Misc Mex Meat Goop: A Slow-Cooker Recipe 

I make no bones about wanting crock pot recipes to be easy. I want them to save time – not just shift time around. I’m not getting up at 3:30 am to dice peppers and pre-cook onions. That’s laundry or writing time (and sometimes even sleep time)!

Short of dumping a single, whole chicken in a crock pot, I want something easy and hopefully nutritious and flavorful. (Humm, maybe I should try dumping a single, whole chicken in a crock pot.)

Cooked and yummy  is our preference, but I can be a little flexible on week nights. I consider it success if we’ve all eaten a sufficient amount of nutritious stuff without too much bad stuff. There’s wiggle room. I definitely like it best when food is so yummy we all want seconds. That’s usually what we have with Misc Mex Meat Goop.

We love taco night at home, but cooking the meat, dicing, chopping fixin’s can take a long time.  Misc Mex Meat Goop makes it much more do-able on a weeknight since I can throw the meat goop together in the morning, and  it’s mostly ready to go when I get home. Likewise I can buy pre-shredded lettuce and cheese or cut a few veggies ahead of time. Also, I make enough for leftovers so we have several meals. If you have a big family you might want to double the recipe. (There’s only three of us.)

Misc Mex Meat Goop Ingredients

3-4 lbs boneless chicken* breasts and / or thighs or beef or pork (left whole or cut in half if really large, frozen or fresh is fine) 

1 can enchilada sauce – red or green or make your own or use canned tomatoes with chili peppers or about a Cup of fresh diced tomatoes 

3 packets taco seasoning mix (or equivalent bulk or homemade seasonings) 

2 tablespoons olive or coconut oil (optional) 

2 bell peppers cut in very large, wide slices (no need to dice). I like red or mix red & green. 

1 onion, cut in large slices 

1/2 cup whole baby carrots (optional) 

3 cloves of garlic, pealed and cut up a little 

1 jalapeño pepper cut in large chunks  (if you like some heat – leave out for mild). 

1 cup corn (fresh or frozen) or 1 can drained (optional)

1 can black beans (or pinto beans) drained (optional)

Put everything in an appropriately-sized slow cooker EXCEPT the corn, the beans, and HALF of the taco seasoning mix. You can just dump it all in and toss a little to coat and mix. I usually haphazardly layer the ingredients – a few slices of pepper and onion on the bottom, then pieces of chicken, then some more pepper and onion slices, then more chicken, seasoning, etc. Until it’s all in the pot and I pour the enchilada sauce over it all. But you can put it all in at once. Seriously, this does not and should not take long. 

Cook
Put the lid on. Turn slow cooker to Low and leave it for 6 to 10 hours.  

If you have a slow cooker that has a timer that can be set to change from Cook (Low or High) to Warm, then set it to Low for about 6 hours and it can stay on Warm until you’re ready to eat. Otherwise you can let it cook on Low for up to 10 hours.  (Note that some cookers get hotter so keep that in mind. Add more liquid like enchilada sauce or a little water if you have a cooker that runs hot.) I like the chicken texture better at 6 hours. When food is done cooking,  I drain off most of the extra liquid (if there is any) and reserve it for soup stock at a later date. 

Shred
Take two forks and pull apart the chicken (or other meat) to shred it like pulled pork. It should be very tender, pull apart easily, and go quickly. Remove any large chunks of fat. The large chunks of veggies will break up as you go. This makes smaller chunks so you don’t need to dice anything before cooking. We’re fine with some small chunks and some larger – it’s rustic. About halfway through shredding I add the last half of the taco seasoning. The meat is still hot so the seasoning packet will cook as you go. I don’t add half at the beginning because if you end up with a lot of liquid that you need to drain off, then you’ll be draining off a lot of seasoning and end up with a bland meat mixture.

Mix
Then add 1 cup or 1 can of drained corn and 1 can of drained beans. Again, the meat goop should be hot enough to warm the corn and beans. I like corn to taste like corn and beans to be a little firm, so adding these at the end works well for us. Stir.

Serve
If you like, you can leave the goop in a crock pot set to Warm while you eat your first helping. It will be warm and handy for seconds.

We eat this in tortillas as filling for burritos or enchiladas, in taco shells with toppings, or spoon over corn chips for a great start to taco salad. Add lettuce, tomatoes,  avocado, cheese, salsa, black olives, etc for toppings. 

Eat leftovers the same way. Warm in a pot on the stove or in the microwave.

When and if you have only one or two helpings of Meat Goop left you can add it back to that extra liquid for a yummy Tortilla soup.        

 

*For this recipe I use large boneless chicken breasts and thighs. Larger breasts usually come from older chickens and that means meat that is less tender. That is OK — good even. Perfect for slow cooking. And I can often find these for a lower price. Slow cooking makes them pull apart tender, so I put the breast and thighs in whole (or cut in half). You can sub a cheap cut of beef or pork for the chicken or even mix ’em if you like. Check out more notes on Slow Cookers or Crock Pots here.    

