Thursday, January 15, 2015

Comfort Food Season

"Cooks all day while the cook's away"
Now that the frenzy of holiday cooking and entertaining has subsided it's time to look ahead to a new season called Crock-Pot a.k.a Slow Cooker Cooking-Comfort Foods. 
You can adapt your favorite recipes and cook them in your crock-pot. Here are few guidelines you might find helpful
Time Guide
If a recipe says 
15-20 minutes cook on  low 4-6 hours or high 1-1/2-2 hours
35-45 minutes cook on low 6-10 hours or high 3-4 hours
50 minutes to 3 hours cook on low cook 8 hours-18 hours or high 4-6 hours
Pasta and Rice
If recipe calls for cooking noodles, macaroni etc. cook al dente before adding to crock-pot. If cooked rice is called for, stir in with other ingredients; add 1/4 cup extra liquid per 1/4 cup of raw rice.
Liquids
Use less in slow cooking usually half the recommended amount. One cup of liquid is enough for any recipe unless it contains rice or pasta. 
Beans
Dried beans, especially red kidney beans should be boiled before adding to recipe. Cover the beans with 3 times their volume of unsalted water and bring to a boil. Boil 10 minutes and discard water after boiling. 
Sauteing Vegetables
Generally not necessary. Just stir in chopped or sliced vegetables with other ingredients.   Because vegetables take longer to cook than meats, slice or chop them whenever possible. 
Only exception eggplant. It should be parboiled or sauteed, due to strong flavor. 
Herbs and Spices
Leaf or whole herbs and spices are preferred, but their flavor power may increase-use half recommended amount. If you use ground herbs and spices, add during last hour of cooking. 
Milk
Milk, cream and sour cream tend to break down during extended cooking. When possible add during last hour of cooking. Condensed soups may be substituted for milk etc. and can cook for extended times. 
Soups
Some soup recipes call for 2-3 quarts of water. Add other soup ingredients to crock-pot;then add water only to cover. If thinner soup is desired, add more liquid at serving time. 
Book Recommendation
This is the third title in bestselling slow-cooker revolution series. It tackles the challenge of delivering healthy, fresh recipes from this popular appliance the crockpot.
If you’re resolved to eat more healthy, I have a tip for you: Consider your slow cooker. America's Test Kitchen has found that the slow cooker is actually a great tool when you’re trying to make meals that contain less fat and calories; its moist heat environment easily steams and poaches food. The big challenge is building flavor without introducing fat.
Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution, includes more than 200 all-new recipes (no repeats from the first two books) made with leaner cuts of beef, heaps of fresh vegetables, and hearty grains.

Here is one of the recipes featured in the book.
Sweet Tangy Pulled Chicken
Serves 4 • Cooking Time 2 to 3 hours on Low • Slow Cooker Size 4 to 7 Quarts

Why This Recipe Works: A simple spice mixture and an easy-to-assemble homemade barbecue sauce make it easy to turn slow-cooked bone-in chicken into tangy, silky shredded chicken—perfect for piling onto buns for an easy dinner. Quickly microwaving the aromatics together with the chili powder, paprika, and cayenne softened the onions and infused them with layers of barbecue flavor while blooming the spices. We found that simply seasoning the chicken with salt and pepper before nestling the breasts into our quick sauce mixture of ketchup, molasses, and the aromatics was enough to infuse the chicken with the rich essence of the sauce. Stirring in vinegar at the beginning of cooking made the sauce too thin and dulled its acidity, but adding 2 tablespoons of vinegar at the end of cooking along with a small amount of mustard ensured that the sauce was the perfect consistency and retained its bright flavors.


Looking for a healthy recipe? Note at bottom of the recipe the calorie count and fat.

Check the chicken’s temperature after 2 hours of cooking and continue to monitor until it registers 160 degrees. Serve on hamburger buns with pickle chips.

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 (12‑ounce) bone-in split chicken breasts, skin and ribs removed, trimmed of all visible fat
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Directions:
  • Microwave onion, tomato paste, chili powder, oil, paprika, and cayenne in bowl, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes; transfer to slow cooker. Stir in ketchup and molasses. Season chicken with salt and pepper, place in slow cooker, and turn to coat with sauce. Cover and cook until chicken registers 160 degrees, 2 to 3 hours on low.
  • Transfer chicken to carving board, let cool slightly, then shred into bite-size pieces using 2 forks; discard bones.
  • Stir vinegar and mustard into sauce. (Adjust sauce c­onsistency with hot water as needed.) Stir in shredded chicken and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
Per serving: Cal 220; Fat 5g; Sat Fat 1g; Chol 65mg; Carb 20g; Protein 23g; Fiber 2g; Sodium 680mg

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