slow cooker brussels sprouts

DH and I love brussels sprouts. I really love them. Ever since we went to LA years and years ago with his then-boss. She ordered a side of them but couldn't finish it and offered some to me. I decided to try them because they looked really good, and my love for them was born. That's also when I became interested in cioppino.

Anyway, the point is, they tend to be labor-intensive because they have to be trimmed and peeled. I don't know if this is common knowledge yet, because I only recently learned about it, and the woman at Costco who checked my receipt told me she had given up on brussels sprouts. I asked why, not wanting to assume, and she said they always turned out bitter. I asked if she peeled them first, and she said no, no one ever told her that. So I made the suggestion and happily wished her luck, hoping that another brussels sprouts lover would be born soon.

In light of my new Crock-Pot love and what seems like a heat wave, I decided to try the sprouts in the slow cooker. I looked at a few different recipes and decided against the ones that involved broth. Partly because it sounded soggy, and partly because I didn't like the idea of using my broth and then just dumping it down the drain. I thought I could drink it or make a sauce out of it after, but I wasn't sure how that would taste after cooking cruciferous veggies. So I chose this Slow Cooker Balsamic Brussels Sprouts recipe to try. These turned out just ok. I overcooked them by accident and my glaze turned out too sweet. I'll try to make them again, though, and watch it more carefully next time.

brazilian feijoada

I have been looking for recipes to make for dinner with my slow cooker, and went straight to Mel's Kitchen Cafe. The slow cooker section has quite a few options, including the Slow Cooker Turkey with No Fuss Gravy that I made - wow! - two years ago, and which I will soon be revisiting.

This turned out pretty good. I left it on too long though. Oh well.

Anyway, I picked out this Brazilian Faijoada because I have a bunch of pork butt from my last Costco run, and because I love beans. The recipe seemed simple enough, though I do not generally prefer the multi-step, brown it first slow cooker recipes. For this particular recipe, I only used pork butt, no beef ribs. I also used some of my homemade pork broth instead of chicken broth. I used the specific batch of broth that I didn't want to drink straight. Also, the chicken broth I made last weekend ended up being left out over night, so I had to toss it T_T

I feel really good being back in the kitchen. I don't know why, but something about the Plated and Blue Apron services just put me off. I ended up refusing to cook those meals, and DH had to do all the work. They were tasty enough I suppose, but something about it just didn't appeal to me. I wonder if it's some kind of control issue of not being able to choose exactly what I get to make and eat. I think another part is that, despite what a challenge it can be, finding new recipes to try is actually pretty fun for me.

It's really funny because I have gone through several iterations of the slow cooker, each time attempting to make it my primary cooking device. I just adore the idea of the slow cooker. Throw everything in a pot and a great meal is ready in a few hours without heating up the apartment (in the summer) or having to stand over it? Yes please.

I think this time might be the winner for a couple reasons. First, my other slow cookers were basic models, so I had trouble with timing and food drying out. Often I would be gone for work for 10 hours a day, but the food would be done after only 8 hours. The basic models would just continue to cook until they were manually switched to warm. This model has a timer, so it will switch to warm after whatever time is set. This won't 100% prevent drying out, but it will help. I will also choose recipes better suited for being left in the cooker for longer periods.

Second, I could never get the right size. My first slow cooker was 6 quarts, which meant I had to make a lot of food in order for it to work properly. That meant if I didn't like it, I was either stuck eating it for a while, or I had to throw a lot of food away. My most recent slow cooker was 4 quarts, which was fine most of the time, but sometimes I would struggle to fit a recipe into it and it would end up overflowing. Obviously that's user error, but it was a problem because sometimes I wanted to make the larger recipes and sometimes I only needed the smaller size.

This Crock-Pot is perfect because I have both the sizes I would need for pretty much any recipe (that I would choose for the two of us). I'm not sure I'll ever use the split crock, but I like having it just in case. It would be great for dips for a party, but we don't host very often. I suppose it would also be good for fondue.

omg pancakes

DH and I made breakfast together this morning. I made the pancakes, and he made the bacon and eggs. These Almond Flour Pancakes from The Nourishing Home are amazing.

