• November 26, 2014

Slow cook warm meals during winter

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Posted: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 4:30 am

Slow cookers are wonderful for making warm meals in winter.

Throw a few ingredients in the pot, turn it on low, head to work and come home to a hot meal.

Cooking doesn’t get much easier than that.

A lot of people tell me they don’t know how to cook.

With a slow cooker, few culinary skills are necessary.

If you can chop an onion and some other vegetables, open cans, use a measuring cup and follow directions, you’re pretty much guaranteed to make an edible, slow-cooked meal.

Start with soup

Soups are a great place to start.

While the list of ingredients can be long, there’s usually not much else involved beyond chopping and stirring when you cook in a slow cooker.

And if you don’t like or want to chop, commonly used veggies — such as onions and carrots — can be purchased prechopped in the frozen food section at most grocery stores.

I will caution that using frozen veggies in a recipe can take a little longer to cook if they’re frozen when you throw them in the pot.

This split-pea soup with ham makes a filling dinner when served with a fresh salad and a hunk of warm bread.

If you don’t want to mess with a ham hock, you can substitute diced ham or leave it out entirely for a vegetarian soup.

I’ve also made it without ham, but added chicken stock instead of water to boost the flavor of the soup.

SPLIT-PEA SOUP

Makes 6 to 8 servings

  • 1 smoked ham hock
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 7 cups water
  • 3 cups dried green split peas
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Place ham hock, onions, vinegar and water in slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low for 4 to 8 hours, however much time you have.

 You are essentially making a stock for the soup.

Add the rest of the ingredients. Continue to cook on low for 4 to 6 hours, until the meat is tender and the split peas are soft and disintegrated.

Use a slotted spoon to lift out the ham hock.

Let cool until you can handle it.

Take the meat off the bone, cut it up, and stir it back into the soup.

Check for salt and fish out the bay leaves before serving.

Nutrition per serving (based on 8): 291 calories; 21 grams protein; 49 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams sugar; 2 grams fat; 8 milligrams cholesterol; 222 milligrams sodium; 20 grams dietary fiber.

From “Fix-It and Forget-It” by Phyllis Good (Good Books, 2013)

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