1.05.2016

Slow and Low: A Review of the Hamilton Beach 33182A 8-Quart Slow Cooker

Yeah, it's been a long, long while, I know.  Let's just say I was on hiatus, amassing some much needed kitchen equipment, and the urge to get back to cooking again. Life happens.  Now that I'm back, I'd love to tell you about the most excellent gift my sister-in-law got for me this past Christmas. I've only had it a little under two weeks and already have put it to some great use.  What am I talking about?  Did you not read the title of this post?

This:




If you have an ad blocker, you won't see that Amazon image, but it's more like this in reality:



It's quite the upgrade from this: 

Crockpot c. Sometime in the late 80s

Granted, the original model still works. I want to say that I got it around 86 or 87 on my first excursion to college away from home. I could be wrong, but regardless, it's been around for a long while and still works just fine.  Scary but true. However, as it is taller and cylindrical, it's not really conducive to cooking massive quantities of anything other than soups or narrow pork roasts, etc. 

I've wanted for years to be able to put stuff in and let it go all day and not have to worry about finding stuff to make for our meals.  That day has arrived. 

In the past two weeks, I have made several rounds of homemade dog food. Before you jot off to vomit, allow me to explain, somewhat briefly ... We've taken the beasts off of processed, dry, grain-filled foods, and have switched them to a grain-free dry kibble and supplement with a less than dry meal consisting of meat and vegetables, such as peas, carrots, sweet potatoes and green beans. What better way to make a good two to four days worth of meals for them than in this beast of a slow cooker?  Overnight even. As Ron Popeil says:  "Set it and forget it." 

I've cooked overly enlarged store-bought chicken breasts, a pork roast, some chicken breast patties, and at least three roasts (one for us, two for the babies).  Before you assume we're made of money, no, we're not. I used up meat that I had stored in the freezer and buy frozen peas and carrots, sweet potatoes and fresh green beans when they're on sale. I'm still sort of balking at how much we spend to feed all the assorted animals; however, after seeing the difference in their coats and their demeanor, I have to admit, it's well worth it. 


Aren't they adorable?  They are. 

Back to the topic at hand, the Hamilton Beach 8-Quart Slow Cooker. It's a basic model, no digital bells and whistles here, which is how I like it. I don't want to have to become a computer scientist to operate my kitchen equipment. Four settings: Off, Keep Warm, Low and High. That's all I need. Different models of the 8-Quart slow cooker come in different colors, such as white and a lovely, shiny red, but this one is your basic black, and matches my black stove and black fridge splendidly. 

The cooker, a large, sturdy ceramic crock lifts out of the cooking base for easier clean-up. That's one huge bonus over the pain in the arse of trying to clean a Crockpot with no way to remove the crock and trying to keep the cord and operating parts out of water.  This is much better!  A sturdy warning about the Hamilton Beach crock. It's HEAVY. meaning, if you have any sort of hand, wrist, shoulder or elbow injuries, either get someone else to move it around, or wear protective braces when handling it, and use both hands. Also, the bottom is unfinished (unpainted) and is rather rough, so it's advisable not to drag it across delicate surfaces like tile or glass or stainless steel that you want to keep scratch-free. I have a feeling the bottom of the crock could do some serious damage to those surfaces if handled improperly!  

The lid is a lid. Seems a bit less durable than the crock, but if you don't toss thing around with reckless abandon, it should hold up. The one thing about this model that I find completely useless is the "mess-free" lid rest. Unless you've got a wide open, unencumbered countertop on which to plant the cooker, it's just nothing short of awkward. As you can see above, that comes right up to the very bottom of our cabinets and actually touches the bottom if the unit is pushed back. It's fairly useless to me. Not to mention the fact that I'm not sure how they assume it's "mess-free" when it's very awkward and difficult to finagle it ON to the rest when the lid is hot, and if you're making any sort of large batch of soup or anything that nears the top of the crock, the lid, whilst on the rest, kind of sinks down into the food below. You're better off laying the lid on a towel where you can just grab it by the handle and set it back in place. 

The lid rest also doubles as a cord wrap. I can't speak to that because I haven't had it unplugged or out of use long enough to use that feature, but I'm sure it'll work fine if I ever do decide to put the unit away.  Ha. 

