Keep Cool This Summer With: A Slow-Cooker


Summer is finally here, and the temperature is finally climbing — It’s time to break-out the t-shirts and store away the long underwear for a couple months!

For the frugally minded, cranking up the air conditioning to a comfortable 68F is a giant no-no!  That’s a giant waste of money, and poor use of the organ between our ears!  So how can we keep cool during the summer months without AC?  

There’s lots of ways, but one of my favorites is a superb little device (often associated with grandmothers and other elder folk) known as the slow-cooker.

You’re probably wondering, how can a device that creates heat help keep you cool in summer?  That’s the clever bit!  Read on to find out!

 

Stop With The Excuses

I often see people on the “internets” complain about not being able to save 50% (or more) of their income, yet I notice they still eat-out at restaurants quite frequently.

When I gently inquire “Do you cook all your meals at home?”, I’m frequently met with the most overused excuse on the planet — “I wish I had time for that”.

I hate that excuse!  You want to know why?  We make time for what’s important to us.  If someone gives me that excuse, I just mentally replace it with with “It’s not important enough for me to make time“.

Grandma would be ashamed of you!  Frankly, cooking meals at home every day doesn’t even take that much time.  Your Grandma solved this problem half a century ago when she brought home her first slow-cooker!

Half a century ago, women were joining the workforce at a rapid rate, and yet they still managed the home, cooked the meals, and did the cleaning — It’s just how the world was then.  Grandma was tough as shit, and she made time to do it right.

Instead of trying to cook a meal when she came home from work, Grandma would prep the day’s meal the night before.  In the morning, she’d plug-in the slow cooker, and leave for work.  Eight hours later when she returned home, the meal was cooked and ready to serve. 

Seriously, if you don’t yet have a slow cooker yet, just go get one.  Like this Crock-Pot model from Amazon.  They don’t cost much, and will save you countless hours (and thousands of dollars) over its lifetime.

 

Slow Cookers And Summer

So how are slow cookers going to help us keep cool in the summer?  Several ways actually…

In summer, temperatures peak in the afternoon, just after everyone comes home from work.  After a long day under the sun, the house is hot and stuffy.  No-one wants to be hovering over a stove or running the oven on a hot summer afternoon.  

I know I’d rather be sitting out in the shade sipping an iced tea instead….and that’s really the secret:  Don’t do any cooking when temperatures are at their hottest.

Take a page from Grandma’s book and do your cooking during the day, with the slow-cooker.  

Lawn Chair
Kicking-back in the shade after a long day is better than cooking in a hot kitchen.  Let the slow-cooker do the hard-work.

Do the meal-prep the night before (or early in the morning) when the house is at its coolest and most comfortable.  Then, simply plug-in the slow cooker before work and come home to a fantastic meal.

The second way slow cookers can help keep us cool comes from the simple fact that slow-cookers are portable.  Instead of cranking up the AC in the house to make the kitchen tolerable, just cook outside!  

Nearly every home has an outdoor power outlet.  Bring the slow-cooker outside, and keep any waste heat outside!  You’ll save money by not running the AC and your house will stay cooler too!

It’s insanity to think people use energy to cool their home, and then heat it back up with energy used to prepare a meal.  Then again, it’s insanity to think people eat-out multiple meals a week…yet it’s still commonly done.  

Americans now spend more money at restaurants than they spend at grocery stores!!!

 

Not Just For Grandma

Perhaps you’re thinking slow-cookers are only for soups and stews, like Grandma used to make.  It’s time to update your thinking.  There are thousands of slow-cooker recipes on the internet.  You can cook practically anything with a slow cooker, given enough creativity.

Meal Time
Remember these ribs from an earlier post? Made in the slow-cooker!

The Tako family is no exception — We use our slow cooker for all kinds of cooking….and our slow cooker was absolutely free.  Check out our hand-me-down beauty with tramp-stamp detailing.

Free And Beautiful
Look at this hottie! (OK, so maybe she’s only 200F)  She’s got long luscious lines, and that sexy floral pattern. Did I mention she was free too?

Grandma would definitely approve!

Think I’m all talk and no ‘walk’ about this slow cooker stuff? 

Yesterday morning, I whipped up a batch of Mr. Tako’s Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken Tacos.  That’s right, I’m going to bombard you with fantastic food photos once again!

As I’ve done in the past, I’m going to supply you guys with my recipe and mouth-watering photos.

 

Mr. Tako’s Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken Tacos

Making shredded chicken taco’s in the slow cooker is a piece of cake.  Prep time is approximately 20 minutes.

Start by slicing up half an onion and throw it in the slow cooker.  Bam!  Easy work for my 8-inch Shun Chef-Knife.

