Crock Pot 101 Lesson 1

[box] This month, I'll be starting a series of posts that will comprise a Crock Pot 101 class. After the first two lessons, I'll release a new class with every 50 new subscribers on the Mom University email list! I have about enough material for at least 10-12 more lessons...I'd appreciate it if you can help me get the word out![/box] If you've been in Christian circles long enough, you will know who I'm talking about when I refer to the Proverbs 31 woman. If you haven't, let me introduce you.

If there was ever a superwoman, it would be her. She manages her home, provides food for her family, wisely manages their finances, works to support the home, and her husband and kids love her. Not only that, she is a woman of wisdom and godly character. Most of us either love her because she is our inspiration or hate her because she makes us feel guilty.

In verse 15 of this chapter, we learn that "She gets up while it is still night (!!); she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants." (This is one of those guilt-inducing verses.) So what has this got to do with slow cookers? Because as a busy mom, my slow cooker (or some say crock pot) has helped me to become more like this proverbial superwoman. Over the next month or so, I will take you on a virtual "course" through this wonderful appliance...with some recipes thrown in too! Hopefully, by the end of that time, you can be a Proverbs 31 woman in the kitchen! So let's get started with...

Lesson 1: Why Should I Use a Slow Cooker?

I'm sure most of you know what a crock pot or slow cooker is.  Out of curiosity, I did a little research to see if there really is a difference. Some say that crock pots have their heating elements on both the bottom and sides of the appliance while slow cookers only have heating elements on the bottom. Other people claim that the name "Crock-Pot" is the trademarked name for Rival company and that there is essentially no difference between the two. For me---I'll use them interchangeably, if you don't mind. I'm not worried about trademark issues.

If you don't know what a slow cooker is or why you should use one, read on. Generally, a crock pot is a method of slow, moist cooking food at a low temperature (about 170-180 degrees F). So, why should you use one? Here are a few reasons:

  • It's convenient--I like to think of it as a "servant girl" working for me!
  • It frees up stovetop space if stove or oven space is at a premium (e.g. thanksgiving, Christmas).
  • It's all-seasonal---perfect for whipping up warm chilis, soups and stews and fabulous on hot days when you don't want to heat up the kitchen.
  • You can make just about any course in a crock pot: hearty meals or appetizers, desserts, side dishes...
  • Great when you want a hot meal without the pre-dinner hassle
  • Need to feed a family on a budget?  A slow cooker can tenderize and cook inexpensive meats like brisket, shoulder roasts, stew meats, pork spareribs, rump roasts, etc.
  • If you're like me, I turn things on the stove and forget to check it and I burn what I'm cooking. With a crock pot, this is rarely, if ever, an issue.
  • It's easy to transport to a potluck and keep warm if you need to.
  • When you use a liner, cleanup is so simple!

Sold? If you don't have one, you'll want to stay tuned for our next lesson, which will explain how to look for one. But if you love yours like I do, I thought I'd share one recipe I received from a wonderful friend at church (thanks, May!). Although it is meant to be an appetizer, my kids just love to eat it over hot rice for dinner. Enjoy!

Cranberry Meatballs

1 Costco sized bag of frozen meatballs

2 cans jellied cranberry sauce

2-24 oz. jars salsa

Mix the cranberry sauce and salsa together first. Put the frozen meatballs into your crock pot. Pour the cranberry mixture on top. That's it! Cook on high for 4-5 hours. Easy peasy and so tasty! I made half the recipe for a potluck and the other half for dinner for us one night. Great during these winter months if you need a quick meal! Enjoy!