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I've decided that slow-cooker recipes are just a crock

New Year's resolution: no more slow-cooker recipes.

Yes, I know, Crock-Pots and the like are the in things these days. Grocery stores sell packages of vegetables and meat -- already sliced -- that you can throw in the slow-cooker before you leave for work. Thank goodness, because I don't know many people who can stomach, say, raw chicken at 7 a.m.

The Food Network's Alton Brown has a slow-cooker recipe (for oatmeal, of all things). Plus, I read about a class taught by a big-city chef on how to make gourmet meals in a slow-cooker. Think slow-cooked salmon, caramelized onion soup and flourless pear anise soufflé -- all in a Crock-Pot.

Still, these relics from the '70s are not for me.

Sure, like everyone else, I want to leave the house in the morning and return home after dark to a home-cooked meal. But I have yet to make one appetizing thing in my slow-cooker, and this week's recipe is no exception.

I chose it after watching a Food Network TV special on Sandra Lee, the host of "Semi-Homemade." She makes those perfectly presented dishes with cake mixes, canned foods, etc. Interesting thing: She was abused and neglected as a child, and learned these shortcuts while caring for her four younger siblings.

By the end of the show, I was so impressed, I was near tears. I resolved to become a shortcut cook and never rely on take-and-bake pizza again. At least not more than once a week.

The next day, I Googled Sandra Lee and found a recipe for her peppery pork roast. It called for a can of Dr Pepper and a couple of handfuls of dried fruit and was made in a slow-cooker. Fix-it-and-forget-it.

Shopping was simple. I found all the ingredients at my regular grocery store. But they were on the expensive side, especially for someone in post-Christmas, credit-card shock. One package of pork loin -- half the amount called for -- cost $12.63. The jar of cinnamon sticks, which I probably won't use again before they go bad, was $6.89.

Prep took awhile, especially for a Crock-Pot recipe (aren't these things supposed to be easy?). I'm not a genius with a knife, so I ended up spending a good 30 minutes trying to separate the "silver skin" from the pork. I think these white streaks are a combination of tendons and fat. Just about every cookbook I've ever read says to take the "skin" off before cooking, although this recipe -- curiously -- doesn't mention it.

Not long ago, I saw someone trim a pork tenderloin on the Food Network. The secret: Use a very sharp knife and work it under the fat, then lift up. (By now you may have gathered I am a really, really big fan of the Food Network).

Cooking the tenderloins in the Crock-Pot was pleasant. It made for a yummy smell. But the meat was dry, and the sauce was bland. The leftover cans of Dr Pepper (I had to buy a six-pack because my store didn't sell singles) were the best things about the meal.

Don't get me wrong, I still think Sandra Lee is awesome. I even printed several of her recipes off the Food Network's Web site.

But I pledge never to be sucked into another slow-cooker recipe, no matter how easy and appetizing it sounds.

Well, just as soon as I try that Crock-Pot oatmeal ... the onion soup ... and the soufflé.

Bee staff writer Kerry McCray can be reached at 578-2358 or at kmccray@modbee.com.

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