Keto Pizza Casserole


Upon request from a reader, I ventured into the world of Ketogenic, aka "Keto", cuisine to bring you this Keto Pizza Casserole. I happen to be very well versed in nutrition as it is just another hobby of mine. I've done the whole meal planning thing quite a bit and have just been generally obsessed with nutrition and health food for, well, a long time. Let's just call it years and years 😉 So I did feel like I had a bit of an upper hand having all the macro knowledge that I do when I began planning a Keto recipe. I have never personally adhered to a Ketogenic diet for a couple of reasons. I happen to have a very lean build so I've never chosen a diet for the purpose of losing weight. My health goals are typically to gain muscle or, as strange as it sounds, to gain weight overall. I also have a very high metabolism and with all of my macro dieting experimenting I've done, I know that my body produces the results that I look for when I am consuming an OBSCENE amount of carbs. So that being said, the Ketogenic diet has never called to me, per se. Different strokes, different folks. However, I do appreciate the health benefits the research surrounding the Ketogenic diet describes this diet as having for those with epilepsy and diabetes. Alas, I love a challenge and was absolutely going to take up the opportunity to please a reader 🙂

When people think low-carb, the last thing I'm sure that comes to mind is pizza. But I do not believe that anybody should ever have to cut pizza out of their diet, carbs be darned. So I bring all of you Ketogenic diet eatin' folk this Keto Pizza Casserole! Because if I was on the Keto diet, I really wouldn't be because I would still be eating pizza 😉

What does Ketogenic mean?

I'm not going to go into great detail about the Keto diet, I'm just going to give you a quick rundown. A typical Ketogenic diet requires that you eat a maximum of 20 grams of carbs daily. The goal of a Ketogenic diet is to stop feeding your body the carbohydrates that it likes to use to burn as fuel. When you restrict the number of carbs your body has to break down into energy, it will start to break down your stored fat instead creating molecules called ketones to use as a new fuel source. For the sake of this recipe, all you need to know is that I calculated the number of carbohydrates for you and each serving will have only 7.2 grams of carbs.

Brown the meat first.

That's right. This recipe calls for a little bit of combination cooking, it's not all done in the slow cooker. Most of the work is still done in the slow cooker, but we are going to brown the meat first with some butter, seasonings, fresh garlic, and just a tad of diced red onion. The reason we're doing this is to keep the cheese from burning. If we were to build this casserole in the crock pot using raw turkey, by the time the turkey was completely cooked, the cheese would likely be burnt to a crisp. While I don't really have many qualms with the flavor of burnt cheese, or anything cheese flavored really, my goal here is a pizza consistency not that of a Cheez-It.

Parmesan is worth a few extra carbs.

Mozzarella is pretty much carb-free, perfect for Ketogenic recipes. Parmesan is not carb-free. But I love the bite that Parmesan adds to meals so it seemed worth it to me to sacrifice a few carbs and use a mixture of mozzarella AND Parmesan. Had I not done this, I probably would not have needed to water down the pizza sauce like I did (you'll read about this shortly.) If you want to cut out some extra carbs, this is the perfect step for you to alter and still get basically the same results that I got as the final dish. To cut carbs, simply replace the same amount of mozzarella for the Parmesan listed in the recipe (basically double up on mozz and 86 the parm altogether.) 😉

The pizza sauce.

Is what made this recipe a bit challenging. Tomato sauces are stockpiled with carbs. So I cheated a little bit and mixed some water in with pizza sauce to stretch the sauce a ways and still keep the carb count low. But I did not want to sacrifice flavor too much by doing this so it took some trial and error. I landed on a 2:1 ratio of pizza sauce to water. I used 12 ounces of pizza sauce, mixed it with 6 ounces of water, and landed on 18 ounces of the sauce/water combination. I like a lot of sauce on my pizza 🙂

The recipe.

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Prep time: 35 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours and 10 minutes
Makes 8 servings
**Each serving will have 7.2 grams of carbs. Happy Keto-ing!

To brown the meat:
1 lb 93% lean ground turkey meat, thawed
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Pepper to taste
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 cup red onion, diced

For the rest of the casserole:
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1 cup Parmesan cheese
12 oz pizza sauce (mixed with 6 oz water for a total of 18 oz sauce mixture)
Pepperoni slices (I only needed about 11 total slices)
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 orange bell pepper, finely chopped
2.25 oz can sliced black olives, drained

1) Prepare the vegetables, chopping, dicing, and mincing as needed.

2) Over medium heat, brown the turkey meat with butter, seasonings, garlic, and diced red onion.
3) Spray the crock pot with cooking spray.
4) Cover the bottom of the crockpot with 1/3 of the jalapeno slices, and half of the bell pepper, red onion, and black olives you prepped in step 1.

5) Layer half of the browned turkey meat across the veggies.

6) Pour half of the pizza sauce mixture across the turkey meat.

7) Sprinkle 1/2 cup of each cheese over the sauce layer.

8) Cover the cheese with the 1/3 of the jalapeno slices, and the rest of the bell peppers, red onions, and black olives (I set aside a small amount of olives to put on the very top layer for presentation purposes; feel free to do the same.)
9) Layer the rest of the browned turkey meat across the veggies.
10) Pour the rest of the pizza sauce mixture evenly over the turkey meat.
11) Sprinkle 1/2 cup of each cheese over the sauce.
12) Arrange the pepperoni slices, the rest of the jalapeno slices, and the rest of the black olives across the cheese as the top layer of the casserole.

13) Cook on low for 2 hours and 10 minutes.
14) Cut into eighths, serve. (Yes, it is supposed to be very messy.)

15) Let the puppy help clean up.

What do you think of my first Keto recipe? Tell me in the comments below!
Find out more about me, the author and founder of The Slow Cooker Life, here.

Ginger Spiced Apple Butter Chicken

apple butter chicken recipe

This recipe has A LOT of flavor. From the rich spice aroma of the ginger to the juicy, decadent flavor of the apple butter glaze, this apple butter chicken recipe is sure to have your taste buds working overtime! And to add savory to the already wonderful mix of sweet and spicy, we are going to top it off with bacon. It will be the cherry to our sundae. No, we're not making ice cream. Maybe one day I will.

