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Low-supervision cooking

By on October 16, 2008

photo by claireb707
Once regarded as turning meals into gray mush, slow cookers have made a comeback as a frugal cook’s appliance of choice. And for good reason: They offer hands-off cooking, which can free up time for you to do other things while still serving a nutritious meal.

Slow cookers are in such high demand that companies are making them with features such as larger sizes, programmable timers, travel bags and removable stoneware that can be put in the oven, refrigerator or microwave. Road Pro ( sells a 12-volt portable slow cooker that plugs right into your car’s cigarette lighter. It even comes with a stretch cord to prevent spilling.

It’s easy to rely on simple favorites such as stew, chili, soup or pork. Broaden your slow-cooking repertoire, so whether you’re on the road or in the comfort of your home, you can make a wide variety of tasty meals. They’re great to use during holidays to save valuable oven space, too.
Here are a few recipes to try.

Calico Beans

1 pound ground beef, browned
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 cans pork and beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can butter beans
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Combine all ingredients in the slow cooker. Cook for 3 to 5 hours on low or 2 hours on high. Stir occasionally. — Becky A., Kansas

Beef and Broccoli

1 pound beef (steak, roast or stew meat)
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons white wine or apple juice
2 tablespoons apple-cider vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed or chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
1 bag of thawed broccoli florets

Add all ingredients (except broccoli) to the slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours. An hour before serving, add the bag of broccoli. Stir to coat, and cook for another hour. Serve over rice.
Serves 4. — Debra H., Nebraska

Slow-Cooker Apple Crisp

6 cups sliced, peeled tart apples
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 (3-1/2 ounces) cook-and-serve butterscotch-pudding mix
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup cold butter or margarine

Place apples in a 3-quart slow cooker. In a bowl, combine the brown sugar, oats, flour, pudding mix and cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over the apples. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours or until apples are tender. Stir before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream. — Daisy, South Dakota

Slow-Cooker Shepherd’s Pie

32-ounce bag of frozen Tater Tots
1 pound ground beef, browned
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
2 (14-ounce) cans vegetables such as green beans, mixed vegetables, corn or cream of corn
1 (10-3/4 ounce) can cream-of-mushroom soup
1 tablespoon dried onions
1/4 cup of mild cheddar, shredded

Line the bottom of the slow cooker with the Tater Tots. Combine remaining ingredients, and pour over the Tater Tots. Cook on high for 3 hours. Sprinkle additional shredded cheddar cheese on top. — Leeza, California

Slow-Cooker Cranberry Sauce

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 bag (12 ounces) fresh cranberries

Optional: You can add a cup of raisins, grated orange peel, blueberries or chopped apples, and cinnamon and nutmeg to taste.

Combine the water, sugar and cranberries in the slow cooker. Cook on high heat for 3 to 5 hours, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries pop open. Mash slightly with a fork. Chill until ready to serve.

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