Fast, Slow Food, Volume 1

by Stefani on 27-October-2009

Two words… 

Crock. 

Pot. 

Slow Cookin

or, if you prefer… 

Slow. 

Cooker. 

Either way, it is a simple little machine that is worth ten times it's weight in pie. And you should know by now that I really, REALLY like pie, so that's saying something. 

I recently bought my THIRD crock pot. Not third as in, "I had one, and then it died and so I bought another, and then that one died, and so I bought one more," oh no.  I mean "THIRD'" as in "I have three working machines at my disposal."  I'm a tailgate party waiting to happen!

For real. 

My love of the crock pot is deep and wide. 

Deep and wide. 

Dinner's Ready!

This love affair probably began when my second little man made his entrance into the world. I had the unparalleled joy of having dinner delivered from folks at our church every other day for TWO SOLID MONTHS and then… then I was on my own. 

I was on my own with two babies only 14 months apart. I had one cranky, hold-me-every-second, oldest baby and one sweet, but very tiny, and very reflux-ish, newborn. Honestly I don't know how I managed to brush my teeth and tie my shoes each day, let alone cook. 

And then I discovered that the crock pot could do more than just make queso for Super Bowl parties. You can actually cook in it!

I'm not kidding when I say that for probably two solid years we ate from the crock pot, no less than three nights a week. 

See, it never failed… around 5:00 or so, the normal "what shall I make for dinner?" hour, both babies would be cranky and needy and then, despite my best intentions, my ever-patient, loving man would come home, AGAIN, to "um… there's cereal… and maybe a can of tuna…" 

He never seemed to mind, but I did. I felt like there had to be a better way.

Then I discovered the possibilities of the crock pot, and it all changed. I could throw something in during that blissful 4.3 seconds when they BOTH slept and, voila, it would be miraculously ready at dinner time. Will wonders never cease?

After a while though, the boys got bigger and we moved out of survival mode.  Our tastes grew slightly more complex. I began, once more, to actually take pleasure in thinking and planning meals. I learned to love cooking alongside my men. I read Animal Vegetable Miracle and the two peach books. We learned to bake bread together. We made our own jams and grew our own pesto. And the crock pots (the TWO that I owned) began to gather dust. In retrospect I sort of felt like those crock pot days were my culinary Dark Ages. I had done what I had to do, but I wasn't proud of it. 

And then… then we reached this pivotal new year in homeschooling. (If you want you can read all about it in parts 1, 2 , 3, and 4). We have reached a day when my men's interests are growing… there are now fiddle lessons and guitar, karate and AWANA. And yet still, I NEED for there to be calm in the kitchen, peace at the dinner table. 

I NEED for us to sit down to dinner together. I need to feel connected and calm, even on the days when our schedules are full. 

Dinner on the Run

So in order to make that happen, I have resurrected the crock pot. 

Only this time, something is different. 

This time, I've learned to inject a little art into crock pot cookery. This time it isn't just about filling the tank, it's about binding the hearts and souls that encircle my table. 

In the coming day or two, I'm going to share with you some of the tips, tricks and recipes that have resulted in what we call "fast slow food." 

We are headed to our state's Renaissance Festival tomorrow, but we will be back and ready to talk about  feasts fit for kings by Friday. 

Until then, I'd love to hear from you… what's your go-to freeze ahead or make-in-a-jiffy meal? How do you keep dinnertime simple? How do you slow it down, even on the hectic days? 

See you soon, friends!

{ 56 comments }

brit October 27, 2009 at 10:12 pm

I realize my comments are always..OOH MY I LOVE YOU. but you make it so easy. I have the same love affair with the crockpot. Especially with youngsters ready to eat earlier than marathon training dad, and the need to no be making two meals at two different times. The crock pot oh how I love thee.

