Tag Archives: dessert

New slow cooker cookbook takes your crock beyond soups and stews (+ recipes for you to try!)

Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes A Joy Makin' Mamas ReviewI have featured my bottom of the line, workhorse 4 quart slow cooker in my photos so often that I have occasionally thought maybe I should get a new one just so you guys would have something new to look at. I kept using it even after the original handle broke off- I just picked up an orphaned lid from the thrift store and turned it into the Frankenstein’s Monster of slow cookers. (A nice perk is that the new handle is much easier to grab, so I don’t worry as much about dropping the lid. It also doesn’t get as hot. I’m dangerously close to advising you to void your warranty by modifying your cooker with off-list parts… I’ll stop before I get us all into trouble.) If I need any further credentials regarding my expertise in the world of slow cooking, well… I don’t have much to offer you except that I’ve been a dogged fanatic for almost 16 years now.

The news says they are making a “come back.” The theory is that the recession has led to fewer restaurant meals, and so the ease and convenience of the slow cooker is leading us all right back to it. Combine that with new demographics discovering the joy of entertaining, and slow cooker sales are booming. I am not surprised they are popular, but I confess I WAS surprised to hear they are “back.” I hadn’t realized they were ever gone. It would be impossible, in my opinion, to overstate the convenience they offer. Whether your household is DINK, WAHM, SAHM, SAHD, or one crazy cat lady, that slow cooker is a simple, inexpensive, hands off way to make sure dinner is ready when you are hungry. (And I have used mine in every situation but SAHD. YES, my crazy cat lady credential arrived early in life. DEAL WITH IT.)

That’s why I am so excited to have in my hot little hands a review copy of Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes: 200 Recipes by Donna-Marie Pye. I think most of us look for similar things in a cookbook- ease of use, which means good organization, eye candy/food porn (PICTURES, okay?), and whether our family will eat the food. That last one is kind of a deal breaker… if it’s just got pretty pictures of food no one here will eat? I’ll browse it in the book store but it’s not going to live on my shelf. (Ok, maybe my virtual shelf? I could see having an e-cookbook just for the pretty pictures, but actual shelf space is at a premium around here.)

Buy on Amazon: Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes: 200 Recipes {Aff Link}

If you would like to do more than the “add a can of this” type of slow cooking, you’ll appreciate this book. Moving beyond soups and stews, this book not only offers recipes for a wide variety of dishes, it includes helpful ingredient hints, like how to cook with a tomatillo. I’ve never touched a tomatillo, but I may just make it a point to go there now that someone has brought it up. (Why have I never done that, you ask? Because you cook with what you can get your hands on, and I can honestly say I don’t remember ever seeing one in the small town I lived in before moving to the metro area I now call home. After 11 years, you get into habits, ok?) As you can see from the sample images I’ve included (with permission from the publisher, of course), it does indeed include attractive, full color, full page photos to make you drool while you plan your menu.

Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes is organized by main ingredient or type of dish. The second to last chapter (right before desserts- my personal favorite) is called “Double Duty Dinners.” This section is devoted to meals you crock cook the first night, and then transform into something totally different the second night. Cook once (-ish, or and-a-half) and eat twice. I like it. This is a great idea for busy families, particularly since this type of forward planning tends to help you with your time budget and your money budget, both. Also, the size of slow cooker needed for each recipe is noted at the top of the recipe, so there will be no ugly surprises after you start cooking.

Much as I would like to have made (and eaten!) every one of these 200 recipes before writing about this book- and I did work up an appetite while I was reading them all- it would take weeks or months for me to do that. I did have a hard time picking just a couple to try, because a great many of these pass the “will my children eat this” test, and even more of them pass the “will I put the children to bed early so my husband and I can eat this in peace” test. In the end, I decided to test drive one of the Double Duty dinners, and I got permission from the publisher to share three of the recipes with you, so you can try them yourself.

