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 Pork Tacos with Guatemalan Slaw

Nope, it’s not Tuesday but who says you have to eat tacos only on a Tuesday. These slow cooker pork tacos are good for any day of the week. All you have to do is throw together some ingredients, marinate the pork then do a nice rub down with some spices and let the slow cooker do all the rest of the work. Look at that tender, tasty pork topped with some crunchy Guatemalan slaw (my version anyway) and cilantro and tucked away in warm tortillas. You know you want one too so go….go and make you a few right now…. ok you can make more than a few, no one will know, I won’t tell.

Here’s what you need:

*aprox 3 LB pork loin; pork shoulder works great too, but this was all my grocery store had at the time.

*1 pkg of flour tortillas

*chopped cilantro for garnish

Marinade:

*1/2 cup orange juice

*1/4 cup lime juice

*1/2 large onion, chopped

*4 garlic cloves

*2 TBS soy sauce

*2 tsp. white wince vinegar

*1 TBS. Worcestershire sauce

*2 tsp. brown sugar

*1/4 cup olive oil

*1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped stems and all

Rub:

*2 tsp. dried oregano

*1 tsp. cumin

*1/4 tsp chipotle powder; or more or less to taste

*1 tsp. onion powder

*1 tsp. garlic powder

*1/2 tsp. salt

Braising Liquid:

1/2 cup orange juice

2/3 cup sprite, 7 up or Sierra Mist

1/2 large onion, chopped

For the Slaw:

*1 bag of shredded cabbage

*1 TBS Mayonnaise or more to taste

*cilantro, chopped to taste

*olive oil, to taste

*salt to taste

*lime juice, to taste

In a blender, combine all of the ingredients to the marinade

Blend until well combined.

Place the pork in a zip top bag and pour the marinade over the pork; squeeze as much of the air out of the bag as possible and seal.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or over night. Turn the bag over at least once during the marinating time.

30 to 45 minutes prior to cooking, pull out the pork from the bag, with paper towels wipe the excess marinade off. You still want to leave some on if possible.

Mix all of the ingredients together for the rub.

Place the pork in to a shallow dish and rub the spice mixture on all sides of the pork.

Let sit for 30 to 45 minutes.

Mix together the braising liquid; set aside.

Place the pork in to the slow cooker. If it has a fat cap, that will go right side up. Pour the braising liquid over the top and around the pork.

As you can see, I did not cover the pork over half of the way up with the orange juice mixture. I wanted just enough to give it flavor and tenderize it, but I also wanted the flavor of the pork to shine through instead of the braising mixture.

Cover and cook on low for 5 hours.

While the pork is cooking, mix up the Guatemalan Slaw. See recipe on the link to Slow Cooker Apple Whiskey BBQ Pulled Pork with Guatemalan Slaw. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Carefully remove the pork from the slow cooker and place on a large cutting board. Let it sit for 15 minutes.

With 2 forks shred the pork.

Place in a bowl or shallow dish and cover with foil to keep warm.

Heat a large cast iron skillet to medium high heat. Place a tortilla in the pan and heat until it starts to have a few dark spots, about 15 to 20 seconds; flip it over and warm the other side. Repeat with each remaining tortilla.

Place the shredded pork on a tortilla and add any desired condiments such as cheese, sour cream or guacamole. Top with the Guatemalan slaw and cilantro. Serve and Enjoy!

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 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 Beer Braised Beef with Tomatoes and Onions

Slow cookers are great aren’t they? You put some love into preparing the ingredients, throw it all in and let the slow cooker do the rest of the work, then later you have a fabulous tasting dish. Well, ok, not of all the time. I have had a few dishes that didn’t turn out as well as I thought it would. This dish came out really well….. nice, tender pieces of beef flavored with herbs and spices all nestled in a savory sauce with onions and tomatoes.

Here’s how to make it:

Cut a chuck roast into large pieces.

In a large bowl, season beef with salt, pepper, dried thyme, sage, Italian seasoning, paprika, ( I used half sharp Hungarian style, but you can use sweet if you’d like) garlic powder and onion powder. I do not measure, I always add to taste. Mix to coat beef with the herb/spice mixture.

Add a few Tbs of flour to the beef as well and mix to coat all sides.

Add enough olive oil or any other oil you prefer, to coat the bottom of a larger skillet. Heat to med high and add beef to the pan. Do not over crowd the pan because this will not allow the meat to brown as well as it should. Working in batches, brown beef on all sides and place in the slow cooker.

Chop a medium size onion and place into the slow cooker. Add in 1/2 C of beef broth, a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce, 1 cup of ale or beer, 1 can of diced tomatoes and 1 bay leaf. Cook on low for 6 to 7 hours. Remove the bay leaf.

Remove the meat with a slotted spoon, leaving the liquid in the slow cooker. If you want the beef in smaller pieces, shred with a fork and set aside. Mix together 2 to 3 tsp of arrow root to 1 Tbs of water. Pour this into the slow cooker and stir. Continue cooking on high for 15 to 30 minutes, or until the sauce becomes as thick as you like.

Serve over rice or mashed potatoes.