I feel like I've been really lazy here lately. Pretty much every meal is a potential blog entry, so I feel like I'm letting down all thirteen of my readers when I don't post about what goes in my mouth in excruciating detail every day. But that's just sort of insane, so I'll just stick to updating every couple days.
Anyways, this week I am mourning my beloved Crockpot. My crockpot is five years old this week (it was a wedding present and our anniversary is Saturday. Aww.), and I've used it almost every week since then. I think a Crockpot is an essential kitchen appliance, much like a chef's knife or a dishtowel. You just need one around. Mine shows how much I love it. The metal casing is stained. The knob broke off years ago, and last week, the handle crumbled in my hand when I tried to pick it up to move it. No joke. The plastic just crumbled.
Since I use it so much and it's become so battered, I've been hinting around that I'd like a new one for my anniversary gift this weekend. (Why yes, I DO think kitchen appliances are romantic. Why do you ask?) But so far, he hasn't picked up on it.
What do I use my beloved crockpot for? All manner of things. I make tacos, spaghetti sauce, curries, soups, stews, oatmeals and more. In fact, I discovered a new blog last week, A Year in Crockpotting, that's giving me all sorts of great ideas. (And some terrifying ones. You do not fry rice in a crock pot. It ain't fried rice if you do that.) My favorite thing to do, though, is to use it to cut out prep work for later. I'll explain in a bit.
For those of you who aren't familiar with a Crockpot, it's a big ceramic bowl that sits inside a heating element and cooks your food on a relatively low temperature for several hours. It uses less energy than the stove and doesn't heat up your kitchen in the summer, which makes it a decent choice if you're trying to save on energy costs. Crockpots are ideal for tougher cuts of meat, like pot roasts, briskets or chicken thighs. These also happen to be cheaper cuts. The collagen strewn throughout that makes them so unsuitable for roasting makes them perfect for braising. So again, it can help you stretch your budget.
Because of the long cooking times, you can start dinner in the morning before you leave, and come home and sit down almost immediately to a home cooked meal. That's the big reason why mine has gotten so much mileage over the years. When we first got married, I was a full time student at GSU. Then I had my student teaching. Then I was a first year teacher. You'd think teaching is this great career with the summers off and go home at three every day. Not your first year. I was easily doing 70 hour weeks. So for several years, if it didn't come out of a crockpot, I wasn't making it.
Last week, I did one of my favorite things you can do with a Crockpot, and made beans. Beans are great nutritionally. They are full of fiber and B vitamins. The canned beans, though, are very high in sodium. Dried beans are sodium free and much cheaper besides. So I buy dried beans in bulk, cook them in the crockpot, put them into baggies, and freeze them. I made black beans last week. I used the left over stock from the tocas on Memorial Day to cook them in, and they are quite good. Three cups went in the freezer that night, the rest went to a black bean soup over brown rice. I have a pound of pinto beans and what looks like a pound of white beans sitting in the pantry that I need to cook up and freeze.
Hmm. Maybe I should hint a little stronger.