I enlisted some help and JMM Danette Z and I tested some of the recipes from this book. We are pleased to report that the directions are easy to follow, the cooking times are accurate, and the recipes come out as they are supposed to. Like always, we got mixed reviews from our families depending on what we chose… but trying something new is always fun, and adding even three or four new slow cooker favorites to the family rotation means three more nights a month when I can set dinner up when I have time, and eat it when it’s ready! I’m in!Nonnas Mini Meatball Soup Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes Joy Makin' Mamas Review

Nonna’s Mini-Meatball Soup, page 49, kid-fav
Recipe type: soup
Cuisine: Italian
• Minimum 5-quart slow cooker Makes 6 to 8 servings This soup reminds of the one I’m served when I visit my friend Maria’s house. Her mother always has a pot of soup on the stove, or if she doesn't, she will quickly make one for you with whatever.
  • 1 lb lean ground beef 500 g
  • 1 lb lean ground pork 500 g
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese 250 mL
  • 1 cup fine dry Italian bread crumbs 250 mL
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, finely chopped (about 1 cup/250 mL)
  • ½ tsp salt 2 mL
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper 2 mL
  • 6 cups chicken broth 1.5 L
  • 2 cups packed baby spinach, coarsely chopped, 500 mL (or chopped escarole)
  • 2 cups cooked small pasta, such as elbows, tubetti, shells or stars 500 mL
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
  1. In a large bowl, combine beef, pork, Parmesan, bread crumbs, eggs, parsley, salt and pepper. Using your hands, roll into ¾-inch (2 cm) meatballs. Place meatballs in slow cooker stoneware. Gently pour in broth.
  2. Cover and cook on Low for 8 to 9 hours or on High for 41?2 to 5 hours, until soup is bubbling and meatballs are cooked through.
  3. Stir in spinach. Cover and cook on High for 10 to 15 minutes or until greens are wilted, bright green and tender. Stir in cooked pasta.
  4. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with additional Parmesan, if desired.
Tip: If you don’t have homemade chicken stock, use ready-to-use chicken broth. I like to keep 32-oz (1 L) Tetra Paks of broth on hand, especially the sodium-reduced variety. They come in handy when you’re making soups and stews. Another option is to use three 10-oz (284 mL) cans of broth and add enough water to make 6 cups (1.5 L). Avoid broth cubes and powders, which tend to be salty.

Courtesy of Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes by Donna-Marie Pye, 2014 © www.robertrose.ca

Reprinted with publisher permission.

Holy Mole Chili Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes Joy Makin' Mamas Review
Holy Mole Chili, page 86, vegetarian
Makes 4 to 6 servings With its notes of cumin, cinnamon and chocolate playing off the gentle spices, this meatless chili combines the best of a mole sauce and a Cincinnati-style chili. Its rich body makes it a seriously satisfying dinner any night of the week. • Minimum 4-quart slow cooker
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 can (19 oz/540 mL) diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 can (14 oz/398 mL) baked beans in tomato sauce
  • 2 cups cooked or canned romano or pinto beans (see page 84), drained and rinsed 500 mL
  • 2 cups cooked or canned black beans (see page 84), drained and rinsed 500 mL
  • 1 tbsp chili powder 15 mL
  • 2 tsp ground cumin 10 mL
  • 2 tsp ground coriander 10 mL
  • ¼ cup mole paste (see tip, at left) 60 mL
  • ½ cup vegetable or chicken broth 125 mL
  • Crushed tortilla chips, chopped fresh cilantro, shredded Cheddar cheese (optional)
  1. In slow cooker stoneware, combine garlic, green pepper, onion, tomatoes with juice, beans in tomato sauce, romano beans, black beans, chili powder, cumin and coriander.
  2. In a bowl, combine mole paste and broth. Using a fork, gently stir together into a thin sauce. Stir into bean mixture.
  3. Cover and cook on Low for 5 to 6 hours or on High for 21?2 to 3 hours, until vegetables are tender and chili is bubbling. Serve topped with tortilla chips, cilantro and cheese (if using).
Make Ahead: This dish can be assembled up to 12 hours in advance. Prepare through step 2, cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day, place stoneware in slow cooker and proceed with step 3.

