I made this for Christmas … but it would be great for any festive meal!
I have to tell you that I’m a crock-pot fanatic! My life is so busy, especially right now getting ready for the launch of my book, “Gluten-Free in 5 Days”, (catch it on Amazon February 4th and it’s FREE for 5 days so be sure to get yours!) that it’s so great to pop some stuff in a pot and have a great dinner six to eight hours later.
I’ve been using the same very old crock-pot for probably 30 years now. But I bought a totally updated one that cooks slowly but also keeps things warm just a few days ago so I have no worries if I’m delayed getting home … which I often am. I’m using it tomorrow and will share the results with you on my Facebook page, Me and Gluten-Free.
And I’m finally getting around to sharing my Christmas recipes with you. And one of them is … not surprisingly … for a crock-pot. When I cook now … because I’m so busy (and most likely so are you) … I love to simplify and make a fairly easy entrée like one in a crock-pot as well as what I call “it’s-a-snap sides” for all of my weeknight dinners. And add one spectacular dish like a dessert for a celebratory meal. It’s the absolutely best way I know to stay sane and happy about what might ultimately be a chore. And to have (cook) your cake (dinner) and eat it too!
For example, throw some stuff in the crock-pot, go about your day, pop some potatoes in the microwave or steam up some aromatic rice and veggies (you can do all these in the microwave too), and add some butter or other topping. Or open a bagged salad (or pick your fave stuff from the salad bar), then add some good dressing. The result … a terrific, effortless dinner in less than 30 minutes. It’s so easy … and the microwave is so safe these days … that your kids can probably help too.
So here are most of the things I served on Christmas … the crock-pot entrée allowed me to set-it-and-forget-it and have fun with my guests instead of worrying about the meal. I’ll share the showpiece … my FABULOUSLY HEALTHY (but terrifically tasty) cheesecake … from this dinner with you next week.
First, THE SIDES. As I said, I like to make really simple sides so I can lavish more attention upon the complicated dishes. I served plain baked sweet potatoes mashed with butter and sprinkled with a little cinnamon and nutmeg. I scrubbed their skins in water with a vegetable brush (you’ve gotta scrub if you want to eat the skin too), wrapped them in a paper towel, and cooked them in the microwave for three minutes on HIGH. Potatoes are done at all different times depending upon how thick they are, so continue to microwave them in 30-second increments until soft but not mushy. If you put in a few at a time, the cooking time will also be longer. So experiment to find the best cooking times for your potatoes as well as your microwave.
As a vegetable, I served those trusty traditional green beans. I washed, snapped off the ends, and halved fresh ones, then steamed them until crunchy-tender (8-10 minutes), pan-toasted up some sliced almonds, and tossed the beans with some more butter and the almonds. Easy-peasy!
Next, THE ENTRÉE. I love ribs, but if you’re like me you hate the fat that goes along with them. So I learned this trick from the chef-owner of a restaurant that I worked in years ago. Just boil up some water, add a can of beer (yes … I said BEER!), cut the rib racks into two or three-rib portions, and boil gently 10 to 15 minutes. The beer magically removes most of the fat. Then you can barbecue them as you normally do or try this recipe from an old crock-pot cookbook of mine:
SMOKY BARBECUE RIBS
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce (I use Gluten-Free)
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. soy sauce (Gluten-Free too)
¼ tsp. dried red pepper flakes
I tsp. minced fresh ginger
½ tsp. liquid smoke
1 cup chili sauce (not the hot kind but similar to ketchup)
4 pounds spareribs, cut into individual ribs
Boil individual ribs 5 to 10 minutes in water with beer. Combine all ingredients except ribs and dip each warm rib in sauce, place in crock-pot, and then pour remaining sauce over them. Cover and cook on LOW 4 to 5 hours, as they’re already partially cooked, until the meat is tender. Makes 6 servings.
I served these with cups of a good bottled barbecue sauce like Gayle’s or Robbie’s on the plate for further dipping. And lots of napkins.
Hope you enjoy all this. And please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your favorite crock-pot recipes with us.
What’s YOUR favorite celebratory dinner? Do you spend all day in the kitchen or have you developed ways to make great food and still stay sane with the cooking? What cooking shortcuts have you developed over the years?