Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Slow Cooker Cochinita Pibil

This is melt-in-your-mouth pork and the anchiote paste is key. If you cannot find it at your local store, it is available on It is also best to use freshly squeezed juice if possible. This is perfect to put together the night before and then place in the slow cooker and forget it.  

Slow Cooker Cochinita Pibil 
by Tracy 
Adapted  from Conchinita Pibil in  Houston Classic Mexican Recipes

Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 6 Quart Programmable Slow Cooker
Slow cooker liner

2 banana leaves
4-5 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch thick steaks
2 Tablespoons salt
1 ½ Tablespoons black pepper
1 Tablespoon cumin 
6 cloves garlic
½ cup anchiote paste
3/8 cup grapefruit juice
1/3 cup orange juice
¼  cup lime juice
¼ cup lemon juice
¾ cup pineapple juice
¼ cup red wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons oregano
2 bay leaves
1 jalapeno, sliced
2 banana leaves
6 large tomatoes, sliced
1 large onion, sliced

Place the slow cooker liner in the crock of the slow cooker. Using the banana leaves, lay them down into the slow cooker in a cross pattern. Later you will wrap up the ingredients into a “banana leaf package.”  

Brown the pork steaks on both sides using a grill or saute pan. Place them on top of the banana leaves in the slow cooker. In a large bowl, combine the salt, pepper, cumin, garlic cloves, anchiote paste, juices, vinegar, oregano, bay leaves and jalapeno. Whisk together until anchiote paste is dissolved. Pour the mixture over the pork in the slow cooker. Layer the tomatoes and onions on top. Enclose the ingredients with the banana leaves, removing any excess if needed. Place the lid on the slow cooker and program to cook on low for 8 hours. Remove the bay leaves and discard the banana leaves. Serve with flour tortillas and pickled red onions.  

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Blueberry Raspberry Loaf

Blueberry Raspberry Loaf
by Christine

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
zest of 1small lemon
Juice of 1/2 small lemon
3 Tablespoons melted butter
1 large egg
1 egg white
1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons milk
1 cup sugar
1 1/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups blueberries
1 cup raspberries
2 Tablespoons sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon, reserved for topping

Oil bowl of the Hamilton Beach Set & Forget Programmable 6 Qt. Slow Cooker

In a large bowl or stand mixer combine vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice, butter, egg, egg white, and milk until combined. In a small bowl combine sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt.

Add the dry ingredients, a small amount at a time, until smooth. Fold in blueberries and raspberries. Pour into oiled Hamilton Beach Slow Cooker and set on high for 1 hour 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Sprinkle with sugar/cinnamon mixture.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Chocolate Pudding Cake

I must have gotten my food genes from my dad and grandmother, who both loved food as much as I do. The rest of my relatives are picky to put it mildly. None of them will eat the dark meat of a turkey, one of them refuses to eat cheese (which I don’t understand to this day), and “weird” vegetables like sweet potatoes and stuffing with sausage would never be allowed at a holiday meal.

This is why I always offer to make dessert. It’s much easier to please a picky crowd. I was given this recipe from a friend’s mother years ago and it always seems to be a hit. It’s chocolate, it’s cake, and it’s pudding. What’s not to like? And the recipe works even better in the Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 6 Quart Programmable Slow Cooker than it does in the oven.

Here’s why: First of all, this cake is best served warm. The warm setting on the slow cooker keeps the cake warm without overcooking it, which means you can have dessert right after that big turkey dinner or later on with some coffee and it’s still warm and delicious! I let my cake sit in the slow cooker on low for an hour and a half after the initial cooking time. The cake stayed moist, the pudding stayed creamy, and it tasted as good as it did when it was first done.

Also, the slow cooker lets you free up oven space during the holidays, which is always a challenge for those of us with limited kitchen space. It also frees up time, which I think we can all use more of, especially when trying to put together a big meal. This is a super easy recipe, and the slow cooker makes it even easier: Set the program to cook at low for 4 hours and at the end of the cooking time, it automatically switches to warm. As the name says, Set and Forget!

