To make this cold weather a little more bearable for those of us who are warm-weather minded, I hope you are utilizing your favorite soup/stew recipes. A good solution for individuals who are time-restricted, nutrition-conscious and budget-minded is the slow cooker.
For the most part, all one has to do is place the ingredients in the slow cooker, plug it in and turn it on. However, if important food safety is ignored, food prepared in a slow cooker could cause illness.
The Food Safety and Inspection Service offers the following tips for safe slow cooking:
- Always start with clean hands, cooker, utensils and work area.
- Refrigerate perishable foods until preparation time. You can chop meat and vegetables in advance, but they must be stored separately in covered containers in the refrigerator.
- Use only thawed meat or poultry.
- Do not place large pieces of meat. Otherwise, the food will cook so slowly that it could stay in the danger zone too long (for bacterial growth).
- Fill the cooker between 1/2 and 2/3 full. Root vegetables such as carrots and potatoes cook slower than meat or poultry so place them on the bottom, add the meat and then cover with liquid.
- Don’t peek! Every time the lid is removed, it can take 20 minutes to regain the lost heat.
- If you are not home during the entire slow-cooking process and the power goes out, throw out the food, even if it looks done!
The following is a quick, easy and healthier version of cheesy chicken spaghetti.
CROCKPOT CHEESY CHICKEN SPAGHETTI
- 16 oz. dry spaghetti, cooked
- 1 lb. Velveeta Light Cheese
- 12.5 oz. can chicken breast, drained and flaked
- 1 (98% fat free) can cream of mushroom soup
- 1 (98% fat free) can cream of chicken soup
- 10 oz. can diced tomatoes and green chilies (Rotel)
- 4 oz. can mushroom stems and pieces, drained
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 medium green pepper, diced
- Salt and pepper to taste
Spray slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray. Combine all ingredients in slow cooker and stir to mix well. Cook on low for 2 to 3 hours. Stir again just before serving.
Serves 12 (one cup each).
For information on slow cooking, call 940-627-3341.
Tanya Davis is a Wise County Extension agent.