Showing posts with label slow cooker. Show all posts
Showing posts with label slow cooker. Show all posts

Friday, March 21, 2014

Kitchen Gadgets for Your Health

It’s tax refund time! Many of us have filed our taxes, or will be filing soon, and plans are already being made for ways to spend our refund. If you are someone seeking to eat healthier in 2014, how about getting some new, useful gadgets for the kitchen? They will pay you back in dividends – not only in better health, but also with more money in your budget as you enjoy eating at home more often!

If you aren’t sure where to begin, use the following as suggestions to determine what might best suit your cooking style. You may be able to find devices that can do double-duty (ie. blenders that also food process). While buying new healthy gadgets can be fun, don’t hesitate to hit up garage sales, thrift stores, or gadget-laden relatives!

Slow cooker. We talked about slow cookers a few weeks ago. They are a must have for the healthy kitchen! In addition to cooking dinners and side dishes, they can be utilized for making broths and other long-cooking sauces and soups. The slow cooker is truly the “fix it and forget it” for the busy family and allows you to create incredible cuisine with little effort.

Food Processor. This can be a heavy hitter in the budget, but worth spending a few extra dollars on if you can afford it. With a food processor, you can do more than just slice and dice raw vegetables. You can make cookie and cake recipes, whip up pancakes in a jiffy, and puree soups and vegetables. When purchasing a food processor, review sizes to get the right one for you, as well as additional features. They can be quite large, so keep that in mind for storage.

Mixer. This is where you may be able to cut some corners if you don’t make heavy dough (like bread dough). A small hand mixer – of sturdy quality, but not necessarily the most expensive – will work well for the average kitchen. However, if you love to bake, you may find your money well spent on a stand mixer. Arm fatigue often plagues batter-makers. Not to mention, higher end stand mixers often have multiple attachments available, like dough hooks, ice cream makers, and meat grinders.

Iron Skillet. The minute you pick up an iron skillet, you’ll know why it’s a must have. It’s a nearly indestructible cooking device that knows how to handle protein and offers a non-stick surface without any chemical concerns. And it will last you for many, many years. Most new skillets come pre-seasoned, but this is where getting a used skillet can pay off. While the pre-seasoning is a nice selling feature, you’ll still have to do a fair amount of seasoning before skillet is truly non-stick, but that is where the fun comes in! From eggs to pancakes to pizza, you can make almost any cooked food on a skillet. It can go from your stovetop to your oven with ease. And the more you cook with it, the more non-stick the surface becomes. Make sure to use plenty of healthy fats when cooking, and you’ll have the perfectly seasoned pan for cooking.

Quality knives. Last but certainly not least, evaluate a good set of knives. If you can afford to get a quality set of knives, they will last you for many years. If not, a chef’s knife and a paring knife are a must for any kitchen. Look for knives that easy to clean, resist rust, and feel balanced in your hand. They should be easy to sharpen and come with a reliable guarantee. Read online reviews to find the right set for you.

With the right tools, cooking healthy food in your kitchen is a breeze. And you don’t need a ton of gadgets – just the right ones for your needs.

What are your kitchen must-have’s? What else would you add to this list?

Contributing Writer

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Crockpots for Beginners

We’re locked into cold weather for a bit longer, which makes it the perfect time to take advantage of your crockpot! If you use one regularly, you know the fantastic advantages they have: efficient, simple, and easy to clean. But if you’ve never cooked with one before, they can be a bit intimidating. However, once you get the hang of it, you’ll be an expert!

Crockpots – often referred to as slow cookers – are a great way to eat healthy without spending a lot of time preparing food. Cheaper cuts of meat cook up tender in a crockpot, and with some vegetables thrown in, you’ve got a delicious, healthy feast. So where do you start when you are new to the experience?

If you don’t own a crockpot, this is a great time to visit your local thrift store! They often have all shapes and sizes for very reasonable prices. If you prefer to buy new, department stores offer many choices. Key features to look for include variable heating options (“high” and “low” are typical settings, but newer models may have additional temperature settings), an “off” option when plugged in, and a nonstick interior surface. You can find digital displays with timers on more expensive units, but while convenient, they are not necessary. 

Decide what size you (and your family) will need. For two people, a 4-quart crockpot is a great size. But if you are feeding 3 or more people, opt for a 5 to 6-quart unit. If you like to make things like traditional roasts, you will need enough room for the meat, water (or broth), and chunky vegetables.

Where to start? The good news: the hardest part is obtaining your crockpot! From here on out, it’s easy! Recipes for the crockpot consist of a protein (beef, pork, or poultry), a liquid (water, broth, etc.), and vegetables. For example:

For a basic roast: add 2-3 pounds of chuck roast, 2 cups of water, 1 yellow onion, chopped, and salt and pepper. Cook on low heat for 8 hours. After six hours, add in vegetables – like red-skin potatoes, cabbage, carrots, or other veggies of your choice. When it’s done, it’s ready to serve!

A famous central Pennsylvania recipe is pork and sauerkraut: 2-3 pounds of pork roast, 2 cans of sauerkraut, any other seasonings you prefer, and cook on low for 8 hours. Pair with mashed potatoes for a filling dinner.

Easy chicken stock: Take a whole chicken roaster, small enough to fit inside your crockpot, and 2-4 cups of water. Put both in the crockpot. Add 1-2 stalks of celery, 1 onion, chopped, 1 tablespoon crushed garlic (substitute 1-2 teaspoons garlic powder, if you don’t have fresh garlic), and salt and pepper to taste. Cook on low for 24-48 hours, until chicken bones are soft. Strain well and use or freeze.

There are countless easy recipes for your crockpot! If you enjoy using the internet for your recipe hunt, check out this site. If you prefer cookbooks, stop by your local library and check out a few crockpot specific cook books, like Fix-It and Forget-It Big Cookbook or Slow Cooker Revolution.

Now you are an expert on using your crockpot! What new recipes have you tried and would recommend? Check back here and leave us a comment on your experience using your crockpot!

Contributing Writer