Chocolate Pudding Cake
by Jennifer

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
6 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, divided
1/2 cup whole milk
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 cups hot water
Whipped cream for serving, if desired

Butter the bottom and sides of the insert of a Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 6 Quart Programmable Slow Cooker. Add flour, baking powder, salt, 3/4 cup sugar, and 2 Tablespoons cocoa to the insert and mix well. Add milk, melted butter and vanilla to the dry ingredients and mix well. Spread batter evenly in pan.

In a separate bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar, the brown sugar, and the remaining 1/4 cup cocoa. Sprinkle this mixture over the batter in the slow cooker. Pour hot water over everything in the slow cooker. Place a kitchen towel over the slow cooker and place the lid on top of the towel (this will keep water from dripping back onto the cake). Program the slow cooker for 4 hours on high. It will automatically switch to warm after the cooking is complete. Served topped with whipped cream, if desired.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Chocolate Banana Slow Cooker Stuffed French Toast

Time for brunch! Mimosas anyone? This is a must-do recipe for a weekend brunch. If you want to show off without showing off, this'll knock the socks off of your friends and guests alike. And talk about easy, this is extremely so. Just assemble it and let the slow cooker do it's thing. Serve with fruit and you're done!

Chocolate Banana Slow Cooker Stuffed French Toast
by Holly

Cooking spray
Parchment paper
1 loaf Challah bread, cut into 3/4" slices (about 10 pieces)
2 bananas, sliced into discs
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
6 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Cut parchment to fit bottom of cooker. Spray with cooking spray and place inside. Liberally spray entire interior of cooker including the parchment.

Cut the bread and bananas. In a large bowl, mix the eggs, sugar, cream, milk, vanilla, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon.

Layer half the bread, half the chips, half the bananas in your Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker. Layer the 2nd half of the bread, chips and banana. Cover with the egg mixture and press down to soak bread well.

Set your cooker on HIGH with a probe set to 170°F (about 2-2 1/2 hours.) Make sure probe is placed in the middle (careful not to touch bottom of the cooker.) Remove lid and continue to cook on HIGH another 15 minutes.

Let rest 5 minutes and cut into wedges. Serve with butter and fresh fruit.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Slow Cooker Cheesecake

I love cheesecake, but let's face it, most cheesecake recipes are meant to feed a small army.

Or perhaps it's just that they're scaled to fit a 9-inch springform pan.

This cheesecake is more petite - it fits into a 6-inch springform pan, which happens to fit perfectly into the Hamilton Beach 6-Quart Set  Forget Programmable Slow Cooker.

Not all slow cookers are the same, so if you're using something that's significantly different, you might need to adjust the timing. And, of course, make sure that the 6-inch springform pan fits into your slow cooker!

Slow Cooker Cheesecake
by Donna

For the crust:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream

Wrap the bottom and sides of a 6-inch springform pan with aluminum foil. Since the pan doesn't actually sit IN the water, you might not need to do this, but I never trust a springform pan around water - I always wrap, for insurance.

In a medium bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs with sugar and salt. Or, save a bowl and do the mixing in the same plastic bag where you crushed the crackers. Add the melted butter and stir to combine. Press the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. If you want a little less crust, you don't need to use it all - it's up to you.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, sugar and salt; beat until combined and the cream cheese is smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until well blended. Add the sour cream and beat until smooth.

Note: you can do this beating with an electric mixer, but beat slowly - electric mixers tend to beat air into the product, and that's not what you want here.

Pour the cream cheese mixture into the prepared springform pan. This filled my springform pan almost exactly to the top - if your pan is slightly taller or shorter, yours might not fill quite as full, or you might have a little excess.

Put a metal rack in the bottom of the slow cooker and add water just to the bottom of the rack. Place the cheesecake on the rack.

Cover the top of the slow cooker with a clean kitchen towel or a cloth napkin. This will collect the condensation so it doesn't drip onto the top of the cheesecake. Put the lid on top of the towels.

