Recipe Review: Slow-Cooker Balsamic Roast Beef

There’s just something about best friends, isn’t there? They always know your quirks and qualms. So when one of my closest, dearest friends sent me this recipe the other day, I thought: “She knows me way too well!”

My friend just invested in her first slow cooker and was researching recipes when she came across this one. Knowing about my not-so-secret love affair with my own slow cooker, she passed it along to me.

Balsamic Roast Beef

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I never thought I would say this — but I’m getting sick of pulled pork.  It’s probably my favorite thing to make in my crock pot because it’s so easy and delicious.  But we have it ALL OF THE TIME and I’m starting to OD on it.  So when my friend sent me this recipe, it spoke to me. It’s uncomplicated AND involves a meat that falls apart when cooked low-and-slow. Yum.

Her colleague gave her this recipe for Balsamic Roast Beef from Take a look — you’ll see it’s incredibly easy.

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Honestly, it took me 5 minutes to throw the ingredients into the crock pot, set it to 6 hours on high, and then run out the door to run my errands.

I served it with baked sweet potato rounds, sautéed mushrooms, and steamed broccoli. photo 4-24

But would the family like it?


The Results:

  • my 7-and-5-year-olds really liked it, saying “it’s great!” and cleaned their plates!
  • my 3-year-old said “It’s Yucky!” with that sly little smile that means she’s saying something she doesn’t mean.  You know — the smile that only 3-year-olds can give. Then she cleaned her plate! (veggies and all!)
  • The Hubs thought it was great and had seconds!
  • my friend, who I invited over to try, loved it.

So thumbs up all around, right? Wrong.

Personally… I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it.  Not because it’s a bad recipe, but because I’m just not a fan of ‘sour’ meat. I’ve never been.  I try, but it’s just not my thing.  But, in this recipe’s defense, the sourness was very subtle.

I also thought it turned out too dry.  It didn’t pull apart as easily as, say, my pulled pork. I think it would be helpful if I used a smaller cut of meat in the recipe so there would be more liquid to make it more moist.  That might help.. in my 1-43

So I’ll make it again for my family who loved it — it just might be on a night when I have book club.

Give it a try… you might think differently!  Then, tell me I was wrong!

Happy eatings!



Recipe Review: Slow-Cooker Coconut-Curry Spaghetti Squash

After my last post about breaking my addiction to pasta, many of my friends suggested I use spaghetti squash instead of tofu noodles.  Little did they know I already had spaghetti squash in my sights.  (cue evil laugh… bwah-hah-hah!!)

photo 1-34In my efforts to shed a few LBs and get some healthy recipe ideas, I “liked” a site on Facebook called Paleo Pot.  The website is great and has very simple, idiot-proof recipes.  Just what I need!  A couple of weeks ago, they posted this recipe for Super-Easy Crock-Pot Spaghetti Squash Curry.

Considering some of my favorite words are “crock pot,” “curry” and “spaghetti,” this was high on my ‘Recipes to Try’ Pinterest board.

They weren’t kidding when they called this ‘super-easy!’  Just follow their quick-prep directions, toss everything in the crock pot and go! But be careful you don’t buy a squash that’s too big.  Mine almost didn’t fit into the crock pot once it was split in half.  And it made much more than my family could eat.

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This dish was very flavorful.  My 7 year old typically snubs his nose at curry dishes, but he cleaned his plate and asked for seconds.  My 3yo gobbled it up.  My husband also really liked it.  Very surprising considering I accidentally bought the ‘hot’ red curry paste in my rush through the grocery store!  Yikes!

The person who surprised me the most was my 5yo.  This kid is ALL about spicy!  He eats a mound of wasabi straight when we go out for sushi!  He puts spicy horseradish sauce on his steak!  He started eating Lamb Vindaloo at 18 months old!

But this squash — he wanted nothing to do with it, saying he doesn’t like curry!  I was SHOCKED!


I served this with baked flounder and sautéed spinach.  Probably not the best pairing, on my part.  But I’ll make it again because it’s different than most of the recipes in my usual repertoire and oh-so-simple.

Give it a try.  If you like coconut curry, you might like this!

Happy eating!


