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Crock pot tips + black and orange foods

We spotted theses two crock pot tips from a Stafford woman in a recent USA Weekend publication. She recommends spraying the pot down with cooking spray, and also “cooking” soapy water inside for easier cleanup.

Anna Victoria Reich of Stafford, Va., writes, “Now that the holidays are around the corner, I use my slow cooker a lot. I coat the inside with cooking spray, which helps prevent the food from sticking to the sides and the bottom and also makes for an easier cleanup.”

Speaking of cleanup, she has another tip for that: “If there is any food stuck on, just fill the slow cooker with water and add a squirt of dish cleaning detergent – and heat the cooker on very low heat for a couple of hours.”

I don’t normally cook in a crock pot — most recipes are way too big for one person — but I did use one for a black bean dip last night. A group of us at the Free Lance-Star have a monthly themed potluck, and yesterday’s theme of “black and orange” drew a larger crowd than normal. (And we ate well–miso glazed sweet potatoes, carrot and olive salad, hummus, sesame seed bagels with lox and cream cheese, pumpkin bread with nutella, Halloween oreos and orange soda, black and orange (not white) cookies, macaroni and cheese, quinoa with sweet potatoes and black beans. We have some good cooks here!)

I wasn’t able to be in the newsroom at 5 p.m. because of an interview and worried about how to keep my dip hot, without asking a coworker to microwave the casserole dish that I had baked it in during lunch. Instead, I scooped it all into the crock pot, topped it with more cheddar and set it on low for the next two hours. Next time (and there will be a next time because this recipe was incredibly flavorful and delicious), I’ll consider baking it right in the ceramic pot, and then placing it on low for whenever it’s needed. Perhaps it could even just be cooked in the crock pot itself, no oven needed? I’ll have to try that as well. (As for cleanup, I filled it with water as soon as I got home, let it sit overnight, and barely had to scrub it this morning.)

Readers — any other tips or favorite recipes to share for “slow cooker season”?