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Tips for Slow-Cooker Meals

Tips for Slow-Cooker Meals

slow cooker recipe

Choose the right cut: Chuck roasts, short ribs, pork shoulders and lamb shanks (think fatty and tougher meats) become meltingly tender with the moist, low heat of a slow cooker. Leaner cuts like pork tenderloin tend to dry out. Likewise, dark meat chicken — thighs, drumsticks, etc. — will remain juicier than white meat breasts.

Keep the lid closed: Each peek you take during the cooking process will add an additional 15 to 20 minutes of cooking time. And curb the urge to stir; it’s usually not necessary and tends to slow down the cooking.

Care for your crock: The ceramic insert in a slow cooker can crack if exposed to abrupt temperature shifts. In other words, don’t place a hot ceramic insert directly on a cold counter; put down a dishtowel first. The same goes for using a filled insert you’ve stowed overnight in the refrigerator: Let it come to room temperature before putting it in a preheated base.

Browning boosts flavor: You can certainly just pile food into the slow cooker, turn it on and get tasty results. But when you take a couple of minutes to brown your meat and saute your vegetables before adding them to the crock, you’re rewarded with an additional layer of deep, caramelized flavor. (This is doubly true with ground meat.) Want a thicker sauce? Dredge the meat in flour before browning.

Don’t use frozen food: Loading a slow cooker with icy ingredients will keep food in the danger zone where bacteria can flourish (40 to 140 degrees F). So make sure your meat and vegetables are fully thawed before turning the cooker on. The exception: Prepackaged slow-cooker meals sold in the freezer case are fine to use as long as you follow the package’s directions.

Avoid overcrowding: For the best results, fill a slow cooker between one-half and two-thirds full. Go ahead and cook big roasts and whole chickens; just make sure you use a large crock and that the lid fits snugly on top.

slow_cooked

Trim fat: For silky sauces and gravies, take a minute or two and cut the excess fat from the meat. Skip this step and you risk ending up with oily, greasy cooking liquid. When possible, remove chicken skin too.

Layer wisely: For even cooking, cut food into uniform-size pieces. Place firm, slow-cooking root vegetables like potatoes and carrots at the bottom of the crock and pile the meat on top.

Set the heat level: A general rule of thumb is that cooking on the low setting (170 degrees F for most models) takes about twice as long as cooking on high (280 degrees F on most models). Keep in mind that some cuts of meat and recipes are better suited to one setting over the other. (See tips on choosing the right cut, above.)

Add dairy last: Sour cream, milk and yogurt tend to break down in the slow cooker, so stir them in during the last 15 minutes of cooking.

Watch the wine: Because the cooker is sealed, the alcohol in wine doesn’t evaporate out as it would in a regular pot or skillet. Just a splash goes a long way.

End on a fresh note: A sprinkle of fresh herbs or squeeze of lemon juice at the end of simmering can brighten flavors and cut through the richness of long-cooked recipes. Other excellent finishing touches: hot sauce, citrus zest, grated Parmesan, good-quality olive oil or even sauteed garlic.

Adjust for high altitude: For high-altitude cooking, add an additional 30 minutes for each hour of time specified in the recipe. Legumes take about twice as long as they would at sea level.

Unplugged means unusable: Forgot to turn on your cooker (or accidentally tried to “cook” your meal on warm)? Any food that sits between the temperatures of 40 and 140 degrees F can harbor bacteria. Toss the contents and start again.

Read more at Food Network

(http://www.foodnetwork.com/how-to/articles/14-tips-for-slow-cooker-meals.html)

Grilled Ginger-Sesame Chicken Chopped Salad

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Do you get easily bored of the same salads all the time? I know I do, so I’m always trying out new salad recipes. This grilled ginger-sesame chicken chopped salad is a great one to add to your rotation. It’s easy, it is incredibly flavorful and all the textures in this salad are amazing – the crunch, the chew, the tenderness and the unique bite from the sesame seeds. I love that it is healthy too! Good for you food doesn’t have to be bland and boring, with the right flavors and a few fresh ingredients you’ve got a meal worth remembering.

The best part of this salad is the marinated and grilled chicken. I enjoyed it so much that I will likely just start making it all it’s own on occasion. It has the perfect blend of flavors and the marinade was quick and easy to throw together. Another great thing about this salad is the cabbage, how often do we get caught making salads over and over with the same types of lettuce. It’s nice to have a little variation. Summer is salad season so keep this recipe handy and try it soon!

