Slow Cooker Tomato Veggie Sauce with Sausages – Crazy Cooking Challenge

I am so excited to be participating in my very first Crazy Cooking Challenge from Moms Crazy Cooking.  As you all know, I am new to the blogging world, so just heard about this late last week, but still wanted to join in on the fun.  Since I found out about my little bit of a wheat intolerance, I have only had pasta a few times, and typically use spaghetti squash instead.  Or just forego it altogether.  But I have been looking for a good reason to try some of the gluten free pastas, so the Tomato Sauce Challenge was the perfect opportunity.

The only problem was that I was heading to my mom’s for a long weekend the day after I found out about the challenge, and we already had plans for cooking in and eating out for the weekend.  So the only day I had to shop and cook and blog was Tuesday – yes, the day before the posts go up.  I needed something quick, easy, and would only require a quick trip to the store for a few items I didn’t already have in my fridge and pantry.  I started clicking on some links of the blogs listed on the Crazy Cooking Challenge page, and, although I looked at a few others, the first one I stumbled upon was perfect!  It was Simple Slow Cooker Pasta Sauce from Little Mommy, Big Appetite.  I had most of the ingredients (including a partial bottle of red wine), and I knew that I could easily grab the last few items from the store and get it in the Crock Pot while The Bug was at pre-school.

Sausage on a platterI made a few changes to the recipe, mainly based on what I had in the house.  I had some fresh basil I wanted to use up, instead of dried, so added that in at the end.  Little Mommy suggests mushrooms as an optional addition, but I decided to add in zucchini – mushrooms are not The Hubby’s favorite, but I still wanted to get in some extra veggies.  And, while I wanted meat with dinner, I didn’t want a meat sauce.  So instead of the optional ground beef, I threw in some mild Italian chicken sausages.  You could definitely use pork or turkey sausages.  Or make it vegetarian or vegan by leaving out the meat altogether.

Veggie tomato sauce with chicken sausage on a platter

Well, first of all, I was pleasantly surprised by the brown rice spaghetti.  Pasta may be re-entering our lives, and not just in squash form!  And, since this is what we are really talking about here, the sauce was rich and delicious.  I loved all the veggies, the sausage was super soft, and the red pepper flakes gave it a nice kick that I balanced by topping it with a dollop of ricotta cheese (just because I had some to use up) and parmesan.

Bowl of Spaghetti and Veggie Tomato Sauce with Chicken Susage form top

Bowl of Veggie Tomato Sauce with Chicken Sausage Seconds

I liked it so much that after I finished my spaghetti, I went back for a bowl of sauce and sausage.

This sauce will definitely be entering our regular dinner rotation.  And, most importantly, The Hubby and The Bug approved.  The Bug typically spits out zucchini, and can be hit or miss with meat, but he ate three plates of “noodles”!

This is a little spicy, but nom nom nom!

And in my never ending quest to re-purpose leftovers, I bet this would make a really awesome sausage sandwich, on some nice, crusty bread with mozzarella cheese melted on top.

So if you are reading this and haven’t checked out the Crazy Cooking Challenge, click on the button below to to see the other entries, and click on mine to vote for it as the Ultimate Spaghetti with Red Sauce recipe.  Thanks!

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Also shared with Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday 3/7/2012

Slow Cooker Tomato Veggie Sauce with Sausages

Slightly adapted from Simple Slow Cooker Pasta Sauce from Little Mommy, Big Appetite

Ingredients

1 T olive oil
1 sweet onion, chopped  (I actually used only half because the one I had was enormous)
1 cup shredded carrots
2 small zucchini, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T olive oil
1 (28 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes – I used Tuttorosso Whole Peeled Plum Tomatoes, chopped them into bite-sized pieces, and added the liquid from the can, but not the liquid that squished out from the tomatoes onto the cutting board while I was chopping them.
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce – again I used Tuttorosso
1/2 T dried oregano
1 T parsley
1 t sugar
1 t crushed red pepper flakes (this gives it a but of a kick, so you may want to cut this down, depending on how spicy you like things)
1/4 cup red wine (I used Merlot)
1/2 T Worcestershire
1/2 teaspoon salt, or more
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2T fresh (or 1/2 T dried, as per the original recipe, but toss this in before cooking)
*1 pound mild Italian chicken sausage (optional, or substitute pork or turkey sausage)

Spaghetti of your choice (regular, whole wheat, gluten-free), cooked as per package instructions.

Optional: Ricotta and/or Parmesan cheese for serving.

Directions

1.  Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat.

2.  Add the onions, carrots, and zucchini and cook until soft, and onions are translucent.

3.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.

Cooking the Veggies

4.  Throw all of the veggies in your slow cooker.

5.  While you are adding all of the other ingredients to the slow cooker, throw the sausages into the pan you used to cook the veggies and brown them a little on the outside.Browning the sausage

6.  Add all of the other ingredients except for the pasta and optional cheese(s) to the slow cooker, stir it up and add in the sausages.Filling up the slow cooker

7.  Cook on low for 4-6 hours (to be honest, I had mine cooking for about 7).

8.  While you are cooking your pasta, take the lid off of your slow cooker to allow the sauce to thicken up a bit.Sauce is ready

9.  Serve over your favorite spaghetti,with a little dollop of ricotta cheese and/or a sprinkle of parmesan, if you like.

