Slow cookers have been updated with travel locks and automatic warm settings, but the basic slow cooker is still available and for a good price. Slow cookers make meal planning easier any time of year. A slow cooker can make life a little more convenient because by planning ahead, you save time and money. These counter-top appliances use less electricity than an oven and may reduce the number of times you purchase ready to eat foods.
Many kitchens are equipped with slow cookers, but are they safe to use? Yes, if used correctly. Here’s how to make sure that slow-cooked food is safe to eat:
• Always defrost meat or poultry before putting it into a slow cooker. A piece of meat needs to be less than 3 pounds in weight.
• Next, keep the lid in place. No peeking! By removing the lid, you are removing the protective moisture needed to cook the food.
• If you’re not at home during the entire slow-cooking process and the power goes out, discard the food even if it looks done.
Follow these simple rules and feel good about coming home to dinner already cooked and ready to eat.
Here is a recipe for BBQ Chicken Soup. To save money, it also has instructions on how to make your own barbecue sauce.
BBQ Chicken Soup
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, peeled and diced
2 cups tomato sauce
5 tablespoons tomato purée
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
5 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
For the soup:
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 (10.8-ounce) bag frozen corn
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 cup fresh mushrooms, chopped
1/4 red onion, peeled and chopped
2 cups barbecue sauce (see recipe for our homemade barbecue sauce)
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
To make the sauce: In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add the remaining ingredients, stir, and sauté for about 10 minutes.
To make the chicken soup: Place uncooked chicken breasts in a large slow cooker. Add corn, black beans, red and yellow bell peppers, mushrooms, and red onion.
In a separate bowl, mix 2 cups barbecue sauce, chicken broth, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Pour the barbecue sauce mixture into the slow cooker, covering the chicken and vegetables completely. Cook, covered, on high heat for 6 hours. After finished cooking, remove the chicken breasts, and shred the chicken. Place the shredded chicken back into the slow cooker and stir.
Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.