I did oddly have a really hard time deciding what to serve this with. Ultimately I went with white rice. And it went very well with the chicken. But I was mulling over the ideas of biscuit and veggies or a cold salad as well. I guess it isn't a bad thing when something is so delicious that it sounds good with everything, right? 😉

Get the chicken off the heat.

I tried something new in an attempt to keep the chicken from getting too dry. I usually just put the chicken in the bottom of the crockpot. Here, I wanted to try to elevate the chicken so that it is not coming in direct contact with the heat source for the crockpot. The idea is that the chicken won't become as dry and the bottom of the chicken maybe won't be too soggy from having slow cooked in its own juices for hours.

Peel an onion and slice about five 1/2 inch thick slices, leaving all the layers of each slices together. These slices, or pucks, will be what separates the chicken from the direct bottom of the crockpot.

If you are going to end up shredding the chicken, letting it cook in its own juices is going to be more than fine. However, if your plan was to serve the chicken as whole pieces, I recommend lifting the chicken a bit. I was becoming frustrated that no matter how I adjusted the cook temp or time, the meat kept seeming to dry out. So I did a little research and incorporated my newfound wisdom for you 🙂

Let's talk about apple butter.

The apple butter that I had on deck for this recipe was given to us as a gift and was the first time I had ever tasted apple butter. My initial reaction was that it tasted like apple sauce. But like...POW! APPLE SAUCE! You know? A little bit of that stuff went a very long way. At first, I was using it in small doses on toast. Typically, I am a berry or apricot jam kind of gal. But I got a little crazy with the apple butter a couple of times 😉

Unbeknownst to me, because I had not yet stumbled across apple butter, it is commonly used for baking. So now I know that. Ignorance is bliss at times, however. This time, my ignorance to apple butter allowed for a more unique, unbiased take on how it should be used. I went more of a savory cooking route with this apple butter chicken recipe. Maybe if I had initially been aware of apple butter's standard use, mine would have turned into some sort of apple crumble coffee cake of sorts. But I did not know about the apple butter. So I winged it. And things still went very, very well.

I went heavy on the seasonings.

For a reason. That apple butter was potent and I didn't want the dish to end up tasting like I cooked it in apple sauce. I needed to combat the sweet. My weapon of choice? Spicy, of course. After all, "spiced" and "apple" compliment each other very well. Cinnamon seemed too obvious for the apple. I didn't want to adhere to obvious. So I decided to make ginger my focus for the "spiced" apple inspiration. Cayenne and chili powder had their time to shine too when I found myself wanting a little more flavor and heat.

Your kitchen is going to smell wonderful 🙂

We're adding butter to the butter.

That ought to get your attention. Technically apple butter is not butter. For the sake of simple argument, it's just apples and spices cooked and blended until it has the consistency of butter. But "adding butter to the butter" sounded too good to not say.

I had a couple of reasons for adding regular butter to the apple butter. Surely the apple butter was viscous enough to spread over the chicken as it was. Not only did I want another means to prevent the final dish from tasting like it was cooked in apple sauce. But I also just think that slow cooking meat, especially dry meat like chicken, with butter is ultimately going to add extra flavor and moistness.

And then we're adding bacon to all o' that.

Okay so it's just turkey bacon. But still. I encourage you to use the real deal if you fancy yourself some pork. I have not yet delved back into the land of eating pork (I have particular dietary preferences), however, so I am rolling with the turkey bacon. Still savory and super delicious. Want extra savory? Use real bacon, I won't mind 😉

The recipe.

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 3 hours
Makes 2 servings

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, frozen
1/3 cup apple butter
3 tbsp butter
4 pieces turkey bacon, halved
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Pepper to taste

Optional to elevate the chicken:
Onion, sliced into 1/2 inch pucks

1) Put small frying pan over medium heat to allow it to begin heating up.
2) Spray the crockpot.
3) Line the bottom of the crockpot with onion pucks.

4) Put the chicken in the crockpot.
5) Add seasonings to the chicken.

6) NOTE: Do this step carefully. Add butter and apple butter to the hot pan on the stove top. As the pan will now be hot, the butter and apple butter may splatter when they hit the pan. I recommend wearing an old long sleeve t-shirt if you want to avoid getting irritatingly burned by splattering butter pellets.

7) Using a rubber spatula, continuously stir the contents of the pan until the butter and apple butter are well blended and the mixture is sizzling.

8) Pour the apple butter butter (mmmm, that sounds so delicious) even over the chicken breasts in the crockpot.

9) Place the bacon strips across the chicken breasts as the very top layer.

10) Cook on high for 3 hours.

Did you make this apple butter chicken?!
What would you serve yours with? Rice? Steamed veggies? Cold salad? Tell me in the comments below! I would love to hear your ideas and why you think they would go well with this meal.

Find out more about me, the author and founder of The Slow Cooker Life, here 🙂

Honey Mustard Chicken Recipe – Traditional


Here we are with another honey mustard chicken recipe. I took a more traditional approach to this honey mustard chicken recipe than I did with my last one. I am really not a huge fan of mayonnaise so my last recipe used Greek yogurt in place of the mayonnaise you find in a traditional honey mustard. This time around, I used mayonnaise to give ole tradition a spin for a bit. That urge made for quite the production in my kitchen while I attempted to make mayonnaise to use in this recipe. That is a song for another time, however. For now though, this honey mustard chicken turned out to be so juicy and tender! And there was enough sauce left to drizzle over the side of broccoli I made for it too.

Honey, mustard, and mayonnaise are things that most people stock in their homes. That is part of why this recipe is so amazing! Not only is this meal delicious, it doesn't require a grocery list full of ingredients you are only going to use for this one recipe. On the contrary, it requires only a handful of items that you most likely have already. All this time you could have been making honey mustard to put on everything 😉

I made my own mayo.

But I do not expect you to have done this. Use your normal mayonnaise. I made my own in an attempt to create a mayo that I enjoyed. I was fairly successful. My next mayo-making attempt will have some tweaks to try to make it a little zestier. That's what I get for using vinegar instead of the highly recommended lemon juice for the recipe. In my defense, I was out of lemons...

