7 articles Tag slow cooking

Busy Summer Vacation? Get Help With Slow Cooker Summer Recipes

Kids are out of school, and that surely means it’s a time for you to take a break of nine months of being a taxi driver for extracurricular activities or a school volunteer, right? Of course not. When summer break hits, you’re marching to a different rhythm—driving kids to and from summer camps, going on more daylong trips, or just scrambling to organize summer activity ideas to hold off kids from saying, “I’m bored!”
Basically, your kids may be getting a break from the summer, but your job has shifted to activities director—you are most likely just as busy as during the school year.
Good thing your slow cooker also doesn’t take a break either. This trusty appliance was most likely was your saving grace during the school year, cooking your family meal while you are gone all day and having it ready when you arrived home after work and picking up children. In the fall and winter months, a warm and hearty meal from the crock pot sure hit the spot after enduring brisk weather. Crockpots are great for cooking and keeping food warm on those winter days, but what about summer when a hot day calls for a cool drink or a crisp salad? Your slow cooker can cook up meals that are sure to hit the spot on summer months without you being stuck in the kitchen. Check out these crockpot tips to make summer cooking a little easier:
Barbeque
Summertime is all about cooking on the grill, but if you’re gone most of the day, firing up the grill for a quick meal may not always fit in your evening schedule. Luckily, there are many crockpot recipes that offer that summer barbeque taste without needing a grill. Many of these barbeque-like recipes simply involve marinating the meat in a sauce like mayonnaise, barbeque, or salad dressings.
For example, consider a recipe like Crock Pot Caesar Chicken: simply place four boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the crockpot, and set the crockpot on either high for three hours or low for six hours. After cooking the chicken for either three or six hours in the crockpot, drain the juices from the crockpot, keeping the chicken inside. Pour a bottle of Caesar salad dressing like Just Caesar from hampton creek on top of the chicken. Cover the crockpot and set it on high for 30 minutes. Top off with parmesan cheese and cut it up to serve with a salad or as a chicken salad.
The difference in Hampton Creek salad dressings and sauces is that they are made with minimal artificial additives and free of gluten, dairy, and soy. The company has other sauces like Just Mayo, an eggless mayonnaise, that you can use in other crockpot recipes that call for mayonnaise. Try replacing any crockpot recipe with a sauce or salad dressing from Hampton Creek.
Vegetables
Summer BBQ isn’t complete without a side of vegetables, especially corn on the cob. Corn is often boiled in a pot or cooked on the grill, but you can prepare corn on the cob ahead of time in a slow cooker so you have it ready when you get home.  One version of crockpot corn requires that you prep each ear of corn with garlic butter, pepper, salt, and wrap each ear with a slice of bacon. Place the ears of corn in a crockpot with chicken broth and minced jalapeno pepper. Cook on low for up to four hours.
Soup
Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean that you can’t eat soup. Soups are often thought of as hearty meals meant to warm you up after a cold day, but there are just as many soups that are light and flavorful, making it a perfect dish to enjoy on a hot summer day. It’s also a fun way to incorporate fresh vegetables from farmer’s markets, which most of the time are held during the warm months. A summer vegetable soup like a summer vegetable pesto soup makes use of summer vegetables like sweet corn, green beans, tomatoes, and more, and tops it off with pesto. You can also add other vegetables like white beans for a different flavor.
Summer break from school doesn’t mean that parents also get a break, but summer crockpot recipes give you a break from the kitchen so you can spend your summer days doing what you want—going to the pool, attending the county fair, relaxing at the beach—without the worry of what you’re going to eat for dinner.

7-Day Slow Cooker Challenge – Macaroni Cheese

Slow Cooker Macaroni CheeseToday is day 2 of our slow cooker challenge and in the slow cooker today we have macaroni cheese! This one is quite a leap of faith for me because not only have I never made macaroni cheese at all, I’ve never even tasted it (other than one mouthful of the stuff you get from a can). We opted for this today as yesterday’s dinner was very rich and meaty, so we wanted to have something which is totally different, and it’s also one of the days when Husband does his longer run, so some carbs will be very welcome! The recipe is super simple:

Slow Cooker Macaroni Cheese

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Mum's the Word 7-Day Slow Cooker Challenge - Macaroni Cheese
 
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A slow-cooked oozy, cheesy pasta dish with bacon, served with garlic bread
Author:
Recipe type: Slow Cooker
Cuisine: American
Serves: up to 10
Ingredients
  • 300g grated cheddar
  • 900ml milk
  • 200ml evaporated milk
  • 500g elbow macaroni
  • 1 tub of cream cheese
  • 150g streaky bacon
  • 2 tsp chopped garlic
Instructions
  1. Begin by dicing the bacon and browning it lightly in a frying pan
  2. Pat the bacon with some kitchen paper to soak up some of the grease before adding it to the slow cooker
  3. Chuck in everything else, give it a stir and cook on low for 2-3 hours
  4. Serve with garlic bread or a side of your choice

