Low and Slow with a French Twist

Hi everyone! The road warriors have returned. We had a fabulous road trip across more than 1,500 miles. We began with a “five on the clock” as Mr. N would say. Which means we were up and getting ready with a “four on the clock.” Or getting up in the middle of the night as Miss A declared. mini road warriors

The day before and the first day of road trips are my favorite. The packing, the anticipation, the waking up bright and early (the only time I like to wake up early), the excitement, the buzz around the house…it’s exhilarating. road warriors

We had a great time visiting friends (more on that to come), going to museums, amusement parks, wineries and just generally lying low and taking it slow. It was perfection. No phones, no emails (at least as they pertained to work) and no texts. How often does that get to happen?! Certainly not often enough. first dinner

It was pure family time and pure fun. The kids have gotten older since our last road trip this direction, even since our last road trip. As we know, time flies. Miss A is certainly going through a new developmental stage and Mr. N literally aged on this trip (more on that to come). family dinner

But before I get to those fun little tidbits and while I get all our vacation pictures organized, we thought we’d share another French recipe with you all. Can you tell we’re enjoying our little foray into French cuisine! Well, who wouldn’t?! So like our trip, this recipe is one that you’ll want to cook low and slow. It’s a slow cooker twist on a traditional French Provençal vegetable stew – Ratatouille. eggplant

I believe we adapted the recipe from a Better Homes and Gardens dish, but truthfully I don’t remember and I can’t find the recipe that I used. It came on vacation with us (as I had intended to post this while we were away), but it either didn’t make it home or it’s lost somewhere in a suitcase. In any case, we used traditional ratatouille veggies – eggplant, onion, tomato, pepper (we chose red) and zucchini. ratatouille veggies

Along with our veggies we used garlic, tomato sauce, salt and pepper, oregano and herbs de Provence. seasonings

Everything was simply tossed into the slow cooker and set on low to cook for 5 hours. slow cooking ratatouille

All told, the only real time you spend cooking this dish is the time it takes you to chop the veggies. Not to mention there’s only one pot to clean at the end! This is my kind of weekday meal for sure.

Now there are many ways to serve ratatouille. It can be a served as a side dish or a main course. It can be served over rice, bread or pasta. It can even be served on its own as a stew. ratatouille

The veggies will shine regardless of how you serve the dish. As for us, we wanted a little protein with the meal, so we served ours over omelets. omelets with ratatouille

It was a fresh, flavorful and rather healthy meal. Mike and I both feel omelets are a great way to load up on veggies. health dinner

I gave the slow cooker ratatouille 3 spoons. As many of you know, I’m a picky veggie eater, but I’ll gladly eat them this way and feel good about it. Mike, however, would have preferred the ratatouille over rice. He enjoyed the stew, but felt it really needed a carb to go along with it. So he only rings in at 2-1/2 spoons. ratatouille and eggs

As for the kids, well, we let them skip this one. They’ve tried enough dishes to know they don’t like eggplant, peppers or tomatoes…yet. I’m still holding out hope they’ll develop a liking for them though, but for now it’s a bit hard to hide the veggies in the ratatouille. They did enjoy watching the movie, Ratatouille, on vacation though. I suppose that counts for something. 😉

Print this recipe: Slow Cooker Ratatouille

We’ll be back next week with our vacation highlights and then onto a few more fun recipes, followed by our traditional summer celebrations. Have a great week everyone!

Spoiler Alert: Miss A has become obsessed with farms and farm life.

Spoiler Alert: Miss A has become obsessed with farms and farm life.

Spoiler Alert: One (or two) of those celebrations might involve a birthday!

Spoiler Alert: One (or two) of those celebrations might involve a birthday!

