As a busy young professional, how often do you find yourself in the following situation?
You’re on your way home from a long day of work. You’re exhausted, starving, and the idea of preparing a home cooked meal feels nearly impossible. As a result, and against your normally better judgment, your eyes start to wander up the street toward the nearest fast food joint.
Such a scene is quite common in our fast-paced, young professional lives. But we here at Notable have discovered an extremely easy – and perhaps surprising – solution to conquer the after-work food frenzy: the slow cooker (also known as a Crock-pot).
A slow cooker, really?
Now don’t click away just yet. You may think that the slow cooker is a gadget of the past, or something only your mom would use, but be prepared to think again. The slow cooker is making a comeback amongst the young professional crowd for two big reasons. First, it’s just so easy! Imagine spending just a few minutes of your evening preparing food, then waking up in the morning, throwing it all in the pot, flipping the switch, and off you go. A whole workday later you arrive home to an immediate, fully prepared, delicious meal. Secondly, the slow cooker is re-emerging as a notable kitchen tool due – believe it or not – to its versatility. That’s right, the slow cooker isn’t just for stew and pot-roast as you may have thought. Check out some of our favorite slow cooker meal ideas – we think you’ll be surprised.
Okay, so it’s a bit of a misnomer calling it a stir-fry when there isn’t any frying, or even stirring for that matter. But if you fancy a quick curry or a flavorful beef and broccoli after work, the slow cooker can offer an easy way to have it made and ready when you walk in the door. Before you head off to bed, gather up your preferred stir-fry veggies (many of which can be bought pre-chopped from the grocery store), your favorite flavoring, i.e. curry and cilantro, oyster and black bean sauce, ginger, soy sauce, and peanut butter, etc., and cube up your preferred meat, seafood, or tofu. In the morning, throw it all into the pot, set it to low, and head on out. When you return home, pop a bag of convenient instant rice in the microwave, add some additional fresh herbs and spices to your stir-fry, combine, and you’re ready to eat.
Using your favorite lasagna recipe, prepare your tomato sauce and meat or tofu mixture, as well as your cheese mixture, the night before. In the morning, layer the ingredients as you would normally in a casserole dish. Put your meat/tofu and tomato sauce first, then a layer of uncooked lasagna noodles, broken up to fit as necessary (or eggplant/zucchini for the low-carb crew), followed by your cheese mixture. Layer continuously until you are about three quarters of the way to the top. Sprinkle a top layer of mozzarella, put the lid on, set to the lowest setting, and away you go.
While stew is a popular Canadian favorite, especially from the slow cooker, sometimes us YPs crave something more exotic. Not to worry, the slow cooker can do those, too. If you are in the mood for fresh minestrone, a spicy coconut chicken, or a hearty beer and cheese soup, treat the slow cooker as your usual simmering soup pot – but with supervision unnecessary. Again, simply prep your usual contents the night before. In the morning, put it all in the pot with enough broth to cover ingredients, set to low, and let the pot do the work.
Additional slow cooker ideas you may never have thought of:
The slow cooker can be used for preparing so many dishes. Take a look at the following list to help entice your cooking creativity.
Roasted chicken (whole or pieces)
Photo courtesy Pillsbury Recipes (Pulled Pork Tacos)