If you've never used a crockpot before, start small with a piece of meat like a pork or beef roast. Before you head out the door in the morning, pop a thawed roast in your crockpot with a chopped onion and some garlic (you don't even have to peel them!), salt and pepper, and when you get home at night, you'll have succulent, tender meat ready to slice for sandwiches, shred for enchiladas, or serve with steamed or roasted veggies for a low-carb dinner. Strain the broth and save it for a batch of soup or a savory gravy.
Turn leftovers into a delicious homemade soup. Simply place meat from last night's roast chicken into the crockpot and add chopped veggies such as carrots, potatoes, and onion. If you've got extra rice, add that. Some peas or corn? Add those too. Cover with water, add a few bouillon cubes, and for dinner you'll have a hearty stew rich with mineral and vitamin-laden veggies and protein-rich meat. Put the leftovers in containers to take to work for lunch the next day.
Instead of laboring over a stove top or wok, use your crockpot to create delicious curries, stews, and chili. When you get home just cook up rice or add a side salad for a nutritious and rib-sticking meal.
The crockpot is not only good for hot foods, it's also a great tool for flavor-rich foods that can be served chilled. It is very handy for a cold fish soup such as Chilled Tilapia Stew filled with fresh herbs and fire-roasted tomatoes and drizzled with zesty lemon juice. Before going to bed at night, fill the crockpot with all the ingredients, save the lemon juice, and put it on low overnight. The next morning move it to the fridge to cool and be beautifully chilled in time for dinner.
If you have a surplus of fruit and vegetables, use your crockpot to turn tomatoes into sauces, fruit into fruit butters, and zucchini or carrots into purees that can be stirred into soups or stews for added flavor and nutrients.
During the cold months of the year, fill your house with delicious aromas by simmering apple or currant juice with star anise, cinnamon, and cloves for hot cider. In the summer, turn these concoctions into gourmet popsicles by cooling the mixture, pouring it into molds, and freezing until firm.
Do you have a favorite crockpot meal?
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Krista Bjorn is a food and travel writer. She blogs daily on her site RamblingTart.com. She's a self-described "Danish-Canadian lass who loves to write, travel and cook with people I love."