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The calendar has rolled around to November. I think it is safe to say that we can wish goodbye to warmer weather. If you haven’t pulled winter hats and gloves out from storage, now is the time. The mornings come early and they are chilly! Drag your window-shaker air conditioners out, or cover up the central air conditioner outside. Drain the gas out of your mower and put it to bed for the season. Clean and stack your patio furniture away into storage for a long winter’s nap. Empty those gutters and make sure the downspouts are pointed away from your house.

Do you have anything else on your to-do list before you too can curl up in front of a toasty fire this winter? If you are anything like me, I bet you do. If you still have plenty of items on your checklist to winterize your house, how about brushing off the crock pot and pushing it back into service for the season to ensure you’ll have something tasty to eat once you tick a few items off that list. This slow cooker recipe from Savvymom.ca is sure to be a delicious hit with any family. It should certainly be a winner for any chef that is also wearing the hat of busy home owner preparing their home for winter.

SHREDDED TEX-MEX CHICKEN

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 2 cups salsa
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp chili powder

Directions:

  1. Place chicken thighs in a single layer at the bottom of a slow cooker and season well with salt and pepper, before pouring the lime juice over the chicken pieces.
  2. In a small bowl whisk together the salsa, cumin, paprika, oregano and chili powder. Pour the salsa mixture over the chicken, spreading it evenly to cover the meat.
  3. Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on low for 6 hours (or high for 3 hours).
  4. To serve, remove the chicken from the cooker and place it in a bowl. Using two forks, pull the meat apart to shred it. Place it back in the cooker and toss with the sauce before serving.

Good to Know: If there is a lot of watery sauce in the crock-pot, pour a few scoops over the chicken when it’s in the bowl instead of returning the meat to the pot.

Have you started raking yet?

Have you started raking yet?

With the crock pot cooking, you will have plenty of time to get outside to rake leaves, wrap trees and shrubs, put away your garden ornaments, drain your hoses and store them, turn off your outdoor water taps, plus see if you need to replace any burnt out bulbs in your outdoor lighting. Night falls much earlier this time of year, so exterior lighting because that much more important for home owners. You might want to make sure that you have a store of salt for your driveway, while safety is on your mind too. A shovel or snow blower is an essential tool for anyone in this part of Canada that has to leave their house come the first snowfall of the season. That goes for the second, third and beyond’s dumps too.

Better waterproof your winter boots while you are at it. You never know when Old Man Winter will hit us with one of these nasty surprises…

Shovelling safety tips

This reality isn’t as far off as you’d like to believe. Just saying…

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So how did your weekend go? Did you organize your house, yard, life, or just escape from it all with a trip to the theatre? Who hit the farmer’s stand to stock up on all the seasonal goodies that are overflowing at markets this year? Anyone go apple picking? Good for you that did! If you didn’t have the oomph or time, don’t beat yourself up over it though. You can often get local produce from the grocery store too, and there are great deals on large quantity items there too. The trick is what to do with it all once you have it.

I think it is high time you brush the dust off your slow cooker again. We all know how busy life can get and the speed of weekends disappearing in a whir is proof enough. Save some time, by prepping some crock pot meals from some of the bounty that is readily available this time of year. To help you out, how about a few delicious new seasonal slow cooker meals to try out.

Slow Cooker Season Returns

Have I mentioned that the apple trees are bending to the ground under the plethora of apples that are on them this year? Well, they are and you need to do something with them! Why not try this recipe for apple butter from Allrecipes.com;

SLOW COOKER APPLE BUTTER

Ingredients:

  • 5 1/2 pounds apples – peeled, cored and finely chopped
  • 4 cups white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  • Place the apples in a slow cooker. In a medium bowl, mix the sugar, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Pour the mixture over the apples in the slow cooker and mix well.
  • Cover and cook on high 1 hour.
  • Reduce heat to low and cook 9 to 11 hours, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thickened and dark brown.
  • Uncover and continue cooking on low 1 hour. Stir with a whisk, if desired, to increase smoothness.
  • Spoon the mixture into sterile containers, cover and refrigerate or freeze.

