When our oven went out several months ago, we decided that we would hold off on repairing/replacing it for the moment and just "do without" for a while. We were headed into the heat of summer (when we don't use the oven anyway in our un-airconditioned kitchen), and we're in a state of decision-making at the moment as to our future plans for this house (putting any serious financial outlays on hold for the time being). Besides...with a stove, an electric skillet, two crock pots, an electric roaster, a microwave, a toaster oven (provided by a friend :)), a bread machine (which I haven't used in a while but plan to pull out soon), and a "Kitchen Kettle multi-cooker/steamer/deep fryer", who is really going to miss an oven?
Well, I do miss the oven, just a bit. Although we *have* finally figured out a way to cook frozen pizzas (oddly enough, one of the things that my children miss most about not having an oven...go figure...:)), and we've learned that you can, in a pinch, bake cookies in a toaster oven, I miss being able to throw a casserole in a Pyrex an hour before supper or pop a batch of muffins in the oven for breakfast.
However, for the most part, it's been fine. We're trying new recipes and getting more creative in the kitchen, which is always a good thing. And we are learning that there are lots of alternatives to cooking in the oven.
We've tried a few new things already, and I have a file full of ideas ready to try. In the interest of motivating myself to actually turn those ideas into food on the table, I've decided that I am going to start a new feature here on the blog..."Oven-Free Fridays". I'll be chronicling some of our successes (and probably a few failures along the way) in oven-free cooking. I'm even considering trying my hand at creating a nifty little "Oven-Free Fridays" button. :)
And for "Oven Free Fridays" debut recipe..."Hit it Out of the Park Chicken". My crock pot has always been a trusty friend in the kitchen, but it is getting even more of a workout these days. I've been scouring on-line crock pot sites for ideas and come up with a list I want to try. I'm hoping to attempt crock pot banana bread today (I'm skeptical, but an urgent early-fall craving for banana bread is convincing me to give it a try), and I plan to try out crock pot brownies later in the week.
Tuesday, though, my crock pot project was totally spur of the moment. Rather than poring through the file of recipes I have saved, I was sneaking a quick peek at Pinterest in between activities, and I happened upon this recipe. I realized that I had all the ingredients, I hadn't planned supper yet, and I needed a quick, easy meal because I needed to get out the door right after supper.
So...I tossed the cream cheese, cream of chicken soup, Italian dressing mix, and frozen chicken breasts in the crock pot and set it to high. I didn't even stir the sauce ingredients up in advance like the recipe suggests. (I did stir them well after it had cooked for a bit, though.)
YUM. The original recipe calls this "crock pot chicken and rice". We've decided to rename it "Hit it Out of the Park Chicken", because it was definitely a home run at our house (and I have too many "chicken and rice" recipes already. :)) Even one of my very picky children, who had originally said, "I don't want any of that chicken stuff, Mom...I'm not eating that," came back later (after I insisted on a thankful bite :)), and said rather meekly, "You were right, Mom, that chicken stuff is really good!"
I LOVE super-easy crock pot recipes that end up being just impossibly better than the sum of their simple ingredients. Saloon beef is one of our favorites that fits those criteria...it just doesn't seem possible that something that easy can be so amazingly good. This recipe is another of those. When I threw it in the crock pot, I was just hoping for simple and edible busy day food. It turned out to be fabulous! It's rare that all six members of our family really love something...but everyone raved about this one. I'm looking forward to making it often this winter...definitely comfort food at it's best.
The original recipe can be found here. Here's what I ended up doing:
Hit it Out of the Park Chicken
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 package Italian dressing mix
5 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Other than thawing the chicken breasts a bit in the microwave because I realized I was pressed for time to get them fully cooked before I had to be out the door that evening, I just dumped it all in the crock pot and turned it on high. About 30 minutes later, I stirred the sauce ingredients together. It cooked on high about 4.5 hours, I think...until the chicken was done/tender. I shredded the chicken (in a very coarse shred, because I was running late )), and served with rice. The original recipe said to mix it with the cooked rice, but with my bunch, I decided it was safer to serve it on the side. :) It would also have been really good over noodles.
I'd love to hear your favorite "oven-free" recipes...just leave me a comment with a link or recipe!
(Joining up with Ann Kroeker today for Food on Fridays...be sure to check out the rest of her blog while you're there!)