What is it about slow cookers?

What is it about slow cookers and winter?  It seems that every year I can’t wait for it to get a little colder, I almost will the weather to turn so that I can justify cranking out the slow cooker and getting tucked into some tasty heart warming stews and winter meals.  I guess there is a small part of me that feels a little bit lazy, because I guess it’s more assembly rather than cooking, but when I made this comment a few months back a friend reassured me that I wasn’t being lazy, as I was still putting the effort into making it, just at the other end of the day.

I love that feeling when you walk into the house after being out all day and you are hit by the aromas coming from the slow cooker, it’s so satisfying, and I wonder if I enjoy it more because it almost feels like someone has cooked dinner for me.  You see it always tastes better when someone else has made it for you.

Of course I have my favorite recipes that I use on a regular basis, and I make them in huge quantities so that we have meals for other nights and Hubby has lunches for work.

Tonight we are having sweet and sour pork, it’s a great recipe that I procured from a close family friend years ago, it tastes really good and it’s actually not that bad for you, served with a bit of rice on the side and it’s perfect.

Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Pork – just in the Slow Cooker

There are other favorites, yummy winter stew with lean beef, Boeuf Bourguignon, Lamb Shanks, chili con carne, a really good meat sauce for spaghetti bolognaise or Lasagna, curry, Corned Beef, Whole “roast” Chicken, I could go on.  Of course once you have yummy stews and lamb shanks made in the slow cooker, they then lend themselves to making beautiful meat pies, or Lamb Shank Pies (one of my absolute favorites).

Lamb Shank Pie

The great thing I LOVE about pulling a previously made meal out of the freezer,  is that there is no fuss, and it tastes amazing as the flavors have really developed through the meal, the old adage is true, it always tastes better the next day.

There are plenty of books that you could go and buy, the only one that I have is ;

100 Great Ways to use Slow Cookers and Crockpots – Alison Holst

But why go and buy a book when you can find thousands of great recipes online, here are a few websites that I have used.

Websites

http://slowandsimple.com/

http://www.food.com/recipes/crock-pot-slow-cooker

http://allrecipes.com

Of course you can generally adapt any recipe for a slow cooker, you will probably just need to play with the quantity of liquid required until you get it right.  Some people say reduce the liquid by half, but I really will depend on what you are cooking, it is has something like rice in it, you may need to experiment.  You also need to watch for cooking onions through a bit in a pan before adding them so you get a more developed flavor rather than an insipid rubbery textured raw onion flavor.  There are also different schools of thought on whether you need  to brown the meat off too, personally if I have time I will generally seal the meat in a pan before I chuck it in the slow cooker, it seems to keep the meat moist and tender.

I have seen friends use their slow cookers for cooking cheerios for kids parties recently, which I thought was a great idea, ensuring that the skins don’t split when you inevitably forget about them on the stove-top.

There are heaps of deserts that can be made in the slow cooker, and as yet I haven’t delved into that area, however I have yet to try making pana cotta and I have heard it’s great in the slow cooker, so watch this space.

Happy Cooking!

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