Slow cooker. Crock Pot.
It does not matter what you call it, all I know is I could not survive without one. In fact I have three.
Being able to dump everything in and forget about it with the result of a great meal at the end of the day is a godsend.
On days the boys and I end up helping with a big project at the farm, I don’t have to stress about dinner because it is taking care of itself, and I'm thankful it’s become a popular way to cook.
The added bonus is I have an awesome meal and it gives me extra time to play with the boys or to catch up on the mountain of laundry that seems to miraculously shows up in the house.
And if we don’t know when my husband is going to finish up evening chores or has to head to the fields, dinner is easy to hold for him.
And as the weather warms, a crock pot is a way to cook a meal without heating up the house – an added bonus. And, you don’t get stuck standing over a hot stove or oven.
One of my more recent discoveries is a different twist in slow cooking – manicotti. It’s a favorite dish in our family, but I have a challenging time making the recipe, mostly because of working with cooked noodles. I would always break a few of the noodles during the cooking or filling process.But if you use the slow cooker, you don’t need to cook the noodles, the slow cooker does it for you. Regular uncooked noodles will soften nicely.
Here’s my manicotti recipe, slightly modified for the slow cooker:
Easy Baked Manicotti
Prep 15 minutes
Cook time: 3 hours
2 cups of spaghetti sauce, divided
1 ¾ cups ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup parmesan cheese
1 egg beaten
¼ cup pesto
12 manicotti shells
Spray crock with cooking spray. Spread ¾ cup of sauce on the bottom of the crock.
Mix 1 ½ cups of the mozzarella cheese along with the parmesan cheese, ricotta cheese, egg and pesto until well blended. Place into a resealable plastic bag or plastic cake decorator’s bag. Cut off a tip of the bag. Fill manicotti shells by squeezing the cheese mixture into both sides of each shell. Place the filled shells in the crock, layered if needed, and top them with sauce.
Cook on low for three hours. Top with the extra mozzarella cheese and cook for an additional three hours or until cooked through.
--Charlene Shupp Espenshade, special sections editor