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Mother's Day meals made easy

Men may feel pressure after they realize they are responsible for making all three meals for Mother’s Day. But dads need not fear. Below are some fool-proof slow-cooker recipes from Karen Petersen's “365 Days of Slow-Cooking” (Covenant Communications, $25.99) that will take the stress off of creating great meals for the women they love.

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Breakfast: Waffle and Sausage Breakfast

1/2 pound bulk breakfast sausage, browned and drained

4 waffles, toasted and cubed

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

3/4 cup evaporated milk

4 ounce cream cheese

3 eggs

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

Maple syrup

1. In a slow-cooker, layer sausage, waffle cubes, and cheese.

2. In a skillet, heat milk and cream cheese over low heat until cheese melts

and mixture is smooth.

3. Remove skillet from heat; beat in the eggs, one at a time, until smooth.

Stir in the dry mustard.

4. Pour contents of skillet into the slow-cooker.

5. Cover and cook on low for about 4–5 hours or until eggs are set.

6. Serve with warmed maple syrup.

Makes 4–5 servings.

— “365 Days of Slow-Cooking,” by Karen Petersen

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Lunch: Pulled Pork Tacos

2 cups salsa, plus more for serving

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons dried oregano

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon Kosher salt

21/2-pounds boneless pork butt or shoulder roast, trimmed of fat

Corn or flour tortillas

1/2 cup fresh cilantro

3/4 cup sour cream

1 lime, cut into wedges

1. In a slow-cooker, combine the salsa, chili powder, oregano, cocoa, and salt. Add the pork and turn to coat.

2. Cover and cook on low for 6–8 hours. Meat should be very tender and should pull apart easily.

3. Using two forks, shred the pork and stir into the cooking liquid.

4. Serve with tortillas, cilantro, sour cream, lime, and extra salsa.

Makes 6 servings.

— “365 Days of Slow-Cooking,” by Karen Petersen

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Dinner: Chicken Parmigiana

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 cup dry bread crumbs

1–2 tablespoons canola oil

1 16-ounce can pizza sauce

1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

Hot, cooked pasta

1. Dip chicken into beaten egg; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roll in bread crumbs.

2. In a skillet, heat oil on medium heat; brown chicken on each side for about 2 minutes.

3. Place chicken in slow-cooker. Pour pizza sauce over the top. Sprinkle with cheese.

4. Cover and cook on low for 3–5 hours.

5. Serve chicken and sauce over pasta.

Makes 6 servings.

— “365 Days of Slow-Cooking,” by Karen Petersen

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Dinner Side: Parmesan Potatoes

2 pounds red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch wedges

1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon salt

Black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons butter, cut into 4 pieces

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1. Layer potatoes, onion, oregano, salt, pepper, and butter in slow-cooker.

2. Cover and cook on low for 3–5 hours.

3. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

— “365 Days of Slow-Cooking,” by Karen Petersen

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Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup flour

3 tablespoons cocoa

2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoons melted butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup cocoa

1 3/4 cup boiling water

Vanilla ice cream

1. In a medium bowl, mix 1 cup brown sugar, flour, 3 tablespoons cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Stir in milk, butter, and vanilla; beat until smooth. Spread over the bottom of greased slow-cooker.

2. In a small bowl, mix 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup cocoa. Sprinkle over mixture in slow-cooker.

3. Pour boiling water over batter. Do not stir.

4. Cover and cook on high for 2–3 hours, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

5. Serve sauce and cake warm with vanilla ice cream.

Makes 8 servings

— “365 Days of Slow-Cooking,” by Karen Petersen

Tips for using a slow-cooker

How it works

• The slow cooker uses an indirect heat and doesn’t scorch! You don’t need to stir, unless the recipe specifically states to do so.

• Don’t lift the lid (especially for the first 2 hours). Every time the lid is lifted the built up steam escapes and it adds 20 to 30 minutes to the cook time.

• The slow cooker uses moist heat to cook the food and is best for less tender cuts of meat. Look for cuts of meat with lots of connective tissue. The simmering and steam converts the collagen to gelatin and food becomes fork tender.

• Look for inexpensive cuts of meat. No need to buy the more expensive cuts. Some great cuts of meat for the slow cooker are:

- Chicken on the bone or boneless, skinless chicken thighs (chicken should only cook on LOW for 4-6 hours total). If you end up using boneless, skinless breasts (which I don’t recommend) be very careful on the cook time (3 or 4 hours). They don’t have enough collagen or fat and they dry out quickly.

