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Aaah.  This might just be my favorite time of the week.  As I start this, it is 5:30 on Saturday morning.  The house is dark and it’s just me and the kitty.  I have my first cup of coffee (the first one always tastes the best!) and am wrapped in a cozy blanket at my computer.

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I am a shameless morning person.  Except for a few years throughout high school and college, I always have been.  I know it makes me seem kind of lame, but I find I feel so much better when I sleep from 9pm to 5am. 

I’ve been so tired in the evenings that this has not been a problem, and this quiet period in the morning is when I feel my brightest.  I’ve often thought that I wake up with all my day’s stores of energy at my disposal and it slowly depletes throughout the day until I fall asleep totally involuntarily each night. 

My professional life has been quite busy lately.  It’s been rewarding and challenging, but I haven’t had a whole bunch of leftover energy in the evenings.  And instead of Project Cooking, the weekends have been devoted to catching up on things from the week, chores, seeing friends, catching up with my husband and exercise.  Because of this my cooking has made quite a shift this past couple weeks.  What am I eating you ask?

Slow cooked meats.

And plenty of ‘em. 

I will warn you, though the food was delicious, there are very few beautiful food photos in this post…

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I’ve been experimenting with different meats in the slow cooker and challenging myself to do creative (and easy!) things with the leftovers. 

This has also been helpful because when I did my end of January budget wrap up I noticed that our grocery budget had gotten a bit out of control.  I’m sure I was more surprised than any of you are reading this.  Slow cooked meats can be a quite inexpensive protein option. 

I am a pretty firm believer that you don’t need a fancy slow cooker to get the job done.  Eric and I bought this one a few years back, which I like because it has three different sized crock inserts.  Of course we broke the middle sized one by dropping it the day we purchased it, so ours only has two different sizes. 

We also have an adorable mini one that we got for Christmas that I am going to break out for dips and the like, but is currently sitting in the “fun gifts for when we move out of our little apartment” pile.  Sigh. 

Let’s get started.  For the record, this has taken place over several weeks, we haven’t just been plowing through quart after quart of slow cooked meats…

Slow Cooked Ribs

Eric had persuaded me to pick up a few pounds of baby back ribs while we were at the butcher counter.  We don’t have a grill so I didn’t know quite what to do with them and got to googling. 

I used this recipe for Slow Cooker Barbeque Ribs. 

Ingredients
  • 4 pounds pork baby back ribs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 1 cup chili sauce
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 dash hot sauce
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  2. Season ribs with salt and pepper. Place in a shallow baking pan. Brown in oven 15 minutes. Turn over, and brown another 15 minutes; drain fat.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together the ketchup, chili sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, oregano, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and salt and pepper. Place ribs in slow cooker. Pour sauce over ribs, and turn to coat.
  4. Cover, and cook on Low 6 to 8 hours, or until ribs are tender.

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I didn’t know whether they meant hot or sweet chili sauce, so I used some of each.  I got my sweet chili sauce at Shopper’s Corner but I know they also have it at Trader Joe’s and I’m sure Safeway would have an option.  I also was short on ketchup so used about a half cup of barbeque sauce as well.

I cooked mine closer to ten hours, because of work and commuting, and they burnt a bit. 

For the first unphotogenic meal of the day:  Tada!

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Still good though!  These were sweet and spicy and the meat fell right off the bone.  They didn’t have that smoky barbeque flavor, but they were still a hit at my house. 

Or so Anna and Eric told me as they stood at the counter eating them cold out of the refrigerator…

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Gochujang Pulled Pork

Next up, I was on a mission to use up some of the specialty condiments clogging up my refrigerator door.  Remember when I made Sweet and Spicy Gochujang Short Ribs in my slow cooker? 

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Those were totally good by the way. 

Well I had about half a bottle of leftover gochujang sauce in my fridge.  Now keep in mind that gochujang sauce is different from straight up gochujang and you definitely want the sauce for this!

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Use it or lose it, baby.

