I don't know if I've told you this yet, but I have five crock pots. Yep, five. They all work just fine, and they're all less than two years old. They're also all different sizes.
You see, before I got married, I had one and only one, and it was a good one. When we were engaged, I didn't put a single crock pot on my wedding registry, because we had one, and who needs more than one?
And then I got three for my wedding. We got a gift reciept with one, so we turned it into some cookie sheets, but that still left us with three large crock pots. I decided to keep two, and hang on to the third, but leave it in it's packaging. Recently, I had need of three large crock pots, so I pulled it out. They are 4 qt, 5 qt, and 6qt, respectively.
Even the smallest is a little big for making dinner for two, so at Christmas time I asked for a small crock pot, the kind you can make two chicken breasts in, and both my mother and husband bought me one, but they were each different sizes too, (2 qt and 3 qt) so now I actually have five different sized slow cookers. Oh boy.
Anyways... I was recently explaining this all to someone, and he said he didn't know how to use a crock pot. It seemed difficult, and exact. I tried to explain how easy and unexact it really is, but then I remembered how I used to feel about them. I was obsessive about having the right amount of liquid in there, afraid it would burn off, and I had to measure everything before it went in. After cooking dozens and dozens of meals in slow cookers, I've got it pretty well figured out. I can guesstimate the average recipe. Granted, I will still follow recipes very carefully for anything that isn't chicken, ground beef or soup.
So, some basic rules of basic slow cooking...
1. Add about half a cup of liquid to a meat. It can be marinade, water, broth, or sauce.
2. You can cook meat in bulk by just adding water, and then freeze portions for other meals.
3. If you are cooking for one meal only, flavour it. It will taste immensely plain if you don't. Spices, barbeque sauce, or a marinade are my favourites.
4. It depends on your slow cooker, but the general rule is Low for 7-8 hours, High for 4-5. If you have the time to put it on low, I suggest you do. It's less likely to burn, and tends to come out more fall-apart-in-your-mouth.
5. There are a million recipes on Pinterest for slow cookers. They can be a bit overwhelming, but if you find a good collection of slow cooker recipes, you can pick your favourite and start experimenting.
6. I suggest slow cooking if you tend to have time during the day, but no time in the hour before you want to eat dinner. I also highly reccomend it if you have a small kitchen, because you just need a square foot of space and a plug-in. Also, it's the second best option (next to barbeque-ing) on hot summer days, because it lets off a lot less heat than your oven or stove.
Okay. So there are my basics. I'm sure I'll share a bunch of slow cooker recipes as we get into summer, so stay tuned.
Oh, and this all came to mind because I made dinner in a crock pot tonight. I dumped two chicken breasts in, added half a jar of leftover spaghetti sauce (with chickpeas and spices) and turned it on low. I think we ate six or seven hours later, and I made rotini for the side. That's how simple dinner can be.