A few years ago, Karen Petersen says, she was not comfortable with her cooking abilities.
Now, she is the author of two cookbooks and hosts a popular cooking blog (www.365daysofcrockpot.com).
The Woods Cross woman loves to share the tips and tricks she has learned about preparing delicious and easy slow-cooked meals. She is one of the presenters on Saturday at the 2011 women’s forum, hosted by Brigham City Community Hospital and Utah State University’s Brigham City campus.
In 2008, Petersen was mother to a 3-year-old and an infant. “I didn’t know anything about slow cooking, and I simply cooked because I had to,” she said.
One day, she stumbled upon a slow-cooker recipe and decided to try it out — unaware of how it was about to change her life. She immediately realized the benefits of being able to do the bulk of the meal preparation hours ahead of dinnertime.
“I realized that dinnertime is not the best time for most people to make dinner,” she said of this often busy time of day.
After preparing her first slow-cooker meal, Petersen decided to try a new slow-cooker recipe every day for a week. When that went well, she decided to embark on a learning experience and committed to trying a new recipe every day for one year.
Her sister encouraged her to blog and post pictures about her experiences, and so www.365daysofcrockpot, the blog, was created in January 2009.
Petersen said it was tough to stick to her commitment every day for a year, and she was glad that the blog kept her motivated. Now, she updates with new recipes weekly, which is a lot more manageable.
Her workshop trains others on choosing the right cuts of meats, boosting flavor, perfecting recipes, converting traditional recipes to slow-cooker ones, and thickening methods to help counteract the condensation that occurs during the slow-cooking process.
“I’ve definitely experimented enough to know what works and what doesn’t,” she said.
In February 2010, Petersen published her recipes in the book “365 Days of Slow Cooking,” available at her workshop for $14. Her new cookbook is scheduled for release in March 2012.
Some of her favorite recipes include breakfast casseroles; steel-cut oats slow-cooked overnight; main dishes of chicken, pork or beef; pudding cakes; cobblers and side dishes of seasoned rice or potatoes.
Petersen said she is now very comfortable in the kitchen and looks forward to cooking for dinner parties.
Besides the usual slow-cooker meals, she has also discovered some unusual ways to use her slow cooker, such as for making banana or zucchini bread. She uses a rack in the slow cooker to hold up the loaf pan. “It’s a great way to bake in the summer since it doesn’t heat up the house,” she said.
Joan Bell, imaging department manager at Brigham City Community Hospital, has been planning the annual conference since it first began 11 years ago.
“We try to attract speakers from a broad range of age groups to offer a day that is both educational and fun,” Bell said. The workshops cover topics such as growing old gracefully, family fun, interior decorating, helping children deal with bullies, breast cancer awareness, continuing education, and boosting your wardrobe on a budget.
Bell recruits from multiple local organizations to help with the planning process. Beth Allen, adviser to the Box Elder Chapter of Homemakers, helped recruit several of the workshop presenters and the keynote speaker, Brooke Walker, host of KSL’s “Studio 5.”
Allen has heard Walker, a native of Brigham City, speak on several occasions. “She is wonderful. She is so enthusiastic and has so many great ideas about how we can improve our lives and become better women,” Allen said.
Allen believes the No. 1 thing women gain from the conference is enthusiasm. “I’ve noticed that the women who attend seem to really enjoy being with other women who are interested in the same things they are,” she said.
For a description of the sessions, visit http://hcamountaindivision.com/WomanReg.