I went through a few recipe tweaks before I found one that would work for now for this honey mustard chicken recipe. You have probably wondered a couple of times now why I didn't just buy mayonnaise from the store. Because I don't like it. So I figured I could try to make some that was a little tastier than what I am used to store-bought tasting like. I'm really ambitious like that 😉

Use your usual mayo; there are no extra brownie points for making your own. That being said, if you want to make your own, you have my total support.

I slow cooked the mayo.

The flavor of the chicken was amazing. But the look slow cooked sauce was a bit of a turn off. Not to worry though! I easily whipped up a bit of fresh honey mustard from the leftover honey, mustard, and mayo that I had plenty of to start with, and drizzled the fresh stuff over the cooked chicken. This way I got the best of both worlds. The chicken was super tender and honey mustard-y. And the honey mustard sauce poured over the chicken did not look like curdled milk. The sauce did not curdle, as there was no dairy in the sauce. It was just lumps of hot homemade mayo. Either way, it didn't look great. So I called an audible and used uncooked honey mustard for the plating step.

You will notice that my pictures show that I measured out less honey mustard ingredients than what I call for in the recipe. This is so that you make enough of the sauce at the start to pour over your plated chicken later on like I did 🙂 I'm helping you save time by making the mistakes for you along the way 😉

I added vanilla extract.

Yes. Yes, I did. I added vanilla extract to the honey mustard.

This really added an extra dimension of flavor in the sauce. I like honey mustard to be sweet, not overpoweringly mustard-y. That is just my own preference. Henceforth, I jazzed up my honey mustard recipe with a little bit of vanilla extract. I am very happy with this improvement. I have now made honey mustard a few different times using various recipes each time, and I have never thought to put vanilla extract in it before. But this time I finally had the epiphany. So let's stop living in the past and move on to our vanilla flavored futures 🙂

The mustard.

Since my goal here was to avoid an overpowering mustard flavor, I opted for Dijon mustard for this recipe. It allows to sweetness of the honey to be prevalent while still adding the flavor essence of mustard. If you prefer a heavy mustard flavor, I suggest using yellow mustard. Check out this recipe if you like a super mustard-y honey mustard.

Serve it with greens.

This honey mustard chicken recipe is a little different from my other one. I think it is clear that I did not really have healthy on my brain with this one. This sauce is much richer on account of the homemade mayo I incorporated. Because of that, I decided to serve it with greens.

I am a sucker for honey mustard on my salads as much as I am for it on my chicken. So serving this entree with a nice cold garden salad on the side would be an excellent option. For mine, I went with steamed broccoli. I personally wanted a bit of a heartier green to counterbalance the richness of the sauce. As it turns out, honey mustard drizzled over broccoli is also delightful 😉

The recipe.

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, frozen
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup honey
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Salt
Pepper
Cayenne

1) In a small mixing bowl, mix together mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, honey, and vanilla extract until well(ish) blended. (The mayo is bound to leave a lump or two, this is fine.)


2) Spray the crockpot with cooking spray.

3) Put the frozen chicken in the crockpot,

4) Add salt, pepper, and cayenne to the pot.

5) Pour the honey mustard sauce you made in step 1 over the chicken breasts, leaving a little left in the mixing bowl for plating later.

6) Cook on low for 5 1/2 hours.

7) Remove chicken breasts from crockpot. Pour extra honey mustard sauce form step 5 over cooked chicken breast to serve.

Do you prefer your honey mustard sweeter or with a strong mustard flavor? Tell us in the comments below!
Find out more about me, the author and founder of The Slow Cooker Life, here.

Spinach Artichoke Chicken Recipe – Savory and Robust

There are not many instances that I can recall when I was dining at a restaurant with nachos on their appetizer menu and I ordered a different appetizer instead. I do know with utmost certainty that when these rare occasions do arise, spinach and artichoke dip was quite possibly what won that round. The glorious spin-dip that has become a house favorite at many establishments is what inspired this recipe I am going to be showing you here. Basically I decided that chicken would be really good smothered in a spinach artichoke sauce. Turns out, I was right. This spinach artichoke chicken recipe is absolutely going to become a house favorite at your humble abode as well.

This recipe is the total package. It is a reasonable balance between healthy and not. It really is not that hard to execute. The cooked chicken is tender and juicy. The sauce has just enough spice. And your friends and family will not believe that you made it all from scratch. Even though, secretly, you will have done it with ease. But I am not here to judge. So feel free to tell them a stretched version of the truth and let yourself look like the rock star chef this recipe is sure to make you resemble!

Spoiler alert.

This one will not make your house smell awesome while it is slow cooking. Slow cooked spinach is not, nor will it ever be, a candle fragrance for a reason.

I know. Hard to imagine THIS doesn’t smell great.

Do not let the smell of the slow cooking spinach deter you from this recipe though! Crack a window or light a candle (I’m a big fan of hazelnut) because I assure you, your final product does not taste the way that it smells. Plus, slow cooker users are typically not home while their meal is percolating anyway, right? So the horrible smell shouldn’t matter. And my dogs think everything smells good so they were unphased 😉

Creamy, cheesy, deliciousness.

I originally added about half the amount of Parmesan and cream cheese as I ended up using for the recipe when it was all said and done. I am a strong advocate of tasting your food as you go, as explained here. So there I was, adding the cheeses. Tasting, Adding a bit more cream cheese. Taste. Add some parm. Taste. And just a titch more. Taste.

You get the picture. There is some serious cheese happening in this sauce. But it makes for such a robust, savory flavor!

Not just for the chicken.

This recipe makes a bit more than what you will use just for the chicken. I recommend buying some crostinis or French bread to have on hand to dip into the leftover sauce. Something this tasty does not deserve to just get thrown away. Get creative with the leftovers!

What did I do with my leftovers? We used some tortilla chips for dipping. And then I baked some potatoes the next night and poured the spinach artichoke sauce on them instead of using the usual baked potato toppings. If you are a potato lover like I am (I am guilty of living in Idaho), then this is definitely something worth trying out with your leftovers too!

