Crock Pot Peach and Cherry Cobbler

This dessert tastes like summer feels.

This dessert tastes like summer feels.

Summer produce is like nature’s candy. I don’t mean that in some hippy dippy way or that candy is in any way a bad food group, I just mean that fruits and veggies right now are so delicious when the sun and the rain and the dirt are all working together to create pure awesomeness. Ok, so I’m a little hippy dippy about it.

I bought a couple pounds of peaches and a bag full of sweet cherries on my last grocery trip. Usually we just eat these things straight out of the refrigerator. My kids love having cherries for dessert so I bought this cherry pitter and they eat them as fast as I can pop them through! It’s a necessary tool for this season; you won’t regret buying one for yourself (although you may wonder why no one ever told you about this before! Sorry.)

But, since we were having company over for dinner this weekend, I decided that I would fancy it up and crock pot us a cobbler to enjoy. And as leverage for the delicious vanilla caramel swirl ice cream I had bought as well.

Most cobbler recipes include oatmeal in the topping. Makes sense– it stands up well in the crock pot, gets soft, but not mushy, and you usually have it in the pantry. Except this time, I didn’t. And I didn’t want to go on a grocery store run just for oats.

So, I opened the pantry and just started creating. While you could do this in an oval crock pot, I really liked doing it in my casserole crock pot because it made perfect squares for serving, plus it wasn’t too deep or too crispy on the sides. Literally, the casserole crock pot was the perfect choice.

Turns out– corn flakes make a great cobbler topping, too! I will totally make this recipe again. It’s just the start of blueberry season here locally and I’m thinking about going to do some local picking and then making cobbler again. Mmmmm can you picture the dark purple color as those berries begin to burst in the cobbler and the sweet smell of the caramelizing flavor?! Yeah, me too. Go get some local produce and make a batch for yourself today!

Crock Pot Peach and Cherry Cobbler

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 4 hours

Serves: 8-10 people

2 lbs cherries, pitted

6 peaches, about 2 lbs

1/4 c. corn starch

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 c. flour

1/2 t. salt

2 c. corn flakes, crushed

1 stick butter (cold or frozen)

Here's a step by step look at how to make Crock Pot Peach and Cherry Cobbler.

Here’s a step by step look at how to make Crock Pot Peach and Cherry Cobbler.


Put cherries and peaches in crock pot, add corn starch and stir until fruit is coated. In a separate bowl, mix the rest of the dry ingredients and then sprinkle it over the fruit. Slice the stick of butter horizontally (long thin slices) as thin as possible. It’s easiest to cut the butter when it is cold. Place butter over crumbled topping and cover as much surface area as possible.

Cook on high for two hours and then low for two hours. This helps the fruit– especially the cherries– cook all the way through. Serve with a huge scoop of your favorite ice cream or greek yogurt.

Crock Pot Vegetarian Refried Beans

With just a few ingredients, you can add a rich side dish to Taco Tuesday- on any day of the week!

With just a few ingredients, you can add a rich side dish to Taco Tuesday- on any day of the week!

In our house, every Tuesday is TACO TUESDAY! The kids have become so accustom to it, that sometimes I like to mess with them and make tacos on the “wrong” day of the week. If we eat something different on a Tuesday, they are a little disappointed… but if we eat tacos on any night other than Tuesday, it’s almost unacceptable. I’ll say “it’s Taco Tuesday on Wednesday!” and they respond, “we can’t eat tacos on Wednesdays!” “But why??” I ask. “Because we’d have to call it Waco Wednesday!” they would shout with dispair.

Oh trust me, that scenario is totally legit. It happens. Scripted or not, that’s how it plays out every freaking time.

But this week is an exception, because it’s Cinco de Mayo on a Thursday. That’s an unwritten acceptable negotiation and my hellions are ok with moving the taco consumption in order to celebrate another nation’s announcement of victory in war. (Not to be confused with Mexico’s Independence Day, that’s September 16– which is also not a Tuesday this year.)

My mini-me’s could practically prepare taco night by themselves– hard shells and tortillas. Sour cream. Shredded cheese.  Lettuce, tomato, onions, and olives. Jalapeños and this ridiculous taco sauce for mommy. Homemade tomatillo salsa verde, too. And then ground beef or chicken. By the book, typical American-style taco night. Extra napkins, of course.

The perfect side dish for your next fiesta!

The perfect side dish for your next fiesta!

