TIP OF THE WEEK


As the temperatures get cooler, many will dig to the back of their cabinets to pull out their favorite slow cooker. Slow cookers make meals for the entire family easy and delicious. Although just chopping up a few ingredients and setting an alarm might seem like the only steps you need, there are a few do's and don'ts before you turn on your slow cooker.


Here are few tips to make the most of your slow cooker, according to TheSpruceEats.com:


Do:


• Use the right size slow cooker: The slow cooker should be filled between one-half and two-thirds.


• Use cheaper cuts of meat: Inexpensive cuts of meat are often high in fat or connective tissue, both of which break down during long, moist heat cooking methods and will help keep the meat juicy and tender. Lean cuts of meat are often more expensive and tend to dry out in the slow cooker.


• Add dairy at the end: Milk, cream, and other dairy products can break down and coagulate if overheated. Stir these items into the slow cooker in the last 15-30 minutes, so they have just enough time to heat through.


• Brown meat before adding it to the slow cooker: This step isn't mandatory for safety reasons, but it does increase the flavor and complexity of the dish. Because slow cookers retain moisture so well, meat will not brown once it is in the slow cooker.


Don't:


• Place frozen food directly into the slow cooker: Frozen foods can increase the amount of time needed for the contents of the slow cooker to come up to a safe temperature (140° F) and increase the risk of foodborne illnesses.


• Keep peeking or stirring: Every time the lid is opened heat escapes and it takes approximately 20-30 minutes for the slow cooker to come back up to the set temperature. Open the lid as little as possible while cooking.


• Add too much liquid: Remember, meat and vegetables often give off a lot of liquid while cooking in a slow cooker and the lid prevents it from evaporating away. If you add too much liquid, it can be reduced by cooking on high without the lid for 1-2 hours.


• Don't store the cooked food using the ceramic slow cooker liner in the refrigerator: The ceramic liner is meant to retain heat and will not allow the food to cool quickly enough in the refrigerator. Always transfer your food to a separate container before storage.


EASY RECIPE:


Morning After Mac and Cheese


Serves: 6


Ingredients:


• 1 (10-count) package hot dogs, sliced into 3/4-inch-thick rounds


• 8 strips applewood-smoked bacon


• 3 cups elbow macaroni


• 2 cups heavy cream


• 2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed


• 2 teaspoons dry mustard


• 1 teaspoon hot sauce


• 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste


• 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg


• 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes


• 4 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese


• 2 cups frozen English peas, thawed


• Sriracha sauce (optional)


Steps:


Heat the oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.


Place the hot dogs on one prepared baking sheet and evenly spread the bacon out on the second baking sheet. Bake until the bacon is crisp and hot dogs are very deeply browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, cool to room temperature, and coarsely chop the bacon.


Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the macaroni until al dente. It should be cooked through, but still have some bite.


In a large saucepan, combine the cream, garlic, mustard, hot sauce, salt, nutmeg and pepper flakes. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to medium-low and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cream has thickened, about 15 minutes. Remove the garlic cloves.


Stir in the cheese, peas, chopped bacon, hot dogs and cooked macaroni. Continue to cook over medium-low, stirring constantly, until the cheese is melted and the mixture is creamy. Transfer to bowls and serve drizzled with Sriracha sauce, as desired (SouthernKitchen.com).


DRINK


Coca-Cola Retires Drinks


The Coca-Cola company recently announced it will realign its drink portfolio, removing some weaker performing beverages. The realignment will affect drinks including Coca-Cola Life, Diet Coke Feisty Cherry, the TaB diet soda range and ZICO coconut water.


FUN FACT


Hot Chocolate


The Mayan and Aztec cultures were the first to make "hot chocolate." This precursor to hot chocolate was used for religious ceremonies, including coming-of-age celebrations and weddings.