Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Don't heat up the kitchen

I love my slow cooker in the winter because it's always handy for soups and stews and roasts and everything that tastes good when it's cold outside. But I also love it in the summer because it keeps my kitchen cool while at the same time cooking my dinner!

For supper Monday, my family had a deliciously tender turkey breast, thanks to the miracle of a slow cooker. I cook a turkey breast this way quite often because I love the leftovers. The first night, I make hot turkey sandwiches or just serve the turkey with a few side dishes. During the week I make turkey salad at lunch, and by Wednesday or Thursday, we're ready for shredded turkey simmered in my homemade barbecue sauce.

But on Friday night, we dined on Sloppy Joes that cooked only four hours in a slow cooker. Once again, my kitchen didn't have to be heated up.

The Sloppy Joe recipe is one I found online at myrecipes.com. It was originally published in Southern Living three years ago. The recipe had a number of favorable reviews, so I decided to try it, making only a few changes.

This recipe uses not only ground beef but sausage as well. I don't use pork sausage very often, so I substituted turkey sausage. I also cut the brown sugar from 1/4 cup to 2 tablespoons, and, because I'm not a big fan, I used just a teaspoon of chili powder instead of a tablespoon.

I turned the slow cooker to low on the last hour of cooking and would probably cook it on low the entire time the next time I make it, but I seem to think my slow cooker cooks a little too hot. If you're home, just keep an eye on it.

This recipe yields a very thick, very tasty Sloppy Joe. We thought it was very good. My husband had seconds and ate another sandwich for lunch the next day. My son, Robert, sprinkled grated mozzarella cheese on his and said it was a good addition.

Robert goes back to college in a few weeks. He asked me over the weekend if I could make some of his favorite foods before he leaves. He said I'd been needing my Crockpot! I've included some of his favorites that would work well in this hot summer weather.

Slow-cooker Sloppy Joes
  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 (16-oz.) package ground pork sausage*
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 medium-size green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 (8-oz.) can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 8 hamburger buns, toasted
Brown beef and sausage with onion and bell pepper in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring 10 minutes or until beef and sausage crumble and are no longer pink. Drain well.

Place beef mixture in a 4 1/2-quart slow cooker. Stir in tomato sauce and next 9 ingredients. Cover and cook on HIGH 4 hours. Serve on hamburger buns.

Cooktop Method: Proceed with recipe as directed in Step 1, returning drained beef mixture to Dutch oven. Stir in tomato sauce and next 8 ingredients, omitting flour. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes.

Prep: 15 min., Cook: 45 min.

Note: To freeze leftover Sloppy Joe mixture, let cool completely. Place in zip-top plastic freezer bags; lay bags flat, and stack in freezer. Freeze up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in the fridge, or defrost in the microwave.

Mandy Fugate, Orange City, Florida, Southern Living, April 2007

*Note: I used turkey sausage, and cut brown sugar to 2 tablespoons and chili powder to 1 teaspoon.

Slow Cooker Macaroni and Cheese
  • 8 oz. box (2 cups) elbow macaroni (uncooked)
  • 8 oz. light Velveeta, cut into cubes*
  • 4 cups milk (I used 1 percent.)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Pour all ingredients into slow cooker and mix until combined. (I use a disposable, slow cooker liner to make for a very easy clean up. They are sold on the aisle with oven cooking bags.)

For best results, cook on low for 3 hours and high for 1 hour. If possible, mix every hour to keep from sticking. If you won’t be at home while it cooks, it will do fine without stirring and cooked on low for maybe 5 hours. I used to cook this on high for 4 hours but found it works best cooking slower.

* When I cannot find an 8 oz. light Velveeta. I cut the 16 oz. in half and save the other half for up to several weeks in the refrigerator.

Slow Cooker Turkey Breast
  • Thawed turkey breast (make sure it’s a size that will fit your slow cooker*)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Place turkey breast in slow cooker. Be sure to remove the giblet or turkey bag if there is one. Do not add water to the slow cooker; it will make plenty of broth, I promise. Cook on low all day, around 8 hours. Don’t open lid while cooking.

*If the turkey breast is a little bit too tall and the lid won’t completely close when you place it in your slow cooker, don’t be too worried. When the breast starts to cook, it will shrink, and the lid will close.

Dilly Beef Sandwiches
  • 1 boneless beef chuck roast or beef bottom round (3 to 4 pounds)
  • 1 jar (16 ozs.) whole dill pickles, undrained
  • 1/2 cup chili sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (I omitted)
  • 10 to 12 hamburger rolls, split
Cut roast in half and place in a slow cooker. Add pickles with juice, chili sauce* and garlic. Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours or until beef is tender. Discard pickles. Remove roast.
When cool enough to handle, shred the meat. Return to the sauce and heat through. Using a slotted spoon, fill each bun with about 1/2 cup meat mixture.

Yields 10 to 12 servings.

*Note: You will find the chili sauce near the ketchup in your grocery store.


  1. We love all of these recipes I got from you! Will have to try the Sloppy Joes next! Jill

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