In terms of slow-cooking, this recipe couldn’t be any easier – you could probably even forgo the frying off of the bacon and just chuck in some lardons raw, but I wanted to get rid of some of the fat, and also have that lovely salty flavour of bacon when it’s been browned. The result was an oozy, gooey cheesy delight which the whole family absolutely loved. What’s most impressive is that this dish, which was absolutely huge and could have served a whole other family as well as us, costs around 91p per portion, including the garlic bread, which seems brilliant to me.

Both girls absolutely loved this and I think it’s a meal which would also work really well cooked the day before and eaten cold for lunch, or even at a picnic or barbecue as a really tasty side dish.

Have you tried slow cooker macaroni cheese before? What did you think? Have we inspired you to try it yourself?! Leave me a comment below…or even better, join in with our 7-day challenge and blog your own recipe, then come back and link up below!

LINKY REMOVED

7 Day Slow Cooker Challenge – Beef and Guiness Stew

Beef and Guiness StewToday is the first day of my slow cooker challenge, and it was one of those awkward days where I had to be at an appointment in the mid afternoon. This meant that I needed to choose a dish for the day which could be put on around lunchtime and left for at least 6 hours, so I opted for the Beef and Guinness stew. It’s rubbish weather here (we’ve actually had the heating on today!) so coming home to something warm and tasty, bubbling away, was incredibly welcome.

If I’m honest, I don’t know the difference between a casserole and a stew, so this could be either, but I opted for a recipe without veg so that we could choose what to have with it – I’ve served it with red cabbage and mash, but you could choose anything you fancy (or have in the freezer).

Here’s the recipe:

Beef and Guiness Stew
 
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A tender, slow-cooked beef stew with Guiness and bacon.
Author:
Recipe type: Slow Cooker
Cuisine: Irish
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 900g diced beef
  • 150g streaky bacon
  • 1 onion
  • 3 tbs plain flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • Bouquet Garni
  • 500ml beef stock
  • 1 bottle of Guiness (or other stout)
  • Olive oil for cooking
Instructions
  1. Finely chop the onions and fry in a little oil until translucent
  2. Slice the bacon and add to the onions. Fry for 2-3 minutes
  3. Place the onions and bacon the the slow cooker
  4. In a bowl, season the flour with salt and pepper
  5. Toss the diced beef in the seasoned flour
  6. Fry the beef in a little oil in the same pan that you cooked the bacon and onions in until browned
  7. Once browned, add the beef to the slow cookers
  8. Add the stock, Guiness and bouquet garni to the slow cooker
  9. Cook on low for 6-8 hours
  10. Serve with potatoes and veg of your choice

Often I shy away from dishes which require any sort of prep or pre-cooking because I feel like slow cooking should basically just be “chuck it all in”, but I can honestly say that the extra effort was well worth it here. The beef was super tender because it had cooked for so long, but the flavour was incredible because of the initial browning in seasoned flour and the salty morsels of bacon added bursts of savoury flavour to the dish. The stock, herbs, ale and juices from the meat and onions combined to make the most delicious gravy…I had to resist the urge to dip bread in the remaining sauce in the pot!

I also think this dish would freeze really well, so I’d be tempted to make a double portion and freeze half next time I made it. All in all, I’m really pleased with today’s recipe and I’m really glad I kicked off with this as it was just perfect for today!

Don’t forget to blog about what’s in your slow cooker and link up with the linky below.

LINKY REMOVED

Slow Cooker Chorizo Stuffed Chicken with Ratatouille

Stuffed Chicken and Slow Cooker Ratatouille

Things have been a bit hectic in the Mum’s the Word house since Sausage went back to school; first, the girls were poorly (tonsilitis), then I was poorly (gall bladder) and then the car decided to go kaput, leaving us unable to make regular trips to the shops, so we were living on what we had in the cupboards and as a result, my slow cookers have been rather neglected! Yesterday, I decided that I needed to get back into slow cooking again with something completely new, so I tried a recipe that I’ve been seeing on Facebook for a while and thought I’d share it here. I’m struggling with a succinct name for the whole dish, but it basically consists of chicken stuffed with chorizo and cream cheese on a kind of slow-cooked ratatouille concoction! Here’s how we made it:

