Preparation / Directions:
1. To avoid breakage or cracking, never add cold water to a hot crockery insert. If you want to soak the hot pot immediately after the cooked food has been removed, add hot water to the hot insert.
2. For best results, most manufacturers recommend that the slow cooker be half to three-quarters full. Refer to the manufacturer's instruction book accompanying your pot.
3. Keep perishable foods, such as meats, poultry, fish, and vegetables, refrigerated until preparation and cooking time. If you opt to cut up vegetables or meats the night before you're planning to cook them, be sure to package each different item separately and store in the refrigerator.
4. Purchase roasts and other large cuts of meats in a size and shape that will fit conveniently into your slow cooker. Otherwise, plan on trimming the meat to fit.
5. To end up with the least amount of fat in finished slow-cooker dishes, use lean meats and skinless poultry, well trimmed of fat.
6. In general, avoid using completely frozen foods in the slow cooker. If necessary, thaw frozen ingredients in a microwave oven before adding to the cooker.
7. To avoid heat loss, refrain from removing the lid during the first three-quarters of the cooking time. If you peek often, an extensions of the cooking time maybe required. Remove the lid only to stir food or check for doneness.
8. Use cooking times as guidelines. Pots vary; each one is not exactly the same, and fluctuations in power or voltage may occur. Generally, figure that 1 hour on high is about 2 hours on low. Some recipes should only be cooked on high or low, so follow directions carefully.
9. Because they cook more slowly than meats, generally place fresh vegetables, such as carrots, potatoes, celery, and onions, in the bottom and around the sides of the slow cooker. Then place meats on top.
10. For best flavor and texture, ground beef or ground turkey should usually be browned on top of the stove before adding to the slow cooker. With few exceptions, it's not necessary to brown other meats.
11. To speed up the thickening of sauces with flour or cornstarch at the end of the cooking, increase the heat to the high setting and cook from 15 to 45 minutes longer. Or drain the juices into a saucepan and bring to a boil on top of the stove or in a glass measure in a microwave oven, stirring until smooth and thickened.
12. To avoid curdling dairy products, generally add milk, heavy cream, sour cream, or cheese sometime during the last hour of cooking time. If heating cheeses for long period, opt to use processed cheeses or cheese spreads, because they can tolerate more heat. Some dessert recipes in this book use milk, cream, eggs, and cream cheese successfully, but for the most part, they are cooked quickly on the high heat setting.
13. At high altitudes (more than 3,500 feet), it may be necessary to increase the cooking times specified in the recipes here.
14. Flavors often become diluted with long slow cooking; so before serving any slow-cooker creation, taste and adjust the seasonings. You'll not that many of the recipes in this collection add additional spices, herbs, and other ingredients at the end of the cooking time for more pizzazz. To add spark, I also use more seasoned salt and garlic pepper than usual. If you prefer, you can substitute ordinary salt and pepper, but realize there will be a concurrent loss of taste.
15. Because colors fade with long, slow cooking, for eye appeal, dress up slow cooker dishes with a garnish of chopped fresh parsley, cilantro or watercress, basil or other fresh herbs, sliced scallions, chopped tomatoes or red peppers, shredded carrots, shredded cheeses, nonfat yogurt, sour cream, lemon or lime wedges, cooked crumbled bacon, or sliced r