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What’s your worst time of day as a parent? For me, it’s that dreaded period between 4pm and 5.30pm. The so-called “witching hour”.

In our house, witching hour goes something like this: I get the ingredients out to start cooking tea. Frog wants milk. I get her milk, to keep her out of the way while I cook tea. I chop up a carrot. Frog wants chocolate. I say no. Frog has a tantrum. I attempt to finish up chopping said carrot while heating oil in the pan. My phone rings. I need to send an urgent work email. Frog is still having a tantrum. The carrot is still waiting to be chopped.

By 5.30pm, when we finally sit down to eat a hastily assembled tea, my three year old is over-tired and not interested in what’s on the plate in front of her. She refuses to eat, causing another tantrum.

Finally it’s bathtime and – pretty much every single weeknight evening – I wonder if I couldn’t do the whole witching hour period a bit differently to make it less stressful.

Enter the Crock-Pot.

Crock Pot slow cooker

Now I’ll be honest. I’ve been hankering after a slow cooker for a long time now. I’ve read recipes over at Plus 2 Point 4¬†and dribbled a bit. I’ve been at friends’ houses when they’re about to do the school run and, because of their slow cooker, the kids’ tea is miraculously ready to be eaten before they’re even home from school.

So when I was offered the chance to review a Crock-Pot Countdown Slow Cooker I was probably already a tad predisposed to like it.

But oh, it hasn’t disappointed. Not one bit.

On Tuesday night I put Frog to bed, did a couple of hours’ work and then chopped up some veg. It took me ten minutes to brown some stewing steak and chuck it in the Crock-Pot along with the chopped veg. I added some water, balsamic vinegar, stock cubes and turned it onto a low heat, setting the timer for twelve hours. When I woke up the next morning the house was full of cosy cooking smells. And I felt instantly calmer, knowing that I wouldn’t have to do battle between 4pm and 5.30pm.

Later that day we went to the park. I didn’t rush back to make tea, because it was already made. We had no “I NOT LEAVE THE PARK YET MUMMY!” because Frog felt she’d had long enough to play. We got home, I served up tea at 5pm and we sat down to eat a meal that had taken me literally ten minutes to prepare, and was far healthier than something I’d nuked in the microwave.

Crock Pot

I haven’t tried other slow cookers, so I have nothing to compare the Crock-Pot against. But in the three days that I’ve had it, I have been suitably impressed.

It’s got a big heavy inner pan that is easy to take out and wash. It couldn’t be easier to set up – simply attach the lead to the back of the Crock-Pot and plug it in. Once you’re ready to go, just select your heat (either “high” or “low”) and set the timer – it goes up in 30 minute increments. When the time is up the Crock-Pot automatically goes to the “warm” setting, although you shouldn’t keep it on this for more than four hours.

The food we’ve had so far (a stew and a curry) has been delicious and easy to make. All it requires is ten minutes before I go to bed to throw the ingredients in the pan and, hey presto, food for the following day is sorted.

That tricky period between 4.30pm and 5pm is no longer a thing to dread. I’m free to play with Frog, cuddle her or read a story. If I need to deal with some work then I can do it without trying to chop a carrot and deal with a grumpy child at the same time.

My verdict? The Crock-Pot Countdown Slow Cooker is the witching hour’s biggest enemy, which means it’s an instant hit in our house.

Go and buy one. Seriously.