As for cooking, I have yet to use it on the High setting. I've only used the Low and Keep Warm settings. The Low setting seems really hot to me, when comparing it to the antiquated model. Hot enough that when I lifted the lid the other morning, after it had been on all night, the liquid was boiling around the edges. Nothing was burnt, however, just really, really warm. 

You'll also want to keep perishables away from the outside when you're using the cooker, as the outer shell also gets very warm.  Apparently, that's why they provide full-grip handles!  The more you know ... 

All in all, I think this is going to be my new favorite way to cook, at least until I get bored with being lazy. I'll be sure to let you know when that happens.  Overall, I'd give it 4.5 out of 5 stars, if I used a star rating system. Like I mentioned, my only complaint is that odd lid rest, but since that's not a necessity for me, it's more likely to be ignored than to be a nuisance.  

Here are some handy specs, which can also be found on the Amazon product page

  • Product Dimensions: 10.8 x 17.7 x 11.6 inches ; 7.6 pounds
  • Shipping Weight: 14.6 pounds

Meanwhile, since I received this glorious gift, I started collecting slow-cooker recipes that I'll be making over the course of forever. For your enjoyment, stop back from time and time and see my reviews of the recipes I find. If you can't wait, just go check out the recipes here on my Pinterest board: 





And finally, a disclaimer, in not so tiny print: 

Any link you see to items on Amazon, within Cooking Squared blog posts or on the Shopping Squared tab  are affiliate links, meaning if you should decide to purchase anything from these links or from my Amazon store, I will receive a percentage of the sale. Rest assured, I am not making anything close to a killing by blogging. I think I've made a total of $7 from Amazon sales in over five years of blogging. I'm just not that dedicated, but still I wanted you to know. Any questions, just holler!  












3.23.2014

Hot! Hot! Hot!! Rachael Ray's Chipotle-Barbecue Chicken

We have yet another winner! This one is not for the faint of heart or tongue! I saw this recipe years ago, in the 'EveryDay with Rachael Ray' magazine:


It's way simple and quick, with just a few ingredients and a few minutes of prep to make the sauce. Since we are trying to eat just a touch healthier, though, I did swap out the butter for olive oil and probably only used two tablespoons, tops. And since her recipe serves four, I made just a touch less sauce and only cooked two pieces of chicken.







This recipe is hot, hot and MORE hot...but I do believe you can alter, lessen or increase the heat depending on how many chipotles in Adobo you use. I used 2, scraped out as many seeds as possible and removed the ribs/membranes/whatever you call them....yet, I could easily have knocked that down to half of ONE pepper, scraped, and probably still had adequate heat for our delicate palates. 

Unless you like scrubbing your baking pans, you will definitely want to line the pan with a piece of foil. That way, once it's cooked, discard the foil and clean up is much easier!  




I'm guessing that if you wanted to save hassle, you could just use a premade BBQ sauce of your choosing, in place of everything but the onion and garlic, but I highly recommend just making it as the recipe directs, it's a different flavor than processed BBQ sauce. Much brighter, less full of all those nasty chemicals and preservatives and sugars. 

Here's the final product. I served it with asparagii and some instant baby red mashed taters, which really helped counteract the heat. My beloved loaded up on carbs to get through his piece....I think he ate four pieces of bread and two helpings of taters. This chicken will definitely clear out your sinus cavities, so be prepared if you make it at full strength!






All in all, it's definitely a winner and will remain in rotation here, just with much less chipotle in future occurrences!  

3.02.2014

The Winning Streak Continues: Bourbon Chicken

I found this delightful little recipe for Bourbon Chicken over on BigOven.com, via Pinterest, of course..and I knew I would eventually have to try it.  Whenever we eat at the foodcourt at the local mall, I tend to aim towards the Bourbon Street Grille, which has absolutely NO correlation to the street in New Orleans. Instead, the menu contains nothing but Chinese food, stir-fries, rice, egg rolls, etc.  and they have this divine rendition of Bourbon chicken that, for some reason, cannot be repeated at home. 

Regardless, always up for a challenge and already having tried the Bourbon Chicken seasoning mix from the International aisle at the store, I was ready to give this a shot. Other than chicken, most of the ingredients, you might already have on hand, like ketchup, soy sauce and apple cider vinegar. The only thing I amended was to use powdered ginger, instead of fresh....and the recipe really doesn't specify which form to use, so that's not much of a change. 

