Last week, I wanted to make lamb stew in my slow cooker, but I was late getting started. So I put a couple of inches of water in the slow cooker and turned it on, to get the heat going. Meanwhile, I heated more water in my electric hot pot.
Next I seasoned, dredged and floured the lamb and browned it in olive oil in a skillet. When the lamb was nicely golden, I transferred the pieces to the slow cooker. I added some of the now-boiling water from the hot pot into the skillet, scraping up all the tasty browned bits, and poured that into the slow cooker. Finally, I added more boiling water from the hot pot to cover the meat. Once I had the meat simmering, I could take my time prepping the veggies.
By preheating the slow cooker and using hot water to cover the meat instead of waiting for the slow cooker to come up to temperature, I probably shaved an hour of cooking time and dinner was ready on schedule.
It started me thinking about my favorite timesaving electric appliances….
- Electric hot water pot – these pots are shaped more like pitchers than kettles and they boil water fast. I pour the boiled water into my pasta pot to jump start cooking pasta to make recipes like this delicious, basic Pasta with Meat Sauce recipe by Joanne Hayes.
- Microwave oven – I use mine to toast nuts and melt chocolate quickly. By the time you heat the oven for conventional toasting, your nuts will be toasted if you do it in a microwave. It’s also quicker to melt chocolate in the microwave than using a double boiler on stovetop.(See how.) Toasting enhances the flavor of nuts, as you’ll find in this main-dish salad, Sundried Tomatoes and Walnuts with Penne.
- Mini food processor – it’s great for chopping large quantities of herbs or mixing small batches of ingredients, such as the sweet or savory fillings for wonton cups.
- Electric hand mixer – I use it for those small jobs like whipping cream for dessert, instead of using my stand mixer. It’s handy for making Katie Barreira’s “Grown Up” Hot Chocolate, in which whipped cream floats on decadent hot chocolate, served in demitasse cups.
- Vacuum sealer – although we’re now a family of two, we still shop for volume savings. It’s worth the time to portion out a large tray of chicken or beef into servings for two, vacuum seal, and freeze. We would buy a whole tray of chicken legs to make Jennifer Knapp’s Herb-Stuffed Roasted Chicken Legs.
Next month I will be attending the International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago for Special Fork, and I’ll report back on the latest and greatest new kitchen appliances.
Today’s photo of Pasta with Meat Sauce by Joanne Hayes.
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