Thinking outside the box: Part 2

Today we will consider two more kitchen appliances that have been around for a long time. Slow cookers or crock pots have been in our kitchens since the early 1970s. Around the same time, microwave ovens began to be sold commercially. This appliance, too, can be an enormous help when you are preparing so many different foods.

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about using the Crock Pot is starting stew in it before I leave for work so we can eat pretty quickly after a long day at AnswerLine. Few people serve stew for Thanksgiving but there are still a number of ways to use the Slow Cooker that day.

Crock Pot with turkey
Turkey cooked in Slow Cooker

If you plan on a soup course for dinner, of course the slow cooker will be a great place to cook it. You can prep the ingredients the night before and start the cooker early in the morning. By dinner time, the soup will be ready.

No space in the oven for the traditional green bean casserole? Consider using the slow cooker for the green beans. This recipe will be ready to eat in three hours; get it started when you are getting the turkey in the oven.

We also have this information in our files for making dressing in a slow cooker:  

  • Never mix wet and dry ingredients until you are ready to cook the dressing.
  • Precook vegetables, such as onions or celery. 
  • Always use pasteurized eggs or Egg Beater type products for eggs.
  • Fill the cooker with the correct amount of food – never less than 1/2 or more than 2/3 full.
  • Stir once or twice during the cook time, if desired or the dressing may get crusty on the side.
  • Cook the dressing or stuffing on high for 45 to 60 minutes and then reduce heat to low and cook 4-8 hours.
  • Check the final temperature with an accurate food thermometer. The end temperature should be 165 degrees.

You can also use the Slow Cooker to hold a dish at a safe temperature for serving. If you won’t have enough room on the stove top to make mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes while the rest of the meal is cooking, make the potatoes ahead of time and use the Slow Cooker to keep it warm. Simply preheat the Slow Cooker by turning it on high after you have filled it with water. When you get the potatoes ready, dump out the water and fill with potatoes. At that point, you can turn the cooker to the low or keep warm setting.

The microwave can be used to cook most any part of the Thanksgiving meal. We often use it to heat up the green bean casserole and then when it is hot, we add the onion rings and put it in the oven to brown after the Turkey has been removed.

Reheating foods that were prepared in advance is another great use of the microwave. You can quickly reheat dishes that others brought to share, or those that you prepared the day before. The speed and convenience of the microwave will stretch your cooking space considerably

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Thinking outside the box

Every family has their own holiday traditions. The typical Thanksgiving meal of turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and cranberry sauce is not standard at every celebration. Some families choose to pass on turkey and serve ham or roast beef instead. Usually, there are number of side dishes that accompany the entree. One common theme seems to be that there is often not enough oven or stove-top space to cook everything at the same time. This is when we need to start thinking outside the box.

We have been talking about this issue a lot lately at AnswerLine as we try to think of ways to stretch your cooking space. Over the last few years, it seems that the number of new kitchen appliances on the market has exploded. We can adapt our cooking methods to include newer appliances as well as older appliances. Slow cookers and toaster ovens are still useful. Multi cookers and Instant pots also solve problems.

This is the first of a three part blog examining some different ways to cook your Thanksgiving meal. Today we will focus on electric roasters. These appliances have been available for many years; they are very useful when you are preparing a large and varied meal.

The roaster will function in the same way an oven does, so you can either cook in the insert pan or place a smaller pan inside the roaster. Be sure to add some water into the bottom of the electric roaster underneath the insert pan for the roaster to function well.

Electric roasters can be used to cook turkey and any other type of meat. They function much like an oven but typically will not brown; if you want browned, crispy turkey skin you may need to put it in the oven or under the broiler for a bit after it is cooked.

You can bake potatoes inside the electric roaster or reheat a pan of make-ahead mashed potatoes. If you need a place to cook the green bean casserole or a pan of scalloped corn, the electric roaster can cook it evenly and fairly quickly. You can also cook dressing inside the roaster and there are even desserts that you can cook in it. Or, consider warming your rolls in the roaster.

