I have lots of appliances that I love because they make my life easier but my favourite has to be my slow cooker. Like every other appliance, I bought this cooker too after espying it on unclutterer.com. Slow cooking has grown in popularity over the last few years and I first got one about two years ago. It’s really changed the way I cook and plan meals. Quality cookware is important, I just love my kitchen knife. It’s a great technique for creating delicious dinners and I think it is the perfect approach for busy young families. Just some of the reasons I love my slow cooker are:
- You can cook in bulk and freeze portions for another day.
- Dinner can be prepared whenever suits you, like during a baby’s nap, which saves stress during the busy early evening dinner/bath/bed routine.
- It saves money. Slow cooker recipes often suit cheaper cuts of meat such as pork shoulder and you can easily stretch your budget by using less meat and more vegetables in a recipe.
- You can cook just once meal for the whole family even if you eat at different times by dishing up the kid’s tea and leaving the rest to stay warm in the slow cooker until the adults are ready to eat.
- It can be really healthy. Most recipes are packed full of things like vegetables, beans or lentils to help you all towards your 5 a day without even noticing.
- Food can easily be kept warm for literally hours so there is no need to worry if you are delayed by something or the kids take ages to go to bed, it will be ready whenever you are.
- I found these types of meal are particularly toddler/pre-schooler friendly with tender meat, soft vegetables and tasty sauces. My kids wolf them down. Two of our favourites are Spicy Sausage Stew and Green Thai Curry.
- Slow-cooked food can also usually be easily pureed for weaning babies (although it is best to use a lower salt alternative to normal stock in this case).
Slow cookers can be a bit confusing if you haven’t used one before but they are very straight forward once you give it a go. Here are my top tips to get started.
Slow Cooker Top Tips
- Even if you have a small family think about getting a bigger slow cooker than you think you need. The price won’t be much higher and you’ll then be able to use it when you have guests.
- If possible, choose a model with a digital display, high, low and warm temperature settings and a timer to give you maximum control over how your recipes are cooked.
- Give the cooker about 20 minutes warm up time before you start to add the food. Generally this gives you just enough time to do your chopping and prepping and then it’s ready to go.
- To make washing up easier I’d suggest you grease the inside of the cooker before you start when doing sticky recipes.
- Don’t forget, depending on your model, the outside and the lid of your cooker can get very hot so make sure it is out of a small child’s reach.
- Slow cooker recipes are generally very forgiving when it comes to quantities. If you happen to have a little more or less than a recipe suggests then just go with it and you can often substitute ingredients for something similar without it causing a problem. Got some mushrooms hanging around in the fridge? Pop them in. Got onions but no shallots? No one will know the difference.
- Not as much water evaporates as from a saucepan or a casserole dish in the oven, due to the lower temperature, so don’t add too much water/stock at the beginning. You’ll quickly learn to judge by eye how much different recipes need.
My best advice is to experiment. Once you’ve used it a couple of times you’ll start to think of ingredient combinations that would work with this type of cooking so just give it a try. If you like all the ingredients you’re adding it’ll probably taste nice at the end and you’ll soon be raving about the benefits of slow cooking too.