Add some pizzazz.

As if the spinach artichoke sauce isn’t enough to satisfy, I am encouraging you to add just a little extra umph when you plate this one up to serve. I’m a big fan of a little bit of heat in my meals so of course I am adding some spice on top of mine. I added some crushed red pepper for heat this time because it goes so well with the savory flavor you get from Parmesan (hence why you always get crushed red pepper and Parmesan when you order pizza.)

I’m not done yet. Artichokes and sun dried tomatoes go hand in hand. Therefore, I am going to chop up a few of them and sprinkle them on top of my plated chicken. Such a small addition is going to give us, not only flavor, but also texture and color. A little bit of presentation can go a very long way if you are trying to impress someone. Just saying 😉

The recipe.

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Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 6 hours
Makes about 5 servings with chicken, plus extra sauce for snacking later

Ingredients to slow cook:

1.5 lb frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts
7 cups fresh spinach, chopped
1/2 cup water
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup sweet onion, diced
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp seasoning salt
2 tsp ground pepper

Ingredients to add after it’s done slow cooking:

5 tbsp cream cheese, softened
7 tbsp shredded Parmesan cheese

This is shredded parm. Grated Parmesan is the “shaker cheese”.

2 tbsp grated pamesan
1 can (14 oz) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped


Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

Optional for plating:
Sun dried tomatoes, chopped
Crushed red pepper

To slow cook:

1) Spray the pot.
2) Place frozen chicken in crockpot.

3) Add water, seasonings, garlic, and onion to crockpot.

4) Add spinach to crockpot.

5) Cook on low for 6 hours.

When it’s done slow cooking:
6) Remove chicken breasts from crockpot, leaving the spinach sauce.
7) Add artichokes, cream cheese, shredded Parmesan, and grated Parmesan to crockpot.

8) Stir until the cheeses have melted and mixed thoroughly with the sauce. The sauce will become creamier as the cream cheese and Parmesan melt and blend together.


For plating:

9) Place one of your chicken breasts on a plate and spoon some creamy spinach artichoke sauce over the chicken.
10) Add a pinch of crushed red pepper on top for an added flavor element.
11) Sprinkled the chopped sun dried tomatoes across the chicken.
12) Finish your plating with a little bit of shredded Parmesan to make your meal a little prettier (and cheesier).

I know the recipe seems long. But once you get going, it is all rather quick and easy to accomplish. That’s why this spinach artichoke chicken recipe is so wonderful! It is one that really makes it seem like you know what your are doing in the kitchen (even if you have never drained and chopped a can of artichoke hearts before in your life.)

I think the flavor is totally worth the house smelling like boiled spinach for a few hours;)

What would you do with your leftover sauce?! Tell us your ideas below!
Find out more about me, the author and founder of The Slow Cooker Life, here.

 

 


Slow Cooker Turkey Meatballs Recipe – Cheesy and Spicy

This one is a knock out if I do say so myself. This slow cooker turkey meatballs recipe is not only spicy but also has a savory cheesy flavor that will surely have you wishing you made more.

I vaguely remember making homemade meatballs at home with my mother growing up. They would have most likely been made with ground beef. And they would have absolutely not been spicy (for several reasons: a) my mother does not, nor has she ever liked spicy food, b) I was a suuuper picky eater growing up and spicy did not fall within my palatable flavor range at the time, and c) my brother was possibly even pickier than I was.)

I digress. What I remember most about the meatballs we made growing up was how much I loved them. Nowadays, I don't find myself eating a lot of ground beef though. So for this recipe, we are going to use ground turkey. I tend to use 93% lean over any other variety. Also for this recipe, we are going to turn up the heat a little bit with some ground cayenne pepper. My palette's boundaries have significantly broadened since my childhood. I like things to get a little hot sometimes. My food, I mean. I like my food to get a little spicy sometimes*.

😉

This recipe is very bold with flavor. I used jars of pasta sauce instead of making my own. The pasta sauce that I chose to use already had a lot of garlic in it. Had it not, I would have used 2 cloves of minced garlic in the sauce to make sure the garlic was prevalent. I also added fresh diced onion to the sauce. Go bold or go home! These added, fresh flavors do wonders to the overall flavor and aroma of your dish. My house smelled more and more decadent the longer these bad boys percolated.

Thaw the meat.

This may seem like a very obvious step. However, I don't like to assume that any of you would assume that you would have to thaw the meat in order to make the meat into meatballs later. Instead, I am just going to explain that later on we are going to be mushing and mashing the meat in a mixing bowl and doing this is going to be impossible if the meat is frozen solid.

M'kay?

If you don't stock breadcrumbs at your house.

Don't panic. I don't either. Mostly because I make some gluten free choices. I do not have Celiacs. I just have some odd dietary habits 😉

I do always have some sort of plain Chex cereal (I don't like the sugary stuff) stocked at my house though. At the time of this recipe, I had Corn Chex in my cupboard. To turn it into "breadcrumbs", simply take a palm full of Chex, put them in a sandwich bag and seal it, then crush the cereal. Ta-da! You just made breadcrumbs. Making breadcrumbs is more fun than using plain old store bought ones anyway.

Raw ground turkey is gross.

Speaking as a somewhat recently ex-pescatarian, raw ground turkey is so very, very gross. I earned the right to saw this as I mushed it around in a mixing bowl with my bare hands. I used to have latex gloves in my kitchen. They belonged to my roommate at the time, but occasionally I would use them. I never realized how much I missed having gloves in my kitchen until I was wrist deep in ground turkey.

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger? Get it? Turkey is protein. Protein makes you strong 😉

(insert noodle here) and meatballs.

The saying goes "spaghetti and meatballs". But here at theslowcookerlife.com, we don't always adhere to tradition. Pick whatever noodle suits your fancy and serve your meatballs with them!

I chose penne for my dinner. More specifically, I used a gluten free penne noodle. Rotini noodles have been my usual go-to recently. I like how they do not get mushy too easily. In fact, the noodle usually tastes a little hard in the very center. Anyway, choose whichever noodle feels right to you. Don't choose spaghetti just because you feel like the meatballs mandate it. Cooking is supposed to be fun, remember?! And cavatappi is pretty fun if you ask me!