I didn't follow the mixing directions. I just mixed the wet ingredients, added the dry ingredients, and it was totally fine. Not sure why they were making it so complicated. At first, I made the mistake of making them too big, but once I figure that out and made them smaller, they turned out great. Definitely will be making them again!

This actually came up because my reflux is still present - much improved, but still present. I decided to go with Chris Kesser/Craig Fear's method for real. That means no grains for 2 weeks, at least. Maybe a month, if necessary. Of course as soon as I decided this, I had a craving for french toast, pancakes, and all manner of grain. I was originally going to try coconut flour pancakes, but DH pointed out that coconuts have a lot of carb/sugar content still, and suggested almond flour instead. I'm so glad he did, but it is definitely not cheap. We will be trying almond flour in more foods for sure, and I'll be looking for a bulk source.

small gift for new mom
Yesterday I made this gift for my sister-in-law (DH's brother's wife), who just gave birth to their first child yesterday morning. To be honest, DH and I have spent a lot of money buying them gifts for the baby and for their wedding, so I didn't want to spend too much on this stuff. Just wanted something nice that she could have for herself to give her when we visit her in the hospital later today.

Since I'm not a mom, I asked a few people what a new mom would want for herself, not the baby. I didn't get much information since you don't need much while in the hospital, so I sort of just came up with stuff on my own. I included some nice nipple butter, a bar of good milk chocolate, Burt's Bees Lip Balm, and coconut oil, which is supposed to be good for your skin. I also included a couple maxi pads since she will probably need those also. I have never had that brand of chocolate, and I'm not a fan of milk chocolate anymore, so I hope that is tasty.

I bought a bottle of talc-free baby powder, but it wouldn't fit in the jar with the other stuff, so I decided to just use it myself. The jar itself is from the box that I'd bought for my broth last weekend, which came with a dozen. I only dishwashered 6 of them to be ready for broth storage, figuring I could use the other for crafts and, well, stuff like this. DH used one for the cigars that he bought for his brother. This worked out so well!

I really had no idea what I was doing with this one and I thought I had very limited time, so I hope she likes it.


I double-booked the Crock-Pot today. I had some broth simmering in the 6 quart pot since about 6pm last night, and today I was planning to make these Slow Cooked Cuban Sandwich. So I just heated up the oven and put the broth in there with the crock covered in foil. The broth lost a lot of liquid in the oven though, so I took it out a couple hours early and vowed not to do that again.

I cut the pork butt in 4 pieces because it was still a little frozen inside. Despite that, the pork cooked up beautifully in the allotted 6 hours in the 4 quart pot. I'm glad I decided to do this on a weekend so I was able to flip it halfway through and stop it after 6 hours. Cubanos are a crazy amount of work. I cooked the pork in the slow cooker, we pickled the red onions, and because we only had pickle spears, we also had to slice those. Then DH assembled the sandwiches and did the pressing and grilling. Very involved process, but SO good!

I'm looking for other recipes I want to try in the slow cooker, specifically a good chili recipe because DH specifically requested some. I haven't found one yet, but I did find a very handy dried bean conversion, since I'd really like to use less canned (and less processed foods in general) goods from now on. The bottom line is that 3/4 cup of dried beans = 1 can of beans.

new crock-pot

My new Crock-Pot came! I was interested to see how the multiple sizes could possibly work in the same base. It turns out the other sizes are just more shallow, but that does mean it has a bigger footprint to allow for the largest size. The plan is to have the Crock-Pot as a permanent installation in my kitchen, whether for broth or for dinner, so I looked for a spot that made sense. The spot on the breakfast counter isn't ideal because it's really high and I'm short, but I think it will work.

The Crock-Pot itself is easy to use and solidly built like the others I've had of this brand. The base is pretty light, but the stoneware is very heavy, especially when all 3 are stacked together. I will have to be careful that I don't injure my wrists when lifting them.

