Tips of the trade for using a slow cooker

Dear Readers: We recently printed a letter from a reader who had some concerns about leaving a slow cooker going all day. We have received some hints from other readers and want to share what they have to say:
US.R., via e-mail, says: "I read the slow-cooking concerns from a reader and would like to let her know that I do my slow cooking overnight. I turn it on before retiring at night, and then it's all done when I wake up. Hope this idea helps."
URenee Winder of Angleton, Texas, says: "I had to write in about finding time to cook in the slow cooker. Like you suggested, I chop all veggies the night before and assemble in the morning. Then I hook my cooker up to an outlet timer (originally purchased at a hardware store to turn lamps on and off). My eight-hour recipes start at 10 a.m. and are ready by dinner. The trick is, you have to set the cooker to "ON" also ... or you wind up with a pot of raw chicken on the night you invited your mother-in-law over for dinner! So, evidently not foolproof, but pretty close!"
UChristine Stransky of Wharton, Texas, says: "I use my slow cooker all the time. I have a slow cooker with a removable stoneware liner. I prepare the meal in the liner the night before, except for adding any liquid, and put it in the refrigerator. The next morning I put the liner in the cooker, add liquid if necessary and turn it on. It's very simple. For recipes that cook only five to six hours, I either come home at lunchtime to turn it on or cook it on the weekend, store it in the refrigerator and then heat it for dinner one night during the week. Regarding her concern about using it when she's not there, I put the cooker on the counter away from everything else and have never had a problem. I've been using a slow cooker at least twice a month for 15 years. Since she's fixing meals for one person, she could freeze the leftovers and have meals for several more days."
ULastly, one of my assistants says she also cooks overnight when she is making pinto beans for a barbecue the next day. Heloise
Dear Heloise: For those who find that canned soups are skimpy on the veggies or chicken and don't care to make homemade, I handle this problem by adding handfuls of frozen vegetables to my taste. Canned veggies may also be used. Sometimes, I add some precooked chicken strips. Shari Hansen, Huntington Beach, Calif.
Dear Heloise: To cut back on the sugar and sodium in canned baked beans, I make my own by draining and rinsing a can of navy beans, then mixing in a little ketchup, chopped onion and sometimes mustard. Lois Benway, Winter Haven, Fla.
XSend a money-saving or timesaving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, TX 78279-5000, or you can fax it to (210) HELOISE or e-mail it to
King Features Syndicate

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