It didn’t take me long back in 2010 to understand the inherent frugality tips of using a Crock Pot slow cooker to get dinner on the table and save money in the process. That’s because back in 2010 we were renovating our kitchen, and for months I had to cook dinner without the use of a traditional kitchen.
I guess back in our old spendthrift days I would have just resigned myself to the fact that no kitchen=lots of take out. But that would have been too expensive in our suddenly frugal days, and the thought of all of that wasted money makes my stomach turn–still does.
In order to survive without a kitchen, I had to get creative with the tools I already owned. So my slow cooker, rice cooker, George Foreman grill, microwave and grill went into heavy rotation, and I used at least one of them every night to make dinner–again, even without a functioning kitchen. (I did have running water to work with.)
While you may not have such drastic circumstances to deal with, it’s worth noting how, even in everyday circumstances, a slow cooker can be a lifesaver.
I’ve found that cheaper cuts of meat cook up better when slow cooked, if you’re entertaining a large group a Crock Pot can double as a chafing dish to keep food warm and make it easy to serve, and if you are a busy working parent you can throw that night’s dinner into your Crock Pot before your leave for work and then arrive home to dinner cooked and ready.
I know that my Suddenly Frugal readers enjoy slow cooker cooking because some of the posts I’ve written over the years have continued to be the most read. Rather than have you clicking all over this blog to find those recipes, I’ve decided to take all of those recipes and posts and put them in one, round up blog post–this one! Read on for ways to use your Crock Pot slow cooker for Christmas breakfast, Cinco de Mayo recipes, and everyday meals to feed your family, such as fried chicken in the Crock Pot.
Here are the 5 Crock-Pot and slow cooker recipes I’ve shared over the years. You can use the links in the list to jump right to the recipe you want to read and use:
- “Fried” Chicken in the Crock Pot
- Chicken Stir Fry in the Crock Pot
- Easy Christmas Morning French Toast Breakfast in the Slow Cooker
- Pork Loin in the Crock Pot
- Cinco de Mayo in the Crock Pot
“FRIED” CHICKEN IN THE CROCK POT
A few weeks ago my supermarket had chicken on sale for $.79 per pound. As any smart frugal shopper would have done, I stocked up. Yesterday, I finally got around to using some of that chicken–which was chicken legs and thighs, I think. (This one package, with six generous pieces of chicken in it, cost a whopping $4.12.)
I decided to make “fried” chicken in the Crock-Pot, something I done before, thanks to A Year of Slow Cooking’s recipe for drumsticks. Stephanie O’Dea is the founder of A Year of Slow Cooking.
I didn’t have the recipe in front of me but remembered most of it, and tried my own version with these simple ingredients:
4 to 6 chicken thighs (you could use breasts, drumsticks, whatever will fill your slow cooker)
1 c whole-wheat flour
1 T paprika
1 t salt
1/4 c canola oil
I used the canola oil to coat the bottom of my slow cooker. Then, I dumped the flour, paprika and salt in a large bowl, and used a spoon to mix the ingredients. After that I washed the chicken pieces in the sink to remove any feathers, fat and other goo you sometimes find with on-the-bone chicken. One by one, I took each piece of chicken and “rolled” it in the flour mixture. If rolling didn’t fully cover the pieces in the flour, I grabbed it by the handful and sprinkled it over the chicken until it was coated liberally. Finally, I placed each piece of chicken in the Crock-Pot. I could fit only two pieces in the bottom of the slow cooker, and then I placed the rest on top. I put the slow cooker on high for six hours and went outside to shovel the driveway. (We got 12 inches of snow this weekend.)
About halfway through the cooking time, when everything was starting to smell yummy and my family was beginning to ask when we would be eating dinner–even though dinner was hours away–I shifted the chicken in the slow cooker. I took the pieces from the bottom, which were now sizzling, and switched them out with the pieces that had been on top. Then I put all the pieces back in the slow cooker, placed the top back on, and let it cook for the remainder of the time.
You know how you’ve heard about chicken that just falls off the bone and melts in your mouth? Yeah, well that’s what happened with this chicken. Though it wasn’t fried in a traditional sense, it sure tasted like a reasonable facsimile. We rounded out dinner with rice from the rice cooker and vegetables steamed in the microwave.
Return to the Top of the List
CHICKEN STIR FRY IN THE CROCK POT
I’ve got a great Crock-Pot recipe for stir-fry chicken (yes, I know that sounds like a misnomer), which, when served with rice cooked in the microwave, makes for a meal that you would never know didn’t originate in the kitchen.
In case you’re interested in trying, here’s how it goes
8 thin chicken breasts
2 cups broccoli
2 cans baby corn, cut
1 can water chestnuts
1 T canola oil
teriyaki or stir-fry sauce to taste
Pour canola oil into Crock-Pot or slow cooker and tilt back and forth to coat the bottom.
Cut the chicken breasts into approximately 1-inch cubes (or about the size of Starburst candy). I use my favorite pair of kitchen shears to get the job done, but I supposed you could buy already cubed chicken if you’re short on time. Place the uncooked, cubed chicken all along the bottom of the slow cooker.
Layer in corn, water chestnuts and broccoli.
