Traditional Swiss Christmas Cookies

It’s not Christmas without traditions and for me going without the cookies I grew up with is unthinkable. When I first moved to this country, I was suddenly faced with the challenge of making cookies that before I would just be able to buy at the local bakery, cookies I had never made before. yeah, I did not always make everything myself. But I needed them, I mean Christmas was NOT going to come without, so I was going to find a way and I was going to learn how to make them, whipped egg whites and all. Over the years I tried different substitutes for ingredients that are not readily available in the US, and have refined and tweaked the recipes to reproduce the flavors of my home without having to fly back and what not ūüėČ

I grew up in Basel, a city on the Rhine that had extensive trade with spices, sugar and tea long before the rest of secluded Switzerland had ready access to such luxuries, and there is extensive use of (former) exotic spices. A lot of times the recipes also have a couple of tablespoons of local cherry brandy on the ingredient list (which can be left out without altering the result significantly)

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Over the years ground almond meal (aka almond flour) has become more readily available and my cookies turn out much better than when I tried blending the almonds in my food processor. Yeah, not a grinder, should have known, but driven by desperation (I wanted to have Christmas, after all) I sifted through the result and picking out most of the large remaining almond chunks.

Another challenge is the measurements. All my recipes are not only metric, but in grams, kilograms, deciliters and so forth. We measure ingredients by weight not volume, which I still believe gives you more accurate results in most cases, specially if you have to divide or multiply a recipe. But ¬†for convenience in the American kitchen, I have converted all of the ingredients into imperial measurements, cups and so forth. So, worry not, no need to run out and get a food scale (although I do think it’s a good thing to have, just sayin’)

Many of the recipes that I will be sharing here are considerably healthier than your average cookie recipe. What usually happens when I bring them somewhere is this: people marvel at the different looks and how pretty it is, then they try one and are amazed that there is so much  flavor and not just plain sugary sweetness, and then they completely lose it when they learn that many of the cookies they just tried use no butter or oil and the only fat content is  natural oils from the ground almonds, many are gluten and even grain free ( a thing I never realized until this year)

There are four that absolutely HAVE to be on my list for a real Swiss Christmas,

Links will be updated as I update the recipes

Basler Brunsli (our local version of Brownies)

gluten free, grain free and butter free

Mailänderli (delicately scented with lemon, these were always the first ones my Mom would bake each year)

 

 

Zimtst√§rnli (Cinnamon Stars, I think this one has great potential to become a American Favorite, given it’s shape, taste and color, not to mention taste)

gluten free, grain free and butter free

√Ąnisbr√∂tli (Anis breads/cookies )

fat free besides the eggs

 

And of course there are several other that are just as good and I try to make them too, but without those four, I don’t even care if it snows or not!

 

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 Chocolate Balls

Almonds and chocolate, what more could you want?

   Hazelnut Squares

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Spitzbuebe (Sablé like, translates to Rascals, I have heard them called Linzer Cookies in the US)

Orange Hearts

And I could go on and on

What is one thing that is absolutely essential to your holidays?

 

 

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Copyright © 2011 Simple Healthy Homemade & Simone Kereit. All rights reserved

Lighter Asparagus Quiche

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Asparagus Bacon and Cheddar, what better combination could there be? Oh I know, a crispy pie crust to encase it all. A Quiche in this country a lot of times feels like an ‘egg pie’ to me, which can make it pretty heavy and rich. So for this recipe I only used 1 egg, and by adding greek yogurt, we up the protein content without adding a ton of fat or weighing down the filling. Serve with a big salad for a light lunch or dinner or with a side salad as a first course for a leisurely, sit down dinner.

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Okay so after all that pretty talk, here’s the truth: I made so many different traditional Swiss cookie dough recipes (you know, for Christmas I get homesick if I don’t have ‘my’ cookies), that I ran out of eggs, well, besides the one used here. So I had to make due with what I had on hand: 1 egg, flour/pie crust (there’s always pie crust), asparagus and some odds and ends.