Enjoy!

Ingredients

Dressing and Marinade
    • 1/4 c low-sodium soy sauce
    • 2 Tbsp finely minced ginger
    • 3 Tbsp canola oil
    • 2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
    • 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil (I used regular un-toasted since it’s all I had)
    • 1 tsp Sriracha (I didn’t even notice it, so if you like heat add a little more)
    • 1/2 tsp salt, then more to taste as desired
    • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
    • 1/4 cup chopped green onions, green and white parts
Salad
  • 2 (9 oz) boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 lb napa cabbage, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups matchstick carrots, or 2 medium carrots cut into matchsticks
  • 2/3 cup slivered or sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 3 chopped green onions, green and white parts
  • 1 tsp white sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 tsp black sesame seeds (or an additional 1 tsp white, toasted)

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Directions

  • For the marinade:
  • In a mixing bowl (or 2-cup liquid measuring cup), whisk together soy sauce, ginger, canola oil, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, Sriracha and 1/2 tsp salt (adding more salt to taste as desired, original recipe calls for 1 tsp salt, I added 3/4 tsp and I still thought that was too much, especially for a healthy salad). Add chicken breasts to a large resealable bag and add 3 Tbsp of the marinade mixture, reserving remaining. Seal bag and rub marinade over chicken, then transfer chicken to refrigerator and let rest at least 30 minutes, or up to 1 day.
  • For the dressing:
  • Add red wine vinegar and 1/4 cup chopped green onions to marinade mixture and whisk to blend. Set aside (chill in refrigerator if marinating chicken longer than 1 hour).
  • For the salad:
  • Heat a grill or grill pan over stove top over medium-high heat. Brush grill lightly with canola or vegetable oil, then place marinated chicken on grill and cook, about 4 minutes per side, or until chicken has cooked through (it should register to 165 degrees in center of chicken when tested with a meat thermometer). Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 10 minutes. Then, cut chicken crosswise into strips about 1/4-inch thick.
  • To assemble salad:
  • In a large bowl toss together cabbage, chicken, carrots, almonds, 3 chopped green onions, and cilantro with enough dressing to coat salad. Sprinkle top with sesame seeds and serve.
  • Recipe Source: adapted from Curtis Stone via Menu Musings

Effective Best Cookware Sets

Cookware sets are commonly used items at home, especially as kitchen items. The manufacturers of cookware sets, thus continuously strive to produce cookware sets that are affordable and of high quality. Purchasing software sets is relatively cheap than purchasing individual pieces. Cookware sets are important in equipping the kitchen, and also in replacing old sets. Apart from the best cookware sets, there are specialty pieces like roasting pan and Dutch oven. Many people prefer the 12-inch skillet due to its versatility. People use the skillet for preparing one-pot dishes, and making larger food batches.

Allclad-Cookware-set

The cookware types that are effective are; stainless steel, cast iron, and nonstick cookware. Stainless steel kitchen items are suitable for use at home or by professional chefs. The stainless steel heats evenly and is effective in browning food. The nonstick cookware hinders food from sticking; therefore, fat and oil usage is low. It is easy to clean the nonstick cookware. The cookware can be very cheap due to thin metal, or expensive that has higher quality like anodized aluminum. The cast iron cookware is very versatile, hence uses include oven, grill, smoker and stove top. Cast iron items are usually durable and have nonstick surface. (Related post: The benefits of cast iron)

One effective stainless steel item is the All-Clad Gourmet set. The 10-piece set is beautiful, durable and has even heating. The price of one set is approximate $700. Tramontina set is an 8-piece stainless steel. One set costs approximately $157. The product is durable, ensures even heating, and has a lifetime warranty. Simply Calphalon is a nonstick item that has 10-piece set. Approximately, the set costs $200. Cleaning the item is easy, and the cooking experience is fun. Rachael Ray 10-piece cookware set is inexpensive and comprises hard anode. The item costs approximately $135. Lodge is a 5-piece cast iron set. It is durable and versatile. One piece is approximate $69.92.

Retail sites like Amazon.com and Walmart.com are very useful in illustrating positive reviews for the top cookware sets. The best cookwares are fun to use and possess important product features. The product features include bright appearance, usage ease, high cooking performance, and durability.