I used 3 thin-sliced chicken boobs, which admittedly was WAY less than enough, but made the full amount of sauce, which is fine, especially if you don't want dry rice!  



See...not enough chicken.  Fine for two servings, but not enough for seconds or leftovers. Bummer!


This was almost too easy. Sauteed the chicken, took it out, whipped up the sauce.....


Added chicken back to sauce, simmered for about 10 minutes, then DONE.  25 minutes, top to bottom.


Of course, I was so hungry by the time it was ready that I forgot to provide you with that finished product presentation shot...but you get the drift....add a scoop or more of rice to your plate, then top it with this. Dinner. Served. 

Way less hassle than the packaged seasoning mix variety...and you can control the heat, by decreasing or increasing the amount of red pepper flakes and Sriracha sauce....(I used about a tablespoon of Sriracha and just a sprinkling of flakes..) 

Yeah, the sugar content is higher (with the brown sugar) and sodium, but you could substitute a low-sodium soy sauce and use a brown-sugar substitute (to which I say NAY....), but other than that, it's very low fat, high protein and very good on the tastebuds! 

Oh yeah, and just start rice before you start the chicken (if you have a rice cooker)....or start the chicken about 20 minutes before the rice will be done, if you're making it via stovetop, and it'll all be ready at the same time!  

That and the husband really, really liked it!!! ( A bonus, when you consider that he doesn't order much more than Orange chicken -NO VEGETABLES and rice when we dine at Chinese restaurants!!)  

Seriously, try it.  Just use more chicken than I did!  

Here's the full recipe:   Bourbon Chicken



2.24.2014

We Have Another Winner! A Whole Lotta Chicken Enchilada Flatbread!

Hi kids!  Since the beloved is not a huge fan of Mexican fare, we rarely try anything other than some form of chicken fajitas on the homefront. I decided, however, to step out on a long, skinny, shaky limb and try this recipe that I found for "Skinny Chicken Enchilada Flatbread" on Pinterest...where else?


I changed very little, but mine is probably a bit higher in fat content, due to the fact that I used canned, shredded chicken and regular Kraft Queso Quesadilla cheese rather than any low-fat version. I also omitted the white onion, because my beloved is NOT a fan of onions and instead I just sauteed approxmately TWO green onions to add the onion flavor without going overboard. I also omitted the jalapeno, after much thought, because really, the green chiles combined with the enchilada sauce were enough heat for our wimpy palates. 



Let's face it, I am not a professional cook or chef and I do not own a professional-grade cutting board or cutting apparati, therefore, when I hand-chop cilantro, it looks abused and not all lovely like the kind you see chopped up on television. Sorry. It's still cilantro, it's still fresh and it's still chopped. It gets cooked, appearance is not top priority!  I did set a bit aside for garnish, though, along with some of the green tops of the green onions. 


In order of appearance and completion, I give you step by step photos. How lovely, right? 



Make sure you thoroughly drain the chicken (if you used canned) and skim off any visible chicken fat.



When adding the enchilada sauce to the skillet, I only added 1/2. I save the rest for constructing the flatbread.


I had sauce left over even after spreading it over the flatbread, which is much narrower than this picture would have you believe!


I only used 1/2 the enchilada/chicken mixture on this flatbread. I had enough left over to make myself a tortilla filled with it the next day and then after that, another flatbread the next night.


I think I used about 1 cup of cheese. You can go either way.


Here it is, right before cutting and serving. I'm getting hungry just looking at it!



So, much to my total shock, my beloved RAVED about this!  I think he said he loved it at least 5 times during the course of eating it. That's why I made him another one the next night. This from the guy who doesn't like Mexican cuisine.  Go figure.

It was rather tasty, I must admit.  And it really didn't take more than 20 minutes to put it all together.  I made the chicken stuff ahead of time, then assembled and baked the flatbread right before he got home. Easy stuff.

Easy is good.

You want spicier?  Get a non-mild enchilada sauce and add the jalapeno or an even spicier pepper varietal. Your stomach lining to do with as you wish, right?

So, if you want something quick and at the same time delightful, give this one a go.

You'll find the complete recipe here:




Want some more winning ideas?  Check these out: 



All recipes tested and approved (or rejected) by me and my beloved!