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Fast Fall Meals The Slow Way

When fast-paced fall schedules threaten to disrupt family mealtime it's time to slow down. Slow cooking is the way to go!

Yes, when time is short, a crockpot is a cook's best friend.

Having a family meal together is as simple as putting a few ingredients in the crockpot before you leave for work in the morning. That evening when you get home your meal is ready to serve.

Another plus for slow cooking is that it tenderizes less expensive cuts of meat. It's almost impossible to overcook in a slow cooker, so if you're running late there's no need to worry.

Today's column features hearty crockpot choices for fall. The recipes include: Slow Cooked Pepper Steak, Cranberry Pork Roast, Slow and Easy Stew, Forgotten Minestrone, Crockpot Cider Punch.

SLOW-COOKED PEPPER STEAK

2 lb. round steak, 2 T. oil, 1/4 c. soy sauce, 1 c. onion, chopped, 1 garlic clove, minced, 1 tsp. sugar, 1/4 tsp. ginger, 1/4 tsp. pepper, 1/2 tsp. salt, 2 green peppers, in strips, 4 tomatoes, cut in eighths or use 16 oz. can tomatoes, 1/2 c. cold water, 1 T. cornstarch, cooked noodles or rice

Cut beef into 3 by 1-inch strips and brown in oil in skillet. Transfer to a crockpot. Combine the soy sauce, onion, garlic, sugar, ginger, pepper and salt and pour over beef. Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours or until meat is tender. Add tomatoes and green peppers; cook on low for one hour longer. Combine the cold water and cornstarch and make a paste; stir into liquid in crockpot and cook on high until thickened. Serve over noodles or rice.

CRANBERRY PORK ROAST

3 lb. boneless rolled pork roast, 16-oz. jelled cranberry sauce, 11/2 c. sugar, 1/2 c. cranberry juice, 1 tsp. dry mustard , 1/4 tsp. cloves, 2 T. cornstarch, 2 T. cold water, salt to taste

Place pork roast in slow cooker. In medium bowl mash cranberry sauce; stir in sugar, cranberry juice, mustard, and cloves. Pour over roast. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or until meat is tender. Remove roost ad keep warm. Skim fat from juices; measure 2 cups, adding water if necessary and pour into a saucepan. Combine cornstarch and cold water to make a paste; stir into juices. Cook and stir until thickened. Season with salt. Serve with sliced pork. Serves 4 to 6.

SLOW AND EASY STEW

1-1/2 lb. stew meat, cubed, 1/2 head cabbage, quartered, 9 carrots, sliced, 1-lb. can tomatoes (save the juice), 2 onions, quartered, 1/2 green pepper, diced, 3 tsp. sugar, 2 celery stalks, sliced, 1/2 tsp. basil, 5 potatoes, quartered, 1 tsp. salt, 1 T. soy sauce, 1 c. juice (from tomatoes), 1/2 c. water

Place meat in bottom of crockpot. Add raw vegetables in order listed along with the tomatoes. In small bowl mix dry ingredients. Add juice from tomatoes, water and soy sauce. Stir to blend. Pour over all vegetables and meat. Cover; cook on high for 3-1/2 to 4 hours or on low for 8 to 9 hours without removing the cover. Serves 6 to 8.

FORGOTTEN MINESTRONE

1 lb. beef stew meat, 6 c. water, 28-oz. can tomatoes, cut up, 1 beef bouillon cube, 1 onion, chopped, 2 T. dried parsley, 2 tsp. salt, 1-1/2 tsp. thyme, 1/2 tsp. pepper, 1 zucchini, sliced thin, 2 c. cabbage, chopped fine, 16-oz. garbanzo beans, drained, 1 c. uncooked small elbow or shell macaroni

In crockpot combine beef, water, tomatoes, bouillon, onion, parsley, salt, thyme and pepper. Cover and cook on low for 7 to 9 hours or until meat is tender. Add zucchini, cabbage, beans, and macaroni; cook on high, covered, 30 to 45 minutes more or until vegetables are tender. Sprinkle individual servings with Parmesan cheese. Serves 8.

CROCKPOT CIDER PUNCH

1 gallon apple cider, 2/3 c. sugar, 1 tsp. cloves, 1 orange, halved and studded with whole cloves, 2 to 3 cinnamon sticks, 2 tsp. allspice

Combine all ingredients except orange in crockpot. Cover and simmer on low for 3 hours. Stir occasionally. With slotted spoon remove cinnamon sticks. Add orange halves and serve. Makes one gallon.