Stuffed Chicken with Slow Cooker Ratatouille
 
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Chicken breasts, stuffed with chorizo and cream cheese, slow cooked on a bed of ratatouille.
Author:
Recipe type: Slow Cooker
Cuisine: Mixed
Serves: 4 portions
Ingredients
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 1 tub cream cheese
  • 12 slices of chorizo
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 1 punnet mushrooms
  • 300ml passata
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • New potatoes, to serve
Instructions
  1. Chop your onions, peppers and mushrooms and place in the bottom of your slow cooker
  2. Add the paprika to the passata and pour the passata over the veg mix
  3. Take your chicken breasts and slice ¾ of the way through the breast diagonally
  4. Open the flap in the chicken breast and stuff with 1 tablespoon of cream cheese and 3 slices of chorizo
  5. Close the flap over the stuffing and and place on top of the veg and passata in the slow cooker
  6. Cook on low for 4 hours
  7. Serve with new potatoes or side of your choice (would work well with sweet potato wedges, too!)

The end result was wonderful – the veg and passata were tender and fresh-tasting, while the cheese and chorizo gave the chicken a creamy, smoky quality which went really well with the ratatouille. Sausage wasn’t a huge fan because she hates mushrooms but it was a winner with the rest of us and will definitely be made again. It would go well with a number of different sides too, making it a pretty versatile, easy-to-make dish and I’m also pretty sure it contains several of your 5-a-day. Let us know what you think!

 

Slow Cooking Do’s and Don’t’s

Slow cookingOver the past few months, I’ve become slightly obsessed with slow cooking. It’s really invigorated my interest in doing things in the kitchen and has made me so much more adventurous with the things that I’ll attempt to make. It also saves time AND money; a slow cooker is cheaper to run even over the course of 6 hours than a conventional oven is to run for one hour, and often the cheaper cuts of meat are the ones which lend themselves best to ‘low and slow’.

With all this in mind, I thought I’d give you a few of the do’s and don’t’s that I’ve picked up over the last few months of reading and researching slow cooking recipes and methods so that you can, as they say, learn from my fails!

Slow Cooking Do’s and Don’t’s:

Do: read the manual! Slow cookers often vary from brand to brand and things that you can do with one slow cooker may not apply to another – for instance, some pots will crack if no liquid is added while others will be fine.

Don’t: put it in the fridge. The ceramic part of your pot can crack if put into a cold fridge and a cracked slow cooker is the saddest thing of all!

Don’t: cook meat from frozen. I know there are a LOT of people who say that it’s fine to slow cook from frozen but I’ve also seen lots of compelling evidence which says that, on a scientific level, the slow cooker just doesn’t heat the meat quickly enough and allows bacteria to grow. People will tell you that it’s fine to do it, but for me it’s not worth the risk.

Don’t: Add milk or cream to a recipe until about half an hour before you want to serve. I’ve seen SO many pictures of potentially lovely meals which have been ruined by split or curdled dairy products.

Don’t: Be afraid of cornflour. People have had disasters when adding it as a powder but mix it into a paste before you add it to the pot and it will really help to thicken meals which have ended up too watery.

Do: Think about fat. Lots of people (me included) adopt a ‘chuck it all in’ attitude and hardly ever brown things off, but this can often leave you with a layer of fat on top of the finished meal. Browning things first allows you to drain fat before you add it to the slow cooker if you don’t want your food to be too fatty.

Don’t: Be afraid to try things! Some of the best things I’ve cooked in my slow cooker have some from chucking things in and giving them a go.

Do: Allow your pot to cool before you wash it. Adding water to a ceramic pot which is cooler than its own temperature can also cause cracks.

Don’t: Use a slow cooker to reheat leftovers. Things which have been cooked and then cooled need to be reheated thoroughly, quickly and evenly, and a slow cooker just doesn’t get things up to temperature quick enough.

Do: Make sure you check that the electrical cable isn’t underneath the pot while you cook as this can be a fire hazard.

Don’t: Add too much liquid. Slow cookers aren’t the same as cooking on a hob and all of the moisture that you add at the beginning will effectively stay in the pot because of the lid. Also, most foods tend to contain liquid which will cook out and add to the overall moisture of the dish.

Don’t: Overfill your pot. I once spend 8 hours waiting for a lamb stew to be ready, only to find the meat half cooked and the root veg hard because I’d put too much in for the heat to be able to distribute through the cooker.

Do: Think about layers. Things like potatoes, swede and carrot are dense and will take longer to cook than meat, so add them to the bottom of the pot as they’ll be closer to the heat and will cook for longer.

Do: Try not to lift the lid too often! The inside of your slow cooker is a little hot-house for your dinner and every time you lift the lid, you let some of that heat out!

