For me, those days were plentiful when the kids were itty bitty. You may think that those long cooking days have to go on the "back burner" for now (did you get my clever joke?!) BUT they don't!!! Your CROCK POT to the rescue!
They come in so many brands, sizes, and colors: extra small, small, medium, large, extra large, pink, camo, etc...
Many recipes I make are for the stove top, but if and when possible I try to make them into crock pot meals. There are many benefits to experimenting with your crock pot: dinner is done when you get home, dinner clean up is minimal, and if you double the meal (usually soups or chili) you can freeze half for later.
Okay, so this post actually came to me today when I was preparing "Tuscan Thursday's" Italian Chicken Soup from my Week 12 Themed Recipes & Menu.
The original recipe is from pearls-handcuffs-happyhour.blogspot.com, but I decided make a few adjustments.
Here is what I did differently from the original recipe Italian Chicken Soup
- Used a store bought rotisserie chicken to speed up the process
- Used store bought chicken stock
- Boiled pasta and set aside in a separate bowl to add to soup before serving
- Made the oregano with oil as in directions
- Combined Chicken, tomatoes, oregano, vegetables, stock, salt, and pepper.
- I will add cream in the last hour of cooking otherwise it will breakdown during the cooking process. (notes below)
- Cook on low for 6-8 hours
- To serve place pasta in bottom of bowl and ladle soup over the pasta.
- Continue with the rest of original directions
If you also saw in Week 12 Themed Recipes & Menu I turned Braciole into a Crock Pot Meal.
Go ahead!!! Get creative and have fun with your Crock Pot. See what delicious family favorites you can turn into crock pot meals or make some new favorites. Make sure to share them with me!
The Cooking Inn is a great site with some very helpful tips for making almost any meal into a crock pot meal, check it out. I have also provided the list below so you can use it as a quick refernce.
Crockpot cooking times listed with the recipes are guidelines - actual cooking times may vary based on the brand of crockpot, size, amount of liquid/food, etc.
Low heat is approximately 200°F degrees,
High heat is approximately 300°F degrees,
depending on your make/model.
Cooking time on high is approximately half of the cooking time on low.
Do not remove the lid if possible during cooking as the appliance will lose heat and increase the cooking time.
|Stovetop Cooking Time||Crockpot Cooking Time|
|High Temp||Low Temp|
|15-30 minutes||1 1/2 - 2 1/2 hrs||4 - 8 hours|
|35-45 minutes||3 - 4 hours||6 - 10 hours|
|50 minutes - 3 hours||4 - 6 hours||8 - 16 hours|
Ground beef often has better flavor and texture if browned before adding to the crockpot. However, you can add it raw without problems.
Browning and draining the meat will reduce the fat.
Roasts do not need to be browned.
Cooking Dried Beans in the Crockpot:
The most convenient way to cook a dried bean recipe is to put all the ingredients in the slow cooker and cookon the high heat setting until the beans are tender.
Another method is to cook the beans 2 to 3 hours on the high heat setting, then reduce to the low heat setting for 8 to 10 hours. This is a little less convenient because you have to be available after a couple of hours to reduce the heat setting.
A more traditional method for cooking dried beans is to first place the beans and water in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on the high heat setting 2 hours. Turn off the slow cooker, and let beans stand 8 to 24 hours. Add the remaining ingredients, and cook on the low heat setting 8 to 12 hours or until done. This method is good for baked bean recipes, because it allows the flavors to blend and offers more of an oven-baked taste.
From : Betty Crocker
Dense vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and other root vegetables should be cut no larger than 1" thick, and placed in the bottom of the pot, since they take longer to cook.
Usually liquids may be decreased in slow cooking - about half the recommended amount. Unless the dish contains rice or pasta, one cup of liquid is usually enough.
Pasta and Rice:
If a recipe calls for cooked pasta to be added, cook it until just slightly tender before adding to the pot. Add 1/4 extra liquid per 1/4 cup uncooked rice, and use long grain converted rice for the best results. For long-cooking recipes, add cooked rice shortly before serving.
Herbs and Spices:
Ground herbs and spices tend to dissipate over long cooking times, so it's best to add them near the end of cooking. Whole herbs release flavors over time, so are a good choice for crockery cooking. You should taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary, before serving.
Milk and Cheese:
Milk, sour cream, and cream break down over long periods of cooking, and should be added during the last hour. Condensed cream soups are good substitutions for milk and can be cooked for extended times. Healthy, or reduced fat cream soups can be used in any recipe as a substitute.
Cheeses don't generally hold up over extended periods of cooking, so should be added near the end of cooking, or use processed cheeses and spreads.
Add water only to cover ingredients in soup, and add more after cooking if necessary for a thinner soup. For milk based soups, add 1 or 2 cups of water and during the last hour, stir in milk, evaporated milk, or cream as called for.
Over long cooking, some dishes may lack flavor, but some extra preparation steps can be worthwhile. Though it isn't necessary to brown most meats first, flavor is often enhanced by browning, and fat is decreased. Dredging meat or chicken in flour, browning, then deglazing the pan with wine, a little vinegar, or broth and adding that to the pot can make quite a big difference in flavor. For the best color and texture, ground beef is best browned before using, except in meatloaf or other similar dishes. To simplify preparation, brown ground beef, drain, and freeze in batches for your crockpot meals.
