Monday, January 11, 2010

IN WHICH our heroine conquers the Crock Pot

Today, in Tempe (the suburb of Phoenix in which I reside) the high was 70°F. Yeah, it's pretty awesome. WHAT UP, MINNESOTA? It has also ruined me for anywhere else in the entire world, because I am a wimp.

Because of the aforementioned lovely weather, the boyfriend and I hosted a small barbeque. He took care of the actual grilling portion (Fresh and Easy Spicy Grill pack, Food City carne asada, and hot dogs), my roommate put out a few bottles of his home brew, and I whipped up a few sides: Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese, and Picnic Potato Salad

I don't really like potato salad--or anything with mayonnaise, for that matter--and so when I saw this recipe that used sour cream instead, I thought I'd give it a try. Girlfriend LOVES sour cream.

My food photography skills are not up to snuff. Also, I don't think potato salad ever looks pretty.

Picnic Potato Salad (adapted from BudgetBytes)

3.5 lbs of small red potatoes
8 oz  + 2 Tbsp light sour cream (I'm guessing, it was about 2/3 of a 16 oz container)
2 Tbsp light mayonnaise
1 handful fresh chopped parsley
2 green onions, chopped
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp whole mustard seeds
crushed red pepper, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

Wash and dice potatoes. I did slightly smaller than bite sized--they cooked faster, and I think it's rude to try and make people shove a forkful of big potato pieces in their mouth. Throw into a big pot, and cover potatoes with water. Add 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice and a little bit of salt. Bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes, until potatoes are fork-tender. Drain, and spread out on a cookie sheet so they can cool completely. (That cookie sheet tip was in the original recipe, and I thought it was SUPER SMART. Why didn't I think of that?)

In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Adjust seasonings as you see necessary.

When potatoes are cool, add them to sour cream mixture, toss till potatoes are coated evenly. Cover, and let it chill for at least two hours--I let mine sit overnight

Verdict: Well, I didn't hate it the way I usually hate potato salad, but it was really bland. The boyfriend liked it, and he's a fan of regular potato salad, so maybe his opinion is worth more than mine on this one.

However, I was a real big fan of the Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese. It was cheesy and gooey and required almost no effort on my part. It was a big hit with the crowd, and there was NONE left at the end of the night.

My best friend Zach! He suggested I throw in some bacon next time.

Nic, eating the last bit he scraped out of the Crock Pot.

I've made this once before for a pot luck, and was told (by a Southerner) it was the "best Southern-style macaroni and cheese" they'd had. This is a really good recipe for a potluck because:
1. You make it in a Crock Pot, thus no reheating issues
2. It is vegetarian, but hearty and filling
3. Everyone likes mac and cheese, DUH

Crock Pot Macaroni and Cheese (adapted from A Year of Slow Cooking)

1/2 lb uncooked macaroni
4 cups milk (I use skim cow)
1 egg
4 cups shredded cheese (I use sharp cheddar)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder (The recipe calls for dried mustard, which I didn't have, and garlic tastes good in everything, so... yeah)
butter / margarine / cooking spray

Coat the inside of your crock pot with butter / cooking spray / whatever. (This makes it approximately one bajillion times easier to clean) Pour in macaroni and cheese, and stir till cheese is evenly distributed.

In a seperate bowl, whisk together milk and egg until the egg is completely combined. Add seasonings, and then pour milk over the macaroni and cheese in the crock pot. Stir to distribute milk. It will be VERY liquidy.

The recipe says to cook on low 2-5 hours, or on high for 1-3. I put mine on high, and it was ready in about 3, 3 1/2 hours.

You should make this, like, tomorrow. From what I understand, the weather is not so lovely in other parts of the world right now, and this is a great winter-time comfort food. Also, it is delicious and let's you be impressive and lazy AT THE SAME TIME. Awesome.

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