Adding an electric roaster to your kitchen for the holiday, even a borrowed one, can make cooking Thanksgiving dinner a bit less stressful

Next Monday, we will examine ways you can use your crock pot to make Thanksgiving dinner.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Thinking about Thanksgiving

cartoon illustration of turkey chef holding platter with pumkin, pie, nuts, fruits and autumn leaves

It is time to start thinking about Thanksgiving again at AnswerLine. We get so many Thanksgiving questions every November that we like to begin thinking about Thanksgiving early in the month. We like to review our turkey thawing and cooking directions and other information related to popular questions that callers ask.

One important dilemma that callers often have is not enough oven space for a turkey and ham or roast beef. Also, there are a number of common side dishes competing with the turkey for oven space. Callers often want to know how long ahead of time they can prepare and then reheat a dish.

This may be a time to think a bit outside the box for cooking methods. We have often heated our green bean casserole in the microwave to precook it and then added the onion rings and put the casserole in the oven when we took the turkey out. Since the turkey should rest before carving, it allows the green bean casserole top to brown and get a bit crisp before serving.

It seems that we all have multiple small appliances that we can use to prepare Thanksgiving dinner. Many people have crock pots, instant pots, microwave ovens, toaster ovens, or electric roasters. If we take the time to think of all the options early in the month, then preparing Thanksgiving dinner could become less stressful. As always, call us at AnswerLine if you want to discuss your options.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Don’t wash raw poultry!

Washing raw chicken in the sink.  Please don’t do this!

The USDA sent out another press release a few days ago, reminding us not to wash raw poultry. This is a topic that comes up every so often with callers. Some callers resist our advice not to wash poultry. Washing raw poultry simply is not very effective. Splashing water and hands not washed well will spread bacteria from the raw poultry to many other places in the kitchen. This simply is not an effective method for ensuring a safe meal.

Callers often do not believe that they will end up with bacteria in their sink or counter tops that will not be easy to clean up. According to the USDA, 60% of people that washed raw poultry had bacteria in the sink after washing or rinsing poultry. About 14% still had detectable levels of bacteria in the sink after washing the sink. The researchers for the USDA also found that 26% of these people had also transferred bacteria to their ready to eat salads. Therefore, even if you try to clean up after washing poultry, there is no guarantee that you can remove it from the sink or be sure that it does not transfer to your salad. This is not an appetizing thought.

Even if participants in this study did not wash the raw poultry, 31% still managed to transfer bacteria from the poultry to their salad. Researchers speculated that this transfer occurred due to lack of handwashing and contamination of the countertop from the poultry. We often explain to consumers that it is hard to be conscious of the “little things” that we do to cross-contaminate in the kitchen. Consumers also tend to underestimate the value of handwashing.

We do remind callers to use a thermometer to check the temperature of poultry (and all other meats) every time. Thorough cooking will kill bacteria that is present on the meat. That is why we can tell callers that not washing poultry is safe. Cooking kills bacteria. Knowing we have reached the proper temperature inside the meat or poultry ensures a safe product.

Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

Ways to use up tomatoes

This year it seems like we waited forever for tomatoes to mature.  Now that they are ripe it can be hard to stay ahead of the crop.  We thought that a few suggestions for using tomatoes might be helpful.

Our list, in no particular order:

  1. Fresh Salsa
  2. Spaghetti Sauce
  3. Tomato Soup
  4. Roasted Tomatoes
  5. Bruschetta
  6. Stewed Tomatoes
  7. Tomato Juice
  8. Frozen whole tomatoes
  9. BLT sandwiches
  10. Tuna and tomatoes
  11. Tomato preserves
  12. Pizza sauce
  13. Stuffed tomatoes
  14. Taco Sauce
  15. Homemade Catsup
  16. Barbeque sauce
  17. “V8” juice
  18. Fried tomatoes
Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

More Posts - Website

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