I am having a little bit of a love affair with my slow cooker this Winter. I set it in the morning, work on my book manuscript, do the household chores, spend time with my little boy around his kinder hours. Between kinder and school pick ups, play dates, regular sport and after school activities there is not much time left except for the very late hours of the evening. Once the slow cooker is set to cook there is no need to worry about dinner, it is done without the need to barely lift a finger (off the keyboard or the car steering wheel!).
I have previously used pomegranate molasses in a lamb shank recipe but I love this recipe much more. This one is more refined. The pomegranate molasses adds a depth of flavor to what is essentially a Winter beef casserole.
Between my slow cooker and my parents, who have made regular visits this year to help me with the kids, I have been able to clock up alot of extra work hours. My parents visited last week and my mum arrived with an esky full of meals for the freezer and baked goods for the kids lunch boxes. This is a big deal for our little family as we have no one close by to help out with the kids. When my parents visit they travel a long distance to come and help out. Over the past month we have also had a visit from Mr Fresh’s parents from overseas which was also a huge help as I got to spend time working while they took care of the family routine and activities. The blocks of time that both sets of parents have given us this year are extraordinarily valuable to me and also to the kids who adore spending time with their grandparents. My little boy wanted to go home with my parents after this recent visit! Don’t let that raise alarm bells, everything is fine I assure you!!! Rather than be concerned I am thrilled and very grateful that he has such a strong connection with them and is able to spend valuable time with them building family memories. I was fortunate to be able to spend alot of time with my grandparents as a child. I was able to ride my bike to either of their houses to visit anytime I wanted to, and I did constantly. I treasure those memories and am so grateful that my children get to spend quality time with their grandparents. These are days that my children will always remember.
I am not a fan of Winter weather and am very much looking forward to the return of the sun and warmth. While that brings the benefits of being able to quickly throw together a salad for dinner it will mean the end of my “set and forget” dinners that have been a fixture on our Winter family menu this year, when we are not enjoying mum’s bounty of cooked meals that she has left for us.
A "set and forget" family meal that cooks while you go about doing the things you need to do. Pomegranate provide a glorious twist and depth of flavour to what is otherwise essentially a Winter beef casserole.
Author: Kyrstie Barcak - A Fresh Legacy
Recipe type: Main
1 tablespoon coconut oil
3 cloves garlic - finely chopped
1 leek - finely chopped
1 teaspoon sumac
1 teaspoon cumin
½ tablespoon pomegranate molasses
500 grams diced beef
2 cups cubed sweet potato (approximately ½ sweet potato)
½ cup vegetable stock
300 grams mushrooms - halved
handful of fresh kale leaves - stems removed (or spinach)
fresh parsley or coriander to serve
Add the oil to a pan to heat and then add the garlic and leek.
Cook over a gently heat until softened
Add the sumac and cumin and pomegranate and stir
Add the meat and stir to coat and seal
Add the sweet potato and stock
Return pan to slow cooker unit and turn on to cook on high for 4 hours
Add the kale and mushrooms and continue to cook for 1 hour
Serve with fresh herbs, cous cous and other vegetables on the side if desired.
I have created a list below of some of our favorite slow cooker meals that we have been enjoying this Winter. I have a feeling that the chill of this Winter will keep these things on the menu for a little while to come.
These are some of my family’s favorite Slow Cooker meals for Winter:
My parents have been visiting this week and they arrived with a huge box of oranges and mandarins from a friends house plus avocados. The mandarins are divinely sweet and the kids have been eating so many of them that they both developed a reaction around their lips. With so many to use the obvious thing to make was a batch of marmalade. That also meant that I could send some back to the lovely people who gifted them to us. I had not yet experimented with using chia as a sugar replacement in jam or marmalade so decided to give it a try alongside a regular batch and compare the two.
Chia vs Sugar Marmalade
Do you want to know the verdict?
Chia Seed Marmalade
The chia seed version was very quick and easy to make. The chia seeds act as the gelling agent and thicken the mixture, although in the case of marmalade there is not too much to thicken if you are include all of the peel. I know that some people remove most of it but I tend to just leave it in. I loved that the flavour of this marmalade was not too tart. It is a smooth tasting marmalade, quite lovely and gentle but it does have a grainy texture that comes from the chia seeds. It certainly doesn’t look like regular marmalade but if you can get over that the flavor is lovely. Based on what I have read about using chia seeds in jams it will last stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or may be frozen for a longer shelf life.
The regular sugar based version of this marmalade was divine. It was not tart and the aftertaste was not too sweet. This can probably be attributed to the sweet home grown mandarins. The marmalade took longer to make than the chia seed version as you need to wait until the liquid reaches setting point of 222F. The result was a marmalade the glorious color of liquid gold. Simply looking at this marmalade on a cold winter morning is almost enough to warm you through. It will last a few months when stored in a cool dark location.
I am not sure I can decide which I like the most. If I had to choose I think I would go with the regular version. I love the chia seed version for it’s simplicity and fresh flavor and the regular version for it’s gorgeous well rounded flavor and texture. If you are seeking to reduce your intake of refined sugar give the chia one a try.
*Any food that is kept in storage for a period of time must be checked for signs of spoilage prior to eating, ensure that it is discarded if there are any signs of spoilage or if you are unsure of the storage duration.
Have you attempted using chia seeds to make marmalade? If so what were your thoughts?