Turn the slow cooker to low and set for 2 hours. DON'T PEEK. When two hours are up, turn the slow cooker off and turn the lid crosswise on top of the slow cooker. Leave the towel in place, just turn the lid so the cheesecake can slowly begin to cool. Since the Hamilton Beach slow cooker is so well insulated, it holds the heat really well, so if you leave the lid on, the cheesecake won't cool off much at all.

 Let the slow cooker cool for one hour with the cheesecake resting inside.

Remove the lid, remove the towel, and remove the cheesecake. Refrigerate until well-chilled, about four hours. Or until tomorrow.

Run a thin-bladed knife between the cheesecake and pan, then release the spring and remove the cheesecake.

slicing is cleaner if you run the knife blade under hot water then wipe it off after each cut. If it matters. Or not.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Shredded Beef Sliders

Our latest challenge for 37 Cooks is sponsored by Hamilton Beach. This was another awesome challenge for us, as the kind folks at Hamilton Beach sent each of us a Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 6 Quart Programmable Slow Cooker. When my slow cooker arrived and I opened it, my wife said I looked like a kid at Christmas! I don't get excited by a lot of things anymore, what with me being old, cynical and cranky, but lemmee tell ya, this is a badass slow cooker. The first thing that impressed me was the cooking probe! I've used probe thermometers before, usually when I'm smoking a pork butt, and I've never seen one on a slow cooker before! I also like the "Set & Forget" feature that you can use along with the probe. Set the slow cooker up, insert the probe, set it to cook for a certain amount of time and it automatically turns to the warm setting so your food don't overcook! Awesome feature. When we signed up for this challenge, the first thing I thought of was Italian beef sandwiches. I guess this is a very regional dish and, just like Philly Cheese Steaks, no two recipes are the same, so I decided just to wing it and see what happens! I made little sliders, but this recipe would be much better on a good crusty roll to soak up all the juices. Here we go...

Shredded Beef Sliders 
by Matt the Butcher

2 large onions, roughly chopped
3 to 4 pound boneless beef shoulder roast
4 cups beef broth or water
2 heads garlic, peeled
3 bay leaves
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasoning
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 package onion soup mix
1 16-ounce jar of giardiniera
Some good crusty rolls or bread
Plenty of napkins. This stuff is delicious and very sloppy!

Put the onions in the slow cooker, lay the beef roast on top. Add the broth, garlic, bay leaves, oregano, Slap Ya Mama seasoning, black pepper and the dry onion soup mix. Cover and using the program mode, program the slow cooker to cook for 10 hours on the Low setting. After 10 hours, the cooker automatically sets itself to the Warm setting, which is awesome if you're not home when the food is done. Right before serving, remove the roast and the bay leaves, setting the roast aside to rest. Drain the giardiniera and put it into the slow cooker. Mix it into the gravy and let it sit. Taking 2 forks, shred all the meat and put it back into the gravy. Slice the rolls, break out the napkins and call everyone to the table. Using a slotted spoon, pick up a nice spoonful or two, placing it on a roll and dig in!

Made in the USA, with love, by Matt the Butcher

Cooks note: I'm a butcher by trade and whenever a customer asks me what the best cut of beef to use for a pot roast is, I always recommend a beef shoulder roast. You can pretty much use whatever cut of beef that you prefer, as you're gonna cook it till it shreds, but I like the shoulder roast. There's not as much fat in it as a chuck roast and I find that a bottom round or top round just doesn't have the flavor of a shoulder roast.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Slow Cooker Albondigas

Years ago, a co-worker of mine shared her recipe for Albondigas with me. Over the years, I've tweaked the original recipe here and there and it's become a favorite of ours on chilly autumn and winter evenings. I've made it over and over and over, but never in a slow cooker. Well, when Hamilton Beach came along as one of our sponsors here at 37 Cooks, I immediately thought to myself, "why not try slow cooking my Albondigas?" The Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 6 Quart Programmable Slow Cooker is great! It's so big and I love that I can program it for a set time and it automatically switches to the "warm" setting when the time is up, keeping the soup nice and warm until we're ready to eat. This is a great feature, especially during the busy holiday season when we don't always have time to fuss with dinner late in the day. I'm happy to say that the soup turned out great (it's been husband and neighbor approved.) I will definitely be making my Albondigas in the slow cooker from now on!

