Crock Pot Creations

Happy Labor Day, everyone! I am enjoying the day at home. I got to sleep in, bake a cake, catch up on my DVR'd shows, and I'm about to go walk in this AMAZING 70 degree weather that hit us this morning!

Yesterday, I slaved away in the kitchen. Well, sort of. I've found this blog that has 365 crock pot recipes and I've been spending some time going through the list of recipes, checking out the ingredients, and "pinning" the recipes I like onto my Pinterest board that I've titled "Crock Pot Creations." This has been a lifesaver because I can spend a few hours on Sunday, or 30 min each night of the week, chopping and pouring the ingredients into gallon ziplock bags that I put in the freezer and then dump into the crock pot the next morning. When I get home and I'm exhausted, I don't have to stand on my feet for an hour in the kitchen. I just open the crock pot and enjoy. I still have to do a few dishes afterward....wah wah

When I think Crock Pot/Slow Cooker, I think Fall/Winter dishes. Soups, Stews, etc. BUT...I've found a few recipes to use up my summer vegetables and they were delicious!

*Don't forget to spray your crock pot with cooking spray or put some olive oil on the bottom before layering in your meal!

1) Balsamic Chicken with Spring Vegetables
 (photo from crockpot365.blogspot.com)

4-6 boneless skinless frozen chicken thighs (I used breasts)
1 whole head of garlic
2 zucchinis
2 yellow squash
1 orange bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 red onion
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 t Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
1) Salt & pepper your chicken & place in the crock pot/slow cooker (my chicken breasts were frozen). 
2) Wash & cut all vegetables and place in a large mixing  bowl. Toss vegetables in balsamic vinegar & Worcestershire sauce. 
3) Peel the head of garlic, leaving the cloves intact, & toss into the crock pot. 
4)Pour vegetables on top of chicken in the crock pot. 
5) Cook on low 6-8 hours

Serve with whatever grains you'd like. We ate this over brown rice. This had great flavor, but was still a light dish from the lean chicken and the vegetables. My husband loved it, so that must mean it's good!

2) End of Summer Harvest Soup
 (photo from crockpot365.blogspot.com)

4 cups chicken broth (vegetable stock is fine!)
1 cup prepared pasta sauce
1 cup water
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 zucchini, washed well and sliced in 1/4-inch rounds
2 yellow summer squash, washed well and sliced in 1/4-inch rounds
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered (depending on size)
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/3 cup dry white Cannellini beans (I used 1 can)
1/2 cup pasta (to add 20 minutes before serving)
salt and pepper to taste
garnish with Parmesan and Romano cheeses 

1) Wash squashes well, and slice in rounds. Place into slow cooker, with diced onion and tomato wedges. 
2)Rinse your beans in hot water, and add to cooker (must also rinse/drain if using canned beans).  
3) Add broth, pasta sauce, and water. Stir in Italian seasoning. 
4)Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours, or until beans have reached desired tenderness. 
5) 20 minutes before serving, stir in raw pasta. 
6) Serve with grated Parmesan and Romano cheese.

This dish was also very delicious and the husband approved! He took the leftovers for lunch.

3) Pesto Chicken & Sweet Potatoes
 (photo from crockpot365.blogspot.com)

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
4 garlic cloves
2 cups fresh basil (I used assorted leafy greens found in my fridge)
2 tablespoons pinenuts, or walnuts, or sunflower seeds
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

4 chicken thighs, or breast halves
sliced mozzarella cheese (I used shredded)
aluminum foil or parchment paper
4 small sweet potatoes, washed well, skin on

1) In a food processor or blender, combine the ingredients for your pesto. When liquidy, taste. If you need to add more citrus or salt or pepper, do so now.
2) In the bottom of a large slow cooker, arrange your chicken pieces. Mine were still frozen. 
3) Layer on the mozzarella cheese. 
4) Pour pesto evenly on top. 
5) Cover with a layer of foil or parchment paper. 
6) Scrub sweet potatoes well, prick with a fork, and lay them on top of the paper or foil. 
7) Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours, or on high for 4-5. (If your chicken is frozen it will take a bit longer.)

Thanks to Stephanie O'Dea at crockpot365.blogspot.com for taking the 365-day crock pot challenge and providing these wonderful recipes, as well as "the verdict" on how they turned out! I'm so happy to have a go-to list since I'm crunched for time!

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