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“Time-Saving” Food

After blogging about time-saving “food” here’s my take on the flip side – “time-saving” food.

Last year I broke down and joined the legions of cooks and moms who own and use a slow cooker. Since then I’ve discovered a new pet peeve. I hate to see recipes for slow cookers that label themselves, “time-savers,” but in reality are far from.

Time-saving recipes need to save time. Just because food is cooked in a slow cooker and could be ready when I get home doesn’t mean it saved time. If I had to get up at 3:00 in the morning to prep the food then I will probably be too tired to eat it when I get home. Zero time saved. Or if a recipe calls for only 4 or 5 hours of cook time, then it is not a weekday recipe that will save time. I’m not going home on my lunch hour to make dinner!

I want recipes like this:
1.) put raw food in Crock Pot
2.) cook on low for 9-10 hours
3.) enjoy!

But there are recipes aplenty that require lots of prep like chopping, layering, and cooking the food before it goes into the pot. Why would I want to pre-cook anything before I put it in a COOKER? Except maybe double-cooked pork, but that’s … Oh you know what I mean.

I get that browning adds flavor, but I wonder how much of that flavor really holds up when food is cooked in a slow cooker all day. I’ll try a comparison some time. Even if it does enhance the taste, is it worth it on a regular basis?

To save time you can start with food that’s already totally cooked like rotisserie chicken. If you shop around you can find rotisserie chicken that don’t cost much more than buying a raw chicken. These can be a huge time-saver! But you can’t feed your family only rotisserie chickens, and you’ll want to watch salt and other flavorings that might be added to store-bought rotisserie chicken. For that matter, you can slow cook your own chicken in a crock pot. Save the bones from either, put them in a slow cooker all day, strain and you’ll have a great (not too hard) chicken stock. This is one if the times home-cooked makes a big difference in taste. Freeze or refrigerate and you can use it to make lots of easy soups.

There are time-saving ways to cook food out there! But not all slow-cooker recipes are created equal.

When Taste of Home shared this recipe for Slow Cooker Enchiladas on Facebook it was the perfect example of a not-so-time-saving recipe. There was a lot of good and bad feedback:

Slow-cooker Enchiladas

Yes, it looks totally delish! And I would love to try it. But it has everything that bugs me about a “time-saving” slow-cooker recipe — ingredients that must be chopped and pre-cooked twice before the goop is then layered multiple times with tortillas in a slow cooker and left to cook for only 5-7 hours. What part of that is supposed to help with a busy schedule?

I wouldn’t be so bothered if it just advertised itself as a tasty recipe and left it at that. I will make time for increased yum factor on a weekend, some weekends anyway. (And I still take issue with pre-cooking food before I put it in a Crock Pot.) But the cook describes herself as a “busy wife and mother” and says this is a handy recipe. The implied saving of time – that’s kind of where it lost me.

Because in the amount of time it would take me to prepare and cook these enchiladas I could have prepared and cooked an entire Thanksgiving turkey! With stuffing! And cranberry sauce. Not all from scratch, mind you, but it would be yummy food.

The slow-cooker enchilada recipe apparently allows the author to cook dinner after lunchtime and keep it warm until the entire family is home for dinner. I’m sure it works well for people who are home after lunch and can chop, cook, re-cook, layer, and turn on a crock pot for dinner.

But what about people who can’t do that? I don’t think those tortillas will stand up to 10 hours in a slow cooker. I tried that with pasta once. It was delicious-smelling paste!

Once you cook everything as the recipe suggests, I’m worried that the tortillas will get mushy even at 5-7 hours. Maybe refrigerate the cooked goop then spoon it out and reheat in an oven, toaster oven, or microwave when you get home? You could even eat it another day. Reheating it in an oven or toaster oven could even give the tortillas brown, crispy edges and it’s probably less than 20 mins to the table once you get home. Still too much work?

With the slow-cooker in mind, the recipe is basically salvageable with a few busy-mom hacks:

1) Dump raw meat into slow cooker along with seasonings and canned foodstuffs.
2) Cook on low for 8-10 hours.
3) Warm tortillas in toaster oven or a hot pan. Or not. Or use corn chips or crispy tostadas.
4) Spoon goop over tortillas (or chips or tostadas) and top with cheese. ENJOY!

If you sub corn chips for the tortillas, you probably can’t call these enchiladas anymore. So top with some lettuce and tomatoes for a delish taco salad.

If you’re worried about how much fat may be in the dish when you can’t drain the meat ahead, then start with a very low-fat meat. OR skim the fat after everything is cooked. It floats to the top. Cook with free-range, grass-fed beef, and you’ll want to eat a lot of that healthy fat anyway.

I’m going to suggest yet another variation on this, and later I’ll post a simple Slow-Cooker recipe for Misc Mex Meat Goop. Cook it in a slow cooker and eat it how you like — in soft flour tortillas for burritos, over corn chips, in taco shells, or rolled into enchiladas and topped with a quick sauce. Real time-saving food!