Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Classic Crock Pot Cooking

There comes a time in one’s life that you realize that you have become a “grown-up.” A few years ago I realized this when the first item on my Christmas list was not a purse, not make-up, not even a gift card to Nordstrom, but rather - a Crock Pot. At the time I had come to the conclusion that a Crock Pot was the one item I needed to turn me into a cook – and fast. You see, while I have an obvious love for food – the cooking part does not really follow. As I share Savory Salvations with friends I occasionally get questions like “So what is your favorite thing to make?” “What is in your pantry?” This is often followed by silence… Then sounds of crickets… I then explain to them that I am not a cook. I am an eater.
My cooking repertoire consists of the following:
1) Fish and vegetables
2) Spaghetti and meat sauce
3) Spaghetti without meat sauce
4) Migas, a Mexican dish consisting of corn tortillas and eggs

That about sums it up. Now despite my lack of interest in expanding my limited range in the cooking arena, I happen to have the most fully stocked kitchen you have ever seen! My mother loves to cook - and does so quite masterfully. She always made sure my sister and I had everything we needed in our home – especially in the kitchen. I once had a friend marvel, “You have a lot of swag” as he scanned my kitchen, reviewing all the equipment and gadgets that stocked my kitchen, followed by “But you don’t cook.” Guilty as charged. Like most working adults, most of my days are spent at work which means at least two of my meals are consumed outside of the home.

It is easy to eat on the go and our work cafeteria is a great option for me. There is a wide variety of food choices and purchasing items that are deemed healthy hold incentives including less expensive pricing. I try as often as possible to purchase these items for the health benefits and also to reduce my expense. Conveniently enough we also have the option to charge our meals to future paychecks. As a result I typically see an average of about $45  deducted from my check. My teammates at work have often heard me rant about my bills seem to grow as time goes on – and each week we all vow to begin bringing our own lunches. Did I mention this conversation occurs almost weekly? In other words – most of us end up trapped in the vicious cycle of buying our food out.

During one of these conversations my co-worker gave me the most genius and practical idea I could’ve asked for. With his British accent he posed a valid question: “Why don’t you cook something in the crock pot on Sundays and then bring it for the week?” My mind raced to my Crock Pot, the cookbooks my mom had bought me, and my past attempts to become a cook with my nifty little slow cooker by my side. Genius. So for the past few weeks I have followed my friend’s advice and I must say – I can make a meal just as healthy and delicious as what I can buy at work. The cook in me does exist! Clearly – my motivation here is saving money as well. I have found that on average, my Crock Pot meals cost an average of 15 dollars for ingredients and can last up to 4 days (depending on my appetite). 

On average my purchased meals at work are about $6 a pop with a serving of a healthy protein (usually fish) and vegetables. My day job as an analyst leads my mind to fantasizing about just how much I can save bi-weekly, monthly, even annually! In my mind’s eye I see my savings going up, up and up while my paychecks get bigger and bigger! Okay so maybe I exaggerate slightly but the fact remains that I must thank my dear co-worker for his great suggestion. It has given this single working girl a good excuse to get in the kitchen, spend minimal time on preparation and maximum enjoyment of a healthy and inexpensive home cooked meal.

A little history on the Crock Pot you ask? It came about in the early 70’s with perfect timing. The energy crisis swept America forcing major lifestyle changes as far as energy consumption. The Crock Pot was low energy and high efficiency and allowed the working mother to have the family dinner ready with minimal effort. Clean up is a cinch and it offers healthy benefits as well cooking vegetables, rice and lean meats to perfection.

Story & Photos by L. Carpenter