I wanted to make chicken broth this weekend, but I decided that I need to use up everything that's in our fridge and freezer first, so we don't waste anything. So I threw in the rest of the bones from last weekend and hope they are still good. I figure they will simmer for 24 hours, so it should be fine. Oh - that's one of two complaints I have so far. The first is that the timer only goes up to 20 hours. The second is that the slow cooker has a terrible smell when I first turned it on. It seems to be dissipating now, almost an hour later. I've got all the windows open and a fan on to help circulate the air and get the smell out. One of the reviews mentioned this, so I'm hoping it will go away. I think it is also not the first time I've had this smell happen with a slow cooker.

I also found a case of a dozen wide mouth quart Ball jars at Target. I'm so glad I decided to wait to buy them instead of buying on Amazon because they were almost half the cost at Target. I got the jars so I could store and freeze my broth. I'd like to always have some broth on hand to use in recipes, because a lot of slow cooker recipes need broth of some kind. Now that I know how easy, inexpensive and beneficial making broth at home is, I can't possibly bring myself to use the pre-made kind.

Though I was planning to use the slow cooker mostly for making my bone broths, I've found quite a few slow cooker recipes I'm going to try when a broth isn't stewing. I'm really excited to be back in the kitchen, especially after thinking I didn't like cooking anymore.


pork bone broth

I was back in the kitchen today for the first time in a long time. Even though I had to clean the kitchen, cook, and then clean again, it felt really good. I made dinner for the week (slow cooker kalua pork with mac salad and broccoli), and finished up the pork broth I started yesterday. Hunting down the bones for my broth took a while. I visited/called 3 different grocery stores before I realize I was barking up the wrong tree. I called a couple real butcher shops, and they both had the bones I wanted. I'm fortunate to have butcher shops close by that offer local, sustainably and humanely raised meat, and I'm really glad to support them. You know, the whole know-your-farmer thing.

The 4 pounds of bones I bought cost about $19. But when I got home, I realized that my slow cooker is too small to cook that large of a batch, so I split them up. Half of the bones made 2 quarts of broth, which is great but doesn't seem efficient. So I decided I needed a bigger slow cooker. The problem was, I specifically chose the smaller size so that I wouldn't have to make large amounts of stew (or chili or whatever) for just the two of us.

So I went looking for a new slow cooker, trying to decide what to do about the size issue when I stumbled upon the Crock-Pot® Choose-A-Crock Programmable Slow Cooker! It comes with 3 different sizes, and it's perfect! The stoneware nests, so I only need to have space for the one machine. But I could not find this particular machine at any other retailer except a third party Amazon seller, who had the list price marked up $40 more. Weird, right? I couldn't even find this model on the official Crock Pot site. I thought it was strange, because even if a model is older, it appears on Amazon.

It had 30 reviews, all 4 and 5 stars, but it seems like most of the reviews were by people who were given a free sample of the product and who owned it for only a short amount of time, so we'll see how it works. I'm cautiously optimistic. The slow cooker I use now is a Crock-Pot brand, which is a good brand, so I think it will be fine. It's definitely the most expensive slow cooker I've ever had, though.

Anyway, I signed up for Bed, Bath & Beyond's mobile offers and got a 20% off coupon online (rare for BB&B). I had to wait 25 hours for the coupon to arrive, and it took forever for me to figure out why the coupon would not show up in my account (my phone number in the account address book didn't match the number that the coupon was sent to). The entire process was aggravating, including a chat with a not super nice customer service person, but I finally got it ordered today.

Hopefully it won't take too long to arrive. I'm looking forward to receiving it so I can test it out with another batch of broth.

another resource
It's been a long time since I've written. Since I wrote last, I've been pretty religious about taking my apple cider vinegar every morning and night, though I have eased up on it a bit lately. The last few weeks have been such an interesting journey with my body. I've been nursing myself back to health, and I've seen excellent results. It does take time, but with the right food, and a little bit of patience, I've been doing great.

My major changes were adding the following to my diet:
- Bone broth
- Yogurt
- Kombucha/other probiotic drinks
- Apple cider vinegar (drink 1 tablespoon in a glass of water before breakfast and dinner)

I also restarted fruit and spinach smoothies in the morning, which is often where I add the yogurt and the apple cider vingar. It's so efficient.

