Slow-Cooker Tips

Every appliance in your kitchen will have certain little tricks or things to keep in mind when being used. From bread makers to toaster ovens to crock pots, every appliance has a learning curve.

Here are some tips for using a slow cooker, regardless of which company produced the unit. Some things are universal.

* Most slow cooker recipes are designed for 5 to 6 quart crocks. Keep this in mind when deciding on which recipes to use so that you are prepared for both servings and storage of leftovers.

* When applying a slow cooker liner, open the bag and place it inside the slow cooker’s crock.¬† fit the liner snugly against the bottom and sides of the crock. Pull top edge of the liner over the rim all the way around. In the event he liner is a tad small, wrap the edges up, then twist the top around (allowing¬† lots of air to escape) and allow the lid to hold it in place. This is a tricky technique and should be handled with care – any time you open the bag, the escaping steam will be highly concentrated and scaldingly hot.

* Always be careful when removing the lid from a hot slow cooker to allow the steam to escape. Lift at a tilt and keep your hands and face away from the escaping steam to avoid being burned.

* When a dish is cooking, leave the lid alone unless instructed by the recipe. Each peek into the pot or quick stir allows significant heat to escape and adds about 20 minutes to your cooking time.

* If you are using a liner, and you do have to open the lid once cooking has begun to give the dish a stir, remember to stir gently. Shifting the liner, or potentially tearing it with rough handling, is not a helpful action.

* When using a liner, never try to lift food out of the crock by the liner. Always remove food to storage containers. When liner is empty, remove and place in waste receptical.

* Fill your slow cooker 1/2 to 3/4 full for best results. This ensures the liquid will not cook away and food stay moist and tender. Adjust the recipe as needed to fit your slow cooker.

* Always remove leftovers from your slow cooker and the liner (if you use one) and store or freeze in a separate container. Liners are not intended for food storage and should be properly disposed of. Cooked foods should not be allowed to stand at room temperatures (above 65F) for longer than about an hour.

Hopefully you will find some of this information useful in your own kitchen. I have run afoul of several of these things, hence writing them up as a warning to others. That steam is a real scorcher!

–Ann Cathey

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Crock Pot Breakfast

With the weather being cool to cold in most of the United States, I thought these warm breakfast dishes might be appreciated.

There are an amazing number of things that can be cooked in a crock pot or other slow cooker. I bet you didn’t know that breakfast can be prepared in a slow cooker rather than on the stove top. Here are a few recipes that are sure to delight.

These recipes are written more like concepts than with the usual ingredients list due to the many variations that are available for each.

OATMEAL
Instant oatmeal is quick, true, but it’s also just not the same as the real thing. Steel cut oatmeal or whole oat groats are a great way to kick start your morning, but the hour they take to cook can make that difficult.Instead, you should prepare oatmeal the night before for that wonderful smell in the morning. First, toast two cups of oats in a dry pan for five minutes until you can smell them.Then put the oats in a buttered crockpot with eight cups of water, two cups of milk, 1/4 c. brown sugar, and 1/2 tsp salt.Cook on low for eight hours and enjoy!

APPLESAUCE
Fresh applesauce is amazing served with a pork loin or just as a comforting snack, but it may seem a little intimidating to make. Never fear! All you have to do is peel, core, and dice 10 McIntosh apples and put them into a slow cooker with 1/2 cup of water, one teaspoon of cinnamon, and one cup of sugar. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours and enjoy the warm cinnamon smell that permeates your house. Eat warm, cold or freeze for later.

HUNTERS BREAKFAST
I think this concept has been covered before, but this blog is about breakfast and it bears repeating. Layer potatoes (sliced leftover bakers, diced leftover french fries, frozen or leftover tater tots, frozen hash browns), meat (crumbled sausage or bacon, diced ham, or any combination you may prefer), cheese, and diced bell pepper. Do as many layers as you have ingredients for. If your crock pot is half full, use 6-8 eggs, if it’s mostly full use 12-18 eggs. Crack your eggs into a large bowl and whisk them thoroughly with a splash of milk or cream for fluffiness. Salt and pepper the eggs to taste. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the ingredients in the crock pot. Sprinkle extra cheese on top. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours (overnight). if the smell of a hot breakfast waiting for you in the morning doesn’t make your tummy rumble, you may have a cold. Serve as is or wrapped in a warm tortilla for breakfast tacos.

Give these dishes a try and let us know how you enjoyed them. See if you don’t agree that the crock pot method is a time-saving twist on these breakfast favorites.

–Ann Cathey