How To Dream Your Crock Pot Obsession To A Terrific New Level
It’s the most wonderful time of the year for crock pot fixation. You can make anything with this handy dandy device. Add your favorite ingredients, turn it on and come back later to the boiled dinner, pot roast, soup, stew, beverage, dessert or dip of your choice. Today, we’re helping you build new meal favorites using different bases filled with your preferred ingredients.
Choose Your Base Sauce or Marinade
Most likely, you already have at least a few of these bases at home. A marinara sauce tastes great with any meats, beans or veggies added to the crock pot. Fresh out? Let’s peruse the cupboards instead. Where’s that curry sauce from Trader Joe’s that once showed promise? This is the perfect time to put to work those sauces and marinades sitting on the shelf collecting dust.
Don’t leave out fridge leftovers either! That soup or a sauce-based dish from the other night are perfect. Toss one in! Add a few more items from the section below and marvel at your brand-new dish.
Is the fridge really empty? Not feeling inspired by your cupboard choices? Buy or make a sauce base. Go Italian with pesto, Alfredo, or other pasta sauce. Look for curry sauces with Thai or Indian flavoring.
Add Your Favorite Protein and Set the Cooking Time
Adding meat or fish to your crock pot? Cook times vary according to selection. Pork takes awhile, from 5 to 9 hours depending on its weight and whether you choose a high or low heat setting. Poultry should stay in the crock-pot for 6.5 hours on high heat, 7.5 on low. Beef will need 5.75 hours on high heat and 8 hours on low. Fish cooks comparatively fast – just 1.5 hours on high heat and 3.5 hours on low.
In contrast, vegetarian proteins such as tofu, tempeh, seitan, or canned beans give you more flexibility with cook times. In general, these options don’t require long cook times. They do, however, become more flavorful the longer they marinate in sauce.
Incidentally, here’s a money-saving tip: substitute dried beans for canned. Soak them overnight in water, then cook them for 3 to 4 hours in your base sauce.
Create Texture with Grains and Starches
Dress up your dish with pasta in fun shapes such as wheels or bowties. Penne and other small pastas also work well. Avoid mushy pasta by adding it towards the end of the cooking cycle. A good rule of thumb is to count back 18 to 30 minutes, depending on the pasta type, from the end time. This step also nudges you to transfer crock pot contents to a serving bowl as soon as contents are done.
Rice is another crock pot favorite. Go with brown rice instead of white for more nutritional benefits. Again, depending upon rice and heat setting selection, add it during the final 2 to 3 hours of cook time. Also, check the liquid levels. If they fall low, add enough hot water to meet rice’s 2:1 cooking ratio.
Expand your horizons with other healthy grains, including barley, bulgar, millet, quinoa, and amaranth. The last two are complete proteins, which benefit everyone but especially vegetarians. Similar to rice, add them toward the end of the cooking cycle; exact times depend on the type of grain and the crock-pot’s heat setting. Anytime you add grains or starches, promptly transfer contents to a serving dish when done. This step will serve to reduce chances of overcooking your meal.
Don’t Forget Your Veggies!
There is no limit with vegetables. Shop the farmer’s market for seasonal choices. You can also toss in that half-empty bag of peas in your freezer though. Just make sure to thaw frozen foods before adding them to the pot. Avoid overcooking vegetables by adding them during the last 30 to 60 minutes of your overall cook time. Of course, firm, dense veggies like potatoes and carrots need longer than say, peas or other small veggies.