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It’s no secret that crockpots are totally awesome. Especially this one that I use and recommend(which lets you brown veggies and meat on your stove in the slow cooker insert)!Seriously, this specific crock pot changed how I cook!
But did you know that your faithful crockpot can do more than just make awesome chilis, soups and casseroles? I have been doing some experimenting in the kitchen lately (you know, just me and Mr. Crock hangin’ out) and thought I’d share five unique uses I’ve discovered for this timeless Mom-helper appliance.
Yes, pizza! Disclaimer: this isn’t one of those thin-crust, New York-style pizzas. So if that’s the only way you do pizza, then you probably want to skip this one. But if you enjoy a good homemade, deep-dish pizza pie, then keep reading.
–Pizza crust dough (I buy mine pre-made)
–1/2 jar of Marinara sauce
–Cheese (dairy-free or regular)
–your choice of toppings (I included pepperoni, swiss chard, onions, red pepper and olives on mine)
By the way, I really like cooking a pizza this way because you can add a whole bunch of veggies as toppings without too much squawking from the kiddos.
The basic recipe is fairly simple:
1) Oil the bottom and sides of the crockpot. This is an important step because if you don’t oil the top and sides, your pizza crust will stick and you will be sending me angry hate mail about how it took you 15 minutes just to get one piece of pizza out (just saying… I don’t have practical experience with my pizza crust sticking or anything).
2) Roll out the dough to the shape of your crockpot bottom. Place the dough in the bottom of the crockpot. Do your best to push the dough up the sides to form a deep-dish crust. Note: I have moderate success with this… sometimes my dough pushes up and other times it’s just really thick on the bottom. But this is OK too because thick dough on the bottom equals thick-crust pizza (which is fine by me).
3) Pre-cook any veggies. You may skip this step if you’d like, but I personally like my onions and peppers to be pretty soft and pre-cooked before putting on a pizza. So, for me, it’s worth the extra few minutes (and washing another pan) to have soft veggies. If you are using raw deep leafy greens (such as kale, swiss chard, or spinach), this step is a must since the deep-leafy greens need to be cooked down before put on the pizza. But, if you don’t want to pre-cook (but still want deep-leafies), then use frozen spinach that’s been thawed (just squeeze out any excess water).
4) Top with half of the cheese.
5) Add the pizza toppings. I like to add my veggies on the bottom, and any meats on the top.
6) Top with the rest of the cheese.
7) Put on the crockpot’s cover, but place a paper towel underneath the glass cover (see photo).
This is an important step because the paper towel collects the condensation that rises from the pizza, thus helping the pizza crust get crunchy and not soft and soggy.
8) Cook on high for 2 hours.
9) Remove and serve. Bonus points if you can get the whole thing out at one time and cut it up into true pizza slices. But it will taste great even if just cut in wedges from the pan (unless you’re Italian grandmother is visiting for dinner. Then you better pray your pizza can come out at one time and be cut into wedges.)
Here’s a great freezer to crock pot method! It’s fast and easy for those crazy, busy days. Cooking a whole chicken (especially from frozen) in a crock may seem odd, but I’ve done it several times with great success.
A frozen, whole pre-seasoned chicken (see directions/variations below)
1) Clean and season the chicken right after you buy it at the store. I like buying them at Costco because I get two of them for a decent price, and I can prep two of them at the same time.
2) Season the chicken.
Here are some seasoning combos:
Lemon/Herb: Make a simple flavored butter by combing olive oil or butter with spices like rosemary, oregano, thyme, crushed garlic, salt, pepper in a bowl. Zest a whole lemon and add it to the flavored butter. Slice the rest of the lemon and squeeze the juice over the chicken. Stuff the rind and any remnant pieces of the lemon inside the cavity.
Raspberry-Rosemary: Mix equal parts of butter and raspberry/strawberry jam in a bowl. Add fresh rosemary, garlic and minced onion to the butter.
Salad Dressing: Use your favorite salad dressing as a seasoning. This is super fast and easy. Italian-flavored dressings work best.
