Wednesdays are simplicity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
A recent article over at Lifehacker about crockpots (Have Crockpot Chicken Tacos Waiting When You Come Home) caught my attention. My crockpot is one of the most heavily used appliances in the kitchen. I found myself wondering if people really didn’t know about this wonderful gadget.
To me, the crockpot is a fabulous productivity tool. Why? Because it does a mundane task for me, leaving me free to do other things. It is also a great simplifier, because crockpot recipes are generally assembled at one time, and contain a limited amount of ingredients.
What is A Crockpot?
Crockpot is actually the name for a brand of slow cookers. Slow cookers come in two varieties: the type that sit on top of the heating plate (like the West Bend Versatility Slow Cooker), or the type that have a crock that fits into a heating shell (like Rival 3-1/2-Quart Slow Cooker) You should choose one that fits the size you will need, and the care you wish to give it. Both of my slow cookers, one a 3.5 quart size and one 6 quart size, have removable crocks that I can put in the dishwasher.
But I Don’t Like Slow Cooked Food!
If you don’t like slow-cooked food, it’s because you have not had food prepared properly. Slow cooking generally tastes bad for one of two reasons:
- Poor recipes. If a recipe doesn’t have flavors you would enjoy when cooked on a stove, you won’t like the slow-cooked variety, which generally makes the flavors stronger. A great cookbook that has fabulous recipes is The Everyday Low-Carb Slow Cooker Cookbook: Over 120 Delicious Low-Carb Recipes That Cook Themselves.
- Overcooking. When a recipe says to cook it for four hours, it is not going to taste the same after twelve hours of cooking. Paying attention to the cooking time makes a big difference in the finished product.
I Use My Slow Cooker At Least Once A Week
While it seems logical to use a slow cooker during the work week, I will also use it on weekends as well. This gives me opportunity to use some of the four-hour recipes, as well as freeing me up to do other things on a weekend than cooking.
And On Holidays
Thanksgiving this last year saw both the turkey and stuffing in crockpots. Very little else was left to do, and the meal was delicious, with no fuss.
My Three Favorite Crockpot Recipes
1 onion, chopped fine 2 cloves garlic, minced 4-6 pounds beef roast, fat trimmed 1 teaspoon kosher salt 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme 1 cup red wine Put the onions and garlic in the crock pot and set the roast on top.
Sprinkle with the salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme. Pour in the
wine. Cover and cook on the High setting until the meat is very
tender, about 5 hours. Remove the roast to a serving plate. You
can make a tasty gravy out of the skimmed cooking juices.
8 regular lasagna noodles -- uncooked 1/2 pound ground beef 1/2 pound bulk Italian sausage 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning 28 ounces spaghetti sauce 1/3 cup water 4 ounces mushrooms -- drained 15 ounces low fat ricotta cheese 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese Brown ground beef and sausage in skillet. Drain. Stir in Italian
seasoning. Break noodles into thirds. Place half in bottom of greased crockpot.
Spread half of ground beef mixture over noodles in crockpot. On top of beef, layer 1/2 of sauce, 1/2 of water, 1/2 of mushrooms,
1/2 of ricotta, and 1/2 of mozzarella cheese. Repeat all layers. Cover. Cook for 4-5 hours on low. NOTE: Don't overcook this!
4 frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts (can use thawed, but
reduce cooking time) 1 can cream of chicken soup 1.25 cups water 6 ounces corn bread stuffing mix Place chicken in a greased slow cooker. Top with soup. In a bowl,
combine the water and stuffing; spoon over the chicken. Cover
and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until chicken juices run clear.
Things that can be baked can be done in the crockpot. Most recipe books have recipes for baking. My favorite is Crockpot Baked Potatoes.
Move your cooker to the garage to avoid heating up the kitchen. Since I live in an area where every degree in the house matters, I will do my summer slow cooking in the garage. (This tip also works well with bread machines and toaster ovens).
Timers have drawbacks. They sell timers (product no longer available) that will switch your food to a warming mode when the cooking is done. What I found out, though, is that if there is a power failure, the timer defaults to “off”. So you never know if the food was fully cooked, or how long it was sitting without heat (and potentially building up toxins).
I hope you have found this introduction to crockpots helpful. The devices can free you from mundane tasks, simplify food preparation, and provide wonderful meals.
Photo by _e.t