- Have your ingredients at least at room temperature, don’t put cold meats into your cooker, in order for it to cook more evenly.
- For best flavor, think braise. Sear the meat. Then sear the mirepoix (roughly chopped aromatic vegetables such as carrots, celery and onions.) Deglaze your pan with some flavorful liquid, being sure to scape up all the browned bits. Use this liquid as part of your cooking liquid. This is a good step if you want to use wine in your liquid because sometimes the alcohol doesn’t evaporate as well as it does in stovetop cooking and can give your dish an off taste.
- If you are cooking meat and vegetables (as a good braiser should) don’t plan to serve the vegetables as they may be quite mushy. Either add whole vegetables late in the cooking process or cook them separately. But don’t waste your mirepoix. If you have an immersion blender, simply remove the meat and puree the vegetables with the juices. You will have a more substantial and flavorful sauce. Actually the cooking of vegetables requires some thought. Since vegetables take longer to cook in a slow cooker it is usually recommended to place the vegetables under the meat. But if you are cooking on the high setting for less than about 4 hours, they may not get done.
- For even more flavor, try putting a few ginger snaps (yes, I mean cookies) in when you start. By the end of cooking they will have melted into the sauce, adding both flavor and texture.
- Remember that many dishes, especially soups and stews, will taste better the next day, when flavors have had time to meld and mature. This can be quite helpful if you know you will need a really quick meal. Just slow cook it a day or two ahead, refrigerate, then reheat just to serving temperature as needed.
- Try to open the lid as little as possible. Every time you do you release the steam and cause the temperature in the cooker to drop, which means it will take a little longer to cook your dish.
- Understand the temperature settings. The final cooking temperature will be the same or nearly so regardless of whether you set on High or Low, but it will take considerably longer to reach that temperature on Low. So if you want the dish to cook faster use High, if you want it to take longer use Low. Since one of the main reasons for using the slow cooker is to be able to start a dish, then leave for an extended period of time, the Low setting is the most used. Many recipes give a time for both High and Low temperatures.
- The slow cooker can be used for many types of dishes other than soups, stews, and braises. Although we haven’t tried it yet there are recipes for cooking pizza, bread, brownies, baked potatoes and many others. One of the main appeals of all slow cooking is that they don’t involve heating up an oven-which can be a great feature in the summer. We will be exploring these other dishes, so expect a further report on slow cooking at a later date. We’ll let you know what works and what is not worth bothering with.
As always—The prices given are for the Prescott area, prices elsewhere may vary. Fry’s and Safeway require a card to receive these prices, Sprouts uses no card and always has double ad Wednesdays, when this week’s and last week’s ad prices apply. Both Safeway and Fry’s have online coupon programs, and some deals require you have an online account. Those are not featured here.
Organic, 6 0z
WOW! Whole Chickens and Leg Quarters
Bone in, Leg Quarters, Jumbo Pack
Fresh, bone in
Chicken tenders or Thighs
Bone in, Super Value Pack
Chuck Roast, Bone in
or Chuck steaks, Family Pack
London Broil, boneless
Fry’s Buy 6 get $3 off
Prices shown are after discount, must buy in multiples of 6 to get price
$.99/each—Campbells Chunky Soup or Hormel Chili, select varieties
$.49/each—Del Monte tomatoes or American Beauty Pasta, select varieties
$.49/each—Snapple or Kraft Macaroni and cheese (single serve cups), select varieties
$1.99/each—Almond Milk, Blue Diamond brand, 64 fl oz, select varieties
$1.99/each—Doritos corn chips or Wheat Thins crackers, select varieties
$2.49/each—Cereal or Granola, Nature’s Path, select varieties
$.88/lb—Red Seedless Grapes
$1.99/pkg—Mini Sweet Peppers, 1 lb
$1.25/lb—Navel Oranges, jumbo
$1.99/pkg—Grape Tomatoes, 10 oz
$2.99/bag—Russet Potatoes, 10 lb bag
Meat and Seafood
Meat and Seafood Service Case—All items 25% off—Pries Marked Reflect Savings
$3.49/lb pkg—Chicken, Denmark, ground 1 lb packages
$.99/lb—Chicken, Heritage Farm brand, leg quarters
Buy One get 2 free—Chicken, boneless breasts or thighs
$1.79/lbj—Pork, shoulder roast, bone in, whole-in-bag
$2.49/lb—Pork, Shoulder steaks or Country Style ribs
Other good deals
$1.88/dz—Eggs, Simple Truth, Cage Free
$1.99/pkg—Smoked Sausage, Hillshire Farm, 12-14 oz, select varieties
$40/each—Yogurt, Kroger, 6 oz, select varieties.
