Before moving on to other topics this month, I’d like to share some ideas about the best appliance to cook budget-friendly meals. The best answer would be “it depends.” The Asian community would certainly prefer a wok because it is so versatile. Others would choose a frying pan over gas heat or casserole dish in an oven. My preference would be to use the slow cooker, which is not commonly used in many parts of the world. So why would I want to use it? I like soup and casseroles and these can be cooked easily in a slow cooker. I can set it and forget it. But there’s more to it than that.
In the next few weeks, will be talking a lot more about using slow cookers because we going to start using them in the senior center. Why is this a good choice?
Five reasons to use a slow cooker:
- Slow cookers use very little energy. If you use an oven you need to heat up a huge space. If you use an electric range top, it takes a lot of energy just to get it hot enough to cook and then when you turn it off it’s still hot so the energy is wasted.
- Vegetables have a lower nutritional value when they are allowed to boil. Slow cookers are designed to gradually bring temperatures up to 168° to 200°. Since they never reach boiling temperatures they will lose fewer nutrients.
- Budget-friendly cuts of meat will become tenderized during the long, slow cooking process.
- When using a digital slow cooker, you can start the cooker in the morning before work. It will automatically switch to warm setting when it reaches the proper temperature or your preset time. So it will stay warm until you get home from work and be ready to eat
- You can relax because you won’t burn the pot if you get too busy to tend to the kitchen. With the slow cooker you don’t have to watch the food while it is cooking.
If you are trying to cook with a limited budget, slow cooked and one skillet meals will save you a lot of money. If you’re in a hurry to have dinner the one skillet meals are a good choice. If you have a lot of time and don’t want to go through a lot of fuss to prepare dinner, slow-cooked meals are your best bet. Here is a meal prepared with a slow cooker that we put together for under $10 for six people.
The centerpiece of this meal is a spicy lentil & sausage stew. This is the Ferndale Food Bank’s October meal of the month.
- The recipe for lentil stew is found below; $3.60 feeds 6
- The usual green salad’s $1.50 without fruit of nut.
- Grapes lathered and yogurt are on sale totaling $2.50 .
- Day-old harvest bread was $2.00 a loaf.
- So the total for this meal is $9.60.
- There’s a little leftover to put fruit in the water glasses.
- 1 cup washed lentils
- 1/2 pound ground sausage (or two links Polish sausage)
- one small onion chopped
- two carrots washed and sliced
- two stocks celery cleaned and bias cut
- one clove garlic chopped
- 1 tablespoon chicken flavored better than bouillon
- 3 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon each, cumin, paprika, oregano.
- 2 cups finely chopped kale, (Swiss chard, or spinach)
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- Brown the ground sausage in hot oil, (or cut the sausage links into 1/2" pieces
- Add vegetables to the sausage and cook until the onions are soft .
- *Crock Pot Method: Add all ingredients to the pot except the green spinach, chard, or kale
- Cover with the water. add chicken bouillon and heat until just comes to a boil
- Turn the heat down to simmer 1 hour on high or 2 hours on low
- When the carrots begin to soften, add the greenn veggies and vinsgar. Cook until they are done.
- After sauteing, add water and bouillon to vegetables and sausage.
- Add the spices & bring the mixture to a boil then lower the heat and continue simmering for 30 minutes.
- Add the green vegetables, cook for another 30 minutes and serve
- The spice mix gives this stew a Tex-Mex flavor. Substitute our Cajun, Asian and Mediterranean spice mixes for different tastes.