Our old friend the crock pot can save a lot of hot-stove hours. Start out the new year by resolving to use it more often, perhaps for making this pared-down version of the fancy French dish Beef Bourguignon.
Photo by: theviewfromgreatisland.com
A sausage and pepper breakfast casserole, served above with sriracha sauce, adds a kick to the morning.
Photo by: neighborfoodblog.com
This slow cooker fudgy peanut butter cake only takes about 10 minutes of prep time and an hour and a half cooking time.
Photo by: tasteofhome.com
January 2, 2019 9:55:09 AM
The thermometer has been on a joy ride the past few days, but one thing we know: real cold will return. On a chilly, damp January night, there's just something cozy about a slow cooker supper. This appliance can do the heavy lifting on meaty main dishes, casseroles, soups, stews, pasta and desserts year-round, but it always feels right to revisit crock pot recipes this time of year. Yes, instant pots are faster, but if you're into putting ingredients "on" before you leave for work (or extended play) and like being greeted by delicious aromas and ready-to-eat meals when you get home, the tried-and-true crock pot is a good friend to keep around.
A few useful tips from foodnetwork.com and quickanddirty.com can boost success with this magical helper:
n Start with the right cuts: Our slow cookers make chuck roasts, short ribs, pork shoulders and other fatty, tougher meats tender with moist, low heat. Leaner cuts like pork tenderloin tend to dry out. Dark meat chicken -- thighs, drumsticks, etc. -- will remain juicier than white meat breasts.
n For goodness sakes, keep the lid closed. Every peek you take during cooking will add another 15-20 minutes of cooking time. Curb that urge to stir. (Slow cookers work by running at low temps; the heat accumulates because it's trapped inside by the lid. Lift the lid and the heat has to build the heat back up.)
n For even cooking, ingredients should be cut into similar-sized pieces. Firm root veggies, like potatoes and carrots, should go on the bottom, with meat sitting on top. (If there's a sauce or other part of the recipe with multiple elements, mix it before adding to the slow cooker so that flavors will be distributed well.)
n Don't put frozen ingredients into a slow cooker. Thaw everything before adding them to the pot.
n Sear meat on the stovetop first to seal in juices and optimize flavor.
n Add dairy and herbs at the end. Milk, yogurt, sour cream and other dairy foods can curdle in the slow cooker, so incorporate them in the last 15 minutes of recipe cook time. (A squeeze of lemon juice or the addition of fresh, chopped herbs can brighten the final dish.)
I actually excavated my crock pot from pantry storage Sunday night, percolating with an idea for a New Year's Eve celebration. If your crock pot has been pushed to the back of a cabinet, make it a resolution to retrieve it and put it to work. Here's to a year of less "slaving over a hot stove."
CROCK POT BEEF BOURGUIGNON
(A pared down version of the fancy French dish)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds stewing beef, cut in large chunks
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
2 tablespoon flour (leave out for gluten free)
1 bunch fresh thyme, tied in a bundle (reserve some leaves for garnish)
1/2 cup cognac
2 cups beef stock or broth
2 cups red wine (Burgundy, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir)
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste (I like the kind in the tube)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 yellow onion, peeled, halved, and sliced
3 carrots, peeled and cut in 1 inch pieces
1 pound small white skinned potatoes, left whole if small, or cut in large chunks
8 ounces (give or take) mushrooms, dusted off and halved
1 bag frozen pearl onions
Splash of red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
NOTE: There is a lot of alcohol in this dish, and while most of it does cook out, there will be some remaining, so save this for the adults. The potatoes are not normally included in Bourguignon, but I added them to round out the stew as a complete meal. No use in using the slow cooker if you have to make a side dish.
(Source: Sue at theviewfromgreatisland.com)
SLOW COOKER SAUSAGE/PEPPER BREAKFAST CASSEROLE
1 pound roll breakfast sausage
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
15 ounces (1/2 bag) frozen hash browns
1 bell pepper (I used a mix of red and orange), chopped
1 4-ounce can diced green chilies
2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salsa or sriracha, for serving
(Source: Courtney at neighborfoodblog.com)
FUDGY PEANUT BUTTER CAKE
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1 1/2 hours
Makes 4 servings
1/3 cup whole milk
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons baking cocoa
1 cup boiling water
Vanilla ice cream
Note: Reduced-fat peanut butter is not recommended for this recipe.
SLOW COOKER CHEESY WHITE LASAGNA
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 3 hours + standing
Makes 8 servings
1 pound ground chicken or beef
2 teaspoons canola oil
1-3/4 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup white wine or chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half cream
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Gouda cheese
1 large egg, beaten
1-1/2 cups (12 ounces) 2% cottage cheese
1/4 cup minced fresh basil or 4 teaspoons dried basil
9 no-cook lasagna noodles
4 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
Additional minced fresh basil, optional
Nutrition facts: 1 slice: 603 calories, 35g fat (19g saturated fat), 165mg cholesterol, 1086mg sodium, 28g carbohydrate (7g sugars, 2g fiber), 40g protein.
(Source: Suzanne Smith, Bluffton, Indiana; tasteofhome.com)
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.