Do you have any other amazing slow cooking tips? I’d love to hear them.

(Big thanks to my fellow Fun Slow Cooker Saddos for their input!)

Slow Cooker Pork Stacks

One of the things which has surprised me the most about using a slow cooker is that it isn’t all stews, soups and casseroles. Of course, I have made stews, soups and casseroles, but I’ve also made meatballs, cake, melt-in-the-mouth meat and even a ‘fakeaway‘ (which, to you and I, is basically a replica of a doner kebab!). Today, I’m doing something which is even more of a departure from what you’d expect of slow cooked fayre – pork stacks.

Here’s how you make slow cooker pork stacks:

Slow Cooker Pork Stacks
 
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Slow cooked pork stack with stuffing, apple, cheese and onion.
Author:
Recipe type: Slow Cooker
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • Pork steaks or chops (2 per person)
  • Stuffing, made up as per the instructions
  • 1 cooking apple, sliced into rounds
  • One onion, sliced
  • Cheddar cheese, 1 or 2 slices per stack
  • Tin foil for wrapping and making foil balls
Instructions
  1. (Before you begin, unless you have the type of slow cooker which can cook dry ingredients, it's wise to ball up some tin foil and place a cup of water in the bottom of your slow cooker, to prevent the pot from cracking which can sometimes happen with recipes with no moisture)
  2. Tear a square of tin foil off of the roll and place one pork steak in the centre
  3. Place a slice of apple on top of your steak
  4. Place a few rings of onion on top of the apple
  5. Place a couple of spoonfuls of stuffing mixture on top of the onions
  6. Top with a slice of cheese
  7. Place another pork steak on top and wrap the edges of the tin foil over to create a sealed parcel
  8. Repeat with the remaining ingredients
  9. Place the parcels in the slow cooker and cook for 6 hours on low
  10. Serve with mashed potato and veg of your choice

Because of the slow cooking, the meat is incredibly tender and the flavours of everything almost melt together. One pork stack is more than enough for one person and the girls shared one, which makes this a pretty cheap meal – even from Waitrose, the meat (which is the most expensive part of the recipe) was only £4 for a pack of six, which was enough to feed us four. It takes only a little bit of effort to make a really tasty meal, which is something I seem to find every time I try something new in the slow cooker.

To me, this is the perfect family meal – tasty, pretty well balanced and something that all of us really enjoy. What’s not to love about that?!

Slow Cooker Pork Stacks

Slow Cooker Lamb Shank (Agnello Brasato)

About three years ago, before BB was even a person, Husband, Sausage and I went to Strada for dinner after a shopping trip. Strada is a chain of restaurants which serves modern Italian cuisine and on this particular trip, I had something called Agnello Brasato, which was basically a lamb shank which had been slow cooked in a tomato and red wine sauce and served with creamy mash and broccoli. For ages, I’ve been craving the meal again, so I decided to try to recreate it myself, with lovely results (although, as usual, my food presentation and photography leaves a lot to be desired!).

Slow Cooker Lamb Shank in Red Wine and Tomato Sauce (Agnello Brasato)

Here’s how I made Slow Cooker Lamb Shank in Red Wine and Tomato Sauce (Agnello Brasato):

Slow Cooker Lamb Shank in Red Wine and Tomato Sauce (Agnello Brasato)
 
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Slow cooked lamb shank, stewed slowly in tomatoes, red wine and herbs.
Author:
Recipe type: Slow Cooker
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 4 lamb shanks
  • 4 (400g) tins chopped tomatoes
  • 2 glass red wine
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4 medium onions, chopped
  • A pinch salt and pepper, for seasoning
  • pinch dried thyme
  • 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • About 1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil, for frying
  • 2 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 150ml chicken stock
Instructions
  1. Brown each of your lamb shanks before placing in your slow cooker (this step is optional)
  2. In a pan, add the onions and garlic and fry until translucent
  3. Add the red wine, rosemary, thyme and stock and bring to the boil
  4. Add the salt and pepper and allow to simmer for 2 minutes and then pour over the lamb shanks in the slow cooker
  5. Cook on low for 6 hours or until lamb is falling off of the bone
  6. Serve with mashed potatoes and greens of your choice (we went for broccoli, but asparagus would also work well) and a few spoonfuls of the tomato stew

 

I can honestly say that this was just as nice (if not nicer!) than the one that I had a Strada all those years ago and definitely satisfied my cravings. The lamb came out so incredibly tender and the sauce was wonderfully rich and flavoursome. There was a load of sauce left in the pot after cooking and I froze it to use at a later date as a ragu to have with pasta. Let me know if you give this a go, I’d love to hear how yours turns out.