Thursday, 10 January 2019

January cooking - 3 easy meals in the slow cooker

I love this time of year because meals are so easy.  There are Christmas leftovers aplenty in the freezer and it is the time of year for making stewy casserolley things in the slow cooker, or crock pot depending on what you call it.

We bought our slow cooker a few years ago now, but I was bought up with one which often had things cooking away in it all day - to use our families technical term "blipping"  I have no idea what that means!!  It does describe it well though doesn't it.

I love following recipes, but I love to make my own dishes up too and I thought I would share a few of these with you today because they are just right for January dinners when it is cold and you want to have some easy but warming meals to enjoy.  Here are just three really easy favourites.  I have another which isn't included here, but is a chilli.  But you can easily cook whatever your own favourite chilli recipe is in the slow cooker and just leave it all day on low and it will be delicious.  Oh and I should just add that these are recipes in the loosest sense of the word and that I don't brown or cook anything before I add it to the pot and I find that it always tastes lovely.  Plus you then only have the actual slow cooker pot to wash up.

First up is the simplest of all.

Meatballs and tomato sauce.  Serves 2, adjust accordingly for more servings.

1 can chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup frozen chopped onions, or one small fresh onion chopped
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 clove fresh chopped garlic or just over 1/2 teaspoon squeezed from a tube of garlic paste ready chopped - which is what I use
Freshly ground black pepper
1 package meatballs - they can be frozen or fresh, ones you have made yourself or bought.

Place everything other than the meatballs in a slow cooker and stir briefly to mix.   Place meatballs on the top of the sauce nestling them in, but not totally submerging.

Leave to cook on low for 8 hours at least if using frozen meatballs, possibly less of they are fresh or defrosted.  You could get away with cooking for less time on high, but I would only do this with fresh or defrosted meatballs, and would probably cook it for 3 to 4 hours.  Do stir the sauce from time to time, bringing the meatballs back to the top when you have stirred it around.

Serve with rice or pasta or courgette/zucchini spaghetti depending what you like - we do the courgette thing here.  Cauliflower rice is also a good low carb alternative.  You can grate a little parmesan over the top too if you like, but we leave it as is.

Note, I don't add any salt or sugar or oil because I don't think the sauce needs it, but check seasoning before serving and adjust as needed.

Next up is a little more complicated, but is really only a chopping job.

Not turkey lasagne - serves 2 to 3 adjust accordingly for more servings

1 medium aubergine/eggplant cut into bite size cubes
1 large courgette/zucchini cut into bite size cubes
1/2 cup frozen chopped onion or 1 small fresh onion chopped
10 cherry tomatoes halved
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 vegetable stock cube
Recently boiled water - see below
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon each dried mixed herbs and dried oregano
1 and a 1/2 cups leftover cooked turkey cut into chunks
Your favourite cheese sauce, made to your own recipe, from a pot or packet as you wish, approximately 1 cup or half a pint or 250 ml depending on the measurements you use.

Place aubergine, courgette, onions and tomatoes into slow cooker and stir to mix.

In a small bowl mix stock cube with just enough water to dissolve it, stir in tomato puree and mix, add to slow cooker, add pepper and herbs and mix everything together.

Add just enough water to come just below the veggies, you don't want too much water, but you need to add enough so that they will cook, otherwise they will just sit there and get dry - which isn't pleasant or tasty!

Cook on low for 8 hours, or high for 4 hours.  Stir occasionally as needed.  When it is cooked you can serve this on its own, or with the cheese sauce for a no meat meal, or continue as below.

When you are ready to eat, preheat your oven to 220c.  Drain the veggies from most of the liquid otherwise the dish will be too runny.  Mix the turkey with the veggie mixture and tip into a small baking dish.  Top with the cheese sauce and cook in the oven until the top of the cheese sauce turns a golden brown around the edges, usually takes about 20 minutes.

If you want to use uncooked turkey or chicken add this to the slow cooker at the start of the process and cook for 8 hours.

Any why is it called not lasagne?  Because my mother in law used to make a version of this and turn it into a lasagne, but because I am gluten free and don't eat pasta and because we are trying to be lower carb, we just skip the lasagne part and it still tastes delicious!

The final recipe is a little bit more involved, but is still really tasty and really easy to cook.  It is more involved because there are more ingredients, but the actual method is very simple.  We have this once a week most weeks of the year.

