Crockpot soup: Basic tips for a great pot
By: Leanne Ely
We are big on crockpot cooking over here. Many of our most popular menu mailer recipes and ebooks are based around this “Queen of Convenience” in the world of kitchen appliances.
We’re into the fall of the year, which means it is soup season. There really is nothing quite like coming home at the end of a busy day to the smell of soup simmering away on your counter.
Yes. I said counter! Soup on the stove is great, but soup in the crockpot is a lifesaver during the busy weeks following the kids’ return back to school.
If you have a favorite soup recipe that you’re not sure how to adapt to the slow cooker, or if you are new to crockpot cooking, keep reading because I’m going to share some basic tips with you here for turning a few simple ingredients into a delectable pot of soup that your whole family will go crazy for!
Top tips for making crockpot soups
Brown the meat. One of the most overlooked steps in creating sensational crockpot soups is browning your ingredients. Sure the crockpot will cook your soup just fine without taking this step, but if you do take the time to sear your meat before putting it in the slow cooker, you’ll be happy with the rich, intensely flavored results.
Cut ingredients uniformly. Take care to cut your vegetables in similar sizes so that they cook evenly.
Layer properly. Put your ingredients that take the longest to cook in the crockpot first. Root vegetables take longer to cook than meat so they should be placed on the bottom where they’ll have more direct contact with the heating element of the slow cooker. Meats, spices and onions can also be placed on the bottom. Veggies like cauliflower and broccoli can go in next. You’ll place your liquid on top of all the veggies before covering the crockpot and turning it on.
Watch your liquids. You won’t need as much liquid as your traditional soup recipe would call for, but just add enough to cover the veggies by about half an inch. (If you have too much liquid at the end of your cooking time, simply remove the lid of your crockpot 30 minutes before you plan to serve dinner and it will evaporate.)
Add ingredients in stages. Some ingredients don’t take much time to cook, so you’ll want to add them in during the last hour of cook time. Things like pasta, milk, peas, bell peppers and spinach would fall into this category.
Take the time to learn how to use your slow cooker and you’ll be amazed at how much easier it will be to get a meal on the table at the end of a hectic day!
PS–Okay, okay UNCLE!! So many of you have been asking, “What happened to Crock-tober?!” And well, because it’s still technically “Crock-tober October” we decided to open ‘er back up! Click here to get the best ever crockpot bundle of goodies NOW though, teeny tiny window here to fulfill of your crock cooking dreams!
by Leanne Ely, C.N.C.
So how do you determine whether or not your crockpot is going to work for that wonderful recipe you clipped out of the newspaper last week? Let’s say there is a Dutch oven recipe you found that you’d love to convert for your crockpot. How do you do it? Some general information will help.
Generally, crockpots cook on high at about 300 degrees and low at about 200 degrees. That is a very general statement because again, it depends on the age of the crockpot, the brand, the size—the variables are tremendous. I always advise trying recipes out in your particular slow cooker and making notes in the margin of the book or recipe, on what your real cooking times were, this will help you be successful with your crockpot.
The following is excerpted from my book, Saving Dinner (Ballantine) and will help you will those conversions. For those of you that own the book, this information is found in the form of a sidebar on page 10. (Reprinted with Permission, copyright (c ) 2003 by Leanne Ely.)
All crockpots or slow cookers are NOT created equal. The following is only a rule of thumb—your mileage may vary.
Conventional Cooking Time: 15 to 30 minutes
Crockpot Cooking Time: 1.5 hours on HIGH – 4 to 8 hours on LOW
Conventional Cooking Time: 30 to 40 minutes
Crockpot Cooking Time: 3 to 4 hours on HIGH – 6 to 10 hours on LOW
Conventional Cooking Time: 50 minutes to 3 hours
Crockpot Cooking Time: 4 to 6 hours on HIGH – 8 to 18 hours on LOW
Most stews, pot roasts and other uncooked meat/poultry and vegetable combinations will require at least 8 hours on LOW or 4 to 6 hours on HIGH. Remember that most stews, soups and other slow cooking recipes can be pretty forgiving, however not if you go out and leave an untested recipe alone for 8 hours. And even if you have a trusty, tried or true recipe, if you get a new crockpot, the game changes and what used to work, needs to have an adjusted time now (guess how I found that one out?).
Nothing is etched in stone(ware) when it comes to crockpots. Give yourself plenty of latitude when working a new recipe and enjoy the results of having your indentured servant do the work for you!
Pumpkins for everyone!!!
That’s how I feel when I walk into a store and I eyeball a gorgeous array of pumpkins of every persuasion!
I want to open my arms like Maria in The Sound of Music and twirl in the middle of store–yes, pumpkins are my fall spirit animal (gourd?).
Decorating for fall is a ritual of sorts–first the beautiful pumpkins inside and out, then the fall wreath on the front door and of course, a fine assortment of mums. 🙂
Fall makes me crave crockpot cooking, soups and stews.
I love turning on the fireplace finally and celebrating a cold brisk walk in the evenings after dinner.
The trick of course is to make sure your cooking is still on point and not leading you down the wrong road setting you up for holiday weight gain (this is when it starts folks!).
