January 13, 2014

There's nothing that smells like home more than a roast that's simmering in its own juices. Usually a roast is something that's reserved for company or a Sunday dinner with your family, but as long as you plan ahead, you can have roast any day of week.

Typically I plan to have roast during the week when I know I will be pressed for time. I love walking in the house after a good workout at the gym and dinner is ready in the crock pot. All I have to do is add a side salad and bread and dinner is done.

I also like to prepare roasts because leftovers are guaranteed. I try to plan dinners that I know will make enough for more than one meal and maybe even a lunch or two to take to work.

Slow Cooker Pork Roast

My husband, Danny, has asked me before why I don't make pork roasts very often. I explained to him that after work I just don't have enough time to cook one in the oven.

Recently I picked up a pork roast at the store and decided to prepare it in almost the same way I prepare a super simple beef roast. It was a weekend day so I had plenty of time to peel the potatoes and brown the roast, two steps I often skip during the week. I also added apple juice, something a mother of two boys usually has in the refrigerator.

This easy pork roast was a success. The meat was perfectly tender. It was very flavorful from the apple juice and the carrots and potatoes were a tasty and readymade side dish.

1 (2-3 lb) pork loin roast

2-3 large baking potatoes, cut into chunks

2 cups baby carrots

1 small onion, cut into chunks

1 can cream of mushroom with roasted garlic condensed soup

1 packet onion soup mix

½ cup apple juice

Cookies brand flavor enhancer

2 tablespoons olive oil

Liberally season both sides of the meat with Cookies flavor enhancer. In a large skillet over medium heat brown roast in olive oil for 3-4 minutes per side. Combine potatoes, carrots, soup, and apple juice in slow cooker. Place roast on top of veggies. Cook with lid on for 8 hours. If you are home, at the four hour mark, spoon a bit of the sauce onto the top of the meat and stir the veggies a bit. At the seven hour mark, spoon more sauce on top and try to settle meat down into the sauce and veggies. When ready to serve, remove meat, let cool slightly and slice on cutting board.

Roast Beef with Slow-Cooked Tomatoes and Garlic

Real Simple has an easy spin on a traditional beef roast. It requires one hour of cooking, which is doable on a weekday for some or you can save it for an impressive weekend dinner.

2 lb boneless rump or rib roast

Kosher salt and pepper

1 pint grape tomatoes

1 head garlic, cloves peeled

8 sprigs fresh thyme

3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season the beef with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and place in a large roasting pan.

In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, garlic, thyme, oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Scatter the tomato mixture around the meat and roast to the desired doneness, about 1 hour for medium-rare (internal temperature 125 degrees).

Transfer the beef to a cutting board and let rest at least 10 minutes before slicing. Divide among individual plates and serve with the tomatoes and garlic.

Perfect Roast Chicken

Several years ago I learned how to roast a whole chicken from watching Ina Garten on The Food Network.

In my experience the three keys are to a perfect roast chicken are 1) thoroughly dry the chicken, inside and out, 2) don't skimp on the butter rub, and 3) be sure to tuck the wings under the body of the chicken so they don't burn.

1 (5 to 6 lb) roasting chicken

Kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

1 large bunch fresh thyme, plus 20 sprigs

1 lemon, halved

1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted

1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced

4 carrots cut into 2-inch chunks

1 bulb of fennel, tops removed, and cut into wedges

olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pin feathers and pat the outside dry. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of lemon, and all the garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Place the onions, carrots, and fennel in a roasting pan. Toss with salt, pepper, 20 sprigs of thyme, and olive oil. Spread around the bottom of the roasting pan and place the chicken on top.

Roast the chicken for 1-1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes. Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve it with the vegetables.

1 Cup of Coffee Pork Roast

At our Christmas luncheon at school, a long-term substitute associate brought pulled pork for sandwiches. When I tasted the pork, I knew there had to be a secret ingredient. I asked him later that day, and he said he often adds coffee to his pork roasts to give it added flavor.

3 lb pork roast, trimmed of fat

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 cup coffee

2 bay leaves

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 teaspoon oregano

2 onions, sliced

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large skillet add oil and heat until hot. Place roast in skillet and sear on both sides.

Using a large roasting pan add one onion and remaining ingredients. Transfer browned roast to roasting pan and top with the second onion.

Cover and bake for 3-1/2 to 4 hours basting the roast every hour with juices. If liquids begin to boil away add more coffee or soy sauce as needed. Pan juices can be used to make gravy but do not add salt.

Chipotle Shredded Beef

If your family is a fan of Tex-Mex, try a recipe from Taste of Home with a bit of warmth. The chipotle peppers in adobo sauce don't add much heat; instead they add a smoky flavor to the beef.

The beef can be served as a main dish alongside rice and corn or it can be shredded and rolled up inside flour tortillas.

1 small onion, chopped

1 teaspoon canola oil

1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained

1/4 cup cider vinegar

6 garlic cloves, minced

2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped (found in the Hispanic food aisle)

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons adobo sauce

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 boneless beef chuck roast (2 1/2 lbs)

shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese and reduced-fat sour cream, optional

In a large skillet coated with cooking spray, saute onion in oil until tender. Stir in the tomatoes, vinegar, garlic, peppers, brown sugar, bay leaves, adobo sauce and seasonings. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, simmer, uncovered for 4-6 minutes or until thickened.

Place roast in a 5-qt slow cooker; add tomato mixture. Cover and cook on low heat for 8-9 hours or until meat is tender.

Discard bay leaves. Remove meat and shred with two forks. Skim fat from juices; return meat to slow cooker. Using a slotted spoon, serve meat with rice. Top with cheese and sour cream if desired.