Week of October 25, 2009
Sunday Slow Cooker Meals
On Sundays, I just love taking it easy. My favorite Sunday meals are slow cooker meals that fill the house with yummy aromas and make enough that you have
leftovers for the day after.
Barbecued Chicken Breasts
Cook Time using a 4 - 5.5 quart Slow Cooker
7 - 9 hours on LOW
3 - 5 hours on HIGH
6 chicken breasts, halved, bone-in
1/3 cup ketchup
1/3 cup orange marmalade
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
Place chicken in stoneware.
In a small bowl, combine remaining ingredients and pour over chicken.
Cover; cook on Low 7 to 9 hours or on High 3 to 5 hours.
Per Serving: 205 Calories; 2g Fat (6.7% calories from fat); trace Saturated Fat; 28g Protein; 19g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 68mg Cholesterol; 760mg Sodium. Exchanges: 4 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 1 Other Carbohydrates.
Week of October 18, 2009
Tips for Roasting Vegetables
Roasting transforms vegetables. It coaxes the sweetness from them and the technique is quite simple, requiring just vegetables, oil, seasoning, and heat. Still, a few simple tip can help.
Singles or pairs? Mostly, we roast one vegetable at a time, since it’s hard for more than one kind to finish cooking at the same time.
Heat the oven: Roasting temperatures vary. While 200 degrees is perfect for slow-roasting tomatoes, high temperatures like 400, 425, and even 500 degrees are more typical.
Same size: While the oven preheats, prep the vegetables. Wash and trim them first, cutting off stems and tails, removing any blemishes, and removing skins. Then cut them into pieces roughly the same size so they cook at the same rate. The smaller the pieces, the quicker the vegetables will roast; the larger, the longer.
Coat evenly: Toss the cut vegetables with olive oil in a bowl, really getting in there with a spatula or even your hands, making sure the pieces are coated on all sides. Save the your expensive, extra-virgin oils for salad dressings and drizzles. For roasting, any good-quality oil will do. I allow a tablespoon of oil per pound of vegetables; it’s plenty. Using more oil will shorten the cooking time but of course will add more fat and calories.
Seasoning: A vegetable’s own natural and unadorned flavor will emerge when seasoned with just salt and pepper. For gentleness, use kosher salt or sea salt; for sharpness, use freshly ground pepper. But experiment with other seasonings, too. Carrot is deepened with thyme, zucchini is brightened by lemon. Dried herbs are fine, even preferable.
No crowding: Arrange the vegetables on a baking sheet, preferably one with a rim, leaving space between the pieces so the oven’s heat can weave its way between.
Check and toss: About halfway through the roasting time, give the vegetables a quick toss, redistributing the pieces. After that, check and toss every five minutes or so, until they’re done.
Golden done: The vegetables are done when their centers are soft and creamy and their outside edges almost crisp and beginning to caramelize. Allow 30 to 90 minutes, depending on the vegetable and the oven temperature.
Enjoy roasting vegetables this fall. Start with a vegetable you already like and find a recipe to eliminate the guesswork for temperature and timing. Soon you'll be experimenting on your own with other veggies.
Week of October 11, 2009
Slow Cooker Tips
- Only fill the crockpot one half to two thirds full. The foods will not cook properly if the appliance is filled to the brim. If the food and liquid level is lower, the foods will cook too quickly.
- Foods cooked on the bottom of the slow cooker cook faster and will be moister because they are immersed in the simmering liquid.
- Remove skin from poultry, and trim excess fat from meats. Fats will melt with long cooking times, and will add an unpleasant texture to the finished dish. Fatty foods will also cook too quickly.
- You can thicken the juices and concentrate flavors by removing the lid and cooking on HIGH for the last half hour of cooking time.
- Most meats require 8 hours of cooking on LOW. Use cheaper cuts of meat - not only do you save money, but these meats work better in the slow cooker. Cheaper cuts of meat have less fat, which makes them more suited to crockpot cooking. Moist, long cooking times result in very tender meats.
- Follow the layering instructions carefully. Vegetables do not cook as quickly as meat, so they should be placed in the bottom of the appliance.
- Don't lift the lid to stir, especially if you are cooking on the low setting. Each time you lift the lid, enough heat will escape that the cooking time should be extended by 20 minutes to half an hour. To check progress without lifting the lid, spin the cover until the condensation falls off. Then it's easy to see inside.
More Slow Cooker Tips
- For best results, ground meats must be cooked in a skillet before cooking in the crockpot.
- Seafood should be added during the last hour of cooking time, or it will overcook and have a rubbery texture.
- Large pieces of meat can be browned before cooking in the crockpot, but this step isn't necessary. Browning adds color and helps in flavor development.
- Cayenne pepper and tabasco sauce tend to become bitter if cooked for long periods of time. Use small amounts and add toward the end of the cooking time.
- Add tender vegetables like tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini during the last 45 minutes of cooking time so they don't overcook.
- Dairy products should be added during the last 30 minutes of cooking time, unless the recipes states otherwise.
- Liquids do not boil away in the crockpot, so if you are making a recipe that wasn't specifically developed for the crockpot, reduce the liquid by 1/3 to 1/2 unless you are cooking rice or making soup.
- Stir in spices for the last hour of cooking. They will lose flavor if cooked with the rest of the ingredients for the long cooking period.
of October 4, 2009
Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere, so what do I do with the seeds? Toast them!
Roasted pumpkin seeds have a nutty flavor and are packed with protein and fiber. Pumpkin seeds are delicious toasted and salted, but they're even better flavored with sweet and savory spices.
How to Roast Pumpkin Seeds
- Rinse pumpkin seeds under cold water and pick out the pulp and strings. (This is easiest just after you've removed the seeds from the pumpkin, before the pulp has dried.)
- Place the pumpkin seeds in a single layer on an oiled baking sheet, stirring to coat. If you prefer, omit the oil and coat with non-stick cooking spray.
- Sprinkle with salt and bake at 325 degrees F until toasted, about 25 minutes, checking and stirring after 10 minutes.
- Let cool and store in an air-tight container.