Mar 2, 2012

Converting Recipes for the Crock Pot

Over the past several weeks, I've been making a concerted effort to use my crock pot. I received one as a wedding gift 11 years ago, but I've barely used it. My difficulties were:

* Finding (making) time to get the stuff in the crock pot in the busy morning or busy afternoon.

* Finding recipes that were healthy.

I've solved the first problem by, once a week, preparing the ingredients for the coming week , tossing them in a freezer bag, and throwing them in the fridge. Then all I have to remember is to grab a bag from the freezer the night before. In the morning or afternoon, I just dump the ingredients in the crock pot.

The second problem has proved more difficult. While I do use some store bought convenience foods (like condiments), I prefer to cook from scratch. It's far healthier - and cheaper. But an awful lot of crock pot recipes call for unhealthy and expensive ingredients, like canned soup.

Wading through books and websites looking for crock pot recipes that appeal to my family and don't have unhealthy/expensive ingredients is not my idea of fun. I've had the best luck at FoodNetwork.com. (Have you got any great sources for healthy crock pot food??)

But it seemed to me I ought to be able to take old favorites that I cooked for a period of time on the stove or in the oven and convert them to the crock pot. And, in fact, you can!

First, my friend Liberty gave me this info from the Culinary Arts Institute:

Conventional Recipe
Crock Pot
on low

Crock Pot
on high

15 - 30 min.
4 - 6 hrs.
1 1/2 - 2 hrs.
35 - 40 min.
6 - 10 hrs.
3 - 4 hrs.
50 min. - 3 hrs.
8 - 18 hrs.
4 - 6 hrs.

Other good things to know:

* In a crock pot, low is about 200 degrees F., while high is about 300 degrees F.

* Use about half the liquid called for in the original recipe.

* It's best to have the crock pot at least halfway filled, but no more than two-thirds full.

* Need more time to cook? Put all the ingredients in the crock pot the night before, then put the crock in the refrigerator. This adds 1 to 1 1/2 hours longer to the cooking.

* Make sure dense veggies, like potatoes and root vegetables, are no more than 1 in. thick. Put them in the bottom of the crock.


* Browning meat first is recommended.

* For cream soups, add the dairy toward the end of cooking.

* Most soups, stews, and casseroles adapt easily to the crock pot.

* Baked meats can also be adapted for the crock pot.

* Stove top meals that taste better after cooking a while can be adapted to the crock pot.


8 comments:

  1. If you like Mexican, this is a good one if you are okay with the ingredients.
    3 or 4 boneless/skinless ckn breasts
    1 packet McCormick's chicken taco seasoning
    1 16-oz jar salsa.
    Throw it all in the crockpot and cook on low 6-8 hours, or until chicken can be shredded completely with a fork. After shredding, stir to mix well. Put in tortillas as chicken tacos or on a bed of chips as a taco salad.
    We love this, and it's super quick and easy!
    Thanks for the tips!!!

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  2. Thank you! Most timely! I just got back here after getting the crock pot loaded and turned on so dinner will be waiting when mama comes in the door. Stuff outa the freezer, stuff outa the garden...she'll be all smiles. My attention a couple or three times during the day. Cool!

    Winston

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  3. I wish I'd let you know about this site I just found last week before you did your post! :) I started exploring the site: crockpot365.blogspot.com . Most, if not all, of the recipes are gluten-free because the mom who writes the blog has a gluten-free household. I've tried several of the recipes so far and they're great! We did the Pasta Fagioli soup over the weekend, as well as a Chinese-like chicken dish late last week. There's even a recipe to do a whole steak dinner--in the crockpot! (I'm excited to try that one maybe later this week when it's too cold to grill.)

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  4. Liberty, I'd run across that site before. It's ok. I think I printed two recipes from it. I'm pretty particular, I guess. I don't want rice (too bad for blood sugar) or pasta (ditto), and a lot of the other recipes were too similar to things I already had. I'm glad you found recipes you like there, though!

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  5. Well, I'd just found out a friend of mine was on a gluten-free diet when I found it, so I was excited to share it with her. :) I haven't looked through all of the recipes by any means, but I was able to use new recipes twice last week--so that was good.

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  6. I have two favorite cookbooks for my crockpot: Dinner's in the Freezer and The New Slow Cooker. Both of these feature a variety of recipes including slow-cooker remakes of commonly popular dishes. They also incorporate fresh "add-ons", which I really like. These are little bits, like fresh fruit salsa, eliminate that "stewing all day" taste that so many crockpot recipes posses.

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  7. hi Kristina, like you I cook from scratch. I have never used canned soup in my life!! LOL

    I bought a crock pot last year because my Brazilian Mom kept asking me to try it out. There are no crock pots in Brazil. We don't use them at all. Pressure cookers are our mostly common pots.

    Anyway, after trying a few recipes I didn't like that the taste is not developed in the crock pot the same as when you saute your veggies in high heat and then add the liquid and other items into a pan. So here is how I use my crock pot:

    - to cook dry beans or legumes. I don't have to babysit them like in a normal pot on the stove. I cook a big batch and then freeze for later uses.

    - To brown cheap/ fatty ground meat. Again, I don't have to babysit the meat and worry about burning it. Once it's done...a few hours later, I drain the fat and store the meat for later use.

    - to make chicken stock. Again, no babysitting. I just add my veggies, chicken, water and spices and it's done.

    I have cooked a chuck roast in it a couple of times, but again, I think it's more flavorful if cooked in a pan on the stove top or roasted in the oven.

    I also like to use it to keep soups, stews or chilli warm, when I carry them somewhere. Other than, I prefer cooking on my stove top.

    OH, I did make a roasted chicken once in the crock pot but the bird fell apart! i guess I cooked it too death. LOL Good way to cook lots of chicken for shredding and storing or freezing it.

    Do share if you find something worthwhile fooling it. :)

    tereza

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  8. Good ideas, Tereza! I am currently experimenting with recipes - most of which I found at foodnetwork.com. So far, I've successfully made sloppy joes; the other recipes I've tried have only been so-so. It IS nice not to have to cook during the hour when my children seem most needy, though, so I'm going to keep experimenting with a couple of crock pot recipes a week. If I find some I really like, I will share them.

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