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What's Cooking?: The Slow Cooker

slow cooker

Do you own a slower cooker?  If you do, it’s time to dust it off and take it out.  Once you start to use it, it becomes an invaluable appliance which cooks your meals unattended.  I love my slow cookers.  I have three of varying sizes and shapes.  It is popularly known as “Crock-Pot” by the company who first manufactured it.  The crock is the thick and heavy ceramic inserted into the base unit which is insulated with the heating element.  The slow cooker uses low levels of heat, thus, it can withstand lengthy cooking times.  It can be left cooking unattended while you are working or running errands.  For those who have busy lives or want to be free from being behind the stove all day long, the slow cooker is a must have.  Nothing speaks to me like a ready home-cooked meal with little preparation.   

The slow cooker is great for braising meats to a succulent stage so think of brisket, short ribs, ox tails, or chicken basking in their juices.  Inexpensive and tough cuts of meat benefit most from the long moist cooking of the slow cooker where there is little evaporation.  Flavor your meats further by browning or searing it in pan with some oil, and make sure it is well-seasoned.  A little prep work goes a long way.  When I make my spareribs, I cut the ribs in portions to fit the slow cooker and season it with Montreal seasoning or add one of your favorite season packets.  After searing it on both sides in my cast iron pan, I layer the ribs in the cooker with generous splashes of barbecue sauce brushed on top of each layer of meat.  We like our ribs tender but not quite yet falling off the bone.  Better timing comes from experience on how you prefer it.  Soups, stews, and chilis cook really well in the slow cooker and can be prepare for anytime time of the day.  For example, I make a rice porridge for the weekend and prep the ingredients the night before.  Using my large oval shaped slow cooker, I fill it with chicken broth or water, long grain uncooked rice, shredded chicken, chunks of ginger smashed, and salt.  Another tip is to use the bones and carcass of the chicken which further enriches the broth.  As I sleep, this soup is slowly cooking overnight for about 8 hours on high which breaks up the rice to thicken the porridge.  The comforting aroma of this soup gently wakes me up in the morning as it permeates throughout the house.  Voilà!  Breakfast or brunch is served!

The slow cooker has been very helpful during the holidays and other times of entertainment.  The smallest slower cooker I have serves as a fondue pot for melting the cheese or chocolate to creamy and luscious consistency. It also keeps my meat balls in cranberry jellied sauce comfortably hot served as hors d’oeurves.  Slow Cookers are time savers especially with casseroles and other one pot meals because it allows you to fill the crock with ingredients and come back later with a ready meal.  Check out the many cookbooks the library have on this subject for tips, cooking times, and recipes.  The slow cooker cookbooks are checked out frequently in our library so I know there are fans.  I am one of them and I hope you will become one too.

Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger

Year-Round Slow Cooker: 100 Favorite Recipes for Every Season by Dina Cheney

Better Homes and Gardens Year-Round Slow Cooker Recipes

Cooking Light Slow Cooker

Slow Cooker Comfort Food: 275 Soul-Satisfying Recipes by Judith Finlayson

Fix-It and Forget-It New Cookbook: 250 New Delicious Slow Cooker Recipes by Phyllis Pellman Good

The Mexican Slow Cooker by Deborah Schneider

The French Slow Cooker by Michele Scicolone

Taste of Home Slow Cooker

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