Hectic Days = Low and Slow Nights (Part Two)

Our first fall leaves of 2013

Our first fall leaves of 2013

It’s FALL!!! Fall! Fall! Fall! Fall!

I spied my first sight of fall leaves at our park the other day and nearly jumped with joy!!

Oh!  I love it so much!! I have to say it again!


The air is crisper, cleaner. Out come the comfy sweaters; in go the dreaded bathing suits.  The kids are back at school.  Hooray!

And we can’t forget the wonderful foods that return with Fall — apples, pears , brussels sprouts, root veggies, squashes. All so comforting and delicious on chilly autumnal nights.

Most nights in the Fall and Winter, I use my slow-cooker. I throw everything in and let Old Trusty do the work for me.  It’s a savior when the after-school activity schedule gets the best of us.

So I do a lot of soups and stews — and I made one of our family’s favorite Crock Pot meals this week:  Butternut Squash Soup.

Slow-Cooker Butternut Squash Soup

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  • 1 butternut squash (on the medium-large side)
  • 1 apple (I used red delicious), peeled and chopped
  • 1 box of chicken stock, low-sodium (veggie stock works, too)
  • 1 can cannelloni beans, rinsed and drained
  • about a 1/4 cup of diced sweet onion
  • about 1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • cumin, to taste
  • nutmeg, to taste
  • salt and pepper, to taste (I use white pepper)
  • croutons (optional)

Get To Work:

  1. Pierce the squash with a fork several times all over and microwave it for 2 minutes.  Check it to see if the shell is starting to get soft.  If so… you’re good.  If not, nuke it another minute at a time until the shell gets soft enough to peel with a veggie peeler.
  2. While the squash is in the microwave, saute onion and garlic in olive oil on your stove 1-32
  3. Peel the squash, scoop out the seeds, and cut the squash into 1-inch cubes.
  4. Put the squash, apple, onion, garlic, beans, chicken stock, cumin and nutmeg into the slow cooker.
  5. Cook on low for 4 hours.
  6. Use an immersion blender to mix it all up.
  7. I like to serve with croutons… and a side salad and some bread. (on this particular night, I didn’t have crusty bread. So I served it with some dumplings I had in the freezer.)

There are never complaints at our table when I make this.  Everyone loves it.

And I particularly like that the cannelloni beans become a hidden ingredient in this dish.  They add protein to a veggie dish and make it creamy without the added calories of cream.  It’s my favorite trick to use in soup recipes that call for cream.

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It’s a standard meal in our house especially on busy, chilly, fall nights.

Enjoy this wonderful time of year!!!

Happy eatings!



Hectic Days = Low and Slow Nights (Part One)

You know those nights — the ones where one kid has soccer, one has baseball, you have Back To School Night, the Hubs is working late.  Those are the nights when everyone is running in different directions, but you still want to bring everyone together to the table.

We had nights like that twice this week.  (I know.  We’re lucky.  Many of you have to swing this scenario most weeknights.)

On nights like this, I pull out Old Trusty: The Crock Pot.  And tonight, I’m going to share one of the two meals that came from my kitchen wing-man.  (Sorry ’bout the forthcoming pun….)

ImageSlow-Cooker Chicken Enchiladas

One night’s dinner was an adaptation of this recipe from  (If you haven’t visited this site for dinner inspiration, you should.)  I find most of the recipes 1) call for things I already have on hand; and, 2) are easy and quick to make.

I followed the recipe fairly closely, but kept out a lot of the spicier ingredients.  Here’s how I did it:


  • cooking spray
  • 9 whole wheat tortillas (the small ones)
  • 2 cups cooked chicken (I poached and pulled 5 chicken thighs the night before making this)
  • 2 cans red, mild enchilada sauce
  • 1 can corn, drained (note: I did not use the corn with chiles)
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • sprinkles of garlic salt
  • sprinkles of chili powder
  • smaller bag of Mexican blend shredded cheese (I believe it was 2 cups)

Get to Work:

  1. Spray the slow-cooker with the cooking spray.  (spray liberally — those tortillas will STICK!)
  2. Line the bottom of the slow-cooker with 3 tortilla
  3. ImageCover the tortilla with 1 cup of the chicken, the can of corn, a sprinkling of garlic salt and chili powder (to taste) and half of the cheese.  Pour about 1/2 of one can of enchilada sauce over it.
  4. Top the mixture with 3 more tortilla, the remaining cup of chicken, the can of black beans, another sprinkle garlic salt and chili powder (to taste), the remaining 1/2 of the cheese, 1 can of enchilada sauce.  Image
  5. Top this with the remaining 3 tortillas and the remaining enchilada sauce.

