25 March 2017

Weekend Cooking: 3 Great Kitchen Hacks

3 great kicken hacksSpring is in the air around here and my cooking mojo is out of wack. It doesn't feel quite like stew weather, but we're not into light salad time either. I've made pizza, pasta dishes, and risotto, which are all easy and act like good season spanners.

I don't have any new recipes to share this week but I did learn three good hacks that I'd like to share. They were new to me in the last couple of weeks, and they're going in my permanent bag of kitchen tricks. The first one comes from a recent issue of Eating Well, the second from a random web search to see if my crazy idea was even possible, and the third was from the Budget Bytes website (I reviewed the cookbook here).

Note: The first and third photos come from the sites mentioned. The middle photo is mine.

One-Pot Pasta Dishes

3 great kicken hacksWho doesn't like pasta night? Perhaps the person who has to wash all the pots and pans. This month Eating Well provides readers with a formula for one-pot pasta dishes. I'm all for cooking pasta, protein, veggies, and seasonings in a single pot for a quick weeknight dinner and easy cleanup. I tried the lamb and spinach dish, and the technique worked very well. But, of course, I didn't follow directions exactly.

The method is great, except for one point. Boiled meat just doesn't have the same flavor as browned meat. So I decided to saute my ground lamb in the pot and then deglaze the pan with a little wine. After that, I followed the recipe, except I added additional seasonings to give it a stronger Mideast flavor profile. In addition, I stirred in the feta cheese at the end instead of passing it at the table.

The point, however, is not the specific recipe, it's the method. I loved getting a hearty pasta meal on the table in short order and using only one pot. If you like to follow recipes, check out Eating Well; they published four or five one-pot pasta recipes this month. I will be trying this with other meats or beans in the future.

Crunchy Granola in the Slow Cooker

3 great kicken hacksI love making my own granola (my recipe is here), but I hate spending all that time hovering over the oven, stirring trays of cereal every 10 or 15 minutes for a couple of hours. There had to be an easier way! I originally thought that maybe someone figured out how to make granola in an electric roasting pan, and as I started searching for that solution, I stumbled on the slow cooker idea. Whoa!!!

My life just changed for the better. We were due for a new batch of cereal and I had been delaying because, well, I just didn't want to tie up a Saturday morning in front of the oven. I immediately gave the slow-cooker idea a try and love it. I will never make granola in the oven again.

Here's the easy trick: Mix your granola ingredients in a large bowl (don't add the dried fruit yet). Spray the inside of the slow-cooker crock with cooking spray (I just lightly oiled it). Pour in the granola. Set the slow cooker on high, and (very important) place the lid on an angle so the steam can escape. Now let it cook, stirring every half hour or so, for 2 to 2.5 hours, or until the oats take on color and look toasted. When you think the cereal looks right, pour it back in the mixing bowl or spread it out on baking sheets to cool. It will crisp up as it cools. Once cool, stir in dried fruit, if you're using it.

Yes! Now I can make granola during the day, or even after work, without being glued to the kitchen!

Baked Tacos

3 great kicken hacksOkay, so I'm probably the last person on earth to discover this trick. We love tacos. Normally, I make the taco filling and leave it on the stove and then set out all the toppings on the table. Taco nights are punctuated by frequent trips to the stovetop to fill more shells. I was wandering around the Budget Bytes website not too long ago and discovered this recipe for baked beef tacos.  What? I could have a batch of tacos ready all at once? Who knew?

Like with the lamb recipe, my interest wasn't in reproducing the Budget Bytes dish. Instead I wanted to try the technique. I had chicken tacos on the menu last week and gave oven baking a try. We were sold. We had all the taco goodness right at the table; no more getting up and down.

I'm so happy to have discovered this method. I will be baking tacos, especially if serving a crowd, from now on.

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.


(Diane) bookchickdi 3/25/17, 7:20 AM  

Chicken tacos are my weakness, I will have to try this hack.

Mae Travels 3/25/17, 7:25 AM  

Nice hacks!

One-pot past recipes intrigue me but I have never made one. I just put the pots & pans in the dishwasher. It's the spatters on the stove that really annoy me!

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

bermudaonion 3/25/17, 7:51 AM  

I agree with you on boiled meat. We don't have tacos often but baking them sounds genius!

Tina 3/25/17, 8:05 AM  

I had been wondering about the one pot pasta & if the cooking method worked. These are three tips I will certainly try.

Stacie 3/25/17, 8:12 AM  

Well, now I have three new things to try in the kitchen! Yum!!

rhapsodyinbooks 3/25/17, 10:51 AM  

The crockpot granola sounds great - can't wait to try it!

Deb in Hawaii 3/25/17, 12:24 PM  

Some great hacks--thanks for sharing! I am most intrigued about the granola in the slow cooker. I make granola often but have not thought about using the slow cooker for it and here I thought caramelizing onions and garlic was its biggest magic! ;-) I'm going to try it.

Claudia 3/25/17, 12:37 PM  

Some good ideas there. I do one pot pasta a lot, especially lately, but would like to try those baked tacos.

Katherine P 3/25/17, 4:22 PM  

Yum! I love the idea of that pasta dish and definitely agree with you about the browning vs boiling on the meat. That granola sounds amazing! I love good granola but never make my own. This sounds so easy that I have no excuse!

Carole 3/25/17, 5:17 PM  

Great link up as always. Thanks! Have a great week. Cheers from Carole's Chatter

Roberta Gibson 3/25/17, 9:20 PM  

Glad I stopped by this week. I had discovered the one pot pasta hack, but not the slow cooker granola. What a fantastic idea.

(I used to blog at Your Individual Taste)

Jackie McGuinness 3/26/17, 12:06 AM  

So I am VERY late posting this week, blame it on too much fun and travel.
I did buy a new cookbook.

I've been doing my pasta in the one pot, the way you suggested.

I have to try the granola this way.

nishitak 3/26/17, 12:14 AM  

I've always wanted to make my own granola. I might try the recipe you linked to.

Heidenkind 3/26/17, 11:04 PM  

I love one pan pasta dishes! Did you ever read the article on how they were "discovered" by an editor at Martha Stewart? https://food52.com/blog/13936-the-late-night-in-puglia-that-gave-us-martha-stewart-s-one-pan-pasta-7-new-ones

CLM 3/31/17, 8:54 PM  

I am not a big granola fan and never thought about anyone making it from scratch but oddly enough the heroine of The Last Chance Matinee did just that - to the appreciation of her sisters and aunt! https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30753701-the-last-chance-matinee

Alas, I am not much of a cook and tend to use very pan in the house!

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