Go to a garage sale and you're bound to see an ugly, brown crock pot or two. Slow cookers have come a long way since the 70s. They are no longer brown, for one thing, and they are no longer just a way to bring beans to a potluck.
To the working parent, they are liberating. To the health-conscious carnivore, they are invaluable. So dust off that slow cooker you got as a wedding gift, and get ready for a crock pot revival!
In general, cooking with very lean meats can be tricky, to say the least. That's because the leaner cuts are much less forgiving and can turn out tough. But put them in a slow cooker, and in a few hours they're transformed into fork-tender, flavor-packed morsels.
Is it a miracle? Actually, it's quite scientific.
Slow, moist-heat cooking tenderizes meat by breaking down most of its connective tissue (muscle). The protein collagen is the prime component of connective tissue, and part of the collagen dissolves with slow, moist heat -- which makes the meat more tender. Some slow-cooker recipes call for searing the meat (pan-frying or broiling to brown the outside) before putting it in the slow cooker. This helps seal in internal juices while adding texture, flavor, and color.
Of course, the slow cooker isn't the only way of cooking food slowly. You can roast meats in the oven at a relatively low temperature for a couple of hours (for those who work outside the home, this is mainly a weekend option). But wouldn't it be wonderful to come home on a cold winter's night to a hot, savory entrée that's ready when you are?
Slow Cooker Lemon Garlic Chicken
If you have Mrs. Dash Lemon Pepper, you can use 1/2 teaspoon of that instead of the one black pepper. Just delete 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and increase the water by a tablespoon.
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon low-sodium chicken broth powder or bouillon granules
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
- In a small bowl, mix oregano, salt, and black pepper together, then sprinkle the mixture evenly over the chicken pieces.
- Add canola oil to a large, nonstick skillet and start heating over medium heat. When hot, add chicken pieces and brown on both sides (about 3 minutes per side).
- Place chicken pieces in slow cooker. Add water, lemon juice, garlic, and chicken broth powder to the skillet, and bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Pour the lemon juice over the chicken in the slow cooker and cover with lid.
- Cook on HIGH for 3 hours or LOW for about 6 hours. Sprinkle the parsley on top of the chicken about 15-30 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
- Serve with cooked pasta or steamed brown rice.
Yield: 6 servings
Per serving: 213 calories, 36 grams protein, 1 grams carbohydrate, 6.7 grams fat (1.5 grams saturated fat, 2.8 grams monounsaturated fat, 1.6 grams polyunsaturated fat), 97 milligrams cholesterol, 0 grams fiber, 191 milligrams sodium. Calories from fat: 29%.
Pork Roast With Spicy Maple Glaze
2 1/2 pounds boneless pork loin roast, trimmed of visible fat
1 cup lite pancake syrup
4 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
2 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons lite soy sauce
Ground black pepper to taste
Salt to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat the bottom of a shallow roasting pan with canola cooking spray.
- Put syrup, mustard, vinegar, soy sauce, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and set aside.
- Place pork roast in a prepared roasting pan. Spread glaze evenly over the pork roast. Bake in oven until meat thermometer reaches 160 degrees (45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours). Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes. Slice and serve.
Yield: 8 servings
Per serving: 290 calories, 33 grams protein, 18 grams carbohydrate, 9 grams fat (3.2 grams saturated fat, 4.1 grams monounsaturated fat, 0.8 gram polyunsaturated fat), 87 milligrams cholesterol, 0.6 gram fiber, 515 milligrams sodium. Calories from fat: 29%.
This is a light version of the wonderfully elegant (and potentially romantic) French classic. Serve it with crusty whole-wheat French or sourdough bread.
8 slices Louis Rich Turkey Bacon
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 pounds beef tip sirloin (or similar cut), trimmed of visible fat and cut into 1-inch chunks
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons Wondra quick-mixing flour (divided use)
16 small white onions
1 1/2 cups baby carrots (or 2 small carrots, chopped)
2 tablespoons brandy
3 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
3/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves, crushed
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 bay leaf
1 cup red Burgundy wine
1 cup low-sodium beef broth
3/4 pound sliced mushrooms
- In large, nonstick frying pan over medium-low heat, cook bacon strips until just crisp (you can use the microwave instead, cooking 4 strips at a time on a double thickness of paper towels for about 4 minutes). Break up into bits.
- Put 1/3 cup Wondra flour in a medium-sized bowl or large Ziploc bag. Add beef chunks and coat well with flour. Heat oil over medium-high heat in the frying pan. Add beef chunks, spray the top with canola cooking spray, and cook, turning until browned on all sides.
- Put the browned beef and remaining ingredients in slow cooker. Stir, and then cook on LOW until beef is cooked throughout and onions are fork-tender (about 10 hours). Serve with bread, if desired.
Yield: 8 servings
Per serving: 277 calories, 30 grams protein, 12 grams carbohydrate, 8.8 grams fat (2.5 grams saturated fat, 3.6 grams monounsaturated fat, 1.4 grams polyunsaturated fat), 81 milligrams cholesterol, 2 grams fiber, 266 milligrams sodium. Calories from fat: 28%.