vegetables cooking in a slow cooker

The New Year is a good time to try something new or to revisit an old favorite. And the cold weather (and the pandemic) is conducive to long afternoons at home cooking. It’s the perfect time to try out my new slow cooker.

I have very few places to go or things to do on the weekends now, so I have time to experiment and mind my slow cooker. I like the idea of making up a big batch of stew or soup while I am at home all day. As Mom would say, “The hours pass anyway!”

To tell the truth, I’ve had a few challenges with my slow cooker. Although I carefully follow the directions that came with it, sometimes the results aren’t what I expect. The soups have been excellent, but what do you do with a chicken cacciatore that comes out too watery? My solution: Turn it into spicy chicken cacciatore soup by adding pasta and grating cheese on top. With a nice piece of bread, my “mistake” became a hearty, satisfying meal.

Yesterday, I made a curry. It turned out wonderful! First, I grilled the chicken with onions and curry powder and then I added the meat and onions to the pot along with carrots and a little bone stock. I was home so I could check on my stew’s progress to make sure that it wasn’t too watery. Next, I’ll experiment with meat-free chili and bean slow cooker recipes.

It occurred to me that a slow cooker would be very handy in the summertime, too. I could leave the pot working while I went out (as many people do) and unlike an oven, it wouldn’t heat up the whole kitchen. (Do follow the manufacturer’s directions for your cooker, especially if you plan to leave it.)

For me, the slow cooker is a useful tool to help prevent food waste, as it’s easy to use leftovers in soups and stews. It makes plenty to freeze for another meal or to take to work for lunch. And with pre-made meals in the freezer, I can also avoid takeout food and avoid packaging waste.

I am looking forward to using my slow cooker for many years and many meals to come!

By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.