The recipe.

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Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 2 1/2 hours
Makes: about 15 meatballs
With pasta: makes about 5 servings

For the meatballs:
1 lb ground turkey, 93% lean
1 egg
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 crushed Corn Chex, you may use breadcrumbs if you'd like, substitute a 1:1 ratio
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
Pepper to taste

For the sauce:
2 jars Prego Roasted Garlic Parmesan
1/2 cup sweet onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp oregano



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1) Spray the pot.

2) In a separate mixing bowl, add all the ingredients for your meatballs.

Add grated Parmesan and breadcrumbs.

Add egg and minced garlic.

Add seasonings.

3) Mush and mix it all together. No need to do this harshly, just gently make sure the ingredients blend together thoroughly.

4) Form meatballs gently in the palm of your hand. Gently is key here. If you make the meatballs too dense, they may not be as juicy later on!

5) Place the meatballs along the bottom of the pot. (Make a nice even layer. You may stack the meatballs if you have to. You do not want to over crowd the pot.)

6) Pour both jars of sauce over the meatballs.

7) Add the onion and garlic you diced and minced for the sauce.

8) Add oregano.

9) Cook on high for 2 and a half hours.

10) Stir gently to combine ingredients.

11) Instructions for pasta will vary depending on what noodles you use. Read the instructions that come with your noodles and plan the cook time accordingly. For mine, I started boiling my water for my noodles about half an hour before my meatballs were set to be done.

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Penne, rotini, spaghetti, fettuccine, angel hair, macaroni, shells, tortellini? Tell us what your favorite noodle is below!
Find out more about me, the author and founder of The Slow Cooker Life, here.


Easy Slow Cooker Beef and Broccoli Recipe – FAIL!!!

The experience I had with this recipe was all around ironic. And a perfect opportunity for growth 😀 Always learn from your failed attempts! So long as you are attempting, that is all that really matters 😉 That is the pep talk I gave myself anyway. Moving forward, anything labeled as “easy” is not assumed to end in disaster. But this easy slow cooker beef and broccoli recipe that I created with too much confidence did end in disaster. Okay, maybe not a disaster. But things did not really go well.

Particularly for the broccoli. But we will get to those details in just a bit.

My vision.

I wanted to create an easy beef dish. I had some sirloin in the freezer that I had been meaning to give a go. The past 11 years or so, I haven’t eaten a lot of red meat let alone cooked with it much. I am a fairly boring person when it comes to food sometimes, as strange as that may seems given that I founded a cooking website and all. Still, I have gone through periods of very, very boring diets consisting of the same foods every day for the sake of easy meal planning and such. I also just did not eat red meat for upwards of 10 years and then only fish for like 6 or 7 or 8 or who knows how many years. The reasons why are not important. The point is, I don’t have as much experience cooking steak.

My SO seemed to be getting bored with my boring diet though. And if I am being honest, I was getting bored with my boring diet too. So I got the urge to start switching it up, and I bought some sirloin! I was very excited to cook this up for him. It was for sure going to be a nice surprise and a nice change from chicken!

Beef and broccoli is a very straightforward recipe. I figured it would be a good one for me to start with to ease myself back into the red meat cooking game. Plus, I have slow cooked chicken in soy sauce plenty of times before and it has been amazing and tender every time, although the soy sauce flavor can be a little overwhelming. To combat the overwhelming flavor, I learned to just mix it with water.

So I decided to take it a slightly different route. I was going to mix in the brown sugar with the soy sauce to cut the saltiness down a notch and maybe add a whisper of teriyaki to the overall flavor. Obviously teriyaki requires more than just soy sauce and brown sugar, but you get where I was going with that idea.

I was going to serve it over a bed of white rice with some sesame seeds sprinkled on top for added crunch.

The meat was really tender.

As I figured it would be, the sirloin was spoon tender after slow cooking in soy sauce for 8 hours. It cooked to a little bit more than a perfect medium. While I have not eaten much steak the past decade, I do know that I prefer my steaks cooked medium rare. But if my other option is a spoon tender medium, I’ll take it. Next time, though, I am going to adjust my cook time to shoot for closer to medium rare.

Soy sauce really does wonders at marinading the meat. I cooked this sirloin from frozen and I could literally slice through it with a spoon. The tenderness of the sirloin is definitely a silver lining to this otherwise unimpressive dish.

I almost forgot about the brown sugar.

I don’t know how I forgot about the brown sugar, but I did. It was the one main thing that I was changing about the soy sauce marinade that I was cooking the meat in. It was the part of the sauce that I was most excited about trying. And I forgot to mix it in with the soy sauce.

I realized that I had forgotten about the brown sugar after I dumped the broccoli into the pot. Usually, if I wanted it to be mixed with the soy sauce, I would have fished out all the broccoli to regain access to said soy sauce. Alas, I also did not give myself a lot of time for mistakes and was in a rush to leave for work on time. Faced with the question of how badly do I want the brown sugar in this recipe?, I grabbed the bag of brown sugar, took the lid off the slow cooker, and just sprinkled it over the top. It still makes it into the recipe, and I will not be late for work.

That poor broccoli.

It didn’t deserve what it got. Broccoli does so much good for people, you know?

Because I forgot about the brown sugar earlier, I sprinkled it over the broccoli towards the end of the process instead. In my head, I guess I figured when I mixed it all together later on, the brown sugar would mix with the soy sauce then and I would reach that desired teriyaki-esque flavor that I was going for.

It didn’t work.

What happened instead was the broccoli absorbed the brown sugar. The soy sauce and steak simmered together happily as the bottom layer of crockpot contents. The broccoli was the last big item that went into the pot. It steamed for hours as the top layer. But, because I had sprinkled the brown sugar across the broccoli, the broccoli was not just steaming for hours; it was steaming in maple sugar water for hours. And hours. Oops. And that is how I made “unphotogenic mush.” A phrase every cook loves to hear about her creations 😉

Thought: maybe I should lightly steam the broccoli by itself with a little bit of salt or lemon pepper right before serving the sirloin instead of incorporating it in with the crockpot contents. Live and learn.

