Even though the long Labor Day weekend is upon us, summer still has three more weeks to go — plenty of time for high temps and uncomfortable humidity. Even with air conditioning, turning on an oven in early September can add insult to injury. And constant takeout or dining out burns holes in your pocket or wallet. But here’s a brilliant solution for late-summer meals: the crockpot! Yes, it may make you think of winter stews and soups, but it turns out that slow cookers are far more versatile than imagined. Today’s creative chefs have reinvented recipes that reflect current trends for light and fresh meals. With planning and prep, you can plop ingredients into the pot in the morning and have a great meal hours later without heating up your kitchen.
Tips & Tricks
- Use slow-cooker disposable bags for easy cleanup.
- Don’t overload the crockpot; two-thirds full is plenty.
- Remove the skin from chicken before adding it to the crockpot, but leave the bones.
- Brown the meat (not chicken!) on a stovetop before adding it to the crockpot. It produces a delicious,
- Preheat the crockpot to the desired cooking temperature.
POACHED HALIBUT POACHED HALIBUT IN OLIVE OIL
6 cups extra virgin olive oil
3 whole garlic cloves
6 fresh thyme sprigs
1 medium fresh rosemary sprig
12 large basil leaves
6 whole black peppercorns, wrapped in cheesecloth or in a tea strainer
6 skinless 6-ounce halibut fillets
Directions: Preheat large slow cooker on low. Add the oil, garlic, thyme, rosemary, basil, peppercorns and fish fillets, trying to keep fish in a single layer. Cover and cook on low for three hours or until fish is firm and cooked through. Gently remove fish with a slotted spatula to serving plates. The oil can be stored in refrigerator and used three more times for poaching fish. Garnish with fresh chopped herbs. 6 servings.
ZESTY SHREDDED CHICKEN BARBECUE
6 frozen, boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 12-oz bottle of favorite barbecue sauce
½ cup Italian salad dressing
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Directions: Place chicken in slow cooker. In a bowl, combine barbecue sauce, salad dressing, brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce. Pour over chicken. Cover and cook for 3 to 4 hours on high or 6 to 8 hours on low. Remove the chicken and shred for six of the most delicious sandwiches ever!
VEGETARIAN BLACK BEAN ENCHILADAS
1 small yellow onion, diced small
1 sweet bell pepper, diced small
1 16-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn
2 teaspoons chili powder (I use ancho chili powder.)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 2/3 cups Monterey Jack, Colby, or any Mexican shredded melting cheese, divided
2 16-ounce jars salsa
12-15 6-inch corn tortillas
Leftover veggies or baked diced tofu, optional
Directions: In a medium bowl, combine onion, pepper, black beans, corn, spices and half of the cheese. Add extra veggies or tofu, if adding. Spread about one cup of salsa over bottom of crock pot to evenly coat bottom. Fill tortillas with about ⅓ cup of filling and roll them up as tightly as possible. Pack them seam side down on bottom of cooker. Spread another cup of salsa over top and sprinkle ½ cup of remaining cheese. Repeat layers, ending with salsa and cheese. Reserve some cheese for garnish later. Place lid on crockpot and heat on high for 3 to 4 hours. During last 15 minutes, add remaining cheese. Serves 6-8.
Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.