Operation Use My…Crockpot – Weekend Cooking

Posted 21 January, 2012 by Trish in In the Kitchen / 47 Comments

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I’ve been thinking about my kitchen appliances for a while. Thinking about how I have so many cool things but rarely use them–or don’t know how to use them best. Many of these appliances are ones Scott and I registered for when we were getting married. Fondue Pot!! Cool!! Of course I need a Trifle Dish! Shake Mixer? Hell ya!

Other than to cook queso (the jarred kind), we’ve only used our fondue pot once. Never used the trifle and I’m not sure about the shake maker. Not to mention all of the other gadgets filling our cabinets and taking space on our counters. I won’t tell you guys that last night I might have bought a bundt cake tin at the grocery store…   So sad Trish, so sad.

Out of this was born Operation Use My Kitchen Gadgets. Using my kitchen stuff is part of my list of things I want to do in 2012–each month I will focus on one appliance/gadget and really try to learn how to use each item to its full potential. I’m counting on your help to give me pointers!!

For the rest of January and February my focus will be the Crockpot. I just got a new one for Christmas and really want to utilize it. I’ve been a crockpot owner for over 10 years and have gotten really good at cooking roast but that’s about it. Last Sunday I cooked a breakfast casserole and it was OK but it helped me realize that this baby can be used for so much more than just pot roast. My two limitations with the crockpot are finding the time to prep (night before? get up early?) and being gone for 11 hours and not eating for another 2 after I get home. 13 hours is a long time for anything to cook.

Do you have a crockpot? How do you use your crockpot? Any good recipes you’d recommend? Suggestions on how to get past the limitations?

The other appliances/gadgets on the list: ice cream maker, fondue pot, blender, food processor, springform pans, George Foreman grill, shake maker, and trifle dish (gah…and now bundt cake tin). One for each month (not in that order).

I’ll report back at the end of February and let you know how my first OUMKG went. Anyone want to join me?!

Every weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  “Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.”  Hope you’ll join the fun!

47 Responses to “Operation Use My…Crockpot – Weekend Cooking”

  1. It can really be used for anything an oven can, even cakes. I actually use mine more often to keep food warm than to bake. If you put stuff in there on low, it will stay hot, so like if you make food an hour in advance or whatever….

  2. I tend to use my crock pot on the weekends, I make a bunch of meals ahead of time and then viola, me weekdays are not so rushed. I make mass quantities of homemade spaghetti sauce, pulled pork, sauerkraut, even onion soup. I start eh up when I’m starting my housework, and just let it go. It smells like home. By the end of my day I’ve got sauce I can divi up and freeze and have ready to go on a weeknight. Just cook some pasta. I’m watching my carbs this year, so I’m replacing the pasta with spaghetti squash, looks like pasta only better for me. When I make the sauerkraut, i add some sausage and my husband is happy on those days he needs to get supper for himself. Same with the pulled pork, put in on and off i go to do some shopping or something (use to be swimming lessons with my guys) and then I’d get home and dinner would be ready. Stew is another great on, here I just layer the meat first, then vegetable in order of how long they take to cook, ones that take longer on the bottom and the ones on top less. But if your concerned about the length of time it will be on, maybe a timer in your outlet would be a good idea, either way I’d try it when I was home before leaving it alone on in the house.

  3. I think I’m a perfect candidate for a crockpot. You throw stuff together and then you can walk away and let the pot do the cooking for you, isn’t that right? At least, that is the impression I get. I have a bad habit of burning things because I walk away and “forget.” I love how you cook larger quantities so you can have stuff ready for weeknights. Smart.

  4. We cook tons of things in our crockpot because it is so easy to just leave it in there and cook. My favorite is cutting up strips of chicken, red and green peppers, and onions to make chicken fajitas. Delicious!!!!