I was going to Whole Foods for Bonafide Provisions bone broth, which is really tasty. I'm not a coffee drinker and don't drink tea much, so I'm not accustomed to having a warm beverage in the morning. But I must admit, I really like it. I heat it up on the stove because the instructions specifically say not to microwave, then I dump it in a thermos and take it to work. My only complaint is that it has a weird aftertaste that I don't like. But I enjoy having the broth at work as part of my morning routine, and it helps keep me warm in the wee hours of the morning. But twice in a row, I went to WF to get my broth, and they were sold out.

I had already been considering making my own because it's probably more economical and should theoretically be pretty easy with a slow cooker. So I did some googling and stumbled upon Craig Fear's site (which is in desperate need of a redesign). He talks a lot about the same stuff as Chris Kesser, so I ended up buying his book, The 30 Day Heartburn Solution: A 3-Step Nutrition Program to Stop Acid Reflux Without Drugs. I was interested in the process and in the recipes.

The good news is that he and Mr Kesser agree on causes and treatments for reflux. The bad news is, I bought this book and didn't learn much of anything new lol! I suspected that might be the case, but I bought the Kindle version for cheaper and don't mind supporting him. And actually, he does talk in more detail about what foods to eat rather than what foods to avoid, like traditional doctors do. He goes into some detail about how modern diets are destroying our GIs and that our focus should be on whole foods rather than on processed foods, fad diets or following studies that are later disproven. This was all confirming stuff I already suspected, but I appreciated that confirmation, especially that fats from animals are ok (I often cook in bacon fat) and fake or highly processed fats (fake butter) should be avoided.

Anyway the point is, I've always known that whole foods are important, but this entire experience has given me the kick in the pants that I needed to really make this change. I do make exceptions to his rules, like I still eat some bread and pasta, but I'm aiming to eat them less often as before.

acid reflux cure
Last January, when I switched birth control to an IUD, I started getting acid reflux. It was on and off, but I'd never had it before. It got so severe that my throat was often sore. I went to several doctors for it, but they all said the same thing. I was convinced that the Mirena was causing my acid reflux, so in October, I had the IUD removed. The gyno who did this was the only one (of the many doctors and nurse practitioners that I saw) who agreed with my reasoning and said she supported the process to remove any variables to discover the cause. The acid reflux cleared pretty much overnight.

I was so happy! I could eat normally, and we went on our trip to NOLA without any issues.

Then, the first weekend of this March, I was hit with acid reflux again. It had returned with a vengeance and was a constant every single day. My throat was always sore. One day my throat was so damaged by the acid that I could hardly breathe, even with my PAP machine. I've had to sleep on the couch propped up for weeks because I can't lie down. I cut out all common triggers, began exercising regularly, ate dinner well before bedtime, and nothing helped. The problem was, I had reflux every single day, constantly, no matter what I ate. I couldn't identify my personal triggers because the reflux was always present. I again went to several different doctors. I had one doctor claimed that because I am still young, probably my friends don't have it yet, but it's just something we deal with. She actually said to me, "Heart burn is just a fact of life." As soon as she said this, I decided to switch doctors. Not only was she not hearing me, but she wanted me to just live with this problem that can, if not addressed, lead to ulcers and esophageal cancer? Nope.

I went to numerous other doctors, including a licensed acupuncturist, and they all said the same things: avoid triggers, take TUMS and prescribed some acid reducers. Throughout this whole process, something in the back of my mind kept saying, This isn't the answer. This isn't the answer. The acid reducers didn't make any sense. Our stomachs are supposed to be acidic, and without the acid, our bodies aren't functioning properly. There was some other reason, and although I didn't know what it was, I knew it was true.

Just by happenstance, I mentioned the reflux to someone that my ex-boss had introduced me to. We had only met once, but we friended each other on Facebook, and then we both started playing Nintendo's first mobile app, Miitomo. My reflux somehow came up in conversation in the game, and he mentioned that his brother had suffered from acid reflux for quite some time and had seemed to cure himself using HCl. I was skeptical, but after over 6 weeks of daily reflux, I was open to anything.