- For beef look on the label look for the words “pot roast” or “simmering.” Most cuts work from the chuck or shoulder: boneless beef chuck eye (or just chuck) roast, top or bottom blade pot roast, cross rib pot roast. You can also use brisket, short rib, or lean ground beef. Many recipes call for stew meat. I prefer to make my own. Not only does it save money but you ensure that the meat is all from the same cut and so it cooks evenly. My favorite is using a chuck roast and cutting it into 1-inch cubes.

- For cuts of pork look for country style ribs, picnic roast, shoulder blade (butt) roasts or pork steaks

Reducing fat

• If you want to reduce grease and fat make sure to trim any fat from meat before adding it to the slow cooker.

• Brown any meat and drain grease beforehand.

• If cooking meat with high fat content, place thick onion slices underneath so the meat will not sit on (and cook in) the fat or use a small rack that fits inside your cooker.

• Let food rest at the end of cook time without the lid for 10 minutes. Spoon off any grease that raises to the top.

Food becomes runny

There is no chance for liquids to condense in the slow cooker. Condensation constantly drips onto the food and makes it more runny. Some ways to thicken sauces are:

• Remove lid and cook on HIGH for the last half hour of cooking time.

• Add in 1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed until smooth with 1 tablespoonof water and cook on HIGH without the lid for 30 minutes or so.

• Add 1-2 tablespoon of quick cooking tapioca in with the sauce at the beginning of the cook time. • Dredge any meat in a quarter cup of flour before adding it to the slow cooker.

• Lastly, you can make a roux on the stove or you can transfer the liquid to a saucepan and reduce it on the stovetop.

• Flavors become bland and muted after cooking all day. Make sure to salt and pepper to taste and add in additional spices to taste before serving!

When picking a slow cooker consider the following:

• Oval slow cooker cook more evenly and can fit odd size cuts of meat.

• Buy one with a removable insert to make clean up a cinch.

• If you’re going to be out of the house buy a slow cooker with a timer that can automatically switch to warm after the cook time is up.

• Buy a slow cooker according to the size of your family. The crock should be at least half filled for best results. When cooking soups or stews, leave a 2-inch space between the top of the crock and the food so that the recipe can come to a simmer.

— For a family of 2-3, buy a 2-4-quart

— For a family of 3-5, a 5-6-quart

— For a large family, or for entertaining groups of people, opt for a 7-8 quart slow cooker

• If you only own a very large slow cooker and are cooking for a small group simply place the food into an oven safe dish that fits inside your slow cooker. Place the dish on the bottom of the slow cooker and cover and cook. This will ensure that the food cooks the way it is supposed to. Care of/Cleaning

• Simply fill the cooled slow cooker insert with warm, soapy water and let soak Clean with a soft rag. Don’t use an abrasive cleaner or a metal pad, it will scratch the surface.

• If you have stains on your slow cooker simply fill up the slow cooker with water and add in 1 cup of white vinegar. Cover and cook on HIGH for 2 hours.

• The ceramic insert in a slow cooker can crack if exposed abrupt temperature shifts. Make sure it is cooled before placing it in a cold sink. Don’t put your slow cooker on top of the stovetop or in the microwave. Read your slow cooker manual to see if it is microwave safe.

• Spray the inside of the slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray to make cleanup easier. Or, for easier cleanup, use slow cooker liners.

Get to know your slow cooker

• Every slow cooker cooks differently! Get to know your slow cooker and how to adjust the recipe cook times according to how fast/slow your cooker cooks.

• If you want to test to see if your slow cooker is cooking too hot this is how you do it:

• Fill your slow cooker 2/3 full with room temperature water.

• Cover and cook on HIGH or LOW for 6 hours. (Some cookers run hotter on low and some cookers run hotter on high, so you many want to test both settings).

• Use a thermometer at the end of the 6 hours. The water should be 195 – 205 degrees. It is much higher (or lower) than that you will have to adjust the recipe cook times to fit your slow cooker.

Foil Collar and Foil Sling

• Most slow cookers have a hotter side that can cause casseroles and other dense dishes like meatloaves to burn. Line with a foil collar: Layer and fold sheets of heavy duty foil until you have a six layered foil rectangle. Press the collar into the back side of the slow cooker insert; the food will help hold the collar in place during cooking.

• For recipes that you want to lift out of the insert intact, like lasagnas, breakfast casseroles, meatloaves, some desserts make a foil sling. Line the slow cooker insert with a foil collar. Then fit two large sheets of foil into the slow cooker, perpendicular to one another, with the extra hanging over the edges of the cooker insert. Before serving, these overhanging edges can be used as handles to pull the dish out fully intact.

— Karen Petersen



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