Another Slow Cooker Dip Trio – in two parts

This past weekend, we had our housewarming party – finally. Mostly because we finally had enough furniture for people to sit on. And also because it’s hard to warm a house in the middle of the winter. This way, we could use the barbecue.

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The Pie wanted to make use of our three-pot mini slow cookers and prepare some dips for our guests, so here are two of the ones we came up with. The final one involved a bit of extra prep so it’s a post on its own. The two posted today were made significantly smaller so they’d fit in our tiny pots.

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This first one, a garlic white bean dip, doesn’t really require a slow cooker, unless you want it to be served warm (which we did). I also took out some of the prep steps to make the whole thing a one-shot process. Start by glugging 1/4 cup olive oil into a small saucepan, and add in the equivalent of 6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced. Cook that on low for about 5 minutes, until garlic smells start to fill your whole kitchen.

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Grate up about 3/4 cup parmesan cheese and the zest from 1 lemon.

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Then, grab your food processor and chuck in 2 cans of cannelini beans, drained and rinsed. I used one can white beans and one can of white navy beans. Tip in as well 1/3 cup water, 1 cup ricotta cheese, your garlic and oil stuff, the parmesan and lemon zest, 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, and a generous helping of salt and ground black pepper.

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Give that a good whaz until it’s all smooth. Add a bit more olive oil if you think it looks dry (and if you’re going to keep it in the slow cooker all day, add a bit more as it has a tendency to dry out).

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Plop that in the slow cooker and leave it on low for about 2 hours to warm through. Enjoy!

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This next one is pretty good, but we actually found it a little bland and might spice it up some more next time. It’s a corn and cheese dip with bacon and pale ale and I think it has plenty of potential for enhancement. Start by tipping 3 1/2 cups frozen corn into your slow cooker. Top that with 2 minced cloves of garlic and 1 1/2 cups grated cheese (we used an extra-old cheddar).

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Dice up a red bell pepper and a de-seeded jalapeno.

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Chuck those in the pot with 3/4 cup sour cream, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, and salt and pepper to taste.

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Grab a pale ale as well and tip in about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of it. I think next time I’d use something with a bit more flavour, as neither the Pie nor myself are IPA fans (not that I’m drinking these days anyway).

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Give that a good stirring to mix things up. Then grab a package of plain cream cheese and break it up into chunks, which you can then spread over the top of the thing. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours.

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While that’s on the go, cook up about 4 slices of bacon until it’s crispy enough to crumble and let it cool (so you can crumble it). Harvest some fresh chives from your garden (it’s the only thing growing right now). Cut those up in a wee bowl and set the bacon and chives aside until the dip is ready.

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When the dip is hot, stir well to incorporate the cream cheese and then garnish with the chives and bacon. Eat!

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Bacon Avocado Bites

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Today is Victoria Day, the final day in a long weekend that in Canada is the official herald of the summer to come. It’s the long weekend where people get together for barbecues and outdoor parties, where people open up their cottages and put their boats in the water. It’s the weekend where garden enthusiasts can finally plant all those frost-fearing plants they’ve been keeping inside. It’s a weekend to spend enjoying fresh air and the company of friends.

The Pie is out of town at a tournament this weekend and so I had all sorts of social events planned to keep me from getting lonely and bored by myself. At the eleventh hour, however, literally as I was walking out the door on Friday night to the first of my social engagements, I realized I had picked up a stomach bug from one of my coworkers (despite our best efforts) and I had to cancel everything. While it was a mild case (I’m mostly fine now), I knew it was infectious and one of my events was a brunch with Gen. Zod, a pregnant Atlas, and my immunocompromised mother. So that was a no-go.Avocado Bacon Bites 7

But I’d already bought all the food for it, and so in the moments when I wasn’t feeling terrible, I decided to make smaller amounts of my recipes for the brunch anyway, just to keep myself from going stir crazy with only Gren for company. This one from Sweet Treats & More is ridiculously easy and can be scaled for events of any size. They make great finger food for brunch, lunch, or even dinner. Start by setting your oven to broil and haul out a broiling pan or a baking sheet with a cooling rack set in it.

Then set to and halve, pit, and peel however many ripe avocados you want to use.

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Cut those up into as close to cubes as you can get. Sprinkle them with salt and pepper. I feel like a small gob of goat cheese, brie, or a pecan wouldn’t go amiss tucked into the little indentation left by the pit.

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Then grab a slice of turkey bacon (you can use whatever bacon you want for this of course) for each cube of avocado and wrap it up. Jab a toothpick into it to keep it shut. Wouldn’t want that juicy avocado to escape.

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Lay the little packages on your pan and shove them in the oven.

