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The Slow Cooker/Crock Pot: It's Like an Easy Bake Oven for Grown-Ups!

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Slow cookers can inspire even the most culinarily challenged cook to create fantastic meals in one pot, with consistent and delicious results. It's like an Easy Bake Oven for grown-ups, making cooking fun and easy. I can't think of an easier way to cook than to toss a bunch of ingredients into one pot, at the same time, put on the lid, turn it on, and walk away. What's more, the web is simply teeming with tried and proven slow cooker recipes for everything from dips to desserts, not to mention the numbers of cook books dedicated to the art of crock pot cooking. A quick search on Amazon for Slow Cooker Cook Books yields a whopping 156 results!

The slow cooker was invented by Irving Naxon with his inspiration coming from stories his mother would tell of growing up in Lithuania. Being unable to cook in the kitchen during the Sabbath, Naxon's grandmother would have uncooked 'cholent', a hearty stew, dropped off at the local bakery on Friday afternoons. The oven at the bakery wasn't used over the Sabbath either but it was hot enough to cook the meal while the oven slowly cooled. At sundown on Saturday, Naxon's mother would be sent to retrieve the warm stew.

Naxon wanted to invent something that would resemble the slow cooking of the cholent in a slow oven and invented the first slow cooker called the Naxon Beanery. The exact date of his invention isn't well documented but Naxon's daughter, Lenore, recalls having a Beanery in their home during the 1950's and '60's. In 1971, Naxon sold his business to Rival Manufacturing and they began selling the convenient appliance under the brand name 'Crock Pot', which is still used as a synonym today.

Upon his death in 1989, Naxon had hundreds of patents in his name, including The Zipper, the scrolling electrical sign seen in New York City's Times Square, but he's perhaps best remembered for his contribution to our kitchens....the humble slow cooker.

The slow cooker uses relatively low temperatures (compared to other cooking methods such as baking, boiling and frying), allowing unattended cooking for many hours for pot roasts, stews, soups, 'boiled' dinners, chilli and other suitable dishes including dips, desserts and beverages.

Slow cookers achieved popularity in the US during the 1970's when women began working outside of the home en masse. According to a report completed by 'Employment and Social Development Canada'' in 2011, almost 62% of Canadian families are dual-income and, as such, the need for easy, inexpensive, nutritional and convenient meals continues. A weeknight dinner cooked on low heat, over several hours, with an aroma that welcomes you home at the end of the day is hard to beat.

There are many advantages to using a slow cooker. The long, moist cooking process is particularly suitable for tough and cheaper cuts of meat and for many slow cooker recipes, those less expensive cuts actually yield better results than more expensive cuts of meat. The low cooking temperature also makes it virtually impossible to burn food even if cooked too long! Food may loose flavour and texture if overcooked, but the combination of low heat, moisture and being covered prevents burning. Cooking in one pot also makes for less dishes to wash and the low cooking temperature and glazed pot makes clean-up a breeze!

A lot of people are wary of leaving an appliance heating in their absence but slow cookers are actually less dangerous than ovens or stove tops due to the low temperature and closed lids. In researching statistics for this blog, I could find no recorded evidence of a house fire having been started due to a slow cooker in the USA or Canada. In addition, today`s slow cookers have come a long way, with most advanced cookers having computerized timing devices, allowing for multiple operations, (ie., 2 hours on high, 2 hours on low, followed by `warm`), and the option of delayed start.

I`ve made several meals using my slow cooker, including Slow Cooker Baked Beans, pork cooked low and slow for pulled pork sandwiches and my Pork and Avocado Burritos, Slow Cooker Beef Stew with Newfoundland Dough Boys, (blog post of June 24/14), and tonight's dinner....Best Ever Slow Cooker Chilli!

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Slow Cooker Baked Beans - on their own or as a side with a Traditional Newfoundland Breakfast of toutons, fried bologna and Cod Cakes, this recipe for baked beans never disappoints and I wouldn't consider making them any other way.

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A slow cooker is one of the best ways to cook pork for pulled pork sandwiches and for my Pork and Avocado Burritos!

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A slow cooker is perfect for making a stew using inexpensive cuts of meat as the long, slow cooking softens conective tissue without toughening up the muscle. Back in June of this year, I blogged about my Slow Cooker Beef Stew with Newfoundland Dough Boys - one of my dad's favorties!

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Tonight's dinner - Best Ever Slow Cooker Chilli. The aroma that fills the house over the course of the day is amazing, and the chilli in the bowl warms the belly and the soul!

With the kids back to school and the seasons changing, we`re all going to have more of those days when everyone`s out the door early in the morning and not all back under the same roof until dinner. You can`t beat a slow cooker meal for convenience, the benefit of a meal cooked low and slow to optimize flavour, without you having to babysit a pot on the stove all day. Best Ever Slow Cooker Chilli....easy, healthied up, inexpensive AND delicious! Give it a try and join the Slow Cooker Generation!

#slowcooker #beef

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