Friday, December 16, 2011

Slow Cooking

Today is my very first post that was by reader request!  Reader Monica (okay she's also my friend in real life, as I think all of my readers are!) requested that I write a post on tips, tricks, and favorite recipes for the slow cooker.  For those of you that have followed the blog for a long time, you know I've done lots of slow cooker recipes, mostly from Betty Crocker's 300 Calorie Cook Book: 300 Tasty Meals for Eating Healthy Every Day.

General Advice
-Don't open up your slow cooker to check on the progress - to much heat escapes.  Every time you do this, it can add 20 minutes of additional cooking time!
-Things on the bottom cook faster.
-Veggies take longer to cook than meat, therefore, you usually want to layer veggies underneath meat.
-Liquid doesn't boil away in a slow cooker, so don't add extra water/liquids!
-Condensation will form on the lid, so be careful of that when opening the slow cooker!  Life the lid straight up to avoid making a mess :-)
-Although it's best to just follow directions, in general, 1 hour on high = 2 hours on low.
-It's totally safe to leave your slow cooker on unattended.  So, put everything in your slow cooker before work, turn it on, leave, and come home to a fully cooked dinner.  Hooray!  My slow cooker is programmable - it has a timer and a "warm" setting, which I find really useful.
-If you are in the market for a slow cooker, definitely get one where the liner/pot can come out and is washable and preferably can go in the dishwasher.  Because that thing can be a pain to clean!
-Be careful with seafood.  Usually you add it just for the last 30 minutes.  Shrimp, for instance, can get rubbery if cooked too long.

Although I have many slow cooker recipes that I love, one of my favorite things to do with my slow cooker is to make a chili or soup out of whatever is lying around the house.  A few weeks ago, I added celery, onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, kidney beans, baked beans, broth, and spices to the slow cooker and let it go for 6-8 hours on low.  I had a great chunky vegetarian bean chili at the end!  Try any combination of veggies and beans with some broth to make a great soup or chili!  If you need some recipe inspiration, I'd recommend this if you like garbanzo beans, this if you like all sorts of beans and want a home-style feel, and this if you are looking for a spicy black bean soup type of thing!
For those of you looking for a more concrete recipe, here are a few of my favorites:-Indian Cauliflower Stew: a great vegetarian stew
-Cous-Cous Stuffed Peppers: seriously one of the best things ever.
-Barbeque Baked Beans with Turkey Sausage: an easy family-favorite
-Mediterranean Bulgur and Lentils: a favorite of my Duke friends - but I use quinoa instead of bulgur and crumbled goat cheese instead of feta (to meet the dietary restrictions of my friends - but I'm sure following the recipe would be equally delicious).
-Jambalaya: who doesn't love jambalaya? just don't overcook the shrimp :-)
The last thing I'll say is that most things I make in the slow cooker do not look particularly appetizing (see all picture above, haha), but it doesn't mean they don't taste good!  Sure, everyone likes pretty food, but when you throw everything and the kitchen sink into a pot, you might not get beautiful results.  Doesn't mean it won't be tasty!

I hope all of you with slow cookers enjoy some good winter chilis & soups!  Also, although I haven't tried them yet in my slow cooker, I know meatballs and mulled wine are fun party foods for slow cookers!  Happy cooking!


  1. Maybe one of these days I'll get my life together and actually cook something. If I do, I will be referring to this post and probably making the mediterranean thingy because that sounds delicious!

  2. thanks for the post by request ;)

  3. So I realize I am WAY BEHIND on reading your blog - but I got not 1 but TWO slow cookers for my bday! (one is a party slow cooker with 3 smaller containers... prob meant for dips) so yeah, totes excited to try out some of these recipes! I will let you know how they turn out :D