Top 20 CrockPot Meals

When my friend Chris asked me recently for CrockPot meal recommendations, I realized I didn’t have an easy list to hand over. I’ve shared many CrockPot recipes over the past three years on my food blog, but they’re scattered all over.

I went through and easily picked out 20 meals that I’ve made multiple times (I’ve made some of the recipes dozens of times each). You may notice a number of them have already been adapted from the original recipe and posted to my recipe page, but many of these meals link back to the original authors. Whenever I link to a blog post that’s not my own, I’ve listed any adaptations that I make while cooking.

All 20 recipes are gluten free. Due to a thyroid condition, I’ve been eating mostly gluten-free for almost three years. (I never cook with gluten at home, but every once in a while I’ll eat gluten outside the house if it’s something special.) Even if you’re not gluten-free, I promise you won’t miss it in these recipes.

Following the gluten-free theme, most of these recipes (minus stuff like the chili and soups) have generally been served with either brown rice or brown rice pasta at my house.

In addition, the first 11 recipes are Paleo (minus the rice and pasta, of course). I’m not 100% Paleo but I do try to follow the eating recommendations as much as I can.

As you can see, I’m a big fan of the slow cooker. Looking at these recipes might lead you to believe that it’s all I use, but I assure you that’s not the case. It is, however, a treasured tool in my kitchen arsenal.

In random order:

#1: CrockPot Pumpkin Turkey Chili

Although these recipes are in random order, I had to list this one first because I’m sure I’ve made this dish more than all the others. It’s super easy to put together and tastes great.

You can add a can of black beans (drained) and corn (I use frozen) if you’re not Paleo and want to bulk it up a bit. I’ve done this in the past. (Shown here served over cabbage, but I usually eat it by itself.)

CrockPot Pumpkin Turkey Chili

#2: CrockPot Chicken Curry with Sweet Potatoes, Tomato and Raisins

Changes: 1) I use 2 lbs chicken instead of three, 2) Use 1/2 can full-fat coconut milk instead of yogurt; 3) Don’t add agave nectar.

#3: CrockPot Pork Ragu

Changes: 1) I don’t sear the pork in advance (I just add the meat and spices directly to the CrockPot); 2) I usually don’t add grated carrots.

#4: CrockPot Mexican Pulled Pork Tacos

Changes: 1) I use a 2-lb pork tenderloin but don’t double the amount of sauce; 2) Don’t add brown sugar.

CrockPot Mexican Pulled Pork Tacos

#5: CrockPot Chicken & Pumpkin Curry with Apple & Sweet Potatoes

Changes: 1) I use chicken breast instead of thighs; 2) Don’t add coconut sugar or spinach; 3) Only add one sweet potato (instead of three).

#6: CrockPot Thai Chicken Stew

I changed this one quite a bit because it started out as a beef stew recipe (see original link).

Changes: 1) Use 2 lb chicken breast (cut into small pieces) instead of beef; 2) Didn’t cook meat or veggies in advance (just dumped it all in the CrockPot at once); 3) Didn’t add jicama or carrots, but I did add a 1-lb bag of frozen broccoli (thawed, then added to the CrockPot at end of cooking time).

CrockPot Thai Chicken Stew

#7: Crockpot Mango Chicken Coconut Curry

Changes: 1) I use 2 lb chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces; 2) Don’t add honey or fennel (I’m fine with fennel but I have a hard time finding it at my grocery store).

#8: CrockPot Red Curry Pork with Pickles

This is another recipe I’ve made dozens of times. Only a few ingredients but great flavor.

CrockPot Red Curry Pork with Pickles

#9: CrockPot Mocha-Rubbed Pork Loin

This is another recipe where I changed the type of meat the recipe called for (I used pork but the original recipe called for beef).

Changes: 1) I use 2 lb pork tenderloin; 2) Don’t add Aleppo pepper to seasoning mix; 3) Use chicken broth instead of beef broth; 4) Substitute dates for the figs.

#10: CrockPot Chicken Tikka Masala

Changes: I make this with coconut milk and use dried cilantro instead of fresh.

#11: CrockPot Creamy Red Shrimp & Tomato Curry

CrockPot Creamy Red Shrimp and Tomato Curry

#12: CrockPot White Bean Chicken Chili with Zucchini

CrockPot White Bean Chicken Chili with Zucchini

#13: CrockPot Caribbean Pork Chili

Changes: I don’t add the optional chipotle chile pepper or red onion shards.

CrockPot Caribbean Pork Chili

#14: CrockPot Pork Tenderloin with Spicy Peanut Sauce

I make this recipe easier by whisking the sauce ingredients together rather than using a food processor. Less dishes!

Changes: 1) I use a 2-lb pork tenderloin, seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder; 2) Use 15-oz can tomato sauce (instead of 1/4 cup); 3) Use tamari (or coconut aminos) instead of soy sauce; 4) Don’t add sugar/splenda.

