Ode to My Slow Cooker

My faithful KitchenAid, chilling out waiting to do its thing.
My faithful KitchenAid chilling out, waiting to do its thing.

There was a time when I didn’t have much interest in using a slow cooker. I enjoyed taking time to cook slowly on the stove top and in the oven. I already had a number of appliances taking up room in my cabinets, including my beloved Dutch oven. I knew people raved about them, but I just didn’t get the appeal.

Well, times have changed my friends, and not surprisingly these changes were spurred at least partly by the arrival of a ridiculously cute but crazy active little girl into our lives.

It isn’t so much that one needs a slow cooker – you can get along perfectly well without one. But there is something magical about putting ordinary, bland boneless skinless chicken breasts into the ceramic pot and have them come out 4-5 hours later tender, succulent and great for all manner of sandwiches, wraps and other meals. And don’t get me started on pulled pork.

I would even argue that a slow cooker does not necessarily save you gobs of time – if you want to keep meals simple, there are lots of options that you can whip up in 10-15 minutes (omelets, anyone?), and there are often steps such as chopping, peeling and browning to be taken before placing ingredients in the cooker.

But for me at least, I love slow cooking for the convenience factor. Most obviously, you can place your meal in the pot at the beginning of the day, enjoy wafting scents of slow cooking food throughout the day, and have a hot dinner waiting for you at 5 PM or whenever you eat. Most slow cookers have warming features that will keep food hot after it is finished cooking so it will be ready when you need it. You also do not need to babysit a slow cooker, and most come with varying options (high, low) to adjust for the amount of time you have.   If you need to be out of the house for several hours, or you don’t want to be checking a stew every half an hour while a toddler pulls at your pants leg, your meal will cook for you worry-free.

Additionally, slow cookers are great for large meals that will yield leftovers for later meals, reducing your kitchen time even more. They also do not generate much heat (fantastic in the summer months), and free up space in appliances such as the oven for multiple dishes. And with a little planning, prepping slow cooker meals during busy pockets of time can be kept to a minimum. There are also many options besides standard dinner fare that can be made in the slow cooker: breakfast, snacks, baked goods and even desserts.

However, while these are all fantastic reasons to own a slow cooker, perhaps my favorite is that, for certain dishes, the slow and gentle cooking does amazing things for flavor and texture as well. Poach or bake a basic skinless, boneless chicken breast and it is just okay. Slow cook it for a few hours and it is melt-in-your-mouth tender.

So while there are some who may sniff at the use of a slow cooker, after eight months of steady use I am sold! The following are some of my favorite dishes so far that I have made multiple times, linked to where in internet-land you can find the recipes.

What are your favorite slow cooker recipes? I’d love to hear!

 

Cucumber Tomato Pita with Lemony Tahini Sauce

Cucumber Tomato Pita with Lemony Tahini Sauce

Pitas are one of my go-to items to have for lunch or a snack, stuffed with something delicious, and this combination is one of my favorites. Consider this some lunch inspiration more than a recipe, because there is really nothing to it other than to mix and enjoy! You can make both the salad and sauce ahead of time, but even with chopping to do this comes together very quickly.

The amounts shown below are approximate and you can eyeball them to your taste. Any type of fresh, crisp veggie would work here, as well as fresh parsley or other herbs and some shredded chicken or beans. (Alas, I ate this before remembering the leftover chickpeas in the fridge.)

The salad is good eaten on its own or in the pita, but the lemony, garlic-y tahini sends it over the top for me. Spread on the pita, stuff in the salad and go!

Cucumber, Tomato and Red Onion Salad

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 English cucumber (or preferred variety), diced
  • 1/2 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 red onion, diced
  • Splash of red wine vinegar
  • Olive oil, salt and pepper to taste

There really isn’t much instruction here beside mixing and adjusting the seasoning to taste!

Lemony Tahini Sauce

Okay, so it's not beautiful.  But it is tasty!
Okay, so it’s not beautiful. But it is tasty!

This ‘recipe’ came from some end-note suggestions at the end of this recipe over at Smitten Kitchen. (By the way, make the Smashed Chickpea Salad? Yes, you should.) Again, adjust ingredient amounts as desired.

Ingredients:

  • About 1/4 cup or so of tahini
  • One clove garlic, minced or crushed
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Mix all ingredients together. Thin with water to reach desired consistency.

What are your favorite pita fillings?

Welcome!

SplitShire-6788

Hi there! Welcome to Taking Little Bites, which I intend to be my little corner of the web to write about some topics that are of interest to me…and hopefully you as well!

The title Taking Little Bites reflects both the stage of life I’m in at the moment, in the care for and feeding of a small kiddo, and being as intentional as possible with my time.

Here are a few things about me:

I’m the mom of a very active toddler preschooler that keeps me on my toes, and I have recently transitioned to being a stay-at-home mom for the time being. (If anyone comes up with an appropriate term other than this SAHM moniker, please feel free to share, since there is a lot more to the job than just ‘staying at home.’)

I love food, and I love to cook and experiment in the kitchen. At the same time, the addition of a small person to our household means whenever possible, I am trying to keep things simple.

I’m also very much interested in how our outlook in terms of food, weight, and body image is impacted by societal values, and I am interested in exploring how this affects how we raise our kids and in particular how we feed them.

In short, I hope this blog will chronicle the challenges and everyday adventures in keeping our family fed, keeping myself fed , and having some fun with it along the way.

You might expect to find posts relating to…

  • Keeping perspective on food, feeding and respect for all sizes in a world that often encourages just the opposite.
  • How becoming a mom has changed my outlook and approach to food and cooking
  • Kitchen and cooking tips I’ve found useful
  • Meal and snack ideas and (hopefully!) inspiration
  • Kitchen adventures wherein I try out a new cooking project
  • Keeping up with a house and kiddo and how they relate to meal planning and feeding

You will probably not find…

  • Posts on achieving ‘balance’ or preaching on the perfect way to cook, organize or parent. I love reading ideas posted by other bloggers and finding inspiration in what has worked for them. I love to write and I would like to share some of my own experiences and ideas here. However, they are just that – my own! Everyone needs to do what works best for their own lives, families and resources and I hope that message is reflected here.
  • Perfect photos. This is not strictly a food blog per se, and I am not a professional photographer. Just someone learning as they go and getting a feel for the blog thing! I’m on a learning curve with photos and will probably be for some time.

Having said all that, stay tuned! I’ll be updating with my first ‘official’ post in the next week or so.