Kids Cook Monday: Slow Cooker (aka "Crockpot) Roast
What Age is Appropriate for Kids to Prepare Meals?
When I went to college, I was surprised how many young adults did not know how to prepare a hot meal, grocery shop effectively, or do even wash, dry and fold laundry. My philosophy is to teach children to prepare food according to their personal ability. My four year old can make a sloppy pbj, for example, my five year old's is a little neater. Neither one is allowed to use the stovetop. However, my three older children (7, 10 & 12) all can prepare eggs. The older two can brown ground meat, cook pasta and other simple meals.
Today, I decided to let my almost 13-year old prepare our roast, with just a little guidance. I have shown her how before, now it was her turn to show me she had listened and observed.
And, she had. She did beautifully, and even started the vegetables without my asking (I had to explain that those would be started 5 hours later, after thanking her). Here is the recipe we follow.
Gather Tools & Ingredients
The tools needed for this roast are:
3-inch deep by 12-inch diameter skillet
SlowCooker (programmable preferrably if you will not be home)
Small mixing bowl
Ingredients you will need:
Olive Oil/Grapeseed Oil
1 medium to large onion, peeled and chopped into large pieces
2-5 organic carrots (better flavor) - depending on preference
2-3 tsp sage (again, depending on taste preference)
2-3 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 tsp kosher coarse salt or sea salt
Better than Bouillion (no MSG) Beef stock base - 1 TBSP
another 2-3 tsp sage
1 cup steaming water
Turn on slow cooker. I set mine for 8 hours normally, although today, we had to settle for 6 because of our late start.
Place skillet on burner set at med-hi heat. Pour in enough olive oil to cover bottom of pan, and to a depth of approximately 1/4 inch.
While oil warms, pat roast with paper towel. Beef browns better when dried. (Thank you, Julia Child for that tip!) Next, add sage, pepper and salt to hot oil.
Searing the Roast & Crock Placement
Searing meat locks in juices and flavor. Here's how I do it:
Once oil is hot and small bubbles appear at the bottom of pan, lift roast with a meat fork by inserting at a 45 degree angle into the meat. This angle provides better control of the meat. Use a second fork to steady. Slowly, lower meat into oil. The meat/oil contact should produce immediate sizzle. (If not, remove meat because the oil is not hot enough. Try again in 2-3 minutes.) Always begin with broadest side of roast.
While first side browns (does not take but a 1-2 minutes) put steaming water in small mixing bowl. Add Better than Bouillion. Whisk with fork until dissolved completely.
Carefully turn roast to opposit side, saving narrowest sides for last. While second side sears, chop onions, then carrots into large pieces. Place half of an onion and 1/2 to 1 carrot at bottom of SlowCooker. Pour enough beef stock to almost cover vegetables.
Turn roast to remaining sides. You will probably have to steady with two forks as each remaining, smaller side sears. Once all sides are browned, place, large side down on top of the veggies in slow cooker. Pour remaining vegetables into slowcooker. Pour remaining stock. Add enough water to almost cover roast. Add second measurement of sage. Stir briskly with fork. Cover.
Sides & Gravy
We usually serve our roast with gnocchi, lima beans and another vegetable or two. About 30 minutes prior to the roast finishing, prepare the vegetables. If cooking gnocchi, take the broth/juices from the roast and place in a sauce pan for gravy. Place the gnocchi in the juices remaining in the slow cooker -- gnocchi floats when cooked. Mushrooms are an excellent flavor enhancer and can be added about 15-20 minutes before you begin your gravy. Prepare gravy either with cornstarch or flour, preparing a thicker paste with cold water in a separate bowl works best. Taste the gravy. If more flavor is needed, add sage, salt and pepper. Whisk flour mixture into juices. Simmer until desired thickness.
Discuss the importance of timing and thoroughly considering all steps of a plan. Ask your child to determine dinner time, how long the roast needs to cook, and determine starting times. If needed, write a schedule of when to start what vegetables, gravy, etc.
Also, as always, discuss balanced nutrition and tasty, attractive sides. My kids respond well to a plate filled with colorful foods.
Fruit salad or fruit sauce over angel food cake makes an excellent finish to this meal.
Meal planning expands my time and budget. We prepared two roasts today. The extra meat will be used for French Dip sandwiches for lunch tomorrow, and then in two days, will be reheated with barbecue sauce for stuffed potatoes.
Thank you for reading. I welcome any comments! Please rate this piece if you liked it, and if not, well, then, rate it accordingly as well & leave a tip on how my writing can be improved. If you really like it, please share!
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