Category Archives: Slow Cooker

Slow Cooker Spaghetti and Meatballs

As much as I would love to be able to, I simply don’t have the time to make my own meatballs, from scratch, when I want to cook them for the family. So to keep it convenient and easy to make, I buy frozen Swedish meatballs from Lidl.

They are individually frozen so that they don’t clump together, making it easy to take out the portion that you want from the bag, and leave the rest. It also means that they cook nicely from frozen, as there aren’t large lumps of frozen meat to cook.

Slow Cooker Spaghetti and Meatballs

  • 400g frozen Kottbullar Swedish meatballs
  • 1 jar Combino mushroom pasta sauce.
  • 1 can Aldi Sweet Harvest sweetcorn.
  • 400g (peeled weight) carrots.
  • 250g chopped, white mushrooms.
  • 300g straight spaghetti.

 

Add the sauce jar to the cool slow cooker, and turn on to high. Fill the jar to half way with hot water, and stir into the pot. Add the carrots and mushrooms to the sauce, stir to coat them and then add the meatballs in on top.

The meatballs should simply sit on top of the carrots and mushrooms-they should not be stirred in. If they sit covered in the sauce all day, they may well become too soft, a little mushy even. Allowing them to cook on top keeps them firm but wonderfully tender, without them falling apart.

image

Cook on high for one hour then low for six, or on low for eight. Add the drained corn on top at the same time as you put the spaghetti on.

The spaghetti unfortunately cannot be cooked in the slow cooker. Instead it must be boiled as per the packet instructions (typically 15 minutes or so) until cooked.

Once the spaghetti is cooked to your liking, drain and serve with the meatballs, sauce and veggies on top.

Cooked as described, this meal has 700 calories.

Share Button

Slow Cooker Carrot and Corriander Soup

With the winter closing in, having easy to make, hearty soups on hand  will make for a delicious hot lunch. These soups can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for a couple of days, or can be frozen for use at a later time. Or they can be put together in a morning to be ready for lunch time, as they only take a few hours to cook.

Slow Cooker Carrot and Coriander Soup

  • Approximately 300g of carrots (peeled weight) chopped into small, even pieces.
  • 1 medium white onion, peeled and chopped into small pieces.
  • 2 OXO cubes-any flavour of your liking.
  • 30g of split red lentils.
  • 500ml of boiling water.
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp dried coriander.

Preheat your slow cooker on high for ten minutes. Throw in the carrots, onions and lentils, sprinkle the coriander into the pot. Pour the stock over the vegetables, stir and cover with the lid.

20131124_114032

Leave to cook on high for 3 hours. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup till smooth. Add hot water as needed to reach the consistency for the soup that you like. Serve immediately with bread and butter-crusty bread being the nicest for dipping!

This soup costs a tiny 22p per serving, and has 70 calories. Despite the low calorie count, it is very filling and satisfying.

I used beef OXO for my soup, and hence the colour is darker and more brown than many carrot and coriander soups.

20131124_142643 (1)

Share Button

Slow Cooker Whole Chicken (500 Calories)

I tend to buy the biggest chicken that I can find when I’m shopping, because it works out the best value for my money. This week, with the budget being more challenging than normal, I’ve decided to cook the whole chicken in the slow cooker instead of the oven, in the hopes of losing less to drying, and because a slow cooked chicken tends to literally fall apart, allowing you to get more from the carcass.

Cooked in the slow cooker, the chicken needs little to no attention and so will not take up much of your day. The vegetables tonight are frozen, as these are cheaper than buying fresh. The almost certainly will not look as appealing as the fresh varieties, but are far easier to use and cook as there is no prep needed. Allow 200-250g per person, and remember that they generally don’t take as long to cook as fresh vegetables would.

