Fall is here! Now if you’re like me, a feeling of anxiousness rushed over you when you read that in fear of having to put away the BBQ for the season and succumb to the “pumpkin spice fill in the blank treat of the week”. But fall is a great time for hot, home cooked meals, and no I don’t mean casseroles for days. A very under-appreciated tool of the kitchen is the crock pot. It’s great for those who work a full 8-10 hour day but still want/have to put a full meal on the table after work. It’s super easy and convenient. The slow cooker allows you to put in all your ingredients, set it to the proper heat setting and walk away for hours while dinner is made. If that doesn’t deserve the hashtag of multitasking I don’t know what does. Here are some basic, yet helpful do’s and don’ts of slow cooking and a recipe or two of my recent meals.
First and foremost, DO use caution when taking the lid off. Hot steam and condensation has the potential to burn your hands or face, so make sure to stand back when lifting the lid. You’ll want to also make sure to hold the lid in a way that won’t allow any hot condensation to drip on you and scald you. You also DO want to put veggies on the bottom. Vegetables require more time than meats do to cook. Placing them at the bottom allows them to cook quicker. DO brown and ground meats your recipe has before putting them into the crock pot. Browning the ground meats ensures they are properly cooked and makes sure the grease drains making your meal that much more healthier. DO add dairy at the very end of your slow cooking process. This will prevent them from curdling. Most recipes will inform you of this but just incase you’re a pro and not using one, it’s a helpful reminder. Lastly, DO spray your crock pot with a non-stick spray. This will save you so much time and frustration having to clean whatever caked on mess you just got finished eating off of the side of the pot. You could also use pot lining bags. Plastic bag liners that you line your crock pot with before pitting all the contents in. Best part is when your done, just thrown the bag out and your pot remains clean.
First of all, DON’T fill your crock pot with too much or too little amount of ingredients. It’s best to only fill your crock pot up to about two-thirds full. Contents can expand when cooking and the risk of overflowing can occur. On the flip side, if there isn’t enough stuff in the crock pot, your ingredients can cook faster and burn. You also DO NOT want to take the lid off of your crock pot unless the recipe calls for it. Steam and heat are big parts of cooking with a crock pot and when you lift the lid you effect the slow cooking process and may have to adjust your cooking time up to twenty minutes with each lift of the lid. If you want your food to turn out perfectly, keep the lid on. Stirring the contents of your crock pot is big NO-NO unless the recipes calls for it. With all the heat and the lengthy cooking process, contents can become very tender and stirring would create quite a mushy mess. You also DON’T want to preheat your crock pot. Putting cold ingredients into a preheated crock pot could possibly cause the crock pot to crack. That would leave you with a messy and dangerous situation.
Now that you know the basics, pull your crock pot out of the cabinet and start cooking and experimenting with recipes. You’ll be surprised with how little you need to make a full, delicious meal. The website that I’ve been using the most for new recipes (and am trying to cook everything on the list) is http://simple-nourished-living.com/2014/07/healthy-slow-cooker-chicken-recipes/.
Happy cooking and feel free to share any of your recipes in the comment section below. I’d love to try new ones!