Mom’s work, have multiple kids playing sports, errands all day, school volunteer work and housework…but we are determined to fight the good fight against fast food pit stop dinner multiple nights a week. So what’s a family with young athletes to do? Ironically, these are the same families that need to pay close attention to what goes into their athletes bodies; generally healthier kids who care about health and performance and spend countless hours exercising and training. Yet these are the same families who literally run out of hours during the day, and by 5pm, are struggling with the nightly dinner dilemma.
I absolutely LOVE my crockpot, slowcooker, whatever you call it; it’s a “set it and forget it” sort of thing and when I open my front door and smell that amazing aroma you can only get from a dish that has been cooking for 6 or 7 hours, I just sigh with relief and thank the gods for the inventor of this clever gadget.
Crockpot meals can be used for tasty, breakfast, lunch or dinners at home, team pre-game meals and even to make a profit during games by selling delightful dishes like chicken chili or pulled pork sandwiches (after all, it’s pretty easy to compete with the concession stand hot dog).
Crockpots are even better on the road! For the traveling team, who needs to rest between games and not sit in a restaurant for hours, a crockpot team meal can be a lifesaver. You can even get customized crockpots! Come on! That’s just cool!
Here are some quick tips when using crockpots:
1) When you have time (haha!), brown a few pounds of ground beef, then freeze some in 1 pound portions to use later with no prep needed.
2) The “high” temperature setting is usually 300 degrees F and the “low” setting 200 degrees F. One hour on “high” is equivalent to 2 hours on “low.”
3) For best results, ground meats must be cooked in a skillet before cooking in the crockpot. Large pieces of meat can be browned before cooking in the crockpot, but this step isn’t necessary. Browning adds color and helps in flavor development.
4) Seafood should be added during the last hour of cooking time, or it will overcook and have a rubbery texture.
5) Cayenne pepper and tabasco sauce tend to become bitter if cooked for long periods of time. Use small amounts and add toward the end of the cooking time.
6) Add tender vegetables like tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini during the last 45 minutes of cooking time so they don’t overcook.
7) Dairy products should be added during the last 30 minutes of cooking time, unless the recipes states otherwise.
8) Liquids do not boil away in the crockpot, so if you are making a recipe that wasn’t specifically developed for the crockpot, reduce the liquid by 1/3 to 1/2 unless you are cooking rice or making soup.
9) Stir in spices for the last hour of cooking. They will lose flavor if cooked with the rest of the ingredients for the long cooking period.
10) Always use a crockpot liner for easy cleanup!
Source: Food Network Kitchens
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons hot paprika
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 3 -to-4-pound boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of excess fat
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, plus more to taste
3 tablespoons tomato paste
6 potato buns
Barbecue sauce and prepared coleslaw, for serving
Combine 1 tablespoon brown sugar, the paprika, mustard powder, cumin, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl. Rub the spice mixture all over the pork.
Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet; add the pork and cook, turning, until browned on all sides, 5 minutes. Remove the pork and transfer to a plate; whisk 3/4 cup water into the drippings in the skillet. Transfer the liquid to a 5-to-6-quart slow cooker.
Add the vinegar, tomato paste, the remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 2 cups water to the slow cooker and whisk to combine. Add the pork, cover and cook on low, 8 hours.
Remove the pork and transfer to a cutting board. Strain the liquid into a saucepan, bring to a boil and cook until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Season with salt. Roughly chop the pork and mix in a bowl with 1 cup of the reduced cooking liquid, barbecue sauce, salt and vinegar to taste. Serve on buns with coleslaw.
So next time you’re thinking…what will I make for dinner tomorrow? Don’t forget about your new best friend!