Friday, March 28, 2014

Slow Cooker Balsamic Chicken Thighs

This is one of the hands down, best crock pot recipes I have ever tried. No joke. My mom told me how much she loved it and if she loved it, I knew I would too. There isn't to much that she likes that I don't like. Well, besides cucumbers and watermelon. Those are the worst. The smell. The taste. Oh man, don't get me started.

Let's keep this short and simple - this crock pot recipe couldn't be easier to throw together. Just a few dry seasonings, chicken thighs, garlic and the all important balsamic vinegar. I know you are probably thinking - vinegar in the crock pot for hours? I thought the same thing too and was completely worried that either the vinegar would burn or reduce down so much that it would be way too sticky. And trust me, no one wants burnt vinegar. That's gross. Not to fear though, the vinegar did burn or get sticky! In fact, the vinegar, along with the chicken juices and condensation from the lid created this slightly tangy and sweet sauce that was out of this world delicious. That punch of flavor you usually get with any kind of vinegar was completely softened down and just perfect with the spices and the chicken. With some rice and veggies, you have the perfect complete meal. This is a must make!

All ready to go and slow cook!
look at all that rich sauce!
dinner is served

Slow Cooker Balsamic Chicken Thighs (Sugar Free Mom)

1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ cup balsamic vinegar
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Combine the first five dry spices in a small bowl and spread over chicken on both sides. Set aside. Pour olive oil and garlic on the bottom of the crock pot. Place chicken on top and pour balsamic vinegar over the chicken. Cover and cook on low for six hours, or until done. Serve and enjoy!
So easy. So delicious. So simple.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

One Bowl Chocolate Cake

As much as love making big layer cakes and other overly complicated desserts, I love one that is simple and easy. In comes this one bowl chocolate cake. No mixer. No excessive cleaning. Just one bowl, one spoon and one round cake pan. People continue to tell me that simpler is better and maybe they are right. Maybe you don't need all those layers and all that frosting to make a yummy and delicious cake. Let me just say, this cake changed my mind. Simpler is better and just as delicious! I can't believe I am about to say this, but maybe you don't always need frosting (and this girl loves her frosting - just ask the captain).

One of my all-time favorite food bloggers posted a picture of this cake on her Instagram and as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to make it. Like, drop everything I was doing and make. That serious. With school keeping me beyond busy, I didn't have much time to do something extra fancy for Valentines day (yes, I know that was over a month ago, but give a girl a break), but knew that the captain needed to have something a little sweet and a little bit chocolaty. Okay, a lot chocolaty. Plus, a cake that can be whipped up in just a few minutes - now we are talking! To make this cake you only need a few simple ingredients. Most of which I am willing to bet you have in your pantry already. Butter, sugar, flour, chocolate chips, baking powder, salt and egg and the secret ingredient that makes this cake so moist and delicious - raspberry jam! Yes, jam! I thought it sounded strange at first too, but let me tell you, it adds a little something something to the cake. And a who doesn't love raspberries and chocolate together. That's a flavor combination almost as good as peanut butter and chocolate. Almost.

In all honesty, I've never had a cake be so quick and easy to make and be so delicious! Plus, it's a show stopper. Seriously. Once you pull it out of the oven and let it cool, dust it with a bit of powered sugar and top with a handful of fresh raspberries and you have a cake that looks like you bought it from a bakery. If you wanted to get really fancy, you could even drizzle over some ganache, but you don't need to go there with this cake. It's that good! Even better, you don't have to use this for just special occasions. If you are craving chocolate, make this cake. If you need a quick dessert for unannounced guests, make this cake. If you don't want to leave the house and run to the store for dessert, make this cake. Should I keep going?

just a few simple ingredients
melted butter + chocolate chips
smooth and creamy
gently fold in the jam and flour
ready for the oven!

dusted and ready to enjoy!