But since tomorrow is a celebration, I wanted to introduce a new dish into taco night. Growing up, a trip to Taco Bell always included way too many tacos and a side of pintos and cheese. What’s that, you ask? A bowl of refried pinto beans and a handful of soft, shredded cheddar cheese. They put a lid on it and by the time you filled your fountain drink and sat down to scarf, the cheese would be gooey and melted perfectly. Ok, it was crap quality, but the taste was so good!

So here’s my attempt at recreating a mouth-watering memory and introducing it to my family. Let’s all celebrate our little victories– not just the big war-type ones. Sometimes sitting down to eat as a family is a victory in itself. Ole!

Crock Pot Vegetarian Refried Beans

Serves: 8-12

Prep Time: 5 minutes 

Cook Time: 8-10 hours

1 lb. dried pinto beans

1 c. crock pot caramelized onions

3 cloves garlic, peeled

2 t. cumin

2 t. salt

6 c. water

Put all ingredients in crock pot and give it a stir. The water level should cover everything. Cook on high 8-10 hours or low 12 hours. Remove excess water that isn’t absorbed, not do not discard. Puree everything in the crock pot using an immersion blender. Add reserved water 1 tablespoon at a time until desired smooth consistency is reached.  Serve immediately with toppings like shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, jalapeños, bacon bits, or use inside of a taco or burrito.


Renovation, Week 9: The Finale

I am pleased to present the new Dinner Is A Crock kitchen! It’s been months of hard work, intense labor, and intricate planning, but I am thrilled to welcome you to my home and get back to creating new and exciting recipes to share.

Week NINE– let’s break it down and see how the transition unfolded…

Tuesday: Carolina Custom Surfaces did a beautiful job installing my new countertops on a very cold day. The guys were courteous and skilled. I love it when people show up to work but take a minute to just step back and admire the progress before they begin. This isn’t just an office, this is my home, too.  I appreciated that the guys asked me my opinion, like on faucet preferences, and even had great recommendations for counter cleaners (they totally recommended THIS and THIS to keep my quartz clean and pretty.)


Even the sun wanted to catch a glimpse of my new countertops from Carolina Custom Surfaces!

My counters were installed perfectly, my house was kept clean, and my kitchen is one step closer to complete. They did such a good job that I’m starting to think about using Carolina Custom Surfaces to update the bathrooms and get a few custom cutting boards!  (TACOS FOR DINNER USING MY LAST BATCH OF FROZEN COOKED TACO MEAT)


Wednesday: My cabinet installer came by this morning to finish up some last little details. Any man that wants to bring me a crown is fine by me… even if it’s just the molding to go up against the ceiling. 🙂

This afternoon, the tile backsplash was installed under cabinets behind where the hood will go. The subway has never looked this good.

What a difference in the dimensions of the room with the refraction of sunlight from the tile and countertop! I feel shiny and pretty. (BOLOGNA SANDWICHES AND CROCK POT TOMATO SOUP FOR DINNER.)


Such a dreamy sight!

Such a dreamy sight!

Thursday: Today was all about regaining functionality. After nine weeks, I think I am most excited to have running water in the kitchen again! Yes, I realize that I had it in other places in the house, but I am so done with washing dishes in the basement bathroom! (SHOUT OUT TO MY HUBBY SINCE HE DID MOST OF THE DISHWASHING!!) My sink and dishwasher are up and running. And– so are my electrical outlets! I can plug it to a gazillion different places now, so you can anticipate seeing crockpots lining the kitchen at some point in the near future. Haha! (GRILLED CHICKEN AND KALE BURGERS AND FRESH ZUCCHINI TONIGHT…AND A FEW OTHER THINGS IN PREPARATION FOR THE SNOW TOMORROW!)


Friday: Oh snow, you ruined my perfect finale. But we made it so close! Kudos to Piedmont Natural Gas  for braving the roads and still coming to install my range today. I’m super impressed with your commitment to deliver and follow-through for your patient (and slightly crazy) customers. It’s in! I’m good! Just one more thing to go. (CROCK POT POTATO SOUP FOR DINNER AND A GARDEN SALAD. NOTHING TOO EXCITING.)

Shout out to Primo Water-- love that my family drinks and cooks with this clean and refreshing bottled water.

Shout out to Primo Water– love that my family drinks and cooks with this clean and refreshing bottled water.