CrockPot Pork Tenderloin with Spicy Peanut Sauce

#15: CrockPot Minestrone Soup

CrockPot Minestrone Soup

#16: CrockPot Moroccan Lentil Soup

Changes: I use regular lentils instead of red lentil and dried parsley/cilantro instead of fresh.

#17: CrockPot Pork & Edamame Soup

CrockPot Pork & Edamame Soup with Rice Noodles

#18: CrockPot Indian Butter Chicken

I promise this tastes much better than it looks.

CrockPot Indian Butter Chicken

#19: Crockpot White Chicken Chili

#20: CrockPot Turkey Pasta with Spinach and Mushrooms

CrockPot Turkey Pasta with Spinach and Mushrooms

Have you tried any of these? Will you?

Wedding Anniversary, Year 1

I’ve been married to Paul for one year today. Here’s the recap of our ceremony. It was small and wonderful and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Three years ago, when we’d been together for a year, I wrote about how we met. I still enjoy the story.

Since we became a couple in November 2010, we’ve moved in together (Nov 2011), got engaged (Jan 2013), moved to Buffalo (July 2013), got married (December 2013), and bought a house (Nov 2014). Not too shabby! We’ve both changed jobs several times, too, so we don’t go long without some sort of upheaval in our lives.

Happy first wedding anniversary, Paul. I love you.

Here’s a selection of photos from the past four years:

(The day Paul met my family for the first time, April 2011.)

DSC_0700

(My first visit to Buffalo, Sept 2011.)

Paul and Zan

(Watching a football game at a bar in DC, Sept 2011.)

Watching football in 2011

(He was a rocker and I was some kind of crazy-haired wolf girl – Halloween 2011.)

Halloween 2011

(He likes me even with a mustache! Dec 2011.)

Me likes me even with a mustache

(At a Thai restaurant in DC, Jan 2012.)

Paul and me

(At a wedding reception, Sept 2012.)

Paul and I at a wedding reception

(Richmond, VA Folk Festival, Oct 2012.)

Me and Paul

(Maymont Park in Richmond VA, Nov 2012.)

Me and Paul at Maymont Park; Richmond, VA

(National Zoo, Washington DC, April 2013.)

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(June 2013)

Me and Paul

(Wedding day, Dec 2013.)

0464Dumansky

(Huddling together for warmth at Chestnut Ridge Park, Dec 2013.)

Paul and Zan at Chestnut Ridge Park

(Volunteering at an event in Buffalo NY, June 2014.)

Me and Paul at City of Night 2014

(Darwin Martin House, Buffalo NY, Aug 2014.)

Paul and I at Darwin Martin House

(Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland OH, Sept 2014.)

Me and Paul at Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Thanksgiving in Virginia

Paul and I recently returned from a trip to Virginia to visit my family for Thanksgiving. His parents live here in Buffalo (just a mile and a half away from our new house), so we’ll spend Christmas with them.

We stayed with my sister Elissa and her family (son and fiancé) in Virginia Beach. In an attempt to save money, we decided to drive this time instead of fly (there are no direct flights from Buffalo to the Norfolk or Richmond airports). Flying would have cost $750-800 for the two of us and the price of gas was around $130 – a noticeable difference.

The only downside was the time it took to drive. This was our longest road trip together by far. Being together is great, but after seven hours or so we were both ready to get out of the car. The drive to Virginia last Wednesday took 13 hours (!!). It should have only taken 10.5 hours (which is how long our return took the following Monday), but we decided to take a longer route that entirely bypassed interstate 95. I drove on that road many times during the seven years I lived in DC…holiday traffic is pure hell. Plus it was snowing most of the way, so visibility was limited and people were driving slower than usual.

A few months ago, Elissa and her fiancé bought a beautiful house near the bay in Virginia Beach so this was our first time visiting them at their new place. It was a little strange not being in Richmond – I lived there for eight years (1997-2005) and it’s where I’ve returned for family visits ever since – but Elissa’s house is the hub for these types of occasions and it was no different this year.

(Elissa gravitates toward being the host because she’s so darn good at it. Seriously, I would be freaking out if I was hosting a large gathering at my house, but she’s been doing it for years. If she sweats, I never see it.)

(Elissa with her carrots – one strange, one normal.)

Elissa - weirdo carrot, normal carrot

What did we eat? Elissa detailed the menu in advance. The only thing we didn’t have was the baked Camembert (we completely forgot about it until after the Thanksgiving meal was over).

We were at Elissa’s for four days and five nights. It was wonderful spending so much time with her (those 1-2 hour phone calls every few weeks just aren’t the same as seeing her in person). My mom stayed overnight one of those nights too, so it was great to have some extended time with her as well.