Land of Smiles

Spring has arrived! Well, at least the dandelions have.dandelions

I know they are weeds and not necessarily desirable in the front lawns of suburbia, but how can you not smile looking at a sea of beautiful yellow and green? We came upon this vacant lot near the theater where Mr. N performed his five shows this past weekend and it just made me smile. Speaking of smiles, today is our last recipe inspired by the “Land of Smiles,” Thailand. This recipe came from a good friend of mine and isn’t an authentic Thai dish, but definitely Thai-inspired. The kids and I were up north visiting my good friend and her kids (leaving Mike to his NCAA tournies) and she prepared this dish for our arrival. We hadn’t yet officially started our cooking adventures in Thailand, but I knew this would have to make it to the blog. So today we bring you Slow Cooker Spicy Peanut Thai Chicken. The ease of this dish certainly makes me smile! seasonings

The recipe is simple, mix together peanut butter, lime juice, soy sauce, freshly minced ginger, sweet chili sauce and sambal oelek (ground chili paste). sweet and spicy

Then simply add the chicken to the slow cooker (we used boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 1-inch pieces) and pour the sauce over the chicken. Next add a bit of fresh cilantro and two ingredients which weren’t part of the original recipe, but that I wanted to toss in – bamboo shoots and green onions. Once everything is mixed together, cover and set your temperature. We cooked ours on low for eight hours, but you could cook this on high for four hours as well. Then go about your day… spicy chicken crockpot

While not really an authentic Thai dish, this inspired version has helped feed us and keep us sane during these busy weeks. And Miss A and I have enjoyed whipping up a very easy (again non-traditional) naan to go with the chicken. While you could also use rice, naan is a fabulous complement to the meal. We typically mix the dough in the morning, let it rest in the fridge for the day. Then we roll it out and cook it up in 15 minutes before dinner. Can you see why the Land of Smiles has us smiling?! naan

But the smiles don’t end there. This meal gets high marks from all of us! When the naan was complete and the chicken cooked through, we garnished the dish with fresh cilantro and toasted peanuts. Spicy Thai Chicken

Miss A is not a fan of the spicy chicken, but I think she’ll come around. She’s just beginning to explore spicy dishes. The naan, however, that gets 5 spoons from her (I think she may be getting closer to understanding our rating system, but I will miss her votes of 1,092.) slow cooker Thai chicken

Mike, Mr. N and I all really like this dish. It’s one we’ll make again and again. Partly for its simplicity and partly for its flavors. It’s a great weeknight flavor punch – spicy, sweet and those little crunchy bites of peanuts – yum! This easily earns 3 spoons from each of us. Thank you for the recipe Missy! Slow Cooker Spicy Peanut Chicken

Now before we sign-off for today and end our Thailand cooking adventures, Mr. N wanted to share one last fact about the Land of Smiles with you all. Did you know that Bangkok’s Thai name is the longest place name in the world? The Thai’s call Bangkok, Krung Thep, but its official name is Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Phiman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit. Whew!!! There is a bit of controversy surrounding the validity of the statement as North Wales and New Zealand also lay claim to the title, but you can read more on that here. While I can’t claim to know the true title holder, I do know this is a LONG name! And I know there is one thing I wish could last longer…childhood. Ensemble

Mr. N was in his first “real” play this past weekend. This wasn’t a camp play or school play, but one at a community theater for which he auditioned and rehearsed for months. In fact, he even got to miss two days of school to perform for other schools’ field trips. To say he was proud and excited is an understatement. Uncle

He was an ensemble character in “Charlotte’s Web” in a cast of about 25 other kids aged 1st grade through high school. He made friends, had a few crushes (shhh!) and even had his first kiss. Well, sort of – he was kissed by a younger girl and quite mortified by it! In fact, he told Mike that when he becomes a famous actor someday he’s going to have to get married really fast because he can just imagine how many girls chase famous actors trying to kiss them. So his solution – he’ll need to get married quickly. Oh boy…I think I’m getting some gray hair now. take a bow

Truthfully as a parent, watching him become part of a group – part of something outside of home, outside of school and larger than himself was a proud moment for Mike and I. Sometimes we have a hard time believing he’s only almost 9 when we see him reassuring other cast mates that there’s nothing to be nervous about – that this is exciting, and congratulating and hugging his other cast mates at the end of the production. Then other times we think, my goodness how is he almost 9?! Watching him perform his lines, projecting his voice, getting laughter and applause, I couldn’t help but think, “That’s the little 3 pound baby I held in my arms not that long ago.” Sigh. first play

I think it might be time for a life saver (a tasty dessert from Geni who knows all too well how fast children grow up!). Thank goodness for cameras, so we can preserve these little, and oh so brief, moments of childhood. childhood

Ehem. Now if you’ll excuse me…no, I’m not crying. It’s the heat from this spicy chicken. Okay, so I’m not fooling anyone, but I swear I’m smiling at the same time and the chicken really is quite good. Feel free to decrease the heat if you like. Print this recipe: Spicy Slow Cooker Thai Chicken

Thai Slow Cooker

Love, Loyalty and Barbecue

Okay, so the words to the salute of the state flag in The Palmetto State are actually, “love, loyalty and faith,” but we’re talking about slow cooked barbecue goodness today. More specifically we’re talking about Mr. N’s state pick for the week, South Carolina Slow Cooker Pulled Pork.

