"Comfort Food for the Mind, Body, and Soul": CROCK POT COOKING
Sunday, December 4, 2011

Home cooking for a new generation. Easy and elegant recipes from the heart and soul created for today's family.  Beef stew recipe included.

By Sharon Fox

Before you jump into the simple task of slow-cooking, there are a few general rules that you should know.
 
• Get familiar with your cooker’s temperature settings. There are generally at least three settings: low, high, and off. Low is 200° F and high is 300° F. One hour of cooking on the high setting is equal to two hours of cooking on the low setting.

• Make sure you include the right amount of liquid in your recipes; it should be somewhere between halfway to two-thirds filled. Too little liquid will make the food cook faster; too much liquid will make the food cook a bit slower than you may want it to.
• There’s an order when it comes to where you should place foods in the cooker. Foods that cook slower (like root veggies) should go on the bottom, while foods that cook faster (meats) should go on the top.
• Resist the temptation to remove the lid while cooking. For every instance of insatiable inquisitiveness, add at least twenty minutes to the overall cooking time.
 
Ingredients Basics

You can cook pretty much anything in your slow cooker, but you’ll have more success if you learn a few tricks about specific ingredients.

• Beans: Presoaking beans before cooking ensures more predictable cooking times. Soak them in cold water overnight, or for at least six hours.
• Condensed Soups: Old-favorite ingredients of our mothers’ generation, condensed soups tend to be heavy on the salt. If you plan to use one of these standbys, be sure to add a little water or low-sodium broth to dilute the sodium content.
• Frozen Meat, Cooked or Raw: Thaw all meat completely before placing it in your slow cooker. As tempting as it may be to toss everything in, frozen foods can cause uneven cooking, so don’t do it!
• Frozen Vegetables: You should also thaw veggies completely before you add them to the pot. Since most vegetables cook faster than meat, add them when you have fifteen to thirty minutes of cooking time remaining.
• Herbs and Spices: It’s best to go with fresh herbs (rather than dry) and whole spices (rather than ground). Slow cooking requires bolder forms of seasoning to hold up during the long periods of simmering, and the flavors will peak just before you’re ready to serve your dish.
• Fresh Meats: In general, try to brown meats ahead of time. If you’re working with a fatty piece of meat, browning it reduces the fat content, which can cause overcooking once it’s in the slow cooker. But browning can also greatly improve flavor and appearance, especially of ground meats.
• Poultry: Avoid using breast meat; dark meat on the bone is best suited for slow cooking (thighs and legs). Leave the skin on when cooking, though you may want to remove it prior to serving for aesthetic reasons. If you do use a whole, cut-up chicken, place the dark meat on the bottom and the white meat on top, as the dark meat tends to cook more slowly.
• Root Vegetables (Carrots, Turnips, Potatoes, etc.): These veggies cook more slowly than meat, so be sure to place them on the bottom of your cooker to avoid undercooking. No one likes a crunchy potato!
 
Late Add-Ins

Not every ingredient can hold up to an afternoon (or a day) of slow simmering. But that doesn’t mean you should shy away from getting them in on the slow-cooker fun; add these items closer to the end so they retain their texture and taste.

Ground and Dried Herbs: Taste-test your dish when there are 60 minutes of cooking time left; if it needs additional flavor, add ground or dried herbs then.
Fish: Never add fish any earlier than 20 minutes prior to the finish time, or you'll end up with flakes o’ fish or mushy fish.

Non-Root Vegetables: Mushy veggies are entirely preventable. Add broccoli, cauliflower, peas, and other non-root vegetables with 15 to 30 minutes left in your cooking time; their flavor holds up better if they aren’t thrown into the pot too soon.

Sour Cream, Yogurt, or Milk: Dairy products tend to break down quickly, so don’t add them until the last 15 minutes of cooking time.

Pasta: First, boil the pasta partially and set it aside. About 5 minutes before your dish is ready, add it to the cooker.

Making one-pot meals is one task I actually love. Why make fast food when I can slow it down and enjoy the comfort of a delicious, wholesome meal? Of course, it takes some planning the night before, but once everything’s in place, I just turn on my slow cooker, walk away, and forget about my wonderful meal until I’m ready to eat. Enjoy your slow cooker and free up some time to enjoy your family!

