My roommate's parents gave us a three-quart rice-cooker/slow-cooker/steamer (!) for Christmas and I'm just trying out the first recipe on its slow-cooker setting, a modification of this beef stew recipe. Except I've never actually owed a slow-cooker before, and I'm particularly apprehensive about not following recipes exactly! The ingredient modifications were small -- I halved the recipe since I only had half as much beef as it asked for, added my own fresh spices (mostly garlic and rosemary) instead of the suggested onion soup mix, and used red wine for the liquid. I'm not really worried about these modifications because other people in the comments on the original recipe had done similar things, but I am wondering if halving the recipe means that I need to change the timing at all to compensate.
Furthermore, though the recipe calls for 30 mins on high followed by 6 hrs on low, I started prep for this too late and would like to cook the whole time on high if possible, in order to have dinner ready in time. The recipe is very similar to a beef stew I make on the stovetop that takes about 3 hrs to cook, and a few different websites suggest that 3 hrs on stovetop translates to 4-6 hrs at the "high" setting of a slow-cooker, but I've also heard that you have to add half an hour to the cook time for every time you open the slow-cooker's lid to check how done things are! Not to mention that I imagine different slow-cookers will have different "high" temperatures... According to my slow-cooker's manual, "low" gets up to 200F and "high" gets up to 210F, if that helps.
Should I let it go 4 hours on high, then check and see how it's doing and add more time (or not) from there? Or will it turn out poorly if I don't use the low setting? Do I need to change the cook time because I halved the recipe?
And finally -- if you have any favorite slow-cooker recipes, send them my way! Roommate and I are both grad students with busy schedules this semester, so we're hoping to use the slow-cooker to ensure we can eat well and still get our work done! (We also tend to prefer recipes that are more "from scratch" -- letting us use fresh spices rather than packaged mixes or soup concentrates whenever possible -- so any suggestions on how to sub out condensed soups in slow-cooker recipes would be lovely!)