Wednesday, February 24, 2010

It's A Crock!

Remember the avocado green crockpots from the 70's that were trotted out for holiday parties, full of gourmet cocktail weenies or meatballs? It seemed like every household had one but through the years the crockpot turned into an embarrassment...
we became too cool for them! The stigma must have been that crockpot cooking was only done by those too lazy to prepare a real meal...that any self-respecting cook would never throw all ingredients into a pot and just walk away! But times they are a-changin' and these days, those who are able to produce any type of home-cooking versus restaurant, packaged or convenience meals, especially during the work week, are now viewed as Superhuman!

And so the trusty, dusty Crockpot a.k.a. Slow-Cooker has re-emerged as the smart,
efficient and successful method of meal preparation for active lifestyles. Hopefully a growing trend, there is starting to be more awareness of nutrition and why Americans keep getting fatter - primarily, inactivity and processed foods. The
key to weight control and good health is to eat whole, nutritious foods (and that means "home-cooking") along with regular exercise. Slow-cooking gives you more time and freedom to add workouts to a busy day. The solution has always been there.... way in the back of the kitchen cabinet, behind the fondue pot...waiting patiently to earn a spot on the counter, or at least move up to the front of the shelf.... the
"CP" (I think it needs a new, hip name since re-inventing itself)!

For the young, under fifty crowd, who may not have been familiar (or interested) in such things, here's a little background. Like the Q-tip, CrockPot is actually a brand name by Rival that was so catchy and popular that its name became the term for all similar products.
A slow cooker is basically just a big electric casserole dish that cooks food with
low, steady, moist heat. The great thing about this method is that during the 8-12
hour cooking time, the flavors in the pot combine and results in tasty, juicy goodness. There is nothing like coming home after a long day to the delicious smell of dinner, ready to eat!

Using a slow-cooker improves the odds that you'll eat healthier food, because your dinner will be ready when you are so there is less temptation to opt for fattening
take-out, pizza or snacking. Other ways the crockpot method is a healthy option:

* Cooking in broth or water doesn't add fat or calories
* Very lean meats come out tender and juicy
* It is easy to combine vegetables with the protein all in one pot
* You control the sodium, sugar, fat and calories
* Vitamins and other nutrients aren't lost in the cooking process because
the food is cooked at a low temperature and the cooking liquid becomes
part of the dish rather than discarded

All it takes is some pre-planning before weekly grocery shopping to have ingredients
ready to throw in the pot. You can find easy crockpot recipes doing a search on the internet and they even have crockpot cookbooks. Some of the best dishes I've made have been with beef...adding broth or onion soup and cream of mushroom or celery soup makes a delicious gravy for beef tips or pot roast. And its the best way to prepare less-expensive cuts of beef. Also, it doesn't need to be exact measurements with ingredients, just make sure there is enough liquid to cover the meat and place potatoes and veggies on the bottom to cook thoroughly. The slow-cooker is also
wonderful for making soups and stews.

There was actually an article in the Food section of the Observer today about slow cookers, with a Pot Roast recipe. This article talks about the new fancy cookers with duo and trio pots in one base with more features. But if you don't have one and I've managed to sell you on the idea, the standard model with a low & high temperature switch and ceramic pot that can be removed for cleaning is all you need.

So get crockin'!!! And please share any favorite recipes - thanks!

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