Using a crock pot can benefit your life in ways other than saving time 

Published 8:56 am Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Slow cookin’

Do you have a favorite kitchen appliance? Do you highly value your coffee maker? Obsessed with your blender? Aside from my Kitchen-aid mixer, my slow cooker is at the top of my list. 

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I love using my slow cooker because it magically makes dinner for me while I’m away at work. Coming home to a hot meal makes life so much easier — and healthier, too.

Using a slow cooker has many benefits, even more than making healthy meals really easily. Slow cooking is a great way to cook cheaper, more tough cuts of meat to make them tender and flavorful. It’s wonderful when cooking large cuts of meat, soups, stews, vegetables, breakfast items and even desserts —yes, desserts. See the end of this article for a tasty recipe that’s just as delicious as it is easy.

Slow cooking is a completely safe method of cooking, whether you’re busy around the house or running around town. Yes, you read correctly — you can leave it unattended. As long as proper safety guidelines are followed when using the slow cooker it can be left unattended while the food is cooking because of the low temperatures it uses. 

Plus, nowadays these appliances have all sorts of safety features designed to prevent mishaps from spills to house fires.

Now, you know I can’t go without mentioning safety when it comes to food and especially kitchen appliances. Let’s start with slow cooker safety. 

The two main parts of the slow cooker I will refer to are the heating unit (the bottom part that plugs in) and the crock (the ceramic bowl). Here are a few tips on safe usage and upkeep of your crock pot.

• Do not use the slow cooker if the crock has a crack or severe scratches. This can weaken the strength of the crock and it may break during use, causing a very unsafe condition.

• Be sure the slow cooker is placed on a flat, sturdy surface during use.

• If using an extension cord, make sure it has at least the same electrical rating as the slow cooker. If the extension cord is warm to the touch when it is being used, it is not sufficient. Be sure that the cord is not in the path of a walkway and that it is not draping somewhere that it might get caught on something. Also, be sure it is out of the reach of small children.

• Be careful not to expose the crock to extreme temperature changes. If the crock is cold and hot ingredients are added or it is placed in a heating unit that is hot, the crock can crack. Also, if the crock is hot and it is exposed to cold food or water it can crack.

• When you are done cooking with the slow cooker, be sure to unplug the unit immediately.

• Never immerse the heating unit in water.

One last thing I want to mention about upkeep is how to skip soaking the crock. The worst part about using a slow cooker is having to soak the crock afterward to get the baked on food cleaned off. An easy trick to keeping a clean crock is to use slow cooker liners. Seriously, these liners are the best invention since non-stick spray. 

Slow cooker liners are sort of like heat resistant plastic bags — a barrier between the crock and the food. All you have to do is put the liner in the crock, fill the crock with food and cook it. Once you’ve removed your leftovers, remove the liner and throw it away. No muss, no fuss, no soaking clean-up is done. 

Speaking of leftovers, I almost forgot about food safety tips. Here are the things to know about food safety when using a slow cooker.

• Start with a clean environment. Be sure the slow cooker, utensils, and work area are clean. Wash hands before beginning any preparation. Wash utensils, work area and hands with hot soapy water after working with raw meat or poultry.

• To decrease the chance of cross contamination, use two cutting boards when preparing food. Use one cutting board for cutting meat, poultry and fish. The second cutting board should be used for preparing other foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables.

• Do not use frozen ingredients in the slow cooker because they will cause the contents of the slow cooker to take too much time to reach the appropriate temperature, causing the suggested cooking time to be insufficient. If you would like to use frozen vegetables, be sure they are completely thawed before adding them to the slow cooker.

• Never reheat food in a slow cooker. Food does not reach 140°F, the temperature where bacteria growth is prevented, fast enough. The food can be reheated to the proper temperature on the stove, in the oven or in the microwave and then kept warm in a slow cooker.

• Dried beans, especially kidney, contain a natural toxin. These toxins are easily destroyed by boiling. Safe steps for preparing would include soaking the beans for 12 hours, rinsing and then boiling for at least 10 minutes, before adding the beans to a slow cooker.

• When food is finished cooking in the slow cooker, it can be stored safely in the slow cooker with the cooker off for up to two hours. After that the food should be removed and refrigerated. If the cooker is left on the “warm” setting, it can be left in the slow cooker for a longer period of time.

• Store leftovers in shallow airtight storage containers to allow them to cool down more quickly when refrigerated.

• Refrigerate leftovers as soon as possible. Do not allow them to sit at room temperature for more than one hour. Eat within 3 or 4 days. If they will not be eaten within this time, store in the freezer in airtight containers that are freezer safe.

Before I share some absolutely delicious recipes with you there’s one last thing you should know about cooking with a slow cooker: Don’t peek! Leave the lid on unless otherwise instructed by your recipe. Opening the lid to check on the ingredients causes heat to be lost which increases the cook time of your product. 

If you have questions or comments about the column, or if you’d like more information feel free to contact me by email at

Baked potatoes

(113 calories, 26 grams carbohydrates, .12 grams fa

t each)

Poke potatoes with fork and wrap in foil. Fill the crock pot with 6 to 12 potatoes. Cover and cook on Low 8 to 10 hours 

Crockpot peach cobbler

4 tablespoons melted butter

1 -9 ounce jiffy white cake mix ( or 1/2 package of a 2-layer size cake mix)

1/4-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 cups frozen peaches, sliced

Lightly grease the slow cooker/Crock Pot; place peaches in the bottom. Sprinkle with cornstarch; toss. Drizzle with vanilla and sprinkle brown sugar over all. Sprinkle with cinnamon then cake mix. Drizzle melted butter evenly over cake mix. Cover and cook on high for 3 to 3 1/2 hours.

Crockpot apple butter

Makes a little more than 1 pint

1 dozen apples, peeled, cored, cubed

1/2 Cup Water

1/4 Cup Brown Sugar

1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon All Spice

Peel, core, and chop the apples. Toss apples in the sugar and spices. Put in the crockpot on low overnight. In the morning turn it on high and prop open the lid with a wooden spoon. The sauce should thicken after a few more hours. Use an emersion blender to blend until smooth or use it as is.