Over the holidays, I was chatting with some friends who read my blog. They both asked if I could come up with some slow cooker recipes, especially for the winter months when the idea of a warm meal welcoming you home from work or a day on the ski slopes seems particularly appealing.
If you are the primary or exclusive cook in your family and you haven’t discovered the wonders of the slow cooker, I do encourage you to purchase one. It doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy. The two I have purchased over the past decade or so have been Crock Pot brand and both cost about $35. The first one I got on a whim at Costco, never having used a slow cooker before but thinking it might be fun to have for transporting my Turkey & White Bean Chili or Katie’s Chicken Tortilla Soup to the paddle courts. It lasted until one of the handles started to come off, but I think that may have been the fault of a human and not the manufacturer 🙂
By the time I went to purchase our second slow cooker, Costco was carrying a different Crock Pot model that had only high and low settings. My first slow cooker had several timed options, including 4, 6, 8 and 10 hour cooking times. I liked having that flexibility and thankfully I was able to find one at a nearby Wal-Mart. This is the model in case you are interested.
I have grown to really enjoy using the slow cooker, although some of the recipes I see for the slow cooker seem like a bit of a stretch.
There is only one thing that you absolutely MUST do if you prepare a meal in a slow cooker.
You must leave your house.
I am not joking. Especially if you are the primary chef in the household. You need to treat yourself to the aroma that will greet you after the slow cooker has been on for several hours and you have returned from your work/errands/activities. It’s like coming home to the feeling that someone else has prepared dinner and done all the work for you! It’s my favorite part.
The first of two recipes I plan to share this winter is the one I am posting today for a Beef Ragu. I created it to go along with my post last week, but I didn’t want to distract from Kris’s story (which was very inspirational to some of you – thank you for letting me know!).
I served this over the winter break and my family really enjoyed it. My friend Betsy also tested it on her household filled with men and they gave it the thumb’s up as well and are calling it a keeper.
Unlike some slow cooker recipes that are just dump and go, I wanted to develop the flavor of the beef ahead of time by giving it a good sear in a Dutch oven. As a result, there is a little work to do ahead of time for this recipe but it’s worth it. You could try to make the dish by skipping step two in the recipe, but I cannot guarantee the outcome.
And for everyone who likes to plan ahead, both Betsy and I thought the flavor of the ragu was better after it had sat for a day or more so you can certainly consider making it before you want to serve it. I am confident it would freeze well too. Just warm it up, prepare your pasta and toss everything together with lots of fresh basil and parmesan cheese. The more the better. Couldn’t be easier.
I hear there are some big games this weekend. Maybe consider this for your menu!
I served mine with pappardelle from Bionaturae…
See you next week!