We learned quite a bit about the different styles of BBQ and BBQ sauce for the southeastern coastal state, the most important thing being that BBQ refers exclusively to pork. If you want barbecued beef, it’s called “barbecued beef.” Simply asking for barbecue, however, will land you a pulled, shredded or chopped BBQ pork sandwich. And then there are the sauces which vary by region and include mustard-based sauces, ketchup-based sauces and vinegar-based sauces.

This week we chose the slow cooker method for our pork – it’s easy and convenient enough for a weekday and we love the way it makes the house smell. We also went with the ketchup-based barbecue sauce popular in the upstate and Savannah River regions, thinking that would be more up the kids’ alley.

The day before we planned to slow cook the pork, Miss A and I prepared the barbecue sauce. We used ketchup, apple cider vinegar, salt, brown sugar and crushed red pepper. 

Continue reading

May I Have Seconds…Make That Thirds Please

I’m assuming from the title you can guess this is a meal that we enjoyed. We chose another Filipino recipe, Pork Estofado. Raymund at Ang Sarap has been a wonderful inspiration for our Filipino food selections. He made a version of this back in September and I was completely intrigued by cooking bananas in a pork dish.

It’s been a hectic week and we’re all fighting off colds, so no one is really running at full steam. We also wanted something that was going to be easy for a weeknight full of the kids’ activities. That’s why we opted to make a few adaptations to this dish, one of which was to make use of the slow cooker.

We started by bundling our spices and seasonings, including bay leaves, peppercorn, minced garlic and star anise in a cheesecloth.  Continue reading

How Did We Miss This in South Dakota?!

We’re in South Dakota tonight for this week’s stateside meal adventure. As we mentioned in a previous post, the Mount Rushmore State was one of Miss A’s favorite places to visit this past summer – and now it just might be her favorite cooking destination too. The South Dakota Peach Kuchen has been a hit on our breakfast plates this week and tonight South Dakota’s official state food, Fry Bread, was also a big winner.

South Dakota Fry Bread can be served as a main dish with taco toppings or as a dessert/snack with cinnamon and sugar. Of course we tested both options! Our taco toppings are courtesy of Laura at Manna & Quail who posted her Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos recipe last night. Thank you Laura! This recipe truly saved us a ton of time tonight (Seriously dinner was done and cleaned up by ten after six!), and it was just the healthy topping we needed.

We prepared the slow cooker recipe around 11 a.m. this morning and then went about our day. At around 1 p.m. we began to thaw the frozen dinner rolls in a greased muffin tin.

Once thawed, about 3-5 hours later, roll the dough into 6-inch circles. Now they are ready to fry or place on the griddle. We fried six of the dough circles in oil in a heavy skillet and cooked the remaining six on a greased griddle. Since the griddle makes this a much healthier meal, we figured that we’d test out the taste difference between the two cooking methods. If frying the dough, once the circles are golden brown, remove and drain on paper towels. For either methods it’s helpful to keep the cooked fry bread warm in the oven while cooking the remaining dough. Now, that’s it! They are ready to serve.

The taco toppings were perfect for the fry bread and truthfully we couldn’t tell a difference between the fried ones and those that were cooked on the griddle. They were equally delicious. Dad, Mr. N and I all helped ourselves to seconds and Miss A devoured her first serving.

As for the dessert, we have another winner on our hands. The cinnamon sugar was delicious and a nice contrast to the taco toppings. The fried version, however, was better this time.

Tonight’s dinner comes highly recommended. It’s very easy, very fast and very tasty. And if you opt to use the griddle, it’s also healthy. Tonight got 3 spoons all around. Maybe even a 4 from Miss A who was chanting, “I need more sugar! I need more sugar!”

Print this recipe: South Dakota Fry Bread