Slow cookers, an easy and fun way to prepare meals

A slow cooker, a few minutes of preparation, and about eight hours of cooking time allows families to have a healthy, delicious meal guaranteed to keep everyone full and happy. Thinkstock/robynmac photo
A slow cooker, a few minutes of preparation, and about eight hours of cooking time allows families to have a healthy, delicious meal guaranteed to keep everyone full and happy. Thinkstock/robynmac photo
Kim’s Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
Ingredients:

  • 4-pound pork loin roast
  • 1/2 bottle of Dale’s Steak Seasoning
  • 2 packages beef onion soup mix
  • 1 diced onion
  • Barbecue sauce of your choice. I am partial to Sweet Baby Ray’s Hickory and Brown Sugar.
  • Dry rub of your choosing. (Optional)

Directions:

  1. The night before cooking, dice the onions and marinate the meat in a container using 1/2 of the bottle of Dale’s Steak Seasoning. To get more flavor, I poke holes in the meat and rub the Dale’s into it, before covering with the dry rub and refrigerating overnight.
  2. Set your slow cooker on low before browning meat.
  3. Before placing meat in the slow cooker, brown the meat on all sides using 2 tablespoons olive oil and the marinade. If you have a cast iron pan, I recommend using it to brown the meat.
  4. Place the meat in the slow cooker, top with soup mix and onion.
  5. Add two cups of water to the pan you browned the meat in, bring it to a simmer then pour over ingredients in the slow cooker.
  6. Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook for 8-10 hours.
  7. When the cooking process is done, shred the pork and serve it on a bun with barbecue sauce and some mashed sweet potatoes. If you are watching your carb intake, try it without the bun and served with steamed seasonal vegetables.

I love to cook, but sadly my schedule can sometimes prevent me from laying out a spread of epic proportions for dinner on a daily basis.

I have deadline days, my husband has school and the last child left at home is constantly running between his job and hanging out with his friends. It doesn’t matter how busy we are; I still want to make sure my family has a hot, healthy meal to eat when they come home.

On those days when I know I just can’t carve out the time to cook a delicious dinner, I grab my slow cooker, and with just a few minutes of preparation and about eight hours of cooking time, I still can serve up a healthy, delicious meal guaranteed to keep everyone full and happy.

The beauty of using the slow cooker is its simplicity; you just prep the ingredients, drop them in and press start. A great side benefit is one-pot cooking means fewer dishes to clean when you are done. With the slow cooker liners available now, cleanup is a snap.

Here are a few of my tips to make cooking with a slow cooker easy and enjoyable.

Be sure to use the right size slow cooker when you are making one of those mouthwatering meals. They come in a variety of sizes, and you don’t want them to be underfilled or overflowing as it can affect the way the food cooks. I have several at my house, including the 1-quart size which I like to use for appetizers, a larger 4-quart for family dinners and my monster 8-quart size for when the rest of the family comes over.

Make sure you follow the instructions on the owner’s manual for filling the slow cooker, and don’t overfill it.

Resist the urge to take off the lid and peek at your meal. I know it’s tempting as the smells waft through the air, but when you take off the lid, heat escapes. Since the heat needs to build up to cook properly, you should only open the lid about 30 to 45 minutes before the end of the cooking cycle to check for doneness. Resist the urge to take the lid off any earlier than that.

When using your slow cooker, you do need to plan ahead. I usually do all my prep the night before. Slicing vegetables, trimming meat, measuring out the dry ingredients and making any necessary sauces the night before, all of this preparation makes it easier to just “dump and go,” as my husband says.

Refrigerate any of the ingredients that require it, and make sure you put them in separate containers. If you are lazy like me and don’t want to add to the dirty dish pile, use plastic zip-close bags to store the ingredients. In the morning, just reheat those sauces, put it all in the cooker, turn it on and you are ready to go.

I also like to brown my meat before putting it in the slow cooker. If you are in a hurry, this step isn’t necessary, but by browning the meat it helps to lock in the flavor and juices.

Depending on what meat I am cooking, I like to use a nice marinade the night before. My personal favorite for beef and pork is Dale’s Steak Seasoning. It’s hard to find in stores here, so if you want to try it, you might want to order it online in advance. Be sure to deglaze the pan with some liquid and add it to the slow cooker for a nice, rich flavor.

A slow cooker is convenient, but if not used correctly there is the potential for food-safety hazards. Temperatures between 40 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit fall into the so-called “Danger Zone,” since bacteria thrive in these temperatures. When using a slow cooker, be sure to take precautions that keep food from being in this temperature range for too long.

The best way to avoid this situation is never add frozen ingredients to your cooker, refrigerate any ingredients you’ve prepped ahead in separate storage containers and bring liquids to a simmer before you add

them to the pot if you’re cooking on the low setting.

Remember, cooking with a slow cooker can be healthy too. Gone are the days of Mom’s beef stew, though that’s delicious too. With a simple internet search, there are literally thousands of healthy recipes available at your fingertips.

Happy cooking!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.