Now, how about some of those vegetables you have on hand? Better Homes and Gardens has lots of crock pot meals, but this one for a vegetable curry sounds like it would hit the spot;

SLOW COOKER VEGETABLE CURRY

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium carrots, sliced
  • 2 medium potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 115 ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
  • 8 ounces fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 114 ounce can vegetable broth or chicken broth
  • 114 1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • Hot cooked rice

Directions:

  • In a 3-1/2- to 5-quart slow cooker, combine carrots, potatoes, garbanzo beans, green beans, onion, garlic, tapioca, curry powder, coriander, crushed red pepper, salt, and cinnamon. Pour broth over all.
  • Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 7 to 9 hours or on high-heat setting for 3-1/2 to 4-1/2 hours.
  • Stir in undrained tomatoes. Cover; let stand for 5 minutes. Serve over hot cooked rice. Makes 4 servings.

What about those tomatoes? We’ve all got our tomato sauce recipes, but why not try some of this tomato soup from Big Girls Small Kitchen? Delicious;

SLOW COOKER TOMATO BASIL SOUP

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • carrots (large, peeled and finely diced)
  • sweet onions (medium, finely diced)
  • 4 cloves garlic (peeled and left whole)
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 84 ozs whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 qt chicken broth
  • 10 basil leaves (plus more for garnish)
  • freshly grated parmesan (for garnish, optional)

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 5-7 hours, until flavors are blended and vegetables are soft. Allow the soup to cool slightly. Then purée in batches in a blender until very smooth. Serve immediately, or transfer the soup back to the slow cooker and keep on low until your guests arrive.

 

So tell me, what’s for dinner at your house this week?

Spring is in the air. I don’t exactly know why I say that, as it is still -1C outside (with windchill feels like -9C) with scattered flurries in the forecast, but I feel it. Perhaps it is the fact that the sun rises earlier in the morning now and sets later in the evening. Maybe it was the slushy puddles I jumped over and through getting the kids to school this morning. Or perhaps it was the sign that said “Maple Syrup” that I passed over the weekend and instantly had my mouth-watering.

I think that was it.

Mmm, golden, delicious maple syrup is a sure sign of Spring in my books. When you hear tell that the local sugar bushes are swinging their doors open for another season, you know that full-on Spring is finally on the horizon. If you haven’t been to a sugar bush, this year looks promising for a great season. And we are lucky to have plenty of Sugar bushes to choose from in the London area.

Sugar Bushes In Your Neighbourhood

Maple syrup taps

Maple syrup taps

The McLachlan family has tapped the trees in their sugar bush for over 150 years. They serve a pretty tasty pancake breakfast and offer horse-drawn wagon rides through the bush to see where their delicious syrup comes from. The Pancake house (10279 Lamont Dr) opens February 23rd this year!

Another family run sugar bush is right around the corner at 27382 Coldstream Rd. The Fort Rose Maple Company has plenty of the liquid gold you are seeking this time of year as well. Starting February 23rd, their Pancake House will be flipping flap jacks and drizzling their very own maple syrup on top of them for you. Plus you can take a wagon ride, explore some of the 6,400 taps and of course, buy some maple syrup to take home with you.

Small maple syrup jug with non-functional loop...

The folks at Crinklaw Maple Products are no strangers to maple trees either. The Crinklaws moved from Scotland in 1832 and have produced maple syrup out at 4570 Westminster Dr since then. They offer wagon rides, pancakes, plus a wide variety of maple products to take home with you, like maple sugar, maple butter, maple mustard, BBQ sauce, and even Maple Syrup!

Interested in more sugar bushes? Why not try the Fanshawe Sugar Bush at 21201 C Lakeside Dr, run by the Kinsmen Club of Greater London? They have guided tours, hay rides, great educational displays, which demonstrate how maple syrup has been produced through the years and of course an opportunity to sample some maple syrup on a pancake breakfast, before buying your own maple syrup and other maple products to take home with you. Don’t forget your cash though, as that is all they accept on the premises.

What better way to enjoy maple syrup, than in your favourite recipe. Here is one that I think will quickly enter rotation around your supper schedule. You have to try this recipe from Yummly.com for Maple Slow Cooker Boneless Ribs. I think your whole family will be saying yumm…

MAPLE SLOW COOKER BONELESS RIBS

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless pork ribs
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons dried onion flakes
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic, about 6 cloves
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 dash hot sauce
  • ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Sprinkle ribs with pepper and rub into surface. Place meat in slow cooker.
  2. Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Pour sauce over meat.
  3. Cook on low 6-8 hours or high 3-4 hours.
  4. Serves 6

Have a sweet week!

