Crock-Pot cooking means warm meal, cool kitchen

Adrienne Freeman Originally Published June 27, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated June 26, 2013 at 10:32 a.m.
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The joys of summer can be disruptive to a dinner plan at home. Baseball games, long days at the pool, kids with summer jobs and parents with regular ones fill every minute of the longer daylight hours but don’t necessarily help in filling growling tummies.

Superman is once again king in the theater this summer, and your slow cooker can be the king of the kitchen again, too. According to the Sunbeam Corp., who now owns the trade name Crock-Pot, the slow cooker was introduced more than 40 years ago in 1971, with the removable, easier-to-clean crockery insert added in 1974. “Crock-Pot” has developed into such a household term that the brand name is more often than not used interchangeably for slow cookers made by all manufacturers.

The slow cooker has many advantages — not only a timesaver by allowing unattended, all-day cooking, it is a money saver as well. Less-expensive cuts of meat are cooked in the time-honored tradition — low and slow — to break down the gelatinous connective tissue while flavoring and tenderizing the delicious, desirable muscle. But updated recipes show that the handy appliance is also great for casseroles, vegetables, soups — even baking.

Updates to the original technology include digital controls, programmable cooking modes that switch from high to low automatically, and even meat probes, making results more reliable. A cooler kitchen, energy savings and one-pot cleanup are all bonuses that make the aging slow cooker hip again.

A few tips guarantee success every time. Avoid adding frozen meats or poultry; as a general rule, fresh foods are better for slow cooking. Always leave a couple of inches at the top of the pot to allow room for simmering, and leave the lid on. The low cooking temperature is only effective when maintained in the crock — it takes longer to recover the proper temperature after removing and replacing the lid.

SUPER-SIMPLE SUMMER PULLED PORK

Ingredients:

3- to 4-pound pork shoulder

Commercially prepared barbecue seasoning rub

4 tablespoons hickory smoke seasoning

1 12-ounce bottle barbecue sauce

3/4 cup water

Directions:

Rinse and dry pork with paper towels. Rub with barbecue rub. Set aside.

Mix hickory smoke seasoning, your favorite barbecue sauce and water in the slow cooker. Add the pork shoulder, turning to cover in sauce.

Cook on low setting 5 to 6 hours or on high setting 4 to 5 hours. Turn off the cooker, and allow meat to rest about 15 minutes. Using large forks or gloved hands, pull pork into bite-sized pieces. Serve with sauce on buns with slaw or as an entrée.

BROTHER’S BBQ FAMOUS MAYO COLESLAW

Larry Cordell, the owner of Brother’s BBQ in Cleburne County, has been cooking barbecue and all the fixings for more than 20 years. The Heber Springs grill master swears by this coleslaw recipe, which has been adjusted for a family-size, not a restaurant-size, batch. The slaw can be prepared in the morning and chill all day until ready to be served with the tangy slow-cooker pot pork.

Ingredients:

3 bags prepared coleslaw mix

2 cups mayonnaise

1 cup buttermilk

1/4 packet Hidden Valley Ranch dry dressing mix

1/4 cup sugar

Directions:

Mix all dressing ingredients with a wire whisk or mixer until smooth. Mix the cabbage/carrot mixture with the dressing, and chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.

SLOW COOKER MIXED-BERRY COBBLER

Ingredients:

Nonstick cooking spray

1 1/2 cups individually frozen blueberries

1 1/2 cups individually frozen red raspberries

1/2 cup fresh cranberries

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar (divided use)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup boiling water

Whipped cream or cream topping (optional)

1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted (optional)

Directions:

Lightly coat a 3 1/2- or 4-quart slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray to prevent sticking. Combine frozen blueberries, frozen raspberries and cranberries; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, 2/3 cup sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Stir in milk, melted butter and vanilla just until combined. Add berries to cooker, spoon batter, spreading lightly and evenly, over berries in the cooker.

In a small bowl, dissolve the remaining 1/3 cup sugar with the boiling water. Pour evenly over the berries and the batter.

Cover and cook on high-heat setting for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove the crockery liner from the slow cooker, if possible, or turn off the slow cooker. Cool the cobbler, uncovered, for 1 hour.

Spoon warm cobbler into dessert dishes, and top with whipped cream and nuts, if desired.

NO-CRUST SPINACH, MUSHROOM, SWISS AND BACON QUICHE

Ingredients:

Disposable slow-cooker liner

Nonstick cooking spray

1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well-drained

4 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups coarsely chopped mushrooms, (crimini, portabello, button — any are fine)

1/2 cup raw red bell pepper, chopped

1 1/2 cups Swiss cheese, shredded

8 large eggs

2 cups half-and-half or whole milk

2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 cup commercially prepared biscuit mix

Directions:

Line a 3 1/2- or 4-quart slow cooker with disposable slow-cooker liner; coat liner with cooking spray. Press spinach to remove as much liquid as possible; set aside.

In a medium pan, cook bacon until crisp; drain, crumble, set aside. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel, add oil, and heat over medium heat. Add mushrooms and sweet pepper; cook 4 to 5 minutes until tender. Stir in drained spinach and cheese. Remove from heat.

Whisk together eggs, half-and-half and seasonings. Stir cooled vegetable mixture into eggs. Gently fold in biscuit mix and add to prepared slow cooker. Sprinkle with bacon.

Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 4 to 5 hours or on high-heat setting for 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Turn off cooker. If possible, remove the crockery liner from cooker. Cool quiche for 15 to 30 minutes before serving.

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