I’m going to tell you what.  The pictures don’t make it look like much but it was SO easy and very tasty!

And my family liked it — the Hubs even asked me to put it into the regular rotation! My 7-year-old “isn’t really a fan of black beans” (his words) but he ate everything else on his plate.

In my opinion:  Winner! Winner! Chicken Enchilada Dinner!

Later, I’ll share the other recipe my Crock Pot slaved over while I was on the run.  (and — SPOILER ALERT! — the kids LOVED IT!)

Happy eatings!



Something Old, Something New

When I’m trying to get my kids to try something new, I tend to pair it with something old — something they’ve tried before and liked.  It’s a trick that’s worked well for me in the past, and I used this trick again tonight.

Creamy, Cheesy Polenta with Tomato Sauce and Meatballs


If I had to put a finger on it, I’d say our family’s favorite dinner is homemade Spaghetti and Meatballs.  But I didn’t feel like having spaghetti tonight.  So I made our favorite dinner with a twist:  Polenta.

I’ll admit:  I’m not a huge fan of (firm) polenta and have, therefore never made it for my kids.  In fact, the last time I tried to make polenta, I set it on fire under my broiler.  True story.

But I’ve been wanting to give it another try, so I looked online for a recipe for creamy polenta. This Creamy Cheesy Polenta I found on screamed out ‘TRY ME!’ tonight.  Talk about comfort food!


But while I love grits, my family does not. That’s why I paired it with the sauce and meatballs.  I make homemade sauce at least twice a month because it’s so very easy to make and, personally, I can’t stand jarred sauce. Plus, I can make a huge batch of it and freeze half for a future meal.

Tomato SauceImage

Ingredients: Image

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 glove garlic chopped
  • 1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 6oz can tomato paste
  • 1/2 of the 28oz can of water
  • 2 Tbsp fresh basil, torn
  • 2 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves
  • splash of red wine
  • pinch of salt and pepper


  1. Heat the olive oil in a small pan and sauté the onion and garlic until they’re translucent
  2. Put the onion, garlic, and remaining ingredients into the crock pot and cook on low for 6 hours. (enlist your children to help if you’re so inclined.)
  3. Enjoy the comfy way your house smells.
  4. Serve on spaghetti, polenta, spaghetti squash, sauteed zucchini — whatever your heart desires.  Dip Italian bread in and eat it straight out of the crock pot  (this is my favorite way.)

Baked Meatballs


Tonight, I hit the freezer and grabbed some meatballs I made a couple of weeks ago.  I love making meatballs in batches and then having them one night and freezing the others for 2-3 more meals…


  • 2lb ground beef
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • parsley
  • oregano
  • salt pepper
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
  • bread crumbs (about 1/2 cup, but I eyeball it and add it as needed to bind the meatballs.)
  1. Put all ingredients in huge mixing bowl and mix them with your hands.
  2. Form into 1 1/2 inch balls and place onto baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. (a great thing to get the kids to help you with!)
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes (you want them cooked, but left a little pink in the middle so you can then put them into your sauce to heat them up an hour before serving.)


As expected, my 7yo complained about not liking ‘grits and gritty’ things, but that he liked the sauce and meatballs.  But the rest of the family really liked it.  My 5yo even had seconds!!  So did The Hubs, who grimaced when I told him we were having polenta for dinner. (I think he was remembering the aforementioned Polenta Fire of 2004.)  But when it was all said and done he really liked the meal, even though he wanted spaghetti.

Ah well… whatcha gonna do?  I’m gonna keep trying… that’s what.

Happy eatings!



Defending the Caveman

Flirting with Paleo   


The Hubs can attest to this:  I am a flirt.

I flirt all of the time — with various notions.

I flirt with the idea of exercising more.  I flirt with the idea of saving more money. I flirt with the idea of posting on this blog everyday. Fail. Fail. Fail.