Slow Cooker Whole Chicken Dinner

  • 1 Large Chicken (around 2.2kg).
  • 1.1kg of potatoes (peeled weight).
  • 1kg bag of frozen floret mix frozen vegetables.
  • 40g of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Light

Line the slow cooker with a double layer of tin foil. This isn’t essential but is a really useful step to take, as it allows you to use the foil to lift the chicken out. When cooked it will be so tender it will be literally falling apart, so trying to remove it with forks is likely to be difficult, if not essential. Preheat the slow cooker on high, and place the chicken in it, on top of the foil. Do not add any liquid. The chicken will produce lots of it’s own when cooking.

20131112_100959

 

Allow to cook on high for one hour. This brings the meat up to temperature more quickly, a precaution that though possibly not necessary, I prefer to take with poultry. Turn down to low, and cook for a further five to six hours. Turn to warm if the chicken is cooked thoroughly too early. You can check by piercing through the thickest part of the meat-the thigh-and check the colour of the juices that run out. If they are clear, it’s cooked. If they are pink or red, give it more time (on high).

Once fully cooked, the chicken should be gently lifted from the cooker using the foil, and left to rest for ten minutes. I wrapped the foil around it and used this to turn the chicken over, to help the breast stay moist.

Put potatoes on to boil, and add the frozen veg to the steamer about half an hour before serving the chicken. The chicken can be carved as the potatoes and veggies cook. You may find that the chicken is too tender to carve easily, in which case it may be better to simply pull the meat from the bones, in chunks. Take care to ensure that any small bones are removed.

Boil the potatoes until soft, then mash with the I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light. Serve the mash and veggies with 50g of breast meat, and 45g of dark meat (from the thighs, drum sticks and so on) per person.

image

When cooked as prepared, this meal provides 500 calories per person, and costs 91p per serving. Gravy can be added, at 15 calories extra per person for Bisto.

This meal can be adapted for baby-led weaning by using unsalted butter, or milk instead of I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter Light to make the mashed potatoes.

3 meals down, 18 more to go and day 1 of the budget challenge is over!

Share Button
20131108_173947

Sausage and Bean Casserole

When you are looking for a comforting and warming dinner that is also cheap, you can’t beat a good sausage and bean casserole. With plenty of veggies in it, it is incredibly filling and thanks to the high protein and fibre content, it will keep you satisfied for a long time.

It should be noted that it isn’t essential that a meal like this be cooked in a slow cooker however it does make it easier. It is less likely to burn and will require less attention from you while it is cooking.

Sausage and Baked Bean Casserole

  • 1 pack Aldi Ashfield Farm pork sausages.
  • 1 can Asda Smart Price baked beans.
  • 2 cans Morrisons value chopped tomatoes.
  • 1 medium white onion.
  • 2 leeks.
  • Half a small swede.
  • 1 chicken Oxo cube.
  • 400g (peeled weight) carrots, chopped.
  • 60g fusilli pasta.
  • 300ml of boiling water.

 

Preheat your slow cooker. At this point you can either add everything to the slow cooker uncooked, but you may decide to brown your sausages first. Doing this leaves them looking nicer, but more importantly it allows some of the fat to drain off. When cooking a meal like this, that can be an important consideration, as otherwise the casserole may be left overly greasy.

20131108_092118

 

While the sausages are browning, dissolve the Oxo cube in the boiling water, and peel and chop the carrots, leeks, swede and onions. Add the carrots, swede, sausages and onion to the slow cooker, with the cans of tomatoes and the stock. Top with the can of baked beans and then the leeks (I add these last as they don’t require as much cooking). We prefer to have the sausages chopped into chunks before they go into the casserole, but this is personal preference.

20131108_095723

 

Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Cook 60g of fusilli per person, about twenty minutes before the casserole is due to be served, and serve the sausage casserole on top of it.

20131108_173947

When made as described, this meal has 700 calories, and costs just 88p per serving!

This meal can be adapted for baby-led weaning by using low salt and low sugar beans and cutting the sausages in half lengthwise instead of cutting them into chunks. Low salt stock can also be used.

