Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Ok, so here is post number two in my "aren't the right tools wonderful" series. I didn't know it was going to be a series, but tools are just so critical to good cooking and seem to inspire my reflection. Like the stick blender, my second perfect tool is surprising in it's versatility and helpfulness:

The slow cooker (the link is a photo of our model)

I know, you're saying to yourself, "She's pushing a crock pot on me? What is this 1973?" Regular readers know how often I use my slow cooker, but for those of you who aren't avidly digesting my every word, here's my plug:

It's a busy world. M and I are often exhausted when we get home and get T into bed. Do you have any idea how wonderful it is to quietly shut his bedroom door and smell a fully cooked dinner? When we've been running around all afternoon, how amazing it is to walk into our house and smell something wonderful already cooked? Can you imagine how relaxing an evening is when we simply cook some pasta or make a salad and that's ALL WE COOK? We are true foodies, but I cannot deny that cooking is time consuming and nights off are a blessing. After using my crock pot regularly for many years now (and even more so since having a baby), I have begun regularly converting regular recipes into crock pot versions to give us that ease of preparation and save precious evening time.

Of course, effective crock pot use requires planning. We either make these meals on the weekend when we can put them together in the morning (avoiding the pre-work rush hour when we don't have an extra minute to spare) or we make them the night before and refrigerate until the morning. Yes, you read that correctly - just add 30 -60 minutes to the cooking time of your recipe to make up for the extra chill the insert will have from being in the fridge. Since most of the slow cooker recipes we make simply involve a bit of chopping and mixing ingredients, we usually just do it on a night when we have made an especially easy meal for that night's dinner.

Here's the other secret that I was unaware of when I began cooking - you don't have to make traditional recipes in your slow cooker! There are vegetarian recipes you can make in a crock pot! You can make ethnic food in a crock pot! You can make spicy food in a crock pot! In other words you can make food we like and we eat regularly in a crock pot, just more easily than with conventional methods. Keep you eyes peeled for recipes to make your weeknights more relaxing...

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