Using a Slow Cooker

More time to enjoy the beautiful weather outside and a homemade meal that’s ready when you return home?  Save on groceries, use less electricity, and enjoy the flavor of healthy food?  Absolutely!! With a slow cooker, you don’t even have to be there while your dinner cooks.

When the Crock-Pot® in the 1970s was invented, cooks everywhere have been able to layer ingredients in their slow cookers, leave the house, and come home, hours later, to an aroma that fills the house and evening with a delicious meal.  Many other manufacturers are in the game with competitive models, but the “crockpot” moniker has become an icon for any slow cooker.

Today there are better choices than the 2-temperature manual units. They also come programmable, with multiple time and temperature settings, countdown timers, built-in thermometers, and automatic temperature shifts to warm in case you are late getting home. Shop around to find the best one to fit your family’s unique lifestyle.

Tips for easy recipe conversion:

It’s easy to adapt your favorite oven or stovetop recipes to slow cooker cooking. Regardless of yield, if your dish normally cooks in:

15 to 30 minutes, you can count on 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours cooking in a slow cooker on High power or 4 to 6 hours on Low.

If it takes 35 to 45 minutes, you should allow 2 to 3 hours on High power or 6 to 8 hours on Low.

Main dishes like roasts and stews that cook up to 3 hours will take 4 to 5 hours on High or more than 8 hours on Low.

Other tips for successful recipe conversion:

*To eliminate excess fat, remove skin from poultry and trim excess fat from meats before cooking.

*Vegetables, especially roots like potatoes, rutabagas, and carrots, cook more slowly than meats, so cut the pieces uniformly and put them in the slow cooker at the beginning.

*Italian Chicken and Vegetable Soup (Recipe Below) is a perfect example; just put all the ingredients into the slow cooker, turn it on and leave the rest to the crock-pot!

*Most stews, soups, and other braised dishes require less liquid. If you end up with too much, pour it into a saucepan and reduce it until flavorful and thickened. If you need more liquid, add it at the end of the cooking time.

*Uncooked rice, however, requires standard liquid amounts.  It cooks fast, so add it to the slow cooker during the last hour of cooking on High or 2 hours on Low.  It is better to cook pasta separately and add it before serving.

*Most slow cooker liners are removable, allowing you to fill it up to a day before cooking. Remove the stone liner and assemble the casserole in it; cover and refrigerate until you are ready to cook. 

*Spices tend to lose their strength during long, slow cooking; be ready to re-season towards the end.

 

 

Traditional Italian Soup

 Serves: 6 to 8 – Prep Time: 20 min. Cook 2 to 2 1/2 hours on High or 4 to 6 hours on Low

Please Use Organic Ingredients Whenever Possible

2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil (organic cold pressed if possible)

4   boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces (about 1 3/4 pound)

1   small organic onion, chopped

1 cup sliced organic carrots (about 3 small)

2 1/2 cup sliced zucchini (about 2 medium)

2 lbs. Roma tomatoes diced

 ½ cup fresh Basil or 1 Tbs. dried basil*

2 cloves Garlic chopped*

½ cup fresh Oregano or 1 Tbs. dried

2   (14.5-ounce) containers chicken broth (Organic, reduced sodium)

Grated Parmesan (optional)

Directions

In a large pan heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.

Add chicken, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the lightly browned chicken to the slow cooker

Add onion, carrot, zucchini, diced tomatoes, and chicken broth (reserving 1 cup of broth to add at the end of cooking, if necessary). 

Cook 2 to 2 1/2 hours on High or 4 to 6 hours on Low. 

Top each serving with grated Parmesan cheese, (optional).

 

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