The days are becoming noticeably colder and shorter, and with autumn in full swing, what’s better than a delicious, warm meal on a chilly day? While it may take a little planning ahead, slow cookers are a convenient option that make warm meals easy. Haven’t used a slow cooker in a while? Refresh your knowledge with these points from the United States Department of Agriculture:
- Slower cookers are safe. The direct heat from the pot, plus the long cooking and steam created by the tightly covered cooker create an environment that destroys bacteria, making slow cookers safe for cooking foods.
- Always thaw meat or poultry before putting into a slow cooker. Large cuts of meat and poultry can be safely cooked in a slow cooker, but because slow cookers come in different sizes, read your slow cooker’s instruction booklet to learn more about its suggested sizes for cooking cuts of meat and poultry.
- Make foods with a high moisture content. If cooking meat, cover with the amount of liquid your recipe suggests. This might include liquids like broth, water, or barbecue sauce.
- Remember, vegetables cook slower than meat and poultry, so put the vegetables in first.
- If possible, turn the cooker on to the highest setting for the first hour, then turn to low or the setting called for in the recipe. If you’re in a hurry and won’t be around to change the settings, it’s safe to cook foods on low the entire time but this will likely increase the amount of time the food needs to cook.
- Be sure to keep the lid in place. Removing the lid allows heat to escape and increases the cooking time.
- Food cooking in the slow cooker will stay safe once it is done as long as the cooker is operating.
- Store leftovers in shallow, covered containers and refrigerate within two hours after cooking is finished. Leftovers should be reheated to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Looking for a new slow cooker recipe? The meatless lasagna recipe below is easy to assemble and even easier to cook, while still as hearty as can be. The equipment needed to make this recipe includes a slow cooker (6-7 quart), cutting board, measuring cups, and a knife. The recipe makes eight one-cup servings. Find more recipes like this at CelebrateYourPlate.org
Veggie Crockpot Lasagna
- Non-stick spray
- 2 24-ounce jars or cans of tomato sauce
- 9 lasagna noodles, uncooked
- 32 ounces ricotta or cottage cheese
- 3-4 cups fresh vegetables, chopped (kale, onion, carrots, and zucchini) OR 2, 12-ounce bags frozen vegetables
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella OR provolone cheese
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1. Before you begin, wash your hands, surfaces, utensils, produce, and tops of cans.
2. Spray slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray.
3. Spread 1/2 cup tomato sauce on bottom of the slow cooker.
4. Break noodles to fit and cover tomato sauce in the slow cooker.
5. Layer 1/3 of ricotta OR cottage cheese, veggies, sauce, and shredded mozzarella OR provolone cheese.
6. Add another layer of noodles and repeat layering ingredients two more times for a total of three complete layers. End with a layer of noodles on top.
7. Top with parmesan cheese.
8. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours or on low for 5-6 hours. Turn slow cooker off completely and let the lasagna cool for one hour.
Sara Meeks is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Program Assistant and may be reached at 330-264-8722.
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