First of all, you’re not confused; this is not a cooking blog.
But – this is a blog about motherhood, and by and large, it’s mamas who are called upon to provide the food so that our world isn’t ripped apart by hangry little humans (or big humans for that matter). As a stay-at-home mom, I usually have a kid hanging off my yoga pants while I cook, so I like to keep things as simple as possible. There’s only so far my worn-out yoga pants will stretch before they just give up (and believe me, no one wants to see that) which is why I am a huge fan of the slow cooker.
My slow cooker (or crock pot, if you prefer) is one of my “can’t do without” kitchen appliances. (Honestly, I get a whole lot more use out of it than I do my beautiful, lovely, awesome KitchenAid mixer. Baking has, unfortunately, taken a bit of a backseat since my little boy was born.)
One of the reasons I (and my yoga pants) love the crock pot so much is that I can prep the dish the night before, pop it in the fridge, and just start it a-cookin’ in the morning. A few hours later? Voilà! Dinner. Most crockpot recipes typically make enough to have leftovers, so I call that a double win.
I use this crock pot, which can be put in the dishwasher and is less than $30 on Amazon. I’ve had it for about five years with zero complaints. (How do I know it’s been almost five years? Because while we were at a friend’s house on Thanksgiving Day in 2012, our newly-adopted dog decided to pull my old slow cooker down from the kitchen counter to “help” finish off the stuffing I’d made. She shattered the crock pot, and we came back to a kitchen that looked like a crime scene – blood everywhere. The dog ended up being fine, but she realized that it’s not always wise to play with things on kitchen counters, and that’s how I got a new crock pot five years ago.)
In the spirit of mama solidarity, I thought I’d offer up my top ten tried and true slow cooker recipes. These are the ones that have been well received by my people; the ones I find myself turning to time and again. Fair warning: I am a habitual recipe tweaker, but the nice thing about slow cooker meals is that they’re usually pretty forgiving. If you think something else would make a recipe better (or if you have other ingredients on hand), get creative! Last-minute pizza delivery is always an option should everything go up in flames (literally or otherwise).
Pork carnitas from RecipeTin Eats – These are ridiculously delicious. In fact, I made them for dinner tonight, and they’re just magical. Serve them on some corn tortillas with your favorite taco toppings, and you’re all set. And they freeze like a dream.
The Best Crockpot Pork Tenderloin by Whisking Mama – This is such an easy recipe, and the combination of maple syrup, mustard, and soy sauce is such a good one. I like to serve this with a side of mashed potatoes and/or roasted broccoli. Easy peasy.
Slow-cooker Sausage and Vegetable Risotto by Food & Wine – This is a great one if you’re feeling a little fancy or trying to work some vegetables into dinner in not-so-boring way. This one does require a little bit of stove-top prep work before going into the slow cooker, but it only has to cook for about an hour and it’s delicious.
Chicken & Dumplings by Erin Krysten at AllRecipes – I typically tweak this one a bit depending on what I have handy, sometimes substituting cream of mushroom soup or adding a frozen bag of peas and carrots later in the cooking process rather than taking the time to chop carrots (I know, laziness is a plague). I also usually cook this one all day on low instead of the 3.5-4.5 hours on high like the recipe calls for.
Taco Chicken – This one is a fly-by-night recipe. I dump a bag of frozen chicken breasts (or thighs, occasionally) into the slow cooker, add about four tablespoons (more or less depending on your taste) of taco seasoning (store-bought or this homemade mix), and a few good shakes of Valentina Salsa (I can’t be much more specific than “a few good shakes,” but bear in mind I like stuff on the spicy side, so if you’re not familiar with the sauce, take a taste before you go overboard). Let it cook at least 8 hours (half the time if using fresh chicken instead of frozen), and shred with a fork and serve in tortillas or taco shells. The next night, you can use the leftovers in enchiladas or The Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Spaghetti (with a little Tex-Mex twist, obviously). Yum!
Chicken Taco Soup by RaisinKane aka Patti at AllRecipes – This is another super easy one. If you don’t have beer in the fridge, just throw in a little chicken broth and use whatever kind of beans you have on hand (I always find that kidney beans hold up nicely in the slow cooker). I also use the same taco seasoning I use in my chicken tacos instead of the store-bought packets.
Garlic & Brown Sugar Chicken by Six Sisters’ Stuff – This is so good served over brown rice (instant brown rice, if you’re running short on time or sanity). Just the right balance of sweet and savory. The red pepper flakes added at the end really complete the whole dish.
Crockpot BBQ Chicken by Family Fresh Meals – This is another one with minimal ingredients. The only change I like to make is to add red pepper flakes at the end. Our favorite BBQ sauce is Kraft Spicy Honey, but just use your family’s favorite.
Mississippi Roast by The Country Cook – I’m sure you’ve seen some version of this floating around on Pinterest, but it’s still one of my favorites. This roast could not be easier to put together, and the only little change I make (because I have a complete inability to leave things alone) is that I like to use sliced pepperoncini peppers along with some of the juice they came in. This recipe is great by itself or shredded and added on top of your favorite bread (Hawaiian rolls top my list).
Slow Cooker Mongolian Beef by The Recipe Critic – This is such a good one. I mean, the sauce alone is marvelous, and the cornstarch helps thicken it nicely. I love Asian food, and this one is just so easy to get on the table. Serve over rice, and you’re all done.
I love new recipes! Any slow cooker ones you’d like to share?