Guest post by Angela Coffman, The Grocery Shrink
A slow cooker cooks while you do other things, does it without heating up your kitchen; and tenderizes the toughest cuts of meats. I <3 my slow cooker.
6 Tips for Using a Slow Cooker
1. Use a Christmas Tree timer to turn your crock on when you want to. This especially useful for breakfast recipes that cook for less than 8 hours. Use wisdom when dealing with raw meats to avoid bacteria growth.
2. Many traditional recipes can be converted to slow cooking. Use this guide from Taste of Home.
3. For recipes that you want to keep from getting soggy on the top like apple crisp or quick bread, you can place paper towels or a cloth under the lid to capture the condensation.
4. You can use your slow cooker to make dry beans to use in recipes and save a bundle over buying canned. Place 2 cups of sorted and rinsed dry beans in a slow cooker with 6 cups of water. (You can soak beans overnight first, but it works fine if you don’t.) Add 2 tsp of salt and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. You can add garlic, onion, cumin or bay leaf as they cook for flavor if you like. (Check out this post on how to cook beans in a slow cooker.)
5. Freeze your own slow cooker meals in gallon size bags, thaw them all the way or just enough to get the food out of the bag and cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 6-8 hours. Meats in marinades with veggies or stews work awesome this way.
6. Most slow cooker recipes call for cream of soup recipes. If you prefer to use more natural ingredients substitute half as much broth instead, then stir in the other half as cream cheese, sour cream, or yogurt at the end. (Or make your own Cream of Chicken Soup or keep Cream-Of Soup Mix on hand.)
Slow Cooked Cinnamon Rolls for Breakfast
1 cup warm water
1 cup quick oats (or old fashioned oats chopped with a smack chopper)
2 Tbs honey
2 tsp yeast
1 Tbs oil
1 tsp salt
1 cup unbleached flour
1 1/2- 2 cups whole wheat flour (I used home ground hard white wheat and purchased the wheat berries from Walmart.)
4 oz cream cheese (I used Neufchatel); ¼ cup brown sugar (or sucanat) ; 1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup sour cream or yogurt; ¾ cup brown sugar (or sucanat); 1 tsp baking soda; 2 tsp cinnamon
1. Combine the water and oats. Let stand for 15 minutes to soften the oats.
2. Add honey and yeast. Then the egg, oil and 1 cup of unbleached flour. Mix well then stir in salt and additional flour to make a dough that comes together from the sides of the bowl. (I like to do the mixing in my kitchen aid mixer with the dough hook.)
3. Lightly oil the dough and let it rest covered with a cloth, 30 minutes to 1 hour. This allows the gluten to relax so you will be able to roll the dough out without too much spring action.
4. Punch down dough and roll out on a silicone mat or pastry cloth into a large rectangle ¼ inch thick.
5. Beat together cream cheese, brown sugar and cinnamon. Add a little milk if necessary to make it spreadable. Spread filling onto dough.
6. Roll up and cut into 12 pieces with a long piece of dental floss.
7. Place the rolls inside a cold, greased slow cooker giving equal space around each roll for rising.
8. Beat together topping ingredients and pour over all.
9. Cover with the slow cooker lid and use a Christmas Tree Timer to set the slow cooker to come on High 1 ½ hours before breakfast. The rolls will raise slowly overnight (since all the ingredients were cold) and then bake just in time for breakfast.
Angela Coffman is a mom of 6 and blogs over at groceryshrink.com and centsablyfit.com. After paying off $87,000 in debt in a little less than 6 months, she started her blog to encourage other families making the same journey. She has been featured on the 700 club; TLC’s Extreme Cheapskates, and local news, radio and magazines.