  5. I love my crockpot, even though I don’t use it as often as I should. There are two recipes I make in it all the time- pulled pork and a creamy bacon-chicken dish. It’s so easy to just start in the morning and presto! dinner’s ready at the end of the day.

    The pork one is so simple, I’ll share it with you. Slice half an onion. Put half the slices in the crock pot. Put pork chops over that. Stud the chops with cloves, cover w/rest of onion, just cover w/water. Cook for 8 hr on low. Then remove the cloves, pour out the liquid, shred the pork, return to the pot w/onions and mix in your favorite BBQ sauce. Let it cook another hour and serve w/buns or crusty bread!

  6. Love, love, love this project. What a great idea. Figure out what you really like and will use and get rid of the rest.

    I’m home all day, so using the crockpot is easy for me. One great thing to do is use it to cook dried beans — they can cook all day when you’re gone. When you get home, pop in the refrigerator. After they cool, bag them up and put them in the freezer. Cheaper and more healthful than canned.

    Dawn (and several other bloggers) reviewed Slow Cooker Revolution: http://www.sheistoofondofbooks.com/2011/03/19/book-review-slow-cooker-revolution-from-americas-test-kitchen/ . This is a new book that has recipes adapted to modern cookers and modern tastes.

    Two others are Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook and Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Family Favorites. Your library might have these.

    I tend not to make roasts — but cut up chicken, soups, stews, stocks, applesauce, beans, chili and things like that.

  7. I use my crockpot all the time and love it.
    One suggestion for long cook times — I have successfully used semi-frozen chicken in a crockpot by adding several hours of cooking time — you might want to try that when you haved to leave something on for 13 hours…I have also made an overnight stew of beans and meat that came out great by adding more liquid than I normally would if it were going to cook for only six hours.

    I have had the same problem with the accumulation of kitchen gadgets; I pared down my supply recently by giving several to my daughter who loves to cook for her suite mates.

  8. I have a crockpot and don’t use it much, but you could make chili or spaghetti sauce and let both of those cook a while. Good luck with your project – I think it’s a great idea!

    • Holy crap, I so bookmarked that chicken thing. that looks AMAZING (will probably pare down the recipe since I dont have space for that many leftovers, even in the freezer)

  9. What a fun idea! I have a lot of unused appliances myself. I go through spurts where they get dragged out, but not nearly enough… My crock pot does get the most use. The highest setting on mine is 10 hours, though. I had another one where it was 12 and it annoyed me. I like this one because it cooks for 10 hours and then automatically turns to the warming setting. And, if I am in a hurry I have been known to use other settings for 4, 6, and 8 hours. They turn out just as good. That being said I have 3 crock pot recipe books that I never use. I really should. You will have to share successful attempts and maybe it will inspire me!

  10. I don’t cook much, but my mom is a total crockpot nut. We’ve had some big hits and a few misses, too, but my favorite of what she makes is chicken taco soup. She claims it’s super easy, and it makes a ton, so we usually have some to freeze for later.

    It’s….

    3 frozen chicken breast
    1 envelope taco seasoning
    1 envelope ranch dressing mix
    1 can cannellini beans
    1 can kidney beans
    1 can black beans
    1 can vegetarian baked beans
    1 can RoTel tomatoes
    1 can corn
    1 diced onion

    Put it all in the crockpot in the order listed, cook on low 8-10 hours. Take chicken out, shred, and replace. Et voila!

    Good luck with your crockpot quest! Hope you find some tasty things to cook. =D

  11. 13 hours?? There’s not a shorter setting than that? crazy talk.

    Alas, one time I used the crock for gumbo and it was delicious! It was a bit of prep work – I had to get up early to make the roux, burned it, and successfully set off my fire alarm before 8 a.m. Luckily I had the ingredients to make another!