Well, as so many times, when you find yourself in a tight situation, it leads to the discovery of something much better than expected…

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Ingredients:

  • Single pie crust
  • 1 lb asparagus
  • 1 oz Speck *, diced
  • 2 oz Gruyere (or cheddar), grated
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • salt to taste
  • 2 heaped tbsp Greek yogurt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 380¬įF
  2. Roll out pie crust 1″ bigger than pie pan, fold to place into pan, and roll edges under to make a thicker edge.
  3. Mix milk through Greek yogurt
  4. Cut any hard ends off of asparagus, then place them into the crust in two layers, the second layer at a right angle to the first. Break any asparagus that are too big into smaller pieces
  5. Distribute the Speck over the asparagus, then pour the milk egg mixture over everything, and sprinkle with the grated cheese.
  6. Bake in the middle of the oven for 35-40 min
  7. Serve hot or warm

*often translated as bacon, it however has much more meat than fat on it, but plain old bacon would do as well, just have the butcher cut you a thick piece you can then dice into cubes)

Serves 4 as a lunch/light dinner, or 8 as an appetizer.

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Copyright © 2011 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved

Pear Cranberry Almond Tart

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Looking through my collection of recipes, I realize I bake a lot. Well, I do love my oven, so there’s that. It’s nothing fancy or anything but its GAS. And it bakes the best bread, and pies, and tarts, and muffins and lasagna. ūüôā I love baking, did I mention?¬† And since cooking with gas, I will never, ever want to live in any place I cannot cook with gas (alright, if the choice is living in a house with an electric stove or living under a bridge…, but short of that)

And on to another fall/winter treat…

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Can you tell I got a good deal on pears recently? After shopping the local farmers¬†market at the end of the day on Saturday, I suddenly found myself with bags of produce that now needs to be eaten. As for pears, it’s a race against time, as they are only at that ‘perfect ripe but not mushy’ state for so long, or should I say, so short. Sometimes it really seems like that window is measured in minutes not hours. So what’s a girl in possession of 12 pears to do? Well I made this, twice. And this deep dish pie uses another 6, so doing pretty good overall.

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I also have been on a quest for the perfect pie crust recipe and am trying out different ones to see what to add or subtract from my two standard go to recipes in order to make a perfect and foolproof everyday crust. But more on that after the study has been completed.¬† ūüėČ Here I used an amazing flaky, slightly sweet, all ¬†butter crust.

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So for this seasonal recipe besides using the abundance of pears in my kitchen, I used some cranberries. I think that the tartness of the cranberries very nicely offsets the sweetness of the ripe pears, but you could just as well leave the cranberries out. Almond and pear are a natural match and a lot of fancy French pastry draws on that flavor combo, you can do the same here, just easier.

imageFresh in the oven

You will need a Deep dish pie plate

Ingredients

  • Single pie crust (home made or store bought, your choice)
  • 6 medium pears * see note
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 3/4 ground almond
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup almond milk (or dairy, if you prefer)
  • 1/3 cup sugar (i used coconut/palm sugar)
  • 1 tbsp coconut flour (you could use cornstarch instead)
  • 1 tsp almond extract (you could also use vanilla)

* note: I used pear the size of your fist, like the ones that come in 3lb bags at the grocery store; if you use bigger ones, you might need less

Directions

  1. Roll out pie crust about 1-2″ bigger than the pie dish. Fold crust in half and in half again to easily transfer it to the baking dish. Refrigerate
  2. Preheat oven to 400¬įF
  3. In a bowl or 4 cup measuring cup, mix the eggs, sugar, ground almond and almond milk. Then  add the coconut flour and the almond extract. Beat with a fork until well mixed.
  4. Wash pears and cut in half, core and cut each half into 4 slices (you should have 8 slices per pear)
  5. Remove crust from refrigerator, arrange pears in circles into the crust, layering the cranberries in between (or if you almost forget like me, just put them over top the pear before it goes in the oven). You should end up with two layers of sliced pear.
  6. Pour the filling over the pears into the pie pan, doing circles as you pour to distribute evenly
  7. Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until the filling is set and not liquid any longer.
  8. Serve warm or at room temperature!