Bowl of Spaghetti and Veggie Tomato Sauce with Chicken Sausages

10.  Enjoy!

Spaghetti and Veggie Tomato Sauce with Chicken Sausage ready to eat

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Oscar Night Dinner for My Four Leading Men – Crockpot Beef Pot Roast with Mushrooms “Sorta-coto”

It’s the same thing every year.  I always want to watch the Oscars to see all of the fabulous dresses and hairstyles, and the incredible jewelry, and my current celebrity crush (right now, I’ll take the Ryans – Gosling and Reynolds) in a tux.   In college, actually, for pretty much any awards show, we would always get all of our friends together, maybe make a big pot of spaghetti, and just ogle over or make fun of famous people all night.  My friend and former college roomie, The Half-Baked Housewife, is a total awards show junkie.  This year, she even live blogged during the Oscars (I paid more attention to that than the actual show).

But I was never really into watching the actual awards.  I have always been more of a “movie” person than a “film” person, and, more often than not, it is the “films” that are nominated for the big awards.  So I don’t usually have much of a vested interest (except this year I did see and LOVE Moneyball, so was pulling for the movie, Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill to win). And the mediocre hosts and long speeches and boring tributes – not worth four hours of my time.  I think the best thing to happen to the Oscars was E! starting to televise the red carpet.  And even better, now I just have to watch Fashion Police, and I get the full recap of the only parts I am interested in.

So instead of a throwing an Oscar party, and making all of the fabulous dishes that I saw posted on a ton of other blogs, I thought it would be nice to make a good meal for the four leading men in my life: The Bug, The Hubby, Dad, and Grandpa.

My Four Leading Men

And when you are cooking for four generations of men, what better to make than good, old fashioned meat and potatoes.

Meat and potatoes

Let’s just say they were all quite satisfied, including The Bug.

The Bug digging in to Pot Roast with Mushrooms

My inspiration came from Giada DeLaurentiis’ cookbook “Giada’s Family Dinners”, and her recipe for Stracoto with Porcini Mushrooms.  I have made this recipe several times, and it has always been a hit.  But I wanted to change up a few things.  Giada braises her roast, and I wanted to make it in the crock pot (I used my 5 quart one).  She uses chuck roast, and I happened to have an eye round roast in the freezer (next time I would probably use a chuck or something else with a little more fat, to make it even more tender).  Also, her gravy is made from pureeing everything that is left in the pot after removing the meat.  I wanted chunks of mushrooms and a little thinner gravy.  I also wanted to cook some carrots with the roast because there is nothing like carrots soaked with all of those wonderful beef juices, and they are one of The Bug’s favorite veggies.  I did sear the meat, like she did, because I love the flavor it gives.  But I bet you could just chuck everything into your slow cooker, and it would be delicious.  Alternatively, if you don’t want to use the crock pot, you can follow Giada’s braising instructions.

Pot Roast with Mushrooms on plate

The flavors were perfect, but if I made it again, I would use a bigger piece of meat to have more leftovers (there was plenty of sauce, so no need to increase that).  However, I did manage to re-purpose what was leftover for a few lunches.  On Monday, The Bug had a repeat plate of what he had for dinner Sunday night, and devoured it just as happily.  Then today for lunch, Bill stuffed some of the leftover meat and gravy with some cheese into a pita, and I had a salad topped with the leftover mushrooms (oh, how I love mushrooms), a fried egg, parmesan cheese, and balsamic vinegar.  Yum!

Salad with leftover mushrooms from pot roast

Did you have an Oscars party?  What were some of your favorite dresses?

Crockpot Beef Pot Roast with Mushroom Sauce “Sorta-coto” (serves 4, but you can easily use a bigger piece of beef)

IngredientsPot Roast with Mushrooms in serving bowl

1 (2-pound or bigger) beef eye round roast (or another type of beef roast, such as chuck)

2 T. olive oil

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 t. salt

freshly ground black pepper

1 cup beef broth/stock

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2T. tomato paste

1 medium or 1/2 of a large onion, quartered

3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

1 cup dry red wine (I used a Merlot)

10 oz. cremini or white button mushrooms, quartered

1 cup baby carrots, or whole carrots, peeled and cut into “fingers”

1 large sprig of fresh rosemary

Directions

1.  Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat.Pot Roast With Mushrooms in Crock Pot before cooking

2.  Combine the corn starch, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish.

3.  Roll the meat around in the cornstarch mixture until it is coated on all sides.  Set aside the remaining cornstarch mixture.

4.  Sear the meat in the pan for 2-3 minutes on each side, until it is nice and browned.

5. While the meat is searing, add the reserved cornstarch mixture, broth, balsamic vinegar, and tomato paste to the slow cooker, and stir to dissolve.

6.  Remove the meat from the pan, and put it in the slow cooker.Pot Roast with Mushrooms in Crock Pot after cooking

7.  Reduce the heat to low and pour the wine into the pan.  Scrape up any of the brown bits with a wooden spoon, and pour everything into the crockpot.

8.  Arrange the onion, garlic, mushrooms, carrots, and rosemary around the roast.

9.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or until the meat is cooked through.

10.  Remove the meat, carrots, and mushrooms from the slow cooker.  Ladle out or strain the liquid from the crockpot, and serve on the side as a gravy.

11.  Enjoy!

Pot Roast with Mushrooms close up

This recipe was shared with:

BSI (Blogger Secret Ingredient) – Beef at My Bizzy Kitchen.

Real Food Wednesday 2/29/12 at Kelly the Kitchen Kop.