10 Steps for Slow Cooker Perfection

>> Thursday, January 16, 2014

I make a soup or stew in our crock pot at least once a week. Yet, we don't have a lot of crock pot-specific recipes here on the blog. That's because I usually toss in whatever is available at the time and season accordingly. I thought I'd share some tips with you for creating a delicious result from this seemingly sloppy way of cooking.

Recipe independence is really your best weapon in the kitchen. It allows you to use your ingredients up without having a specific plan. It encourages you to eat a more varied diet and not shy away from foreign foods. In other words, it makes healthy eating more automatic.

Heck, it makes cooking more enjoyable and satisfying -- empowering -- too.

Follow these steps and create your own tasty crock pot creations!
// 1: Use (32 ounces) of low sodium vegetable broth as a base.
  • adds fuller flavor
  • adds nutrition
  • regulates salt (if you don't add more!)
// 2: Add puree or other base enhancer.
  • canned tomatoes chopped, whole, or even sauce
  • pumpkin, squash, or other veggie purees
  • miso paste, curry paste, coconut milk, roux, even tahini!
// 3: Toss in at least one or two cans of (rinsed) beans for protein.
  • kidney beans
  • chickpeas
  • black beans
  • black-eyed peas
  • canelli beans 
  • lima beans
  • edamame
  • pinto beans
// 4: Use 1/2 to 1 full cup of a grain or grain-like filler.
  • white or brown rice
  • quinoa of all colors
  • couscous -- my favorite is Israeli
  • wheat berries  
  • bulgur wheat
  • dry lentils
// 5: Chop veggies small or use canned/frozen + 2-4 cups, 1 each, depending. 
  • carrots
  • celery
  • potatoes or sweet potatoes
  • broccoli
  • kohlrabi
  • zucchini or summer squash
  • onions + garlic
  • kale or other chopped greens
  • bell peppers
  • parsnips
  • butternut or acorn squash, etc.
  • corn
  • peas
  • green beans
// 6: Add a tablespoon or two of oil for healthy fat.
  • Olive oil for mild flavor.
  • Chili oil for some spice.
  • Sesame, truffle, walnut, etc. oil for complex, exotic taste.
// 7: Pinch in salt and pepper for basic seasoning.
  • Don't forget salt is in the stock you already added, if you're regulating.
  • You can always add more, not take away.
// 8: Scoop other seasonings in 1 teaspoon at a time. 
  • Oregano
  • Smoked paprika
  • Curry powder
  • Cayenne pepper (start 1/4 teaspoon at a time!)
  • Saffron
  • Fenugreek
  • Dried basil
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Turmeric 
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Ginger
  • Cinnamon
// 9: Add water (if necessary) + stir until the mixture reaches the top.
  • Evaluate your liquid to veggies ratio. 
  • More liquid, soupier soup.
  • Less, more like stew.
  • Don't forget items like rice will absorb liquid.
  • You can remove veggies/add liquid if ratio doesn't please you.
// 10: After cooking for several hours on high, I season again -- to taste. 

While writing this post, I tested these tips and slow simmered a delicious soup, including the following ingredients:
  • 32 ounces veggie broth
  • 28 ounce can whole tomatoes + juice
  • Black beans
  • Chopped carrots
  • Chopped celery
  • Israeli couscous
  • Olive oil
  • Water to fill the pot
  • Salt + pepper
  • Paprika, cayenne, and basil
Not ready to go it on your own? Take it slow. The worst that can happen is you eat lots of veggies that aren't seasoned perfectly. Plus, with mistakes comes learning. Just try again!

Here are more slow cooker recipes:
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