Onions

Next, it’s time to add the herbs and spices to the slow cooker.  Probably don’t throw-in the spices this time.  Aim is more important here.

I used the following amounts in this batch:

  • Mesquite Seasoning (from Costco): 1 tablespoon
  • Ground Cumin: 1 tablespoon
  • Minced Garlic: 1 tablespoon
  • Smoked Paprika: 1 teaspoon
  • Salt & Pepper: Roughly 1/2 teaspoon each
  • Cilantro:  1-2 tablespoons 

Spices

Next, add three decent sized chicken breasts to the slow cooker.  You can use other cuts of chicken, but I prefer chicken breasts for this application.

Chicken

Because we’re using a very lean meat, I add 1-2 tablespoons of butter.   This adds a little fat to the chicken breasts and enhances the flavor.  Mmmm….butter.

Next, pour about 1 cup of salsa into the slow cooker.  It can be as mild or as spicy as you prefer.  I like to use homemade salsa from the “Roasting Your Own For Big Savings” post instead of expensive store bought stuff.  It’s way cheaper, and tastes far better.

Salsa And Butter

Then, add enough chicken broth to mostly cover the chicken.  I used 3 cups here.  If you don’t have chicken broth, water works fine too…there’s still doing to be tons of flavor.

Chicken Broth

Mix the spices and other ingredients.  Then carefully carry it outside.

Plug-in the slow cooker, and set the heat to “medium” (a slow simmer) for 4-8 hours.

Cook Outside

After 4-8 hours, the chicken should be super tender and just fall apart at the slightest touch.  Use a tongs to remove the chicken from the slow cooker.  Shred it on a cutting board with a fork.  Try not to eat too much while shredding.  It’s hard, I know!

Shredded Chicken

Return the shredded chicken to the slow-cooker and gently mix.  Allow the juices and spices to mingle with the shredded chicken.  This is going to taste fantastic!

Return The Chicken

Time to eat!  Prep your tacos with your favorite condiments!  We use a tongs to drain-off excess liquid from the chicken when plating, but a slotted spoon or fork works just as well.

Shredded Chicken Tacos
Mmm…so friggen delicious!

And that’s how we do it in the Tako household.  Our family of four can get 2-3 meals from one batch of these slow-cooker shredded chicken tacos.  Total cost?  About $7. 

After a couple of taco meals, I usually use the remaining broth and shredded chicken, and make a fantastic tortilla soup.

Got any fantastic slow cooker recipes?  Share in the comments!

 

[Image Credit: Flickr1, Flickr2]

21 thoughts on “Keep Cool This Summer With: A Slow-Cooker

  • July 26, 2016 at 3:22 PM
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    OK – totally lol’s about the “tramp stamp” part! You are so right about not wanting to cook when it’s hot. We grill a ton – but the ideas you suggested are awesome! I know we put our slow cooker away “for the summer” but it’s silly. Getting it out when I sign off and trying out your recipe tomorrow!

    Reply
  • July 26, 2016 at 4:02 PM
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    106.5 right this second in Tucson…. yeah, we use a slow cooker. Where’s the rice steamer to go with Mr. Tako’s Tacos???

    Reply
  • July 26, 2016 at 6:18 PM
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    Mmmmmm . . . Ribs . . . 🙂 Would you please supply the recipe for those yummy looking ribs? Looks like you used a rub, and love the idea of using the slow cooker to make them! Thanks!

    Reply
  • July 26, 2016 at 6:39 PM
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    +1 on the rib recipe!

    Why do you take the cooker outside? Because it would heat up the house?

    If not, wondering what the application would be in the winter.

    Yes, I am a total NOVICE at cooking, so please excuse me if the answer is obvious.

    Reply
    • July 27, 2016 at 12:02 AM
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      Yep, take those BTU’s outside. In the winter of course, you want those BTU’s indoors.

      Reply
  • July 26, 2016 at 7:08 PM
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    Great idea. My house is a rental with bad insulation. Our AC is more of an ornament than an AC. Every summer my wife uses the oven or stove-top and our house gets too hot. I’m buying a slow-cooker tonight 😉

    Reply
  • July 26, 2016 at 11:57 PM
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    Per popular demand, here’s the easy, delicious recipe for the slow cooker dry ribs. Enjoy!!

    ✴✴ Ingredients ✴✴
    4 lbs spare ribs
    1½ TBSP brown sugar
    1 TBSP smoked paprika (regular is fine if that’s what you have)
    1 TBSP garlic powder
    1½ tsp ground cumin
    1½ tsp ground black pepper
    1 tsp coarse salt
    1 tsp chili powder
    barbecue sauce (optional)

    ✴✴ Instructions ✴✴
    1. Pat ribs dry, and cut them into sections so they’ll fit in the slow cooker.
    2. Combine seasonings in a bowl, and rub mixture all over ribs.
    3. Place ribs in the slow cooker, meat-side down.
    4. Cook for 8-10 hours on low, or for 4-5 hours on high.
    5. Before serving, brush with barbecue sauce if desired.

