avocados (maybe the Costco size bags weren’t the best idea!) but we ate everything else and left to go out of town with a clean fridge. The only leftovers in there were eggs and milk that isn’t even close to expiring, goat cheese, and bottles of water. Success! I went to the grocery last night with a meal plan in mind, and even though I was exhausted from traveling, Matt and I got everything cleaned, cut up, and put away and packed lunches for today. So far, so good. We’re on track for another good week!

Obviously, everyone is different, but a few hours of shopping, cleaning, chopping and organizing on Sunday have been saving me time and money through the week. It was amazing what a difference it made. Anyone else have any good tips?

Can you date me…and my gluten-free lifestyle?

Last week I talked about how friendships can change when you go gluten-free, but dating is one of the toughest things to do gluten-free! Just picture it: you are out looking good at a bar or party when you meet someone charming. You flirt all evening, careful to put yourself in the best light, and then it happens–he asks you out. Yay! Now comes the hard part, you say “yes, but…” and with that but you invite him into the difficulty that is feeding you.

It can be embarrassing enough to explain your eating restrictions to family and friends, but it’s much harder to lay it all out for a guy you are seriously crushing on. After all, admitting to be gluten-free often gets an initial “wow, you must be a freak” reaction, which is not so fun. Of course, any guy worth dating won’t mind that your meals are a little high maintenance, but it can be an adjustment. I warned my now-husband about my restrictions mid-flirt and he asked me out anyway–he just made me pick the restaurants until he got a better idea of what I could and couldn’t eat. He also worked very hard to plan dates that didn’t just revolve around food–he took me to a comedy show, to watch the circus elephants parade into Manhattan, to a fun wine bar, on a walk across the Brooklyn bridge, and to Coney Island to ride the famed Cyclone. He also did his research and called ahead if he wanted to take me to a particular restaurant. (He’s a catch, I know!)

If you are a guy reading this and you are gluten-free, dating wont change too much for you since the onus is usually on the guy to plan the date! Just make sure to pick restaurants with food she likes that also has gluten-free options, call ahead to ask questions, and make reservations. Picking her up with a bouquet of roses is a good idea too!

For girls, it’s a little tougher, but here are my tips:
1. Be upfront with your date about what you can and can’t eat when he asks you out.
2. Have a list of gf restaurants of different price points saved in your smartphone. That way if he suggests a dinner spot that won’t work for you, you can suggest something similar that will.
3. If you know where you are going, call ahead and ask questions so you can know exactly what you want to order. It will save you time during the date that could be better used for flirting!
4. Skip the crowds and offer to cook your date a delicious gluten-free meal.
5. Suggest an afternoon or morning date that doesn’t involve food. You could meet for coffee and a hike, go to a museum or concert, play tennis or another sport, go to a movie, or pack a picnic!

And, this should go without saying, but any date that encourages you to stray from your diet, calls you a “hippy” or “freak” or makes light of your restrictions, especially if you have celiac, isn’t worth your time. Just tell him you hope he has fun cuddling with his bread 🙂