Chickpea and spinach curry - the easy way!  Serves 2, adjust accordingly for more servings

1/2 cup frozen chopped onion or 1 small fresh onion chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tin drained and rinsed chickpeas
7 frozen spinach cubes - to use fresh see note below, but you want half a large bag of spinach leaves
1 teaspoon chopped ginger
1 teaspoon or 2 cloves chopped garlic
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 small chopped chilli
1 teaspoon each turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander, mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon sumac - you can leave this out if you don't have it
Ground black pepper
Water to half fill one of the tins you have emptied.
4 tablespoons plain yoghourt
2 tablespoons mango chutney
Rice to the amount you prefer - you can skip this, I do and it is filling enough
Small Naan bread per person instead of rice, but again you can skip this and just serve the curry.

Place onion, tomatoes, chickpeas and frozen spinach (see below re fresh spinach) into slow cooker and stir to mix.

Add all remaining ingredients apart from water, yoghourt and chutney, and stir to mix.

Add water and stir again.

Cook on low for 8 hours, or 4 hours on high.  Remember to stir from time to time because you need the spinach to mix in as it defrosts.

If you are using fresh spinach wait until you are ready to serve, rinse and drain the spinach and add to the rest of the curry and stir in well.  It will have wilted and cooked sufficiently by the time you dish it up.  If you add it before it goes a little bit odd!

Serve by dishing up and topping with yoghourt and chutney, add rice or naan bread to the side if desired.  I eat it without either and it is enough for me, but Hubby usually adds a small naan or some rice as he needs a little more than me.  I usually mash all of my curry with my fork as I like the chickpeas that way, but hubby leaves his as is and it is nice either way.

Those are my three winter warmer, very easy to make, slow cooker dinners for January!  This week we have had the not a lasagne on Tuesday, today we are having the meatballs and last Friday we had the curry and we will have it again tomorrow so we really do eat these meals and they really are tasty and very quick and easy.  They are also pretty cheap too, even the curry because if you make it regularly you use the spices again and again for each meal.

If you make any - or all! - of these do please let me know below as I would love to know what you think and to hear your suggestions for serving or what you would make.  Do leave a comment below.

Happy eating everyone and stay warm and cosy this January!


Monday, 7 January 2019

New beginnings

Hello there!

Gosh it has been a long time since I wrote anything here.  I blogged as Love Made My Home from mid 2013 and then it drifted off over 2017 or so I think.  I'm not totally sure because I have deleted all of my old posts so I don't know when I last wrote a blog post here.

Lots of things made me stop blogging, which I am not going to go into, but I have been mulling things over in the last few weeks and months and I thought that I might give it a go again, but in a different way to the way that I blogged before.  Again I am not going to go into to much detail - that was one of the things that made me stop before!!

Instead I am here, it is a new year a new week and a new beginning to start something new in a new way.  Rather than hold on to the past, or try to explain it, or to plan or pin down the future too much either I am just going to go with it and see what happens.  Be in the moment and be mindful of what is happening right now.

Starting later this week I will be posting about some seasonal things, I have a lovely collection of books that follow the seasons so I want to follow those myself and share some of that with you too.  There might be a post or two about what I am up to from time to time, along with a smattering of crochet along with some knitting - I am a knitter now! - with some bookish things and who knows what else.  We will see as we go along.  My blog was always a varied selection of things and I don't suppose that it will be any different this time around.  I will be here once a week or so just to share a little bit of something.

I am mostly on Instagram where you can find me as lovemademyhome - of course! - and if you and I don't already connect over there perhaps you could find me and drop me a DM to let me know you are there and I will find you and we can follow each other along over there too.  I am around on Instagram much more often than I will be posting on my blog.

I know it is a little cheeky, but I can't think how else to do it, but I wondered if I could ask for your help!  Having been out of the blogging world for a while I wanted to let people know that I am back and also to find out who is out there and whose blogs you would recommend that I read.  So I wondered if you could help me with two things?  Can you leave me a comment below so that I know you are there - and still blogging! - and perhaps mention a few other blogs for me to visit in your comment and also could you please put the word out and link to me on your blog and Instagram that I am here again if anyone would like to stop by.  Thank you so much in anticipation that you would be willing to and can help me!  I really do appreciate it.

I hope that you are all well and enjoying whatever life has bought you or is bringing you and that it has bought you some good things, especially over Christmas.  I look forward to being back in touch with you and to hearing from you and what you are up to.

As I said I will be back later in the week with a new post about the seasonal things of life, but in the meantime if you want to start getting seasonal right away can I recommend that you go and have a look at these two blogs to find out about Plough Monday which is today.  Sue at The cottage at the end of a lane and Karen at Lavender and Lovage

Happy New Year and I look forward to hearing from you!