Since moving to Portland just over a year and a half ago, I’ve discovered the wonder known as…the crock pot. Throw all your ingredients in, set the dial, go about your day, and you come home to a meal and a deliciously scented house!
Now, I actually like rain – the sounds, the smell – and I always seem to get some quality self-reflection in when the sky is open. Even though it rained in New York and snowed in New York and got cold in New York, I was never a big fan of soups and stews. That being said, I became attached to warmer, steamier dishes my first rainy winter on the ‘left coast’; the rain makes everything feel an entirely different kind of cold – not the dry snowy air of the Northeast, but a damp and biting cold that makes me want to curl up in a blanket all day. Enter the crock pot.
Once again, Pinterest has provided me with endless ideas and opportunity for my own creativity in the crock pot meal realm. Currently top on my list of winter favorites, Ropa Vieja. My mom made this dish when I was little, and when I stumbled across the crockpot recipe for it a few weeks ago, I knew I had to make it. Since that fateful day I’ve cooked the dish twice, with a few alterations, depending on what I had in my fridge and what sounded good to me. Both times, I left out the capers because (and I’m not really sure why) they creep me out when I see them in a jar. I also left out the bay leaf because I hate having to fish it out when everything is done cooking. Other than that, I left the recipe the same and both times it came out wonderfully. The second time I changed up the color of the peppers the recipe called for based on what I had on hand – because, I’ll admit, I didn’t want to run to the store. For me the key to the recipe is the meat; buy a good cut – seriously. I spent a few minutes talking with the butcher at my local store and he explained some of the differences in chuck and recommended a cut – and let me tell you, the meat fell apart perfectly (and just as he described) as it cooked!
Pair it with some nice crusty bread and a wine and you’re set for a rainy night in. My brother and my boyfriend both have tried my version and love it as much as I do!
There are a million other recipes I want to try, although I’m a little limited in what I can make – no dairy for me, which means nothing with milk or cheese in it. Unfortunately, I keep running into dishes loaded with cheese (I start drooling perusing the recipe to see if I can leave out my favorite – but forbidden – ingredient). Despite this, I have managed to find a number of other recipes, including this Brown Sugar Balsamic Glazed Pork Tenderloin.
So that’s where you’ll find me for the rest of my second Pacific Northwest winter – perusing Pinterest and loading my crock pot full of ingredients! Be sure to let me know if you have any crock pot favorites that you’re willing to share!