Food For Thought – Menu Planning the Easy Button Way

Dear Friends,

If you read my last Food for Thought, you know that the first component to menu planning is making it easy. Easy is important if you’re going to get dinner on the table night after night.

Easy means different things to different people, but I know everyone will agree that one of the best roads to “Easy” is the crockpot. God bless that wonderful machine and whomever created it! I cannot tell you what a miracle worker this thing has been in my household. I call crockpots indentured servants – they work while you’re away and live with you, charging you nothing for the privilege of cooking for your family. Does it get better than that? Yes it does–when you walk into the house, it’s as if hired help was making dinner–the place smells fantastic!

As much as I love my crockpot, I inevitably get emails from those that aren’t so fortunate. So what happens if you don’t have a crockpot? Well, what can I say? I think you buy one, LOL! Listen, they are very inexpensive. You can get one for well under twenty dollars and when you consider what a great return you get on your investment, this is one kitchen appliance you really do need.

But if it really is impossible to own a crockpot at this stage of your culinary life, then here is a chart to help you navigate a crockpot recipe without the benefit of the crockpot itself:

All crockpots or slow cookers are NOT created equal. The following is only a rule of thumb. €”Your mileage may vary.

Conventional Cooking Time: 15 to 30 minutes
Crockpot Cooking Time: 1.5 hours on HIGH – 4 to 8 hours on LOW

Conventional Cooking Time: 30 to 40 minutes
Crockpot Cooking Time: 3 to 4 hours on HIGH – 6 to 10 hours on LOW

Conventional Cooking Time: 50 minutes to 3 hours
Crockpot Cooking Time: 4 to 6 hours on HIGH – 8 to 18 hours on LOW

Most stews, pot roasts and other uncooked meat/poultry and vegetable combinations will require at least 8 hours on LOW or 4 to 6 hours on HIGH.

Here is a great frugal recipe to try your hand at crockpottery cooking:

London Fog Split Pea Soup
Serves 4-6

2 cups split peas, rinsed and picked over
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, diced
1 large celery stalk and tops, chopped
1 teaspoon thyme
10 cups water
1 ham hock or ham bone leftover from Easter (or one smoked turkey leg)
Salt and pepper to taste
Place cleaned split peas in a slow cooker.

In a skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Saute onion, carrot and celery for about 3 minutes, then add to slow cooker. Add thyme.

Fill the slow cooker with the water, salt and pepper to taste, and bury the ham hock, ham bone or smoked turkey leg in the peas.

Cook on low heat setting for 8 to 10 hours.

Per serving: 326 Calories; 8g Fat; 20g Protein; 44g Carbohydrate; 18g
Dietary Fiber; 18mg Cholesterol; 29mg Sodium. Exchanges: 2 1/2 Grain
(Starch); 1 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 1 Fat.
SERVING SUGGESTIONS: Serve with a big green salad and some whole grain rolls for a satisfying meal.

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For more crock pot recipes and using the crock pot for menu planning check out Leanne’s website: http://savingdinner.com/

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