 

Share Button

Why Use a Slow Cooker?

If you’ve not used a slow cooker before, you may not really know what one is, and certainly you aren’t likely to understand what all the hype surrounding them is for. Given how easy they are to use, how versatile, and how budget friendly, they are one of the more useful kitchen items to get to know.

Slow cookers are self contained cooking pots that come in three main sizes, the largest of which is sufficient to make a complete, hearty, one pot meal for a family of at least six, and potentially more. They are incredibly easy to use, thanks to the fact that they normally have just three settings: low, high, and keep warm.

They are fantastic for three reasons in particular. The first is the fact that they are great for the budget. The fact that things are cooked on a low heat for a long time means that they come out incredibly tender, allowing you to use up far cheaper cuts of meat than you otherwise might like to. Additionally, the fact that you are cooking in an enclosed environment, often with liquid in the pot means that food doesn’t dry out. Since it doesn’t shrink from drying out, it means that you can serve more people from the same amount of food.

Second is the fact that they don’t require constant attention as an oven may do. You can put your food in the cooking pot in the morning, leave it on low all day and then come home to a wonderfully smelling dinner when you are finished with work, or with whatever other activities will be keeping you busy that day. They are safe and economical to run.

Finally, for people who are baby-led weaning, a slow cooker is a dream. The food cooked in them comes out incredibly tender without nutrient loss as any nutrients that leach from the food stay in the liquid, which is often turned into a sauce or else it otherwise thickened.

They also give adventurous cooks the chance to experiment. The range of foods that you can cook in your slow cooker is enormous, and includes not only the more expected foods such as stews and casseroles, but also cakes and breads, and puddings too.

The price of a slow cooker means that they are within almost anyone’s reach, with basic units costing from under £20 for the larger of the pots. Clean up is simple after use, thanks to the fact that with most, the cooking pot can be removed from the heater and washed.

There is a wealth of information online for people who are interested in slow cooking,  and plenty of meals that can be made low fat, or low calorie, vegetarian, or to otherwise suit the special needs of your particular diet.

Share Button

Incredible Slow Cooker Ribs and Chips!

Dinner mama and family on the whole try to stick to a calorie limit of 700 calories for our main evening meal. This makes it easier for us to plan the rest of our day, knowing that we sufficient calories left for snacks and even treats, and that we can spread our food out throughout the day and never have to go hungry.

However, some days we feel like having something that goes over our limit. That’s OK too, because we simply rearrange the rest of our day so that we can ‘afford’ those extra calories for the big meal of the day. This was one of those meals that we had been thinking of doing for a while, and needed a day where we could spare those extra calories.

Prepared like this, these ribs are absolutely melt in the mouth. The chips complement them very nicely, and being the lowest fat chips that I’ve found, are not particularly unhealthy.

 

Slow Cooker Spare Ribs in a Honey, Maple and BBQ Sauce with Chips

  • 2 packs of Morrisons sticky maple glaze pork ribs.
  • 1 pack McCains Rustic, skin on oven chips.
  • 4 tbs BBQ sauce of your choice.
  • 5 tbs ketchup.
  • 1 heaped tsp honey.
  • 250g white mushrooms, chopped.
  • 400g (peeled weight) carrots, chopped.
  • 400g chopped broccoli.
  • 1 chicken or vegetable stock cube.
  • 200ml boiling water.

 

Place the ribs in the preheated slow cooker. When doing two racks you almost certainly won’t be able to fit them around the outside of the cooker, so will need to lay them on the bottom, on top of each other, possibly folded. Add mushrooms on top of the ribs. The cooking time for the ribs depends on how long you have. They will need to cook four 4 hours on high, or 8 hours to cook on low.

In a jug, mix the BBQ and tomato sauces with the stock cube, honey and hot water. Pour slowly over the ribs and mushrooms in the slow cooker. Cover with lid and leave to cook.

