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These are some of my tips for safe crock pot cooking.

<b>dice your vegetables</b>

dice your vegetables

DO thaw out your meat and chicken before cooking.  It will then cook evenly and thoroughly.

DONT overfill the crock pot.  Only use to 3/4 filled.

Meat cooks faster than vegetables so DO dice your vegetables, onions can be grated.  I chop my vegetables finely and I find they cook just right.   With potato and sweet potato chop into small chunks but not as finely as carrots for instance.

DONT leave food in the crock pot to cool down.  Put it in another sealed contained and refrigerate as soon as possible.  If you have a removable crock this is easier to do.

DO keep your ingredients refrigerated until you are ready to use them.  This applies especially to meats and fish.

DONT look into the crock pot as you lift the lid.  Escaping steam may burn you. Lifting the lid will also add more cooking time to your recipe.  If you have to see how things are cooking or to adjust flavors then do so quickly and with care.

DONT use red kidney beans from their raw state in the crock pot.  Soak and boil first or use the canned ones.

DO follow recommended cooking times and the manufacturer's instructions.

DONT reheat food in the crock pot.

If possible DO add hot liquids instead of cold

If you follow these tips then you will be cooking safely with your crock  pot .  I think that the most important rule above is the one about not overfilling the crock pot so please take note of that one in particular.

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Cooking on a budget is more often easier than you think.  Here are a few tips for cheap easy meals using your slow cooker. Don't forget to ask your mother and grandmother for their tips too as they had to be experts in the depression years.

Buy in bulk or when on special

You don't have to be a big family to benefit but you will need a big enough freezer or pantry cupboard to cope with this method of cooking on a budget.  This includes meat and vegetables and make sure to prepare them properly for the freezer or for bottling and canning.   When you find groceries you use often  ''on special' then buy them up too.  Items like canned tomatoes and beans are two that I stock up on.

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Easy Cooking for Kids

I remember my mother teaching me to cook and the happy times I spent in the kitchen with her.  Easy cooking for kids doesn't have to be something you are going to spend all day on as kids get bored rather quickly.  Using your crock pot will mean they can get their cooking going and then watch it as it cooks.

Easy cooking for kidsFollow these 4 tips and your experience and theirs will be memorable:

1.  Use simple recipes and the kind of food they like to eat.

2.  Use easy to read step by step instructions.  Easy cooking for kids depends on this for success.

3. Try and keep the number of steps to a minimum with five being the most.  If the recipe is too complicated they will get bored and you will have to finish it all off.  Crock pot cooking is good in this respect as you often can get three step recipes or less.

4.  Select the ingredients and have them all together measure out ready to go. For example have chicken pieces already cut to the size you need for the recipe.  This is especially important if the children are young so you can avoid them using knives.

Crock pot cooking provides easy cooking for kids as it is relatively safe compared to the oven or stove top cooking methods.  Also these recipes are faily foolproof in the crock pot so they will have some good experiences cooking with you.

The good news too is that when you cook in your crock pot you won't end up with lots of washing up to do and this is good news for you and the kids.  If you are busy you can get older children to cook simple recipes in the slow cooker all by themselves and that can be a great help to you as well.

You can see that using the crock pot can provide a way for easy cooking for kids.  Pick easy step recipes and they will be rewarded with a great experience  lovely crock pot meals.  Don't forget you can also cook cakes and desserts in the crock pot and kids love these too.

You can get some great cookbooks for crock pot cooking at eBay.  Just click on this link to go there now!

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Beef Casserole with Paprika

This is a great crock pot meal to prepare and eat  on a cold rainy night to keep you warm inside.   It's easy to make this Beef Casserole with Paprika and you should have all the ingredients in your pantry although I have only become a fan of smoked paprika for about a year so I wouldn't have had that myself before then.

Casseroles are perfect for winter or when you know you haven't got much time to cook as you just set and forget in the crock pot.  I hope you enjoy this recipe and if you want to adjust it slightly then go ahead and let me know how it turns out.  Cooking is all about experimenting with the recipe to suit your tastes and this crock pot meal is no exception.

Beef Casserole with Paprika

1 kg steak cut into large cubes*Beef casserole with Paprika
1 tab butter
2 onions, chopped
1 tab butter extra
1 tab plain flour
2 teas mustard
2 tabs tomato paste
1/2 teas regular paprika
1/2 teas smoked paprika
1/2 cup each of red wine and beef stock **
salt and pepper to taste

Brown the meat in the first lot of butter and remove to the crock pot.  Add the extra butter then add the onions and cook until clear then add the  flour.  Cook for a minute then add the rest of the ingredients to the pan.  Bring to the boil stirring constantly then pour over the meat in the crock pot.  Cook on high for 4 hours on high or 6 - 7 hours on low.  If  the casserole needs any more thickening do that now just before serving.  You may find you  need this as the meat does give off more juices during cooking.  Serves 4 - 5.

Serve  Beef Casserole with Paprika with rice, mashed potatoes or small whole potatoes.  As there are only two of us this crock pot meal makes two meals for us.  I serve it one night with the small potatoes topped with sour cream and steamed vegetables, and the next night with rice as a quick meal.

*  Cheaper cuts do well cooked on the low setting
** You can replace the red wine with the same amount of beef stock if you want.

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