Slow Cooker Cheesy Ravioli

This is one of those meals that is pretty quick to put together and the slow cooker does most of the work. The most work to this is cooking the ground beef. The sauce made from your favorite jarred marinara sauce and tomatoes, simmers long and slow for that homemade taste….even though it did come from a jar, but no one has to know right? At the end of the cooking time all you have to do is toss in a package of thawed ravioli, some cheese and you have a delicious, cheesy dinner. This is defiantly one of those meals for when you want comfort food at the end of a long day.

Here’s what you need:

* 1 pkg frozen ravioli, thawed or fresh ravioli

*1 to 1 1/2 lb ground beef

*2tsp. onion powder

*2 tsp garlic powder

*1 1/2 tsp. fennel seeds

*1 1/2 tsp. dried sage

*2 tsp. smoked paprika

*1/2 to 1 tsp. red pepper flakes

*1 tsp salt or more to taste

*2 24oz jars of marinara sauce (you can use homemade but I like using a premade kind because it makes this quick and easy)

*1 14.5 oz can petite (or regular diced) tomatoes; undrained

*2 cups shredded cheese; I used a combination of cheddar and Colby Jack

*Parsley for garnish (optional)

Heat a large skillet to medium high heat. Add the ground beef to the skillet and brown.

Drain if needed. Turn the heat down to medium.

To the beef add the onion powder, garlic powder, fennel seeds, sage, paprika, red pepper flakes and the salt.

Stir to combine. Cook for about 1 minutes stirring frequently so the spices will not burn.

Place the beef mixture into the slow cooker.

Pour in the marinara sauce and the diced tomatoes; stir to combine the beef, marinara sauce and the tomatoes.

Cover and cook on low for 6 hours.

Uncover and add in the ravioli.

I thaw out the bag of frozen ravioli in the refrigerator a day or two ahead of time.

Gently stir the ravioli in the meat sauce.

Stir in 1 cup of the shredded cheese being careful not to break apart the ravioli. Sprinkle on the remaining cheese over the top.

Cover and continue to cook on low for 15 to 20 minutes or until the ravioli are tender.

Serve and garnish with parsley.

Enjoy!

The First Country On My Food Journey Is….

Guatemala

Guatemala holds a special place for me because, if you’ve been following me for a while you know this is where my husband was born. I have always wanted to go there, but when we plan to take a trip, something always gets in the way. I have seen so many pictures and home movies that my hubby has shown me, that I feel like I’ve have been there. It is such a beautiful country. I have learned so much more about Guatemala’s cuisine from my hubby and his mom that I wanted this to be my first dish. So the dish for this region I chose

Pepian

Pepian is one of the oldest dishes in Guatemala and by many considered to be one of the national dishes. It is a fusion of the country’s Spanish and Mayan heritage. It is a thick, rich spicy stew that consists of onions, tomatoes, chilies pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds that are roasted and then blended to create that wonderful tasting sauce. I highly recommend to not skip the pumpkin and sesame seeds because they give the sauce a very distinctive flavor. This stew typically contains chicken, but beef and pork can be used instead. Some variations have potatoes and carrots in it as well.

I did do my own variation of the chicken. In the traditional dish, the chicken is cooked in a pot of water then added to the stew. I wanted to incorporate more flavor to the chicken so I mixed it with some herbs and seared it in a pan, just to give it that extra added flavor. I used the slow cooker so the flavors had some extra time to develop. This dish does take a bit of time to prepare, but it is so worth all of the love that is put into it. The chicken came out so tender and flavorful with all of the added spices. The sauce…wow that sauce….it’s so rich and tasty with just an added kick with the jalapeno and chili powders that I added. I didn’t add as many chilies as the traditional recipes call for, but it’s still delicious just the same. The potatoes and carrots help make it a very hearty stew. It’s usually served with rice and tortillas on the side. This dish certainly did not disappoint.

