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The 36-Hour Day

with Lylah M. Alphonse

I'm a full-time editor, a part-time writer, and a mom and stepmom to five amazing kids, ages 1 to 14. For me it's not about finding balance, it's about the daily juggle-- my career, my commute, freelance work, homework, housework, married life, social life, and parenting-- and finding the time to get it all done.

To learn more about Lylah, check out her Work It, Mom! profile and read her blog at

I put the “slow” in “slow cooker.” And the “crock” in “crock pot”

Categories: Career, Hacking Life, Making Time, The Juggle, Uncategorized, do more with less


It goes against every fiber of my working mom being, but I have to admit it, right here, right now: I’m not in love with my slow cooker.

Oh sure, it’s a fine mini appliance. It does its job well. We can probably be friends, but I’m not sure that my crock pot is, you know, “The One.” Obviously, the problem in this relationship is me, not it. It’s done nothing wrong, it functions perfectly well, it does what it’s designed to do.

It’s me. I don’t think I have enough patience for the crock pot.
I got a hold of a few slow cooker cookbooks, perused the recipes, and immediately eliminated most of the ones that contained salsa and/or Velveeta, on the grounds that I’m just not all that fond of semi Tex-Mex food and Velveeta evokes memories a nasty childhood incident involving some rogue shells ‘n’ cheeze.

That narrowed the playing field considerably. Perhaps I needed a different cookbook?

I grabbed another one. Then I ruled out the recipes that require multiple steps on the stove before throwing everything into the slow cooker, because if I have to dirty three saucepans and clean grease splatters off my cook top, that recipe no longer qualifies as a “time saver.”

I gave up on the cookbooks. For my first foray into slow cookery, I surveyed the contents of our freezer, hauled out a ham bone, and decided to make split pea and ham soup. I grudgingly sauteed the onions, celery, and carrots on the stove before dumping the veggies into the crock pot, added the bone and the split peas and the stock and water, and waited. And waited. And waited.

After eleventy bazillion hours, the thing beeped. I opened it up and beheld… a pile of slightly swollen split peas cozied up next to some intact veggies and the ham. Not soup. Kind of sort of like dahl, except not that either.

Exasperated, I poured everything into my largest stock pot, set it on the stove, and the soup was perfect a mere hour later.

See? It’s me. No patience. Maybe, next time, I’ll have to try to slow cook something when I’m not home to check on it every 20 minutes.

Working moms (and dads), help a frustrated friend and tell me, what’s your favorite crock pot recipe? My slow cooker is sitting there, sulking, and I’m desperate to make our relationship work.

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12 comments so far...

  • Turkey Breast is great for the crockpot. Throw in some turkey breast. Can of chicken broth, a few carrots, onion, celery, salt pepper. Put the crockpot on and leave the house. When you get back you will have yummy turkey.

    That is the key to crockpots. Put them on before work come home and bam you have something tender to eat when you get back.

    Terri  |  January 26th, 2009 at 5:51 am

  • I love my crockpot but only for certain recipes. I’ve had a lot of ‘dud’ recipes myself. One of my favorites is Pork & Sauerkraut. Use a 4 lb pork lion, a bag of sauerkraut, a large can of diced tomatoes, 3/4 cup barley, and 3/4 cup sugar. Mix it all together in the crockpot. Cook on low for 8 hours. Easy as can be and very tasty! I actually mix it all up the night before, store in the fridge, and then take it out and turn it on before leaving for work.

    Cheryl  |  January 26th, 2009 at 7:05 am

  • My former manager raved about this crockpot, I tried using it, didn’t like it.
    I forgot about it. Then as I read stuff on this site, I decided to give it another try. Nope, not for me. I do not like the crock pot, the taste of the food it produces and most of the food is ready much faster then it says. For example I set it on 8 hours, the food was ready in like 3.

    I’d rather follow a easy and fast recipe then deal with the crockpot.

    vera babayeva  |  January 26th, 2009 at 8:28 am

  • Here’s the easiest recipe I’ve done…love it, and no dirty dishes.
    Take a pound of chicken breasts (or any other boneless chicken) and put into the crockpot on low with a can of tomatoes and some BBQ sauce. After about 6-8 hours, drain the chicken and shred in the crockpot. Add enough BBQ sauce to taste and turn the crockpot back on high for about 30 minutes. (You can do this all on high for about 4 hours too). Serve on buns.

    I usually make this for parties and get-togethers too…it’s so easy.
    Also…you can make chicken tacos by doing the same thing, just add some of your favorite taco seasonings instead of the BBQ sauce.

    Good luck.