I also want to give a shout to to Primo Water— I actually designed the cabinets around my refrigerator to house the bottom-loading water cooler. I love it for easy access to clean water! I use it for hot tea at least once a day. My boys go to it all day for cold water (or room temperature, depending what your teeth prefer!). I also feel good cooking with it. With all the crazy stories on the news right now about tainted water, I feel really good about getting big jugs of Primo for my family instead of tap water. (The bottles are easy to exchange at places like Harris Teeter, Kroger, Lowe’s Home Improvements, etc.)


Monday: (I’m playing Pomp and Circumstance music as I type this…) The hood has been installed and it’s like fireworks going off in here. Not like electric short-circuiting or anything like that, but like we’ve reached the culmination of this project and the applause is going wild. Unicorns are seen jumping in the backyard and leprechauns are scurrying around stocking my fridge. Ok… maybe not quite. But when my LG oven reaches full temperature, it does actually play a cute little ditty, so that will have to do for now. (DINNER TONIGHT: ROASTED CHICKEN AND ROASTED BRUSSEL SPROUTS! ROASTED, PEOPLE! LIKE, IN AN OVEN!!)

There are some small details to still finish (like painting the bay window), but overall, I could not be more thrilled with THIS:


Check out this beautiful panoramic of the new kitchen with all of the upgrades.

Thank you for staying with me on this adventure! I hope it’s helped provide some guidance and guilty pleasure of commiserating with me through these 10 weeks. I can’t wait to share new recipes with you very soon! #nokitchennoproblem… it’s time to save time and cook slower. Welcome to the new and improved Dinner Is A Crock!


Summer Series, Day Three: Crock Pot Low Country Boil

This meal requires no silverware-- or plates!

This meal requires no silverware– or plates!

Dinner tonight was epic. Seriously. I’ve been dreaming about a low country boil for weeks now, but not just the flavors fusing together, but enjoying it with the salty ocean air, the sound of the waves, and the openness of a housetop porch. And indeed–my prophecy has come true!

After another fabulous day at Ooh La La, our amazing beach house for the week, we enjoyed this one pot wonder just as the sun was setting. We started today at the Avon Pier, watching skilled fisherman catch buckets of fish and even some shark! Yes, the North Carolina coast has been ridden with shark incidents in recent weeks, but this was intentional baiting and catching of these dangerous creatures. No joke– it was thrilling and terrifying to see even little ones brought to the surface and hauled up to within feet of us.

We attempted to go out for lunch today since dinner was already going and the pier really made us work up an appetite. Lunch was ok– but not the local fare I was hoping for; I’m not convinced that the “Catch of the Day” didn’t arrive frozen in a box the week before. The kids didn’t want to eat their fish sticks… because they didn’t taste like the ones at home (well, duh!). So while we all enjoyed the air conditioning and endless fountain beverages, I’m not convinced it was worth it to go out to eat.

If the local restaurants aren’t appealing, make sure you stop by the local seafood markets instead– you can get fresh (never frozen) fish and creatures that came directly from the ocean. The Outer Banks is a prime location for tuna, soft-shelled crabs, shrimp, and many other options… including the sharks I mentioned before.

It is totally worth the extra buck at the seafood market and have them peel and devein your shrimp instead! But if you do it yourself, click and buy the tool in the link provided!

It is totally worth the extra buck at the seafood market to have them peel and devein your shrimp instead! But if you do it yourself, click and buy the tool in the link provided!

We then returned “home” for another afternoon of swimming. I peeled and deveined the pound of shrimp I picked up at the seafood market to add as the last step of the low country boil. Mental note to self– it is totally worth the up-charge to have someone else do this process. After removing the tubes of excrement from my crustaceans, I was no longer as excited to devour these treats of the sea. I mean, come on… I can’t unsee or unfeel that. But fresh is always the best option and local is a total perk. You’ll want your own shrimp tool to peel and devein in one swipe if you are getting fresh raw shrimp.

The Crock Pot Low Country Boil requires a few extra steps than you normally see in Dinner Is A Crock recipes, but since we were in and out of the house all day, it was not challenging at all. Again– the point of taking my crock pot to the beach was so that we could eat well without interrupting our adventures.  Dinner tonight was a total success and everyone ate well after our beautiful day in the Outer Banks. If you haven’t checked out the house yet, be sure to CLICK HERE and see about planning your trip to Ooh La La.