Here’s how I made my version of Pepian (slow cooker)

*1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into bite size pieces

*2 TBS flour

*3/4 tsp. cumin

*1 tsp. coriander

*1 1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder

*1/2 tsp. paprika

*1 tsp. onion powder

*1 tsp. garlic powder

*1 tsp. salt or more to taste

*1/2 tsp white pepper; you can use cracked black pepper instead

*2 TBS canola oil

*1 Jalapeno; if you prefer it spicy leave the seeds in, if not then scrape the seeds out. I scraped half of the seeds out and left some in.

*4 tomatoes; cut in half

*1 onion, cut in fourths

*4 garlic cloves

*2TBS sesame seeds

*2 TBS pumpkin seeds; shelled

*2 potatoes, peeled and cut into bite size pieces; I used russet because the starch seemed to help thicken the sauce better

*1 carrot cut into pieces

*2 cups chicken broth, divided

*1 TBS or more of cornstarch (if need)

In a large bowl, add the chicken

Next add the flour, cumin, coriander, chipotle chili powder, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Toss the chicken pieces with the flour mixture until the chicken is evenly coated.

Heat a large skillet, preferably cast iron because it gives a great sear, to medium high heat and add in the oil.

When the pan is hot, add in the chicken, but do not over crowd the pan. You will have to do this in batches.

Cook for about 2 minutes and turn the pieces over and cook for another minute. Do not leave the chicken in too long or the spices will burn. If the skillet becomes too dry, add in more oil.

Place the seared chicken pieces in to the slow cooker.

Wipe the skillet out and place the tomatoes in skin side down. Add in the onion, jalapeno and garlic cloves. Cook until it all begins to char, abut 5 minutes and then turn them over and cook until the other side begins to char.

Take out the garlic cloves before they become too brown or they will have a bitter taste.

While the vegetables are in the pan, in another small pan or sauce pan, toast the sesame and the pumpkin seeds.

I found pumpkin seeds that were already roasted, to I just had to toast the sesame seeds. Be careful not to burn the seeds, they toast quickly.

Add the charred tomatoes, onions, jalapeno and garlic cloves to a food processor or a blender, then add in the sesame and pumpkin seeds.

Pulse a few times to start breaking everything down.

Pour in 1 cup of the chicken broth and blend until everything is pureed.

To the slow cooker add in the potatoes and the carrot.

Pour in the pureed mixture and the remaining cup of chicken broth. Stir to combine all of the ingredients.

Cover and cook on low for 5 hours or until vegetables are tender. If sauce needs to thicken, add equal amounts of the cornstarch and water to make a slurry. Pour into the slow cooker and stir. Cook on high for about 5 minutes or more until sauce is thickened.

Serve with rice and tortillas.

Slow Cooker Pasta Bake

This was a pasta dish that I made over a year ago. It was after Christmas and hubby and I were spending the day taking down the Christmas decorations. I wanted to come up with something easy, yet hearty for dinner that night because I knew I would not feel like cooking after all that de-decorating. I had posted this on Pinterest later that evening and it became well liked. I had forgotten about it until recently and decided to make it once again and now I’m sharing it with all of you.

The meat sauce is cooked in the slow cooker for a few hours letting all those delicious flavors mix and mingle and come together for a very tasty sauce. The pasta is cooked at the end in the sauce and coated with cheese. There is a little prepping at the beginning, but then the slow cooker does all the work, which is great when at the end of the day you don’t feel like cooking, but you want a nice, yet easy pasta dinner.

Here’s what you need:

*1lb ground beef or ground sausage; I used ground beef
*1 onion chopped
*3 garlic cloves minced
*1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
*1 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
*1 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
*1 1/2 tsp. marjoram

*1 1/2 tsp dried oregano

*1 bay leaf

*28 OZ can diced tomatoes; undrained
*1 jar pasta sauce
*2 1/2 cups chicken broth
*1 box Penne or Ziti pasta
*1 cup shredded cheese; I used a Monterrey Jack Cheddar blend

In a large pan, cook ground beef. When it starts to brown, add in the onions, garlic and salt.