Slow Cooker Albondigas
by Susan W.

For the meatballs:
1/4 cup long grain rice (not instant rice)
1/2 cup boiling water
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 egg
1/3 15-ounce can tomato sauce (reserve the rest for the soup)
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the soup:
2 quarts beef stock
2/3 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 onion, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 Anaheim chiles, roasted*, peeled, seeds removed and chopped
1 teaspoon oregano
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the meatballs, place 1/4 cup rice in 1/2 cup boiling water and set aside for a few minutes while you chop onions and mince the garlic. In a large mixing bowl, combine ground beef, egg, tomato sauce, onion, garlic, cumin, kosher salt and ground pepper. Drain rice really well and add to bowl. Gently mix ingredients together with your hands and then form into 1 1/2-inch meatballs, setting each meatball aside on a plate.

For the soup, first prepare your chiles (directions below.) Combine all of the soup ingredients in the slow cooker and stir well.

Gently place the meatballs into the soup (don't stir.) Set slow cooker to "low" setting and cook for 7 hours (the Hamilton Beach Set & Forget slow cooker will automatically switch to the warm setting when the time is up.) Serve with flour tortillas and butter or some crusty bread. Enjoy and have a great holiday season!

*To roast chiles: Rinse and pat chiles dry. May them on a baking sheet and place baking sheet under broiler. Watch the chiles very closely while broiling. When the skin turns black, turn and continue broiling until the skin on each chile is black on all sides. Remove to a glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit for about 15 minutes. Peel, remove seeds and chop.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Pork Possibilities!

I was so excited when I found out that our next sponsor was Hamilton Beach! The slow cooker I have been using for the past few years was a 2 quart high/low model. The  Hamilton Beach Set & Forget® 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker puts that old one to shame! This is a wonderful slow cooker and the large 6 quart size is perfect around the holidays to cook a large quantity of food for friends and family. Put it in the night before or morning of and a great meal is cooking while you can focus on other things like actually getting a chance to enjoy your company! It truly makes cooking for a crowd much easier.

I cooked a large piece of pork that made many, many meals for my husband and I. The great thing is that there are so many possibilities for the leftovers!

Pulled Pork with Sweet and Spicy Rub

8 pound pork shoulder
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons hot paprika
1 Tablespoon hot chili powder
1 Tablespoon granulated onion
1 Tablespoon granulated garlic powder
1 Tablespoon mustard powder
10-15 good grinds each of salt and pepper
1 large onion, sliced thick
Avocado oil

