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January 15, 2008

Ode to the Crock Pot

I don't cook.

Sure, there is the microwaved baked potato, the salad from a bag, the occasional spaghetti. But there isn't real cooking going on in my house on a regular (or even semi-annual) basis. My father is a natural gourmet, he can take a can of beans and turn it into a Michelin-rated five star meal. I do not know he he does this. My brothers also got the cooking DNA, they can whip up delightful meals without setting off the fire alarm and having to call out for pizza on Thanksgiving like some people we know.

I have gotten even sloppier about cooking since living alone. One of the best parts about living single is that I don't have to pretend that I am going to cook dinner and be a good wifey. I can just burn a bag of microwave popcorn, pour a glass of wine and call it a night. I've sunk to new lows with my dating skills, too: I once bought a Ralph's grocery store rotisserie chicken and brought that sucker home, put it in a pan, dumped some baby carrots around it and stuck it in the oven AS IF I HAD COOKED IT MYSELF and served it to my date. Like I was Betty Flippin' Crocker.

He said it was the best chicken he'd ever had. I agreed. But the carrots were a tad underdone.

And while my baked-potato-salad routine works for me most of the time, sometimes I find myself in need of more serious nutrition and not really desiring to spend twelve hours in the kitchen preparing it. This is where I begin today's "Ode To A CrockPot."

I actually forgot I had a crock pot! I bought it back when I was married and used to make a mean pot roast. One of the best features of the slow cooker is that it is really quite hard to burn food in it, which seems to be my primary downfall with cooking (I do, however, rock the grill -- mmmm, cook meat on open fire!) but since I moved to my little house in Encino-adjacent, my crock pot has been resting peacefully in a back cabinet. While my friend Drew was here, I was determined to cook at least one meal of decent taste and quality and since he's a really good cook, I figured he could help me with a one-pot dish in the slow cooker.

Well, that one meal was so good that I went out this weekend and bought the same stuff to make the dish all over again just for me! I've been a little under the weather and I need some serious nutrition in my body with about as little effort as possible. This crockpot thing is the BEST invention -- one pot and enough food to feed me for every meal for days. In fact, when I set it to cook overnight it smelled so good in the morning that I had my crockpot meal for breakfast. A little weird maybe, but filling and good and healthy.

You'll need:

crockpot-roots.jpg

Some root veggies -- I bought whatever they had that was organic. Parsnips, carrots in multicolored bunches, celery, leeks, golden beets, onions, garlic and celery. The bananas in the back left of the picture are not for the crockpot. Heh.

And you can't have a meal in my life without some potatoes -- here I'm using red organic baby potatoes and some turnips:

potatoes and turnips

Chop everything roughly and add a layer to the bottom of the crock pot:
crockpot1.jpg

To that I added half a turkey breast:

crockpot2.jpg

I chose the free-range turkey with the bone in and skin on. The skin and bone and marrow provides natural fat and flavor. (My dad would be so proud of me. I said "marrow.") Since I am just feeding me and this whole crockpot of stuff will last me a good five or six or eight meals, I decided to buy the highest quality groceries like organic vegetables and meat that has no hormones or anti-biotics and stuff. Even at Whole Foods prices, my bill came to $26.35, which averages out to about three bucks a meal. NOT BAD!

For flavor, I have garlic and onion and some spices for the turkey, as well as some vegetable broth to add to the crockpot to get everything steaming. You need about a cup of liquid. I added no oil, butter or fat to the dish and trust me it was just fine... and this is coming from a girl who thinks butter is a food group.

crockpot-ingredients.jpg

Then add some more chopped veggies to the top (I keep the leaves on the celery to add even more flavor, I love the way celery tastes!)

crockpot3.jpg


Turn it on high and let it cook for 3-5 hours, depending on the size of the turkey. Drew told me that poultry needs to be heated to an internal temperature of 180 degrees, so I used my meat thermometer to check for doneness. The whole house smelled so good while this was cooking and I didn't even set the smoke alarm off!

I've been eating some crappy food lately and I can tell even just eating junk a few days in a row how my energy level goes way down and my skin starts to look bad and I'm grumpy. I guess I never noticed before how much my body needs real food with decent vitamins and minerals in it. I'm glad I remembered my crockpot! After just a few meals I already feel better and I swear even my skin looks better. I think I could get better with cooking if it were all this easy. So if you have any (easy) crockpot recipes, please share! I like my turkey meal but I don't think I can live on one meal my whole life. I mean really now.

But doesn't this smell YUMMY:

crockpot-cooking.jpg

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm! I didn't take an after picture... I was too busy eating!

Posted by laurie at January 15, 2008 6:25 AM