    Judging from my clicked links, I probably used some sort of combo of these recipes:

    http://southernfood.about.com/od/crockpotsoup/r/bl00109c.htm
    http://www.food.com/recipe/crock-pot-chicken-and-sausage-gumbo-with-shrimp-55786

    I think the second recipe just has shrimp added, which is yummy. A tip from my experience: the roux may not take 15 minutes to cook, just wait until it’s dark brown, not until it’s black and like gritty charcoal because you tried to wait 15 minutes ;)

  12. I’m looking forward to reading more about your crockpot adventures. I have to fend for myself in the kitchen on Monday evenings, and have been seriously eying our crockpot. Megan’s mom’s chicken taco soup looks good!

  13. excellent for making shredded beef or pork dishes or for roasting those inexpensive cuts. Makes terrific beef stew. I do use my crock pot alot during the colder months.

  14. i love the crockpot! so little clean up:) one of my favorites is pulled pork BBQ sandwiches. Just put a shoulder pork roast in with a can of rootbeer and cook all day. Towards the end you remove some of the rootbeer so it’s not too watery and shred the pork and add lots of BBQ sauce and let cook about another 1/2 hr. Delicious!

  15. I LOVE my crockpot :D I’ll give you an amazing potroast recipe that’s so easy!! Seriously…SO easy…you need 1 packet of dry french onion soup mix, 1 can of cream of mushroom soup, a roast, red wine and water. Mix the onion soup mix with the mushroom soup and form a sort of paste. Rub the roast down with the whole mixture. Put it in the crockpot. Add 1 cup of red wine, 1 cup of water and cook for 6-8 hours! It’s SO delicious trish and makes an amazing gravy that I like over egg noodles. Doesn’t need salt/pepper/garlic, anything…all the flavor is there.

  16. I just bought my first crockpot today and I can’t wait to use it! I have a lemon pepper chicken recipe I found online I want to make first. I got a blender last year I have only used a few times and a food processor for Christmas so I will be experimenting with my new things this year too. :)

  17. My best crockpot suggestion… throw some meat in there, dump BBQ sauce on it, cook for awhile, and it’s wonderful! :)

  18. You need this blog:

    http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/

    A couple years ago, this blogger challenged herself to use her slow cooker every day for a year. And she used it for EVERYTHING, even soap. She has some great recipes. She must have done pretty well, as she’s had to cookbooks come out since then! Good luck!

  19. I have to admit you’ve got me stumped with the loooooong cooking time. I love my crock pot, but the things I use it for have much shorter cooking times. Of course, I don’t cook meat, but I imagine that would hold up better under the longer cooking time??? Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing how you do with your “mission.” :D

  20. I love my crockpot! I usually use it to cook meats on low because they always turn out so tender and don’t dry out like they do in the oven. I also use it for chili and marinara sauce.

    There are recipes that you will need to prep, but there are many out there where you simply toss everything in and go. Just look for those. The only prep I usually have to do is chopping up vegetables and you can do that the night before then leave it in the fridge ready to toss in.

    I’m not sure what to tell you about the long cooking times, but some things will be fine–just make sure that they are things with plenty of liquid. Usually with the lid on, you don’t lose liquid that quickly. I have a programmable one that you can set to cook on low for 4 or 8 hours then it will automatically switch to warm so as not to overcook the food if you’re gone for a long time.

    Good luck! Hopefully it will make for quick meals so that you’ll have more time to spend with your family in the evenings.

  21. I feel you on the long day…I only started using mine when I was unemployed. I love making various chilis in my crockpot. I’ll cook the meat for it the night before and have everything ready to simply dump into it and turn on.

    Now that I’m back to working, I think I’d probably just come home during lunch to turn it on if I were to use it during the week…but I work close enough to home to have that flexibility.

  22. I just got a crockpot for Christmas too, so I want to find more recipes. We’ve used it once and it wasn’t exactly a success, so I’d like to find more recipes I can make. Another favorite of mine is White Chicken Chili, the simplest recipe ever.