Tonight, he shared Chris Kesser's work with me, and I was blown away. I read all about how acid reflux is actually caused by low acid production rather than excess. That thing in the back of my mind that kept saying pills weren't the answer said, Yes! This is what I've been looking for.

I made changes he suggested immediately, and I'm pretty hopeful. Tonight will be the last time I take omeprazole, and tonight is also my first dose of apple cider vinegar. I'll report back with results.

the sugar struggle
Over the past week and a half, starting on December 14, I have been cutting down on added sugar. The goal has been to eat 25g or less per day. For someone who normally has at least one soda (usually Clementine Izze), a bunch of chocolate and other sugary snacks or drinks, this seemed like a tall order. But I had reached that point where I looked at myself and decided that what I was doing was not acceptable. I was clearly addicted to sugar, and I finally decided I was not ok with that.

The first week was difficult. My work was scheduled to have a cookie exchange for the holidays, and before my decision, I had been really excited to participate. When I told my coworkers Monday that I would not participate, I was met with resistance and non-understanding. I was surprised by this because my boss, just 5 months ago, had quit sugar herself using the same guideline (25g/day). In fact, that's where I got the idea to allow myself 25 grams a day. First she suggested that I wait until the new year. If I'm going to set a goal, I don't need a new year to do it, and I don't want to procrastinate positive changes. She lashed out, saying that I should throw away all my chocolate, because if I didn't, I would fail, and if I was going to eat all the chocolate I had hoarded, a plate of cookies wouldn't make much of a difference, etc, etc. We got into a bit of a tiff. She apologized almost immediately, saying that she was disappointed that I wasn't participating and that she reacted badly. I told her it was ok, but I still didn't understand why she had this reaction when she literally had done the same exact thing 5 months ago. My theory is that she felt bad that she had fallen off the wagon herself and was mad that I was doing what she could not.

Because of that, I began thinking that this was the worst time to cut sugar. It's the holiday season, so everyone will be eating sugary desserts and drinks and snacks and having a grand ol' time. But then I realized that that is exactly why this is the best time to quit. Maybe not the easiest, but definitely the best time. This is when excess sugar is in even MORE excess.

That first week was difficult. I was moody, irritable, tired. Basically my body proved to me that I really was addicted - and that I was making the right decision. But I did great. I did not have any of my usual after-meal chocolates. I did have soda and dessert on Friday, and a hot chocolate (50g!) Sunday, but that was it. It sounds like a lot for someone trying to cut down on sugar, but trust me, that was a huge improvement.

Last Wednesday was DH's birthday, but I did not have any cupcakes. I had a couple alcoholic beverages throughout this week and a half. I also had half a soda Tuesday (~35g) and a cookie. I still eat bread for sandwiches, too, though I don't know how much sugar is in bread. It's probably within my limit, especially if I don't eat other sugars that day.

For the most part, I have stuck within that 25g limitation. What I mentioned above was everything that I had that was over the limit, and after the weekend was over, I did well. I feel really great about this decision, and if I were still working out regularly, I bet I would lose weight a lot easier.

The crazy thing is, I thought that cutting down my sugar would be difficult. I thought I would have to fight temptation all the time, but I don't. Not even with chocolate at home and at work. I was so ready to do this, and what's more amazing is that I seem to be able to indulge a little one day and go back to normal the next. I've never been able to do that before, so it is pretty great.

Since today is Christmas Eve and tomorrow is Christmas, I will probably indulge a bit, but nowhere near what I would have eaten before cutting down my sugar. And it's nice to know that I can have a little here or there and be ok with that. I also discovered I could have Susan Cookies and be within the limit, since I just melt dark chocolate and butter for the topping. According to the nutrition facts, a serving size of the chocolate I use is 5 pieces, which is 19g of sugar (and a whopping 210 calories). So I could have one or two cookies and be fine.

This 25g/day guideline is something I hope to continue. The amount of sugar I used to consume is a little staggering, and I'm glad to be making positive change.


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