On a snowy, blowy Midwest evening, nothing sounds better after a long day's work than a warm, hearty meal. But after a full day of working, parenting, running errands the like, most Americans struggle to put together a meal to sit down to, thus the ever thriving "to go" food industry. Low and behold an underused solution to this weeknight meal dilemma, enter: the slow cooker. Crockpots are a great way to prepare those family favorites and have them ready by the time you get home.
As simple as a "one pot meal" sounds, there is definitely more to it than "set it and forget it!" Here are some basic slow cooker kernels of knowledge to help guide your in home use:
- Dense vegetables like potatoes, carrots and other root vegetables take the longest to cook, so place them on the bottom and cut the pieces no thicker than one inch. Tender vegetables, such as tomatoes, mushrooms, zucchini and squash, which can overcook easily, should be added during the last two hours of cooking.
- Foods high in fat cook quickly. Place meats on top of the vegetables.
- Crockpots work the best when they are half to three-fourths full. Don't fill a pot to the brim, because it can't regulate the heating of the food correctly. If the pot is less than half full, food may overcook.
- Cooking time depends on the heat setting. One hour on the high setting – 300 degrees – is equal to two hours on low – 200 degrees.
- Avoid lifting the lid to check on progress. Each time you lift the crock lid, you increase the cooking time by 20 minutes!
- Use a cooking bag to line the pot or coat with nonstick spray, and clean-up will be as easy as preparing a crockpot meal. Most newer crocks are removable and dishwasher safe, which also allow for easy cleaning.
The best news? Slow cookers are capable of cooking dishes for all courses of the meals. That's right! These appliances aren't just for pot roasts and queso dip anymore! Hot beverages and sweet desserts can also come from the confines of a crockpot. Or in this case, a sweet side dish with Thanksgiving undertones. Here is a creative, flavorful side dish that warms you from the inside out!
Apple and Sweet Potato Mash
- 2 large sweet potatoes (peeled or not, preference)
- 3 golden delicious apples (peeled or not, preference)
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- Wash and cut potatoes into quarters. Place in slow cooker.
- Similarly, wash and core apples. Cut into eights and place in slow cooker.
- Sprinkle with cinnamon.
- Cook on high 2 hours or until potatoes are fork tender.
- Remove from heat and beat with hand mixer until smooth. Serve warm.
Nutrition Facts (per ½ cup serving) : 90 calories, 0g Fat, 0g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 20 mg sodium, 20g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 12g sugar, 1g protein