Spoiler alert: This article contains major plot details from last week's episode of "This Is Us."
The poor Crock-Pot.
After last Tuesday's episode of NBC's popular show "This Is Us," the classic kitchen appliance has been getting a lot of heat for causing a house fire. A fire that figures heavily into an ongoing plot.
Ouch! Someone call the PR department and get the recipe for a big bowl of damage control.
Technically, the appliance is called a slow-cooker. But many people call it a Crock-Pot. The time-saving humble appliance was introduced in 1971 by the Rival Co., and the Crock-Pot name is trademarked.
But today, is the Crock-Pot responsible for Jack's death? The topic is sparking on Twitter and Facebook.
For fans of "This Is Us," the episode was a lead-up to the Super Bowl episode. And we know the Pearson's are Steelers fans, because the series is set in Pittsburgh. In the episode Rebecca is wearing a Steelers jersey. The next episode will air Feb. 4 after the Super Bowl.
Last Tuesday there were flames. Those flames lead to upcoming scenes of the next episode, presumably when we find out Jack's fate.
But the Crock-Pot folks are defending their beloved appliance telling customers they are safe.
In the meantime, we are gonna love on the Crock-Pot for a little bit. Here are a few of our favorite slow cooker tips and yummy recipes from The Free Press archives.
-- Always make sure the insert is half-full, but no more than two-thirds full, to avoid spillovers once the liquids heat up.
-- Allow enough time. Slow-cookers take a while to warm up and, of course, take a while to cook.
-- Don't peek. Try not to lift the lid. You lose at least 20 minutes of cooking time when you do so.
-- Don't cook frozen meat or poultry in the slow-cooker because it will not reach a safe temperature in time to halt bacterial growth.
-- Add tender vegetables like zucchini, bell peppers and peas during the last 30 minutes or so. Cooking them longer could make them mushy.
-- Most slow-cookers have two settings: low and high. Typically, low is around 200 degrees, and high is 300 degrees. But you should not simply translate the recipe to oven temperature following those settings. The slow-cooker uses a wrap-around type of heat, and the food is closer to the heat source than it is in the oven.
-- When converting recipes to a slow-cooker, the amount of liquid may need to be reduced because liquid does not evaporate in a slow-cooker like it does on the stovetop.
Serves: 8 / Preparation time: 15 minutes (if searing) / Total time: 8 hours using a slow-cooker
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 4-pound boneless chuck roast or top or bottom round roast
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 (1-ounce) packet dry ranch dressing seasoning mix
1 (1-ounce) packet dry au jus gravy mix
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
5-6 pepperoncini or more if you like
Cut the roast if needed to fit in the skillet and slow cooker. Season both sides of the roast with salt and pepper to taste.
In a large skillet, heat the oil. When hot, add the roast and sear on both sides.
Transfer the seared roast to the slow-cooker. Sprinkle the ranch seasoning mix on top of the chuck roast, then sprinkle the dry au jus mix and place the stick of butter on top of the roast. Arrange the pepperoncini around the roast.
Cook on low for 8 hours or until the meat is falling apart tender. Shred the roast and serve with gravy juices.
Cook's note: To make this in the oven, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Sear the roast and place in a baking dish. Sprinkle with the ranch and au jus seasoning. Cut the butter into pieces and arrange all over the roast along with the pepperoncini. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 2 to 3 hours or until meat is fork tender.
Adapted from several recipes on Pinterest and tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen. Nutrition information not available.
SLOW-COOKER CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP
Makes: 10 (1 cup) servings / Preparation time: 20 minutes / Total time: 6 to 8 hours (not all active time)
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 can (14.5 ounces) fire-roasted diced tomatoes
5 cups water
5 teaspoons reduced-sodium chicken base (such as Better Than Bouillon Reduced-Sodium Chicken Base)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced green pepper
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed, diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
2 tablespoons favorite chili powder, divided
2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided
2 cans (15 ounces each) cannellini beans, drained, rinsed
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
20 tablespoons tortilla strips topping (such as Fresh Gourmet Lightly Salted Tortilla Strips)
3 to 4 green onions, thinly sliced
Lime wedges for garnish, optional
Place chicken and tomatoes in slow cooker. Heat water and add chicken base, stirring until dissolved and add to slow cooker.
Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, green pepper, jalapeno pepper, garlic, 1 tablespoon chili powder and 1 teaspoon cumin. Saute 2 to 3 minutes. Add sauteed vegetables to slow cooker along with cannellini beans and corn. Cover and cook on low setting for 6 to 8 hours. After 2 hours of cooking, remove chicken breast, shred and return to slow cooker for the remaining cooking time. One half hour before cooking time has ended, stir in thyme and remaining chili powder and cumin.
When cooking is complete, add vinegar, salt and black pepper. When ready to serve, top each 1 cup portion with 2 tablespoons tortilla strips, sliced green onion, and lime wedge, if desired.
Created by Darlene Zimmerman, MS, RD, and tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.
220 calories (20 percent from fat), 5 g fat (1 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 26 g carbohydrates, 18 g protein, 470 mg sodium, 29 mg cholesterol, 58 mg calcium, 7 g fiber. Food exchanges: 1 starch, 2 vegetable, 2 lean meat.
SLOW COOKER CHILI
Serves: 12 / Preparation time: 30 minutes Total time: 6 1/2 to 8 1/2 hours (not active time) Partially freezing the beef makes it easier to slice. Analysis is based on using low-sodium diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and beef broth.
3 tablespoons favorite chili powder
3 tablespoons New Mexico-style or a medium to hot chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 pounds beef sirloin or chuck, trimmed of fat
1 large onion, peeled, chopped
1 large green pepper, washed, cored, chopped
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
2 cans (15 1/2 ounces) hot or mild chili beans such as Brooks' or Bush's
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes with their liquid
8 ounces tomato sauce
1 can (14 ounces) less-sodium beef broth
In a small bowl, mix all the spice ingredients; set aside.
Place the beef in the freezer for 20 minutes before cutting into pieces.
Meanwhile, chop the onion and green pepper. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil. Add the onion and saute about 5 to 8 minutes. Add the green pepper and garlic, and continue cooking another 8 minutes. While the onion and green pepper cook, remove the meat from the freezer and dice it into small pieces.
Place the onion mixture in a slow cooker. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of canola oil to the skillet and use medium-high heat. Working in batches if necessary, add the beef pieces to the skillet. Brown the meat on all sides. Sprinkle with a few tablespoons of the spice mixture and toss to coat.
Add the seasoned meat to the slow cooker. Stir in the beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce and half the beef broth and the remaining spice mixture. If the mixture seems too thick, add more beef broth to desired consistency.
Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or until meat is very tender. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Serve topped with shredded cheese and sliced greens and with corn bread.
From and tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen. 191 calories (31 percent from fat), 7 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 16 g carbohydrates, 18 g protein, 491 mg sodium, 40 mg cholesterol, 35 mg calcium, 4 g fiber.
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