For the second time in a couple of weeks I heard someone say…”we have lots of leftovers, let’s heat them in the Crock Pot for dinner.” Please. Please. Please do not reheat leftovers in the slow cooker.
One of the basic principles of food safety is to get food through the “temperature danger zone” (41 -135 degrees) quickly. This is extremely important for foods like leftovers that have been through this TDZ already (cooked and then cooled). Restaurant food safety recommendations say that it should take no longer than two hours for leftovers to be heated to 165 degrees. This isn’t going to happen in a slow cooker. Staying within the TDZ increases the risk of bacteria multiplying to a large enough level that could cause a foodborne illness.
Want to keep these leftovers warm for later? Heat them quickly on top of the stove and then put into the slow cooker. Actually this is good advice for most foods put into the slow cooker…get them started through that TDZ quickly. Experts also recommend that you start food cooking in the slow cooker on HIGH if possible and the turn to LOW for long slow cooking after that initial heating.
Don’t think of using the slow cooker in the summer? Why not? This is the perfect time of year to use this small appliance. It’ll keep your kitchen cool and allow you more time for fun. Slow cooked foods do not need to be those heavy soups or stew frequently thought of as winter foods.
How about slow cooked pork, beef or chicken for shredded barbecue sandwiches? Roasted chicken. Instead of baking your beans in the oven, use the slow cooker. The ideas can be endless if you just change the way you think about the slow cooker.
Here are favorite recipes:
The pumpkin adds a rich flavor and velvety thick consistency to this chili.
2 cups dried pinto beans
8 cups water
4 cups cooked pinto beans
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large bell pepper, chopped
2 cans (15 oz) diced, no-salt-added tomatoes
4 cups water
1 can (16 oz) solid-pack pumpkin
1/3 cup brown rice, dry
1-1/2 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
Place pinto beans in cold water in the slow cooker. Cook on high for 2 hours or low for 6 hours. Drain in colander.
Heat vegetable oil in large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sauté onion, garlic and bell pepper for 3 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil then reduce to simmer. Cook for 10 minutes. Serve hot.
Be sure to drain and rinse the beans thoroughly before adding them to the pot. Serve this chili with pasta, rice or quinoa.
Serves 6. Each 1 cup serving: 251 calories, 4g fat, 1g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 273mg sodium, 44g carbohydrate, 13g fiber, 6g sugars, 12g protein. © Food and Health Communications
Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University