Simple advice for a better life.

Slow Cooker–Crock Pot

slow-cookerIf you have been reading my posts, you already know that I love my pressure cooker, but I also use a slow cooker on my days off, especially when I am busy catching up on housework, gardening, or crafts.  It is such a wonderful way to have your dinner cook “all by itself”, while you go about your other business.

I have been using a slow cooker for many years now.  My first slow cooker was a Sunbeam Crocker Cooker-Fryer, and I used it for a very long time, but recently I have purchased a Rival Crock-Pot. I love it so much, that I even purchased one for each of my children, to get them started on experimenting with the slow cooking method.

Every household probably has at least one slow cooker, if not more, but if you are not one of them, then you really should look into it.  Basically it is a two piece pot, consisting of an insulated metal outer shell, with an electric cord, and a stoneware vessel, which is used for the actual preparation of your meal.

Preparing a meal in a slow cooker is probably the easiest way to have a home cooked meal without a lot of fuss.  For your convenience, a small cook book is included with each slow cooker, to get you started with some suggested recipes.  Once you become comfortable with this style of cooking, you will create your own favorite recipes.

It is very easy to use a slow cooker:

  1. Select a recipe.
  2. Have all your ingredients ready.
  3. Follow your recipe directions (since meats usually need to be browned first, to add flavor).
  4. Place all your ingredients in the pot.
  5. Plug it into an electric outlet.
  6. Set it on the recommended setting (low, high).
  7. Set your timer (usually 5- 10 hours, depending on a recipe).
  8. While you are taking care of  other chores, your home is filling up with a delicious aroma of your dinner.

I will be posting some of my favorite slow cooker recipes in my future posts.
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Apricot Sheet Cake – Recipe

apricot-cake2Apricot Cake is a must in our dessert selection, especially when our sons are visiting for the holidays. They enjoy most of my baked goods, but this one is their favorite, maybe because it is not readily found in bakeries or restaurants.  A friend of mine, who is not a big fan of apricots, gave this cake her vote.

Cake Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 whole egg
  • ½ cup heavy cream or sour cream
  • 3 cups flour
  • 3 tsp. Baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1tsp. Vanilla or Rum extract
  • 2 cans of Apricot filling (Baker or Solo brand)

Streusel Ingredients:

  • ½ cup flour
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • ¼ tsp. Vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl mix well the sugar and butter, until creamy.
  2. Add the egg yolks, egg and sour cream.
  3. Mix well until creamy and lemon color.
  4. Add flour, baking powder, salt and extract.
  5. Mix well.
  6. Grease and flour a 12×18 cake pan.
  7. Spoon the batter into the pan, and spread it out evenly.
  8. Spread the apricot filling over the batter.
  9. Prepare the streusel crumbs, by combining all ingredients, mix with a pastry blender, until chunky crumbs are formed, and sprinkle evenly over the filling.
  10. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees, for 25-30 min.
  11. Cool the cake in the pan.
  12. Cut into small serving pieces, and remove into a serving platter.

Tip: For variation, I also use Almond filling, made by Baker Fine Dessert Filling, or by Solo, depending on which brand I am able to find easier.

Pastry Blender – Kitchen Gadget

pastry blenderPastry blender (also known as pastry cutter) is one of the necessary kitchen gadgets you will need, if your recipe calls for a streusel.  I have been making streusel with the use of a fork, or just plain hands, but having the pastry blender is such a big help, and so much easier to get the job done.

It is very easy to hold, due to it’s nice, sturdy handle, and the metal blades cut very nicely into the flour, sugar, and butter, transforming it into scrumptious streusel crumbs.  Accomplishing this with a fork is doable, but the slim fork handle tires out your hand muscles.  Then again, if you try doing it with your hands, the warmth of your hands melts the butter, making the job quite messy.  It is a small investment, since it’s very reasonably priced, but a priceless addition to your gadget collection.

Tuna Melts – Recipe

tuna-meltsHere is another meatless dish, which is quick, easy, and nutritious.  Perfect for a busy mom who strives to serve her family a healthy meal.  These are perfect alone, or accompanied by a nice serving of garden salad, or a bowl of soup.  This recipe serves 2-4.

Ingredients:

  • 2 English Muffins, sliced in half (horizontally)
  • 6 oz can of your favorite tuna (I use Bumble Bee)
  • 1 Tbs. Hellmann’s Light Mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbs. chopped celery
  • 1 Tbs. chopped onion
  • 4 tomato slices
  • 4 cheese slices
  • 4 onion slices (optional)
  • Pepper to taste
  • 2 Claussen Pickles, quartered

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, mix tuna, mayonnaise, celery, onions, and pepper.
  2. Toast the English Muffins.
  3. Divide the tuna salad into four equal portions (about 2 Tbs. each).
  4. Spread each muffin half with one portion of the tuna salad.
  5. Cover with sliced onion, sliced tomato, and top it off with a slice of American cheese.
  6. Place the tuna melts in a microwave and melt the cheese, or place it in an oven proof dish and melt them in the oven.

Serve with a slice of pickle, salad, or soup.  You can also prepare the tuna salad your favorite way, and build your own tuna melts.

Fruit Filled Crepes

crepesOne of my favorite recipes from my mom, is a recipe for crepes.  She usually filled them with creamed, and sweetened, farmer’s cheese.  I like my crepes filled with fresh fruits, or fruit preserves ( I use Smucker’s Sugar Free Fruit Preserves), served with fruit syrup (also by Smucker’s), and whipped cream.  This dish may be served as a light main course, or as a dessert.  Makes about 8 crepes.

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 3 Tbs. water
  • ½ cup sifted flour
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Fresh fruits, chopped and lightly sweetened, or your favorite fruit preserves
  • Fruit syrup
  • Whipped cream (optional)
  • Powdered sugar (optional)

Directions:

  1. Beat the eggs until light.
  2. Add milk, water, sugar, salt, flour, and vanilla extract.
  3. Beat until smooth.
  4. Use a small frying pan, about 6 inches in diameter.
  5. Oil lightly the frying pan, and heat well.
  6. Pour a few tablespoons of the batter into the pan, just enough to give it a thin coating.
  7. Tilt the pan back and forth to spread the batter evenly.
  8. Cook the cakes over a moderate heat, and when lightly browned on the bottom and firm to touch on top (do not turn over, to ensure tenderness).
  9. Remove from pan and place on a warm plate, to keep them warm.
  10. Oil the pan lightly after each use, and repeat the above frying technique until all the batter is used.
  11. Use one crepe at a time, placing it on a plate with the browned side down.
  12. Spread each crepe with your favorite filling (creamed cheese, fresh fruits, fruit preserves).
  13. Lift one end of crepe and roll up, jelly roll style.
  14. Repeat with all crepes until all used up.
  15. Serve warm crepes with syrup and whipped cream, or lightly browned on both sides in a warm pan with melted butter, if you prefer a crispier texture.
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