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Good morning GUSslowcookinghottamales!  What better follow up to anod's latest diary about his amazing personal journey which includes trying to downsize than a diary wherein I tell him he needs a crock pot?  Hey, it is for his own good.  He needs good energy food for his amazing biking.  Frozen pizza is just not going to do it anymore.  

Crock pots can be relatively inexpensive and don't need all the bells and whistles of digital nonsense.  Just something else to break.  The essentials are a removable liner and off/low/high switch.  I am one who has automatic shutoff on my iron, tea kettle and coffee pot but don't think I'd spend the money for one on a crock pot.

Here's some inexpensive cookers -- numbers invariably change but you can find something similar in the same price range.

Hamilton Beach 5 quart 33155 for $20

Hamilton Beach 33163 Stay or Go 6 quart for $25

All the Crock Pot brand slow cookers -- looks like starting at $30

I have a 1977 Crock Pot brand before they hired the person who figured out it would be a great idea if the liner were removable.  It still works perfectly and is only off/low/high.

I also have a 1990ish Hamilton Beach with removable liner and it still works perfectly.  

Check the reviews on Amazon.  I have seen occasional complaints about a cooker not getting hot enough -- worrisome with meats.  Most people just put it on high for a couple of hours then back to low and it was fine but that pretty much ruins the concept.  Way more attention than there should be.

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It is not a good idea to try to inspire anyone to try something new by starting with something difficult.  Sort of like me, trying to restart exercise and being told to run a marathon.

The following recipes are meant to be simple.  Sure, there's processed food involved but not as bad as a frozen pizza every night.  Once you get the hang of it, you can make your own spaghetti sauce, for instance, right in the crock pot the night before and then add the ravioli to it the next day.  One pot, little fuss.  When buying processed ingredients always look at the labels.  I've used jarred pasta sauce in a pinch but only pick those with no added high fructose corn syrup or sugar.  There are a few out there.  

Crock Pot Ravioli

Stuffed pasta dishes freeze pretty well.  You can also just reduce this recipe if you think it is too much for one or two.

Ingredients

1 (25 ounce) bag beef ravioli  (I like cheese better so I'd check the ravioli earlier)
1 (26 ounce) jar pasta sauce
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup water
2 -3 teaspoons red peppers
Italian spices
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions:

1 Pour about half of the pasta sauce in the bottom of crock pot.

2 Add frozen ravioli.

3 Pour additional pasta sauce, tomato sauce, water, and red pepper over ravioli (I usually pour the pasta sauce on first and then shake together the tomato sauce, water, and red pepper in the empty pasta sauce jar to mix them.

4 Sprinkle Italian seasonings over sauces.

5 Sprinkle cheese on top.

6 Turn crock pot on low and cook for 4-5 hours (until ravioli are tender).

Corned Beef Dinner

Make sure you get the flat cut brisket, not the point cut.

Ingredients

2 -2 1/2 lbs corned beef brisket
1 medium onion, sliced
1 stalk celery, cut in 3
4 medium potatoes, peeled and halved
4 medium carrots, peeled cut in 3
1 cup beef bouillon
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
4 small cabbage, cut into wedges
1 teaspoon caraway seed

Directions:

1 Trim brisket of all visible fat, cut to fit 4 qt or larger crockpot, if necessary.  (I leave a bit of fat on.  You can always ask the butcher at the grocery store or your butchers to trim off the fat and save you that step.)

2 Place onion, celery, potatoes and carrots in bottom of crockpot, lay brisket on top.

3 Whisk together bouillon, bay leaf, garlic, Worcestershire sauce and dry mustard.

4 Pour over brisket, cover pot.

5 Cook on low setting for 8 to 10 hours, adding cabbage wedges and caraway seed for the last hour of cooking.

6 To serve, discard cooking liquid, slice meat onto hot serving plates, accompany with the cooked potatoes, carrots, celery, cabbage wedges and your favourite mustard.

Chicken Noodle Soup

Ingredients

8 cups water or 8 cups canned chicken broth
1 cup carrot, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 cup celery, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 cup onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
4 teaspoons salt (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 (3 1/2 lb) roasting chickens
3 cups wide egg noodles, uncooked

Directions:

1 In 4-1/2 to 6-quart slow-cooker bowl, combine water, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, 4 t salt, 1/2 t pepper.

2 Place whole chicken on top of vegetables.

3 Cover slow cooker with lid and cook as manufacturer directs on low setting 8 to 10 hours or on high 4-5 hours.

4 Transfer chicken to cutting board. Discard bay leaves. Add noodles to slow-cooker; cover with lid and cook (on low or high) 20 minutes.

5 While noodles cook, remove and discard skin, fat and bones from chicken; shred meat.

6 Skim fat from soup and discard. Return chicken to soup to serve.

Beef Stroganoff

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 20 min Cook Time: 5 hr, 30 min

Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds beef chuck steak, trimmed & cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 pound sliced cremini mushrooms
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup low-sodium beef broth
1/2 cup white wine
4 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce, divided
1 cup reduced-fat sour cream
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
cooked egg noodles, whole wheat pasta or rice, for serving
chopped Italian parsley, for garnish (optional)

Directions:

1. Combine beef, mushrooms, onions, tomato paste, broth, wine and 3 Tablespoons soy sauce in the bowl of a slow cooker. Cover and cook on HIGH for 4 hours or on LOW for 6 hours, or until beef is tender.

2. In a small bowl, stir together sour cream, remaining 1 Tablespoon soy sauce, cornstarch and black pepper; whisk into the hot meat mixture and cook an additional 30 minutes or until sauce has thickened slightly. Serve over egg noodles or rice and garnish with parsley, if using.


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