How to Get Started with Slowcooker Meals

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How-to-get-started-with-a-slowcookerIf you have a Slowcooker then you have a great way to make healthy meals and save yourself a lot of time and money. The Slowcooker allows you to prepare a meal in the morning and come home to something that is ready to eat. For those who have never used one before, however, this seemingly simple task can seem daunting. All you have is a large ceramic bowl in a heating sleeve. How do you turn that into a meal?

Slowcooker How-To Guide

Every crockpot, no matter the brand or size, has the same basic heating instructions.

• Clear counter space for the Slowcooker. It is best to have a place on the counter just for this. Make sure it is clear of debris and easily accessible for adding ingredients and serving.
• Plan your recipe. Make sure you have the ingredients you will need for the meal you want to make. If you are very industrious, you can plan your meals for the week on the weekend. Chop fresh vegetables and add your seasoning into a dry, sealable storage bag and put it in the refrigerator or freezer, depending on how many days out you are from making the meal (refrigerator 2 – 3 days, anything longer, the freezer).
• Put everything into the Slowcooker in the morning. The best Slowcooker meals are cooked on the low setting, requiring 8 – 10 hours, also known as your workday. Load up the Slowcooker in the morning, set it to low, and put the lid on it.
• Enjoy. Once your cooking time has passed, simply dish up the food and enjoy. You can save leftovers for lunches or dinner later in the week. Allow the Slowcooker to cool so you can wash it and have it ready for the next cooking day.

What Can You Make in the Slowcooker ?

You can cook a variety of foods in your Slowcooker, from vegetarian fare to meat-lover’s delights. When you cook any meal in a Slowcooker you do want to remember a few key things.

• Watch the amount of water you add. Unless the recipe is designed for Slowcooker cooking, plan to use 1/3 less water than the recipe calls for.
• Slow is best. Give yourself plenty of time, at least 8 hours, for your food to cook, and cook it on low.
• Trim fat. The Slowcooker will not burn away fat, so trim it off meats. The result will be a tasty and healthier meal.
• Use fresh vegetables. Fresh vegetables are best for any recipes that call for vegetables. If you have 1 – 2 hours prior to serving that you can add them, you can use canned vegetables.

Three Foods That Are Perfect for the Slowcooker.

Some foods were simply made to be cooked in a Slowcooker and you get the best flavor when you cook them this way. Here are a few ideas to give you variety from your Slowcooker.

• Soups. Soups and stews are the staple of a Slowcooker. Most people think of beef stews when they think of Slowcooker meals, but you can cook any soup this way. This includes healthy Asian soups. Simply put your broth and spices in the Slowcooker and let them cook all day. When you get home, pull out your seafood or tofu and rice noodles, and serve your very tasty broth over them.

• Chili. Homemade chili is one of the best foods you can make. Whether you like your chili mild or spicy, the Slowcooker will bring out all of the flavors. For the best chili, cook it overnight and through the day. Before you go to bed, add your meat, beans, seasoning, and everything else you want for your chili. If you like fresh beans – who doesn’t? – then make sure you prepare them ahead of time. The overnight cooking will ensure that they are soft and tasty when it is time to serve. Use cornstarch or masa flower at the end of cooking to thicken your chili if you have too much liquid. Simply mix the starch or flower into a paste and stir in about 15 minutes prior to serving.
• Pasta sauce. Pasta sauce is another treat that does well with extra time. The more time you let your herbs and seasonings sit in the sauce and cook, the more flavor your pasta sauce will have. Simply put your ingredients in the crockpot anywhere from the morning the day before you want the meal to the night before and let it cook on low until mealtime the next day. You can freeze the extra portions for a quick pasta meal later in the week. If you want to add chick, meat, or meatballs, add those the morning of the day you plan to eat.

As you explore Slowcooker cooking, you will find a variety of other foods that are perfect for the Slowcooker as well. In fact, you may find yourself wanting a second one just to prepare everything you find. Explore and enjoy one of the simplest joys of the kitchen.

What are your favorite meals to make in a slowcooker?

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