New York Times best-selling author, slow cooking expert, mom of three
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A Year of Slow Cooking

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Slow Cooking in the Real World

Crock-Pot plugged in the garage, on the dryer


We're doing a tiny bit of remodeling right now. Nothing fancy---- we're (and by we, I mean not me) tearing up the linoleum that came with the house and having tile installed in the kitchen.

This was my anniversary present to Adam. I promised that if he got me tile, I'd never again complain about the flooring.

I'm such a giver.
the last of the nasty linoleum

Because our kitchen has pretty much been rendered useless (the refrigerator is plugged in the dining room, and the stove/oven combo and dishwasher are under a sheet behind the couch) I've been needing to utilize my own advice and use the MANY MANY MANY slow cookers we own to get dinner on the table.
Crock-Pot loaded with baked potatoes
in an otherwise unusable kitchen

and it's been kind of fun.

The kids wanted a baked potato bar the first night. No problem. Then they wanted brown sugar chicken. Not an issue---I already had it frozen in a ziplock, so I thawed it in the fridge overnight then squeezed the contents into the slow cooker in the morning. Tonight, we're having baked sweet potatoes and foil-packet tilapia (the fish won't go on until later this afternoon).

and so far, so good. 
the coffee pot is also a necessity


I get a lot of emails, and some of my favorites are from readers who use their cookers in non-traditional ways. Last night I got an email from a construction worker who leaves a crockpot plugged in the trailer so he doesn't have to rely on fastfood or soggy sandwiches for lunch and dinner.

I like hearing from people who travel with their crockpots and plug it in the hotel room while they are out sight-seeing for the day.
I have great kids, but after a long day of vacationing, sometimes they aren't up to "restaurant manners"--- and it's nice to come back to a pot full of Korean Ribs or BBQ Beef and Bean sandwiches.

My friend Mir brings her crockpot camping. They have a pop-up trailer and she likes knowing dinner is taken care of before leaving camp for the day to play in the water. The crockpot also came in handy when an unexpected rain storm left barbecuing outside impossible.

We recently got back from a roadtrip to Oregon, and stopped at a few pioneer museums that were built along the Oregon Trail. Talk about hardships! A bit of rain, a torn up kitchen? That's nothing.

We are so lucky to be living in the time we are living----roughing it just really isn't roughing it anymore.

What about you? Do you have any odd or different uses for the slow cooker?


Have a wonderfully great day.

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53 comments:

Di said...

Maybe not an unusual use for the crockpot, but I used it this weekend to keep tamales fresh and warm at my son's birthday party. I put a little water in the bottom, and kept the tamales wrapped in foil.

Holly Gault said...

When I moved from Vermont to California with my brand new old boyfriend (we met 40 years ago, and hadn't seen each other since -- the glories of Google) and my three cats, we stayed in motels and cooked oatmeal in the morning and soup in the evening.

I recently bought the Hamilton Beach 6 qt (at Mir's suggestion)(this one is a little too large for us, but I love) and I am putting your website to work.
Holly

Deedee said...

I live in England and our family frequently travels to caravan campsites across Europe on holiday (vacation). We have in the past traveled for two weeks across France, Switzerland and Italy and back again. Crockpot (or slow cooker as we call it) came along as essential kit! It was soooo lovely to go out and buy yummy local fresh ingredients, put them in the slow cooker the next morning and then go out enjoying the sites of Paris or Venice for the day knowing that we could get back to the campsite to a nice hot freshly cooked meal all ready to serve up!! Saved us hundreds of pounds in the cost of eating out every day at costly resteraunts - money better spent on lovely things to take home with us or once in a lifetime experiences while we were there - AND we still got to enjoy all the local foods too!(I even roasted fresh quail in the crockpot in France one night!!Yummy!!) Win-Win all around! Hubby now knows that the crockpot is a mandatory packing item on any trip we take! LOL!

Meg Groke said...

I love seeing your cooker on the dryer! I often put our cooker to work in the garage during the hottest parts of the summer trying desperately to keep our house cool. Thanks for all your great posts!

quinn said...

Hi Steph, you Giver, you! ;)

Have you heard from anyone who dyes yarn in a crockpot? I use a big Pyrex kettle to dye sock yarn, but now that I've found a BIG crockpot at a tag sale, I'll try it for dying this winter. Lots of people do it!

Sophie said...

You have changed my life since I came across your website two years ago. I use my crockpot almost daily at home and when we are on vacation and yesterday got a small one to cook GF steal oats overnite for a delicious breakfast. Thank you for all you do!!!

Sue said...

