SLOW COOKER RECIPES

Thanks to the wonderful Mr Mean, my Christmas present this year was a requested slow cooker ("less time in the kitchen, more time for cleaning", the swine...). Good job I've got a sense of humour (just waiting for him to earn more money before I think about divorce!).

Anyway, with more financial hardship on the cards and food prices higher than ever, I thought a slow cooker would be a good idea for weekday cheap meals with cheap cuts of meat. The kids are getting bigger - as are their appetites, so finding a cheaper alternative instead of just upping the ingredients list seems like a cunning plan!

After having a bit of a search on the net, I can't seem to get my hands on any recipes I'd like to make in the slow cooker - so I'm just going to have to devise some of my own. So I'll be posting them all here for some comfort in these cold months! And you do get a slight feeling of smugness knowing that your dinner is cooking away and will be perfect when you come to eat it - it's like a magic dinner!

SLOW COOKER PORK LOIN


Ingredients:
1 pork loin
1 large onion, sliced
2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon soft brown sugar
3 tablespoons white wine
2 cups of water
1 large teaspoon Dijon mustard
handful of mushrooms, sliced
salt and pepper


HOW TO MAKE:
Fry onions in a knob of butter and oil until soft. Add all the ingredients to the slow cooker except for the mushrooms and mustard. Cook on low for at least 7 hours. Just before serving, fry the mushrooms and add to the slow cooker with the mustard and seasoning. The pork should be tender and falling apart. Serve with mash and cabbage. Make sure you have a jug of the gravy on the table - my kids couldn't get enough of it!


Slow Cooker Overnight Porridge

Who said having children is easy? One was tough, two was harder, now three is near impossible! Our newest addition to the family is now three months old. Little baby Edward is a cracker, but family life is a mix of joy, fun and screaming panic that's me doing the screaming). Of course me and Mr Mean are truly blessed to have our three beautiful children and wouldn't give them up for the world, but daily life has got to get a little bit easier than this?


Weekday mornings are tough. Getting three kids out of the house by 8.15am is like a military manoeuvre. Our eldest son usually gets his own breakfast in the morning. So when I came downstairs the other morning and found him with a mountain of Cheerios in his bowl - enough to feed two adults - I knew it was time for a change!  
I know my son is getting really hungry now and needs fuel to fill him up. Cheerios just aren't doing the job and I'd prefer for him to have something with less salt and sugar that will keep him going. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I just need something that is super quick to prepare in the morning and something everyone likes. Porridge is great but can take a little while to get ready, so the slow cooker seems like the perfect option to have instant hot breakfast in the morning! What could be better? And everyone can add their own toppings too. Sorted! Happy mum and happy kids! And it's a whole lot cheaper than a box of Cheerios. 
Serves 6-8
Ingredients:
185g porridge oats
20g light brown sugar
Half teaspoon pouring salt
400ml whole milk
1.7 litres water
HOW TO MAKE:
Grease the pot of the slow cooker with some butter. Add all the ingredients and give a good stir. Cook on the low setting for 7-8 hours.
Serve with banana, honey, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, fresh berries, yoghurt, Nutella - whatever you feel like! Or you could just have it naked! 


SLOW COOKER SHEPHERDS PIE


As promised more slow cooker recipes! I think slow cooking the minced lamb made a huge difference to the dish and the meat was really tender and tasty. If you don't have time in the morning to prepare the dish, prepare everything in the evening and put it in the fridge until the morning, then you can just stick it all in the slow cooker and leave it to cook throughout the day.

Ingredients:
500g mince lamb
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 sticks of celery, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
100ml red wine
400ml beef stock
half teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper




HOW TO MAKE:
Fry the mince in a dry pan until brown (I had to drain off quite a lot of fat). Once the lamb is nice and brown, remove from the pan. Add a glug of olive oil to the frying pan and saute the onion, celery and carrot. Put the mince back in the pan and add the garlic and flour. Stir until the flour disappears, then add the red wine, beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, sugar and seasoning. If you are preparing this in the evening, leave the sauce to cool and refridgerate. If you are preparing in the morning, add the sauce to the slow cooker and cook for 7 hours on low.

This is my red wine lolly pop. When there's some undrunk red wine, I pop it in the freezer for future use in some yummy sauces - nothing wasted!

When your sauce is lovely and tender (check the seasoning), remove from the slow cooker and put into a shallow rectangular oven dish and leave to cool slightly whilst you boil the spuds for the mash (always do more potatoes than you think, it takes a lot of mash!) Once the spuds are cooked, drain and mash with butter, milk and seasoning. Spread over the mince sauce and sprinkle with the cheese of your choice. I used Pecorino because it's made from sheep's milk! My son said it was perfect!




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