20131103_101759_LLS

Peel and chop the carrots, and chop the broccoli. Put into the steamer to cook about 30-45 minutes before the ribs are due to come out, or into boiling water around 20-30 minutes before, depending on how soft you like them.

Preheat oven to 220 degrees, and place frozen chips on a baking tray, in the middle of the oven. Allow 200g frozen weight per person if you want to stick to the calorie count, and cook for 16-19 minutes, turning at least once.

The ribs are done when the meat is so tender that it is almost starting to fall off the bones. You don’t want it to be completely falling off the bones, as this makes it difficult to handle, and to serve.

Now, the ribs are cooked at this point, and could be served. However they won’t look the best, as most people expect ribs to be brown, and the sugar to be caramelised. In order to achieve this you need to take them out of the slow cooker and place them under the grill, basted in the sauce. If the sauce is too runny it can be taken out of the cooker and reduced in a small saucepan over a medium heat. This will thicken it up and allow it to stick to the ribs better.

ribs

4-5 minutes under the grill will brown the ribs nicely, and give them the expected colour. To serve, remove them from the grill and slice into individual ribs. You can either use a very sharp knife to do this, cutting between the bones, or cheat like I did. I used kitchen shears instead, making for a much easier job.

Serve when the chips are golden brown, with the cooked vegetables, and topped with any remaining sauce. When prepared as described, this meal contains approximately 750-780 calories, but with such an incredible flavour and texture, it’s well worth it!

ribs2

Share Button

Melt in the Mouth Slow Cooker Lamb

Lamb is a fabulous meat with a really lovely flavour, but is comparatively expensive. That makes it all the more important to do it right when you do it.

This joint cost £6.50 on special offer, for enough to serve the four of us for one meal. This is a lot more expensive than most roasts that I would do, that would average two servings (and maybe three) for the four of us for under £5. It was bought alongside two large pork joints, each on sale at half price, so the savings from the pork made it possible to buy the lamb.

This was another slow cooker meal because Sundays are another busy day for mum’s taxi. That thankfully let me enjoy my time out with the kids, and come home to the most fantastic smells throughout the house from the lamb cooking! This is to serve four, but can be adjusted to suit more or less people.

Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder

  • 1kg lamb shoulder.
  • 400g (peeled weight) carrots.
  • 400g chopped fresh broccoli.
  • 1.1kg (peeled weight) potatoes.
  • 2 lamb OXO cubes.
  • 5 tsp Colemans mint sauce.
  • 1 tsp honey.
  • 20g Flora Light.
  • 600ml boiling water.
  • 1.5 tbsp cornflour.

Preheat slow cooker on high for ten minutes, while you peel and chop the carrots. Place them into your warmed cooker and place the lamb on top. Dissolve your stock cubes and honey in the boiling water and pour slowly over the lamb

Lamb shoulder is a particularly greasy meat, so it is important to skim the fat off the top of the water a couple of times during cooking if you can, but at the end before serving at the very least. Cook on high for one hour before switching to low and leaving for six to eight hours more. The lamb should be falling off the bone.

image

Cook the broccoli in the steamer for 30-45 minutes, starting before the lamb is removed from the cooker, until it is tender as you like it. We like it to retain a little bite. The potatoes should be put on to boil when the lamb comes out of the slow cooker.

The stock from this joint makes the most incredible, simple mint gravy. Once the lamb and the carrots have been removed from the slow cooker, turn the cooker back onto high. Make a paste from one and a half tablespoons of cornflour,

with a few tablespoons of the stock from the pot. Thin the paste with some more stock, before slowly stirring it into the pot. Leave to thicken, stirring every couple of minutes, while you carve the lamb, or tear it into chunks for serving. Allow around 100g per person.

Mash potatoes with the Flora and serve straight away with the steamed veggies and lamb. Add mint gravy where you fancy it, it was particularly tasty on the mash! Made as described, this comes in at approximately 640 calories per adult serving.