1) Using your fingers, rub the butter/sauce all over the chicken (yes, you are giving your chicken a massage!), both under and over the skin.
2) Place the chicken in a freezer bag and freeze (unless you’re planning to eat it that day).
3) On the day you’re ready to eat, simply place the frozen chicken in the crock pot, saving as much of the bag’s seasonings as possible.
4) Cook on low for 8 hours (or until the chicken meat is falling off the bones). In order to get rotisserie-flavor and crispier texture, remove the cover from the crock and place the entire crock in the oven to cook under the broiler for about 10 minutes or until the chicken is browned. Of course, if your crock can’t be used in the oven, transfer it to another pan before you do this.
5) Carve the chicken and serve! If you have more than one crock, you can be extra sneaky and cook some seasoned rice or veggies in there as well. Add a tossed salad and you have a complete meal!
6) Save the leftover chicken bones and make chicken stock in the crock pot (see below)!
Chicken or Veggie Broth
This, bar-none, is my favorite way to use a crockpot. It’s practical (it uses up any leftover veggies or bones—see above); it’s cheap (did I mention that it uses stuff already left-over?); healthy (you know exactly what’s in the broth); and easy (just set it and leave it for a good 24 hours). If you juice, this is a great use for all that leftover veggie pulp that you don’t know what to do with.
–1 onion, roughly chopped
–4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
–Assorted veggies (root veggies are best–carrots, potatoes, parsnips, radishes) but really, you can throw anything in there
–chicken or beef bones (if you are making a meat broth)
–Salt (I prefer kosher salt for this, but regular sea salt works fine too)
–1 bay leaf
–12 cups of water (or however much liquid your crock will hold)
1) Toss all the ingredients and seasonings in the crock. The order doesn’t really matter.
2) Add the water.
3) Turn the crock on Low and forget about it for a good 24-36 hours.
4) When it is done (the water will be a deep brown, and the veggies will be super limp), simply strain it. To do this, I place a plastic strainer over a large bowl and slowly pour the broth in. The leftover veggies/meat/spices can be discarded.
5) Pour the broth into Ziploc bags or mason jars and freeze. I freeze mine in approximately three-to-four-cup size portions since that’s the size I tend to use in recipes.
We try to eat very little dairy in our house, and therefore, when we eat yogurt it’s usually made from coconut milk. But you see, the price of coconut milk yogurt is crazy high. Crazy high price times six people equals our family not buying a lot of yogurt.
That’s why, for us, making yogurt ourselves is an interesting option. I have experimented with this a little, but I still need to fine tweak my own recipes to share.
I’ve learned that: 1) doing it in a crock pot helps; 2) the yogurt can be a little runnier than traditional store-bought yogurt (especially when made with coconut milk; 3) it does take a little babysitting and a little time. But… all that said, I still think it’s worth it because it’s way cheaper than in the store and I know exactly what’s in it.
Here are some recipes to try. Some of them require that you purchase the bacteria, and others include a small amount of store-bought yogurt as the bacterial base (the good bacteria has to come from somewhere):
Aaahhh… oatmeal. There’s nothing yummier for breakfast on a cold winter’s day.
And it tastes even better when you can cook it overnight in your crockpot! Not only do you have an instantly yummy hot breakfast, the pervading smell throughout the house just makes everything feel warm and toasty. I like to make up the contents in several freezer bags and then pull them out the night before and place them in the crock.
My favorite recipe is Crock Pot Oatmeal Perfection. But check out these other recipes from Alton Brown, Kitchen Treaty and Stephanie O’Dea (Stephanie O’Dea’s entire blog is about cooking with a crock pot, so if you’re a crockpot fiend, you gotta check out her site).
Those are the five new ways that you can use your ever-fantastic kitchen appliance–the crockpot!
Have fun building new memories with your faithful friend the crockpot (and of course, enjoying all those great dishes)!
Need more awesome meal ideas? Check out these posts:
This post is part of the “Feeding the Homeschool Family” series for the iHomeschool Network.