Consider slow cookers for easy meals
photo by LizMarie
One of the best appliances I’ve ever purchased is a Crock-Pot. I use it throughout the year, but I especially like to use it in the summer so I don’t heat up the kitchen by using the oven. I enjoy the freedom of prepping a meal early in the day and not having to tend to it until mealtime. I just set it and forget it. It keeps the meal hot until it’s ready to be served, which is great for busy families large and small.
Years ago, I used my slow cooker only for meals such as soups, stews and an occasional pot roast. I was thrilled to discover that I could also make baked potatoes, casseroles, desserts and dips, to name a few. I was excited to find that newer models come in different shapes and sizes and have programmable features. Rival has made two worth mentioning. One is the VersaWare Crock-Pot, which is stoneware so versatile that you can use it on the stovetop, in the oven, under a broiler, in the refrigerator and freezer, and in a microwave. The other is the Duo, which allows you to make two separate recipes simultaneously and at different temperatures. Either of these would make wonderful gifts. It’s important to note that if you’re looking to purchase a slow cooker, there are two kinds — one has a pot that sits on top of a nonstick griddle-type heating base.
If you have a slow cooker collecting dust, pull it out and give it a prominent place in your kitchen. It’s a frugal appliance that can help you save time and money. The benefits are many, including easy cleanup and minimal prep time. It’s difficult to overcook slow-cooker meals, and less expensive cuts of meat become flavorful and tender. Many of your favorite meals can be converted for it, too.
Use the following guide:
— Five to 30 minutes of conventional cooking time equals one and a half to two hours on high (or four to six hours on low) in a slow cooker.
— 35 to 45 minutes of conventional cooking time equals three to four hours on high (or six to 10 hours on low) in a slow cooker.
— 50 minutes to three hours of conventional cooking time equals four to six hours on high (or eight to 18 hours on low) in a slow cooker.
— Decrease any liquids added, because they don’t boil away in a slow cooker.
— Browning meat before placing it in the slow cooker will improve the flavor, appearance and texture.
— Don’t use your slow cooker to reheat leftovers.
— Don’t open the lid repeatedly. This adds to the cooking time.
— Consider spraying with cooking spray to prevent sticking, or use the available liners for easier cleanup.
Baked potatoes are easy to make in a slow cooker. Simply prick them with a fork, and wrap them in foil as though you were placing them in the oven. Place them in the Crock-Pot, and cook on high for four hours or on low for eight hours. Works well for sweet potatoes, too.
Slow-Cooker Pork Chops
6 boneless pork chops
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
2 cloves garlic, crushed
salt and pepper, to taste
Brown pork chops in a skillet on the stovetop. Place pork chops in a slow cooker. Combine the remaining ingredients, and pour over pork chops. Cook on low for six hours. Serves six.
Slow-Cooker Chocolate Cake
Lightly spray your slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray.
Combine one box of chocolate cake mix, 8 ounces sour cream, 1 cup chocolate chips, 1 cup water, 4 eggs,
3/4 cup vegetable oil and 1 (4-ounce) box of chocolate instant pudding.
Mix and pour in slow cooker. Cook on low six to eight hours or on high three to four hours. Serve warm with ice cream.