And now I’m flirting with the idea of going caveman, and trying the Paleo Diet.

Sorry if this is TMI but I have a lot of friends who, like me, are becoming ‘women of a certain age.’  We all complain about the same things: weight issues & health issues.  My friends who have made the switch to Paleo swear it’s made differences in their lives.  Some post amazing pictures of their physical transformations all over Facebook.  Others talk about how it’s helped improve their overall health and well-being.  It’s pretty inspiring. 

Still, I can’t help but imagine how difficult it must be to change one’s diet so radically, especially when children are involved.

I haven’t posted in a few days because I haven’t had much to write about. My son turned 7 the other day, so there was a lot of celebratory eating going on during his week-long birthday bonanza:  pizza, chicken nuggets, ice cream cake.  You know the drill.  Not to mention the fact that we’ve been at the pool almost every night and taking a lot of fun day-trips, so we’ve had our fair share of (gasp!) fast-food.  (I know, I know… Bad Mommy. Slapping my wrist right now for you.)

But I’m intrigued. So I gave a Paleo-inspired meal a try. Not too bad: 

Paleo-Inspired Slow-Cooker Coconut Chicken


  • Put a bag of baby carrots into slow cooker.
  • Put 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs on top. 
  • Cover with a can of coconut milk
  • Add 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • Add any herbs you feel like and have on hand: I put some thyme, oregano, basil and garlic.  (in hindsight, I wish I had thrown in a pinch of garam masala instead and made a coconut curry.)
  • Cook on high for 4-5 hours until chicken is done.

I served it with fresh chopped tomatoes tossed with basil (Paleo) and brown rice (not Paleo, but keeps the kids happy.)  

My husband really enjoyed this and 2/3 of my three birds enjoyed it too.  The chicken was so moist and tender. The carrots were so sweet — almost like candy.  My now-7-year-old was the one who complained. But I think if I made it again, he’d enjoy it.  And I think he would have liked it with the curry seasoning.  

So what do you guys out there in blog-land think?  To Paleo or not to Paleo?  That is the question.  Would you do it?  Have you?  Any tips you can share on how to get started? Any websites you would recommend that wouldn’t require me selling my daughter in exchange for some recipes and advice? Reply if you can… and help a girlfriend out.  🙂 

In the meantime… happy eatings!  



So Your Family Is On-The-Go?

Make-Ahead Meals for Post-Activity Feeding Frenzies

((Part One))

A week or so ago, a reader asked me if I could post some ‘make-ahead’ meals. She’s a busy mom of three active, athletic boys and she wanted to know if I had any ideas for dinners that could be made in advance of those late afternoon activities.

That got me to thinking. Right now, our evenings are only taken over by our 6-year-old’s activities. But our 5-year-old will be starting a similar schedule next year. And our 3-year-old daughter isn’t far behind. Soon enough, my evenings will no longer be blissfully filled with kids doing puzzles while I grill and sauté and mix away. Instead I’ll be on soccer fields and baseball diamonds until 6:30-7:30pm and my Three Little Birds will need dinner STAT.

We have had a taste of this already. This year, after CCD and baseball and soccer practices, I would walk in the door at 6pm and need dinner immediately ready in order to avoid meltdowns. I often turned to my beloved crock pot. What sanity-seeking mom wouldn’t? And we had some regular fare in our rotation:

  • Spaghetti and meatballs
  • Chili (turkey, beef, chicken — You name it. We had it.)
  • Corned beef and Cabbage (I posted my method for this not too long ago.) photo-20
  • Chicken and potato Sunday dinner
  • Pulled Pork (ad nauseum)
  • Various soups (mostly butternut squash) served with salads

But now it’s summer. And as delicious as all of these meals are, I want the tastes of summer.

So last night, I sat down with my grocery store circular, my shopping list, and my computer to find some good make-aheads meals. I’ve come up with several, and my hopes, dreams, and aspirations for the week include making all of them and posting them here.

First up — tonight’s meal:

Slow-Cooker ‘Fried’ Chicken, Potato Salad, & Steamed Broccoli

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‘Fried’ Chicken: I’ve ‘liked’ Skinny Slow Cooker on Facebook for a long time and am always ‘pinning’ and ‘liking’ their posts. Everything sounds so darn delicious! So when I was looking for a slow cooker recipe that wasn’t quite as heavy as the others in my repertoire, I naturally turned to this source first.