    Recipe credit: http://funnyisfamily.com/2013/05/crock-pot-thursday-slow-cooker-spare-ribs.html

    Reply
  • July 27, 2016 at 4:46 AM
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    We do the same, mostly cooking with the grill and slow cooker outside when its hot. Then the reverse in the winter, minimizing the grill use and try and cook inside. It makes the seasons more interesting because what you can cook changes with the weather.

    Reply
  • July 27, 2016 at 6:02 PM
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    Ok, you’ve talked me into it, I need to dust off out slow cooker for the summer. The crazy thing is we use it a LOT in the winter. Hearty soups and stews etc. the reason it doesn’t get used in the summer is that we don’t want to eat that type of food when it’s hot. I need to up my recipe game and find something more suitable for summer – like tacos!

    Reply
  • August 3, 2016 at 12:29 PM
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    Tried this on Saturday. It was delicious. I used the chicken for taco salad. It made too much so I froze two bags of chicken for future use. Even had the cooker on the front porch though it only got to the 70s ( we are in the south sound). When friends came by they thought it was out front because of the smell- no way- it smelled delicious! I didn’t have mesquite so I used a barbecue spice blend. Thanks for the tasty recipe!

    Reply
  • August 31, 2016 at 6:57 PM
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    Sorry Mr. Tako – swing and a miss for my household. We used to use the slow cooker until we discovered the amazing flavors, reduced cooking times and low electric consumption that the electric pressure cooker can render. We have an Instant Pot which is slightly more pricey than a sweet tramp-stamped appliance, but so amazingly awesome. Here is my favorite cheap recipe (mostly from Costco too):

    Soak 2 cups of pinto beans 8 hours or overnight
    Cook up some bacon or chop up some ham (as much bacon as fits in a pan or about 6 oz of ham)
    1 tablespoon-ish of ground cumin (I grind it myself for freshest flavor)
    1 tablespoon-sih of smoked paprika
    1 big yellow onion diced to ~1/4 inch and sauted for ~5 minutes until transluscent
    Add a few cloves of garlic thinly sliced in last minute to sautee with onions
    1/2 tablespoon of liquid smoke
    2-3 tablespoons of “Better then Bouillon” chicken flavor

    Put all above in InstantPot and seal – cook on Manual for 28 minutes and do any release you want to. Makes some super yummy beans. I am guessing this could be done in the slow cooker over 4 to 8 hours too. Best wishes, Ap.

    Reply
  • September 8, 2016 at 5:28 PM
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    Hi Mr. Tako,

    I have been following your site for some time and it is quite interesting. Now I have added Chest Freezer and Slow cooker to my BUY list. But then I realized, wait a min…Do I see the Slow Cook button on my rice cooker !!? Indeed there is. I will try your delicious recipe on this slow cooker (why waste money when this may work fine.).

    Reply
    • September 8, 2016 at 6:43 PM
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      That’s awesome! What kind of slow cooker if you don’t mind me asking?

      Reply
      • September 12, 2016 at 11:16 AM
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        OK. I tried your recipe on my rice cooker (with a slow cook button). Its the Aroma rice cooker. The slow cook button was set for around 8 hrs. You can find the details here – http://www.aroma-housewares.com/kitchen/appliances/rice101/13/Slow%20Cook%20Function.html

        Here is what I found :
        1) The chicken was tender and juicy, it did cook well.
        2) The flavor was very nicely induced.
        3) The taste was very good.

        This is my first recipe trying out on a slow cooker (I mean using the slow cook function). The results were satisfactory. I am sure the slow cooker might do a better job, but I am happy with the existing one.

        Thanks to you. This post is the sole reason I tried this recipe and my family liked the recipe.

        Keep up the good work. Now I try to visit your blog once a day at least. Kind of addicting, I know. but still lot of articles to go through. nom…nom…nom

        Reply
  • December 14, 2016 at 4:08 PM
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    I just tried this recipe in my slow cooker. It turned out excellent! Thanks for the idea. I especially like that the prep time is minimal and the meal is cooking as I am doing my projects around the house.

    I found tortilla soup recipes on the web but I guess you have your on favorite as well. Care to share that?

    Reply
    • December 14, 2016 at 5:23 PM
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      Oh sure, I can do that. Tortilla soup is pretty easy in the slow-cooker.

      Reply

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