We have visited this topic before, but I felt it worth repeating. This time of year, I absolutely fall in love all over again with my slow cookers. I have two, one that was a present from my husband one Christmas and another a friend gave me. The one from the friend, she gave up because she felt it cooked slower than it should. It works perfectly for me on those days when we will be gone most of the day and I leave out early. Since my other crock seems to cook too fast, I use the freebie one and my food is perfect by the time I get home!
Not only are crock pots great for throwing food into and forgetting about, they are wonderful for cooking up tougher cuts of meat into nice, tender morsels of heaven! One of my favorite things to make is pot roast. Yes, you can do this in your oven, but in your crock pot, it is pretty much just throwing the meat (which I usually use the cheapest cut I can find on sale) into the slow cooker, add your other ingredients, cover it, turn it on for when you want to have dinner ready and walk away :) For my pot roast, I usually add some left over coffee (sometimes I add 'coffee cubes' which is coffee I had leftover in the coffee pot, frozen in an ice cube tray). This helps to make a really rice gravy after your pot roast is cooked. I throw in whatever spices I want, onions/onion powder, garlic/garlic powder, carrots and potatoes cut into wedges. Easy enough and so delicious!
Soups, stews, chilis, I could go on and on. It's also terrific for dumping dump chicken into and heading on out the door. Dump chicken is taking whatever chicken you want, placing any marinade you like into a baggie with your chicken and freezing it. When you want to cook it in the crockpot, you can either have it slightly defrosted from the night before or just throw the whole frozen mass (minus the baggie ;) into your crock. Turn it on, and go on about your day!
You can also use your crock pot to help with your freezer meals. Such as the example above with the dump chicken, you can also precook a big amount of chicken to seperate into meal size portions and freeze. Cook a huge batch of spaghetti sauce and when it is ready, place it into seperate containers for the freezer (use one portion for that nights quick spaghetti dinner :). I love cooking my dry beans in the crock. I soak them the night before and turn them on early in the morning. I add whatever seasonings when they are tender and keep cooking in the crockpot. Then, since my seasonings for my refried beans and my chili are about the same, I take out some for to place in the freezer for whatever meal (chili or refried beans) and then finish the rest of the beans in the pot for the other meal.
I could go on and on, but I will let you find out for yourself. If you have a crock that has been sitting in your cupboard, take it out, dust it off, and do a search for crock pot meals. There are a wealth of sites with great recipes for your crock. Allrecipes.com has a great section of all sorts of crock pot/slow cooker recipes. You can even learn to make bread or cakes in them!
And the best thing of all, even though this nifty, little appliance is sitting attached to an electrical outlet all day long, it cost a fraction to run versus your oven or stove. For an 8 hour cooking session, your crock will cost you about 10 cents (this may be a tad more or less depending on the electric company you are with). Pretty good deal. Plus, the time you save not babysitting your food or preparing extra meals for a later time. Well, you add up the savings on how much all that is worth to you. For me, it's priceless! Off now to start some potato soup in my crock to go along with some homemade bread and enjoy this rainy, cool day here in OkieLand!!