Tip: If you can’t find mole paste, substitute 1 tbsp (15 mL) unsweetened cocoa powder and 1?2 tsp (2 mL) ground cinnamon. Mole paste is a rich, dark, reddish brown sauce used in many Mexican poultry dishes. It is a smooth cooked blend of onions, garlic, several varieties of chiles, ground seeds (such as pumpkin or sesame) and a small amount of Mexican chocolate, which adds richness without being overly sweet. You can find mole paste in the Mexican foods section of the supermarket or in specialty stores.

Courtesy of Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes by Donna-Marie Pye, 2014 © www.robertrose.ca

Reprinted with publisher permission.

Creamy Caramel Blondies Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes Joy Makin' Mamas Review
Creamy Caramel Blondies, page 346, desserts, kid-fav
Makes 4 to 6 servings My son, Jack, and I are caramel and butterscotch fanatics! Blondies are often described as brownies without chocolate, which I find silly: blondies have their own unique, delicious personality. While brownies depend on chocolate for their flavor, with blondies it’s all about the brown sugar. This tasty dessert combines a cake top over a creamy caramel sauce. Be sure to serve with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. • 4- to 5-quart slow cooker
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour 250 mL
  • 1 tsp baking powder 5 mL
  • ½ tsp salt 2 mL
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar, divided 250 mL
  • ¼ cup butter, softened 60 mL
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 5 mL
  • ½ cup milk 125 mL
  • ½ cup soft caramels, wrappers removed 125 mL
  • 1 cup boiling water 250 mL
  1. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.
  2. In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat half the brown sugar and butter until creamy.
  3. Stir in vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with milk, making three additions of each and beating well after each addition. Stir in caramels. Spread batter evenly in slow cooker stoneware.
  4. In a glass measuring cup, combine the remaining brown sugar and boiling water, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Pour evenly over batter.
  5. Cover and cook on High for 21?2 to 3 hours or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes
  6. out clean.
Tip: It is best to use individually wrapped soft caramels, but you can substitute ½ cup (125 mL) butterscotch chips.

Courtesy of Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes by Donna-Marie Pye, 2014 © www.robertrose.ca

Reprinted with publisher permission.

I’d love to hear how they go for you! This book is definitely going into my meal planning rotation, and I’m sure I’ll be singing the praises of the tomatillo for you soon.

Looking for more ways to live it up on a budget? Check out my Good Life Pinterest Board:
Follow Meghan Gray’s board Living the Good Life on Pinterest.

Fresh Summer with Relay Foods: Brunch Recipe Roundup

Relay Foods Deliciously Local House Party Kits
Click for larger image.

Would you like to pin this ridiculously delicious recipe for later reference? Click here. Be sure to also visit our recipe page so you can find the rest of our recipes- they’re indexed by ingredient!

I was lucky enough to be selected as a Relay Foods House Party host, which meant they provided a grocery credit to the Relay Foods site so I could order some delicious refreshments for my guests, and they also sent a party pack full of reusable shopping bags and eco-friendly bamboo kitchen utensils for my guests. I sincerely wish each and every one of you could have attended the face-to-face party! I know that would be impossible, but I am pleased to share the deliciousness with you here- and you can get $30 off a delivery order from Relay Foods here.