Also popcorn for dinner in a pinch. :)

Myrnie October 27, 2009 at 10:54 pm

Honestly, I love beans. 4 cups of of soaked (with baking soda, please) and drained beans, covered up to your second knuckle above the beans with water. 2 tsp salt, a few bay leaves, some shakes of garlic and dehydrated onion (they’re sweeter than fresh), and a good bit of pepper. Cook ‘em on low for about 6 hours, and I’m good. For a week. Honestly, I love them so much served over rice. If you’re bored, throw in a can of tomato sauce, a few cups of salsa, a few Tbsp. of chili powder and presto, it’s chili! Serve them over rice, over quinoa, with cheese, with sour cream, with fresh onions on top… love ‘em all.

But on nights when there’s no beans, it’s pancakes (from scratch, please.)

Barbara October 28, 2009 at 4:06 am

My go-to quick meal these days is tortilla pizzas. Tortillas for crust, and everyone chooses their own toppings. Maybe with a salad on the side. Everyone’s happy and fed.

I recently bought Cook’s Illustrated’s “Best 30 minute recipes” and I’m loving it. Real food made from real ingredients that you really can cook in half an hour.

And I do love my crockpot, too–I think the best part is being able to cook in the morning, while I’m still fresh. And then the ease of knowing all day that dinner is already made!

Carine Mattix October 28, 2009 at 4:13 am

I love how you write, again and again!
This whole crockpot affair is very interesting to me because I never grew up with one (where I come from we have “steam pots” (marmites

Lina October 28, 2009 at 4:56 am

Ooh, I’m excited – having only just bought my first slow cooker. And your eldest just being 14 months apart? I completely hear you. Mine are 18 months apart and I hardly remember that first year….pity I didn’t have a slow cooker then!

Mama Urchin October 28, 2009 at 4:58 am

I do the crockpot about once a week. I need to expand my repertoire though because we eat a lot of chicken chili.

I also love the cookbook Glorious One Pot Meals which uses a dutch oven and the oven but is good for fast slow food too.

Lucia October 28, 2009 at 4:59 am

Eager to read more…I really want to fall in love with my crock pot but it just seems to gather dust. Every Fall I feel the urge to pull it out with high hopes of walking into a house filled with goodness at the end of busy, cold days, but somehow the recipes always seem to fall short and I feel like it turns into a gloppy, stewy mess. Post more soon, please :)

heather jane October 28, 2009 at 5:06 am

A roast (pork or beef), a large can of green enchilada sauce (red works too) and about 6 hours later we have really yummy meat for burritos. Cook up a little rice and put all the yummy toppings on the table for a very fast and satisfying meal.

Toni October 28, 2009 at 5:56 am

I LOVE crock-pot recipes!! I NEED crock-pot recipes!! What would I do without my Crock-pot!!! I have been wanting to buy my second crock-pot to cook along side my oldy but goody crock-pot. I kind of felt guilty about cooking this way cause it is soooo easy! But you on your third?!?!?! I’ not gonna feel bad anymore and buy my second! For now on I will have CROCK-POT PRIDE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

melissa October 28, 2009 at 5:56 am

I LOVE the crock pot. I have a huge one and every year EVERY YEAR I hack the backbone out of my turkey, jam it in there, moist-crock-cook it, then finish it in the oven. And soup/stew/ (the rare) pot roast in it. Applesauce in it. Miracle machine.

Our Green Nest October 28, 2009 at 6:37 am

What helps us is we cook only on Sundays and we cook 2 dishes in bulk for lunches/dinners for the week…We love it! Alot of dishes are cold ones or ones that we can eat cold (especially in the spring/summer) but since it’s fall we’re starting to do dishes that we just warm up for a bit in the oven or on the stove and then we’re ready to go. It really maximizes our time together in the evenings!

Cassandra October 28, 2009 at 6:50 am

I love throwing chicken breasts in it with some bbq sauce. It’s my go to meal, especially when we’re having lots of company (easy to make in big batches!)

Erin | house on hill road October 28, 2009 at 7:01 am

i could use a little more art in my slow cooker! anxiously awaiting your recipes….you know i do chicken tacos in there and it is the family’s favorite meal by far.

ps – your illustrations here are so dang cute!

