I always appreciate sound advice from readers. One piece arrived via a voice mail message, while the other came by way of an email. Both were about using slow cookers and need repeating here.
The first suggested that if you don’t own a cooker with a timer device, you can buy a plug-in one. She said she purchased two for $12 from Big Lots. To tell the truth, I didn’t know such things existed beyond the big one we use as a timer for our outdoor Christmas tree lights!
The second was about food safety. The gentleman caller said a slow cooker with cooked food in it should not be placed in the refrigerator to be stored for later use; it takes too long for the slow cooker to cool down and could therefore possibly create an environment where bacteria develops. He is right. It is far better to remove the food from the slow cooker and place it in another container to be refrigerated. That will cool the food faster and safer.
Also, the caller suggested that slow cookers might not reach a high enough temperature over a long period of time to kill bacteria. According to the USDA and crock-pot.com, bacteria are killed at temperatures above 165 degrees. Follow the recommended cooking times for your slow cooker and keep from opening the lid often, especially at the beginning when the slow cooker’s heat is ramping up. This will ensure safe and complete cooking.
If you need to open the lid, remember to add additional time to ensure food is cooked and tender. Large slow cookers, that hold 6 or 7 quarts, may benefit from a quick stir during cook time to distribute heat and promote even cooking.
If you’re concerned about cooking temperatures and done-ness, use a meat or a liquid thermometer to check for done-ness.
With football season here, I thought a pair of appetizer dips were in order.
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Slow-Cooker White Pizza Dip
16 ounces sour cream
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
2/3 cup diced pepperoni
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1. In large bowl, mix sour cream, ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese, the pepperoni, Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning and garlic until well-combined.
2. Spray inside of 3- to 4-quart slow cooker with cooking spray (for easier cleanup). Pour mixture into slow cooker. Top with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese. Cover; cook on low heat setting 2 hours.
3. Stir until smooth and well-combined. Makes 12 servings.
Creamy Horseradish and Dill Dip
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup prepared horseradish
2 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Dippers, such as celery sticks, cucumber rounds and potato chips
In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese, horseradish, milk and 1/4 teaspoon salt until fluffy. Stir in the dill. Serve with the dippers.