Originally published on mensphysique.com on Thursday, 03 October 2013
Food prep continues to be a tedious process for me, despite the fact that it is a regular occurrence. I am sure many of you can relate to such woes and are searching for ways to cut prep time down so you can take care of more important things in life. Usually I roast sweet potatoes in the oven, but I was particularly unmotivated the other evening and decided to adopt a lazy approach while still using the delicious marinade I typically mix up. I use a heavy hand with the spices because I want that holiday flavor, so you might want to cut down the portion of spices if you want a more basic flavor.
I usually avoid using the slow cooker because food items tend to get mushy, but as long as the potatoes are cut into large sections, that should not occur. Another bonus is that your place will smell incredible when these are cooking!
5 pounds sweet potatoes or yams, washed and cut into large cubes
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Place sweet potato crock potsweet potato sections into a clean plastic bag. Mix remaining ingredients together, then pour into bag. Twist bag so that it is securely closed, then shake it so that the potatoes are evenly coated with the marinade mixture.
Slow cookers are incredible time savers, but I have always struggled with the texture of foods which results from this method of cooking. Red meat cooks incredibly well, but the cuts which work best are higher in fat and tend not to fit into my meal plans. That isn’t much of an issue since I tend to buy 90% lean ground beef patties and just broil them when I need them.
Chicken and yams are another story entirely. I consume both of these food items regularly, and find prepping them to be incredibly tedious. My favorite method of cooking chicken is to grill them outside, so that I get that crispy char, but the intense summer heat has discouraged me from doing this. I was tempted to use my slow cooker but I didn’t like the mealy texture that slow cooking imparted to chicken, so I decided to experiment a bit, and finally hit a winning prep method that works for me. Until the mercury drops to acceptable levels, I will use my slow cooker to cook chicken, employing an incredibly simple prep method.
Here’s what I do: I take about 8 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breast and place it in the slow cooker, then I season HEAVILY with salt free seasoning and lots of black pepper, white pepper and parsley. I then add two to three coarsely chopped onions (usually a mix of red and yellow) and a few cloves of garlic. Sometimes I will also add a few stalks of chopped celery. I DO NOT ADD WATER. I used to add water and never liked the almost mealy consistency which resulted, but then I read Ashley Kaltwasser’s tip about not adding water and tried it, with great results. I allow this mixture to cook for 10 hours on low. The only issue I have with slow cooker chicken is that I need to add a LOT of seasonings to make it tasty, but then again, I like stronger flavors in my meats.
Once I had my chicken slow cooker method down I was pretty happy, but I wanted to figure out a way to make yams with the same marinade I usually use, but in the slow cooker. Typically I will marinate my yams, then throw them on a cookie sheet and bake them, but the summer heat once again got me thinking about cooking methods that didn’t require me to stand near a strong heat source. I turned to my slow cooker once again, but added only a small amount of liquid (contrary to what the manufacturer recommends), resulting in yams which had the perfect degree of softness.
Here’s my slow cooker yam recipe: I wash about ten pounds of yams, then cut them into large cubes. Then I place them in a clean plastic bag. In a bowl, I combine about 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup pomegranate vinegar, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract, 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground cloves, and 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg. I mix this well, then toss into the bag with the yams and shake vigorously until the yams are completely coated. I let this sit overnight. Then the next morning, I simply place the yam mixture into the slow cooker, add 1/2 cup water. I set cooker to 10 hours and let it do its thing. I LOVE the flavor in my yams because it is highly seasoned, and the yams are soft yet not mushy.
Try these recipes and let me know if you like them!