Vermont recipe developer Patsy Jamison, a frequent contributor to Cooking Club, has this to say about the irresistibility of slow cookers, “The feeling of walking in the door and inhaling the aroma of your dish, knowing that a satisfying meal awaits you, is pure magic.” If you and your family have never experienced it, you should give it a try.
There are some things you should know prior to using slow cookers, however. These tips will help ensure safe, efficient and tasty results. They are:
- Do not allow foods to remain too long in the food safety danger zone – the temperature at which bacteria thrives (40°F – 140°F).
- Never place unthawed frozen foods in the slow cooker.
- Perishable foods should be kept refrigerated until time for preparation. If you cut up your meats and vegetables in advance, store them separately in the refrigerator.
- Do not lift the lid the first hour while the slow cooker is coming to temperature. Wait until the food is almost done before lifting the lid to determine if it is done.
- Do not reheat leftovers in the slow cooker. If you want to keep them warm, first reheat them in the microwave or on the stove.
- Soak dried beans before cooking. Unbeknownst to many, dried kidney beans, lima beans and soy beans contain proteins called lectins, which are toxic until they are boiled. To safely cook dried beans in a slow cooker, soak them overnight, rinse and boil in fresh water for 10 minutes, drain and place in the slow cooker. If this is not practical, use canned beans instead because they have been fully cooked and also work well in slow cooker recipes.
Now, try this recipe from the fall 2014 issue of Cooking Club for old-fashioned split-pea soup cooked in a slow cooker. Split peas are rich in fiber and plant protein. When prepared in a slow cooker, they deliciously melt into a puree, so a blender is not necessary to complete the soup.
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 2 ribs celery, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 ¼ cups dried green split peas (8 ounces)
- 8 ounce ham steak, diced (1 ½ cups)
- 1 medium Yukon gold potato, peeled, diced
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or winter savory or 1 teaspoon dried
- Dash cayenne pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 (32 ounce) carton no-salt added chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons butter
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup whole wheat croutons
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives or parsley
- Layer onion, carrots, celery, garlic, split peas, ham, potato, thyme, cayenne pepper and bay leaf in 5- to 6- quart slow cooker; pour in broth.
- Cook covered, on high 4 to 6 hours or on low 8 to 12 hours, or until split peas are tender and form a puree when soup is stirred.
- Discard bay leaf.
- Stir in lemon juice, butter, salt and pepper.
- Serve garnished with croutons and chives.
Makes 5 (1 ⅓ cup) servings