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Slow cooking fun

By Staff | Oct 7, 2011

A pot full of hamburger soup will warm up a Friday night gathering.

As the leaves change color and the first day of fall looms on our calendars, our thoughts of food turn to dishes more suited to colder temperatures.

One kitchen gadget that comes in handy during this time of year is the slow cooker.

In my kitchen cabinets you can find two slow cookers – a 3 1/2-quart and a 7-quart model.

I find myself constantly buying those small slow-cooker cookbooks you see while waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store.

What’s the allure of a slow cooker? Raw food is placed, seemingly at random, in the crock – although with some dishes that order is key to proper cooking – and all that’s left to do is place the lid on top, turn it on and walk away.

This hamburger casserole’s recipe is quick and easy to make.

I know, it’s not really that simple, but it sure feels like it is.

My favorite reason for using a slow cooker is that, after a long day at work, supper’s waiting when I get home.

The folks at Crock-Pot, the original slow cooker, offer a number of tips in using these versatile cooking tools. These tips include;:

  • If the crock and ingredients are placed in the refrigerator overnight, you’ll need to add cook time to ensure that the food reaches a safe temperature and is completely cooked.
  • Fill your slow cooker half to three-quarters full for best results.
  • Little evaporation takes place in a slow cooker, so if you use a stove-top recipe for soup, stew or sauce, reduce the amount of liquid.

If it results in a thick product, liquid can be added later.

  • No need to stir the food in a slow cooker unless the recipe specifically directs you to do so.

Taking off the lid causes the slow cooker to lose heat, requiring additional cooking time.

  • Don’t reheat food in a slow cooker. The crocks of most slow cookers are microwave and ovenproof.
  • Pre-browning the meat is up to you. Browning or searing meat in a skillet can add flavor and melt off excess fat that can be drained before the meat is placed in the slow cooker.

It does, however, add another step, and dirties more dishes, in the process.

Above all, enjoy the freedom your slow cooker offers. It’s a wonderful way to lessen the work and increase the enjoyment of your next meal.

Hamburger soup

1 pound lean ground beef

1 cup thinly sliced carrots

1 cup sliced celery

1 1-ounce package dry onion soup mix

11-ounce package Italian salad dressing mix

1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

3 cups boiling water

1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained

1 8-ounce can tomato sauce

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 cups cooked and drained macaroni

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

In large skillet over medium-high heat, brown ground beef for 6 to 8 minutes, or until no longer pink, stirring to break up meat. Drain well.

In slow cooker, place carrots and celery. Top with beef, soup mix, salad dressing mix, seasoned salt and pepper. Add water, tomatoes with juice, tomato sauce and soy sauce; mix well. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.

Stir in macaroni and Parmesan cheese. Cover and cook on high for 15 to 30 minutes, or until heated through. Sprinkle with parsley just before serving.

Homemade potato soup

6 potatoes, pared and cut into bite-sized pieces

2 onions, chopped

1 carrot, pared and sliced

1 stalk celery, sliced

5 chicken bouillon cubes

1 tablespoon parsley flakes

4 cups water

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Pepper to taste

2 tablespoons butter

3 to 4 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled, optional

1 3-ounce can evaporated milk

Chopped chives

In slow cooker, place potatoes, onions, carrot, celery, bouillon cubes, parsley, water, salt, pepper, butter and bacon.

Cover and cook on low for 12 hours, or on high for 3 to 4 hours.

Stir in evaporated milk during the last hour. If desired, mash potatoes with a masher before serving. Serve topped with chopped chives.

Hamburger casserole

Brown 1 pound hamburger until done. Add tater tots and cream of mushroom soup. Heat through.

To make it even more delicious, add fresh mushrooms and sour cream, and heat through.

I cook this in an electric fry pan. It’s fast and easy and tastes great.

Taterburger meal

(This recipe is delicious and doesn’t take much time to prepare. Just add salad and bread. It needs no seasoning. Grated cheese may be sprinkled over the top the last 15 minutes, but it’s not necessary. The meat with the soup makes its own gravy.)

1 pound ground beef

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1/2 to 1 package frozen tater tots

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In 9-by-5-inch or 9-by-6-inch dish, flatten ground beef on bottom. Spread soup over meat.

Pack tater tots on top in a mound. Bake for 45 minutes or until cooked through.

Excerpted from Grit, Celebrating Rural America Since 1882. To read more articles from Grit, please visit “http://www.Grit.com”>www.Grit.com or call (866) 624-9388 to subscribe.

Copyright 2011 by Ogden Publications Inc.

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