Slow cooker saves time and cleanup on everything from meatballs to pork chops
by Deirdre Long
dlong@annistonstar.com
Feb 06, 2013 | 3051 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Photo: Courtesy of Time Inc.
Photo: Courtesy of Time Inc.
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While I love my stand mixer, my food processor and my bread machine, the small appliance that gets used most in my kitchen is my slow cooker. There’s nothing much more satisfying than coming home after work to the smell of a cooked dinner. Combined with meal planning and once-weekly food prep — I’ve been chopping my vegetables for the week on Sundays, so all I have to do each day is the actual cooking — using the slow cooker can be a real time saver. It can save you time spent cleaning too, since just about every slow cooker recipe is a one-dish meal.

I spent five days slow cooking dinners, all chosen from Cooking Light’s “Slow Cooker Tonight!” cookbook, which features 140 recipes ranging from appetizers and beverages to my favorites: entrees, soups and stews.

We had red beans and rice, Moroccan meatballs, potato soup, glazed chicken and spiced apple pork chops. Our favorite were the meatballs, and my least favorite was the chicken dish, which I think would have been just as easy, if not easier, to cook in my oven.


Contest: Win a copy of ‘Slow Cooker Tonight!’



I made some adjustments to the meatball recipe to suit what was on sale that week, what I had in my pantry and to our own tastes — the biggest being using a ground turkey and Italian sausage mix for the meat. Once mixed, I divided the meat and flavored half of it for the Moroccan dinner and flavored the other half with basic Italian spices. I cooked both in the oven, then froze the Italian-style meatballs for a future dinner.

Moroccan Meatballs in Spicy Tomato Sauce

Yield: 6 servings (5 meatballs, 1 cup sauce and 1⁄2 cup couscous)

Seasoned meatballs simmer in an aromatic tomato sauce for a Mediterranean-style dinner. Use kitchen shears to coarsely chop the tomatoes while they are still in the can. You can shape the meatballs in advance and store them in the freezer to save time. The rest of the recipe is best prepared and cooked the same day.

Meatballs:

½ cup dry breadcrumbs (I used about ¾ cup to stretch the meat a little further)
¼ cup dried currants (I used raisins)
¼ cup finely chopped onion
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ pounds lean ground beef (I used a turkey and Italian sausage blend)
1 large egg

Sauce:

¼ cup tomato paste
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper (I used less since we have little ones eating too)
1 (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped (I used two cans of diced tomatoes)

Remaining ingredients:

3 cups hot cooked couscous
Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

To prepare meatballs, combine first nine ingredients in a bowl, and shape mixture into 30 meatballs. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of meatballs to pan; cook 3 minutes or until browned, stirring frequently. Place browned meatballs in an electric slow cooker. Repeat procedure with remaining 15 meatballs.

To prepare sauce, combine tomato paste and next seven ingredients (through tomatoes). Add to slow cooker, stirring gently to coat. Cover and cook on low for six hours.

Serve over couscous. Garnish with parsley, if desired.

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