By: Donna-Marie Pye, P.H.Ec.
Adapted from a previous OHEA media release for the Ask a Professional Home Economists (P.H.Ec.) series.
After many years of slow cooking, and two cookbooks later, I am even more convinced of the marvelous benefits of this appliance. Not only are slow cookers convenient and portable, but cooking foods at low heat produces flavorful, tender results.
Slow cooking tenderizes tougher cuts of meat by cooking them in their own juices and slowly breaking down the tough connective tissues. Stews and chilies don’t dry out our stick to the bottom of the pot and the even, low temperature ensures perfect results with more delicate dishes such as puddings and custards.
Slow cooking is for everyone – families, couples, students and seniors. Whether you are on a tight budget or love leisurely cooking, slow cookers can provide good, healthy food without requiring you to spend hours over a hot stove.
The basic premise is simple. Assemble and prepare the ingredients at your convenience – whether it’s the night before or earlier in the day – place them in the slow cooker stoneware, turn it on and let the food cook while you walk away. Delicious aromas greet you when you return at the end of the day. Toss a salad and pour the drinks and a delicious home-prepared meal is ready for you to serve and savor.
While most of us have a hard time trying to figure out what we’re going to have for dinner every night, choosing the perfect dish to offer to friends and company can be even harder. Enter your lifesaver – the slow cooker.
Potlucks provide the perfect opportunity to use this handy appliance. It is a great time saver and it will free up important oven space that is needed for other dishes. And, of course, you can serve directly from your slow cooker, which saves on extra dishes and eases clean-up.
One of the best things about slow cooker meals, is they often feed a crowd. What would a football party be without a big pot of simmering chili or a thick, hearty stew after a day of playful winter activities? And everyone’s a winner on games night when you serve up a tasty buffet of appetizers, hot from the slow cooker.
Sample a delicious dessert at your monthly book club meeting or show off your talents at your church supper by dishing up a delicious casserole. Holiday celebrations mean lots of friends, family, fun and food. Of course the turkey and stuffing are a given, but oven space is always at a premium.
Take advantage of your slow cooker to prepare a few appetizers or condiments a day or two ahead, make the stuffing in the morning and have it warming during the day or keep a hot drink simmering. Use your slow cooker to serve up a soup for starters, an extra dessert, a separate entrée for vegetarians or as an extra server for a delicious array of side dishes.
These are just a few of the popular situations when your slow cooker could come in handy, whether you are the host or you tote along.
In order to take your slow cooker to an event, here are a few tips for transporting:
GINGER PORK WRAPS
Makes 6 servings
These wraps combine the flavours of sweet and sour pork with crisp vegetables. Serve them at your next party and everyone will be asking for seconds and thirds!
¼ cup (50 mL) hoisin sauce
3 tbsp (45 mL) grated gingerroot
3 tbsp (45 mL) liquid honey
2 ½ lb (1.25 kg) boneless pork loin rib end roast, trimmed of excess fat
2 ½ cups (625 mL) shredded cabbage
½ cup (125 mL) shredded carrots
3 green onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp (25 mL) rice vinegar 25
10 – 12 10-inch (25 cm) flour tortillas
BRAISED CABBAGE AND RASPBERRIES
Makes 6 to 8 servings
This is a perfect side dish at any Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner table. It goes especially well with pork roasts. Tote it along to your next holiday gathering.
1 medium heat green or red cabbage thinly sliced (about 12 cups/3L)
2 onions, thinly sliced
½ cup (125 mL) dried cranberries
2 cups (500 mL) fresh raspberries, or 1 10-oz (300 g) package frozen unsweetened raspberries, defrosted
¾ cup (175 mL) raspberry vinegar
¼ cup (50 mL) butter, melted
½ cup (125 mL) granulated sugar
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
Donna-Marie Pye is a Professional Home Economist, food writer and author of “Canada’s Best Slow Cooker Recipes”. She has developed recipes for a number of publications and food marketing boards. Her second slow cooker book “The Best Family Slow Cooker Recipes” has just been published (September 2003).
With two active children and a busy family household, she has a first-hand appreciation of how slow cookers can benefit the lives of families.