A slow cooker is a great way to prepare a meal and make for an easier evening! It eliminates the temptation to order carry-out which is often less nutritious and more expensive. Since you are placing all the ingredients in the slow cooker, it saves prep time and cuts down on clean up!
Many people think of a slow cooker as a winter option – coming home to the aroma of hot soup is so warming on a cold winter day. But it’s also great for summertime use as a slow cooker or Crock-Pot does not heat up the kitchen the way your oven might. It also uses less electricity than an oven.
As a result of the long, low-temperature cooking, a slow cooker brings out the flavor in foods and helps tenderize less expensive cuts of meat.
Here are some basic tips about using a slow cooker or Crock-Pot:
- Slow cooker liners make cooking even easier. Find a liner that fits your cooker and clean up is a breeze. If you don’t use a liner, for easy clean up, rub the inside of the stoneware with oil or spray it with nonstick cooking spray before adding your ingredients.
- Always thaw frozen meat in the refrigerator before cooking it. This ensures complete, even cooking.
- Because vegetables cook slower than meat, place the vegetables in the slow cooker first. Place the meat on top of the vegetables and top with the liquid suggested in your recipe (broth, water, sauce).
- If you are using a recipe that is not made for a slow cooker, reduce the liquids by one half to one third because the liquids do not boil away in the slow cooker.
- Keep the lid in place during cooking. Removing the lid slows cooking time. Every time the lid is lifted, about 15-20 minutes of cooking time may be lost.
- It is probably best to cook rice or other grains separately to avoid them becoming mushy.
- To prevent curdling, add milk, cheese or cream during the last hour.
- Soft vegetables such as tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini may be added during the last 45 minutes of cooking time to avoid becoming mushy. Unless, you want them as part of your sauce.
Now that you know of the many benefits of cooking with a slow cooker or Crock-Pot, let’s get started with a delicious anti-inflammatory recipe!
Mexican Beef Stew
- Slow Cooker or Crock-Pot
- 1 lb beef stew meat (or a more lean beef) cut into 1" pieces
- 2 Tbsp arrowroot
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 medium carrots peeled and chopped
- 2 medium sweet potatoes peeled and chopped (optional)
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1-2 fresh jalapenos finely diced (optional)
- 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes undrained
- 2 cups beef broth
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- salt and pepper to taste
- chopped avocado, chopped cilantro and/or crushed red pepper optional
- 1 dollop plain Greek yogurt per serving, optional
- If desired, line a 5-6 quart slow cooker or Crock-Pot with a slow cooker liner. Fit the liner snugly against the bottom and sides of the crock; pull top of liner over the rim of the crock.
- Coat the beef with arrowroot. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add beef and cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until beef is browned; set aside.
- Add carrots, sweet potatoes (optional), onion, garlic, jalapeno (optional) and browned beef to the slow cooker. Gently stir in tomatoes, broth, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Cover and cook 3-4 hours on High or 6-7 hours on Low, until beef is fork tender.
- Serve stew directly from slow cooker. Top with avocado, cilantro and/or red pepper and a dollop of Greek yogurt if desired.
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