imageand that’s light Asparagus Quiche in the background

Copyright © 2011 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved

Chocolate Pear Overnight Pudding

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I have been wanting something sweet, but not too sweet. Chocolate-y, but not actually chocolate, difficult right? Since I have drastically reduced my (refined) sugar intake, my taste buds realize just how much added sugar there is in everything. It’s just like salt, once you’re used to using less, you can taste its overabundance in everything. And as for sugar, many items I just plain don’t find enjoyable, no flavor just extremely SWEET. I remember how after every visit back home, I cannot eat commercially made salad dressing for a couple of months, they are sweet and it just tastes funny to me (I get vinegar & oil )

But back to the program: Make this the night before, enjoy as a healthy breakfast cold out of the fridge or heat in the microwave.

Since I started making these, I have been absolutely addicted to them, the pictures don’t do the taste justice. It’s a perfect healthy treat, desert or breakfast, YES all three ;). I’ll have some versions and variations coming up for you soon.

Yay, chocolate pudding any time!!

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Inspired by Leanne’s¬†Banana Cherry Pudding

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe pear, diced
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (or regular milk)
  • 2 tbsp flax seed, roughly crushed with mortar and pestle
  • 2 tbsp chia seed
  • 2 tbsp ground almond (aka almond flour)
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp honey or maple syrup (optional, if you like things a bit sweeter)

Directions

  1. Combine chopped pear, cocoa, and almond milk in a glass dish or bowl, stir until cocoa is incorporated
  2. Using your handheld blender, blend until smooth
  3. Add flax seed, chia seed and ground almond, stir, cover and refrigerate overnight
  4. In the morning, eat chilled out of the fridge, or heat in the microwave for about 30 to 45 seconds

Copyright © 2011 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved

Corn Free Baking Powder

 

If you are allergic or sensitive to corn, it can be quite a hassle eliminating all products containing corn or corn derivatives. It juts so seem since it is a heavily subsidized crop, it’s in everything or made into something that is in everything. Baby Carrots for example, are processed using citric acid, in this country made mostly from corn (ever notice how they are softer than regular carrots? Ever wonder why?) Somehow, besides adding substances that corn sensitive people react to, it seem to alter the GI (Glycemic Index, how fast carbohydrates in a particular food elevate your blood sugar), my guess is by breaking down some of the plant tissue by ‘cooking’ it with citric acid. I have heard from several diabetics that their blood sugar goes through the roof after snacking on baby carrots, but regular carrots are fine. Stay away from them.

But I’m going off on a tangent here. When I first started paying attention to the ‘corn in everything’ issue (my boss at work with is allergic to corn) I realized that baking powder is made with cornstarch, who would have thought?

So after some research, I have found this recipe that you can make yourself if you can’t find a corn free baking powder recipe (there are a couple out there I hear, but pretty hard to find)

Here’s what you need:

  • Baking Soda
  • Cream of Tartar
  • Rice, Tapioca or Potato starch (depending on quantity you’re planning on making)

From my research, I found many similar recipes and have compiled the info here for y’all. Basically you need an alkaline ingredient and an acid salt, and an inert ingredient to keep the two from reacting until you want them too.

More technical stuff, if you care, if not skip to the recipe, I won’t be offended ūüėČ

Cream of tartar is the common name for potassium hydrogen tartrate. Grapes are the only significant natural source of tartaric acid, and cream of tartar is obtained from sediment produced in the process of making wine. Cream of tartar is obtained when tartaric acid is half neutralized with potassium hydroxide, transforming it into a salt. Sodium bicarbonate reacts with the potassium hydrogen tartrate,  causing the release of carbon dioxide (the bubbles that make the cake rise)

I even found the chemical reaction, but let’s skip that and get on with the program.

