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‘Tis the season for slow cookers

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Who loves to walk in the door after a long day at work and be greeted by the aroma of a warm soup in the slow cooker?

Slow cookers offer many benefits in the kitchen. Keep these tips in mind when you use your slow cooker this season.

* A slow cooker uses less electricity than an oven.

* As a result of the long, low-temperature cooking, slow cookers help tenderize less-expensive cuts of meat.

* Slow cookers usually allow one-step preparation. Placing all the ingredients in the slow cooker saves preparation time and cuts down on cleanup.

* Most slow cookers have two or three settings. When using the low setting, food will cook in six to 10 hours. Using the high setting allows food to cook in four to six hours. If possible, turn the slow cooker on the high setting for the first hour of cooking time and then use the setting that fits your needs.

* Always thaw meat and poultry in the refrigerator before cooking in the slow cooker. This will ensure complete cooking.

* Because vegetables cook slower than meat and poultry, place the vegetables in the slow cooker first. Place the meat on top of the vegetables and top with liquid, such as broth, water or a sauce.

* For easy cleanup and care of your slow cooker, spray the inside of the cooker with nonstick cooking spray before using it. Slow cooker liners also ease clean up.

* Fill slow cooker no less than half full and no more than two-thirds full. Cooking too little or too much food in the slow cooker can affect cooking time, quality and/or safety (if filled too full).

* Keep the lid in place. Removing the lid slows cooking time.

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