Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Tips for Cooking in a Slow Cooker

  • Spray the inside of the slow cooker with cooking spray for easy cleanup. 
  • Root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes take longer to cook, so cut these vegetables into small pieces or thinly slice them and place in the bottom of the slow cooker for best results. 
  • Remove the skin from poultry, and trim excess fat from meats to help reduce fat in the finished dish and cut down on calories. 
  • Thaw frozen vegetables or rinse them with warm water to separate before placing them in the slow cooker. Adding frozen vegetables will lower the internal temperature, and the dish will take longer to cook.

Kick up the Flavor
Over long cooking, some dishes may lack flavor, but some extra preparation steps can be worthwhile. Brown most meats first. Though it isn't necessary, browning often enhances flavor, and fat is decreased. Dredging meat or chicken in flour, browning, then deglazing the pan with wine, a little vinegar, or broth and adding that to the pot can make quite a big difference in flavor. For the best color and texture, ground beef is best browned before using, except in meatloaf or other similar dishes. To simplify preparation, brown ground beef, drain, and freeze in batches for your slow cooker meals. To make a flavorful sauce or gravy from your cooking liquid, first make a roux of flour and water (roughly 1 tablespoon of each for each cup of liquid) in a medium saucepan. Skim the fat from the cooking liquid in the slow cooker then add the liquid to the roux. Simmer, stirring, until the sauce is thickened and reduced. Serve with or over meat and/or vegetables. You can also add cornstarch dissolved in water (1 or 2 tablespoons cornstarch to 2 or 3 tablespoons cold water, depending on amount of liquid) directly to the slow cooker near the end of cooking to thicken the liquids.

Time Guidelines for Slow Cookers/Crockpots
Conventional Recipe              Low (200°)                          High (300°):

15 - 30 min                                    4 - 6 hrs                                   1 1/2 - 2 hrs
35 - 45 min                                    6 - 10 hrs                                 3 - 4 hrs
50 min - 3 hrs                               8 - 18 hrs                                 4 - 6 hrs

Cheesy Chicken Casserole
Serves 6
1 8-ounce package egg noodles
2 cups diced cooked chicken
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced green pepper
1/2 cup diced onion
1 4-ounce can mushrooms
1 4-ounce jar pimiento
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 cup cream style 2% cottage cheese
1/2 cup grated 2% Cheddar cheese
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon basil

Cook noodles for half the time according to package directions and drain and rinse thoroughly. In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients with noodles until well mixed. Pour mixture into crockpot coated with vegetable spray. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high 3-4 hours.

Tracker: 4-oz eq. meat, 1-1/2 oz-eq. grains, 1/2 cup vegetable, 1 tsp. Oil

Do you have a great recipe for the slow cooker?  Send it to recipes@fp4h.com.

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