January is National Slow-Cooking Month. What is a slow-cooker? They are commonly referred to as "crock-pots", a brand name by Rival, a company who sells more than ¾ of the manufactured slow-cookers. January is the perfect month to experiment with hearty, mouth-watering, easy, one-pot recipes. Soups, stews, casseroles, and main dishes are all slow-cooking favorites, but the possibilities don't end there - they're limitless.
Slow-cookers are adored by busy moms, singles and couples alike. They provide ease, the possibility for home-cooked meals when the time to make them is non-existent and they can cook everything from candy to whole turkeys complete with dressing.
If you don't believe how much they are revered, you're probably not a slow-cooker - yet. Read the following homage written by a satisfied slow-cooking fan:
Ode to my Slow Cooker
How do I LOVE THEE, my beloved slow-cooker? Let me count the ways:
My beloved slow-cooker saves me tons of time.
Complete meals are ready by dinnertime with minimal effort; freeing up time during the afternoon and evening, leaving precious time that can be spent relaxing alone or with family.
My beloved slow-cooker can get me out of a time crunch when I forget to start dinner early - it's not just for slow-cooking. It can cook food in 1/2 the time when placed on high when a memory lapse comes into play.
My beloved slow-cooker delivers delicious tender meals.
Use any cut of meat and by dinner-time get meat so tender it just melts in your mouth.
My beloved slow-cooker is simple to use and so can go from unit to refrigerator for easy storage of leftovers.
The removable insert can go from table to refrigerator with ease, ready to warm the next day for super-quick leftovers.
My beloved slow-cooker delivers mouth-watering smells to greet my loved ones when they come in the door - each and every time.
It works its magic all day long and provides regular healthy home-cooking for family and tasty treats for guests.
Selecting a Slow-Cooker
Invest in a slow-cooker the proper size for your lifestyle. Most slow cookers come in sizes ranging from 2 quarts to 7.5 quarts. Some can even be purchased with a separate tiny crock (1 quart) suitable for sauces and gravies. Typically a 2 - 2.5 quart slow cooker would be suitable for singles who do not want leftovers, while a 3-4 quart would be great for a couple, a single wanting leftovers, or a small family, and larger sizes are appropriate for larger families or entertaining.
When selecting a slow cooker, choose one suitable for the job at hand. They have both plastic and glass lids and come in two different shapes. Round crocks are perfect for stews and soups, while oval ones are best suited for whole chickens and roasts. If you can't make up your mind, many homes have more than one. Also, some have removable ceramic inserts while others are one complete unit. Note: The single units are harder to clean and cannot be stored in the refrigerator for leftovers. Some slow cooker inserts are able to be placed in the microwave and can be used on the stovetop. Check your user's manual regarding your specific model.
Newer models are chrome to match stainless steel appliances and are digital, programmable and will even turn themselves down from cook to warm once they've reached their cooking time. Slow-cookers have come a long way in recent years.
Using a Slow-Cooker
If you prefer recipes, slow-cooking cookbooks abound, but a little online research can be quite effective and more economical. By typing in the words slow-cooking or crock-pot recipes, the number of sites dedicated to this fare will be numerous; some of them even have reviews and comments submitted by people who have given them a whirl, to better provide you with an idea of whether the recipe is a hit or a miss. Try www.bhg.com, www.chetday.com/crockpotrecipes.htm, and www.about.com to get started.
Slow-cooking has helped calm the frantic pace of many evening households. It's fuss-free approach to cooking has made it a favorite for singles, couples, and both working moms and stay-at-home moms. It's a fantastic way to deliver flavorful nutritious meals within budget, on-time, and with ease.
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