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Posts Tagged ‘Slow cooker’

We love a big warm bowl of hearty oatmeal for breakfast in our house. Apparently so do lots of other people, as I’ve made it a few times, with a large assortment of toppings set out, for brunch company and it’s been a MAJOR hit. As in, more people ate oatmeal than French toast. What?! I’ve seen some recipes for oatmeal cooked overnight in a slow cooker floating around Pinterest and decided to try it for our Christmas morning with my in-laws. I figured a bowl of warm oatmeal and a mimosa would tide everyone over through present opening til we sat down for brunch.

I loved this recipe for Overnight Oatmeal from Alton Brown. I used half almond milk and half water, for a subtle rich nutty flavor. The dried cherries were AMAZING…they got really plump and juicy. I set my slow cooker to 8 hours the first time, and thought the oats got a bit too mushy. I tried 6 hours next , after which the slow cooker switched to ‘keep warm’ mode, and they were better. I will next try having the timer delay cooking until they can cook for 6 hours and not keep warm for long, and I think that might be the winner!

The flexibility you gain by using the slow cooker makes this a great recipe for overnight guests or for rushed weekday mornings. Set out some of our favorite toppings (cream, brown sugar, maple syrup, fresh berries, walnuts) and people will be very satisfied.

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I’ve been excited about making spaghetti and meatballs sauce for a few days, because I was planning to make my sauce in the slow cooker.  My mom never used a slow cooker so I’m new to this technique, and have been experimenting with it for the past year or so.  I thought this would be a great way to make tomato sauce since ‘real’ Italian tomato sauce/ragu is supposed to cook slowly for hours and hours.  I cooked mine for 6 hours today and I think I’m sold on this new method!  I think it could have cooked even longer – actually, the remainder is still bubbling away – and only get better. 

I don’t follow a specific recipe for tomato sauce; my mom uses my Aunt Sarah’s recipe which is basically sauteed onions and garlic,  mixed with spices, tomato sauce and tomato paste.  I start with that base and then throw in anything interesting from the fridge or spices that sound good to me that day.  I put a LOT of spices in this one – dried basil, oregano, thyme and herbes de provence, plus chopped fresh basil and parsley (leftovers I had on hand).  I seasoned it generously with salt, pepper and sugar (sugar breaks down the acid in tomatoes).  In fact, I overseasoned it with all those spices, because although it made the house smell delish, it knocked me over when I lifted the lid.  At hour 4 I added more crushed tomatoes and tomato paste to diffuse all that flavor and thicken it up.  The finished product at hour 6 had a great thick consistency.  It tasted just a bit too acidic, I thought, so I think I’ll add a little more sugar next time the next time.

The meatballs, however, were glorious.  I threw seasoned breadcrumbs, an egg and parmesan cheese in with the ground beef and then fried them in olive oil and finished them in the oven for about 10 minutes.  They had a crisp and flavorful crust and made the whole meal.  Yummy!

Slow-cooked Spaghetti and Meatballs

So the final verdict is that the slow cooker is a great way to get a deeper flavor in your tomato sauce, but make sure you add enough sugar to break down the acid and get your spice/tomato balance right from the beginning so it can all cook together the whole 6-8 hours (I’m going for 8 next time…).  It’s worth that extra time – I can’t think of anything cozier than a steaming plate of spaghetti and meatballs on a chilly fall night! 
PS: After adding some sugar and letting the remainder of the sauce cook an additional couple hours after we ate, it mellowed out into a darker, smoother, thicker sauce with a very deep and complex smell and flavor.  8 hours is the way to go, and I don’t think I’ll ever make sauce in a pot again!

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