Trim the excess fat from the pork shoulder. Mix the next 7 ingredients in a small mixing bowl with a fork. Do it slowly and use the fork to break up the brown sugar until everything is incorporated. I did these 2 steps the day before, wrapped the shoulder in saran wrap and let it rest in the fridge until the next morning.
When you are ready for the slow-cooker, take out the pork from the fridge and let it sit a while to get back to room temperature. Heat up a large (large!) sauté pan over medium-high heat and drizzle a little avocado oil to coat the pan.  Carefully sear all sides of the meat. Slice a large union into thick slices.  Layer them on the bottom of the slow cooker and place the pork on top. Set & Forget it on low for 12 hours.
The pork will be so tender the bone comes right out and the meat will shred easily with forks.  The first night I served the pork with sides requested by my husband for a delicious pork dinner: Arroz con Gandules and Fresh Corn.
Spicy BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Slaw
Leftover pulled pork
Rolls of your choice
Spicy Chipotle BBQ Sauce:
½ small onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup cider vinegar
½ cup yellow mustard
1/3 cup brown sugar
few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
3 chipolte peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
1 tablespoon avocado oil
Simple Slaw:
1 small head cabbage, sliced
1 large carrot, shredded
1 small onion, sliced thin
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon celery seed
salt and pepper, to taste
To start the ketchup, heat a sauce pan over medium heat and all the avocado oil to coat. Add the onion and garlic and allow to sweat out for approx. 5 minutes. Next, add the ketchup, vinegar mustard, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and chipotle peppers. Stir and mix everything together.  Let simmer for about an hour and a half.
The slaw is easy and simple. Mix together well the cabbage, carrots and onion. Then add the mayonnaise, vinegar, celery seed and salt and pepper. Mix together again until nicely dressed.
To serve:
I heated up some leftover pork in a non-stick skillet, use your desired amount. No need to add any extra oil. Once the pork has become warm, add enough sauce to your liking. I like extra sauce! Allow to combine with the pork and heat through. I like to serve this on little potato rolls that have been toasted with the slaw right on top!
BBQ Pulled Pork Mac n’ Cheese
Leftover pulled pork
Cheddar Mac n’ Cheese:
1 short cut pound pasta, I used Cellentani
½ stick butter
¼ cup whole wheat flour
2 cups milk, I used 2%
1 cup sharp yellow cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup sharp white cedar cheese, shredded
¼ cup parmesan cheese, shredded
few dashes of hot sauce, use your favorite I used Franks Red Hot
½ teaspoon mustard powder
fresh ground pepper, to taste
Boil the pasta in a large pot until al dente, read the box for correct cooking times.
In a large pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Once the butter is all melted, add the whole wheat flour and stir until it comes together and becomes darker in color.  Then add the milk, hot sauce, mustard powder and fresh ground pepper. Stir gently to combine and until the milk becomes thick. Continue to stir and add in the cheese, a bit at a time. Take off the heat and toss with the pasta until the sauce and pasta is all combined.
To serve:
I served this the next day using leftovers, so all I needed to do with heat and combine everything through.
In a non-stick sauté pan, heat up the desired amount of pork. Once it warms through, add the desired amount of BBQ sauce until both are hot and combined. Do this on one side of the pan so you can heat up the mac n’ cheese on the other side (again, your desired amount.) Once the pork and pasta are all warm, mix it all together!
This was one of my husband’s favorite ways to eat the pork. Other great uses for leftover pulled pork include nachos, tacos, pizza, quesadillas, empanadas, soup, chili.. there are tons of possibilities! 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Ginger Spiced Applesauce

Applesauce is one of my favorite things to make in a slow cooker. It is so simple and quick to make and you can add whatever flavor enhancers your prefer. I love a nice spiced applesauce in the fall; it works as a side dish, by itself, or on top of some vanilla ice cream (give it a shot…it's delicious.)

This applesauce is a bit different though…instead of using any traditional liquid or sugar, I instead used some Angry Orchard Apple Ginger Hard Cider and, oh boy, is it yummy and it screams fall.

For this applesauce, I used my Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker. The Hamilton Beach Set & Forget Slow Cooker, allows me to set a specific cooking time and then it automatically switches to warm, just in case I get busy while this is cooking away. I don’t have to worry about it burning. 

Ginger Spiced Applesauce
by Jenny

6 medium to large apples – I used Granny Smith for the tartness, but you can use either Macintosh, Cortland, or any other apple you prefer.
3/4 cup Angry Orchard Apple Ginger Hard Cider
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 - 1 teaspoon ground ginger

Peel, core and dice the apples in large pieces – discard the peels and cores.  

Add all ingredients to slow cooker and set on low for about 4 hours*.  

Apples will become extremely soft/mushy. Mash apples with a fork or potato masher and enjoy!  

Keep in an airtight container for up to one week.

Extremely easy to make, throw it all in the slow cooker and come back in a few hours for some very tasty (if I do say so myself) applesauce! Best part – it is naturally gluten-free. If you choose to not use the hard cider, you can substitute that for 1/3 cup of water and 1/4 cup of honey.

