Time-saving and money-saving crock pot recipes

Time-saving and money-saving crock pot recipes

Though I love to cook, there are days when I'm so busy that all I want is a quick solution to dinner. Enter the slow cooker: it's the best time-management tool any cook can have. A slow cooker allows me to prep ingredients for a recipe when it fits my schedule, then throw everything in the slow cooker, go out to work or run errands, and when I get home I don't have to start fussing with dinner-the work's already done.

You can also double the time-saving power of the slow cooker by using it to cook big batches of food. Sure, you can eat the leftovers later in the week. But even better, you can easily transform those leftovers into a totally different meal the next night by adding a few fresh ingredients or different seasonings.

Take this Slow-Cooked Brisket in Onion Gravy as an example. Even when I'm extremely busy, I can find time for this recipe. I make the gravy the night before. Then in the morning, brown the meat, heat the sauce, put everything in the slow cooker and set it on Low. When I walk in the door later that day the aroma of garlic-spiked beef simmering with sweetly pungent onions greets me. That night I slice the brisket and serve it with green beans and mashed potatoes, doused with the gravy from the brisket. The next night, I go casual and chop up the leftover brisket, add bell peppers, chili powder and canned tomatoes and serve it on warm buns for a tasty version of Sloppy Joes that my family loves.

With this slow-cook-once, eat-twice strategy in mind, I've developed four slow-cooker recipes that provide the basis for quick-and-easy second meals. Besides the brisket, try Wine & Tomato Braised Chicken served over whole-wheat pasta one night and the next night take 20 minutes to transform it into a spicy gumbo. Serve pulled-pork sandwiches one night and the next add spicy chorizo and layer it with tortillas and cheese to make Pulled-Pork Torta. Tender eggplant and chickpea ragu transforms into a baked-pasta casserole with just 25 minutes in the kitchen on Night 2. Now that's my idea of convenience food.

Judith Finlayson is the author of numerous cookbooks, including The Healthy Slow Cooker and The Best Diabetes Slow Cooker Recipes. She lives in Toronto.

January/February 2011