My most recent "nontraditional" use was when my husband and I moved to our new house this spring - a few days beforehand I assembled a few meals in ziplocks, and brought them all over with the crockpot the day we closed on the house. While we worked on things those first few days, there was no worry about where all the cookware was, and hot dinner was ready at the end of the day!

Diane-The WHOLE Gang said...

I just cook in my crockpots thanks to you. You really inspired me to get back to them and it saves me so much time and money. I do a lot of overnight cooking too. And today it was a chilly rainy fall day here on the east coast so I grabbed some frozen ground beef and all the fixings for chili for dinner. It's cooking now! Thanks Steph!!!!!

Hallie @ Daily Bites said...

I spent 8 weeks in my basement this summer as the kitchen was being remodeled. Not fun at all! But slow cooker recipes were a God-send, and I came to your site often. :)

graceling said...

My husband is not a fan of cold lunch or reheated leftovers, and eating out every day is not in the budget, so we got him a little CP and spent one evening making up 7 weeks worth of individual size "TV dinners (lunches)" that he takes to work and cooks for lunch! (Thaws overnight in the fridge, take fresh fruit or salad to accompany.)

His is definitely the favorite office at lunch time, and I frequently get emails from his staff asking for the recipes:)

I also am on total bedrest now, and my stash of of several weeks worth of frozen TV dinners (supposed to be for AFTER the baby came, but we roll with the punches) has helped tremendously:)

Thanks so much for this website!

nightsmusic said...

I've lived like that. No fun, but there is light at the end of the tunnel :o)

I have two questions for you though. I thought you had a recipe for crockpot stroganoff. I tried to email you to mention this but I keep getting an 'account suspended' message. You're not suspended, are you??

Thanks!

Frau Guten Tag said...

Too bad I Didnt own a slow cooker yet when we did our floors. We bbq'd a lot & I used the burner attached to the bbq. I love the idea of travelling with the crock pot. And I gotta make that brown sugar chicken for my fam!!

I am curious why, at least for me, chicken breasts get tough & dry in the crock pot if I cook longer than 2 1/2 hours on low. Anyone else have this problem? Thighs work well, but my family prefers breast meat.

Grandma Honey said...

That floor of yours...wow! Love it!!

I have made many many of your great recipes but lately I've gotten out of the habit again. So this was just the inspiration I needed to bring the crockpots out again.

Sennie said...

We use our slow cooker most on the road - we plug in the crockpot as we drive along in our RV. We are a family of 7 so it's huge savings for us not to eat out so much. My newest crockpot discovery is making apple sauce in my crockpot - I'll never make it the traditional way again!!
http://ourmothershipadventures.blogspot.com/2011/09/yummy-fall-goodiessyksyherkkuja.html

Stephanie O'Dea said...

LOL you crazy crockpot people all clicked over so fast the host on the stephanieodea.com site thought you were spammers.
:-)

The site and giveaway is working again. Party on.

Frau,
You know, it's actually because you aren't cooking the breasts long enough. Lean meat needs time to break down in the slow cooker, so then moisture can be absorbed. If you leave the breasts in until they become partially shredded, the sauce will permeate the meat. I hope this helps a bit!

WheelerTrio said...

Many triplet moms keep a crockpot of water plugged in all the time to safely heat baby bottles!

Ad K. said...

Just started using my slow cooker this past year and am loving it! I can get so much done during the day knowing I don't have to stop and put dinner on. Everything is set in the morning and I am free all day knowing there will be a delish meal ready for dinner. Love your site!

Peggy said...

We went to Disneyland last year for my son's 5th birthday, and took both my Crockpots. My son's favorite meal is pizza soup, and we were going to have to feed nine people. So we roadtripped from Oregon to California with both Crockots (plus five adults, two kids & lots of other stuff)! It was wonderful to come back to our room after a long day in Disneyland to a 'homecooked' meal. :o)
And, I also take mine camping every year too. We reserve a big group site for extended family every year, and it includes electricity, so I just plug in my Crockpots to make baked potatoes for about 10-15 people. Then everyone adds their own toppings. Works great!
I recently discovered a useful application though (I'm sure I'm not the first person to discover this)... My hubby and I were making a bunch of pancakes and needed somewhere to put the finished ones while we made more. I didn't want to heat up the oven, so I pulled out my Crockpot. I put it on the 'warm' setting and just piled in the pancakes! It kept them nice and warm for when it was time to serve them up! :o)

Gail S. said...

I love your blog. I have several CPs of various sizes. We love the Brown Sugar chicken recipe. I too often use my CP when out in the motor home. One resaon we have an RV is so we don't have to eat in resturants unless we want to.

MrsSpock said...

Our daughter is on formula, and we pre-make bottles and keep them in the fridge. We keep a small slow cooker with water set on low, and pop a bottle in there to heat up as needed. We keep the plugged in slow cooker well against the back wall of the counter to keep little hands away from it.