The recipe.

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If after reading this you still decide to make this recipe, you are braver than most. Hopefully you learned from reading some of my mistakes and make this recipe with some tweaks 😉 I am writing the recipe using the correct order for the brown sugar, not the mistaken order in which I added it.

Prep time: 2 minutes
Cook time: 8 hours
Makes: 2 servings

1 lb frozen sirloin
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 lb bag frozen broccoli
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water

Optional:
White rice
Sesame seeds

1) Spray pot with cooking spray.
2) Place frozen sirloin in bottom of crockpot.

3) Add water, soy sauce, and brown sugar.

4) Add frozen broccoli.

It looked so bright and promising BEFORE I got a hold of it.

5) Cook on low for 8 hours.
6) Throw away broccoli if it turned out like mine.
7) Enjoy whatever did turn out delicious.

Obviously, I learned several what-not-to-dos throughout this process. My next attempt is going to be much more successful! The meat was seriously SO tender, so I am not chalking it up to a complete failure. I threw the broccoli away. I admit it. The vision of beef and broccoli over white rice with sesame seeds never came to fruition. We ate the meat to not waste a pound of sirloin. And we moved on.

All in all, we still got to eat pretty well from this recipe even if it wasn’t what I had set out to serve. This easy slow cooker beef and broccoli recipe wasn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be. I’m not going to let this partial failure keep me down though! I am going to abide by my own rule and keep cooking 😀

Have you ever been humbled by such a seemingly easy recipe? Tell me about it below!
Find out more about me, the author and founder of The Slow Cooker Life, here 🙂


Hearty Turkey Tortilla Soup Recipe

Inspiration for this recipe came a little from my undying love for Mexican food and largely from the fact that I had some taco seasoned ground turkey in the freezer that I needed to do something with. This turkey tortilla soup recipe is super hearty and will surely be a dish you can be proud of. You will notice that I use a pre-seasoned ground turkey for this recipe. If you are not in an area where that is available for purchase for you, I supplied a recipe alternative at the bottom of the page 🙂

Ground turkey is much healthier than it’s ground beef alternative and is a refreshing take on the classic chicken tortilla soup I’m sure most of you are already familiar with. Personally, I think there are plenty of ways to eat chicken already. I appreciate new takes on classics for a couple of reasons. It makes an otherwise familiar meal taste brand new again, and it makes you look like a culinary mastermind 😉

Okay, maybe mastermind is a bit of a stretch. You will be praised though!

Spray the pot with cooking spray before you start loading up the ingredients. This will make your clean up SO much easier. I should have mentioned this sooner in my posts. But let’s not dwell on the past.

Lots of chopping.

This recipe does require a lot of chopping of vegetables. I mean, not A LOT, but more than what a beginner would usually be comfortable chopping. But hey, once you’ve diced one onion, you can basically mince garlic in your sleep. So roll up your sleeves and have at it! Don’t be intimidated by the list of ingredients. You really only have a handful of things to chop. The rest is opening cans and measuring seasonings.

Here is a trick to make your chopping easier and safer: put a damp hand towel flat under your cutting board. This will help keep your cutting board from slipping when you really get to going!

You should probably use cilantro.

But I am not going to.

I will eat cilantro. Sure. It is a small doses type deal for me. But given the opportunity to cook without it, I am going to seize it. Cilantro is a huge staple in Mexican dishes though. It has a very rich flavor that adds a bit of a kick to whatever it accompanies. I do admit that it is strange that I can only take cilantro in small doses given that I love spicy food as much as I do. Alas, it just isn’t my flavor. If you are a cilantro fan, I suggest chopping up about a cup of it and adding it to the pot with the rest of your ingredients.

This soup is real pretty.

This soup wows in more ways than one. Most importantly, it is delicious. But the presentation of this soup is really quite beautiful as well. If a little bit of presentation factor goes a long way, think of what a lot of presentation factor can do for the brownie points you are earning.

This soup is made from scratch, which means you have the ultimate say in how it turns out. Picking your produce for meals like this can be really fun! For instance, I chose orange and green bell peppers for my recipe. You can choose whichever color peppers you like.

I also will be adding cheese, plain Greek yogurt (I use it as an extra protein alternative to sour cream), a lime wedge, and some avocado to the top of my soup. All of these optional additions will add some color and really make your soup pop. Ooooh! Aaaah!

Serve it with…

Tortilla chips if you want to be regular.

Corn bread if you want to knock your own socks off. You are going to hear this a lot here, I am a strong advocate of sweet and savory together. The corn bread goes perfectly with the heat of the soup. I can usually find some in the bakery of my local grocery store any time of the year.

The recipe.

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Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 3 1/2 hours
Makes about 6 servings

1 lb Jennie O Taco Seasoned Ground Turkey, frozen
1 14.5 oz can vegetable broth
1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 14.5 oz can fire roasted tomatoes
1 medium-sized jalapeno, seeds removed, then diced
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 sweet onion, diced (If you LOVE onion, use a white onion instead of a sweet one. I use a sweet onion so that the onion flavor isn’t too overpowering. Plus we have some kick coming from plenty of other areas in this recipe.)
2 chopped bell peppers (1/2 inch squares)
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin (We don’t need a ton of extra added seasoning because the meat was VERY pre-seasoned already.
1/2 tbsp pepper
Salt to taste
1 tsp cayenne

Optional for toppings:
Shredded cheese (I used a shredded Mexican cheese blend)
Lime wedge
Avocado
Sour cream (or try my alternative to sour cream:plain Greek yogurt)

1) Place frozen turkey in crockpot.
2) Chop up the jalapeno, bell peppers, onion, and garlic. Add to crockpot.


3) Make sure to strain the black beans then give them a quick rinse under water. Add to pot.

4) Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot.

5) Cook on high for 3 1/2 hours.

6) Add your desired toppings.
7) Serve with chips or cornbread.

Recipe changes if you did not use pre-seasoned meat.

