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Jump-Start Dinner

Cooker Caveats

Bacteria have a better chance of growing if food has been partially cooked and then re-refrigerated That's why it's okay to cook onions but not brown meat.

Slow Savvy

You can easily make salad dressings at home in any jar with a tight-fitting lid. The general ratio is one part acid (any vinegar, lemon juice, or lime juice) to three parts oil. Always add your seasoning to the vinegar first and shake it well, because seasoning doesn't dissolve in oil. Add the oil last and shake it again.

Are you stressed just getting out the door on time in the morning, let alone preparing tonight's meal before you leave for work? There's no reason you can't have everything ready to roll the night before—but be careful.

It's fine to cut all the vegetables and measure all the ingredients beforehand, but don't layer them in the slow cooker until just before you turn it on. It's fine to do steps like sautéing the onions and garlic, but don't brown the meat. And keep the meat or poultry separate from the vegetables for food safety until you put them into the slow cooker.

Serve-Alongs

The main part of dinner is set as soon as you turn on the slow cooker in the morning. But it's nice to have a few crunchy things as a textural contrast to the silky soft stew your slow cooker will cook.

A tossed green salad is a great start to any stew dinner. Pick a dressing that's in the same flavor family as the stew. For example, if you're serving a French or Italian stew, a vinaigrette dressing is always a good choice. If the stew is Mexican, add a bit of cumin to the dressing. And if it's Asian, use soy sauce instead of salt.

Along with a tossed salad, bread is always welcome. Once again, tie it to the theme of the meal. If it's a Mexican dish, serve heated flour or corn tortillas instead of bread.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Slow Cooker Cooking © 2003 by Ellen Brown. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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