Kim B. said...

I have yet to try this, but a friend of mine "cooks" apple cider in her crock pot so that she always has a warm drink on hand when company stops by during the cold holiday months. She throws in orange peels & cinnamon sticks so it smells just as good as it tastes :)

NHGirl said...

After one fun evening in college, my roommate and I wanted to make some mac & cheese (from the box), but didn't want to wake our other roommates. So we plugged the slow cooker in the outlet in the hallway. It took FOREVER, but it was a lot of fun!

Short Scrapper said...

I use my crockpot to heat and keep hot chocolate warm (spice tea too!). When you're serving lots of it, it's so much easier to keep the crockpot going than using the stove top.

Annie said...

I have yet to do this, but I know people who have used crockpots to dye yarn! the color won't set into the fiber without heat.

Joy said...

My son (GF) loves a chicken & rice dish.
This summer was too hot to turn on the over SO I put 3 cups water in the CP add a glass baking dish w/chicken, rice and homemade GF cream of chicken soup--tin foil sealing dish.
Turn on High 3 hrs. rice done, chicken tender every time!

Brenda said...

Seems like everyone but me was doing it, but after 30 odd years of canning, I made all my fruit butters in the crockpot this year. No scorching, and I could leave it out in the back porch and keep the kitchen cooler!

Cathy said...

I love my crockpot. That is all.

Schmoomom said...

I am absolutely loving these crock pot ideas! The pancake one is genius, I would never have thought of that! I'll bet it would work for waffles as well, and the cook might actually get to eat one for a change! LOL!

I counted the other day and realized I have five crocks in various sizes, and only 3 people live here. You've been a bad influence on me Stephanie...(but in my defense I can cook an entire meal including dessert in crock pots, and I have-no one ever complains about having hot fresh food to come home to!)

Rhonda from Baddeck said...

Brilliant idea to take it on vacation - we're driving cross-country soon and maybe I'll take the 1-1/2 qt. to warm up food overnight to put in the thermos for road food. Need to get busy and make some "leftovers!" (and I just ordered a copy of "More Make it Fast...") Thanks for all your great ideas!

Trish said...

I have an unusual use for my crock-pot that you might find amusing. My daughters swim competitively. It seems like we are always on the road going to out of town meets. Because they need healthy dining options, I have learned that with a little planning and ingenuity, I can save money and feed them healthy meals while traveling. I have a handy outlet in my minivan that allows me to plug the crock-pot in and cook while I drive. We get to our destination with dinner perfectly cooked! My fellow swim parents think I am slightly nuts for cooking while driving; however, everyone enjoys my crock-pot meals when we get together at the hotel to have dinner with our team. The last time I cooked dinner while driving, I made meatballs while driving to Orlando. It was nice to be able to relax when we got into town rather than going out to dinner after driving all afternoon to get there. Your baked potato soup has been a big hit with the swimmers.

Wynter said...

I regularly pick up cookers at thrift shops for an unusual purpose. I actually run my business with them! Because they're more energy efficient than a stove top or hot plate, I am able to run them off my solar panels to make my natural liquid soap, shampoo, lotion bars, diaper cream, and insect balm. Plus I use them to filter beeswax and melt the beeswax for candles.

LaurieIsabel said...

That is AWESOME - I think the other parents are slightly nuts for dragging tired car-cooped up kids out to eat! And you really aren't "cooking while driving" - the crock pot is - that phrase brings to mind the scary things you see some people doing like applying mascara or electric shaving their face while driving.

The Baked Potato Soup is a huge hit here too - sometimes I add some spicy dried peppers or chili paste and that is really nice too!

Jade Sherpa said...

I once cooked a ham for a family Thanksgiving Dinner in a slow cooker while my husband drove the 6 1/2 hours to the hosting house. The crockpot was plugged into an adapter for the cigarette lighter, and the lid was held on with bungees.

After reading some of the other comments, that trip doesn't sound so unusual anymore.

Martinez Family said...

I am an Independent Consultant for Arbonne. I host spa parties in people's homes - giving them facials and a really relaxing foot soak. When I am setting up my parties, I wet wash clothes, wring them out, roll them up and place them in a small crockpot. I turn them on low and by the time the women are ready to take off their masks, the wash clothes are steamy and very soothing.

magreen said...

That older blue crockpot on your dryer is the same one I have! Handed down from my mom years ago. I've often wondered how big it is when I'm browsing your recipes and if size really matters. (Then I made your chicken cordon bleu and it got way overdone, so I think I got an answer to that question!)

magreen said...

Oh! and for "different" uses of crockpots - keeping towels warm for laboring mama's!