Jennifer October 28, 2009 at 7:27 am

These ribs are our absolute favorite slow cooker recipe.

http://recipesnfriends.blogspot.com/2008/10/slow-cooker-drpepper-ribs.html

I don’t remember where I got that recipe from but I added it to our small group’s recipe sharing blog. And we swear by Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce if you use the DP. We tried Rudy’s Sause and it just clashed with the sweetness the DP added to the meat.

Jennifer October 28, 2009 at 7:32 am

Oh, whoops, you weren’t asking for recipes… Oh well. I only have one make-ahead and freeze meal and that’s my simple lasagna. I make 2 and freeze one so I only end up making it from scratch every-other-time we eat it.

I have to admit that I hate cooking. If there’s a way to mess it up, I’ll find it. We usually keep it simple by planning at least a week’s worth of meals at a time, shopping only once per week, eating all meals together as a family (minus Daddy when he’s at work) Oh, and dinner is usually simple when we forget to write down (and therefore buy) side dishes.

We’re at the stage where hectic days don’t slow down until the 3 boys are in bed. With a 4, almost 3, and almost 1 year old, there’s no such thing as slowing down. I think I’m still in survival mode.

susan October 28, 2009 at 7:53 am

I’m a crock pot lover too, but my tried and true make ahead meal is BBQ Meatballs. My kids devour them. I make 3 lbs at once and either bake them all and freeze half or bake half/freeze half. They warm up well in the microwave or . . . wait for it . . . the crockpot!

Looking forward to your recipes.

Hannah October 28, 2009 at 8:17 am

I think my favorite slow cooker book is put out by Williams Sonoma. The recipes are delicious!
My favorites in the crockpot are Boston Baked beans, chili, and shredded pork for sandwiches(throw in a roast and a jar of Dinosaur BBQ sauce – it falls apart.
Look forward to seeing your recipes. With six littles in our home right now, my crockpot is cranking away!
Hannah

Mountain Mama (Wesley Jeanne) October 28, 2009 at 8:28 am

I love my crockpot! I use it for soup (and other BBQ ribs and stew and lots of other things). Mostly I use it weekends to free up my suppertimes. I would like to use it more during the week, but it seems my mornings are always too rushed.
I have two favorite crockpot cookbooks: The Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Crockpot Recipes and a new one (to me) Diane Phillips Slow Cooker: The Best Cookbook Ever.

Can’t wait to read your posts on this.

Lynnette October 28, 2009 at 8:31 am

For the life of me I cannot cook a chicken in the oven and have it done in time. So, now I rub some spices on in the morning and place it in the crock pot then cut some veggies on top and turn it on. No water or stock required. If you happen to have extra meat after dinner, save it (shredded) for stir-fry, enchiladas..you get the picture.
My son is almost three and my daughter is 9 months. I honestly don’t remember so much of this past year from lack of sleep but the days I remember the crockpot we at least eat something tasty.

a October 28, 2009 at 8:43 am

You will want to check out http://www.crockpot365.blogspot.com…She pledged to use her crockpot every day in 2008 and kept a daily blog of the experience (with recipes). It was great fun to read along (and note I said “use” instead of “cook in”–she did find a couple of crazy non-food ways to utilize a slow cooker.

kort October 28, 2009 at 9:08 am

love all the ideas so far….i can’t get the link for all the soup recipes to work. any ideas?

Kika October 28, 2009 at 9:41 am

I’m just learning to use a crockpot, really. I do plan about three really easy meals/week which I can start in the morning if our afternoons/evenings are particularly busy: salad, baked potatoes and cottage cheese or black-eyed beans/onions; vegetarian soup and buns or corn bread; ‘riz au gras’ (rice cooked with veg/seasonings) and salmon with steamed veg. these meals still do require planning (like cooking beans and rice the night before or in the morning) but are healthy and easy to pull together. I’m trying to find more vegetarian crockpot recipes as I don’t eat meat.