A friend of mine always says, about having expensive party supplies: “Using these things is the justification for having them”.  That’s how I feel about specialty condiments, salts and spices. 

All I knew is that I wanted this to be easy. 

I started with Closet Cooking, since it was Kevin who introduced me to gochujang in the first place.  Turns out he had a three ingredient recipe for Korean Pulled Pork Sandwiches (though I skipped the sesame ginger slaw out of sheer laziness)! 

Pretty much you take a few pounds of pork butt or pork shoulder (pretty much the same thing, just different parts of the shoulder.  No actual butt is involved),  salt and pepper it, brown it on the stove top and dump it in the slow cooker with a whole bunch of gochujang sauce.  I didn’t have quite enough sauce, so I cooked the pork plain for a few hours before adding the sauce so it wouldn’t all burn up.   Click the link above for the actual recipe. 

Unphotogenic photo number two:

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Once I discarded some of the fat I was left with this. 

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Which was topped with sauce, cooked a few more hours and became this:005

This was so good! 

This was definitely Eric’s favorite slow cooked meat of the experiment.  The gochujang made it spicy, richly flavored and sweet.  It burnt a little too, but the crispy bits were delicious. 

The first night we had this on buns.  Lightly buttered in a pan makes all the difference!  Less than a teaspoon for two buns added so much flavor.

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We topped these with cilantro and green onions.

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Yum!

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This meat got better and better each day and lived on in it’s leftovers. 

The next night we had open faced gochujang pork quesadillas with cheese, green onions and cilantro.  These were so good! 

Like SO GOOD.

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Eric also ate it in un-pictured sandwiches on buns with melted cheese and onions for lunches that week. 

A full week after making it, it became our superbowl food in the form of tacos with pepper jack, cilantro and onions.  On paper plates. 

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Again, SO GOOD.

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This is what the cat did while we ate and watched the game.   Weird kitty, weird.  

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Shredded Chicken

Our final slow cooked meat of the experiment was shredded chicken.  I had read that you pretty much dump chicken breast in the slow cooker with a couple of things and it turned into shredded chicken.  Since we were already on a taco kick, I figured I’d give it a shot.

 I followed this recipe because it looked so easy!

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And it was. 

Dump raw boneless skinless chicken breasts, taco seasoning, salsa and chicken broth (I used chicken base and water) into your slow cooker.

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Cook on low for 8 hours.

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Shred and eat.

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It worked!  I just stuck a fork in it, spun 10-12 times and it became shredded chicken before my very eyes!  I would make a couple changes to the recipe.  It was a little wet.  Next time, I would probably omit the water but keep the chicken base for flavor. 

The chicken was also a tiny bit dry because it was all white meat.  I don’t mind this, in fact I like it, but I figured I should mention it for all you moist meat enthusiasts out there. 

The first night, this was served in taco form with pepper jack, avocado, cilantro and onions.

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Flour for Eric, corn for me, per usual.

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A couple days later, this made a reappearance as more of a fajita style taco with a big pan of sautéed onions and peppers.  One of my very favorite combinations.  This took about twenty minutes. 

Before:

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After:

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With a little cheddar and cilantro.

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Yum!  My favorite preparation of this. 

Finally, last night as Eric and I lazily watched Alien I was one second away from ordering pizza. 

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I had a surge of budgetary motivation and gathered all the weeks leftovers. 

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Leftover chicken, cilantro, green onions, Romano cheese, frozen corn and a cup of wild rice cooked in chicken broth.

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Mixed together in bowl.

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Topped with bread crumbs, Romano and olive oil and baked into a casserole. 

That I wish I had gotten a photo before cutting because it looked way better than this.  Again, paper plate.  Sorry.  012

Yeah baby.  Tasty, free Friday night meal success with an almost empty fridge!

So thanks for coming with me on this little sojourn into the world of slow cooked meats.  I truly believe they are the ultimate money saving, time efficient, satisfying winter method for the tired and lazy chef.

What are some of your favorite slow cooked minimal prep recipes?