    Two cans of low sodium chicken broth and an equal amount of water.
    Two or three chicken breasts or thighs.
    Two cans of cannelini beans.
    Frozen corn (optional)
    cilantro (sort of optional! I love it, but if you think it tastes like soap, leave it out)
    1 onion
    3 cloves of garlic
    serrano chili, or jalapeno is you like milder spice
    salsa, sour cream for toppings.

    Add chicken stock and water to the crock pot. Cut chicken into small cubes or strips. Sweat onions, garlic, and serrano in butter on the stove. Add to the pot after 5 minutes or so. Add cannelini beans. Let cook for 8 hours on low, 4 hours on high. Add half the cilantro and corn to the pot ten minutes before serving. Top with sour cream, salsa, and the rest of the cilantro. It’s the perfect cool weather meal, but this could easily be a summer dish because of the corn and cilantro, too. Serve with guacamole and chips!

  23. Les

    What a fun post, Trish! I’ve had so many kitchen gadgets & appliances over the years. I gave away my bread machine after a few years when I discovered I preferred making my own by hand. I have a Pannini Press/Griddle that I’ve used twice. My daughter gave me a beautiful Trifle dish that I’ve never used for Trifle, but it looks gorgeous filled with fresh lemons, limes and oranges. :) I have TWO Bundt pans and use them a few times a year (Bundt Cakes). And I could never live without my KitchenAid Mixer (going on 30 years now!), my Immersion blender, or my cookie gun!

    As far as my crockpot, however, I only have a couple of recipes that have been worthwhile. The first is the Roast with Onion & Mushroom Gravy that I linked to above in Chris’ comment. The other is very simple. I take a rack of baby back ribs (extra meaty) and cut it up into 3 or 4 separate slabs. After seasoning with salt & pepper, I throw the ribs in my crockpot (sprayed with Pam) and cook on low for 8-10 hours. I don’t add any liquid! When I get home from work, I take the ribs out, lay them on a foil-covered cookie sheet, slather them with KC BBQ sauce (both sides) and either throw them on the grill to sear or (if it’s too cold/snowy/raining) put them in a 300 oven until the salad and beans (or fried onion strings) are ready to serve. I don’t let them cook too long or they get dried out. They’re really ready to eat as soon as they come out of the crockpot. If your crockpot dies (or you wind up giving it away!), you can always make them this way.

    And for those who want a beefy taco soup, this one is delicious. Pretty much like Megan’s mom’s. Yumm!

    Sorry for the long comment. Next to books, I love food/cooking! :)

  24. I’d think about putting something in the crockpot before you go to bed then letting it cook all night. In the morning you can let it cool, then pop it in the fridge before you go to work and just reheat when you’re ready to eat. I used to use my crockpot a lot but have really gotten away from it. I may just have to take this as my kick in the butt to get mine out!

  25. I bought myself a good slow cooker cookbook from Chronicle Books last year and I’ve used my crock much more since then. Now I make a delicious steak and black bean chili every few weeks, soups, stew and still do pork and beef for sandwiches and tacos. Most of the recipes in the book have instructions for the high setting and the low so that you can choose a time length that works for you. So, I think what I’m saying is that if you find the right cookbook, you’re more likely to use your slow cooker regularly!

  26. I mainly have done a chili that my dad taught me, although I learned I could do it in a standard pot no problem, but there is something nice about having your chili cook slowly and have the smell of the chili spice filter through one’s place. I have also made Apple Cider as well.

  27. Thank you all so so so much for your comments! I had hoped to respond to you all individually here on the blog but I was Internet-less most of the weekend and had NO idea this post would spark so many comments! I appreciate all of your tips and links and recipes. If you have your email linked to your user ID I might drop you an email sometime this week. You guys are all AWESOME!!

  28. Yea, what was the 13 hour issue? Mine only has off, low and high. I put in a beef or pork roast and a big jar of peppercinis and leave till done.

    How did the Trifle come out?! :) My sopapillas were a HUGE hit.

