I’m in a committed relationship with my crock pot

When I was a child, my mom typically only used her crock pot to make Chicken à la King, so that’s all I thought it could do. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my first child that I realized I needed to learn about this magical kitchen device if I was going to have any sanity left at dinnertime.

Both my husband and I work full-time outside of the home, and I feel like the second I leave work I’m just punching in on “the other” time clock, racing to get to the pickup for the kiddo(s) and heading home to make dinner. I can’t count the number of times I’ve arrived home either right at dinnertime or just a few minutes before.

How do I make dinner in “negative time”?!

The answer is simple: the crock pot. Also known as a slow cooker, this wonderful instrument of cooking genius allows me to “set it and forget it”. I put dinner’s ingredients into the crock before I leave for work, turn it on, and come home to a dinner that’s no less than 75% made – filling my house with incredible smells that mean “Dinner will be on-time tonight.”

Examples of some ways I solve the “What’s for dinner?” problem before it even starts:

  • BBQ Pork – this recipe has just FOUR ingredients (not including non-stick cooking spray), and it makes amazing firsts AND seconds AND thirds.
  • Dijon Chicken with Mushrooms – another one with a short ingredients list and insanely fast prep time, this is a staple of our household.
  • Mexican Meatloaf – proving that I can fall in love with meatloaf, this recipe also taught me the value of using slow cooker liners!
  • Sour Cream Salsa Chicken – great on soft tortillas or the large leafy green of your choice, this is a fun and tasty low-effort dinner.
  • Turkey Chili – because chili. I mean, really. Chili is magic.

So, how can the crock pot help, exactly?

There is always a crock pot recipe that fits the amount of time you have for prep, whether that’s 5 minutes or an hour. The bigger issue is typically the cook time, which is why recipes involving meat tend to do better for people who aren’t in the house for long stretches of the day. Even with the more labor-intensive recipes, such as the Mexican Meatloaf noted above, if you do the prep-work the night before, the work the next morning – right before leaving the house – simply involves transferring the liner bag from a bowl to the crock, covering the crock, and turning it on to LOW. That’s not even one minute of commitment.

Crock pot recipes also lend themselves well to dining in any season. In the fall and winter, the harder root vegetables and fruits soften and release tons of flavor during braising. In spring and summer, the crock pot supplies a hot dinner without adding heat to the kitchen – and some dishes, like the Sour Cream Salsa Chicken, pair perfectly with fresh bok choy from the CSA or farmers market.

Before getting into a committed relationship with a crock pot of your own, I recommend considering the wherefors and whyhows of crock pot cooking, to think about the best size and kind of crock for your particular needs. Slow cooker liners are also a great addition to the kitchen, since they shorten cleanup time considerably.

Crock pots aren’t just for soup, or Chicken à la King, for that matter. Once you get hooked on this versatile time-saver, it’s hard to imagine how you ever cooked without one!

CrunchyMetroMom is a blog featuring musings about a variety of topics, including food, family, and a journey for balance. To read more, please check out http://www.crunchymetromom.com/.