In the hectic life of a busy mom, getting delicious fresh meals to the table every night can be a difficult task. The slow cooker, or Crock-Pot, is a great solution for those too busy to cook meals before dinnertime. It is a wondrous creation with a surprisingly vast and versatile array of uses. From the simple to the more lavish one-pot meals, this tool can help any busy mom cook a scrumptious home-cooked meal for her family quickly and easily.
Benefits of slow-cooking. It’s pretty much a no-fail way of cooking. Just fill the slow cooker with all your ingredients and let it cook slowly for hours until you are ready to eat. It saves you time in the kitchen and can be used to make anything from braised meats to hot desserts.
Fit your schedule. If you have time in the morning, prep and throw all your ingredients into the slow cooker, and let it cook all day until dinnertime. If you have more time in the evening, simply prep and fill your Crock-Pot insert, cover, and refrigerate till the morning. That way all you need to do is place it in the cooker and turn it on.
Learn how it works. Your slow cooker should come with a manual to help you operate it correctly. Most recommend filling it two-thirds up to prevent overflowing when cooking. A minimum of 2 inches should be left to the lid so foods can simmer. Ingredients that take longer to cook through should be placed on the bottom to be closest to the heat. Some ingredients that cook quickly, like pasta and rice, can be added later towards the end of the cooking time.
Cover tightly. Make sure the lid is tightly closed so liquids don’t cook out and you don’t lose heat, which will cause your dish to take longer to cook. Most dishes in the slow cooker can be left alone for the duration of the cooking time, but it’s OK to open and stir periodically.
Season correctly. When slow-cooking, make sure to taste your dish towards the end of cooking and adjust the seasoning. During the slow-cooking process, seasonings can be weakened, and more spices might need to be added. Add fresh herbs towards the end to maintain their flavors.
What to make. Dishes that take longer to cook are ideal for slow cookers. The best slow cooker recipes are stews, braised meat, poultry on the bone, potato and other root vegetable dishes, and chili and other dried bean dishes.
Adjusting recipes. When using a non-slow-cooker recipe, make sure to reduce some of the liquid called for in the recipe, because slow-cooking retains more liquid than other cooking methods. If the recipe calls for browning, it is not necessary, but if you do have time it can add flavor to your dish. When accounting for cooking time, figure that 1½–2 hours with traditional methods equals about 4 hours in a slow cooker. One hour on the high setting is equal to two hours on the slow setting. If you plan to cook your dish all day, generally the lower setting is the correct option. v
Slow-Cooker Brisket and Couscous
2 lb. boneless beef brisket
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large red onion, cut into small wedges
2 parsnips, chopped
2 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. garlic powder
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup dry red wine
½ cup beef broth
2 Tbsp. honey
1 cup couscous
Season brisket well with salt and pepper. Place red onion and parsnips on the bottom of slow cooker. Combine coriander, cumin, and garlic in small bowl. Rub all over the brisket and place on top of vegetables. Add apricots to pot. Whisk wine, broth, and honey in the bowl and pour over brisket. Cover and cook on low for 6–8 hours or on high for 3–4 hours.
Cook couscous right before ready to eat. Serve alongside brisket with vegetables. Top with juices from the pot.
Want to learn how to cook delicious gourmet meals right in your own kitchen? Take one-on-one cooking lessons or give a gift to an aspiring cook that you know. For more information, contact Take Home Chef personal chef services by calling 516-508-3663, writing to elke@TakeHomeChef.net, or visiting www.TakeHomeChef.net.