The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


January 22, 2014

Amanda Stone: Slow cooker frees up spare time

CARTHAGE, Mo. — A slow cooker makes meals easy -- it slowly cooks your dinner all day, so you can go live your life.

But many slow-cooker recipes include canned cream-of-whatever soup or boxed mixes. Take a moment to check out the ingredients in those cans and boxes; there are way too many words, and most of them are unpronounceable. Your slow cooker does most of the work for you, so these canned soups and mixes aren't necessary for a successful meal.

I'm sure you made more room in your freezer after reading my column last week. You'll be glad you did, because now you can stuff it full of slow-cooker meals. Spend an afternoon chopping meat and veggies, mixing sauces, and labeling bags.

Put meals in zip-close bags or containers and layer them in the freezer. Take one out the day before you plan on eating it (so it can thaw), and dump it in the slow cooker in the morning. Set it on low, go about your business for the next several hours, and when you're ready for dinner, dinner will be ready for you. Some meals may need a side dish of veggies or whole grains, but otherwise you're all set. You'll have more time in the evenings for family fun, reading, online gambling or whatever it is you do to unwind. So fun-tastic.

Your slow cooker can help you stay on the clean eating path. Freezer meals are fantastic for helping you stay the course. Use leftovers for a clean lunch, and you've made it through another day without eating processed junk. Once you get the hang of it, you'll wonder why you haven't always eaten this way.

There are also many uses for slow cookers that don't involve food. Perhaps you've made an amazing Crock-Pot curry, for example. Although delicious, certain aromas can linger a little longer than you might like. Throw some aromatics such as lemon, lavender oil or vanilla into your slow cooker with water and simmer away. Try eucalyptus with lemon, cinnamon sticks and apple slices, or whatever funky herb combo you like. You can melt old, broken crayons and pour them into muffin tins to create rainbow swirly crayon chunks. Slow cookers can be used to make candles, dye fabrics, Easter eggs and even soap.

There are so many great ways to use your slow cooker that you may need to pick up a spare. Don't worry -- garage sale season is around the corner. Simplify your life, spend your precious time wisely, and try these recipes.


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