Stretching Your Dollar: Slow cookers make a comeback

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV)  -  A 1970's gadget is making a comeback!  "Crock Pots," or slow cookers, are the hottest trend for busy families.

I met with Susanne Dellingham, known as "The Tiny Chef," to get her best advice on how to make the most out of our crock pot meals.

Susanne gave me some pointers. Her first must is always, always if you're using a roast, brown it well.  And make sure to use water or broth, to get those brown bits out of the pan.

She also says, "If you have to put a sign on the crock pot, do it…make sure no one lifts the lid!" The chef, who trained in Italy, explained that is how the moisture and flavor stay in your dish, and if you lift the lid, you're going to slow the process down even more.

I wasn't aware, but a slow cooker is never supposed to go over 210 degrees, this way your food is slowly simmering and never boils.  Chef Susanne points out those older model slow cookers are quite up to par with the newer models.

"They're now made with timers, which is essential if you want to leave your meal cooking while you're away," she said.

The other suggestion from The Tiny Chef was be careful with your spices.  She believe bay leaves are perfect for a slow cooker, but many other spices intensify over those long hours in the slow cooker and sometime herbs turn bitter.

She suggests using a bay leaf, even Guinness, with your beef or lamb stew to add a smoky flavor.

She used a roux to thicken up our broth to shred the beef then chopped it even smaller so it was bite size.

We made a beef stew for a family of six for fewer than 15 dollars.  That, coupled with a nice salad is the perfect meal for a fall night.  And dinner is done just in time!

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