Crock Pot Low Country Bowl
Serves 4

3 ears of yellow corn; peeled, cleaned and broken in half
8 baby red potatoes (golf-ball sized or smaller)
1/2 sweet onion, cut into chunks
4 stalks celery, cut into 3-inch sections
1/4 c. Old Bay Seasonings
3 springs fresh dill
1 12 oz. can of beer (I used Yeungling)
2 c. water
1 14 oz. package Hillshire Farms Lit’l Smokies or other cocktail links
1 lb. large fresh raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
Crock Pot Low Country Boil

Put all of the vegetables in the crock pot with the water, seasonings and fresh dill. Add the beer. Cook on low for four hours or until the potatoes are fork tender. Add smokies or cocktail links and add another hour on low. Let the crock pot turn to the “keep warm” setting until you are close to dinner time. When ready, add the shrimp to the pot and set on high for 30 minutes– or just until the shrimp have turned pink. Drain crock pot into a strainer and shake out as much liquid as possible.

Pour the steaming awesomeness directly onto a table (covered in a plastic bag and layers of newspaper) and enjoy with your fingers. No silverware or condiments necessary.

Cool Tools

I’ve been playing with a bunch of new kitchen tools and wanted to share them with you. PROS– they do exactly what I need them to accomplish. CONS– they really only do one trick each, so it’s annoying to try and store them all in an organized way. But seriously– I love kitchen gadgets! And if it’s something that makes what I do easier?! That’s a total win.

I’ve been particularly interested lately in cool tools that my kids can use, too. I worry that they are so spoiled by home-cooking that I have totally ruined them to someday become functional adults and helpful spouses. Maybe that’s a little extreme, but I want them to appreciate and enjoy what I cook for them and also be able to cook for themselves.

So here is a short list and some links for my favorite new purchases:

Pro-Apple Peeler. This gadget suctions to your countertop and easily swirls around pretty much any size apple. I’ve even used it for redskin potatoes! My kids can set it up and use it, no problem. They are funny– one kid likes apple skins and then other likes peeled apples– this machine deserves applause in our house.


The Hands-Free Baggie-Rack is pure genius. I don’t know about you, but I do most of my cooking by myself. When I want to bag up ingredients, especially soups, it is so hard! I like to freeze broth-based soups in plastic bags because I can fill the bag and lay it flat in the freezer; when they are frozen solid, I can stand them up like books on a bookshelf. I also use this when I make hard-boiled eggs. I like to peel all the eggs at once and then store them in a bag instead of a plastic container.


I use my Immersion Hand Blender at least a couple times a week. We use it for smoothies, creamy soups, mashed potatoes, pancakes and just about anything else that needs to be smooth. It is so much less cleanup than using a full blender or stand-up mixer. I want less fuss and more doing with pretty much anything I am using. Don’t you?!


I’ve posted a couple recipes recently that suggest using a rack, or trivet, in the crock pot to keep the meat elevated from the liquid. I used in my Crock Pot Pork and Prunes and I also use it when I roast a whole chicken!


Sometimes I like to read cookbooks for inspiration or to learn a new approach about putting foods together, so I have two recommendations for you. They are COMPLETE OPPOSITES, but both worthy reads.

I have been reading Thug Kitchen: Eat Like You Give a F*ck and literally cracking up laughing out loud. It is crass and mouthy and absolutely real life. The entire cookbook is meat-free (not my typical style) because they want to motivate cleaner eating and while you may be asking “hold the f*ck up, where the meat?” they assume that “the last thing anybody needs in another book coming out telling you how to cook meat. Clearly you got that sh*t on lock”.  This book is entertainment and amazing recipes and here’s the kicker– it teaches you HOW to cook, not just giving instructions and ingredients. You’ll find yourself not only reading it for fun, but learning that “eating real, healthy food” doesn’t need to be “a big f*cking deal”.

I’ve also been learning how to Eat Happy. This book is the recipe for a healthy life. It doesn’t have the glossy pictures that you might anticipate in a cookbook, but has great explanations and education about what we should eat and why. It does have a great section of 50+ recipes with new ideas like buckwheat crepes (yum!) and bison meatloaf.  The lessons in this book are helpful– I feel empowered to move away from any processed foods and pick foods based on their benefits, not just their taste.  As the author states, “unfortunately for your health, the actions that are best for corporate profitability are all too often the worst for your health”. I want to focus on keeping me, as in MY BODY, in business– it’s the best investment I can make.