Raspberry Baked Brie

Raspberry Baked Brie
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 16
Fresh berries and rich, creamy brie are the stars of the show here. This recipe is so easy, and you can prep it the night before and just stick it in the oven before show time. Your guests will think you toiled for them!
  • 1 lb cream brie
  • ½ cup fresh raspberries (actually I heaped them in the ½ cup... sorry I should have weighed them for you.)
  • 2 Tablespoons local honey
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1.5 cans crescent roll dough (use the rest for chocolate filled crescents!)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Line your baking dish (I used a ⅕ quart round casserole. A pie dish is too shallow.) with the first can of crescent roll dough, pressing firmly on the seams to seal them. Some of your dough will be hanging over the sides.
  3. Cut your wedge of brie into cubes and put into the casserole on top of the dough.
  4. Add raspberries and drizzle evenly with honey.
  5. Cover the top with the remaining dough and add cutouts from some of the leftover dough, if desired.
  6. Brush with beaten egg.
  7. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes until the top is browned and dry. (The egg was still runny on mine the first time I checked.)
I have NOT tried this recipe with frozen berries or with other fruit, but I have a suspicion that it is equally wonderful with other types of berries. Frozen berries tend to be "wetter" than their fresh counterparts, so proceed with caution.

Wine Poached Pears
I used a Shiraz from Naked Wines in this recipe and served the rest alongside my fresh summer brunch. This recipe was easy, delicious, and would be a perfect summer dessert. Source: About.com
  • 5 bosc pears, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 1.5 cups Shiraz
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  1. Peel, slice, and core your pears.
  2. In a medium saucepan, bring all ingredients except pears to a boil.
  3. Reduce heat to low and add pears.
  4. Simmer pears for 20-30 minutes or until tender, stirring once halfway through cooking time.
I served this alongside a sweetened yogurt cheese. It would be lovely over cheesecake.

Chocolate Crescent RollsI also made:

  • Weekend Brunch Casserole (I used garlic butter crescent rolls, a nice breakfast sausage from Relay that I slipped out of the casing, and an artisan Asiago cheese.)
  • Chocolate Crescents (with that super delicious Maya bar chopped up as the filling)
  • Yogurt cheese (I stirred in 1/4 cup of raw, local honey and It Was Amazing.)

I would tell you what to do with the leftovers, but there were none…

Hey, if you enjoyed these recipes, join me over on my Party Food Pinterest board, where I pin recipes for entertaining:

Follow Meghan Gray’s board Party Food on Pinterest.

Easy microwave fudge frosting

funny face cupcakesI needed a quick, easy, and food coloring-free frosting recipe for a birthday playdate, and this one really came through! It works up fast in the microwave, and, as a bonus, you dirty exactly one bowl and a set of mixer beaters. (Which my guys wouldn’t lick. Because they are WEIRDOS.) To turn these into funny face cupcakes, I used store-bought candy eyes and a quick squiggle of white frosting for the mouth. (For my cupcake recipe please visit my Creamsicle Cake post.)

The kids were tickled pink by the variety of expressions on the faces, and we’ll just pretend I did that on purpose, rather than that I couldn’t have made them identical if my life depended on it, okay?

Easy microwave fudge frosting
Recipe type: dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 36
One bowl and one minute frosting! Sweet!
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup sweetened, condensed milk
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  1. Combine your chocolate chips with the condensed milk, butter, and vanilla in a Pyrex casserole dish.
  2. Cover and microwave for 20 seconds.
  3. Stir and repeat until the butter is completely melted.
  4. Add powdered sugar and whip with a hand mixer.
  5. Frost your cake before the frosting cools completely. Be careful not to put it on too thickly, as it will "slide" if you do.
Frosts approximately 3 dozen cupcakes. Add any embellishments quickly or they won't stick once the frosting "sets."


Cooking with Kids: Creamsicle Cake

Ah, dessert. The final touch on any special meal, and one most kids look forward to the most. The only thing my kid likes better than eating dessert is eating a dessert he made himself. This recipe is definitely easy enough for any kid to do with just a little help. There are no raw eggs to make little bakers sick if they sneak a lick off the spoon, and the finished cake is quite tasty enough for any party.

