I Just Got A Slow Cooker…Now What?

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A slow cooker can be the start of a new cooking experience that leads to a more simplified, less stressful lifestyle. It can also be the encouragement you need to get more organized in the kitchen. Using this convenient kitchen appliance on a frequent basis gives you an opportunity to reduce your grocery expenses while preparing new, healthy recipes for your family.

With your new kitchen helper, you can easily prepare large quantities of food with a minimal amount of skill or effort. Once-a-month cooking marathons are a wonderful way to simplify your life. Slow cookers are an ideal accessory that makes cooking in large quantities incredibly easy. If you are a new user, there are a few additional items you will need if you decide to cook large amounts of food at one time. You will need some freezer bags and storage containers. As a new user, you may want to do some research on freezer tips to be sure that you follow the best method for the type of food you are freezing.

If you want to prepare a month of meals at one time, you will have to do some planning. First of all, you'll need to block off one day, or possibly two half days, for cooking. You'll need a menu plan. It's helpful if you can go shopping the day prior to your scheduled cooking day. Go shopping with a list in hand that includes everything you will need to prepare the items on the menu you prepared.

On the day you are doing your once-a-month cooking, start with the recipes that will go in the cooker first, then move on to baked goods or stove top cooking. As a time saver, chop all of the vegetables you will need for the recipes at one time. You can then measure out what you need for each recipe without having to switch from mixing to chopping. You'll find this really will save you some time.

Many of the recipes for your favorite soups, stews and sauces can be doubled so that you can freeze them in meal size portions. Once these have been removed from the freezer and thawed in the refrigerator, you can reheat them in the slow cooker. That makes life even easier for you. Now, go search through your recipes, plan your shopping, and soon you'll be ready to prepare recipes in large quantities, freeze them in mealtime portions, and enjoy the time you save.

Fall Has Arrived: Let’s Stew! (Beef Stew)

beef, beef stew, fall stew

Fall Beef Stew

When the days grow shorter, the weather colder, and trees begin to change the color of their leaves; once I let go of the feeling that summer was not nearly long enough, I begin to revel in the beauty of the season. I begin to think of winter meals.

The onset of colder weather starts me thinking of hearty recipes that taste so good in winter. I like to prepare pork roasts, lamb or beef stew, chicken soup and other filling, comfort-providing foods.

A hearty pot of beef stew is my favorite dish for weekday winter meals.

Ingredients:

2 pounds beef stew meat (chuck roast is a good cut to use),
buy it precut, have the butcher cube it for you or cube it yourself

1½ pounds red potatoes, rinsed, peeled and cut into quarters or eighths depending on size or

1½ pounds of baby Yukon gold potatoes - rinsed and halved

1 pound of baby peeled carrots

2 large cans of whole tomatoes, or
an equivalent amount of fresh tomatoes

2 medium onions cut in half and thinly sliced

2 hand-fulls of fresh green beans, rinsed and trimmed

1 clove garlic

Dash of allspice or ground cloves.

1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce

2 to 3 dried bay leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

This recipe takes a little time. The ingredients need to simmer for some time to become tender and the flavors of the ingredients need to meld.

Coat the meat in a half-cup of flour seasoned with a little salt and pepper (I usually put the flour and seasoning in a clean, new, brown paper bag), add the meat and shake.

Sear the cubed meat in a small amount of cooking oil just until brown.
Add the potatoes, chopped onion clove of garlic, Worcestershire sauce, seasonings and 1 cup of water or broth. Cook over medium heat for 30 minutes. Add the fresh vegetables except the tomatoes and beans and cook for 30 minutes, add the green beans and cook for 30 minutes, add the fresh tomatoes if you are using them and cook an additional 30 minutes. If you are using canned tomatoes, add at the end of the cooking process and allow a few minutes for them to heat through. The stew is ready when the meat and vegetables are fork tender.

Remove the bay leaves and garlic clove before serving.

This stew will stay fresh in your fridge for one week; the taste improves with age, or divide it into family size portions and freeze until needed. Defrost and heat gently.

It is a nutritious meal and tastes wonderful. Serve it with warm bread.

Easy Freezer Hash Browns…and a Quick Panini Press Tip

I always buy potatoes in bulk at Sam's Club because it's far more cost-effective to buy a huge bag there than a smaller one at the local grocery store.  However, I always seem to have too many and they start to sprout before I have the chance to use them.

Last night, I decided to use up the rest of my massive bag of potatoes with a quick and easy freezer trick.

Simply shred the potatoes using a grater or food processor.  Place the ones you aren't using on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Place the potatoes in the freezer and "flash-freeze" them for a few hours.

Freezer Hash Browns

Then, break apart the frozen potatoes into meal (or individual size) portions, label them and freeze them for future use.

Family Portions

...and another quick trick...

If you have a panini press you can cook your hash browns with little effort.  Simply grease your press (well) and place the "bricks" on the on it.  Within 10-15 minutes you'll have crispy hash-browns without flipping them.  Mine turned out AMAZING this way..although my photo didn't.  😉

Panini Hash Browns