* 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 |
|Crock Pot |
|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.