1 lb ground turkey, frozen
1 can chicken broth
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp pepper
2 tsp cayenne

I hope you love this as much as I do!
Did you try my plain Greek yogurt instead of sour cream trick?
Corn bread or tortilla chips?
Comment below!
Find out more about me, the author and founder of The Slow Cooker Life, here 🙂


Mouthwatering, No Mayo – Easy Honey Mustard Chicken Recipe


Honey mustard. Oh how I love you so. Especially when you are smothered all over a mouthwatering chicken breast.

Here, I am going to show you how to make this easy honey mustard chicken recipe that does not use any mayonnaise.  Traditionally honey mustard is made with mayonnaise. The widely accepted equation for a quick honey mustard recipe is 1 part mayo, 1 part mustard, 1 part honey. And the mustard is typically Dijon. I don’t always conform to “typically” though. So I am gonna mix things up a little.

This honey mustard sauce hits you from all angles with flavor when it is all said and done!

When you don’t like mayo…

I am usually not a fan of mayonnaise. Unless the texture, smell, and flavor of it is completely masked, I don’t want it in anything that I am eating. Sorry bout it, mayo. Honey mustard does a pretty good job at masking these things usually. That is why I can LOVE a little h and m while simultaneously maintaining a strict distance from mayonnaise.

I wanted to create a honey mustard recipe that did not use mayo at all just in case some of you feel the same way about mayonnaise but would still like to have a connection with honey mustard. We will be using yogurt in place of mayonnaise for this recipe. Which automatically makes this recipe a healthier option to the traditional dish. Yay healthier options! I am also going to use yellow mustard instead of Dijon to jazz things up that much more. Because I am using yellow mustard though, I am going to mix plain Greek yogurt and vanilla yogurt together as my mayo alternative. My goal here is to add a little extra sweetness to the honey mustard, compensating for the lack of Dijon, by using the vanilla yogurt; But I don’t want it to be too sweet. I also don’t want the sauce to end up being too runny. That is why I am mixing it with the plain Greek yogurt: to offset the sweet and to thicken this bad boy up a titch!

The type of mustard you should use.

As previously mentioned, honey mustard is meant to be made with Dijon mustard. But it also is meant to be made with mayo and we’re not using that. Deciding to make honey mustard without mayo took me on quite the train ride through thought town:
Make honey mustard without mayo. Use yogurt instead of mayo. Vanilla yogurt would be an interesting experiment. The vanilla may overpower the mustard flavor. Not if I used yellow mustard. Would it be too runny? What if I used Greek yogurt instead?

Eventually, decisions needed to be made and I settled on yellow mustard. Dare to be bold, people. Remember what I have preached in the past? Cooking is supposed to be fun. And recipes are just meant to be foundations of inspiration for your own creations. I love the “let’s see what happens” part of creating recipes!

Don’t slow cook the yogurt.

I have not tested my dairy concerns yet in the slow cooker. The more I read on the topic, the less interested I am in slow cooking dairy though. Stay tuned to see if and when I ever test it out.

For the sake of this recipe, I will not be adding the yogurt until right before I am getting ready to serve this. If you add the yogurt at the beginning and slow cook it with everything else, please comment below and tell me how it turned out.

Side note: I am not recommending that you try slow cooking the yogurt. I am just saying that if you do, let me know what happens. But if you slow cook it, and it curdles, you can’t blame me 🙂 Deal? 😉

Sweet and savory.

The honey mustard sauce that the chicken is smothered in, while delicious, is gonna be a little sweet. A vegetable side is best here to balance out the sugar intake. But vegetables do not always have to sound boring.

I serve my honey mustard chicken with some hearty green vegetables. Ideally, I would just steam some broccoli and maybe add a little lemon zest to the trees. (The acid from the lemon will help cut the sweetness.)

I am a sucker for sweet and savory working together in a dish. I am going to tie the vegetables into the entree a little more by simply adding some chopped bacon to them. Fry up a couple of strips of turkey bacon until it is nice and crispy, give it a quick chop, and sprinkle the bits atop the veggies. Ta-da! The turkey bacon is reasonably healthier than the real deal so you don’t have to feel so bad about eating it.

If you want a not so healthy approach to this meal, serve your chicken with some sort of potato! Fries and honey mustard were meant to be together anyway! So let them <3

The recipe.

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Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 3 1/2 hours
Makes about 4 servings

2 large frozen boneless/skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup yellow mustard
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt and vanilla yogurt mixture (1/8 cup of each type of yogurt)
Salt

Optional:
Ground cayenne pepper

1) In a small mixing bowl, mix the honey and yellow mustard together until well blended.

2) Put the frozen chicken in the slow cooker.
3) Drizzle the honey/yellow mustard mixture over the chicken breasts.
4) Sprinkle some (or a lot) of salt over the chicken.
5) Optional: Sprinkle some ground cayenne pepper over the chicken (warning: cayenne pepper is spicy; I tend to put it on everything.)

6) Turn the slow cooker on high for roughly 3 1/2 hours.
7) Once you are sure the chicken is thoroughly cooked (165 degrees F in the middle), turn the heat off. Plate each chicken breast.

8) Poor the hot honey/yellow mustard sauce from the crockpot into a small mixing bowl. Add your yogurt mixture to the mixing bowl. Stir until well blended.

9) Pour the sauce over the chicken.
My veggies ended up being a mixture of red bell peppers, broccoli, and potatoes, which went perfectly with the chopped bacon I fried up earlier 🙂 I had some extra chopped bacon after I was done pizzazzing up my veggies, so I sprinkled it on top of the chicken for added presentation and yummy. (Note: A little bit of presentation can go a very long way. Especially when your guests are least expecting it from you!)

What do you think about this recipe? Please leave comments and ideas below! I am always looking for new ideas and tidbits.
Find out more about me, the author and founder of The Slow Cooker Life, here.


Deliciously Easy Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken Taco Recipe


Mexican food is arguably my favorite type of food. So buckle up, because you will most likely be seeing a lot of Mexican-inspired dishes on The Slow Cooker Life.