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I think it depends on how high your rack is and how hot your broiler is because the original recipe called for 10-15 minutes and mine took 8 minutes before they were a little on the charred side. So keep an eye on them.

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Tasty, tasty little bites!

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Sunday Scones

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Yes, yes, I know it’s WEDNESDAY. But I made these on a Sunday and I like my alliteration, okay? These are a great addition to a Sunday brunch (I know this because that’s what I made them for). I used turkey bacon in this recipe but feel free to use any bacon-like product you can think of.

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Start with 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and mix it in a bowl with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt.

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Grab 1/2 cup COLD butter and use a pastry cutter or two knives to cut the butter into the flour mixture. You can use a food processor for this if you really want, but we are going for a non-uniform texture here, so irregular chunks of butter are a plus in this situation.

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Normally I use buttermilk when I make scones because it makes them nice and fluffy. But I never have buttermilk on hand because in Canada you can only buy it in 1L cartons and seeing as I don’t drink it for its own sake that’s a lot of buttermilk to have to use up. So generally I just sour my own milk. 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to 1 cup of milk, give it a stir, and leave it for five minutes. Good enough. Here I only needed 2/3 cup soured milk so I adjusted accordingly. You can do the math. Anyway, mix the milk with 2 slightly beaten eggs.

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What you also need here is about 5 slices of cooked bacon, any kind.

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Slice and dice that into wee pieces. You need about 1/2 cup chopped bacon at this point. You should probably do this first before all the other stuff with the flour and butter so that the bacon has time to cool down before you cut it up. Otherwise, there might be bad things that happen.

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Harvest some green onions as well. Dice them up until you have about 1/4 cup chopped green onion.

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Then grate some cheese. Any kind you like, but you need about 2/3 cup grated cheese and then add to that about 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese as well.

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Okay so now you’ve got all your bits and pieces. Add the buttermilk/eggs mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

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Add the cheese, onions, and bacon to the bowl as well and continue to stir until it’s all incorporated.

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Turn the mix out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently just until all the bits and pieces are together and it’s a cohesive mass. You just want things all barely sticking together. When in doubt, under-mix.

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Shape it into a disk about 1″ thick. Wrap the dough up tightly and put it in the freezer for at least 30 minutes or in the fridge overnight.

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Scones cook really well from frozen, did you know that? So if you wanted to do that, cut the scones before chilling, wrap them up really well, and then chuck them in the freezer for scone-y goodness any time you want. Frozen scones make great gifts, you know.

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If you’re not freezing them, unwrap your chilled dough and slice it into wedges. I aimed for 10 wedges here. You can also flatten your dough into a rectangle and cut out squares or triangles or whatever you want. Wedges are easiest for me. Preheat your oven to 375°F.

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Plop the wedges on some baking sheets lined with parchment and brush them with about 2 tablespoons half and half or light cream.

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Sprinkle them with a little sea salt and shove them in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until they’re puffy and golden.

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Let cool only very slightly before serving warm with a dollop of butter!

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Gluten-Free Cornbread Stuffing

I whipped up this pot of savoury delightfulness for our Canadian Thanksgiving in October, and I figured with Thanksgiving coming up this Thursday in America, you might find it handy. This particular incarnation of this recipe is both gluten-free and pork-free to reflect the dietary restraints of my Thanksgiving dinner guests, but feel free to replace the gluten-free cornbread with regular cornbread (may I suggest this recipe?) and the turkey bacon with regular bacon or sausage.

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Start with your cornbread. Because I was running low on time and energy (getting sick the week before Thanksgiving is not cool), I made the cornbread from the Bob’s Red Mill mix, and it turned out just fine.

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I crumbled the cooled cornbread onto a baking sheet and toasted it at 350°F for about 15 minutes until it was a nice golden brown.

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Once it cooled I sealed it in a bag.

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Meanwhile, I dumped an entire package of turkey bacon in a pan and fried it up.

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Then I started chopping. In a large pot, I dumped about 1/3 cup butter, then chopped up 1 1/2 large onions, 4 green onions, and a whole head of fresh garlic and plopped those in as well. I heated it on medium and stirred the onions while they softened.

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Then I chopped up 1 bunch fresh tarragon and 1 bunch fresh sage and dumped those in.

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Then 2 red peppers and 4 stalks celery. I added in some pepper to taste.

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Then I chopped up the turkey bacon and hucked that in as well.

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Because I was making the stuffing the day before, I put the vegetables in a bowl to cool and then covered them and put them in the fridge overnight.

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On the day of, put everything together. In a bowl, whisk together about 3 large eggs and some salt and pepper.

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Add to that about 1 litre (~4 cups) low sodium chicken or turkey broth. Give that a good stir.

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Dump your cornbread and your vegetable mix into a large baking dish or your slow cooker pot and stir them around. Pour the eggy broth over top and give it another stir to make sure it’s made it all the way through.