*These instructions are specific to the Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker, so if you are not using this one, you may need to adjust it slightly.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

I love the holiday season; especially all of the cooking that is involved with it. However, there are days where, if you are like me, get overwhelmed with making sure everything is all set before everyone arrives. This is the perfect time to bring out your slow cooker! I use my HamiltonBeach 6 qt. Set ‘n Forget Programmable Slow Cooker.  I use this slow cooker because of the programming capabilities that it offers. You can set it to program, probe, or manual – I make this recipe using the program mode so I can set the specific time, choose between high and low heat, and when programmed time is up, it automatically switches to warm…which let’s face it = less stress!

This recipe can be adjusted to your level of spice preference, it is super easy to make…simply place all of the ingredients into the slow cooker, Set ‘n Forget! Makes for a delicious appetizer for any holiday party or gathering.

To make sure this is gluten-free, simply read all of the ingredients and allergen warnings. I haven’t tried it yet, but if you wanted to make a dairy free version, simply substitute out dairy free versions of the ingredients listed below.

Buffalo Chicken Dip
By Jenny

2 ½- 3 cups shredded cooked chicken breast (either boiled chicken breast, store-bought rotisserie, or even canned chicken will work well)
16 ounces 1/3 fat cream cheese
2 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
2 cups ranch dressing (try to avoid the low fat or fat free – it separates too much)
1 – 1 ½ cups hot sauce (Franks is my favorite for this)

Red Bell Pepper Strips
Celery Strips
Tortilla Chips

Prepare chicken – boil until cooked throughout and shred, or shred a rotisserie chicken. Set aside. Cube the cream cheese
Place all ingredients into the slow cooker in layers (cream cheese, cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, ranch dressing, hot sauce, chicken, and then repeat). Cover the slow cooker and set it to cook for 2 hours on low.* Open, and stir dip well.
To serve, either place the dip in a large bowl, or leave in the slow cooker. Enjoy with vegetable strips such as peppers and celery or with tortilla chips.

*These instructions are specific to the Hamilton Beach 6 qt. Set ‘n Forget Programmable Slow Cooker, so if you are not using this one, you may need to adjust it slightly.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Vin Brule

"Vin Brulé" is an Italian mulled wine (Vin Brulé actually means boiled wine/burnt wine in French, but the term is used throughout Italy.) It is usually served around the Christmas holidays, and is one of "those" recipes, where each region/family has their own interpretation. Many people add extra citrus, nutmeg, cinnamon, etc. to theirs, but my simple recipe was given to me by a dear friend/former college roommate from Verona.

Her family's tradition quickly became my family's tradition, and we have been enjoying this treat for the last 15+ years. We tend to serve up Vin Brulé after Christmas Eve church services and dinner, while we are opening gifts. But… I have become quite popular for bringing it with me to friends' holiday parties as well. Making it in a slow cooker, such as the Hamilton Beach Set & Forget® 6 Quart Programmable Slow Cooker, allows you to easily take it with you to a friend's house. It also stays warm in a slow cooker, and it allows for a very quick clean up. You can easily double this recipe for a larger crowd, but it does not reheat well after the first day. Please enjoy this recipe, from my house to yours, and also be sure to check out the Hamilton Beach website for more great products. Happy holidays!

Vin Brulé
by Chris
As shared with me by my dear friend, Diana

1 1.5-liter bottle of dry red wine (cheap is okay!)
3/4 cup of sugar (or more, to taste), divided
2 large oranges, cut into 8 wedges each (cut an orange into halves, then each half into quarters)
Approximately 65-70 whole cloves
Cinnamon sticks, sliced lemons, nutmeg, and any other spices or citrus fruit, if desired (optional)
1-2 oranges, cut into wedges, for serving (optional, if desired)

Carefully pour the bottle of wine into your slow cooker. Add 1/4 cup of sugar, stir, and place on the high heat setting. Allow to warm for 30 minutes. While wine is heating, cut the 2 oranges into wedges, as directed above. Insert 4-5 (I used 4) whole cloves into each wedge by piercing the skin with the sharp point of each clove.