And as per my research, if you don’t add the inert starch, it will become rock solid (haven’t tried that, if you do let me know if it really does, I am infinitely curious)

For just a small quantity:

If your recipe calls for:

  • 1 tsp baking powder: ¬†¬†¬†¬† ¬† ¬†use 1/4 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder: ¬†use 3/8 tsp baking soda, 3/4 tsp cream of tartar

Or to keep on hand:

  • 1/4 cup cram of tartar
  • 2 tbsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp potato, rice or tapioca starch

Store just like you would for store bought baking powder.

Copyright © 2011 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved

Wild Rice Stuffing with Plums and Chestnuts

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Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

you’re safe, you’re not on my menu today

I am thankful for so many things in my life ūüôā I like to take a moment or two every day to count my blessings, I feel it sets the tone for the day and sometimes even lifts a gloomy mood. Today I am thankful for my friends, my family back home in Switzerland, my adopted family in NY (Nelson’s fam), my health, being in a position to inspire others to lead a healthier life, my ability to create great food and share it with others, the roof over my head, having a job, and living in a free country (huge).

What are you thankful for?

Since it was just going to be me this year, I made a roast chicken, not a turkey for ‘Thanks Giving’. With my work schedule, (yesss! Boot Camp Friday morning at 5:30 am, while the rest of you still wait in line for those elusive deals at the department store) going somewhere other than my own kitchen, just wasn’t going to happen this year. I am glad to say that Nelson’s Dad is doing somewhat better though and there’s hope he might get released from the hospital back to the nursing home soon.

So having all sunny day to myself, I slept in (yay, don’t get to do that very often), had a leisurely breakfast and a not so traditional Thanks Giving feast!

On the menu:

  • Roast chicken with wild rice stuffing¬†(I had gotten an organic, pastured chicken at the Fairgrounds Farmers Market) enough for 2 people, or one plus leftovers ūüėČ
  • Roasted vegetables (carrots, asparagus, parsnips and onions, lazily used as a roasting rack for the chicken= adds flavor to the chicken, and the chicken in turn adds flavor to the veggies, added plus: no extra pan to clean)

(I ended up skipping these two, got too tired from the back splash tiling adventure, and realized, I’d have food for a week)

  • Fresh homemade cranberry sauce
  • Streuseled¬†sweet potato casserole

The advantages of having a Thanksgiving by yourself? I ate the skin off the chicken while carving it, it was soooo good, like the best, crispiest skin ever. Ha! try explaining that to dinner guests “Well, it’s this new thing at the grocery store… you know, ‘skinless chicken’ , muuuch healthier.”

imageIt’s kinda hard to take a pretty picture of stuffing, it’s just so … brown

Wild Rice Stuffing:

makes 3 cups, enough to stuff 1 chicken, plus some extra you can cook on the side. If using for a turkey, triple or quadruple the recipe.

  • 1/4 cup wild rice, uncooked (see note)
  • 1/2 cup chopped roasted or cooked chestnuts
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried plums
  • 2 slices of toast bread,(I used Ezekiel brand) toasted, torn into rough pieces
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried)
  • 2 tsp fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Note: alternately use either a store bought wild rice mix, the wild rice will be pre-cooked and the process will take less time or use 1 cup of leftover cooked wild rice

Directions

  1. In a saucepan, bring 2 cups of water and the wild rice to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer  covered until cooked through about 45 minutes
  2. Don’t drain (unless the wild rice is still swimming in water, then drain off excess) add the chopped chestnuts and chopped plums, spices and salt, cover and let stand for about 20 minutes to soften.
  3. Stir in bread crumbs, mix with a fork
  4. Stuff the chicken cavity, roast the chicken, then remove the stuffing and serve alongside the bird (or add chicken stock until desired moistness is reached and reheat in the oven.