So there you go– a few of my favorite things that I’ve added to my kitchen. I’m learning more and more everyday about what works, what doesn’t, and what helps me in the kitchen. Eating well and feeding others should be about food that tastes good, is good for you, and doesn’t destroy your kitchen in the process of making it! Get a few cool tools and get organized. Let’s go!


Thanksgiving Survival Guide

Happy Thanksgiving, fans!  I thought about a long post about family and friends and how food brings us all together…. but who has time for that?!  Let’s keep it simple. I’m all in for a good meal, but I need a good drink to start. Let’s begin there…

ADULTS-ONLY Caramel Apple Cider

1/2 gallon apple cider
2 cups caramel flavored vodka

Heat on low and serve to every family member.


Then, here are some quick sides to add to your festivities: 

Green bean casserole:

Creamy corn:

Spicy applesauce:

Stuffing balls:


I’ve never made a turkey in a crock pot. But I have roasted a chicken, so if you only need to serve 2-4 people, pick a different bird and try this instead:  This link also includes my curried chicken salad which is an excellent idea for your turkey leftovers, too!


Wishing you and yours a happy and festive celebration. Now pass me some of that apple cider! 




My Favorite Gadgets

Forget that Mary Poppins crap, my favorite things have nothing to do with rainbows or kittens. In every room of my house, I’ve been known to simplify, down-size, update or re-organize. But my kitchen (insert content sigh here!) it’s full of cutesie, single purpose items, that coordinate, decorate or accentuate my meals. I LOVE kitchen gadgets.

My kitchen is organized by purpose and size and I can always find what I’m looking for, so I don’t think it’s cluttered or compromised by my collection (and no, I’m not just in denial!). As I look around this haven, I thought it would be fun to write out my favorites for you and give you the chance to add them to your own collection. Think about the foods that you make, the entertaining you do and the ways that you can add a little flare to your flavors.

In no particular order, these are the Top 10, but they are ALL favorites in my kitchen:

Silicone Rolling Pin1. Silicone Baker’s Pin: When you roll out dough with this pin, you can feel the thickness better than using a traditional rolling pin. It also is easy to clean and isn’t porous like wood.  The downside is that it’s unusual in size and hard to store, but the pretty red exterior makes it fun to leave out too. It also doubles as a lethal weapon against anyone that wants to bad talk your cooking.

Cheese Slicer2. Cheese Slicer: I fell in love with this cutting board while having a 3 am snack with a close friend, during her eighth month of pregnancy. Halfway through our second brick of sharp cheddar, I realized that the design and convenience were both top notch. It makes great sense to have a slicer attached to a cutting board and it comes with replacement wires so your cheesiness can last forever.

OXO Kitchen Scissors3. OXO Kitchen Scissors: I use these more than once a day, no joke. At breakfast, it’s the easiest way to cut up waffles, pancakes or toast into small pieces for the kids. At lunch, I use it to shear a head of leaf lettuce for a salad. For dinner, I skin and de-fat my meat before throwing it in the crock pot. I have my purposes, but the most common use— it’s a sanitary way to cut off the top off those plastic-wrapped popsicles. It’s easy to hand wash or you can throw it in the dishwasher, especially after using it on meat.

Rubbermaid Mixing Pitcher4. Rubbermaid Mixing Pitcher: This is way smarter than always pulling out a wooden spoon or spatula to stir up orange juice pulp, mix an instant lemonade or swirl ice around a mojito. Measure the height of your refrigerator’s top shelf before buying it though, to make sure it will fit.

Primo Water Cooler5. Primo Water Cooler: I love having hot and cold water readily available, especially if it tastes good and not like a metal tap. The hot water valve is childproof but still easy enough to use with one hand. It’s easy to change the 5-gallon jug because there is a plunger built in= no spilled water since you don’t have to flip anything over. This is a much more sleek design that the top-loading coolers, it is a nicer presentation to have the water jug stored easily underneath the unit.

Lock and Lock Containers6. Lock and Lock Containers: These are so much easier to operate than the typical sealed container. I keep my brown sugar, corn starch and cinnamon sugar in these for easy accessibility, but also to keep the bugs and humidity out.

Silicone Ice Cube Trays7. Silicone Ice Cube Trays: While the name may give you the primary use, I have come up with so many others. You can use these cubes to make jell-o jigglers, divide any meat/fruit/veggie/pasta into proportionate sizes before freezing or to prepare homemade baby food. FOR BABY FOOD–After cooking and pureeing single-ingredient items, pour the substance into the trays and freeze. When frozen, pop each cube out and store in a freezer-safe gallon bag for up to a month. To thaw, throw a few cubes in a microwave safe container and heat for 30 seconds, stir and heat again if necessary.

