Saturday, January 28, 2012

Ode to our slow cooker

How do working parents who arrive home at 5.45pm every evening get dinner on the table by 6.30pm? No, not take out. Or delivery pizza. Or make everyone eat crackers, cheese, and salad. I'm talking a hot, home-cooked, healthy, and delicious meal.

Answer: the slow cooker. It rocks. Really. It truly has been the best kitchen purchase we've made since... oh I don't know... our microwave? Jude got ours for my birthday last year and since then, we've made everything from congee to carnitas. I love the fact that I can just turn it on in the morning and almost like magic, 9 hours later, we return to a house that smells as if someone had been slogging in the kitchen all day. It's especially comforting during these winter months when all you want when you get home is something hearty and warm.

Most slow cooker recipes require some element of prep- some chopping, searing, seasoning, etc., and so what I do is get everything ready the night before, throw the ingredients into the slow cooker insert, and put it in the fridge. And then in the morning, as I'm waiting for my coffee to brew, I add the liquids (if they're called for), or simply put the insert back in and turn the cooker on. Voila! I've even put frozen meat in there and it still manages to turn our wonderfully tender by the end of the day.

It helps that our particular slow cooker insert is made of stainless steel and goes on the stove top so I can sear and sauté first and then move the whole insert into the slow cooker- no need for a separate pan for the pre-cooking. And then when we come home in the evening, all I have to do is to make some kind of starch (rice/pasta/potato) and/or veggie and we're all set for dinner, like last week when we made BBQ baby-back ribs. I followed the suggestions of the reviewers and made some adjustments and it turned out beautifully. All it needed was a salad and some sweet potato fries, and we had a $50 meal on the table for a fraction of that price. Sophie would not touch the meat but she was more than happy with the fries and some chicken I quickly cooked up for her.

We may never eats ribs outside again.

Some of our favorite slow cooker recipes:
Beef, leek, and barley soup (adapted for slow cooker)
Bean and kale soup with ham
Chicken congee
Whole "roasted" chicken (yes, you can cook a whole chicken in the slow cooker!)
Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic
Teriyaki chicken (made with store-bought teriyaki sauce)
Beef stew
Sausage lentil soup
Bolognese sauce (a.k.a. dinner tonight)

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