Carzilla said...

Pre-assembling crock pot meals in ziplocks!? This is something I haven't heard of or considered before. Do I have it right: you put all the ingredients into a ziplock and freeze it for later? This is genius! My husband keeps talking about redoing our kitchen/living room floor area, so this is definitely an idea to keep in mind.

pyjammy pam said...

someone already mentioned this, but when my triplets were babies, we sometimes used a crockpot half-full of water to warm their bottles.

Naomismom said...

Recently we had a family gathering, unfortunately for a funeral. Something like 24 of us were gathered together in a hotel, that did not have a restaurant. We did not want to go out both nights so I volunteered to cook dinner for 24 out of my hotel room. I pre chopped all the food at home packed up two crock pots and two rice cookers and had dinner for 24. If I could I would post the picture of the four appliances plugged into the bathroom plugs.

Grandma Honey said...

Naomismom~~ I would love to know what you made in those 4 CPs in your hotel room. Please do tell.

Teresa Noelle Roberts said...

I just jumped on to grab the Korean ribs recipe so we'd have it so my sweetie and I could make them, along with other happy crockpot meals, during our vacation in Maine. How funny you linked that recipe in this post.

Abby said...

When my triplets were babies, we used our slow cooker to heat bottles. We needed something fast and did not have the time heat 3 bottles one after another,. So, we keep the slow cooker filled with water and on low during the day. When it was feeding time, we would put all 3 bottles in for a minute to heat them up. I give this tip to all new moms of high order multiples that I meet.
http://www.thriftywithtriplets.blogspot.com/

Zimms Zoo said...

We use ours when we camp. We used it almost exclusively when our kitchen was being remodeled.

Carol McMahon said...

My boyfriend and I lived in an 5th wheel for a year while fixing up a house and I pretty much exclusively used my crockpot and rice cooker (the 5th wheel had a stove and oven but used way too much propane). I made a coke braised ham for xmas dinner during that time, and lasagna and baked penne - two things that I was really excited about - also yogurt and roasted chicken and pulled pork and then the usual stews and soups. I found your site during that time and have been a huge fan ever since!

badgermommy said...

I have 4 soccer-playing kids (plus a toddler) and it is crazy trying to feed my family before and after a mulitple-game day. I just set my crockpot in the back of my Suburban and fill a tote with paper products. We have our own tailgate party, and everyone else is jealous because they all have to endure McD's and Little Caesars. Thanks for all you wonderful recipes, and also the time you put into your awesome blog!!!!

Steph said...

My mom just linked me to your website after my grandmother got me a 1.5qt slow cooker for my new apartment. Recently I've begun turning it on at around 8 on Saturday nights and having a feast to come home to after the bars close. :) Thanks for your inspiration.

Jeanie said...

I made your Honey Garlic Slow cooker chilcken this weekend, and wow!! Knocked it out of the ballpark, so to speak!!

I thought I had made enough chicken for two full meals, but alas, there's one lonely chicken breast staring at me from the fridge!!!

The REAL test, was giving my 9 yo daughter her choice of seconds on your chicken, or heating up some chicken strips from "Wife Saver" (yes, there really IS a chain of chicken recipes by that name, here in Augusta, GA), and they made pretty great, high calorie food!!

She chose the crock pot chicken over the "kid friendly" chicken strips!! Woo Hoo! I can feed my family great, healthy, but delicious food, with little effort, right at home!!
Thanks again!! You rock, Miss Stephanie!!!

Amber @ Púca + Pixie said...

We like to do vacations on the cheap. A lot of our state parks along the coast in Oregon have Yurts, but you aren't allowed to cook inside. I leave my crockpot plugged in on the porch while we are out doing our thing at the beach or aquarium and come back to a nice hot meal.

chickadee3357 said...

While I was pregnant, if I smelled something cooking I couldn't eat it. So I would put my crock pot in my garage so I wouldn't have to smell it, so I could have dinner for me and my family.

Anna said...

I think the most interesting thing I have used my Crockpot for is filling it up with water on low with the lid off for a makeshift humidifier when my kids were sick. I was actually really surprised how well it worked!

ezs said...

I saw your chicken recipe and was delighted at how simple yet easy it was! I'll let you know how it comes out.

Margene said...

Yes I have the best use of a crock pot. When we were building our hous and living in a travel trailer on the property. I used the crock in the bathroom to heat water to wash dishes and hands with. It was great to have hot water to wash hands with ( there was problems with the heating system of the trailer.

Lulu said...

I used my crockpots in the basement during my first trimester this time, knowing I couldn't get away with 3 months without cooking a second time. It kept the smell of cooking food away from me yet allowed me to make a lot of home cooked meals for my husband/daughter.

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