OXO Flexible Turner8. OXO Flexible Turner: This is different than your usual spatula or turner. It is incredibly thin and scoots under foods very easily. I use this for removing meringue cookies from parchment paper and flipping tofu when searing it in oil. I prefer the metal turner, but they also make this item in plastic and silicone.

Salad Bear Claws9. Salad Bear Claws: Looking for a fun way to entertain and serve dinner? These are “handy” gadgets to help grab salad or pasta and move it to an individual plate. I get comments every time I use these to serve food, I love it. P.S. They would probably be great to scratch the cook’s back after dinner, too!

IKEA Gadget Charging Cup10. IKEA Gadget Charging Cup: Isn’t your kitchen counter also the charging station for your ipod, cell phone, blue tooth and pager?! This organizer hangs on the wall and stores all the little power cords so it doesn’t look like an octopus is crawling out of the outlet next to your crock pot. That would just be uncool to crowd your crock pot.

Crock Pot Brisket-- easy, medium and hard

I’m pretty sure everyone has a grandmother-aged person in their life that makes the “perfect brisket”. It’s moist, juicy, flavorful and pulls apart perfectly. We’ve tried and tried to repeat the old world secrets, but somehow our ovens continue to dry out the meat or make it tough to chew. Look no further– grandma might not have used a slow cooker, but these recipes are very easy and have amazing results. 

Here’s a great little nugget for you: my mom always cut off the last inch of the brisket before cooking it. I figured it was because of how she trimmed off the fat, skimming the top of the cut of meat and then cutting off the chunk at the end. I asked her about it and she said that it was how her grandmother did it. So I asked my grandmother why her mom cooked the meat in that particular way and she said, “because her pan was too small, the meat never seemed to fit right so she cut off the end so the brisket would lay flat.”  It’s funny how traditions begin.

If you are looking for a pulled beef sandwich to serve at a spring BBQ, fork apart the meat when it is done, then top it with your favorite BBQ sauce and serve it on a braided roll. Oh– was it mean to say BRAIDED ROLL to those of you celebrating Passover? My bad.

EASY difficulty brisket

1 3 lb. beef brisket

1 bottle italian dressing

Pour half the dressing over the brisket and let it marinate overnight. In the morning, move the meat into the slow cooker and top with the remaining dressing. Cook on low for 8 hours.  Now, wasn’t that easy?!


MEDIUM difficulty brisket

1 3 lb. brisket

1 medium-sized onion, sliced thin

1 12 oz. can of Coke (not diet)

1/2 c. ketchup

1 t. black pepper

1/2 t. cayenne pepper

pinch of salt

Place brisket into crock pot, use trivet if you have one. Surround meat with sliced onion. Mix together Coke and ketchup and pour on top of meat and onions. Sprinkle seasonings on everything. Cook for 8 hours on low or 4-5 hours on high.

If you want to vary the flavor, try using 12 oz. apple juice or 12 oz. of beer INSTEAD of the Coke.


HARD difficulty brisket

1 3 lb. brisket

1 t. of each seasonings: cracked black pepper, rosemary, paprika, parsley, celery seed

2-3 cloves garlic, chopped fine

1 t. olive oil


Rinse meat and pat dry. Using your fingers or a pastry brush, lightly coat meat with olive oil. Then mix together all seasonings and coat meat in dry rub. Let marinate overnight in the refrigerator. In the morning, take meat out and sprinkle with garlic. Heat up a pan and brown meat on all sides, then put meat in crock pot. Add enough water to the crock pot to cover the bottom of the pot. Also, if you have a trivet that fits in your crock pot, use that under the meat. Cook on low for 6 hours.

A la "cart": how to manage your crock pot grocery list

Do you ever feel like your day is moving so fast, you might get a metaphorical speeding ticket? And that you’d enjoy being pulled over in the traffic of life because it means that you could stop moving for just a minute?! Some days definitely feel like that, but in order to maintain less madness, I try to be (ok, obsessively) organized. I have lists: to do lists, grocery lists, lists for my husband, wish lists and even a few mental notes to self. There is nothing more gratifying to me that seeing an entire list illuminated by bright pink highlighter and to feel the page wilting from the weight of my successes. Yeah, I’m like that.

