slow-cooker

Crockpot Cashew Chicken

In our area, back to school is coming up fast. Today, we took our exchange student school supply shopping and just days ago, the last of Zach’s curriculum arrived for the year. There’s no shortage of planning and preparing for the school year, and that means a whole lot of busy days ahead, both as we soak up the last days of summer and prepare for the school year, and in the days ahead where we’re going to be teaching, working, and keeping the house clean.

Luckily, I have a crock pot. And trust me, I use it and use it often. I love being able to use my crock pot to keep meals easy, and starting a meal early means I get to work on other things and not worry about dinner.

I love this recipe that my grandmother gave me. She said she found it online, and, after doing a little searching, it looks like it is modified from Campbell’s themselves. Start with 5-6 chicken breasts, a can of Campbell’s cream of chicken soup, some onion, some green onion, a little soy sauce, and the cashews and chow mein noodles. Cook the chicken breasts first. Even better, you can pre-cook these another night and refrigerate. I try to make a chicken dish a day or two before this one, then refrigerate the cooked chicken until the day of this meal. Then, you have even less day-of prep!

Chop your chicken, onion, and green onion. You could also choose to do this before the day you’re cooking to eliminate your day-of prep.

Spray your crock pot with some non-stick cooking spray, then load in all of the ingredients except the rice and the chow mein noodles. I typically leave out one of the cans of cashews in order to reserve them for a topping at the end.

Stir in the soup and soy sauce, coating the ingredients. It might look a little strange, but I promise, it’s so delicious! Turn your crock pot on low for 5-9 hours, or set it on high for 2-3 hours. It’s just long enough to get the kids through the day on low, or enough to take care of those “oh, shoot! I just got home and realized I forgot to turn on the crock pot!” moments on high.

Finish your meal with a little cooked rice and some crunchy chow mein noodles, along with the rest of the cashews.

 

Crock Pot Cashew Chicken

5-6 breasts cooked chicken, diced
1/2 Cup diced onion
1/2 Cup diced green onion
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 can cream of chicken soup
Cashews
Chow mein noodles
Rice
Non-stick cooking spray

Spray the inside of the crock pot with non-stick cooking spray.
Combine all ingredients except chow mein noodles in crock pot.
Cook 5-9 hours on low, or on high for 2-3 hours.
Serve over rice, with chow mein noodles and additional cashews for crunch.

In the mood for Asian food? Check out more dishes inspired by the far East by looking at my Ramen Slaw or my Dipped Almond Cookies.

 

Are you a crock pot fan? Do you use yours year-round or in winter? Let me know your crock pot habits in the comments below!

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Fall Flavors Tour: Homemade Pumpkin and Apple Butter

I grew up only about 15 minutes away from Louisburg Cider Mill. If you’re not familiar, it’s one of the top 10 cider mills in America according to MSNBC, and in addition to some absolutely crave-worthy cider, they are known for apple cider doughnuts, their signature Lost Trail rootbeer, and some of the best Apple Butter and Pumpkin Butter I’ve ever tasted.

Living so close to the Cider Mill meant that Apple and Pumpkin butters are staples of fall for me. When the air starts to get cooler, when the leaves crunch under my feet, there’s nothing like a thick slice of toast with a smear of pumpkin or apple butter and a sprinkle cinnamon, except maybe waffles topped with the same.

What I didn’t anticipate was how easy it was to make my very own apple and pumpkin butters right at home. When I first stumbled upon a recipe for apple butter on pinterest, I thought, “it can’t be that easy.” After reading over it again and again, I decided to make it for myself and see. And, of course, if I was going to make apple butter for my fall flavors tour, I may as well go all-out and make it’s pumpkiny pair, too.

I honestly believe that if there is a good recipe out there, there’s no reason to try to re-invent the wheel. As much as I love to play around with recipes, there are some that I believe are tried and true, so I make very few modifications to them. Since these butters are not a part of my natural element, I stuck mostly to the recipes I had found online, taking bits and pieces from other recipes just to be sure.

For my apple butter, I decided to do a slight variation on the amazing Apple Butter found at Changing My Destiny.

I started by taking about 10 apples. The original recipe called for 12, but I was too busy chatting with the really nice produce guy at Hy-Vee that I forgot to count properl. Oops. I chose Gala because I like Gala and they happened to be on sale for 88 cents a pound, but you can really go with almost any apple you prefer.

