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
- 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
- Put a kettle of water on to boil.
- 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.
- 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.
- Pour beans and boiling water into the crock of a large slow cooker.
- 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.
Slow Cooker Triple Cornbread
(yes, you can bake bread in your slow cooker)
- 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
- Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
- Grease the crock of a large slow cooker.