$2.99/each—Laundry detergent, All, 32-50 oz, select varieties
$1/each—Banquet Dinners or Michelins Entrees, frozen 4.8-11.8 oz, select varieties
$1/each—A wide variety of items like canned beans and vegetables, Hamburger buns, Fage Greek yogurt, and Jell-O, watch for shelf tags saying 10 for $10 (only you don’t need to buy 10)
$.87/each—Potatoes, Russet, 5 lb bag
$1.69/lb—Cara Cara Oranges
$.99/lb—Onions, Yellow or White
$1.69/lb—Organic Bunched Broccoli or Cauliflower
$2.99/lb—Beef, Top Sirloin steak, boneless, family pack
$1.77/lb—Pork, Sirloin Roasts, half or whole, in bag
$1.29/lb—Ham, Cooks, shank portion, bone in
$3.99/lb—Chicken Breast, Open Nature, boneless/skinless, antibiotic & hormone free, value pack
Other Good Deals
$2/each—Chocolate, Lindt Excellence bars Godiva Bars or Dessert Truffles, Werther’s Original
$1.99/each—Shamrock Farms sour cream or cottage cheese, select varieties
$1.99/each—Doritos or Sun Chips, select varieties, limit 4
$1.99/each—Nature’s Own bread and buns, select varieties
Click it or Clip it Coupons
$.99/each—Lucerne AA eggs, 1 dozen, limit 4
$2.49/each—Lunch Meat, Hormel Natural Choice, select varieties, limit 4
$1.99/each—Ball Park Franks, limit 4
$.88/each—Iceberg head lettuce, limit 2
$.98/lb—Pears-Bartlett, D”Anjou, Red—Mangoes, red—Papayas, Maradol,
$.98/lb—Broccoli Crowns, Cauliflower
$.98/each—Organic Celery, Organic Red Beets, Organic Baby Peeled Carrots
$1/ 3lb—Russet Potatoes
$.88/lb—Roma Tomatoes, Green Beans
$2.99/lb—Chicken, Gourmet marinated Pollo Asado
$2.99/lb—Chicken, ground, gourmet
$4.99/lb—Beef, London Broil, all natural, Arizona grown
$7.99/lb—Beef, Flank Steaks, all natural, Arizona grown
$3,99/lb—Ground Beef, fresh, pasture raised in the USA
$1.99/lb—Pork, Shoulder steaks or Country Style ribs, fresh-never frozen, premium-pork
Other Good Deals
25% off Bulk Trail Mix, over 25 varieties and Dates, select varieties
BOGO—Westbrae Organic Beans, buy one get one free
$2.50/dz—Eggs, Sprouts Brand, Cage Free or Omega-3
$1.29/each—Bread, Fresh Baked French. 15 oz
$3.29/each—Bread, Irish Soda, 17 oz
$4.99/lb—Cheese, Imported Swiss, cut in Deli
$2.50/each—Frozen Sprouts brand organic potato bites, select varieties
Slow Cooker Coq au Vin
3 to 4 pounds of bone in chicken pieces such as leg quarters, thighs, breasts or “cut up chicken”
4 strips good quality thick cut bacon, chopped (try scissors to cut it up)
3-4 Tablespoons olive oil
8 oz Whole Crimini mushrooms, 1/2 chopped, 1/2 thick sliced
1 1/2 cups cut up aromatic vegetables such as onions, carrots, celery, fennel. If you are planning to cook on High, you will need to cut up the vegetables quite small, or plan to finish cooking when you reduce the liquid at the end. Or if you are cooking on low, cut larger pieces so they won’t get too mushy. Use more vegetables if you desire, or add vegetables to the cooking liquid when you are reducing it. It is good to cut and prepare all the vegetables now so you won’t be pressed for time at the end.
a package of frozen pearl onions (optional)
6 roasted mini sweet peppers, stems and seeds remove, halved (optiona
2 or 3 cloves of garlic (cut off root end, remove skin, cut lengthwise and smash flat)
1 1/2 cups good quality red wine, zinfandel or other hearty type. Don’t use anything you wouldn’t drink. This is important because the wine is a major part of the flavor of this dish.
1/2 cup home made chicken stock, or store bought stock, or even water
salt and pepper to taste
Pre heat your slow cooker by setting to low while you sear the chicken and vegetables.
In a skillet large enough to hold all your chicken pieces without crowding. (A heavy skillet not coated with non-stick material works best for this, a non-stick pan will not caramelize the meat and vegetables as well.) Heat up 1 or 2 Tablespoons olive oil, enough to coat the bottom. Add bacon pieces and cook on low/medium heat until they are crispy—remove and set aside. Increase heat to medium high, add chicken pieces, skin side down. Sear until browned, turn over and sear the other side. If you have too many pieces to do at one time without crowding, do in batches. Remove chicken pieces to a plate.
