There’s nothing quite as easy as crock pot cooking, although my sister just made a whole chicken in the microwave in a Pampered Chef casserole pan and it was delicious!
I was skeptical at first but it smelled and tasted perfect. My daughters asked for seconds and one wryly added that the chicken was not hard, like mine usually is. Aren’t they sweet?
So, besides the miracle microwave chicken in the Pampered Chef casserole dish, slow cooking is this mom’s little helper.
Autumn is the ideal time to take your crock pot out of hiding and start using it.
Here are some of my favorite slow cooked meals that don’t require a huge amount of effort to cook or clean up.
One recipe I use over and over again is slow cooked pulled pork and it’s super easy. All you need is a 3- to 4-pound boneless pork roast and a bottle of Sweet Baby Ray’s Barbecue Sauce. I’ve used every kind of pork roast there is and have used different brands of barbecue sauce and this always gets rave reviews.
Drop the roast and sauce in your crock pot and cook overnight on low. In the morning, use a fork to shred the pork and add some more sauce. I usually scrape off any fat at this time. Add some fresh rolls and everyone is happy.
This freezes easily too so you can make a double batch and have a freezer meal for another day. It’s very economical.
I’ve added shredded carrots and red or green peppers to the pot. They mix with the sauce and you don't realize you're eating vegetables. I’m sure onions or hot peppers would add great flavor as well.
I’ve used chicken instead of pork and it works nicely. At a party, my guests commented on how they enjoyed the pulled pork and it was actually chicken.
Another recipe I make as a crock pot dish is lasagna soup. I found the recipe in Family Fun Magazine a few years back. It calls for 1.5 pounds of Italian sausage (I use bulk); 2 finely chopped onions (my husband doesn’t like onions so I don’t usually add them in), 4 minced garlic cloves (I’ve used garlic powder instead); 2 teaspoons of oregano; ½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes; 2 tablespoons of tomato paste;1 can of diced tomatoes; 6 cups of chicken broth; 2 bay leaves (if I have them on hand); 8 ounces fusilli pasta; 1/2 cup of finely chopped basil; 8 ounces of ricotta cheese; ½ cup of grated parmesan cheese; ¼ teaspoon of salt; a pinch of pepper; and 2 cups of mozzarella cheese.
I brown the sausage and then put everything in the crock pot except the pasta and cheese and cook on low for 4-5 hours. When almost ready, I make the pasta, remove the bay leaves from the soup and mix the cheeses together with ¼ teaspoon of salt and a little shake of pepper. A dollop of the ricotta parmesan cheese mixture goes in your soup bowls and then the soup is spooned over that and mozzarella cheese tops it off. Yummy! I love this recipe. It is great heated up the next day for lunch or given to the kids in a thermos for school. You may have to add more chicken broth to keep the soup's consistency, if desired.
Buffalo chicken chili
I made buffalo chicken chili in the crock pot a few weeks ago. This was my own concoction although there are many recipes online for this kind of dish. Check out Food.com for something similar.
I browned some ground chicken, added ½ cup of diced carrots and ½ cup of celery, a can of petite diced tomatoes, about ½ cup of buffalo sauce and ½ cup of chicken broth. I also added a tablespoon of fanch dressing. I eyeballed the mixture and added more sauce or broth to make sure it had a chili consistency. I let it slow cook on medium for about 5-6 hours. I added seasonings and more broth or sauce to taste and then we all added some cheddar cheese on top because everything tastes better with cheese. Bleu cheese would probably be the perfect partner for this chili. I added pasta to the dish the next day which my kids loved and it helped to stretch the meal and our budget.
There are lots of easy ways to prepare a bubbling, warm and welcoming meal in your crock pot. Soups, stews and chilis are great slow cooked meals. Baked potato soup, Texas chili or beef stew are perfect for the crock pot. Try a can of coke and spices with roast beef, or cream soup with chicken, or a can of tomatoes with chicken and veggies for a cacciatore. Sometimes it’s fun to mix up your own creations.
My husband makes hot buttered rum in the crock pot every Christmas. He sets it up late on Christmas Eve and it brews all night. It is the perfect antidote for sleepy Christmas morning parents. I will share that recipe with you in a couple of weeks after I try out some other holiday crock pot ideas.
So, ladies and gentlemen, pick a recipe, throw something in that crock pot, and see how smoothly the rest of your day goes.
Here are some crock pot cooking websites to peruse.
Have you heard of the crock pot lady? She made a crock pot dish every day for one year and recorded her experience with reviews and pictures. Here is a link to her site with over 365 days of recipes.
Amy Simmons, a columnist for Wayland Patch wrote ; check it out for some great ideas. She recommends the Crock Pot Girls website.