I LOVE YOUR ILLUSTRATIONS :)

Bonnie October 28, 2009 at 10:09 am

Your early days sound a lot like my current days! This winter I also decided to bring back the crock pot as 6 months of eating cereal for dinner (my girls are 21 and 6 months old) is getting kind of old. I love that I can plan the night before, throw together in the 5 min. stretch of morning where everyone is happy and not needing something and then actually have a HOT dinner to eat!

I can’t wait for your tips!

Visty Lindgren October 28, 2009 at 10:09 am

I do pancakes for fast dinner nights. The kids can start eating as soon as the first ones come off, and I refill their plates as they go. Everyone likes it, it’s simple, super fast, and I can add fruit salad or sausages or something on the side.

Stacey October 28, 2009 at 10:13 am

We are a bean family. There is always something bean-y in the crock pot. Lately we have been going for low effort high flavor, split pea soup. Before you cringe think of the wonders of a warm bowl of smoky soup. And it’s a three ingredients only. First place a package of smoked ham-hocks in the pot and cover with water. Turn it on high and cook it until everything disintegrates off the bones (you may have to add some water) then add two or so cups of split peas (don’t for get to check for stones) and cook it until the peas become soupy.

Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com October 28, 2009 at 10:15 am

I’m sorry, dinner? What’s dinner? I only have one baby and I have already forgotten what that word means.

Tania October 28, 2009 at 10:38 am

Oh, I am so excited to get some good recipes for my crock pot. Though I use it I know that it could be utilized much more and make my life with my 4 lovingly crazy children so much easier at dinner time.

Thanks!

carrie October 28, 2009 at 10:44 am

My go to dinner in a hurry (and our Friday night-after-homeschool-co-op tradition) is homemade pizza. Once I found a recipe with which you don’t have to let the crust rise, I was sold! Our pizza tastes amazing, has all fresh ingredients (and I know what they all are), a whole grain crust, and is ready start-to-finish in 19 minutes, including making the crust! Best of all, it’s fun to make pizza! My little one loves to help out!

Caitlin October 28, 2009 at 11:04 am

Hey – I WANT to love my crock pot, but every time I use it, it loses too much moisture as steam seeps out from under the lid! I’ve tried to weigh down the lid to hold tighter, but no luck. I always cook on the lowest (of 4) heat settings.

Any advice??

kristi October 28, 2009 at 11:04 am

very excited to see what you have to say about crock pots. and very much identify with having babies close together. my oldest two are 16 months apart. how i carried them in each arm and made trips to the grocery store and ran errands i’ll never know–plus living in a 3-story apt. in boston at the time, where the laundry room was in the BASEMENT. ugh.

Erin Landon October 28, 2009 at 11:52 am

I love my crock pots! I have 3 of them too, and I cook in them at least twice a week. I cook chili, stews, roasts, and soups. Since so many crock pot cookbooks call for cream of mushroom soup, I make my own in the crock pot and freeze it to use in those recipes.

Lindsey October 28, 2009 at 11:54 am

I LOVE using the crockpot and always feel more peaceful on days when I know “someone (thing) else is doing the cooking.”

Just a word of caution, though. You may want to consider whether your crock pot has lead in the ceramic glaze and limit your use to your personal comfort level. I have not had mine tested but I hate knowing that there may be (likely is) lead in the glaze. I limit my use to once a week or less.

http://insightfulnana.com/home-garden/housekeeping-home-garden/lead-poisoning-and-crock-pots/

Nifer October 28, 2009 at 1:24 pm

We were just making fun of my MIL for the shear number of crock pots at her house. Mind you, it was well more than 3, and they have all been purchased in the last 3 years, as their house burned down while I was pregnant with our oldest. I, too, love that I can throw something in ours while the boys are “napping” and have dinner ready right on time; the cooking all happens magically while we are at the park! Heather posted a similar question about freeze ahead meals just last week, and I thought you might like to see the responses she got as well: http://www.shivayanaturals.com/2009/10/frazzled.html

I posted our recipe for baked pasta – which I still have a pan of in the freezer right now. Hmm… Maybe I need to pull that out for dinner one night this week…

Take care and eat well!

