Ahhh, can you tell I’m obsessed with gadgets!? I think it’s because I’m spending less time going to sample sales and more time in the kitchen. I always want the newest thing from Cuisinart…but it’s a recession, after all, so my choices are somewhat limited. So just like everyone’s started shopping in her own closet and buying vintage clothes, I decided to do the same thing in the kitchen and and bring back the crockpot!
I don’t know about you, but my family has had a crock pot for as long as I can remember. (I feel like every household with a working mom does!) To me, it was always some sort of mystical 1970s thing that occasionally made cameos at winter parties.
Then a few weeks ago, I was browsing Amazon with a gift card and I realized they have bargain books. Who knew!? I ended up in the cookbook section, and from there I found Cooking Light Cook’s Essential Recipe Collection: Slow Cooker. Did I know a thing about slow cookers? Nope, but I knew there was one in our pantry gathering dust. I love Cooking Light Magazine and I trust everything they have to say, so the $12 hardcover book was in my cart in a heartbeat. Normally I hem and haw for a few days, but in this case, I didn’t even bother to read the reviews.
A few days later, it arrived. I sat down to page through it, and by the second recipe, I was already scrambling for my Post-Its. I was so surprised by how many different types of food you can make in it! Now about 80 percent of the book is tagged and our crock pot is like a wealthy divorcee…yeah it’s older, but it’s hot and full of fresh meat three nights a week.
The cool thing about crock pots is because they have been around for a while, you can get one for a very reasonable price! It’s also the kind of thing you can find secondhand, on Craigslist, or just steal from your parents. They come in all sizes and with all types of features, so you can really choose one that suits your needs. And it’s economical in the long run. You can use tough, cheaper cuts of meat because this cooking method imparts so much moisture. You’ll also use mostly simple and inexpensive ingredients in it: beans, potatoes, dried herbs, frozen veggies. And — bonus!– it’s green: a slow cooker uses less electricity than a stove top or oven.
And it’s so unbelievably convenient! The first time I used it, I made Provencale Chicken. Sounds fancy, right!? But it’s really nothing big to prepare. There are about five ingredients, which I tossed in the slow cooker at noon. (It took less than 10 minutes.) At 6:00 that night I made a salad. And with that, a healthy, delicious dinner was on the table!
If you work or go to class all day, I cannot recommend this enough. You can turn it on early in the day and by evening, your dinner will be simmering and smelling delicious as soon as you walk in the door. I remember when my mom would make beef stew in it when I was a kid; I loved coming home from school on those days. When it’s cold and dark at 6 PM, that’s a really nice thing to come home to!
It also makes really hearty meals, which is great as colder weather hits. And if you aren’t wifed, it’s a good way to solve the ever-present “dinner for one” dilemma. Just use it to prepare a big, inexpensive meal on Sunday, and then have leftovers throughout the week. You can also freeze individual portions for those nights when it seriously takes all your energy to hit “reheat” on the micro.
I love that most of the recipes in this cookbook are entire meals. You put your meat, your carbs, and your veggies right in there. That means cleanup is actually easier than baking or using the stove top. The recipes are phenom: all types of cuisine, ways to make classics in the crock pot, soups, and a great chapter of vegetarian recipes. You can make desserts in it too…and you can set it at night to make Irish oatmeal for your breakfast. (That was really when my jaw hit the floor.)
If you decide to start using one, or if you have already cook with yours a few nights a week, I definitely recommend this cookbook. There are 57 recipes complete with nutritional info, tons of good tips, and gorgeous pics. I am going to start posting some of the recipes as I simmer my way through the book, so dust yours off and get excited!
Yeah it’s 70s, but so is disco! And dressing in ugly/awesome colors! Go watch “Anchorman” and try and tell me you don’t love the 1970s. My slow cooker leaves me feeling like Veronica Corningstone.
Rock out with your crock out!