The slow cooker — like having your own chef

February 24, 2012

Crockpot / Slow cooker, Food, Meat, Recipes

This is a cook’s dream come true — dinner is ready and waiting.

by Joanne Henning Tedesco — 

You are tired and hungry from a long, hard day at work, and it is so cold that you cannot wait to get home and recharge with some good warm food. Finally you open the front door and are greeted by the inviting aromas wafting from the slow cooker. This is a cook’s dream come true — dinner is ready and waiting.

But winter is not the only time a slow cooker is useful. In the summer, using this small appliance can mean that there will be no heat radiating from a hot oven, and it uses less electricity than the oven. At any time of year, a slow cooker can make life a little more convenient because by planning ahead, you save time later.

The slow cooker is an easy-to-clean, countertop electrical appliance that cooks foods slowly at a low temperature — generally between 170° and 280° F. This helps the less expensive, leaner cuts of meat become tender and shrink less. The lengthy cooking time and the steam created within the tightly covered container combine to destroy bacteria, making for a safe cooking process.

The following tips are very important to remember when using a slow cooker:

Safe beginnings — Begin with a clean cooker, utensils and work area. Wash hands often during food preparation.

Keep perishable foods refrigerated — If you cut up meat and vegetables in advance, store them separately in the refrigerator. The slow cooker may take several hours to reach a safe, bacteria-killing temperature.

Thaw ingredients — Thaw meat or poultry before putting into a slow cooker. Choose foods with a high moisture content.

Use the right amount of food — Fill the cooker no less than half full and no more than two-thirds full. Vegetables will cook more slowly than meat and poultry, so put the vegetables in first, then add the meat and desired amount of liquid.

Temperatures — If possible, turn the cooker on the highest setting for the first hour of cooking time and then to low (or the setting called for in your recipe). If you are not able to do this, it is safe to cook foods on low the entire time.

Safety first — Keep the lid in place, removing it only to stir the food or check for doneness. While your meal is cooking and once it is done, the food will stay safe as long as the cooker is operating.

Chunky Vegetable Chili

Ingredients:

  • 60 ounces Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 ribs celery, chopped
  • 12 ounces tomato paste
  • 8 ounces diced green chilies, undrained
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 4 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups water

Directions:

In the slow cooker, combine the beans, corn, onion, celery, tomato paste, green chilies, carrot, garlic, chili powder, oregano and salt. Stir in the water. Cover; cook on low for 5-1/2 to 6 hours, or until the vegetables are tender.

Wild Rice and Almond-Stuffed Game Hens

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup wild rice, cooked to package instructions
  • 1/2 cup almonds, slivered
  • 1/4 cup shallots, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
  • 2 game hens (1-1/2 pounds each), rinsed and dried
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1-1/2 cups beef broth
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:

Once the rice is cooked, stir in the almonds, shallots and orange zest. Stuff the dressing into the prepared game hens. In a skillet set to medium heat, add butter. Once the butter is hot and melted, add the game hens and sear them on all sides to brown. Transfer the stoneware to the slow cooker heating base and add game hens. In a bowl, whisk together the beef broth, red wine, Dijon mustard, basil and black pepper and pour over the game hens. Cover and cook on high for 4 to 5 hours or on low for 6 to 8 hours. Drizzle the natural juices over the game hens to serve.

After-work Beef Pot Roast

Ingredients:

  • 1 (3 pound) boneless beef chuck shoulder pot roast or bottom-round rump roast
  • 1 (.7 ounce) package dry Italian dressing mix
  • 2 large onions, each cut into 8 wedges
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup ready-to-serve beef broth
  • 2 zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
  • • Salt and pepper

Directions:

Press dressing mix evenly onto all surfaces of pot roast. Place onions and garlic in a 4-1/2 to 5-1/2 quart slow cooker; top with pot roast. Add bell peppers and broth. Cover and cook on high 5 hours, or on low 8 hours. Add zucchini. Continue cooking, covered, 30 minutes or until pot roast is fork tender. Remove pot roast and vegetables. Strain cooking liquid; skim fat. Combine 2 cups cooking liquid and cornstarch mixture in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; cook and stir 1 minute or until thickened. Carve pot roast; season with salt and pepper.

 

Sources: www.allrecipes.com and www.myrecipes.com and Joanne’s recipe box.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 30, Number 1, Feb/Mar 2011.

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