Overnight Stock in the Slow Cooker -and- World’s Best and Easiest Tortilla Soup Recipe!!

IMG_9680Costco’s Rotisserie Chicken has its own Facebook fan page, I kid you not. There is a good reason why- for $4.99 you get close to a 3.5 pound, nicely roasted bird with better tasting meat than the pre-made, pre-sliced, supermarket fridge section fodder. While it isn’t organic or”free range,” (a nearly unregulated term), it does provide a whole bunch of “clean eating” protein.

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about two pounds of meat

From this 3.5 lb bird came a little over 2 pounds of meat… and the skin, bones and junk left over? DON’T THROW IT AWAY!!

If you want delicious, home made soups but don’t have half a day at home to make stock on the stove, your slow cooker is your ace in the hole! I’ve never tried this method, and have let the chicken carcass simmer for anywhere from 2 to 5 hours on my stovetop, and wanted to try this method for once. Is it easier with the slow cooker?

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THIS IS NOT WASTE

Observe:

Here’s all of the non-meat leftovers- about 1.5 pounds of carcass, in the slow cooker and covered with water to about an inch from the top of the crock…

This muck sat on low for about 12 hours overnight. In the morning I put a pot in the sink, the strainer in the pot, strained the broth, put it in the fridge, tossed the bones in the trash, and washed out the crock. Bonus- if you are trying to cut calories, the fat will float to the top of the pot and solidify, just scoop it off for fat-free stock.

This was by far the easiest and tasted like any of the best broths I’ve made before. I’d say I ended up with close to just under a gallon of broth, too. Broth that tastes better than from a can or carton and nearly free to boot? Can’t beat that with a stick!

P.S.

Wonder what the difference between a Broth and a Stock? Stock is long simmered and has bones, basically. Click here to read about it at TheKitchn.com

As for The World’s Best Yet Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe… turns out I don’t have any salsa, so the soup will be in tomorrow’s post. Whoops.

 

Trader Joe’s Taste Testing- Fall Holiday Sides!

Ever walk down the aisles at the store and wonder… “Wouldn’t it be easier and taste just as good to use the pre-cooked side dishes from my favorite grocery store?”

Don’t. Make your own. Unless, you don’t mind settling for sides that are less than okay.

Case in point:

IMG_9134Cauliflower Au Gratin with Gruyere Sauce and Parmesan Breadcrumbs

IMG_9135Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cranberries and Pecans

IMG_9155Trader Joe’s Ready to Use Turkey Gravy

 

Again, don’t. Just… no. In very little time, you to peel, cube, and roast a couple of sweet potatoes, drizzle with your own maple syrup or sprinkle on brown sugar, and this will taste WORLDS better, the texture will be FAR superior, and you will spend maybe a third of the price. As for the cauliflower– well, it didn’t taste bad (neither did it taste good), but the vegetable was buried under about three times as much crumb topping as needed. Oddly enough, both packages of sides seemed under cooked, even though I followed the directions for time and temperature.

The gravy. Ummm… what to say. Not much turkey flavor, not horrible, but I wouldn’t buy it again or use it again. Ever. This product simply does not taste good. I’d rather mix up the McCormick’s envelope from the seasoning section of the supermarket. I would drink up a pot full of gravy from a straw, and I will not touch the Trader Joe’s gravy with a ten foot pole.

I love my Trader Joe’s stores, and rarely find something I dislike, or dislike this much. I’m glad I gave these a try, it was worth the price to try something new, and gratifying to know that a simple home made recipe is so much better. Save yourself the scratch. Make simple sides from scratch.

Got a Little Time to Cook? Simple Recipe Suggestions:

AllRecipes.com Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Thyme and Maple Syrup

Roasted Garlic Cauliflower

Got a Little More Time to Cook: Still Somewhat Simple Suggestion:

Make Ahead Turkey Gravy

 

America’s Test Kitchen Rice and Pasta Pilaf -or- Home Made Rice-A-Roni!

I grew up eating a healthy mix of home cooking and pre-made junk. Dinner could be Packet of Spaghetti Seasonings + ground beef = Spaghetti Sauce… or maybe fried chicken from scratch. Casserole with Cream O’ Something Soup was just as likely to be on the table as a completely homemade soup- homemade right down to the broth… yum! My mom, grandmother, and later, mom-in-law all had great dishes to pass on. I love to cook and feel indebted to them for sharing.

Once while babysitting, the mom of the house had me finish cooking her son’s favorite dish they called “Hawaiian Chicken and Rice.” It was simply browned boneless chicken breast and pineapple chunks added to chicken flavored Rice-A-Roni. It was great! The kid and I polished the entire dinner and I soon started making it for myself at home. I haven’t thought of that boxed side dish since those baby sitting days, but this weekend I saw America’s Test Kitchen crew prepare their own version and I had to try it…

Click here for the original recipe for America’s Test Kitchen’s Rice and Pasta Pilaf (Homemade Rice-A-Roni!) 

Here’s how I made it- the only change made was using salted butter… and skipping the parsley. Enjoy my notes on and mistakes during  the cooking process:

 

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Home Made Rice-A-Roni

  • 1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 oz vermicelli, broken
  • 1 onion, grated
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoons salt

1- Place rice in a large bowl and rinse a few times to remove excess starch. Fill bowl with hot water an inch or two above the level of the rice and let it sit for about 15 minutes. I think my water wasn’t hot enough- on the TV show, it was steaming hot. This part helps to par cook the rice, and if the water isn’t hot enough, expect a longer cook time in the end…

brown the vermicelli
brown the vermicelli

2- In a heavy pot, brown the pasta in the butter over medium heat for about three minutes. Watch out- it will turn from light to browned very quickly… in about as much time it takes to snap a picture of it for you blog, for instance, it can go from blond to over browned. Yep.

saute onion and garlic, too
sauté onion and garlic, too…

3- Add grated onion, salt, and garlic. Sauté for 3-4 minutes until clear. Add rice, sauté until clear, another 3-4 minutes. If you thought the pasta smelled great while it browned in the butter, this will smell even better.

...and chicken broth.
…add chicken broth.

4- Add chicken broth, bring to a boil, turn to low and cover for 10 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. Mine took more like 20 minutes (water wasn’t hot enough to par cook the rice in step one, I think).

towel over pot
towel over pot

5- Let your pilaf finish by resting with a towel between the lid and the pot. Fluff up and serve! I’ve never done this extra step before, with the towel, but I really think it did help keep the pilaf fluffy.

So, how easy was this? About as easy as the original boxed recipe, really. Except for grating the onion… I’ve never grated onion before, and some of my knuckle got into the dish, I think. Ouch. Overall though, it was a pretty tasty side dish!

And most importantly, better than the boxed mix.

Voilà! Pilaf!
Voilà! Pilaf!