Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Give Your Slow Cooker a Chance to Impress You

Day 69.

Do you use a slow cooker?

Do you use a slow cooker for anything other than a hunk of meat and some hardy vegetables?

I love my two slow cookers, and long for two more. I'd like to have one large slow cooker that's company presentable. My two slow cookers are food stained and old, chipped and yellowed with age, but work perfectly. I'd also like to have one of those tiny slow cookers that are perfect for a small side dish or appetizer.

When my husband was in Egypt on his first overseas mission, I mailed him a Lil Dipper, some Velveeta, a can of Rotel, a can opener, a plastic mixing bowl, a spoon, and a brown bag of Mission tortilla chips. It was his favorite care package. See? Slow cookers can bring happiness. :o)

Your slow cooker is a wonderland of cooking capability. You can use it to make almost anything. You can make a main dish: soup, stew, pot roast, of course, pot pie, casserole, beans. You can also use it to make breakfast for you while you sleep, and dessert while you go about your day. Your slow cooker can even be used as a room freshener, to make your house smell lovely.

For now, let's tackle something many people find challenging: dried beans.

I remember when I was 20 years old, and my husband was 21, far too young to have a toddler, but we did. We qualified for WIC back then, and they would allow me to purchase certain food items: ready-to-eat cereal, milk, Juicy Juice, cheese, eggs, and dried beans. I would always give those beans away. I didn't know how to cook them and didn't care to try. Dried beans? Ick! Probably they tasted as bad as dried milk! No, thank you! I'll pass. I told you I was too young.

I don't remember when I decided to give dried beans a chance, but I'm so glad I did. I still use canned beans frequently, because they're so quick. Relatively speaking, canned beans are economical, too, at under $1 per can. However, I can generate three to four cans' worth of beans with one pound of dried beans. Dried pinto beans cost me 99 cents per pound. If I buy them in bulk in the produce department, they cost me even less.

For me, saving money is my full-time job. I can save 66% or more by purchasing dried beans. The energy used to cook them is negligible in the big picture. They're boiled for ten minutes, then slow cooked all day. Slow Cookers are very energy efficient.

If you haven't tried dried beans yet, I encourage you to do so soon. Here's the simplest recipe I know.

Slow Cooker Pinto Beans

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb dried pinto beans, sorted and rinsed
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • at serving time only: salt and pepper to taste, optional hot sauce, cheese, taco sauce, or sour cream
How it's Done:
  1. Put a kettle of water on to boil.
  2. Pick through the beans. Sometimes the machinery used to harvest them also harvests small pebbles. Remove any funny-looking beans that are cracked, broken, shriveled up, or otherwise unappealing. Rinse the good beans in a collander.
  3. Put the beans in a pot. When the kettle of water is boiling, pour it over the beans. Bring the beans to a boil on high heat. Boil at a full, rolling boil for ten minutes.
  4. Pour beans and boiling water into the crock of a large slow cooker.
  5. IF YOU WILL BE GONE ALL DAY, add the onion and garlic now. IF YOU WILL BE HOME, add the onion and garlic in FOUR HOURS. Cover and cook on low all day long. The beans will take from 8 to 10 hours to cook, so get them started first thing in the morning.
I recommend serving your beans with a side of rice. It's said that beans and rice together form a perfect protein. Here's a delicious side dish to go along with your beans and rice:

Slow Cooker Triple Cornbread
(yes, you can bake bread in your slow cooker)

Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 11 oz can of corn
  • 14 3/4 oz can of creamed corn
  • 2 Tbsp sour cream
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1/4 cup finely minced onion
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
How it's Done:
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Grease the crock of a large slow cooker.
  3. Pour batter into crock. Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 hours, then uncover, turn off the heat, and let it sit for 15 minutes before removing from the crock. You should be able to flip the crock over onto a plate and the whole loaf should slide right out without any trouble.
For more slow cooker recipes, visit Dining with Debbie each Wednesday.

5 comments:

heather said...

I batch cook my beans in the slow cooker and then freeze them. they they can be dropped right into whatever im making or thaw them and they are ready to go!

here is the blog i wrote on it:
http://outtatheboxintothekitchen.blogspot.com/2010/02/batch-cooking-beans.html

Jenn said...

I love the story of the care package you sent your husband! I don't use my slow cooker near enough.. you have inspired me though.. thank you!

Holly T. said...

Hi Michelle - you have a great site and these are some awesome recipes. Thanks for visiting my site, too - I appreciate it! Looking forward to more from your blog... :-)

tunamarie said...

Maybe I've just been silly all my life but I've never though of slow cooking as anything more than meat. As a vegetarian I am most pleased that you posted this recipe.

Debbie said...

Thanks for posting both of these to CPW. I do beans and bread in my crock pot all of the time. I don't prestart my beans in boiling water...just rince and add them to the slow cooker and cook away. We love the depth of flavor that this cooking method provides. Beans and cornbread....one of our favorite meals.

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