Let’s face it. Now that the endless string of holiday parties and indulgent eating is over, all you really want to eat is a simple and satisfying home cooked meal. But cooking is the last thing you feel like doing. Hey, just keeping it real!
So what’s the solution for such a predicament? Why, Crock-Pot cooking, of course! Don’t scoff. We’re not talking about your mom’s sort of slow cooker-cooking. (Try saying that 3 times fast). No, in fact, slow cookers can be used in a variety of “gourmet” ways. Think beyond stews and casseroles and envision hors d’oeuvres, entrees, side dishes and desserts.
Slow cooker recipes can be found across the Internet, but you don’t need a special “Crock-Pot Recipe.” Really, you just need an adaptable recipe. And almost any recipe can be adapted.
When altering recipes not developed specifically for a slow cooker, just remember that the lid will stay on during the entire cooking stage. So any recipe that calls for liquids will use less, due to a lack of evaporation. Reduce the liquid by 1/3 to 1/2 unless you are cooking rice or making soup. And since most gourmet recipes call for some sort of olive oil, wine or stock, you should be fine. If you have any doubts about having too little liquid, simply add a ½ cup or so of chicken stock or a can of stewed tomatoes (depending on the recipe, of course).
Other helpful slow cooker hints:
– The “low” setting on a slow cooker is about 200°, and the “high” setting is about 300°. One hour on “high” is equal to two hours on “low.”
– In order for your food to cook properly, only fill your slow cooker 1/2 to 2/3 full.
– Foods cooked on the bottom of a slow cooker will cook faster and will be moister because they are immersed in liquid. If your recipe calls for vegetables, layer them on the bottom since they do not cook as quickly as meat. If you’re using tender vegetables (tomatoes, squash, mushrooms, zucchini), add them during the last 45 minutes of cooking so they don’t overcook and become mushy.
– Be sure to remove skin from poultry and trim excess fat from meats. Lean meats work best in a slow cooker and most will require cooking at least 6 – 8 hours on low. Seafood should be added in during the last hour of cooking.
– Add in additional spices during the last hour of cooking.
To get you started, try out our easy and highly adaptable recipe for Slow Cooked Chicken:
Choose your favorite mix of chopped/cubed/sliced vegetables. Skip canned or frozen veggies as they tend to get too soft. Opt for fresh, and either cut your own or buy them pre-cut from your grocer.
Choose bone in pieces and use whatever you like: breasts, legs, wings or thighs.
2¼-3¼ lb will serve 4 – 6 people.
Use one can of you favorite “Cream of…” soup. We love Cream of Mushroom or Cream of Corn. If creamy is not your style, pick up a bottle of Marinade or Simmer Sauces. They range from Asian all the way to Honey Mustard.
When placing your veggies and chicken into the slow cooker, add in a couple of teaspoons of crushed garlic. During the last hour of cooking, throw in a teaspoon or two of any desired herbs. Save the salt and pepper for right before you serve.
Layer your vegetables in first, place the chicken on top and then pour in your soup or simmer sauce. Cover. Cook for about 3-4 hours on high OR 6-8 hours on low.
Enjoy and adapt at will! And be sure to comment back and let us know what tasty creations you invent, too!