  29. I love my crockpot. My favorite thing to make with it is beef stew – with the McCormick’s beef stew mix in the little red packet. I’ve found it cooks perfectly in 8 hours. love it.

  30. Crock pot…this is a toughie because I don’t like the idea of leaving something on all day. I use mine for roast, soup, and chicken stock, since I don’t have a stock pot.
    Check Allrecipes.com for some ideas

    George Foreman grill: burgers, chicken, anything grilled. use in winter only.
    Springform pans for cheesecake
    Food processor for cookie dough
    Now an ice cream maker…that is something I should have since I LOVE LOVE LOVE ice cream. but I don’t. Probably a good thing :)

  31. I do love my crock pot for lots of things. I have a few different chicken recipes that I use for tacos, enchiladas, etc. And pork tenderloin + bbq sauce is never a bad thing, especially after hours of sitting. Your 13-hour dilemma is a toughie, though. Do you get Real Simple? My issue just came yesterday & the cover article is dedicated to healthy, unique slow cooker recipes.

  32. I use my crock pot constantly. I use it make a whole chicken, pork tenderloins, BBQ chicken, pot roast, goulash, chicken noodle soup and more. I work during the day so it’s a life saver. I normally try to do most of the prep (browning the meat or something) at night. Then I get up a bit earlier in the morning and toss it all in before I take a shower. Most recipes I use call for about 8 hrs on low. I’m home about 9 hours later and it’s been on warm for an hour. It works perfectly. If you need any specific recipes, email me! Good luck!

  33. I love my crock pot. You will have to post some of your favorite recipes. One of my favorite is a French Dip sandwich. And ice cream maker? Obviously my favorite of all favorites. I have so many great recipes.

  34. *Care – Mmmm, sopapillas. ;) And I guess 13 hours isn’t a big issue but everything will be falling apart by then!! :)

    *Ingrid Lola – I’ve seen those McCormick’s mixes and wondered about them. I actually picked one up for Pulled Pork but ended up making from scratch. Will check out the stew packets!

    *Jenny Girl – A few people have suggested using the crockpot over night! That would solve the problem of it being on for hours and hours as well as the morning prep. Now to just work myself up to actually doing it! ;)

    *Elise – I’ve never thought to try pork tenderloin in the crockpot. One of our favorite go-to recipes is pork tenderloin…in the oven. I do get Real Simple but I’m still working on the November issue. (Yikes!!). I have a thing about reading them out of order… ;)

    *Melissa (Avid Reader) – I have pretty good recipe for pork tenderloin (oven) and pot roast but I’m really interested in the BBQ chicken and goulash. Sent you an email, but no rush… ;)

    *Michelle – French Dip Sandwich? Need more details!! Do you just cook the insides and then put on bread? You know I’m imagining the entire sandwich in the crock pot. ;)

  35. Yes just the roast and the au jus (sp?) is in the crock pot. Then I use rolls and swiss cheese, and viola! They are really good sandwiches too. Plus the roast takes like 8-10 hours to cook, so…..

  36. This is a fun post, I came here via Allie’s blog. :) I LOVE my crockpot. LOVE IT. I’ve made a Pork Tenderloin in it a few times that I just ADORE (its an apricot glazed one). I also make cheesy chicken, chicken and stuffing and that’s really about it right now. I do use it pretty often when the weather’s bad, and the boyfriend is happy to be the guinea pig, so it works out well. :) Bonus is if the inside is removable? Right into the dishwasher.

    And there are some recipes on here that I have got to check out, I’m always looking for new things.

  37. I love my crockpot. I’ve made soups, roasts, shortribs. pulled pork, spaghetti sauce, steel cut oats… I’m usually only gone for 9 hours, at the longest though. I actually tend to use it most in the summer. It doesn’t heat up the house like the oven does, and since our air conditioner’s been broke for a couple of year now that’s important.