BEEF STEW

1 medium-size onion, finely chopped
2 medium-size carrots, cut into 1/4' thick slanting slices
1 pound small thin-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and cut lengthwise into quarters
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
2 to 2 1/4 pounds lean boneless beef round, trimmed of fat and cut into 1 cubes
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons dry thyme
1 can (about 14 1/2 oz.) stewed tomatoes
1/4 cup red wine or beef broth
1 package (about 10 oz.) frozen peas, thawed
salt
 
In a 3 1/2-quart or larger electric slow cooker, combine onion, carrots, potatoes, and mushrooms. Coat beef cubes with flour, then add to cooker and sprinkle with thyme. Add tomatoes and wine. Cover and cook at low setting until beef is very tender when pierced (8 to 10 hours).
Skim and discard fat from stew, if necessary. Stir in peas. Increase cooker heat setting to high; cover and cook until peas are heated through (10 to 15 more minutes). Season to taste with salt. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

BANANAS FOSTER

6 bananas, peeled and cut in quarters
1/2 cup flaked coconut (if you like coconut!)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp lemon zest, grated
3 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp rum
12 slices pound cake (optional)
1 quart French vanilla ice cream, softened
confectioners sugar, for garnish (optional)
 
Combine the bananas and coconut in the slow cooker. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cinnamon, salt, corn syrup, butter, lemon zest, lemon juice and rum. Pour over the banana and coconut mixture. Cover cook on Low for 1 to 2 hours. To create individual servings, place one scoop of the ice cream between two slices of pound cake. Ladle the bananas and sauce over each ice cream sandwich and dust with confectioners sugar, if desired.
You can just serve this with ice cream...without the cake!  It's very rich so you may not want the extra calories!

MAPLE BARBECUE CHICKEN SANDWICHES

1 c. ketchup
1/2 c. maple flavored syrup
2 tbsp. prepared mustard
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
4 boneless, skinned chicken breasts
 
Place all ingredients in slow cooker/crock pot and cook on low for about 7 to 8 hours or until chicken is done. Remove meat, shred and return to sauce. Place on buns for sandwiches or serve over hot rice. Serves 4 to 6.
CHICKEN N DUMPLIN'S

4 tbs butter
1 tbs vegetable oil
1 onion -- chopped
3lbs your favorite chicken parts -- cut up
2 cups chicken broth
2 stalks celery
1 tbs minced parsley
2 carrots -- peeled, sliced
1 tsp black pepper
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 cup dry white wine (optional but really adds a nice taste)
1 can refrigerated biscuits (or your favorite biscuit recipe)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbs flour
 
In a large skillet, brown onion in butter and oil just until tender, then brown chicken parts and place all in a 6-quart crock pot. Add remaining ingredients except heavy cream, flour and biscuits. Cook on high 2-1/2 to 3 hours, or on low 5 to 7 hours. When chicken is done, remove pieces to plate and let cool, then debone. While chicken is cooling, mix flour and cream together, then stir into crock pot. Open biscuits and cut each biscuit into 4 pieces. Drop into crock pot and turn on high. These will need to cook about 30 minutes, until they are firm. Return chicken meat to crock pot after deboning and serve.


BARBECUE BEEF
SANDWICHES

2 1/2 to 3 lbs lean chuck roast or bottom round
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup wine vinegar
2 tbs spicy mustard or Dijon
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
 
Place beef roast in crock pot. Combine remaining ingredients; pour over roast. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 10 hours. Remove roast, shred meat. Place shredded meat back in crock pot; stir to coat well.Spoon barbecued beef onto toasted sandwich buns and serve with extra sauce, if desired. You may also heat up some of your favorite barbecue sauce to pour over sandwiches!
Serves 6 to 8.


BEEF STROGANOFF

2 lbs top round steak, sliced thin across the grain
1 lb fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
1/4 tsp thyme
3/4 cup dry sherry
3/4 cup beef broth (Swansons)
3/4 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp garlic salt
 
Put all this in the crock pot, stir well and cook on low for 8 hours. Turn heat to high and mix 1-1/2 cup sour cream 1/2 cup Wondra flour, cake flour works too, heat on high for 40 minutes. Serve over rice or noodles.
 
Comfort Food for the Mind, Body, and Soul" is also available in all Barnes and Noble *If you don't see it on the shelf, order it at the service desk today!
ISBN-13: 9780615453729
ISBN-10: 0615453724Publisher: Southern Hospitality Books. Log on to http://goodcookin4u2.webs.com for more great recipes.

This was printed in the December 4, 2011 - December 17, 2011 Edition

 

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