One Bowl Chocolate Cake (Dessert for Two)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup seedless raspberry (or other berry) jam
¼ cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
1 large egg
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
⅛ teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 350˚.
In a medium bowl (large enough to hold all of the batter), melt the butter in the microwave in short pulses. Meanwhile, butter and lightly flour a 8” round cake pan. Once the butter is melted, stir in the chocolate chips. Stir the chocolate constantly until it melts completely into the butter. Next, add the jam and sugar and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon. It’s ok if some of the jam doesn’t melt into the batter. Add the egg and stir in very well. Finally, sprinkle the flour, baking powder and salt over the batter and stir just until well-combined.
Pour the batter into the pan and bake 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out with only moist crumbs clinging to it. Let cool completely before attempting to cut. Dust with powered sugar and serve with fresh raspberries. Enjoy!
One bowl. One spoon. One delicious cake!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Crock Pot Broccoli Beef

I am always looking for new ways to use my crock pot and what better what than with making take out at home! I have been eying several Chinese recipes over the past several weeks and finally had to try one of them out. I have my go-to recipes that I make all the time, but it was time to spice things up a bit and try something new. The great thing about the crock pot is that you can just throw everything in and let it go for hours and hours without any worry, but some recipes do have a specific time limit - say, 4-5 hours. Since I am at work for 10 hours, I would more than likely come home to a burnt or over cooked dinner, so I leave the weekend to experiment with shorter cooking times in my crock pot. Thus, this weekend was the weekend to experiment and test out crock pot broccoli beef!
Although the captain and I enjoy Chinese food, it's not something we get all the time. For one, it's not that good for you and two, it can be expensive - especially if you are feeding more than two people. In fact, even for two people it's expensive. You order a couple of dishes and the next thing you know, your bill is over $50! Plus, you know how I am always trying to make things at home and lighten them up so they taste just as good as the real deal, but healthier and lighter. You know that if you go to your local Chinese restaurant that they are frying the meat or adding all kinds of oil that you don't really need. Let me just say, I know I don't need that added to my booty and I am sure you don't want it on yours either! Making dishes just as tasty as the restaurant, but healthier and I can make it at home while still in my pajamas? That a win-win if you ask me. Don't you think? 

To make this incredibly yummy and super easy broccoli beef, you first start off with beef. You can use sirloin steak or flank steak. Whatever you can find. I couldn't find sirloin for some strange reason, so I used the next best thing -flank steak. No matter what you use, it will still be just as delicious. Just make sure to cut it with the grain of the meat and thinly. Once the meat is all cut up, throw it in the crockpot and then pour over the sauce - a little brown sugar, beef broth, oyster sauce, soy sauce, a few cloves of garlic and a bit of sesame oil (you don't need a lot of the latter - it's strong, so don't go adding much more). Let the meat and super yummy sauce get all warm and bubbly for about four hours. Don't let it go over five or the soy and oyster sauces may start to burn and condense down. No one wants overly salty or burnt sauce! Once the meat is cooked through, you'll want to thicken the sauce a bit with some cornstarch (it shouldn't take more than 10 minutes to thicken up!) and then throw in steamed broccoli. Toss everything to coat and you have an amazing dinner on your hands. With the veggies already in the dish, all you need to do is serve it over a bit of brown rice and you are good to go. Super delicious and super easy. Bet you didn't know it would be this easy to make take out at home.

not pictured - beef
slice the beef thin and place in the crock pot
mix up the sauce
our the sauce over the meat and cook for 4-5 hours
once the beef is cooked, thicken the sauce up with a bit of cornstarch
throw in a couple of big handfuls of steamed broccoli
mix everything together to coat and serve!

Crock Pot Broccoli Beef (slightly adapted from Mother Thyme)

1 1/2-2 pounds sirloin steak or flank steak, thinly sliced on the grain
1 cup beef broth
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup oyster sauce
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
12 ounces broccoli florets, cooked per package directions or steamed
Brown rice for serving
In a small bowl whisk broth, soy sauce, oyster sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil and garlic. Pour over beef and let marinate for about 15 minutes at room temperature. Place mixture in slow cooker and cook on low for about 4-5 hours.
In a small bowl stir water and cornstarch until cornstarch is dissolved. Stir into slow cooker and cook for about another 10-15 minutes until sauce thickens (turn your crockpot to high to thicken!). Before serving stir in steamed broccoli mix to coat beef broccoli and serve over rice. Enjoy!
Take out at home - it doesn't get better than this!