To make a flavorful sauce or gravy from your cooking liquid, first make a roux of flour and water (roughly 1 tablespoon of each for each cup of liquid) in a medium saucepan. Skim the fat from the cooking liquid in the slow cooker then add the liquid to the roux. Simmer, stirring, until the sauce is thickened and reduced. Serve with or over meat and/or vegetables. You can also add cornstarch dissolved in water (1 or 2 tablespoons cornstarch to 2 or 3 tablespoons cold water, depending on how much liquid you have) directly to the slow cooker near the end of cooking to thicken the liquids.
Here are some more tips sent in by Inn visitors.
1. Uncooked meat and vegetable combinations will require 8-10 hours on low (190°F-200°F) or 4-5 hours on high (290°F-300°F).
2. One hour of simmering on the range or baking at 350°F in the oven is equal to 8-10 hours on low, or 4-5 hours on high in crockpot.
3. Reduce liquid in your recipe to about 1 cup since the slow cooker method of simmering foods saves all foods' natural juices.
4. Use canned soups and broths, wine or water as liquid in your slow cooker.
5. Don't use dairy products, such as milk, sour cream, or cream until the final 30 minutes of cooking.
6. Cook noodles and macaroni products, following label directions, then add to slow cooker near the end of the cooking.
7. Frozen vegetables and frozen fish should be thawed slightly, and added only during the last hour of cooking, since they require so little cooking.
8. Don't lift the cover of your slow cooker, just to peek and see how the food is cooking. Every time the cover comes off, you lose heat that is equal to 30 minutes of cooking time.
9. Trim as much excess fat as possible from the meat going into your slow cooker. Fat can increase the temperature of the liquid in the slow cooker and cut down on the cooking time so much, you might have an over-cooked dish.
10. Browning meats and poultry is not essential, but it does help to develop a richer flavor in the food and remove some of the fat, expecially in pork, lamb and sausages. Turn the heat control to 350°F and brown meat on all sides; remove and saute vegetables in pan drippings, then remove vegetables and pour out all fat remaining in cooker before returning food, then lower heat control to slow cooking temperature.
11. Crocker and stoneware liners in slow cookers are made of natural clay with particular qualities that require special handling to keep them in perfect condition.
12. Do not allow sudden change in temperature, either by pouring boiling liquids into a very cold crockery cooker or placing a hot cooker on a cold surface.
13. Be careful not to bang your crockery cooker in the sink or on the faucet. A sharp blow could break or chip the crockery liner.
14. Never store foods in a crockery slow cooker in the refrigerator. The change in temperature can be harmful to the finish.
15. To clean the interior surface of the cooker, fill with hot sudsy water as soon as cooker has cooled down; allow to soak at least 15 minutes, then rub surface with a cloth, nylon net pad or a plastic sponge, but never use a harsh abrasive cleaner, metal pad or steel wool. Rinse well in hot water and wipe dry with a towel.
16. To remove mineral stains on crockery, fill cooker with hot water and 1 cup white vinegar; cover. Turn heat control to high for 2 hours. Then clean following directions above without 15 minute soaking.
17. To remove water marks from highly glazed crockery, rub the surface with vegetable oil and allow to stand for 2 hours before cleaning. Clean, following directions above without the 15 minute soaking.
18. Never add frozen foods directly to your crockery slow cooker. Thaw first then add during the last 30 minutes to one hour of cooking.
19. Do not place crockery cooker, crockery liners or stoneware pots on electric or gas range top surface burner, or place under broiler.
20. Slow cookers come in a variety of sizes from 2 qt. up to the 8 qt. super pots. It is best to choose recipes to use that will at least half fill your slow cooker, so the top surface of the food can be "basted" by the condensed steam under the slow cooker's cover.
21. Be patient when using your slow cooker. It takes about 2 hours for the temperature to come to 160° so the food may seem to be just sitting there.
22. Some slow cookers have heat coils on the bottom. If your model does, it is best to place some of the vegetables at the bottom of the slow cooker and then place the meat on top. The vegetables act as a grid and keep the meat from sticking after many hours of contact with the heated surface.
23. Read the use and care booklet to find out the temperatures for the different settings on your cooker. To cook foods safely, the heat control setting must be at least 180°F. If your cooker has a warming setting (140°F-160°F) for heating cooked foods, NEVER use the setting for cooking.
24. If you are in a real hurry at mealtime and want to thicken the cooking liquid, pour liquid into a saucepan and bring to a boiling; add the thickening called for in the recipe and cook, stirring constantly, until gravy thickens and bubbles 3 minutes.
25. Dry sherry and Madiera go well in shellfish and creamed dishes.
26. Dry white wines are for poultry and veal casseroles.
27. Hearty red wines are best for beef, game and some fish, chicken and duck dishes.
28. Dry vermouth can be used in place of white wine and stores for months.
29. Use the same wines you drink for cooking.
30. Pour a few drops of olive oil over the surface of a dry wine you plan to use just for cooking, if you must keep it for more than a few days. This prevents the air from destroying the wine.
31. In most cases it is not necessary to stir foods in the slow cooker, but in developing some special recipes we found that stirring at the halfway point in the cooking time helped to distribute the food more evenly and keep the heavier foods from all going to the bottom.
32. Use long handled wooden spoons when stirring foods in your slow cooker. This will protect the inside surface of the cooker and keep your hands from getting too close to the hot food.
33. If your slow cooker has the removable stoneware bowl, you can prepare the food to be cooked the night before and refrigerate in the stoneware bowl. Then in the morning, place in cooker and follow manufacturer's directions for heating.
34. Choose a flat moisture free surface that is in easy reach of a 120V AC wall outlet, and out of the reach of young children.
Do you have tips, tricks, or recipes for a crock pot?