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So if you have space in your oven the day of, feel free to bake this (at about 350°F for an hour or so) to make sure that it’s all nice and crusty around the edges. If not, then pop it in the slow cooker in the morning and cook it on medium until you’re ready to eat. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s incredibly tasty.

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Baked (or not baked) Macaroni and Cheese: In the Woods

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This comfort meal is adapted from our own traditional recipe. It had to be downsized so as not to allow for leftovers (shocking, I know).

Start by boiling up a pot of salted water for your pasta. I figure 2 cups uncooked macaroni will do just fine.  Cook that according to the package directions and then drain.

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Continue by frying up some bacon or breakfast ham, a couple slices (the Pie has outlawed bacon in the house so ham will have to do).  Crumble or slice the cooked meat and set it aside. Chop up a large tomato as well and put that aside for now. These both went into the freezer for me. I also made sure to bring my trusty Tabasco:

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Assemble your sauce: in a saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon butter.

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Then mix in 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour. Slowly drizzle in 1 cup milk and stir until it starts to thicken.

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Then add in 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese, and stir until all the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Season to taste with Tabasco sauce and salt and pepper.

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Tip your sauce, meat, and tomato into the pasta and stir to coat.

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If it hadn’t been raining, we would have then shoved the whole thing into our Outback Oven and baked it for about 20 minutes until it was all crusty and bubbly. As it was raining and we were cold and damp, we just ate it in its squishy state and it was amazing.

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Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta

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I’ve gotten into the habit of occasionally buying those hot roasted chickens from the grocery store.  They’re just so darned cheap and handy, not to mention tasty.  Last weekend, the Pie was out of town, and sometimes I forget to actually eat when he’s not around, so I bought the chicken to give me some incentive.  One leg at one meal, one leg at another, and I was set.  But I still had the body of the chicken left to deal with.  I dismantled the remainder of the carcass, including the breasts, and whipped up this quick pasta dish to greet the Pie when he came home.  He went back for seconds so I think I did a good job.

So.  Chicken.  You’ll need about 2 cups shredded chicken.

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About 1 cup ranch dressing.

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An onion, some garlic, and a head of broccoli.  Chop those up.

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Cook 4 slices bacon.

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Make them super crispy and then put them somewhere to drain.

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Start your pot of boiling water to make your pasta.  You’ll need enough noodles for four.  I used linguini.

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Grab a pot and chuck in a few tablespoons olive oil.  Add in the onions and cook until translucent and smelling fabulous.

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Then add in the broccoli and garlic and stir that as well.

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Next, add in a few pinches dry mustard and pepper and paprika (you’ll see the paprika added in a later photo but that’s because I had to wait for the Pie to pick it up from the store on his way home).

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Pour in about 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup cream, and the 1 cup ranch dressing.

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Chuck in the chicken, then cut up the bacon and chuck that in as well.

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Stir that to heat things up.  You’re not really going to want to cook this for a long time.

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Then add in a few tablespoons pesto.  And some more cream if you want it thicker.

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Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.  Dump the sauce over top and toss to coat.  Serve immediately, although it’s equally fantastic the next day.

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Slow Cooker Dip Week: Spinach and Artichoke

For our annual potluck, the Pie and I decided to make three hot dips and have them with crackers and vegetables for people to snack on while they waited for the rest of the food our guests to arrive.  As with all slow cooker meals, the prep pictures look prettier than the final shots, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that they’re well worth eating — so worth eating, I’m giving each dip its own post this week.  Today we’re making SPINACH AND ARTICHOKE DIP WITH BACON.  This dip, adapted from a Better Homes & Gardens recipe, is easy and fantastically tasty, and we halved it to fit in our 1/4qt slow cooker.

First, cook up a couple slices of bacon.  Drain those on paper towels and crumble them when they’re cool.

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Dice up about 1/2 a sweet onion and a few green onions, and chuck them in the bacon skillet with a little bit of the bacon fat and sauté until the onions are soft and translucent.

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Chuck those in your 1.4qt slow cooker when they’re ready to go.

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Roughly chop up the contents of a 14oz can of artichoke hearts and huck those in, as well as about half a drained 10oz box frozen spinach.

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Chop up a sweet bell pepper finely and chuck that in.

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Crumble up about 2oz blue cheese and pitch that in too, as well as 4oz package plain cream cheese (that’s half a block package).

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Add in as well as much minced garlic as you like, and 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard and give the whole thing a good stir before covering and cooking, stirring occasionally, for about 2-3 hours, until everything is all melty and lovely.

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Stir in your crumbled bacon and you’re good to go.

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It’s the one on the right. Stay tuned for the middle dip on Friday!

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