After the wine has warmed for 30 minutes, remove the slow cooker lid, stir the wine, and add the clove-studded oranges. If you would like to add other ingredients, such as sliced lemons, cinnamon sticks, or nutmeg, do so now. Replace lid and set to cook on high heat for another hour.

After the hour is up, stir the wine, add another 1/4 cup of sugar (stir again), and cook on high heat for 30 minutes once more. At this point taste the wine, as it could be done. If you still find the wine to not be sweet or citrusy enough for your taste, feel free to add yet another 1/4 cup of sugar and the place on high heat for another 30 minutes. Continue tasting every 30 minutes until you are happy with the flavor.

When you are pleased with the wine, place the slow cooker on the warm setting, and it will remain at a nice temperature all evening. If you are transporting the wine in your Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 6 Quart Slow Cooker, be sure to clamp the lid down in order to prevent spills. When you reach your destination, un-clamp the lid and place on the warm setting in order to heat/ keep warm. The clamps should only be used for transport. Although this wine will reheat, it is much better served fresh on the day it was made. You can easily double this recipe if desired. Please enjoy responsibly, and have a wonderful holiday season!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore

My husband and I love Italian food and chicken cacciatore is one of our favorites. The Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 6 Quart Programmable Slow Cooker is perfect for this dish. It's nice and roomy and when your set time is up, it will automatically switch to "warm", so there are no worries if you can't get to your dish right away. It comes with a handy temperature probe for cooking meats, so you don't have to worry about taking the lid off (which lets all the heat out) just to check your meat temperature. There are clips that lock the lid down, which is great when you have to transport your delicious dish to those holiday gatherings!

Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore
by Susan W.

4 chicken leg/thigh quarters
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (plus more if needed)
5 fresh tomatoes, peeled* and chopped
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
8 ounce can tomato paste
2 Tablespoons red wine
3 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning chicken
3/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning chicken
2 bay leafs
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

Rinse and pat dry the chicken leg/thigh quarters. Season lightly with kosher salt and pepper. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown chicken pieces in olive oil, two minutes on each side (my skillet fit just one at at time.) Transfer chicken to slow cooker and add a little more olive oil to the pan if necessary while continuing to brown all pieces.

In a large bowl, combine peeled, chopped tomatoes, chopped onions, minced garlic, tomato paste, red wine, Italian seasoning, sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt and 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper. Stir well and pour over the chicken in the slow cooker, making sure to get the sauce in between the chicken pieces. Tuck bay leafs into the sauce.

Set slow cooker to "low" and set the timer for 6 hours. When the time is up, add sliced mushrooms, set the timer for another 1 1/2 hours and continue to cook, making sure the slow cooker is still set to the "low" setting. When the timer goes off the second time, the cooker will switch to "warm".

When done, remove chicken meat from the bones (it should be falling off the bone at this point.) Place meat back into the slow cooker, stir and keep cooker on the "warm" setting. Discard bones.

Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Serve chicken over hot spaghetti and don't forget a nice green salad and some great bread!

*To easily peel tomatoes: Make an "x" in the bottom of each tomato with a sharp knife (do not cut too deep, you only need a shallow cut.) Boil a pot of water and have a bowl of ice water standing by. When water is rapidly boiling, place one or two tomatoes at a time in the boiling water and leave in for just 15 seconds. Remove from boiling water and then immediately immerse tomatoes in ice water to stop the cooking process. Continue until all tomatoes are done. Remove from ice water and viola! Skin will peel right off!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Slow Cooker Chickpea and Farro Soup

This time of year, I absolutely love turning to my slow cooker for dinner. It’s one of the busiest times of the year at my job, and when you add that to the stress of the holidays and the fact that it’s pitch black when I get home each evening, it’s really hard to work up the motivation to cook. I’d much rather be greeted by my slow cooker, which has been working away at a warm and cozy meal for me all day.