I was really debating adding cranberries to the stuffing, for a all in one kinda deal, maybe next time…

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Copyright © 2011 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved

Egg Nog Ice Cream

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All year I wait for Egg Nog Season ūüôā Who doesn’t love that thick, sweet, delicious beverage that comes with Christmas time and disappears from the shelves before it gets warmer again? I think the question really is, what was first Egg Nog or Winter? ¬†*grin* And it appears I am not the only one that feels that way, it seems pretty much every culture in the western world has their own recipe for this (western dairy drinking cultures, that is). From Egg Nog in the english speaking world, to “Eierlik√∂r” in german, and the italian “Zabaglione” isn’t that different either, even Rocky ¬†drank it (hmm okay so he skipped the booze, skipped the sugar…he just wasn’t as refined as the rest of us) The basic recipe is always along the lines of eggs, cream, sugar, spices and some sort of liquor, from Rum to Cognac to Madeira to Brandy to Vermouth, anything goes it seems.

And while you are most certainly welcome to make your own Egg Nog (knock yourself out, just be sure to use very fresh eggs), this one is definitely for the lazy. But thanks to that I am now (finally) the proud owner of a tiled back splash in my kitchen. Yaha, all by myself. So I think it’s okay to take some tasty shortcuts every so often, specially if you are eating right most of the time, a treat here and there is not going to do any harm. And since Wawa¬†has such great ready-made Egg Nog in their dairy department, I don’t really feel too bad about this desert. Use your favorite brand, I tried some fancier and pricier ones, but prefer the taste of Wawa’s Egg Nog.

Did you know:

  • Egg Nog¬†in Canadian french is called: Lait de Poule (Chicken Milk)
  • The term Egg Nog is though to come from ‘egg and grog’ a colonial term for the drink made with rum and eggs

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You need:

  • Egg Nog (I would get about 1 qt, drink the rest ūüôā )
  • ¬†2 tbsp dark Rum or Cognac for every 2 cups of Egg Nog, optional
  • Special equipment needed: Ice Cream maker

Depending on the size of your ice cream maker, you can make less or more of this. My little machine holds about 2 1/2 cups. You want to be careful not to fill the freezer bowl too much, since the volume will increase as the ingredients freeze. Also make sure you have the freezer canister frozen for at least 24 hours (or whatever it says in your user manual) unless you use a manual one, in which case I believe you need ice cubes and salt.

Directions

  1. Turn on your ice cream maker, pour 2 1/2 cups of chilled Egg Nog into the freezer canister, add rum, if using.
  2. Churn until thick and creamy, (in mine, this process takes about 10 to 15 minutes) turn off and transfer ice cream to freezer proof container to harden completely.
  3. Freeze at least overnight before serving.
  4. When you’re ready to serve, place ice cream in the fridge for a little to soften a bit so it can be scooped better

Serve with Caramellinis¬†or cookie of choice or coffee or Kahlua coffee liquor or more egg nog ūüôā

Copyright © 2011 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved

Caramellini

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They are super quick, I made them this morning, before going to work. And besides quick, they are also the easiest cookies ever, with a delightful caramel flavor! With Thanksgiving ringing in the holiday season for shoppers and this coming Sunday being the First Advent or people in Europe ( the 4 Sundays leading up to Christmas) I think I can start getting in to my traditional seasonal cookies here soon. This one is not a classic Christmas cookie in Switzerland, (there are many others I would not make any other time of year) but I have been adding this one, because it’s caramel flavor and slight crunch are too¬†good to resist.

Can’t wait to try them tomorrow as a topper for my Egg Nog Ice Cream! It will be sooooo awesome!
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Ingredients

  • 1 stick butter, unsalted, softened
  • 3/4 cups raw sugar
  • 1 tbsp honey or molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups flour

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425F (220C)
  2. Mix first 6 ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Mix Flour and baking powder, then add to the bow, stir until combined.
  4. On wax paper, form into a 2″-3″ diameter roll, chill in the fridge or freezer until firm
  5. Using a sharp knife, cut into 1/8″ thick slices and place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. (if the cookies deform when cutting, it’s not chilled enough)
  6. Bake 6-8 minutes in the upper third of the preheated oven, until slightly brown on the bottom and edges.
  7. Cool on rack

Makes about 2 standard cookie sheets full

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Copyright © 2011 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved

