- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 27, 2007

It’s no secret that slow cookers, which have been around for years, are finding renewed popularity. No wonder. You toss a few ingredients into a pot in the morning and come home to a savory meal.

Phyllis Pellman Good got her first slow cooker 25 years ago, but it took a while for her to appreciate it. For the longest time, the slow cooker sat in the back of the cupboard. Then she realized its worth.

“When I seriously looked at it, I saw the innovations, such as the liftable container. The slow cooker makes so much sense,” says Miss Good, publisher of the best-selling “Fix-It and Forget-It” slow cooker cookbooks.

Meals in the slow cooker eased her hectic dinner preparations.

“Having small children and working, I realized the most pressured moment of the day was the half hour when I got home and got dinner on the table. Everyone was grouchy, hungry and tired,” says Miss Good, with Good Books in Lancaster, Pa.

For many families, having a slow cooker meal is the difference between home cooking and carryout, but what about twosomes? If you’re not cooking for a large family, does it still make sense to use a slow cooker? Yes, Miss Good says. “You have the protein, starch and vegetables in one dish; you don’t have to juggle three dishes.”

If you have leftovers, that’s a plus, according to Miss Good. “Leftovers develop better flavors. A lot of foods freeze well. You can make beef, then slice and shred it to use in sandwiches. You don’t need to use your slow cooker the day of your meal. You can prepare foods in advance, if you prefer,” Miss Good says.

Men who may be kitchen novices enjoy slow cookers as well, since recipes often call for a limited number of ingredients. “The slow cooker is excellent for beginning cooks who don’t have confidence,” Miss Good says.

Cooks with greater skills can try more complex or time-consuming recipes. You can brown meat or onions for richer flavor before adding them to the slow cooker.

The only caveat when using a slow cooker is to fill it about two-thirds full for best functioning. If you’re buying an appliance for a Two’s Company household, Miss Good suggests choosing a three-quart model.

The following recipe for easy lasagna comes from “Fix-It and Forget-It 5-Ingredient Cookbook” (Good Books). Freeze leftovers in single-serving portions.

Quick-‘n’-easy meat-free lasagna

This recipe is by Rhonda Freed of Lowville, N.Y.

1 28-ounce jar spaghetti sauce, your choice of flavors

6 to 7 uncooked lasagna noodles

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

1 15-ounce carton ricotta cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Spread 1/4 of sauce in bottom of slow cooker. Place 2 noodles, broken into 1-inch pieces, over sauce.

In a bowl, mix together 1½ cups mozzarella cheese, the ricotta and Parmesan cheeses.

Spoon half of cheese mixture onto noodles and spread out to edges. Spoon in 3/4 of remaining sauce, and then 2 more broken noodles. Spread remaining cheese mixture over top, then ½ the remaining sauce and all the remaining noodles. Finish with remaining sauce.

Cover and cook on low 3 to 4 hours, or until noodles are tender and cheeses are melted.

Add ½ cup mozzarella cheese and cook until cheese melts. Makes 6 servings.


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