Thursday, November 5, 2009

Slow Cookin'....

The slow cooker. A lazy person's kitchen accessory or a smart person's essential kitchen item? Since I love my slow cooker with all my heart, I will select the latter. My friends and I actually got in a debate - if you could only select one cooking source, which would you select from a grill, a stove/oven, or a slow cooker? While there's obviously merits for all of them (nothing tastes like a grilled burger or cookies fresh from the oven), I think the slow cooker is convenient, versatile, economical, and green!

For those of you who are new to slow cooking, welcome! Basically, a slow cooker cooks food at a constant and low temperature for hours, making food more flavorful. Ever notice how people sell things by adding taglines like "slow-cooked"? Yeah, because it's delicious. And it's also great because you can take 10-15 minutes chopping and prepping your food, throw it in the slow cooker, leave for work for 8-10 hours, and when you come home, your dinner is ready. How awesome is that?!

You can cook just about anything in a slow cooker, making it a super versatile piece of equipment to have in your kitchen. Just some quick glances at my slow cooker cookbook and here are some of the recipes: hot artichoke dip, butterscotch fondue, beef bourguignon (I'm sure Julia Child is not thrilled about this), Jamaican jerk pork sandwiches, pasta with sun-dried tomato sauce, rosemary chicken and potatoes, and decadent raspberry brownies! YUM!

A slow cooker also helps you get more bang for your buck in your grocery budget. You can buy cheaper, tougher pieces of meat, and put it in a slow cooker for a few hours. What you end up with is a tender, flavorful piece of meat (sorry vegetarians!).

And something I definitely love about slow cookers - they're an energy efficient way to cook. Now, this probably depends on a few factors - is your oven energy efficient? Do you have a low-wattage slow cooker? How long will you leave the slow cooker on? In most instances, your typical slow cooker is going to have a lower wattage than your oven. Surprisingly, it will even use less energy in 8 hours than an oven would in an hour! Check out this planet green post on the author's research on slow cookers v. ovens.

If you are interested in dusting off your slow cooker, the recipe book I love is Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes. Anyone else out there in love with their slow cooker like I am? Anyone inspired to give it a try?

Oh, and PS - dinner tonight: slow-cooked white chicken chili with corn bread muffins.

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