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Sun, Aug. 25

A kitchen friend: The crock pot makes meals simple

Of all the kitchen gadgets we have today the crockpot may just one of the most useful and time-saving – right up there with the potato peeler and can opener!

Here are a few hints to make crock meals a big success. Since more liquid is produced, more spices may be needed.

Dense vegetables such as carrots and potatoes cook better on the bottom and sides, and if using meat, place it on top of them.

Also, cutting vegetables into small pieces insures even cooking. The cooker should be filled no less than half full and no more than two-thirds full.

Don't remove the lid except to check for doneness near the end of expected cooking time.

The first hour cooking on high is preferred then on low for the remainder of the time, however it is safe to cook on low the whole time.

More water is retained so reducing the liquid may be necessary except for soup. Generally, one hour slow cooking on high equals two to two and one-half hours on low setting.

My personal hint for crockery cooking is to save and freeze the juice left for flavoring soups and sauces since it is rich and concentrated.

Since the reason for this column is to share a variety of recipes here is one that you can use in various ways.

It is the popular DRIED ONION SOUP MIX, which you can make yourself.

To use for dip add 1/4 c. to light sour cream and refrigerate several hours. 1/2 tsp. onion powder – 1/2 tsp. salt – 1/4 tsp. sugar - 1/4 tsp. Kitchen Bouquet browning sauce - 1/2 c. chopped or minced dehydrated onion.

Combine onion powder, salt, and sugar in small bowl. Add Kitchen Bouquet and stir until seasonings are evenly brown. Add dehydrated onion and mix until color is even again.

(This may take several minutes).

Makes the equivalent of one (1.5 oz) envelope dried soup mix or 1/2 cup. Only 149 mg. sodium vs. over 600 mg. per T. in commercially boxed mix.

CROCKPOT PORK ROAST (using dry onion soup mix above) one 3 lb. pork roast - 6 potatoes, halved - 8 carrots, cut in small pieces - 1/4 c. homemade soup mix (or 1/2 pkg. bought). 1 onion, quartered - 1 small tomato - 1 c. water. Prepare vegetables.

Place in pot in following order: carrots, tomato, potatoes, then roast.

Mix water and soup mix, pour over roast. Slow cook for 8-10 hours.

MUSHROOM STEW SPECIAL (also using dry soup mix) 2-1/2 lbs. stew meat - 1 can mushroom soup - 3/4 c. water - 3 chicken bouillon cubes - 1/2 c. (1 recipe above) homemade soup mix - one 8 oz. can drained mushrooms - salt and pepper to taste.

Combine all ingredients in crockpot and stir. Cover and cook on low 8-12 hours. Serve over rice or noodles.

CROCK POT FRENCH DIP SANDWICHES 1 beef chuck roast, trimmed of fat (about 3 lbs.) - 2 c. water - 1/2 c. soy sauce - 1 tsp. each dried rosemary, dried thyme, garlic powder - 1 bay leaf (always remove before serving), 3-4 whole peppercorns - sliced onions (1 c. at least ) - 8 French rolls, split. Place roast in cooker.

Add water, soy sauce, seasonings and onions.

Cook with lid on 5-7 hours or until desired tenderness. Remove meat with broth; shred meat with forks and keep warm.

Strain broth; skimming fat. Pour broth into small dipping bowls or cups.

For less servings than 8, both meat and broth freeze well; the makings of another meal.

SAUCY APRICOT-GLAZED CHICKEN (also uses onion soup mix) – 1 c. good-quality apricot preserves – 3/4 c. bottled Russian dressing - 1/2 c. dried soup mix - 12 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, trimmed of fat (about 3 1/2 to 4 lbs.).

In medium bowl, mix together apricot preserves, dressing and dry soup mix until well blended.

Arrange three chicken breast halves in bottom of 3-1/2 qt. slow cooker. Spoon 1/4 of apricot mixture on top.

Add 3 more layers chicken with apricot mixture in between and on top.

Cook covered on high 1 hour. Reduce heat to low and cook 3 hours or until chicken is tender and white throughout.

Do not overcook, as it toughens. Serve sauce over chicken, which may top rice cooked on stovetop.

Due to the density of this recipe, I would use the oval cookers or reduce number of chicken breasts to ensure cooking.

The leftover sauce can be frozen up to two months.

SPECIAL BURRITOS (The smell will make everyone hungry) The night before, begin cooking 2 pounds chuck roast (all night).

In the morning, remove the bones.

Add to crockpot: one 10 oz. can chopped chili peppers - meat from bones - 1 chopped onion – two 4 oz. cans tomato sauce.

Cook on low heat in pot rest of the day. Add mixture to flour tortillas.

Top with refried beans, sour cream, grated cheese. Wrap in foil and bake at 350 for 10 minutes.

Since we have had several snowy days here is a special recipe especially fun for kids. I got it on a trip to Canada and it is called: SNOW MUFFINS. Yes, it uses snow instead of eggs and makes a nice, light muffin perfect with the roast recipes above. It worked perfectly in Prescott's altitude. 2 c. flour - 3 tsp. baking powder - 1/2 c. brown sugar - pinch salt - 3/4 c. milk - grated zest of 1/2 orange - 1/4 tsp. cinnamon - 3 T. melted butter – 1/2 c. raisins — 1/4 c. chopped nuts – 1-1/2 c. clean, dry snow.

Preheat oven to 400. Sift flour, baking powder, sugar and salt into bowl.

Stir in milk, orange juice, orange zest and butter; mix well. Fold in raisins, cinnamon and nuts.

Fold in snow and pour into greased muffin tins. Bake for 15-18 minutes.

Makes 12. I had great luck with greased tins, but not as good with paper baking cups.

This is a perfect recipe to save for snowy days year after year! See why I collect recipes? I hope you will, too!

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