Friday, September 27, 2013

Easy Tailgating, Game Day and Pot Luck Recipes

All hail the slow cooker.  Because when it comes to easy meal prep, my crockpots are my best friends.  That is especially true for game day eating at our house.

It has also been true all the way through my battle with breast cancer:  being able to toss ingredients in the slow cooker in the morning, and come back home to a meal for my family after chemo was incredibly comforting.  Even better was the fact that I usually made enough for leftovers the next day.

But I cannot stand bland food.  Even when I was in the throes of chemo and my taste buds had sworn off pepper in the worst way, I still needed to have some spices in what we were eating.  Bland just does not cut it for me.

That is especially true with slow cooker food that far too often tastes like it was made with a couple of bricks of cream cheese in a blender.  No thank you.  That sort of creamy sauced morass of bland is not for me.

The Peanut likes to quote Remy from Ratatouille, and says that I get "fancy with the spices."  It is absolutely true, and the layered flavor we get in our meals reflects my love of a well-seasoned dish.

One of the easiest game day foods in my book is anything made with rotisserie chickens.  One of our favorites is a Tex-Mex gem.  For some easy tacos, tostadas or nachos, do this:

Get two rotisserie chickens.  Allow them to cool -- this is easiest if you get the chickens the day before and pop them in the fridge -- then pick all the meat off them.  We get ours at our local Sam's Club, and they are huge, meaty and perfect.  In the bottom of a large slow cooker crock, put about 1/2 cup salsa -- I have been using our local Kroger brand "restaurant style" in medium -- then add a hefty layer of chicken.  Pour a can of Rotel diced tomatoes with lime and cilantro over top, and then add the rest of the chicken.  Pour another 1/4 cup salsa over that.

To the crockpot, add some Penzey's adobo spice, or a mixture of cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, ground Mexican oregano,and pepper.  You could also use some fajita spice for this.

Mix everything together, and let it simmer away on LOW heat for about 3 hours until the flavors have melded together.

It will be moist and juicy from all the salsa and flavored perfectly.  This makes the best tortilla chip topping for nachos.  Just scoop some hot chicken over chips that have been covered with a layer of finely shredded sharp cheddar, Monterey jack or pepper jack, and you have instant yummy food.  If you add some lettuce underneath, you can call it taco salad, especially if you serve it with a dressing made with some sour cream or plain yogurt mixed with a little salsa and cilantro.  For tacos or tostadas, serve over the appropriate type of tortilla, with some cut up lime wedges, lettuce, cheese, chopped green onions, chopped fresh tomato, chopped cilantro, and other assorted toppings on the side as a taco bar.  Everyone gets to make their own to their personal taste.  We like some Tabasco chipotle hot sauce, for a little bit of a smoky kick.  Seriously yummy.

Recently, I tried a new recipe for New Orleans style dirty rice that I made in the crockpot, and it was absolutely delicious.  As long time readers know, I cannot leave well enough alone, so I tinkered with the original recipe a bit to jazz it up to our family's taste.  Here's what I did:

Slow Cooker Dirty Rice

2 boxes reduced-sodium Zatarain's dirty rice
4 c. water
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 large onions, diced
4 ribs celery, diced
1 pkg. diced pancetta
1 1/2 pkgs. Aidell's andouille sausage, halved and sliced thin
1 lb. ground beef, lean (but not too lean)
1 can petite diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. dried oregano
chopped green onions
hot sauce, on the side

Heat large, heavy pan over medium-high heat.  Add panchetta until fat begins to render and meat begins to brown at the edges.   At this point, add diced peppers, celery and onion, and cook several minutes until the onion and celery soften and begin to brown a little bit.  Then add in ground beef and Aidell's andouille sausage.  Brown all together until beef is cooked through and browned nicely and the bottom of the heavy pan has begun to get a crust of browned, yummy goodness.  Pour all of this into the crock of a large slow cooker.  Take one cup of water and pour carefully into the bottom of the hot pan, scraping up all the yummy browned bits that you possibly can, using the water to deglaze.  You may need to use a second cup.  Pour liquid into the slow cooker, and add remaining water (to total 4 to 5 cups) into the crock.  Pour in both boxes of dirty rice mix.  Add can of petite diced tomatoes, the bay leaves and oregano, and stir everything together.  Let cook on LOW for about 8 hours, until rice is tender and liquid has been absorbed.  Serve with chopped green onions and hot sauce on the side.

So incredibly delicious.

Especially served with some red beans which I made the quick and dirty way by browning the remaining half package of andouille sausage, diced into smaller bits, in a saucepan, along with some diced onion, celery and red bell pepper, and then heating that up with three drained cans of red beans and a can of chicken broth.

The great thing about cooking these things in your slow cooker is that you have an instant transport for your food to a tailgate or to someone else's house or location for a pot luck dinner.

We also do a lot of meatballs in the crockpot.  If you have a Kroger nearby, their frozen turkey meatballs are delicious if you are having a time crunch for a meal and can't make your own.  In a pinch, two packages of those turkey meatballs, two jars of a good quality marinara sauce (I tend to like tomato and basil or spicy tomato, or a mix of the two), a hefty pinch of Italian seasoning and another hefty pinch of dried oregano, and you have a great meal in a few hours of heating.  We use these for quick meatball subs, using hoagie buns and some shredded mozzarella or pizza blend cheeses -- just put the cheese on the bottom of a split bun, and top with the hot meatballs and sauce.

So seriously yummy!  Especially if you have some hot Italian peppers in sauce for folks to add on the side to their taste.

I have several other posts with tailgating, pot luck and game day meal ideas.  You can find them here:

-- Tailgate and Pot Luck recipes
-- Crockpot Recipe-O-Rama
-- More Tailgating and Crockpot recipes
-- Superbowl recipes
-- More Superbowl recipes (healthier version)
-- Slow Cooker Red Beans And Rice from scratch
--  New Orleans Recipe Round-up
-- Antipasto/Muffaletta Pasta Salad

(Photo via Rosh Sillars.)

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