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the crock pot: play more, cook less

I have been looking for new crock pot recipes lately for many reasons. My minimalist approach to parenting makes me gravitate toward healthy meals that require less of my time in the kitchen–no small feat. Plus I know I’ll be running out on last-minute calls to my doula clients and don’t want to leave my family in the lurch. Finally, I have a crock pot, a wedding gift I was very excited to receive over seven years ago (thanks Corinne!), and I almost never use it due to lack of inspiration and knowledge.

Mommy, play? How could I say no to this face?

Well, that all started to change when I got the latest email from Chestnut Farms. I’ve written 
a few times about the emails our meat CSA farmer sends every month. They are chock full of valuable tidbits, and I can’t help but share them with you! Apart from my farmer’s tips below, I’ve also stumbled upon a healthy living blog I love called The Healthy Beehive. Jane runs a {Crock Pot Monday} series, and I plan to try some of her recipes [and her tips on making a seed starter]. I dislike all the crock pot cookbooks I’ve gotten over the years (at least four by my last count), but I know lots of people enjoy theirs. Do you use yours? What’s your favorite dish?

{p.s. Do you imagine brushing Charlie’s hair out of her eye when you look at that picture? Somebody needs a haircut!}

And now, here’s what Kim–our capable, sustainability-minded renaissance farmer–has to say about her crock pot:

The crock pot is my absolute FAVORITE method to prepare the majority of our meats.   The meals tend to taste great, be warm and ready when we are, and allow sequential dining when I am late coming in from a distribution or my son has basketball practice.   Depending on the number of diners, one can eat for several days on a single item.  A personal example is the chuck roast – I cut up potatoes, carrots, onions and celery and browned the bottom roast in the morning.  I added about 1 ½ cups of beef broth and set the crock pot on low for 8 hours.  That night we had pot-roast for dinner.  The next day, I chopped the leftover meat, took the remaining veggies out and added some mushrooms and red wine – this time I left the pot on warm and we had beef burgundy over noodles with salad for supper the next night.  Day three saw the remaining veggies back in the pot and I added 32 oz’s of Spicy V-8 Juice (it was what I had on hand from sometime last summer!) another couple of carrots, the remaining three mushrooms and left it on low for 12 hours.  Just before supper, I cooked some noodles and served the minestrone soup over the noodles with hot biscuits. 

Never did I rinse the crock pot!
A similar week in our home centered around a whole chicken.  I placed chopped garlic inside the bird and a bit of salt and pepper on the skin and put the whole thing in my crock pot on low for 8 hours.  That night we had chicken mashed potatoes and a green veggie (garlic-infused kale or spinach are family favorites).  After supper, I stripped the chicken and saved most of the meat (about 2/3) for the next night -chicken quesadillas. The remaining bits of meat and the backbone went  back in the crock pot with the juices. This time I did put the crockpot in the fridge for the day – later,  I add a couple cups of water or broth,  a couple cups of carrots, two celery ribs a freshly chopped onion or two and reset the crock pot for 8 hours low.  About an hour before serving, I added leftover noodles or rice (whatever was in my fridge)  and a package of frozen peas for a great chicken noodle or chicken and rice soup supper.   Again – No crock pot rinsing!

What do you think? Do her tips inspire you to give your slow cooker another try? I’ll be sure to report back on how my experience goes; I plan to follow Kim’s tips closely since they have been so spot-on in the past. One dish I know I’ll fire up the crock pot for as soon as we get a pork shoulder is carnitas, the Mexican-style shredded pork. I’ve seen many a recipe posted lately for this dish; you can see versions this week over at Stacy Makes Cents and The Healthy Beehive. Fingers crossed that we get a big cut of pork in our CSA cooler this month!

Source:, the Crock-Pot Touchscreen

Update: In case you don’t have a crock pot already and are thinking of getting one, I saw a good segment on America’s Test Kitchen where they tested a bunch and ranked their favorites. The top rated cooker is the image above, the Crock-Pot Touchscreen, which is available on Amazon for less than $100.

Editor’s note: This post is a part of Centsational Girl’s Kitchen Gadget Link PartyWorks for Me WednesdayReal Food WednesdayFrugal Days, Sustainable WaysMonday ManiaSunday SchoolSeasonal Celebration SundayFrugal Friday, and Farmgirl Friday