Crock-Pot cooking provides a way to save time in your busy day and still serve a hot, nutritious dinner. It can also help you save money: Slow cookers cook food for many hours over low heat, a cooking method that tenderizes tough, cheap cuts of meat. With some practice and creativity, you can make all kinds of delicious Crock-Pot meals.
Soup, a simple, one-pot meal, becomes even easier in a Crock-Pot. Slow-cooking meat, vegetables such as carrots, celery, onions and parsnips, and water produces a flavorful broth good for any soup recipe. For a simple, basic soup, cut up the meat and vegetables and add them back to the broth, along with noodles or rice. Adding noodles or rice to the Crock-Pot can be tricky, so you'll want to cook them separately.
Homemade lasagna can be time-consuming -- but not when you make lasagna in a Crock-Pot. Layer seasoned tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes, uncooked lasagna noodles, ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, and browned meat or a vegetable, such as thawed and drained frozen spinach, in your Crock-Pot. Cook until the noodles are tender. Be careful not to add too much sauce or other liquid, as a Crock-Pot keeps moisture in, unlike a casserole dish baked in the oven.
Tough cuts of meat become moist and tender in a Crock-Pot, with much less work than other cooking methods. An easy way to cook large cuts of meat, such as beef brisket or whole chickens, is to place them on top of a bed of vegetables, such as carrots or quartered onions. The vegetables help flavor the meat and keep it above the fat and juices the meat gives off while it cooks.
Pulled pork, a Southern barbecue favorite, is pork that is cooked until it practically falls apart into shreds. Even if you don't know how to barbecue, you can make pulled pork by slow cooking pork butt -- also sold as pork shoulder or Boston butt -- along with barbecue sauce until the pork is nice and tender. Shred the pork, mix with more barbecue sauce and serve on buns for a simple summer meal that won't heat up your kitchen.
Mara Shannon is a writer whose work appears on various websites. Shannon also blogs about gaming and literature. Shannon holds a Bachelor of Arts in music with a focus on performance.