Adapt this recipe for baby-led weaning by using a low salt stock such as Kalo Organic, don’t add the mint sauce until the lamb has been removed, and use an unsalted butter to make your mashed potatoes.

Share Button

Slow Cooker Chicken and Leek With Garlic and Herb Sauce

On Wednesday nights I find that my duties as my daughter’s taxi driver make dinner prep difficult. So much so that I’ve come to lean heavily on my slow cooker for Wednesday’s dinner, knowing that I can prep everything early in the morning, start it cooking and then pretty much forget about it until it’s time to serve.

If you’ve never used a slow cooker, they are well with looking at for convenience if nothing else. Slow cooker meals come out incredibly tender, with lots of flavour and quite often leftovers too as the food doesn’t dry out and shrink as it does with other cooking methods. The real beauty of them though is the fact that they can safely be left on all day while you work, or are busy with other things.

They are ideally suited to stews and soups, making them perfect for this time of year, but given their low heat output they are good in summer time too as they don’t heat your kitchen up. Since you can even make cakes and puddings in them, they are a good investment any time of year.

Slow Cooker Chicken and Leek With Garlic and Herb Sauce

  • 450g pack of Asda Smart Price chicken breasts (larger is fine).
  • 800g (peeled weight) potatoes.
  • 3 large leeks.
  • 400g carrots.
  • 250 parsnips.
  • 400g (peeled weight) diced swede.
  • 1 medium onion.
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed.
  • 1 chicken Oxo cube.
  • 1 beef Oxo cube.
  • Mixed herbs, or other seasonings of your choice.
  • 700ml boiling water.
  • 1.5 tablespoons Cornflour.

Turn your slow cooker on to preheat while you roughly dice your chicken breast, and peel and chop your carrots. Place these in the cooker first, with the chicken breast on top. Mix the Oxo cubes and water and stir well, before slowly pouring over the chicken breast. This is an important step. Pour hot water too quickly into a cold pot and the pot will crack (I say from experience).

Cover the pot and peel and chop the remaining vegetables and potatoes. Add these on top of the chicken, leaving the potatoes to one side. Spread the veggies evenly in the pot, but don’t worry if the stock does not cover them. They’ll still cook just fine. Cook on high for long enough to heat through-an hour is normally long enough. Turn down to low and leave to cook for six to eight hours.

image

The potatoes can be done one of two ways. The easiest is to just add them on top of the pot and let them cook with the rest of the food in the slow cooker. But they are almost as easy to boil for mashing later on. Put them in the pan that they will be cooked in ready, and cover with water. This way they are ready to turn on and cook as soon as you get home, while other things finish, and you serve.

If you choose to cook your potatoes separately, they will need to boil for around 30-40 minutes, before mashing with a large knob of low fat spread such as Flora Light.

Given the weight of the pot, I find it too hard to pour everything out to drain. Instead I use a slotted spoon to serve with, draining as I go. That way the tasty liquid stays in the cooker to be turned into gravy. Turn the cooker back to high at this point.

Mix three or four tablespoons of the stock with the cornflour in a separate bowl, till it forms a thick paste. Add more liquid a little at a time to make it runny, then slowly pour into the slow cooker while stirring constantly for a couple of minutes. Serve over the food once the stock has thickened. Or to save time you can pour the liquid and cornflour into a microwave safe bowl and zap it for 20 seconds, stir, zap again, stir and repeat till the cornflour is completely cooked out, leaving you a lovely thick sauce.

Served with the garlic sauce, this is an incredibly tasty one pot meal that leaves very little work to be done at dinner time, and that is incredibly filling for just 550 calories. If using Flora to mash, the servings average 569 calories. It cost £1.65 per serving to make.

This is a lot of food, don’t be afraid to freeze leftovers for another day!

This recipe can be adapted for baby-led weaning by using low salt stock cubes (such as Kalo organic, or Heinz baby stock).

Share Button