Now sear the vegetables including garlic and chopped mushrooms. Add the wine and stock or other liquid and cook scraping up as much as possible of the browned bits on the bottom. This will take about 5 minutes, you want most of the alcohol in the wine to evaporate, otherwise you may find it gives the dish sharp, off flavor. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remember that the wine will strengthen the salty flavor. The salt from the bacon may be enough.
Now arrange the vegetables in the bottom of the slow cooker insert. Add the reserved bacon. Place the chicken pieces over them, in one layer if possible. If there are too many, it is better to overlap or place slightly on edge than to make more layers, but that will work also if you have to. Now pour the liquid over, being sure to scrape out all the flavor filled brown bits.
Place the lid on the cooker, set your time and heat, and go do something fun.
The amount of time will depend partly on the size of the chicken pieces and mostly on the heat setting. Chicken does not take nearly as long as beef or pork, and you don’t want it to fall totally to shreds. For thighs, on High, about 2 hours; on Low about 3.5 to 4 hours. For leg quarters or large breasts, on High, about 2.5 hours; on Low about 4 to 5 hours. If you want it to take more time and your cooker has this feature, use somewhat less time at Low and have it go automatically to Warm for up to an hour. Not more than one hour, though as chicken can deteriorate rapidly if not kept hot enough. When the chicken is tender and no longer pink on the inside it is done.
Now, take the chicken and vegetables out of the liquid, arrange on a platter. Place the liquid in a pot or skillet and cook at medium heat to reduce to the thickness you desire. Now is the time to add more salt and pepper if you think it needs it. The sauce should be thick enough coat the chicken, not runny. Add some carrot sticks, potato cubes and/or the optional pearl onions if you want more vegetables. Remove these vegetables when they are crisp/tender and add to the platter. While the sauce is reducing, sautée the remaining mushroom slices in olive oil. Spoon some of the sauce over the chicken on the platter and pass the rest in a gravy boat. Scatter the mushrooms and roasted sweet peppers (if using) over the platter.
Serve with crusty french bread and a good red wine. A wonderful meal for a cold snowy day.
This is really not as complicated as it looks. The prep work takes about 1/2 hour. The cooking time is your choice. The finishing time is about 15 to 20 minutes. The results are delicious. You could of course streamline by leaving out the searing and using a roux to thicken the sauce, but it won’t have the same complexity and depth.
Slow Cooker Cheesy Enchilada Quinoa
- 1 lb cooked chicken breast (or: cooked ground turkey, beef, pork)
- 1 and 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa
- 1 can (15 ounces) black beans
- 1 cup frozen corn
- 1 can (10 ounces) diced tomatoes and green chilies
- 1/2 cup salsa
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/2 cup onion
- 1/2 cup sweet bell peppers I used orange
- 1 cup water
- 1 can (19 ounces) red enchilada sauce*
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 2 cups cheddar or Mexican cheese
- 1/3 cup fresh cilantro chopped
- Optional: 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, sour cream, green onions, 1 small jalapeño, sliced black olives
- In a large skillet, cook the ground turkey until browned through. Drain out any grease and place in the slow cooker.
- Add in the uncooked quinoa (make sure to rinse first), the black beans (drained and rinsed), the frozen corn, the diced tomatoes and green chilies (do not drain), the salsa (I used medium), and minced garlic.
- Chop up the onion and sweet bell pepper into small pieces. Add to the slow cooker. If desired chop up a jalopeno and add it too.
- Add in the water, enchilada sauce (I used mild, but use whatever you like best), chili powder, and cumin.
- Stir everything together really well. Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for 3 to 3 and 1/2 hours or until the liquid is all absorbed into the mixture.
- Once it is done cooking, remove the lid and stir everything again.
- If desired add in the fresh lime juice and stir.
- Top with the cheese and fresh cilantro (stems removed and chopped).
- Add a dollup of sour cream and some chopped green onions if desired.
- **If you want to make these into more of traditional enchiladas: warm up the tortillas, spread some cheese on one side, a large spoonful of the mixture on top of the cheese, and more cheese on top of the mixture. Roll it up and top with more salsa or enchilada sauce. Add sour cream, green onions, and cilantro if desired.
*For the enchilada sauce either use one large can (19 ounces) or two smaller cans (10 ounces each). You can leave out the meat and substitute another can of beans for a vegan option. Obviously, use your preference for cheese and sour cream substitutes.