    Michele  |  January 26th, 2009 at 10:28 am

  • I love my crockpot and use it at least 1x a week- sometimes more. Stew, Stuffed peppers and lots more. I love the crockpot lady- she is always fun and truthful if something is good or now. I’m going to try Terri’s recipe- thanks .
    On the days my grandson comes over-keeps me free to keep up with him and have dinner for everyone on time.

    eileenb  |  January 26th, 2009 at 12:45 pm

  • I mostly use it for pot roast or what I call enchilada meat. I get a good size roast, sprinkle it with grill seasoning and brown it on the stove in olive oil.

    For pot roast I put baby carrots and potatoes on the bottom of the crock pot, put the meat on top and add a packet of onion soup mix and beef broth to cover the meat then leave it on low all day. When I get home I make gravy with the broth (make a simple roux of flour & butter then add juice, stir teill thickened).

    For enchilada meat I start out the same, but in the crock pot I put tomato sauce & beef broth along with garlic powder, cumin, chile powder and any other mexican seasonings I have on hand. This meat is great in tortillas with a little cheese as a burrito or enchiladas.

    Hope you can use these, they’re tasty.

    Kit Basler  |  January 26th, 2009 at 2:26 pm

  • Have you checked out crockpot 365? She used her crockpost every day in 2008 and posted the results. I can send you the link if you need it.
    I use mine at least once a week. I made chicken soup from scratch on Saturday because I wasn’t feeling well. It feels heavenly on my throat, and it’s so much more nutritious than a can of condensed soup.

    Daisy  |  January 26th, 2009 at 2:41 pm

  • I would say that my slow-cooker and I are “casually dating” definitely not in love though I pull it out maybe twice a month (I have to say, if it’s the weekend and I’ll be around, I go dutch oven every time!). And the recipes out there make me puke for the most part. Give me a recipe without condensed soup pretty please!

    Robin Miller’s cookbook has some great tips on converting recipes to slow cooker. And the queens of freeze ahead: Fix, Freeze Feast authors have some good recipes as well. My favorite is the Pork Ragut, which is basically the following layers:
    1 chopped onion
    1 chopped green pepper
    1 pork tenderloin
    2 28 oz cans (they make there own, but why?) of Italian red sauce

    When it is cooked, you use a fork to shred the meat and have a hearty pork ragut to serve over pasta or in lasagna. It’s delish.

    That said, I think the slow-cooker is well suited for big cuts of meat and most certainly the patience factor goes away if you are walking out the door at 7 a.m. and don’t want to think about it again until you walk back in at 6 p.m.

    Brenda  |  January 26th, 2009 at 4:15 pm

  • I’m not a fan of the crockpot, either, for all the reasons you mentioned. I don’t like the way meat comes out in it, and the vast majority of recipes seem to have a big “ick” factor for me. Most of the recpies are too much work for first thing in the morning, and when I need the crockpot, I need something that can simmer for 12-14 hours, not 8-10.

    I only have one recipe I really like in it — gumbo. Take a bag of Lousianna brand Cajun Gumbo Mix, a bag of frozen mixed veggies, and andouille sausage (optional). Although to be honest, it’s just as good cooking on the stovetop for 30 minutes as it is for several hours in the crockpot.

    SoftwareMom  |  January 26th, 2009 at 6:00 pm

  • I do love my crock pot, I must confess. My favorite go-to recipes include pot roast (we’ll be finishing off the one I slow cooked on Friday for dinner tonight), chili, a couple of chicken dishes (neither containing Velveeta :) ), apple cobbler and split pea soup.

    I’m with you - if a recipe requires a lot of prep on the stove, oy, why bother? I love being able to throw a few ingredients into the crock pot, especially when I don’t even need to thaw the meat first, and turn that sucker on and let it go. I’m a lazy slow cooker cook!!

    If you want any of the recipes, you know where to find me, happy to share any or all!

    Heather  |  January 26th, 2009 at 6:41 pm

  • I have to say I AM in love with my slow cooker because of the cookbook The Healthy Slow Cooker by Judith Finlayson. Most of her recipes have worked out really well for me. Although I agree with you about the pre-sauteeing crap. Finlayson often has a bunch of steps to do before things go in the pot and I ignore all the prep-work and throw it in and so far so good. I mean, what is the point of a crock-pot if you have to pre-cook it all? ( And for the record - my nephews love most of the dishes too (my daughter is too young).

    melanie  |  January 26th, 2009 at 8:00 pm

  • I second the commenter that suggested you check out Crockpot 365 ( I’ve done tons of her recipes and loved them. I’m actually making her crockpot risotto tonight.

    I’m 100% with you on the recipes that require a ton of prep work before you can put them in the crockpot- that defeats the purpose. The whole reason I love mine (and I do LOVE mine) is that I can plop ingredients in it in the am and have dinner done when I’m ready for it in the evening, without me spending a ton of time on it- I’d much rather spend the time on my kids.

    Rachel  |  February 5th, 2009 at 10:29 am

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