This would also be a great recipe for a cupcake making party. Make one batch ahead of time and let the kiddos make a batch together. While they are waiting for the batch they made to come out of the oven, let them decorate the ones you made in advance. The recipe comes together quickly so that they can have the fun of cooking with their friends without losing interest. Only two ingredients means less dishes and cleanup afterwards and more enjoying the party.Creamsicle Cake Baker

Creamsicle Cake
Recipe type: dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 16
my mother got this recipe (and the "creamsicle" description) from a friend. She helped my five year old make it for one of our family parties.
  • 1 box cake mix (enough for a 9x13 cake)
  • 12 oz orange soda
  1. Preheat oven according to the directions on your cake mix.
  2. Grease and flour cake pan.
  3. Mix cake mix and soda.
  4. Pour into pan and bake according to package directions.
  5. Frost with your favorite buttercream frosting and serve.
We didn't think the "creamsicle" taste was very strong the first night, but it seemed stronger the next day.

If you want to make this in advance of when you’ll be serving it, it’s perfectly ok to freeze the cake frosted or unfrosted. Just be sure to save any decorations like piped colored frosting, sprinkles, or other embellishments until the cake is fully defrosted. My cake decorating friends tell me that condensation during the defrost process or refrigeration can make colors run.

Recipe for a Snow Day

We are having a “no school day” here (yes in March… very unusual for us) and I can see by my Facebook feed that the changeover from “fun” to “HERE’S JOHNNY!” has begun. My personal recipe for an awesome snow day is based heavily on my childhood. We went outside (often there was sledding and fort making but this is the wrong kind of snow so that’s out), we ate special foods, and we read books and played imagination games in between.

If you’re seriously considering starting a family chant of “redrum,” please try a little Pizza Fritta (page 91 in our 2009 cookbook Tummy Full of Joy) first and carry on a Gray Family tradition. The life you save could be your own! (Plus you can make extra dough and have home made pizza for dinner. Everyone wins!)

(PS- after nap time, we are going to fill the bathtub with snow. What have you got on tap to keep this day on the “fun” side of the page?)

PPS! Order your copy of Tummy Full of Joy and use coupon code UX3YX2NZ to get 40% off. Happy snow day.

Over the Top Brownies- Microwave them in just four minutes!

Four Minute Perfect Brownie RecipeHave you ever thought that waiting almost an hour for the perfect brownies to come out of the oven is just too darn long? Well, either way, I’ve got your back. You can make these fudgy and delicious in just four minutes in the microwave, or fudgy and delicious with a crispy top in the oven. Either way, you will be deep in love after your very first bite.

Over the Top Brownies
Recipe type: Dessert
  • 1 stick Butter, melted
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 teaspoon Almond Extract, optional
  • 2 Eggs
  • ⅓ cup Cocoa Powder, hershey's special dark
  • ¼ teaspoon Salt
  • ½ cup Flour, all purpose
  • ¼ teaspoon Baking Powder
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8" square pan. Unless you have a Pampered Chef round covered baker and you're a sundae junkie like me. In which case, just grab your RCB.
  2. Stir together butter, sugar, vanilla, and almond extract in bowl. (Unless you're using a round covered baker. I melt the butter right in mine- about a minute in the microwave, and then add the sugar and extracts to the baker. Use a silicone spatula to mix.)
  3. Add eggs; mix well. Don't overmix. Use a spatula, not a hand mixer, or your batter will have too much air in it. You want these brownies to be nice and fudgy!
  4. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; gradually add to egg mixture, mixing until well blended. (Again, don't overmix.)
  5. If you are baking these conventionally, bake 20 to 25 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan, then cool completely in pan on wire rack. If you're using your Round Covered Baker, 4 minutes on high in the microwave and you'll have a delicious, fudgy, brownie base for your ice cream. (Sometimes there is a liquid layer on the bottom- this happens when you don't mix the eggs and the butter 100% thoroughly and it does NOT mean your brownies are underdone. Just that they are extra delicious!) These brownies will have a crumbly sugar crust on top if you bake them in the oven. If you prefer a tender top, substitute ½ cup canola oil for the butter.
These are the standard Hershey's brownieswith my own twist. You will want to eat the whole pan! Personally I love these as a base for ice cream sundaes. Adapted from Hershey's Best Brownies