Drizzle teriyaki or stir-fry sauce over the top.
Turn Crock-Pot on high for four hours or low for eight.
When the timer goes off, dinner is ready.
Of course, you can add other favorite vegetables to this stir fry: cut carrots, snow peas, onions, whatever you’d like. My kids are partial to broccoli and baby corn, and I love water chestnuts.
EASY CHRISTMAS MORNING FRENCH TOAST BREAKFAST IN SLOW COOKER
I love when I discovered how to make French toast in my Crock-Pot. This is the perfect recipe for Christmas morning, when the last thing you want to think about is making breakfast. You can put the recipe in the slow cooker the night before, let it simmer through the night, and when you get up in the morning, it will be ready.
After the first time I made French toast in the slow cooker, I knew I needed to do some tweaking–my first go around had the toast too mushy for my daughters’ taste. So I modified it, mostly by using half of the liquid that the original recipe called for. Here’s what I used this time around:
3/4 cup skim milk (you can use whichever kind of milk you like; we only get skim or fat-free milk)
1 loaf of bread
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 T cinnamon
canola oil, butter or cooking spray
Coat the inside of your slow cooker with canola oil, butter or cooking spray. Since the French toast has the tendency to stick to the sides, grease it liberally.
Place the loaf of bread in the slow cooker. (My slow cooker is on the smaller side, so I ended up only being able to fit about 3/4 of the loaf of bread inside.)
In a bowl mix the eggs, milk, brown sugar and cinnamon.
Pour the liquid mixture over the bread. It should be enough to cover the loaf halfway.
Turn the slow cooker on low for four to six hours.
(You’ll use the powdered sugar as a dusting when serving the French Toast.)
Verdict: The brown sugar was starting to caramelize about three hours into the cooking time, but at the same time, the bread was getting mushy, with extra liquid in the bottom of the slow cooker. So I used a spatula and flipped the bread over (to avoid burning), and then cooked for the remaining time without the top on. This allowed the extra liquid to burn off.
While the French Toast was still a bit mushy when we ate it, dusted with powdered sugar, my daughters gave it a thumbs up–then went back for seconds. They didn’t even use any maple syrup on it. Instead, they said it was like eating a gigantic cinnamon bun with a fork.
PORK LOIN IN THE CROCK POT
Months ago my supermarket had a super deal on pork loin. Like any smart frugalista would do, I stocked up. I had the butcher cut the pork loin into one-pound pieces, and I put a bunch in the freezer. Yesterday, we enjoy that last piece of loin, cooked in our slow cooker.
Normally, I would do a pulled pork recipe with barbecue sauce in the Crock-Pot, but my daughter Annie hasn’t been feeling the pulled pork lately. So I decided to experiment.
Recently, I’d purchased a couple of bottles of discontinued salad dressing on clearance at the grocery store ($.50/bottle) and had one left–spicy Italian–and figured I could do worse with a “sauce” for the pork loin. So I got cooking. Here’s what I used:
2 T olive oil
1 pound pork loin (no need to thaw if frozen)
1 16-ounce bottle of salad dressing (whichever flavor you prefer)
2 cups of water
I coated the bottom of the Crock-Pot with the olive oil and swished the bowl around to cover the bottom surface. Then I put the rock-solid frozen pork loin in the bottom of the Crock-Pot and dumped the entire salad dressing over it. I added an additional two cups of water, then put the slow cooker on high for eight hours.
Fast forward eight hours and the pork smelled delicious and just fell apart when I cut into it to serve it. This is definitely an easy slow cooker recipe that I’ll use again in the future.
CINCO DE MAYO IN THE CROCK POT
In celebration of Cinco de Mayo, here is a festive recipe that you could make in your slow cooker, courtesy of the folks at Crock-Pot. It’s for Crock-Pot Carnitas. You can use this on Cinco de Mayo or May 5th, or any time of the year!
2.5 pounds pork butt roast, trimmed of excess fat
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup cola
1 orange, peeled and cut into slices
Season the pork roast with the dry spices. Place in a self-sealing plastic bag and marinate overnight.
Place the marinated pork roast in the Crock-Pot® slow cooker.
Pour the cola over the pork and cover the roast with the orange slices.
Cover; cook on Low 8 to 10 hours (or on High 4 to 6 hours).
Remove the roast and shred with two forks.
Place the shredded pork on an large baking sheet and bake at 425°F for 25 minutes, or until the pork becomes crispy.
Sprinkle some of the leftover juices in the stoneware over the pork and serve right away.
Serve the carnitas with Mexican rice, beans, and tortillas, or as a filling for tacos or burritos.
LEFTOVERS FROM YOUR CROCK-POT
Finally, what’s great about all of these slow cooker recipes is they are bound to give you leftovers. And if, like me, you love having leftovers, you’ll want to know about this adorable Crock-Pot Lunch Crock. It’s perfect for taking a slow cooked meal to work or school. Keep an eye out all year long for coupons that can help you save money on this lunch crock. I know that recently there was a $5 off coupon floating around the Internet. Also, on big shopping days, like Cyber Monday, you can usually find deals on this cut and practical Crock Pot. (It comes in blue, red and purple, fyi.)