Crock pot cooking--best ideas???
I am returning to work full time after a sabbatical and I bought a crock pot to slow cook meals to be ready for my family when we get home at night. I am new to crock pot cooking and I have done a couple of things already, but I am looking for good ideas. I have done chili and pulled pork so far with pretty good success. I am looking for things to cook that won't take a lot of time to prep in the morning before I leave since I am preparing breakfast and lunches for the kids to get everyone out the door. Any thoughts on what to put in my pot that will be relatively yummy (and healthy) by the end of the day?
Fresh herbs add flavor and color, but should be added at the end of
the cooking cycle as the flavor will dissipate over long cook times.
Ground and/or dried herbs and spices work well in slow cooking
and may be added at the beginning.
Garlic tends to lose it’s intensity after several hours of braising so use more than you normally would.
Milk, cream, and sour cream break down during extended cooking.
When possible, add during the last 15 to 30 minutes of cooking.
Condensed soups may be substituted for milk and can cook for
Some soup recipes call for large amounts of water. Add other soup
ingredients to the slow cooker first then add water only to cover.
Browning meat in a separate skillet or broiler allows fat to be drained
off before slow cooking and also adds greater depth of flavor.
Meat should be positioned so that it rests in the stoneware
without touching the lid.
Ensure the stoneware is always filled a minimum of ½ full and a
maximum of ¾ full, and conform to recommended cook times.
Crock pots are really good with soups and chilis as is pulled pork.
Things you would normally braise will do well in a crock pot but the texture will probably be a little different than you are used to. Swiss steak is a good example. It’s good but not quite as good as it normally is. Small cost for the convenience.
Pot roast is pretty good. Put the veggies on the bottom and the roast on top.
You will find that 6 hours is great for the crock pot but 8 – 12 hours is a long time. The taste and texture will suffer some.
My bible for slow cooker cooking is Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook, by Beth Hensperger. This is a real cookbook, not simply a collection of recipes. I recommend her method of cooking chicken breasts, which can be used in many other recipes. She has recipes for beans, chilis, pork, beef, chicken and more. You might check it out from the library to see if it would be useful to you before buying it. I recommend this as a very good resource. Good luck as you go back to work!
I second this book. You can't get good results from a slow cooker by throwing everything into it and turning it, any more than you can get good results in an oven or on a stove by throwing everything in a pot and baking/cooking. For me, crock pots take more prep time than stove top/oven braising because you have to sear the meat and clean the pan (vs using the same pan in the oven or on the stove) but it's convenient when you're gone all day. I found the book at the library, too.
I've been using the crockpot a lot lately, while eating a lacto-paleo diet, so in that sense, I suppose this is healthy? My favorites:
- I've used pork shoulder hacked into pieces and bone-in chicken pieces with good results. The chicken was annoying because I had to remove skin and bones, and watch to make sure it didn't overcook. I don't brown the meat, just salt it., Then empty a jar of salsa verde from Trader Joe's over it, add whole or halved garlic cloves, chopped onion, a little lime juice, and lots of fresh cracked black pepper. I eat this over sauteed cabbage, serve to other with cilantro rice & beans & tortillas.
Brisket & Onions
- This I will brown very thoroughly in a cast iron pan. Add 1/2 cup any kind of stock, couple tablespoons each of soy sauce and worcestershire sauce, a dash of fish sauce for more salt if needed. Two sliced onions, lots of minced garlic, lots of cracked black pepper. I make the braising liquid into a gravy to serve over mashed fauxtatoes (cauliflower). When serving to others, they don't notice it's not potatoes, and I also serve up some quick crunchy kale chips.
- Pork shoulder in chunks, with the juice of one orange, one lime, a little cinnamon, s&p, a bay leaf. Cook till tender, then I chop or shred it up, spread on a baking sheet and stick under the broiler to get crispy bits. To serve to others, I use the cooking liquid with all the meaty pieces to make Mexican rice (tomato paste, garlic, onion, cilantro) and it's amaaazing. But I normally just eat it salad style with tomatoes, lettuce, and lots of homemade guacamole.