Try these easy recipes for your slow cooker

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 31, 2008

By The Associated Press
This easy slow cooker-friendly beef and barley soup take just 15 minutes prep, then can be ignored for as long as 11 hours ó a perfect meal for starting on a frosty morning and welcoming you home in the evening.
Slow-Cooker Beef and Barley Soup
Start to finish: 5 to 7 hours on high, 9 to 11 hours on low
Servings: 6 to 8
28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 medium yellow onions, minced
1/4 C. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. minced fresh thyme, or 1 tsp. dried
1/2 C. dry red wine
2 C. low-sodium beef broth
2 C. low-sodium chicken broth
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/3 C. soy sauce
1/4 C. pearl barley
2 pounds blade steak, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Ground black pepper
1/4 C. minced fresh parsley
In a food processor, pulse the tomatoes and their juice until smooth, about 15 seconds. Set aside.
In a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onions, tomato paste, thyme and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Saute until the onions are softened and lightly browned, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Stir in the wine, using a spoon to scrape up any browned bits.
Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker, then stir in the processed tomatoes, both broths, carrots, soy sauce and barley.Season the meat with salt and pepper, then nestle it into the other ingredients in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 9 to 11 hours or on high for 5 to 7 hours.
When done, uncover and turn off the heat. Let the cooking liquid settle for 5 minutes, then gently tilt the slow cooker and use a spoon to skim off as much fat as possible. Stir in the parsley, then adjust seasonings.
(Recipe from “The Best Slow & Easy Recipes,” by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated magazine, America’s Test Kitchen, 2008)
Seafood generally isn’t slow-cooker friendly. When cooked for long periods, most white fish will dissolve into mush, while shellfish such as shrimp will get tough and rubbery. This recipe solves that problem by adding cod only at the end.
Cod with Tomatoes and Fennel
Servings: 4 to 6
Start to finish: 5 to 8 hours (15 minutes active)
1 to 2 medium fennel bulbs
1/4 C. olive oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
28-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 C. dry white wine
Juice and zest of 1 orange
2 Tbsp. Pernod, ouzo or other anise-flavored liqueur
2 pounds thick cod fillets, cut into 1-inch chunks
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Zest of 1 lime, to garnish (optional)
Discard the stalks from fennel, then rinse the bulbs. Cut each in half lengthwise, then discard the core and top layer of flesh. Slice the fennel into thin strips. Set aside.
In a large skillet over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the onion and garlic and saute for 3 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the fennel and cook for another 2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a slow cooker.
Add the tomatoes, wine, orange juice and zest and liqueur. Cook on low for 5 to 7 hours, or on high for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. By the end, the fennel should be tender crisp.
If cooking on low, increase heat to high. Season the cod with salt and pepper, then add to the slow cooker, placing the fish on top of the vegetables. Cook for 30 to 45 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through and flakes easily.
To serve, garnish with lime zest, if desired.
(Recipe adapted from Ellen Brown’s “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Slow Cooker Cooking,” Alpha, 2007)