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Tonight was a great night to try this. We had a little league game and didn’t get home until close to 6pm. I had seen this Skinny ‘Fried’ Chicken a while ago, and it kept nagging at me. How can you ‘fry’ chicken in a crock pot? They seem to have the answer. Here’s the recipe I followed, although I didn’t have buttermilk on hand. So I made my own buttermilk by mixing a little less than a cup of milk with 1 Tbsp of lemon juice. (I’ve read that you can also use white vinegar in place of the lemon juice.)

I’m sure it was an error on my part (I think I’ve previously mentioned that I’m a bit of a monster in the kitchen) but the chicken emerged from the crock pot more mushy than fried. It was delicious and moist, but definitely not crunchy.

Also, I thought the spices could use a bit more something-something — a little pepper? A little garlic? Perhaps I didn’t add enough salt. I don’t know. I just needed a little more oomph.

I’m so sad, because I’m a cult fan of the Skinny Slow Cooker gals. But I’d definitely try making this again. The kids all ate it. So did the Hubs. But I could probably make it again with better results. Let me know if you try this and have a better outcome.

Steamed Broccoli: I made this in my favorite kitchen tool. Ever. It’s Pampered Chef’s Micro-Cooker. photo 3I bought it way-back-when in my single days and it’s been with me through 3 moves, the making of a family and countless dinners. You chop your broccoli, add about 1-inch water, cover and microwave for 1:30-2 minutes. Done. Steamed veggies. If you chop your veggies and have this ready in your fridge to just pop in the microwave, you’ll be done with dinner in no time. I use this ALOT and you’ll see if often this summer! Asparagus, green beans, snap peas. They all are awesome when steamed in this. And they’re done in seconds.

Potato Salad: Confession — (you’ll se a lot of ‘confessions.’ I’m Catholic, after all. We’re all about that!) — I didn’t make the potato salad. I was standing in line at the deli counter today and it looked good to me. So I picked some up. Sue me. It WAS good. You’ll notice I like to cook — but I’m relatively lazy. So if I need to supplement a meal with a store-bought side, so be it. (although my mom makes KILLER potato salad, which I really need to make and post here.)

I’m not going to tell you what’s planned for tomorrow because right now I’m debating between two different menus. But I will say they’re both good meals to come home to after an afternoon at the pool!

Who’s counting down to summer with me???

Happy eatings!!



Try, Try Again

Turkey & White Bean Chili with Caesar Salad

I love turkey chili.  And I particularly like Weight Watchers 4pt Turkey and White Bean Chili.

Turkey and White Bean Chili

Problem is: I’ve served it over-and-over again and the kids NEVER like it. But that doesn’t stop me from trying.  (mean old Mommy!)  🙂

I guess I just think I’ll wear `em down! Keep serving it to them and then – VOILA! – one night they’ll suddenly LOVE it and beg for more!!

That didn’t happen tonight.

My 6yo is this dish’s most vocal opponent. In recent months he has declared he doesn’t like turkey; he doesn’t like chili; he doesn’t like white beans.

Humph. This is problematic when one is making Turkey & White Bean Chili.

So, first, I ‘eliminated’ the white beans by blending them and then adding them to the chili. As for the turkey, I couldn’t do much about that.  But since it looked like a soup (since the beans were blended), we called it soup and sprinkled cheddar and cilantro on top and hoped for the best.

No dice. Our 6yo wasn’t buying it. But, after many tries with this meal in our house, our 5yo and 3yo finally did! They ate all of it, especially with promises of dessert. And all three of our kids LOVED the Caesar Salad we served with it (I used Dole’s Light Caesar salad in a bag.)

Turkey White Bean Chili and Caesar Salad

So, in the words of Meatloaf, two out of three ain’t bad. If two of my kids eat something, I consider that a win. And the thumbs up from the Hubs is pretty great, too.

Eventually, I’ll win over my 6yo. Try, try again. Right?

Here’s the recipe for any of you who would like to give it a go. I’ve also made it in my crock pot before and it turned out really well. I also keep it pretty mild and eliminate the chilis and cayenne.

Happy eatings!!!