Cocoa Post Workout Recovery Drink

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I am not a big believer in supplements, protein powders and bars, thinking that most anything you need, you can get from proper nutrition. I resort to recovery drinks and an occasional protein bar, if I really don’t have the time to have something real. And since many of ¬†y clients always ask me what to take, and what to do, I decided to share this post workout recovery drink with you. Can you add a scoop of protein powder? If you like, sure. But the mainstay of this is the D-Ribose. Ribose is a special carbohydrate that is used in the body for energy production in the cells as it plays a critical role in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).¬†ATP is¬†the energy unit that fuels our cells and bodies. It ¬†provides energy needed for short burst of power movements during physical activity, is needed to help our muscles squeeze,¬†heart pump, brains think and countless actions that we don‚Äôt consciously control.

Ribose provides a raw material to facilitate ATP production. Many doctors believe that at least part of the problem with chronic illnesses, such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, is a lack of energy production to keep the organs, like the muscles and brain, happy. If the muscles have adequate energy available = less stiffness and cramping. This is similar to having enough money in the bank. If the money is gone, and the roof springs a major leak, no funds are available to fix it. In the end, the whole house is affected. Similarly, if the muscles are undernourished and energy production is down, the muscles will tighten, causing pain. Tight muscles can often pinch nerves, causing greater pain and starting a vicious cycle. One of the main goals of ribose supplementation is to improve symptoms by aiding energy production.

As I said, I generally don’t supplement, but after an extra hard workout, with a full day still ahead of me, I might help myself out a bit by having one of these!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk (almond milk is fine, if you are vegan)
  • 1/2 tsp D-Ribose powder
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • (optional 2 tsp chia seed, for added protein and fiber, but will turn this in to bubble tea)

Directions

Put everything (except chia seed) into a blender or shaker and mix well. Add chia seed, if using and enjoy!

Copyright © 2011 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved

Turkey Proven√ßal ‘Slow Cooker Friday’

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Isn’t it time for another lazy day recipe? Well, maybe not lazy, but for when you’re tired (or you know you’re going to be tired) and just want something simple, that waits for you when you come how after a long day at work. Lately it’s already dark by the time you get out of work and I am feeling tired. I still think we were supposed to hibernate, just like bears and those other smart creatures (I tell you , they got it right), but asides from daylight saving time, there isn’t a whole lot of support of this idea ūüėČ (Just imagine though, wouldn’t it be great? fireplace, bowl of soup and long naps all winter… ūüôā

Well since that is not happening anytime soon, I will keep making tasty slow cooker recipes for my Fridays. This one has a bit of international flair, olives, tomatoes and rosemary, evoking summer sun and abundance while the white wine rounds out the flavors.

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Ingredients

  • 1 turkey leg, boneless
  • 4 plum tomatoes chopped (or one¬†14oz can)
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped (including leaves)
  • 1 cup diced winter squash (such as butternut, kabocha, buttercup)
  • 1/4 cup black or green olives, pitted
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary leaves
  • 1 tbsp basting oil
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 bay leaf
Note: If you got enough turkey in your near future, you could also make this with pork, like a piece of pork shoulder

Directions

  1. Dice tomatoes (or open can, if using canned) place in the bottom of the slow cooker insert, add diced celery and bay leaf.
  2. Place turkey atop the vegetables, adding the olives, mustard, rosemary and basting oil over top
  3. In a zip top bag, toss the diced onions with the flour until coated, then cook in a skillet over medium heat until softened and lightly browned. Add wine and scrape up any browned bits, stirring to dissolve the flour. Pour over turkey in slow cooker insert.
  4. Add the pieces of winter squash (if you are going to be home, you can also add these half way through cooking, if you prefer to have the squash hold it’s shape)
  5. Cook on low for 6-8 hours (after 6 the meat will still hold its form, after 8 it will fall apart)
  6. Serve by itself or with polenta or rice as a side

If the tomatoes are very juicy and the dish seems to watery, mix 1 tbsp flour with about 3 tablespoons cold water and slowly stir into the slow cooker dish, cooking until the sauce thickens.

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Copyright © 2011 Simple Healthy Homemade. All rights reserved