Catherine October 28, 2009 at 1:40 pm

Something must be in the air…Marcy at Overcoming Busy just spent the weekend cooking from Once a Month Mom’s monthly plan. I went over to Once a Month Mom’s web-site, spent 2 hours printing/reading her plans for October and November, and, contemplating the crockpot.

My previous experiences have been with bland, overcooked beef, burnt pulled pork (I now make this in the oven), and flavorless, falling to bits chicken. I gave away the crock pot to goodwill a few years ago.

I find my interests again piqued. So, I anticipate your recipes. Maybe a new crockpot is on the horizon.

BTW, my go to meal is marinara sauce with sausage. I freeze the extra sauce before I add the sausage to use another day or to cook clams, mussels, and shrimp in (with 1 cup of wine). what a run on sentence…

Julie October 28, 2009 at 3:16 pm

oh yes!!! I need to use my crock pot more. We’ve got a baby on the way and I’m already struggling to do lessons, bring the little guy to therapy, keep it all together…I really need to actually USE my crock pot!!

Katie October 28, 2009 at 5:29 pm

I LOVE the crock-pot too! My family’s favorite recipe is for Chicken Alfredo. So easy!
Put 3-4 chicken breasts in the crock pot. Add one can of chicken broth, one can of cream of mushroom soup, 1/2 package of Italian dressing mix (powdered, from the envelope), 4 tbsp melted butter and one jar of alfredo sauce. Cook over low heat for 5-6 hours.
I cut up the chicken and serve it over egg noodles.
It calls for cheese to be added, but we’ve never used it and never missed it.

Kristi Richards October 28, 2009 at 5:56 pm

I heart my crock pot. I have the Fix and Forget it Cookbook, but I find the recipes are a little dreary. I cannot wait to see what you share, b/c we are hitting the cold days when I pull out the crock pot for stews and pot roasts – needing some new inspiration.

Nifer October 28, 2009 at 6:26 pm

Pardon the second comment, but while I was nursing Malks at bedtime tonight your post drifted into my head, and I just had to chuckle about the shoe tying comment you made. For at least the first year of our older son’s life my shoes were all bought with a easy on/off criteria. Frankly, most of what I wore was slip on birks, even in the winter, even in Kansas. I was always holding him, and putting him down to tie my shoes meant he would cry uncontrollably for-ever! My two are only 21 months apart, and I thought that was trying enough. Now that they are just over 3 and nearing 18 months I can finally wear shoes with laces again! ;)

Stacy (Mama-Om) October 28, 2009 at 6:41 pm

I am so tantalized to learn more…. THREE crock pots?

We have one, and I have gone in and out of habit using it. So many of the recipes I found underwhelmed me, but I would love to hear about yours!

Our favorite family crockpot meal is Chicken Adobo (a Filipino dish). I toss in chicken, tamari (wheat-free soy sauce), apple cider vinegar, bay leaves, black pepper corns… and serve it over rice with steamed veggies. My kids really like it, and husband LOVES it — it reminds him of home!

Jean October 28, 2009 at 6:44 pm

What a teaser!!! I can’t wait to see your crock-pot recipes. Slow cooking definitely makes the witching-hour prior to dinner so much easier.

Mad Woman October 28, 2009 at 8:17 pm

Since we moved to New Zealand, I have been desperately missing my crock pot, and this post was a timely reminder to go and buy a new one. So thank you. I will be doing that this weekend.

As for dinner time? I menu plan on Sunday night around my work schedule (I work some evenings). My favorite for quick and easy to throw together is Mom’s No Peek Chicken (from either Looney Spoons or Crazy Plates). It takes 5 minutes to put together and then it just sits in the oven for an hour and a half and comes out ready to serve. Easy! Otherwise, I do meatloaf. Also only takes 10 minutes to prepare…then just over an hour in the oven.

But the crockpot? My favorite. Nothing like coming home after soccer practice to the smell of dinner ready to go.