As the first recipe that I’m posting on here, and since I’m trying to get the attention of those of you who think cooking for yourself is too much work, I wanted to start with this little number. A slow cooker shredded chicken taco recipe that was inspired by the instructions on the back of a McCormick Cheesy Taco Seasoning Mix packet.

This packet was meant to prepare ground beef or turkey in a skillet. I’m using that whole concept as a foundation for what I am creating here today. I just gave that recipe a little spin and turned it into something that requires next to no effort, and will end up being healthier than what it was intended to be (because I’m using chicken instead of ground beef.) Next to no effort and healthy. Interested yet?

This is not going to be your typical recipe. Mainly because there really is not that much that goes into this one. But also because I want my first recipe to convey the ease cooking can have. What better way to do that than to present you with a “little of this, little of that” type creation?

Hopefully you took my advice from before and got yo’self a slow cooker. Recipe #1. Here we go!

Slow cook the chicken from frozen.

I slow cook my chicken from frozen pretty much 100% of the time. I do this for the sake of convenience, which means a lot to me you will come to notice. I’m on the run quite a bit, as are most of you these days I’m sure. As is my significant other.

His work schedule is quite opposite of mine (I work evenings, he works early morning-afternoon), so having meals together does not happen that frequently. This is why I rely so heavily on my slow cooker. I can make sure that he has a hot meal ready to eat when he gets home and it can still be warm, but not overcooked, for when I get home much later.

I digress.

My point is simply, I don’t go out of my way to thaw my chicken. Don’t smite me. My food still turns out pretty tasty. Really all I’m doing is skipping the step of thawing out the chicken, which is not at all labor intensive. I just don’t really plan ahead that often for the meals I just whip up. So by the time I’m ready to throw something together, my chicken is still frozen. Rest assured, if you are not much of a planner, slow cooking chicken from frozen is not going to dry the chicken out and ruin the meal.

Use a taco seasoning packet.

Sure, the back of this one says to use ground beef or turkey. But like I mentioned in my post about misconceptions, recipes are not meant to be set in stone. They are merely guidelines.

I’m going rogue here and using chicken.

I’m also using water in place of the milk the seasoning packet calls for. My reasoning for this is simple: I have never slow cooked with cream or milk, etc. because I’m afraid of it curdling. If you know that this fear is irrational and have proof that the dairy will not curdle, please comment below. I have seen slow cooker recipes calling for dairy; on the other hand, I have read articles explaining that the dairy curdles and cannot stand up to the long periods of low heat that the slow cooker would introduce to it. Let me know! I would be curious to give an easy recipe a go just to test the theory in my own kitchen.

For now, I will be using water for this recipe.

Slow cook the meat with some diced onions too.

Throw in diced onions in with the chicken. You will not be sorry that you did this. First of all, the onions are going to seriously enhance the aroma of tacos in your home. Why would you not want your whole house to smell like Mexican food? Further, the onions are going to really jazz up the flavor of your meat.

Everything else is just cutting up some vegetables.

Some excellent choices for this dish:
Shredded lettuce
Diced tomatoes
Diced onions
Avocado (diced, sliced, whole, or in guacamole, just make sure you get some avocado on there because it is delicious)
Sliced jalapenos
Cilantro (I know this isn’t a vegetable, but you know what I mean)

Build your tacos on your choice of tortillas.

Personally, I’m a big corn tortilla fan.

And here is a little trick to make taco night even more special at your place: warm the tortillas up before serving them. Seriously, the smallest thing can really earn you some serious extra brownie points from your diners.

I just heat up a large frying pan on medium heat. I can usually fit 3 corn tortillas in this pan at one time. Let the tortillas warm for about 30 seconds, flip them, and let them warm for 30 more seconds.

Get a little fancy with it.

You can easily take this recipe the extra mile with some rice or beans. I always keep both stocked at my home. In fact, I ten to keep a variation of both rice and beans at my home. For this dish, I just quickly heated up some black beans in a sauce pan.

Here is another trick for you: grab a bag of Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice to easily add rice to your meal. Pop it in the microwave for 90 seconds and ta-da! You have rice. I do not currently own a microwave so I always buy instant rice to easily make some on the stove top.

Yes, I know that you are thinking that I’m crazy for not owning a microwave. I’ll just rip the band-aid off now and let you know that I also do not currently own a toaster. And as hard as it is to wrap your head around these concepts, I promise you that I do just fine without either. I would rather have the extra counter space to get my kitchen on than have a microwave and toaster crowding my jam. I eat most of my leftovers cold anyway. And in a pinch, I have a toaster oven.

The old ball and chain cannot wait until we own a microwave.

The recipe.

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Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 7 hours
Makes about 8 tacos.

1 lb. frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 McCormick Cheesy Taco Seasoning packet
1/2 cup water (The seasoning packet calls for 3/4 of a cup. But you will absolutely gain water from the frozen chicken as it starts to thaw. Hence, we use less water.)
1/4 cup dice onions

Optional add-ons:

Shredded lettuce
1 onion
1 tomato
1 avocado
1 can black beans
1 bag Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice
Shredded cheese
Taco sauce
Taco sized tortillas

1) Put the chicken, seasoning packet, water, and onions into your slow cooker. Cooking times will vary. (I have a Hamilton Beach Crock-Pot that only has 3 settings: keep warm, low, and high. I’m going to cook my chicken on low for 7 hours. If I had gotten a late start, I could put it on high for 3 1/2 hours instead.)

2) Take some time while the chicken is cooking to prepare whatever veggies you want to put on your tacos. I’m using shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, diced onions, and avocado. You can prepare your veggies at any point while the chicken is cooking. Store them in the fridge to maintain their freshness.

3) Heat up your beans and rice just before the chicken is done to ensure they are served hot.

4) Once the chicken has finished cooking (you can always cut into the thickest part of a breast to make sure the chicken has cooked all the way through), you want to shred the chicken.

5) At this point, I put my tortillas in a pan to warm them up. They do not take long to heat up and lose their heat quickly, so I always make sure to do this step right before I plate my food.

6) Build your tacos!

Have ideas or comments? Leave them below!
Find out more about me, the author and founder of The Slow Cooker Life, here 🙂