If your Crock-Pot is stuck somewhere in a dark corner of your home -- or maybe you don't even own one -- you might consider it, that's because this is not your grandmother's Crock-Pot; most are now programmable, making dinner even easier to have ready when you get home.
It may surprise you but 20-something-year-old Jake Mumm and his wife rely on a Crock-Pot for quick, easy and budget friendly meals.
"She just throws all the stuff there in the morning and puts it on low, and dinner is ready when she gets home," he said.
And Crock-Pot cooking is not just for stews and soups.
"She can do just about anything -- pork loin, chicken, beef," Mumm said.
And because you can leave the Crock-Pot on for many hours, it's one of Molly Fowler's favorite ways to cook. The self-proclaimed dining diva and chef says the economy has made it popular with young families once again.
"We don't necessarily have to do the Crock-Pot recipes of our mothers and grandmothers," Fowler said.
Frugal moms love it because you cook with less expensive cuts of meats, and usually there is enough food left over for a lunch the next day or to stretch that recipe into another meal.
"You can really get quality ingredients at a very reduced cost, and in comparison, the number of servings you get for the dollar is tremendous," Fowler said.
For those in the market for a new slow cooker, the prices vary from inexpensive like this Crock-Pot from $19.99 up to $279. When it comes to finding a Crock-Pot, Fowler says to look for one with a slow cooker that is programmable.
"It can cook for the appropriate amount of time and it will switch to warm and it will be waiting for you when you get into the door," Fowler said.
When it comes to preparing your food, Fowler says the best time to make dinner is the night before, after you had dinner. For our Crock-Pot recipe, Fowler is making cheeseburger soup. She suggests keeping a weeks worth of chopped vegetables in the fridge to make cooking easy.
After she browns the beef, she puts all the ingredients in the Crock-Pot, sets the timer and she is done. Hours later, cheeseburger soup with all the fixings. The cost of a cheeseburger with french fries at a fast food restaurant is $4; the price of the Crock-Pot meal $1.50 a serving.
The Dining Diva's Crockpot Cheeseburger Soup
1 Tbsp Canola oil or light olive oil
1 lb Ground meat (like lean sirloin 90/10)
½ Medium Onion, diced
2 Stalks Celery, diced
1 Medium Carrot, diced
1 Clove Garlic, minced
¼ Cup All-purpose flour
1½ Cups Milk (whole or 2%)
2 Cups Beef broth (low sodium)
8 oz Tomato sauce
1 Medium Russet potato, diced (about 2 cups)
2 Cups Grated cheese (sharp or mild cheddar)
Salt and pepper to taste
Prepared yellow mustard
Dill pickle relish
Chopped fresh tomatoes
Heat the oil in a nonstick skillet. Add ground meat, and cook until meat begins to brown, breaking it apart as it cooks. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic, and cook until the onion begins to look translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture, stir, and cook about 1 minute. Stir in the milk, and cook until the mixture begins to thicken. Transfer the mixture into the crockpot. Stir in the beef broth, tomato sauce, and the diced potato. Put the lid on the pot, and set it to cook for 4-4.5 hours on low heat.
Before serving, stir in the cheese until the cheese melts. Taste and adjust seasonings. Ladle into bowls and garnish as desired. It is delicious accompanied by lightly toasted hamburger buns cut into quarters. hour