This hearty chickpea and farro soup is perfect for a cold, snowy day – and the leftovers make great lunches for the rest of the week.

Slow Cooker Chickpea and Farro Soup
by Lauren

1 cup dry chickpeas
2 carrots, peeled and cut into half-moons
1 rib celery, chopped
1 Vidalia onion, chopped
8 cups vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 cup farro
2 cups baby spinach
Parmesan cheese

Fill a medium pot with water. Add the chickpeas and bring to a boil. Boil 15 minutes. Drain.

Add the chickpeas, carrots, celery, onion, vegetable stock, bay leaf, and peppercorns to your Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker. Cook on high 5 hours, or until the chickpeas are soft.

Add the farro and cook another 2 hours, or until soft. Stir in the baby spinach.

Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Friday, December 12, 2014

No-Fail Slow-Cooker Roasted Chicken

One of my best kitchen tricks when life gets hectic around the holidays - or when the kitchen is the last place I want to be - is slow-cooker roasted chicken. The slow cooker makes it a hands-off recipe, and the use of whole chicken is an inexpensive way to yield a large quantity of moist, delicious chicken, almost everyone's favorite protein.

The Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 6 Quart Programmable Slow Cooker, however, takes my favorite kitchen hack to a new level of ease with its temperature probe. Instead of forcing me to use my sloppy mental calculations of time-per-pound and check the temperature by hand, the probe simply shuts off the whole cooker when the meat reaches the desired temperature, so the chicken is perfectly moist. Everything with even less effort than before.

One your chicken is fully roasted, you can serve the bird along with picnic sides, like macaroni salad, coleslaw and biscuits. However - here's the second part of this awesome trick - one whole chicken roasted in the slow cooker will usually create two complete dinners for my small family. I've collected a list of recipes that use this precooked chicken meat as the base protein for several tasty meals like:

Curried Chicken Salad Wraps
Chicken and Black Bean Taquitos
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Chicken Caesar Salad
Chicken Fried Rice

Plus, once you learn the technique for slow-cooker chicken, you can mix up the preparation. Add new potatoes to the bottom of the cooker. Use lemon zest and/or lemon pepper in the stuffing, or try glazing the skin in teriyaki or hot sauce.

No-Fail Slow-Cooker Roasted Chicken
by Kate

1 whole chicken (4-6 pounds), giblets removed
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, skinned and roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence, or your favorite leafy spice mixture
Special equipment: Hamilton Beach Set & Forget 6 Quart Programmable Slow Cooker and kitchen twine

Rinse the chicken inside and out. Pat dry with paper towels.

Sprinkle interior cavity with salt and pepper, then fill with onion, garlic and bay leaves.

Truss the chicken with kitchen twine - making sure the wings will stay close to the body and the interior cavity sealed - and sprinkle the breast side of the bird with 1/2 teaspoon Herbs de Provence, salt and pepper.

Place the chicken breast-side down in your Set & Forget Slow Cooker. Sprinkle the back side of the bird with 1/2 teaspoon Herbs de Provence, salt and pepper.

Secure the lid on your slow cooker and insert the thermometer probe into the chicken, making sure the probe lies deep in the meat rather than near bone or in the interior cavity. Plug the thermometer probe in its designated jack on the side of the cooker.

To program the slow cooker, press the ON button and then press PROBE. The "Heat Setting" light should be illuminated. Choose whether you'd like to cook use the high or low setting. Press ENTER.

Now the "Desired Temp" light will be illuminated. Use the arrows to select a temperature of 170° (which is safe for poultry, though you can select as high as 180°.) Press ENTER. The machine will read COOK and sound a 3-second beep to signal it's beginning the cook cycle.

While the chicken is cooking, the cooker's display will alternate between the actual temperature and the goal temperature. A whole bird will cook on high in about 3 1/2 - 4 hours and on low in about 6 hours.

Note: The slow cooker will beep when the cycle is complete and without user interruption, will switch to warm mode until you're ready to serve.