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Slow cookers are often tucked away in a cabinet and seldom thought of as a regular kitchen tool. Most of us cook from habit; grab a familiar pan and stand over the stove stirring and adding ingredients. Think of the time and energy that could be saved as we learn to rely on the slow cooker or crock pot.
I have used my crock pot through the years to prepare roasts or chickens. However, I removed the meat when done and prepared the rest of the ingredients on the stove top or oven. Since this meant extra steps to get a meal ready, the crock pot would end up in the back of the cabinet and I would go back to my old cooking habits. It seemed to me that vegetables were tastier if cooked my old-fashioned methods.
In recent years, I have worked to find simpler and less time-consuming ways to prepare meals. Hopefully these tips will help you get more comfortable using a slow cooker for everyday menu choices.
If you do not have a cookbook specifically for crock pot recipes, I would suggest you purchase one. Watch for used ones at garage sales or flea markets as well as the library.
1. Peruse the recipes for slow cookers looking for what foods are prepared in them. Particularly consider whether ingredients are added all at one time and how they are placed in the cooker. Vegetables, for instance, take longer to cook and should be added first on the bottom or sides of the pot.
2. Familiarize yourself with food preparation. You will notice foods are to be cut into small pieces; meat which is added to a recipe is usually cut into 1″ chunks. Vegetables are cut in very small pieces.
3. Find some recipes in the cookbook that are similar to your family favorites. With a few changes in preparation of foods, you will be amazed at how many of your own recipes will become crock pot favorites.
4. Slow cookers do their best work when they are one half to three quarters full. This may mean you need to double some of your recipes. Now, you will really be saving time and energy as you will have some extra foods that can be frozen and ready for another day. That is a real bonus!
5. In adjusting recipes, or using one of your own, keep in mind a slow cooker will capture moisture. Cut back on the liquids you add until you see if it’s needed.
Another important thing to remember is to have all your ingredients prepared ahead of time and resist the temptation to open the lid to see how things are cooking. Your slow cooker can take up to twenty minutes to regain the heat lost by one little peek inside. Fix the recipe, shut the lid, and let that marvelous aroma fill your home.