And while it’s somewhat entertaining, I think my lists are actually pretty useful, so I’m going to share one with you today. I downloaded this a couple years ago and then adapted it to my specific wants/needs. My apologies to whatever web site posted this originally, I honestly don’t remember where it came from.  But when I need to restock the kitchen, this helps me stay focused and ultimately get only what I need, so that I save myself from the frivolous whims of grocery store end caps.

Start list list from the bottom– fill in what you’d like to have for dinner most nights. It’s ok if you just write “Monday- chicken, veggie” or “Tuesday- CP lentil soup” (CP= crock pot).  Give yourself a target of what you’d like to eat and then work up the list, adding the ingredients you need to purchase.  It’s also helpful to keep this crock pot grocery list on your refrigerator so that when you– or someone else in your house– finishes something, they can just check it off so that you know to buy it next time you shop.

This list does not need to stay pretty! Start by checking things off, then circle, add in, redefine, put questions marks… whatever helps you. Also, go through the weekly ads for the store (at home or when you get to the store) and then add in sale items that are a good buy for the week. You may even want to look at the ads before you make your meal suggestions.

Depending on how your grocery store is set up, you may want to move the catagories around to make the flow easier. Feel free to make this your own. It needs to be functional to how YOU shop if it’s going to make YOUR life easier.  I also like that I can divide up this list and give certain sections to my husband, this cuts a lot of time off the trip and even removes some of those tempting tasty distractions that I might have been inclined to buy.

I hope you find this helpful as you continue to venture into the adventure of crock pot cooking. Take it one step at a time and soon enough you’ll be eating home cooked, easy meals on more nights of the week. Enjoy!

Keepin' it simple

Some days you might consider dumping everything in a crockpot to still be too much work. I know some of you have great intentions, but that crockpot is still sitting in a box in your basement. Or, the idea of scrubbing the caramelized tidbits from the sides might convince you not to try. Trust me, one pot meals are the easiest way to save time in prep and clean up. Once you start with your crock pot, you’ll realize that it is the best kitchen small appliance you have— other than your coffee pot, of course.

So let’s start simple. Here are some easy things to try that don’t require a lot of work, clean up or preparation.

1. Rice: your crock pot can also be a rice cooker. 1 cup rice to 2 cups water on high. You need to check it to see when it’s fluffy and done because the time can vary depending on the rice, but the ratio should be the same for all varieties.

2. Sweet potatoes: wash them (don’t pat dry), leave the skin on and put them in the crockpot for 4-6 hours on low. They will create enough liquid to cook all the way through. If you want to make it fancy, peel and cube the potatoes, then add a couple T. of butter and brown sugar to the pot for a sweet treat. I wouldn’t be offended if you added mini-marshmellows at the end either!

3. Sauces: Many times you will read that I’ve created a sauce or a glaze or thickened up a gravy. But honestly, you can use most bottled sauces on meats and veggies just fine. BBQ, sweet and sour, teriyaki, italian dressing and broth all make for excellent flavors in the crock pot.  The only down side is that these sauces are typically higher in sugar, which means it might make for tougher clean up, and also higher in sodium, which might make the cooked foods a little saltier. But by all means, you can totally keep in simple and use prepped sauces.

4. Owner’s Manual: If you own a crock pot, you have some great resources to help you figure it out. This may sound silly, but check your owner’s manual! There may be a conversion guide of oven cooking time to crock pot cooking time. It means you can crock pot so many more things now that you know how long to cook them! It might even have some great recipes to try. It also has the warranty information— if you find that your crock pot doesn’t cook evenly, that it burns, that the lid doesn’t keep a good seal, that it has a weird electrical smell, or any other bizarre cooking experience, then you should definitely call the company and follow up. Crock pot cooking should be simple and easy, if it isn’t, then let’s work together and figure out why!

5. Crock pot liners: One of the best accessories a girl can have. Except you can’t wear this. But your crock pot can! You open it, put it in the crock pot and then dump everything into it. Cooking directions are exactly the same, but now there isn’t any clean up. When it cools, you just pull it out and throw it away. It doesn’t get any easier than that. Take my advice and put this item on your next grocery list.

I hope these nuggets are helpful to you and maybe this ounce of encouragement will motivate you to give crock pot cooking a try. Have fun with it! Food isn’t just about sustenance, it should entertain all of your senses!