So, as I was saying, the crockpot is making a come back in this house.
Now, as with most come backs, this, at first lead to a good bit of eye-rolling on my part. That feeling that I had when I saw David Lee Roth perform at Stubbs WAY back in 2000.... with his GREY chest hair hanging out of a gold lame jumpsuit that he no longer had the body for.... that sort of "look away!"... feeling? Yep, that's the same feeling that I had when I pulled the crockpot from behind the old Wilton birthday train cake pans.
That good old machine has gotten us through many a Super Bowl party and it is the sole reason (apart, of course, from my sweet, helpful mother and mother-in-law) that I survived the days when I had two in diapers. Let's face it though, I was not exactly serving up five star meals in those days.
But, as I said, our schedules are getting more and more full and I'm trying to retain some peace in the midst of the storm. I'm trying to wedge a calm, fun family dinner into the 40 minutes between the end of fiddle lessons and the start of karate class without making myself (and everyone else) crazy or hitting the fast food window. So, out came the trusty old pot, and I determined to find a new and better way of slow cooking.
Over the next couple of entries I'm going to share with you five big revelations that have made me fall in love, all over again with my crock pot. Then, I'll give you a biggo list of some of my favorite recipes.
On with the show...
When I brought my cooker out of retirement, I turned first to Crockpot365. For those who don't know, this is the home of Stephanie, goddess of the slow cooker. She endeavored to use her crockpot every day for a year, and by gosh she did it! As you can imagine, she's got tons of recipes. And the fabulous part is, in my opinion, that she shares both her triumphs and her failures. Reading through the archives is like going to slow-cooking school. So take some time and really dig in. You won't regret it.
I tried a few of her recipes and found them pretty great, but it was THIS fish recipe (we used tilapia instead) that changed everything and lead to my first crock pot cooking revelation. Now the recipe in and of itself was good, but it wasn't so much what was cooked that made this a HUGE moment for me, it was HOW it was cooked.
In foil packets!
And the angels sang!
Revelation #1 - Foil Packets Are The Answer to the Pile o' Goo Blues
I don't know why, but it had never occurred to me before that you could do anything but throw a bunch of stuff in the pot and let 'er rip.
You can make fish, baked potatoes and green beans, all separate, but all together in the SAME pot!
I have made salsa chicken in a packet and then popped in some black beans and spices (in a small casserole dish), right on top of the packets of chicken. I'm a lucky gal who has a rice cooker too, so we came home to chicken, rice and beans. A few tortillas, some grated cheese, and chopped in advance veggies, and you've got soft taco night!
All of a sudden the crockpot doesn't have to mean "warm bowl of mushy goo" it means real dinner, ready when we need it to be.
Just about any veggies will work in packets. We've done sweet potatoes (cut up with butter and brown sugar), carrots, zuchinni, green beans, corn on the cob, broccoli, even onions stuffed with ranch seasoning.
This leads me to ...
Revelation #2 - The Crock Pot Lid Can Open at ANY Time!!!
Just because food cooks in the same pot and comes out at the same time, does not mean it has to go IN at the same time.
I don't know why I never thought of that before!
You can wrap up those potatoes in foil (whole and pricked with a fork) and let 'em cook all day. Then you can add in some packets of fish and maybe one of green beans, just a couple hours before dinner. Go to piano lessons, the post office and the bank and come home to real dinner, ready when you are!
You can even make up all the packets the night before and leave them in the fridge until you're ready to throw them in the pot.
We might have a chicken roasting all day and then a couple of hours before go time, I add in a packet of cubed potatoes with butter and seasonings. When they're cooked, I give them a quick mash. We have roast chicken, mashed potatoes, a side salad and some crusty bread!
Who knew? And if YOU knew, why didn't you TELL ME????
Enjoy the day folks, I'll be back soon with the rest of my miracle (to me) crock pot revelations soon!