Colleen October 29, 2009 at 8:06 am

Since having to replace the crock part of mine, the lid doesn’t fit very well. I take some aluminum foil, fold it a could time, and tuck it along the side of the lid that doesn’t fit. Seems to work pretty well!

Colleen October 29, 2009 at 8:06 am

correction: fold it a COUPLE TIMES

Colleen October 29, 2009 at 8:09 am

I agree about the Fix & Forget It cookbook. I’m sorry I wasted my money on it. I LOVE crockpot365.blogspot.com!

Colleen October 29, 2009 at 8:13 am

Viva la crockpot! I’m also a fan of crockpot 365, and also own 3 (although one is the mini-crock, which doesn’t get used much, except to warm up the honey bear when the honey starts to crystallize). One of my favorites is the rotisserie chicken, similar to someone else’s post. In a pinch, onion soup mix is AWESOME on any kind of meat!

Kerry October 29, 2009 at 10:21 am

We do this too. I pull them apart and add a bit more sauce. Then serve it on rolls for pulled chicken sandwiches. We use leftovers for BBQ chicken quesadillas and/ or pizza. I always do a big batch because it freezes well too.

Elissa October 29, 2009 at 10:36 am

i can’t wait for this, although i need a new crockpot as mine is a tiny one from the 1960′s. i would like to use it more, but, am not always happy with the results. i’m sure you’ll have something to change that!

Mandy October 29, 2009 at 1:02 pm

As a single mom to three (all 14-16 months apart) I too am in love with my crockpot. I could use another actually ;) When they were babies it was too much diaper changing and bottle feeding and laundry to cook and now that they are older it is too much soccer or basketball practice or helping with homework or laundry to cook. I use my crockpot at least 2-3 times a week. One of the girls favorites is pulled pork bbq. Put a pork shoulder in the crock with 2 cans of coke or diet coke and cook all day long (ok, 8 hours or so) on low. When you pull the pork out it will fall apart (which you want). Dump out the coke and put the pork back in the crock with a little salt and pepper and a bottle of bbq sauce (or homemade)and heat through. So so so good. I have even made a chocolate cake in my crockpot!

anne October 30, 2009 at 10:20 am

An easy make-ahead: Quesadilla Casserole
Mix one can refried beans with a small can of tomato sauce and a small can of diced green chilis with a palmful of cumin and a palmful of chili powder (or more if you want it hotter.)
In a pie dish, layer one flour tortilla, a little of the mixture, and some grated cheese (either cheddar or pepper jack or the pre-packaged grated Mexican cheese blend–whatever you have on hand.) Repeat layers, ending with cheese on top. Cover and keep in the fridge until ready to cook, then uncover and Bake on 400 degrees for about 20 minutes until cheese looks brownish and good. Serve with chips and salsa or guacamole and salad if you’d like.
We love this and it is easy, breezy.

anne October 30, 2009 at 10:28 am

Couldn’t be easier or more delicious BBQ chicken:

One boneless breast per person–put them in the crock pot in the morning or by lunchtime. Pour your favorite BBQ sauce over the top of them (about half a bottle.)

Cook on low until suppertime. Or cook on high for a couple of hours if you forget to start them earlier in the day.

I like to serve them with Baked beans and Baked potatoes. If you have an extra crockpot, you can bake potatoes in it. Just poke a couple of holes in them with a fork, put them in the crock pot, and cook on low all day. Or, Great make ahead baked potatoes: Wash potatoes and pierce a couple of times with a fork. Put directly on oven rack and bake at 375 for a hour to an hour and a half. Let them cool and then slice open one side and scoop out the insides, leaving a little in the skin to hold it together. Mix in a bowl with grated cheese, butter, and sour cream (Amount depends on # of potatoes, I use about one cup grated cheese, one stick butter, and one small carton sour cream for about 4 potatoes.) Stuff the mixture back into the potato skins, put in zip lock bags, and place in freezer. When you are ready to cook them, unwrap and bake on baking sheet for about 30 minutes on 375 degrees. These are great to have on-hand.

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