One of my favorite recipes that will boost your beta carotene and satisfy your taste buds is my Coconut Curry Pumpkin Soup recipe–have you tried it? Easy, delicious and the whole fam will LOVE it!
Here you go:
Coconut Pumpkin Curry Soup
In a soup pot, heat oil over medium high heat and saute onions. Cook till very soft.
Add remaining ingredients, except coconut milk, cilantro, and pumpkin seeds.
Cook uncovered for 15 minutes.
Add coconut milk and continue to cook (but not boil – it will break) for another 5 minutes.
Serve and top with cilantro and pumpkin seeds.
There has been a quiet evolution going on inside of me for awhile now and today, I want to share a little bit of that–not because I want to “get really vulnerable with you today” like I’m sure you’ve seen over and over again in videos, emails and social media posts, but because I feel like at this stage of my life, it’s time to say something and maybe, just maybe, you’re in the same place.
It’s a noisy world out there–really noisy. There’s so much vying for our attention. So much so, that endless selfies, Instagram models, videos with no shame and constant stimulation fill up our inboxes and newsfeeds, making us feel inadequate, old, embarrassed, less than–we compare ourselves to all of this.
Photos of everything all meticulously staged, makeup tutorials to learn how to contour your face to perfection, YouTube “stars” doing everything from singing to making complete asses of themselves as long as it goes viral, Facebook Live for this, Facebook Watch for that, Twitter rants, Instagram stories, Pinterest pinning forever…
How did it ever get like this?
We are (apparently) insatiable. The more we consume of this stuff, the more there is to serve up.
And yet, we don’t know our neighbors anymore. The coffee klatch is a thing of the past–no more chatting over backyard fences or borrowing tools or a cup of sugar. Maybe that happens in some neighborhoods, but those are the rarities, not the norm. The rest of us drive through life without really talking to anyone anymore–we can do that for our banking, food and then ultimately, drive right into the garage without anyone seeing us.
We shop from our laptops, use the grocery delivery service, and if we’re feeling like it, get restaurant food delivered straight to our homes with the simple press of a button on the phone app so we don’t have to leave.
We’re hunkered down in our perfectly appointed Pinterest dressed homes whose doors only open to pick up the latest Amazon delivery. We take pictures of the dinners we make, make a perfect pout in our posed pictures, showing everyone how happy we are for Facebook and Instagram.
Who we are is now defined by what we consume and how we consume it. We are data for big companies, a phone number for endless solicitors (does anyone even answer their phone anymore?), and a moving target for researchers who want us to consume even more of what they are selling.
This is what I want to say about all of that–I think underneath it all, is a deep need to find meaning in our lives, a hidden desire in our heart of hearts that yearns for a real connection. It is a quest for finding our own unique tribe, our “people” the ones who get us, accept us and embrace us, warts and all.
I’ve been reflecting on all of this for awhile–in both an overwhelmed and underwhelmed sense–let me explain.
You see, I’ve been in the online space for over 20 years–I was a freelance writer in the 90’s and began my writing career writing for online publications, as well as magazines and newspapers. Those were simpler times to be sure, a lot has changed.
It was through a long chain of events and one really great idea, that started Saving Dinner in January 2001–although it started beforehand in 2000–I just didn’t have a website! At that moment, the menu planning industry was born and I never looked back.
Saving Dinner has been like my third child–I’ve nurtured and coddled this big baby of mine through the years and look at her now, she’s 18 and all grown up. I love Saving Dinner, I love what she stands for; a heart-centered mission to bring families back to the dinner table. I love Dinner Answers, our program to do all the heavy lifting for busy people so they can eat healthfully and on their own terms. It’s good work what we do and it is timeless and important.
But today I stand before you and tell you this: I am not content to just hang out in the kitchen anymore and to keep cooking endless chicken recipes in my skillet.
I’m coming out of the kitchen, Dani.
No, I’m not abandoning my precious Saving Dinner, nor will I ever–she is still mine, but like all children, they grow up. Saving Dinner can stand on her own two feet.
I have a lot to say and I’ve decided to start saying it.
This past birthday–I turned 60–and it made me realize it’s time. And you can tell me 60 is the new 40 all day long (and maybe it is?) but that birthday triggered a burning desire in my heart to want more for my life than another crockpot recipe. I want to give more from my heart and to be all I can be.
How this is all going to play out? I have no idea…just that I am responding to a deep seated call that it is time to create a legacy, whatever that looks like.
So if you see me without a skillet in my hand and talking about something that is near and dear to my heart and it strikes a chord in you, will you let me know?
I don’t want to be “more noise”–I’ve said that before, I truly want to connect and lead the tribe that is waiting to assemble.
My heart is restless for real, not the #nofilter stuff and all the other endless hashtags proclaiming authenticity.
I’m on a personal quest–reading, meditating, praying and seeking wisdom. I’m hungry for this stuff, thirsty for true meaning and depth. I’m here for a purpose that is beyond my kitchen and I’m just putting the world on notice, that I’m ready–whatever that means.
Thanks for listening to me today. 🙂
And BTW, I love hearing from you and answer personally, every single email that comes my way. Feel free to drop me line. <3