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Slow Cooking: Hints and Recipes for the Crock Pot

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Don’t you love coming home to fragrant, tantalizing aromas after a long, hard day at work? Dinner is ready the moment you walk in the door when you use a crock pot. Slow cooking is easy, saves time, and is extremely versatile for preparing your favorite soups, main dishes, and even desserts. Check out these tips for successful crock pot cooking, then try these delicious slow cooker recipes.

  • Spray the inside of the crock pot with a nonstick cooking spray or use a disposable liner for easy cleanup.
  • Do not under or overfill the crock pot. The appliance should only be filled one half to two thirds full in order for food to cook properly.
  • To avoid food poisoning, defrost any frozen foods before placing in crock pot and cook food on HIGH for the first hour to allow food to reach safe temperatures faster, then reduce heat to LOW to finish cooking. Do not leave cooked food inside the crock pot for refrigeration. The pot’s thick material will not allow food to chill quickly enough to prevent bacterial growth.
  • Do not remove the lid to the crock pot during cooking. Lifting the lid allows enough heat to escape that you must extend the cooking time by 20 to 30 minutes each time. Spinning the lid will help condensation drip off so you can see through the lid to check the food.
  • For best results, trim excess fat from meats before slow cooking. Save money by buying cheaper, less-fatty cuts of meat; these tougher cuts of meat will become very tender after slow cooking in the moist heat. To add color and enhance flavor, brown large cuts of meat before placing in the crock pot.
  • Vegetables cook slower than meats in a crock pot, so slice veggies thinly and place near the sides and bottom of the pot.
  • Ground meats are best cooked in a skillet before adding to the crock pot.
  • Seafood becomes rubbery when cooked for long periods of time, so wait until the last hour of cooking to place in the crock pot.
  • Add spices during the last hour of cooking; otherwise, they will lose flavor.
  • If you must adjust the cooking time for a recipe, remember that cooking for one hour on HIGH is equivalent to two hours on LOW.

Breakfast Casserole

6 eggs, beaten
10 slices bread
1 1/2 cups milk
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 pound sausage
Salt and pepper to taste
Yellow mustard (optional)

Brown sausage, stirring to crumble. Drain fat. Spread mustard on one side of bread slices; cut bread in quarters. Beat eggs, milk, salt, and pepper. Spray inside of crock pot with nonstick cooking spray. Layer bread, cheese, and sausage in crock pot. Pour egg mixture over other ingredients. Cook on LOW 8 – 10 hours.

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Pumpkin Soup

1 ounce butter
2 pounds pumpkin, peeled and cut into one-inch square pieces
1 medium onion, whole
2 cloves, inserted into the onion
2 teaspoons sugar
Salt to taste
2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup milk
Sour Cream

Place butter and pumpkin in crock pot. Turn on HIGH and allow butter to melt; stir to coat pumpkin. Continue cooking on HIGH for 1 hour. Add the whole onion (with cloves), sugar, salt, and stock. Cook on LOW for 8 to 9 hours or on HIGH 4 to 5 hours. Before serving, remove the onion and puree soup in a blender or food processor. Add milk gradually until desired consistency. Serve with a dollop of sour cream sprinkled with nutmeg. Makes 4 servings.

Beef Stroganoff

3 pounds beef round steak, 1/2 inch thick
1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
2 medium onions, thinly sliced, separated into rings
Two 4-ounce cans sliced mushrooms, drained (or 1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced)
One 10 1/2-ounce can condensed beef broth
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup flour

Trim excess fat from steak; cut meat into strips 1/2 inch wide and 3 inches long. Combine 1/2 cup flour, salt, pepper, and dry mustard; add steak strips and toss to coat thoroughly. Place coated steak strips in crock pot. Stir in onion rings and mushrooms. Add beef broth and stir well. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 to 10 hours. Before serving, combine 1/4 cup flour with sour cream; stir into crock pot. Serve stroganoff over noodles or rice.

Apple Pie Casserole

1 1/2 cups cinnamon and sugar graham crackers, crushed
1 1/2 cups rolled or quick oats, uncooked
2 cups fresh apple (any kind), chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 cups unsweetened apple sauce
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground clove

Mix graham cracker crumbs and oats in mixing bowl. Set aside 1/3 cup of the mixture to use as topping. Pour half the remaining mixture into a large crock pot. Add half the apples, followed by the remaining crumb mixture, then the rest of the apples. Mix apple sauce, maple syrup, water, cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove together, then pour evenly over ingredients in crock pot. Sprinkle the reserved 1/3 cup crumb mixture over top of casserole. Place lid on crock pot. Cook on LOW for 6 hours. (For a thicker casserole, turn heat to MEDIUM and remove lid during the last 30 minutes.) Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Makes 6 servings.

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If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1919, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.

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