Continue cooking until beef is brown, stirring occasionally; pour into the slow cooker.

To the slow cooker, add in the herbs (except bay leaf), canned tomatoes, pasta sauce and chicken broth; stir to combine and then add in the bay leaf.

I add the bay leaf near the end because if it gets buried in all of the sauce, it’s not easy finding that little sucker at the end to take it out.

Cover and cook on low for 5 hours.

Turn the slow cooker to high and add in the pasta.

Stir into the sauce.

Cover and continue cooking for 20 to 30 minutes (depending on how hot your slow cooker is) — check and stir at the 15 minute mark.

Sprinkle with cheese.

Cover for 3-5 minutes until cheese is melted.

Serve and enjoy!

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

This is one of my favorite comfort foods to make for those long cold winter evenings. What I like even better, is throwing it all in the slow cooker and let it do all the cooking…not to mention the delicious smell wafting from the kitchen for most of the day. There is a bit of prepping involved, but it is so worth it. The meat in this stew comes out so tender and flavorful from the herbs and spices, while the potatoes and tender carrots turn this into a hearty meal. It’s even better served with some crusty bread to help soak up all of that rich stew.

Here’s what you need:

*3 TBS or more of olive oil

*2 lb. stew meat or a chuck roast cut into bite size pieces.

* 3 large carrots, cut into 1/4 inch slices or more if you prefer more carrots

*2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks; I prefer using russet potatoes because it has more starch which helps thicken the broth, but you can use any other potato if you prefer.

*1 small onion chopped

*1/4 cup flour

*2 tsp. dried Thyme

*2 tsp. paprika

*1/2 tsp. celery seed

*2 tsp. dried rosemary

*2 tsp. garlic powder

*2 tsp. onion powder

*1 tsp. salt or more to taste

*cracked black pepper to taste

*1 large bay leaf

*2 cups water

*2 tsp. or more to taste Better Than Bullion Beef Base or 2 beef bullion cubes

*3 TBS. tomato paste

*2tsp. Worcestershire sauce

*cornstarch and water if needed

In a large bowl, add beef, Thyme, paprika, celery seed, rosemary, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. Toss to coat. I find it easier to just use my hands,  it’s messy but what can I say, I like playing in my food. Add the flour and toss to coat all of the beef pieces.

In a large skillet, add olive oil and heat to medium high heat; add some of the beef to the pan. Do not over crowd the pan or the meat will not brown properly. You will need to do this in small batches.

Cook about 2 minutes then turn the beef over and cook another 2 minutes. If needed, add more oil to the pan.

I will be honest and say that at times, this is my least favorite part.  I did leave this step out once and the flavor was just not the same. So with love, patience and tongs in hand, I will brown the beef.

When the beef is seared on all sides, add them to the slow cooker. Next, add in the carrots, onions and potatoes.

Stir everything together.

In a large bowl, add the water, beef bullion base, tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce; mix to combine. Pour over the beef and vegetables.

Add in the bay leaf, cover and cook for 6 to 7 hours on low.

Remove the bay leaf and stir. If the broth is not thick enough stir together 1 1/2 Tbs. of cornstarch to 1 1/2 TBS. of water and stir into the stew. Cook on high for 10 to 15 minutes or until broth thickens.

Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Chili

Now that the weather has turned colder, it’s time for some hearty comfort food. This slow cooker chili is just that. It’s meaty and satisfying with a nice kick of spice, but not too spicy. You can throw it together and let it cook for hours and have a nice dinner everyone will love. It’s even better the next day.

