As the days get shorter and colder, October is the perfect time to dust off your crockpot (or slow-cooker, if you prefer the term) and whip up some simple, hearty fall fare. Seasoned and rookie chefs use this kitchen gadget for a variety of dishes.
- Health and convenience. With work, afterschool activities, and the ramp-up to the holidays, getting dinner on the table isn’t easy. The drive-thru line or takeout menus can be tempting alternatives to home cooking but they’re often laden with preservatives, added sodium, and trans fats. Crockpots are a ridiculously easy way to make a large (or small) quantity of food with minimal hassle. Before you leave for work in the morning, slice up leftover veggies from your CSA or farmer’s market, toss in some beans or meat, and let it simmer in the crockpot throughout the day. Voila! You’ll return home to a warm, nourishing meal that’s ready to eat.
- Versatility. Chilis, soups, and stews are the first image I associate with crockpots, but they’re not the only option. Crockpots are incredibly versatile appliances. They can be used to make pot roast, oatmeal, gravy, veggie dips, mulled cider or wine, apple, pumpkin, or pear butter, fruit cobbler, cheesecake, and bread. A crockpot can even make cheaper cuts of meat taste juicier, allowing home cooks to create a tasty family meal on a budget.
- The warmth factor. Fall and winter are prime time for comfort foods, and a crockpot lends itself to those warm, delicious meals that many of us crave this time of year. For instance, you could make oatmeal overnight and awaken to a hot, satisfying breakfast. Homemade oatmeal is also a healthier alternative to the sugary instant oatmeal packs you’ll find in stores.
- Delicious aromas. Is there anything more quintessentially autumn than the smell of apples, cinnamon, or other seasonal foods simmering in a crockpot? It fills your home with incredible scents, boosting the sensory experience of preparing your own food.
- Lower energy use. Crockpots generally consume less energy than a traditional convection oven – even when you factor in the longer cooking times. This means lower energy bills for you and a less impact on the environment.
Not sure what to do with the leftovers? You could always freeze them for later or bring them to the Boston Food Swap, where you can swap soups, chilis, jams, and other goodies with like-minded home chefs. There are a variety of soup swaps and other organizations around as well.
Do you have a favorite crockpot recipe or reason for using it this time of year? Leave a comment and let us know!