Seriously, does anything scream fall more than a pretty bowl of shiny apples?

Now, take those and peel them.

Sidebar: Are you a peeler person or a knife person? I’ve found that I use a peeler almost exclusively for anything I need to peel, from apples to carrots and everything in between. I’m always afraid I’m going to take a chunk out of my finger with a knife, and I feel like I peel so much more off if I use the knife, too. My mom is just the opposite, refusing the peeler in favor of a knife, for the very same reasons that I prefer the peeler! I feel like this is another one of those you either love it or hate it things, so seriously, sound off in the comments below– are you a peeler person or a knife person, and why?

Now, since the apples are all peeled, you’re going to want to dice them up.

The size of your apples only matters a little bit. The larger the chunks, the longer it will take for the apples to break down, and the less smooth your finished product will be, and if they’re smaller, they’ll take less time and be a little smoother. Whichever direction you choose, try to stay consistent.

Now, dump your apples into a crockpot (leave it off for now) with 1/2 cup water. Then, it’s time to mix the spices.

This is where my recipe starts to get a little farther from the original recipe I borrowed from Changing My Destiny. She suggests Allspice, which I don’t tend to keep on hand, and even if I did, I just don’t use it as often as I do making my own spice blends from my selection of McCormick spices.

I started with about 1/2 cup brown sugar, then tossed in 1 1/2 teaspoons of McCormick ground cinnamon plus just under 1/4 teaspoon each of cloves and nutmeg.

I tossed the spices with my apples and set my crockpot to low around 6:30pm.

When I got up the next morning, around 9:00am, I checked on it and it looked a little something like this:

It smelled amazing, but, well… it wasn’t apple butter. It tasted like it, sure, but it was more a heavily seasoned chunky applesauce.

I then poured it, bit by bit, into my Magic Bullet. I am a huge fan of that thing… I swear it can do almost anything (I used it to shred fresh coconut just a few days ago), so I thought it would be perfect for this job, too, and it was!

Within minutes, I had a full batch of fresh apple butter.

I was able to fill one pint jar and two 8-oz jelly jars, so that would make 32 ounces total of Apple Butter fresh from the crockpot. Before putting the lid on, I let my apple butter cool, then I lidded the jars and stuck them in the fridge.

The pumpkin butter recipe I selected as a starting point came from Oh She Glows.

I started out with 2 cans of Libby’s Pumpkin and 3/4 cup white grape juice in a saucepan. Her original recipe calls for apple juice, which I’m sure is delicious, but I happened to have a bottle of white grape on hand and I didn’t want to run to the store for 3/4 cup, so… white grape it was (I was feeling lazy).

From there, I also tossed in 1 packed cup of brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of McCormick ginger, 1/2 teaspoon cloves, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, and a full tablespoon of cinnamon.

I gave that a good stir and turned the pan on over low heat. After stirring near continuously for about an half an hour, it looked a little something like this:

And for the record, I’m not kidding about the near continuous stirring. My first batch’s remnants are still soaking off of the pan 4 days and about 15 scrub sessions later. This stuff will heat up (and burn) quickly if you’re not stirring regularly.

You’ll know it’s done when the spices taste like they’ve really blended in and the mixture is smooth and creamy.

Let it cool and pour it into your clean glass jars or other airtight container. Again, I used my Ball jars for this, and the mixture filled one pint jar and two jelly jars. It will keep for around 3 weeks in the refrigerator.

For both the apple and the pumpkin butter, I chose to keep the pint and give each of the jelly jars as gifts, and oh they’re SO cute (not to mention seasonal!)

These make perfect gifts for Halloween and Thanksgiving party hostesses, of course, and they’re perfect for passing along to a friend.

And besides… what DOESN’T look cute in a Ball jar these days?

For the record, even though these are in canning jars, I did not go through a canning process with them, and I have no advice on how to go through that with them. I’m not a canner (yet)… just a Ball jar addict!

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What’s your favorite way to serve apple or pumpkin butter? What’s your favorite treat in a Ball jar? And, also, do you have any advice on how to get burnt-on pumpkin butter out of the bottom of a pan? Because I think I could sell this stuff to make paint stick better or something. It will NOT come off. Absent-mindedness and cooking? They don’t go together.

And, of course, if you try out these recipes or any others, I’d love it if you came back here and left a comment or photo of your finished product and what you thought of the recipe!