Here’s what you need:

*1 lb ground beef

*1 small onion, chopped

*3 garlic cloves, minced

*1 1/2 TBS chili powder, or more to taste

*2 tsp. Chipotle powder, or more to taste

*1 tsp. salt

*2 tsp. garlic powder

*2 tsp. onion powder

*2 tsp. cumin

*2 tsp. coriander

*2 tsp. paprika

*2 tsp. dried Thyme

*1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano

*2 tsp. beef stock base; I used Better than Bullion Beef base

*1 bay leaf

*2 cans of light kidney beans, drained

*2 cans diced tomatoes with juices

*1 15oz. can tomato sauce

Heat a large pan over medium high heat. Add the ground beef and brown; drain if needed. Turn down the heat to medium and add all of the herbs and spices (chili powder thru the beef stock).

Mix well and cook for 1 minute, add any more herbs or spices if needed. Spoon in to the slow cooker.

Add in the onions and garlic.

Add in the beans, tomatoes and tomato sauce.

Mix all of the ingredients together and then add in the bay leaf.

Cover and cook on low for 5 hours.

Remove the bay leaf and serve.

Slow Cooker Cheesy Beef Casserole

I wanted to come up with another slow cooker dish, especially now that it’s starting to turn cooler outside. I had some beef and hash browns in the freezer, so I came up with a beef version of my Slow Cooker Cheesy Chicken Casserole. It was a hit. The picture really doesn’t do this little casserole justice. The beef turned out really flavorful and goes so well with the hash browns, not to mention the cheese…..everything is better with cheese right?

Here’s what you need:

*1 lb. ground beef; I used an 85% to 15% fat ratio.

*2 garlic cloves, minced

*1 small onion, chopped

*1 tsp. beef stock base, or beef Bouillon; I like Better Than Bouillon Beef flavor

*2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

*1 tsp. onion powder, or more to taste

*1 tsp. garlic powder, or more to taste

*1 tsp. cracked pepper

*2 Cups shredded cheese; I used a cheddar Monterey blend

*1 bag of frozen hash browns

*1 Cup of milk

Heat a large pan to medium high heat. Add ground beef and break apart while cooking.

Add onions and garlic and continue to cook until beef is no longer pink; drain if needed.

It is important to make sure all of the fat is drained off or the hash browns will get soggy while cooking.

Turn the heat down to medium and stir in the beef base, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, garlic powder and pepper. Cook for about 1 minute more; taste to see if you need to add any more spices. Take off the heat and set aside.

Spray a slow cooker with no stick spray.

Add a layer of the hash browns on the bottom of the slow cooker.

add some of the cheese on top of the hash browns.

Spoon the beef mixture on top of the cheese.

Add another layer off cheese over the beef.

Then another layer of hash browns.

And can you guess what comes next? Why cheese of course. Top the hash browns with another lovely layer of cheese.

Pour the milk over the cheese.

The milk will not cover the cheese. Too much milk will make the hash browns soggy.

Cover and cook on low for 4 to 4 1/2 hours.

Serve and enjoy!

Slow Cooker Cheesy Chicken Hashbrown Casserole

I first made this a few years ago. It was a huge hit with hubby, who then reminded me that I haven’t made this in a while and that I should make it again. It’s one of those meals that you can put together and forget about for a while and come back to a really hearty meal. It is a cheat day dish for sure, but I mean, who doesn’t love anything covered in cheese and bacon.

Here’s what you need:

*1 bag of frozen hashbrowns
*6 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
*1 Ib. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenders, cut into bite size pieces
*2 tsp. onion powder or more to taste
*2 tsp. garlic powder or more to taste
*1/2 tsp. salt or more to taste
*cracked pepper to taste

*1C. Milk
*2C. shredded cheddar cheese or any other desired kind

*Tip:

When cooking a lot of bacon, spray a baking/cooling rack with no stick spray and place on a baking sheet covered with foil. Place bacon strips on the baking rack. Cook at 400° for 15 minutes or until bacon is crispy.

Place chicken pieces in a large bowl and add all of the seasonings; toss to coat; set aside.