Man, is it ever cold out there tonight! Hope you’ve put extra blankets on the bed and have your woollies handy. Can I make a suggestion before you head off to bed? How about throwing some oats in the slow cooker for a nice hot breakfast in the morning. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day (so they say) and this one will stick with you when you have to venture out into the icy cold. Thanks to Allrecipes.com for this satisfying breakfast recipe!

SLOW COOKER OATS

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup peeled and chopped apple
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Place the steel-cut oats, water, apple, raisins, butter, cinnamon, brown sugar, and vanilla extract into a slow cooker, and stir to combine and dissolve the sugar. Cover the cooker, set to Low, and allow to cook 6 to 7 hours (for firm oats) or 8 hours (for softer texture).

 

Keep warm out there folks!

 

It’s a rainy day in my part of the world today. Fall might not have officially arrived just yet, but I don’t think Mother Nature cares that there’s 4 days of summer left that we should still be enjoying. It’s a lazy, indoors kind of day that makes me think of toasty warm evenings by the fire, hot baths that melt the day away and crock pot meals that warm you up from the inside out. I suspect that there will be plenty more days like today in the future and that got me to thinking. When you are feeling rushed from a hectic day and less than energetic when it comes to mealtime, crock pot meals can be a salvation. You walk in the door and are greeted by the delicious scent of dinner, done and waiting for you. What could be better?

So since Autumn officially begins this week, I thought perhaps I would add something new to the old blog here. We all appreciate suggestions and ideas to make life easier, right? How about some crock pot menus to tempt your taste buds with? Mum wasn’t far off when she went out and bought that brand new invention back in the 70s. That’s right, this household staple was only invented in 1970, originally as a bean cooker.

Today, there are slo-cookers that range in size from 500 ml to 7 litres. They come in round and oval shapes, but have one thing in common. You place ingredients inside of them, twist the knob and come back hours later to a fully cooked, fabulous meal. Sure, some crock pots have various settings (high, low or auto),  but once you close that lid, the heating coils begin to heat up the contents of  the ceramic or porcelain insert. The lid keeps moisture in, temperatures steady and even helps to distribute flavours throughout the content of the pot. It’s a fairly basic concept, but brilliant when you have thought to dust off the old crock pot for a quick and healthy evening meal before jetting back out for extra-curricular activities.

Enough about the pot though. I am sure you have one (wasn’t it a gift from Aunt Gert at the wedding shower?), so get ready to pull it out in the weeks and months to come. I am going to tempt your taste buds with some new and delicious recipes to whip up in your handy-dandy crock pot. Think soups, stews, roasts and more; I’ll be searching for the best for you! And with more rain in the forecast for later this week, I think I have picked the perfect time to crock! So unless you have a personal chef at your disposal, why not try this seasonal soup recipe from “Recipe 4 Living” to use some of those tasty veggies that are coming ripe in your garden.

 

CROCKPOT VEGETABLE SOUP

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lb. beef stew meat
  • 1 small bell pepper, chopped (1/2 C.)
  • 3/4 C. 1-inch pieces green beans
  • 3/4 C. chopped onion
  • 2/3 C. uncooked barley
  • 2/3 C. fresh whole kernel corn
  • 1 1/2 C. water
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 2 14 oz. cans beef broth
  • 2 14 oz. cans diced tomatoes with garlic, undrained
  • 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce

Directions:

Mix all ingredients in a 3 1/2 to 6-quart crockpot. Cover and cook on low heat setting for 8-9 hours (or high heat setting for 4-5 hours) or until vegetables and barley are tender.

 

It’s that easy folks! Experiment with your ingredients on hand, but know that dinner will be ready when you are tomorrow night!  Enjoy!!

Welcome to In Your Neighbourhood!

Allow me to introduce myself. The name is Jim. You want to know more? Well, check out my "About Me" page! Don't forget to take a peek at my "Local London Listings" while you are here too! I update it regularly. Enjoy your visit and drop me a line to let me know you were in the neighbourhood!

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