I just got a slow cooker (this one: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001...) for the very first time. I have a 10 month old baby and I work full time, and a slow cooker seems ideal--the idea of having dinner ready and waiting for me when I get home from work a couple of times a week sounds like heaven.
I used it for the first time yesterday, making choucroute garni. I used this recipe, adding a couple of spices and trading out the smoked pork chops for boneless country pork spareribs, as seen in another recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/fo.... It says to cook on low for at least 6 and up to 8 hours. At 7 am I set it to low for 8 hours, and I left. I got home at 6 pm and it was set on warm, which is what it goes to after the set time finishes. I don't think there is any way to make it turn off once the time is done.
Everything was hopelessly overcooked. The potatoes and apples were okay, but the sauerkraut was tasteless and the meats were dry and flavorless. A lot of mustard made it go down, but it was still a huge disappointment.
Help me out, Chowhounds! Should I have put this on for only 6 hours? Or even less, since it was going to stay on warm for hours after? Does the "warm" setting on a slow cooker keep cooking? How do I take that into account?
My husband has a somewhat more flexible schedule than I do, and often works from home in the mornings. Would it be better if I had him turn it on so that the dish only cooked for the time listed in the recipe, rather than staying on warm for additional hours?
Are there any items that will turn out well after being in the slow cooker for 11 hours on some combination of cooking and warm?
I'd also love some advice for great slow cooker recipes, or what you love in the slow cooker. Vegetarian recipes, or ones with just a little meat for flavor, are especially welcome, as we don't eat a ton of meat. I'm thinking of trying beans tomorrow -- those sound like they'll do well in the slow cooker.
Finally, any ideas on how to use up my leftovers? I'm thinking ham pie for the pork ribs, as the additional filling will add flavor. The kielbasa may be a lost cause. Ideas for using overcooked sauerkraut?
Thank you! I really want to love my slow cooker, but I need to learn how.