Spray the slow cooker with no stick spray. Place enough hashbrowns to cover the bottom.

Scatter 1/2 of the crumbled bacon pieces over the hasbrowns.

Add a layer of cheese over the bacon.

Next, add all of the chicken pieces on top of the cheese.

Add another layer of the cheese….

Then the rest of all that delightful bacon

Then another layer of hasbrowns.

Then top with the remaining cheese.

Pour the milk over the top of the cheese.

Cover and cook on low for 4 1/2 to 5 hours or until chicken is done.

Serve and enjoy!

Slow Cooker Beef Tips

I have been making this for years. A few of my friends wanted this recipe, so I thought I should make this again and post it. It takes no time at all to put together and it’s smells heavenly as it cooks for hours. The tender beef melts in your mouth and the sauce….. well I could eat that stuff by itself.

Here’s what you need:

*2 Lbs or more chuck roast cut into bite size pieces ( you can also use stew meat that has already been cut if you prefer).

* 1 Tbs Beef Roast Seasoning by Penzey’s or a mix of thyme, paprika, Rosemary and marjoram; or more to taste *This beef roast seasoning by Penzey’s is my go to for a lot of beef recipes. I highly recommend it.

*2 tsp garlic powder; or more to taste

*2 tsp onion powder; or more to taste

*1 small onion roughly chopped

*2 garlic cloves minced

*1 can of condensed cream of chicken soup

*1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup

*1 Cup Beef broth * I like to use Better than Bouillon.

It comes in a jar and you add as little or as much as you like to water. I like that I can adjust the flavor.

*1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce; or to taste

Dry beef with paper towels if it has any moisture; place in a large bowl. Sprinkle beef with seasonings.

Mix well.

Yes, I use my hands…. don’t you like to play with your food?

Place beef into the slow cooker.

Next, add in the onions and the garlic.

In a large bowl, combine soups, beef broth and Worcestershire sauce; mix well.

I could not find a can of condensed mushroom soup anywhere ( I guess everyone in quarantine is lo eating lots of mushroom soup) so I had to use 2 cans of condensed chicken soup, but I highly recommend the mushroom if you can find it.

Pour soup mixture over beef.

Cook on low for 6 hours. If sauce seems not thick enough, add a slurry of cornstarch or arrowroot (about 1 Tbs or more of water and 2 tsp or more of cornstarch or arrowroot combined), cook about 10 more minutes or until desired consistency.

Serve over rice or noodles.

Slow Cooker Smoked Sausage and Potatoes

Since grocery shopping has now become more like a quest from The Hunger Games, I tried to come up with something that perhaps not many would think to buy. So on my recent journey to the store, with again hubby as my back up, we divided and was hopeful to conquer. My mission was in the meat department. Sowith fingers crossed and pushing my cart with determination, I set out to retrieve my bounty. As I neared the refrigerated section I noticed the typical items that I knew would be gone….lunch meat, hot dogs, bacon ( I shed a tear over that one) but there right at the end, it was there….smoked sausage. I looked both ways to make sure the way was clear and snatched that beauty right up, mentally doing a victory dance because I knew we were indeed going to have smoked sausage for dinner. Well, smoked sausage and potatoes to be exact. This makes a nice hearty meal that you can eat by itself or with some crusty bread.

Here’s what you need:

*1 TBS oil

*smoked sausage; mine was fully cooked but you can also use any kind.

*1 small onion, chopped

*2 garlic cloves, minced

*1/4 C white wine

* 1/2 C diced pancetta; you can use diced bacon instead.

* 1/2 C. Chicken broth

* 1 can of condensed cream of chicken soup

* 2 russet potatoes, cut into bite size pieces; you can use any kind, I prefer using the russet because it helps thicken up the sauce.

* 1 tsp dried Thyme; or more to taste

* 2 tsp Cajun seasoning; or more to taste

* cracked pepper

Heat a large skillet to medium high heat and add oil. Add sausage to the pan and cook about 2 minutes.

