Below is the recording of my 20% time project reflection. Thank you to everyone who has been following my progress and commenting!
This week's stated challenge was enchiladas. The intent was to cook the chicken with some of the ingredients to create a whole meal as the culmination to my 20% journey. However, it didn't work out that way. The first diversion was when I decided to cobble together several recipes to create my meal instead of following one. This lead to an interesting mix of ingredients that were derived from several different sources. In the end I placed almost all of my ingredients into the crock-pot along with the chicken and let it cook on high for 4.5 hours. Here's what it looked like before the cooking process:
After 4.5 hours I decided to check on the chicken because I didn't really know how long it would take to cook. I found that it was fully cooked but decided to shred it with two forks. I then threw it back in to the crock-pot along with some cheese to let the shredded chicken absorb some of the spices and flavors. After another 30 minutes this is is what my meal looked like:
Now here comes the question, did this really turn out to be enchiladas? My answer would probably be no. It turned out to be some kind of meal in the Mexican food category of indiscriminate classification. It did however turn out to be delicious. Despite not ending up making what I set out to make I did accomplish a really great meal. Some times some of the best things start out as mistakes. Here's a picture of how it looked finished and put on some corn tortillas:
This week's post is my last on my crock-pot journey and my next one will be a reflection of what I have learned throughout this process. Thank you for reading!
To start of this week I decided to try something that I had never made before that was a bit more complicated. This lead me to decide to make stew.
This is the link to the recipe I followed.
The ingredients included:
Beef stew meat
Clove of garlic
Not included but listed in the recipe:
Based upon the ingredients I knew I would have to face my mortal enemy, onions.
Also what on earth is Worcestershire sauce?
To answer the question, it's complicated and a lot of things go into making it.
Back to the cooking. Another first step I decided to take this week was letting the crock-pot cook while I was away. In previous weeks I have put the meal to cook but still stuck around for the process so I could ensure it didn't burn the house down. With my previous trial runs complete I decided to just let it cook. I placed all of my ingredient in the pot only to find that I had way too much to fit in the crock-pot. Perhaps I had a recipe for a larger crock-pot or I happened to pick large potatoes or carrots but I am still unsure as to why this happened.
Unfortunately, this week I also forgot to take many pictures of the cooking process and instead just have the final product.
After returning home while the stew cooked I discovered that it was pretty much done. However, the potatoes seemed kinda undercooked. I spooned out enough for my dinner but left the rest to cook for another hour. Despite taking some food out of the cooking process originally, I may have still put too much in there for it to cook properly.
Overall the stew was okay. The meat was very tasty and tender but some of the vegetables seemed to have turned out a bit odd. Perhaps stew is just not my thing.
For next week I am unsure about what I will be cooking, maybe some sort of enchiladas if I can find a good recipe.
After looking through the recipe book again my family decided the Chili recipe included looked interesting. So it was decided that this would be my next foray into cooking with a crock-pot; minus the jalapenos included in the recipe. I have cooked chili in a pot on the stove before but this seemed like an intriguing possibility to just throw it in and let it cook.
I decided to substitute ground turkey for ground beef along with bell peppers, onions, garlic, some spices, and black beans. After some assistance again from my Dad with the onions I put it in and let it cook.
After 8 hours I was a bit confused with the consistency of the product. It was not similar to chili I had made and had in the past. This perhaps could have been predicted based upon the lack of tomato paste or anything that was similar. Despite this, we decided to dig in. Adding some rice as a base for the chili (unfortunately no brown rice was around which I would have preferred).
After the first meal we all gave it a B-, decent but not quite what we were expecting nor extraordinary. But the following days as we had leftovers the flavors in the chili mixed better together as they had more time to set and the meal got better. In the end when given time to set this chili was somewhere around a B+. In the future if we repeat this recipe I think I would add some tomato paste, some more types of beans (1 or 2) and cut down on the turkey. Overall though this meal worked out better than I had expected, especially considering the ingredient number jump from my last attempt at the crock-pot.
Next meal: Undecided. Maybe a stew?
For my first recipe I decided to take a recipe from the book that came with the crock-pot to start with something simple. I started by gathering the ingredients: pork shoulder, barbecue sauce (a lot of it!) and surprisingly onions.
After some help from my Dad with cutting the onions (they tend to attack me but he is immune to their effects), I placed all the ingredients into the crock-pot. This led me to think that I had missed a step somewhere, but it truly was that easy. One enduring mystery however, was the role of the onions in this recipe.
I then let it cook for eight hours. Which felt like forever but when it finished I ended up with pork like this:
This pulled apart really easily with a fork. I was surprised how quickly that process went! After I finished this I added even more barbecue sauce and ended up with more pulled pork than I had anticipated. A lot more.
I concluded that the onions were just for flavor and weeded them out as much as possible. Then I put the pulled pork on hotdog buns for eating. I would consider this recipe a success! I was surprised how well this turned out for my first adventure.
This week I set out to decide what kind of crock-pot I wanted to have based upon my needs and then acquire it. Simple right? Boy was I wrong. As I started to do my research I came across multitudes of products that advertised various features.
Questions that I considered:
Is there a difference between a crock-pot and a slow cooker? (The answer by the way seems to be no).
How big of a crock-pot do I need?
Oval vs round? (Now this was a dilemma I didn't even know existed before my research)
Are some brands better than others?
Programmable vs. manual
After much confusion I finally came across this article on healthyslowcooking.com conveniently titled "Tips on picking out a slow cooker that's right for you". Perfect.
Based upon this article's advice I decided that I wanted a approximately 4 quart crockpot (6 quart would simply be overkill) from a reputable brand and is programmable. I decided on programmable vs manual for primarily one reason. My schedule is somewhat unpredictable at times, so having the freedom of the crock-pot keeping the food warm (but not cook it into oblivion) was something that I was willing to pay a bit extra for.
Finally, I headed down to my local store to pick out a crock-pot. I was able to find one that fit my specifications that was a reasonable price. What I ended up getting is shown below. Next week's adventure will include my first foray into cooking with the crock-pot.
The selected challenge: Pulled pork (recipe from a booklet that came with the crock-pot).
Thank you to everyone who gave their input on my projects! While I was also very interested in my other project (designing a computer), I have decided to leave it for another day. Building a computer has been an interest of mine for a while now but I think that I will pursue it when I have both the funds to actually build it and when the timing of buying components will be optimal.
What is a crock-pot?
How do they work?
Which crock-pot is right for me?
What are some resources I can use to learn recipes?
After much thought I have settled on two options for my 20% project, planning to build a computer or learning how to cook with a crock-pot.