Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Slow Cooking = Easy Cooking

I received an email today from Christina, author of www.ourducksinarow.com, asking about slow cooker recipes. She has used the pork roast recipe from Sophie Safe Cooking multiple times and asked what other things she can cook in her slow cooker. Here is a basic slow cooker meal recipe that can be modified for what you have and what you like to eat.

Slow Cooker Casserole

1 1/2 C uncooked rice
3 C starchy vegetables (potatoes, carrots, etc.)
2-3 pounds of meat (use a roast, a whole chicken, several chicken breasts, or pork chops, etc.)
seasonings that you like (use 1-2 teaspoons of a seasoning blend, or see below for suggestions)
1 C water if using starchy vegetables
3 C water if using rice

Put your rice or starchy veggies on the bottom, put the meat on top. Pour in your water and then sprinkle the seasonings all over the meat and down into the starchy vegetables. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours (always cook on low if you have a tougher cut of meat--the low temperature over time will make for a much more tender meal).

If you prefer, you can cook just your meat in the slow cooker. It will not require any liquid in most cases. With chicken, you will want to reduce the cooking time and keep an eye on things to make sure it doesn't burn or dry out. The seasoning suggestions will work for meat alone or meat with a starch. For example, today I am cooking a beef roast in the slow cooker with garlic powder, salt and pepper. We will be eating it with some veggies and mashed potatoes that I will cook separately just before dinner time.

Seasoning Suggestions:

Onions or Garlic: Most people like to add onions or garlic or both to almost any dinner recipe. My family prefers garlic, so we usually add a couple of cloves of fresh garlic, or 1/2 to 1 tsp. of granulated garlic to a meal like this. If you're adding onions, I would try about 1/2 onion, diced finely, to start. You can experiment and find the right amount for you and your family as you go along.

1 tsp. of salt is usually plenty for this amount of food. You can use less depending on your other seasonings, or none if you are using a seasoning mix, especially if it contains salt.

1/4 to 1/2 tsp. of black pepper, and/or use chili powder or red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper.

Italian Style Seasoning:
use a mix of oregano, basil, and parsley with garlic and onions, or just use the spices out of this list that you have already on hand.

Mexican Style Seasoning: 1 Tbsp. chili powder, 1 tsp. cumin, 1/2 tsp. garlic, 1 tsp. Mexican oregano; you can also add a small can of chopped jalapeno peppers or green chilies. With green chilies, I sometimes omit or decrease the chili powder.

Seasoning for Pork: For pork I love to use a combination of garlic (1/2 tsp.), sage (1/2 to 1 tsp.), sea salt (1/2 to 1 tsp.) and fresh ground black pepper (1/2 tsp.). Replacing part of the water with apple juice or apple cider is also a great touch.

Seasoning for Beef: One of the many options for beef is barbecue style. To achieve this, add a can of tomato sauce to your meal. Season it with 1/2 tsp. ground mustard, 2 Tbsp. brown sugar, 1/2 to 1 tsp. salt, 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1 Tbsp. cider vinegar, and your garlic or onions or both.

Seasoning for Chicken: Chicken is so versatile--there are a million ways to season it. Some of the things I love with chicken are 1/2 C diced celery or 1 tsp. celery salt, a bay leaf, oregano and parsley.

For this kind of cooking, you should go with your nose--if it smells like it would go well in your dish, then it probably will. You can also reference other recipes that you like and use the spices they recommend. Good luck, and happy cooking!

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