Add onions, garlic and pancetta to the pan.

Cook until sausage starts to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir frequently so the onions and garlic do not burn.

Transfer sausage mixture to the slow cooker.

In the same skillet, add wine and cook for about 1 minute stirring frequently. Pour in chicken stock.

I like to use a soup base that comes in a jar. It has more of an intense flavor and you can add as much or as little as you like.

Cook broth mixture for another 1 minute. Add in condensed chicken soup. Stir to mix well.

Pour soup mixture into slow cooker with the sausage.

Add potatoes, thyme, Cajun seasoning and cracked pepper.

Stir to combine.

Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours. At the last 30 minutes of cooking, stir a few times for the potatoes to thicken the sauce.

Serve with some crusty bread.

Slow Cooker Apple Whiskey BBQ Pulled Pork with Guatemalan Slaw

This sandwich was as big of a mouth full as the title. A mouth full of deliciousness that is. The sauce is sweet and tangy with a hint of spice from the rub. I’ve made pulled pork with BBQ sauce in the slow cooker plenty of times, but I wanted something a little different….something that had a little ump to it if you will, so I grabbed the whiskey and came up with this.

Here’s what you’ll need:

For the Pulled Pork

  • 3 1/2 to 4 Ibs Boston Pork Butt
  • BBQ spice Rub
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 C. Apple jelly of preserves
  • 2/3 C. Whiskey or more to taste
  • 1 bottle of BBQ sauce

For the Slaw:

  • 1 bag of shredded cabbage
  • 1 Tbs Mayonnaise
  • cilantro, chopped to taste
  • olive oil, to taste
  • salt to taste
  • lime juice, to taste

Dry pork with paper towels. Grab your favorite bbq rub. I like using Penzey’s Barbecue of the America’s .

If you don’t have one you like, you can make your own. I have used a mix of salt, thyme, paprika, nutmeg, pepper, garlic powder and chili powder.

Sprinkle a good amount of the rub on all sides of the pork and rub into the meat.

I like to do this at least 2 hours before I’m going to cook it. There have been times when I’ve prepped everything the day before, because I knew I would not have the time to do this on day that I’m going to cook it. But you do what you prefer.

Place pork into slow cooker fat side up.

Next, throw in the onions.

Now for the BBQ sauce. I used regular apple jelly, whisky and a bottle of BBQ sauce.

Use what ever brand of whiskey and BBQ sauce that you like. I like to use a BBQ sauce that has a bit of smoke flavor.

In a bowl combine all three ingredients and mix well.

Add little or more to taste. Pour over the pork.

Cover and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours.

Remove pork carefully….. I say carefully because my white counter tops have seen it’s share of pork splatter mishaps. Place in a large dish.

Using 2 forks, shred the pork. It’s usually so tender that it will most likely fall apart very easily.

Add the pork back to the BBQ sauce in the slow cooker. Stir and cook for another 10 minutes.

While the pork is reheating, now is the time to put together the slaw.

This is my take on Guatemalan slaw. My mother in law showed me how to make the original version and I’ve made it many times, but I wanted to tweak it a bit. The original version has angel hair cabbage with red onions, lime juice, salt, cilantro and olive oil. I like a thicker cut cabbage for using on sandwiches.

I use the cabbage that’s already shredded….you know the kind that comes in those handy bags.

I also like using the pre bagged kind because it has a mix of different kinds of cabbage.

In a bowl, add desired amount of cabbage mix, chopped cilantro, salt, lime juice, olive oil and a small amount of mayonnaise to taste.

I like the hint of creaminess that the mayonnaise adda to the slaw, it really adds a nice taste to the cabbage. Mix all ingredients together.

Now back to the pulled pork.

Remove pork with some of the sauce and place on to a serving dish. I don’t use all of the sauce because it’s way too messy for me, but reserve as much as you like. Serve on hamburger buns and top with slaw.