I’ve lived in Buffalo for a year and a half now, and this visit really made me realize that I only see certain family members for a few hours a year. I knew before I moved that the hardest part about leaving would be seeing my family less often. When I lived in DC, I’d usually drive down for a visit at least every 4-6 weeks. Last week I saw my younger sister Angela, her two boys, and my two younger brothers for our Thanksgiving meal, but only for the afternoon. This year Paul and I went back to Virginia in May and November, and twice-a-year visits will likely remain the norm. It’s unfortunate — but it’s what a lot of people do.

(Me and my ultra long-haired sister, Angela.)

Me and Angela on Thanksgiving

On a brighter note, the weather was gorgeous on Sunday (mid 60s). We took advantage of the warmth and went out on our hosts’ boat. They bought the boat after they purchased the house – they’re not far from the bay and a series of canals snake through their neighborhood, allowing access for them to motor out to the bay whenever they want.

Due to my tendency for motion sickness I don’t get on boats often, but I popped a pill and the water of the bay was flat, so all was okay. Here I am looking at the passing scenery as my sister grins beside me:

Elissa and me on the bay at Virginia Beach

This is my husband sitting with Elissa as we wait for the boat to get gassed-up:

Paul and Elissa on the bay at Virginia Beach

Later that afternoon we went to Nauticus in Norfolk, which is a cool naval museum and battleship. That was super fun. Definitely worth the trip.

(Battleship Wisconsin at sunset)

Nauticus - Norfolk, VA

My friends Chris and Teresa came by for a few hours during our visit as well. I’ve known them for more than 15 years! Here’s me and Chris:

Me and Chris

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Not So Snowed-In

There’s a lot of snow on the ground right now in areas south of Buffalo. Our house is located just north of the city so we’re measuring snowfall in inches, not feet.

Snow in Lancaster, NY

(This is my husband’s uncle, who lives in Lancaster, NY. Photo taken 11/19/14.)

Some Buffalonians I follow on Twitter were complaining about being stuck at home for the third day in a row. Unless they have a valid reason for needing to be at work, it’s hard to feel sympathy for their boredom. Maybe it’s because I’m an introvert, but the thought of spending long days at home – with nowhere else to be – sounds heavenly to me.

I could read, I could cook, I could get my house in order. I could tackle things on my to-do list. I could research an upgrade/redesign for this site, which badly needs it. I could look at the paleo cookbooks I checked out from the library a few weeks ago.

I’ve traveled to work every day this week; one of very few people to make it into the office. I did get to leave work early on Tuesday (1pm), which was great because I had extra time to tackle the mountain of moving boxes.

There’s still a lot to do at the house (unroll the 8×10 rug in the living room, bring order to the office, put together the bed frame in the guest bedroom, hang pictures on the wall, spray paint the lamps I bought at an estate sale, buy a dining table and bookshelf), but at least it’s looking better. I’m also not worried about doing everything immediately, since we plan to spend more time in this space than we have anywhere else in our adult lives.

Paul and I will be returning to our old apartment on Saturday to do a final cleaning and pick up some random odds and ends that were left behind. I look forward to closing the door on that place for the final time.

I’m a Homeowner!

As of November 7, 2014, my husband and I are homeowners!

New House 1

It’s a brick Cape Cod with a detached garage. And a driveway! Do you have any idea how many years I’ve had to parallel park on public streets? Too many. Having our own private driveway will be a delightful and welcome change.

We’re pretty darn excited. Neither of us has owned a house before.

The previous owner renovated the kitchen and 1.5 bathrooms just in the past few years – most of the other potential houses we looked at needed upgrades in those areas, so to have them already done is fantastic.

(Note: All of the photos in this post were taken from the original real estate listing; we haven’t moved our belongings in yet.)

Here is the kitchen:

New House 2

New House 3

New House 5

This is the dining area off the kitchen. (We don’t currently own a dining set so I’ll be searching for a nice option to fit the space.)

New House 7

New House 8

The living room:

New House 9

New House 10

Here are the bathrooms (one full, one half).

New House 13

New House 12

New House 19

There are also three bedrooms (two upstairs, and one downstairs that we’ll use as an office). Here are two of the three.

New House 15

New House 18

The only downside to buying this house is the increased commute time to work. When I started my job in January, one of the things I raved about was only being half a mile from home, which I’ve really enjoyed these past nine months (I even walk home for lunch most days).

My new commute options are 1) drive a car, and either pay to park in a lot or attempt to find free street parking; or 2) take a bus. The bus route is a straight shot from my house to my workplace (no transfers) but would take a little longer due to all the stops. On the bright side, I wouldn’t have to search for parking and I could read on the commute, rather than paying attention to the road. I’m not quite sure what I’ll end up doing – it might be a combination of both, like if I need my car after work to go grocery shopping. And the bus would be a preferable option when it’s snowing outside.

(The increased commute is only for me; my husband’s will actually go down. He works more hours than I do – and stays later in the evening – so I am happy about his soon-to-be shorter drive.)

We move in this weekend!