One of the greatest smells in the world must be entering the house on a cold wintry evening, after work, and smelling a delicious, prepared meal completely ready to eat.
It seems as if when everyone enters the kitchen, the question is “what’s for dinner?” It only takes a short while to prepare the slow cooker either the night before or the next morning with your selection of a dinner recipe.
There are soups, stews, desserts, main dishes and much more that can be prepared in advance. Not only busy families use this method but also many of us retired folks and stay-at-home cooks use the crock or slow cooker. A great method of cooking on a major cleaning/laundry day or an appointment filled day. I have a medium size crock and a large crock, and it is not unusual to have both going at once — one with the main meal and one with a dessert.
The original slow cooker or crockpot became popular in the late ’70s as a warming pot or melting pot. During parties a small pot called the “Crockett” or melting pot was used at informal parties or luncheons to warm cheeses or sweet sauces to spread on chips or desserts. This pot became very popular and soon developed into a larger pot to cook larger dishes and eventually meals.
I remember getting a “cheese pot” as a wedding gift in the ’60s and had no idea what to do with it. It came with four long-handled spoons to dip cheeses from the pot to your salad size plate! I followed in mom’s footsteps back then — the old heavy duty soup pots! Remember all those trips to the produce stands last summer? All the veggies we cut up and put in the freezer? It’s time to pull them out and add them to these next few dishes we are going to make. Get out those crocks and slow cookers and cook some different dishes!
CROCK POT JAMBALAYA
1 pound chicken breast or tenders, cut into bite sized chunks, 12 oz. andouille sausage, sliced, 1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined, 2 celery stalks, chopped, 3 bell peppers (multiple colors), diced, 1 onion, diced,1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped, 5-6 garlic cloves, chopped, 2.5 tablespoon.
Creole seasoning, 1 teaspoon. red chili flakes, 2 bay leaves, 2 tablespoon. flour, 6 cups chicken stock, 2 15 oz. tomato cans, crushed or diced, 1 cup uncooked rice, 3 tablespoon. oil.
Heat oil in a large pot on medium high heat. Add meats and brown for 5 to 6 minutes Separate meats from pan. In the same pan, add more oil if necessary and sauté onions, celery and bell peppers till the onion is soft. Add in garlic and jalapeño and sauté for five minutes. Stir back in the meats along with flour and spices and mix well. Put the contents of the pot into the slow cooker. Use a little of the broth to deglaze the sauté pot and add that into the slow cooker along with all other ingredients, except the shrimp.
Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or high for 2-3 hours. Add in the shrimp and cook until they are pink and cooked.
SLOW COOKER NEW ENGLAND CHICKEN CHOWDER
4 slices bacon, chopped and cooked till crisp, 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, 3 cups chicken broth, 1/2 cup whole milk, 1/2 cup chopped or sliced carrots, 1/2 yellow or white onion diced, 2 celery stalks — chopped, 2 cans yellow corn — drained, 1 pound baby red potatoes — quartered, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning, fresh basil or thyme for garnish.
Combine bacon, chicken, broth, carrots, onions, celery, half of the corn, potatoes in your slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for four hours or on high for two hours. Uncover, transfer chicken to a plate, and shred with two forks into chunks. Return to the slow cooker.
In a blender or food processor, combine remaining corn and milk and blend until smooth. Add to the slow cooker along with salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning.
Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes longer. Garnish with black pepper, grated parmesan cheese, and fresh basil or thyme and serve hot.
I like to add a sprinkle of shredded parmesan cheese to this soup along with unsalted top saltine crackers.
CROCK POT LOADED BAKED POTATO SOUP
4 cups potatoes about 3-4 large russet potatoes peeled and diced, 1 small onion chopped, 3 cups chicken broth, 4 tablespoons butter, 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup sour cream, 1 1/2 cup heavy cream (half and half will also work), salt and pepper to taste.
Add potatoes, diced onions, and chicken broth to your slow cooker. Cook on low for 4-6 hours or high for 3-4 until potatoes are tender. About 30 minutes before it is done, in a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in flour and cook until bubbly. Slowly add heavy cream, and sour cream. The mixture should be thick. Add this to the soup and stir. Continue to cook in the slow cooker for 20-30 minutes.
You can use russet potatoes, yellow, golden or red potatoes for this soup. They hold together and don’t become mushy in the slow cooker.
Once your soup has cooled, then you can store it in an airtight container and put it in the fridge. It will last about three days.
BROCCOLI CHEDDAR SOUP
4 cups broccoli florets cut into small bite sized pieces, 1/2 yellow onion diced small, 2 cups shredded carrots, 4 cups chicken stock, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, 3 tablespoon unsalted butter, 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup half and half, 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese. Combine the broccoli, onion, shredded carrots, chicken stock, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in the slow cooker and cook on low for four hours.
Turn the slow cooker to high. In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Slowly whisk in the flour. Get a cup of liquid from the slow cooker. Very slowly add it to the saucepan, whisking it in as you go. Then very slowly whisk in the half and half. Add the shredded cheese to the roux mixture a little at a time until it is fully melted and combined. Add the cheese sauce to the crock pot and stir it in to combine. Serve hot.
SLOW COOKER ITALIAN MEATBALL SOUP
3 medium carrots sliced, 2 ribs celery sliced, 1 medium yellow onion diced, 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1 bay leaf, 12 oz. fully cooked frozen Italian meatballs, 32 oz. beef broth, 2 cups water, 2 (15 oz. each) cans diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings, 3/4 cup dry ditalini pasta, 3-5 oz. fresh baby spinach, sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
In a 6 quart or larger slow cooker, add carrots, celery, onion, Italian seasoning, black pepper, bay leaf, meatballs, broth, water and canned tomatoes. Stir to combine, cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours, until vegetables are tender and flavors are combined. Stir in ditalini pasta, cover and cook on high for 15 minutes, until pasta is tender. Remove bay leaf and stir in spinach until wilted. Serve hot, with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
CROCK POT CHICKEN POT PIE SOUP
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast diced, 1 pint mushrooms quartered, 1 sweet onion diced, 3 carrots peeled and diced, 3 stalks celery diced, 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 3 garlic cloves minced, 2 cups chicken broth, 1 bay leaf, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme, salt and freshly ground black pepper, one 15-ounce can peas drained, one 15-ounce can corn, drained, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley.
BISCUIT TOPPING: One 16-ounce package refrigerated biscuits, 1 large egg, 1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives.
In the bowl of a slow cooker, combine the chicken breast, mushrooms, onion, carrot, celery, flour and garlic cloves. Add the broth, bay leaf and thyme. Turn the slow cooker on low and cook until the chicken is tender, about seven hours, season the soup with salt and pepper. Stir in the peas, corn and heavy cream. Cook the soup until warmed through, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Separate the biscuits and place them on the baking sheet. In a small bowl, whisk the egg with 1 tablespoon water; brush an even layer over each biscuit. Top each biscuit with shredded cheese. Bake until the biscuit is fully baked, and the cheese is golden brown, 15 to 17 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, then garnish with chives.
Pour the potpie into bowls and top each with chives and a biscuit.
EASTERN SHORE SLOW COOKER SEAFOOD SOUP
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, 1 tablespoon tomato paste, 3 cups vegetable broth, 3 clove garlic minced,1 pound yellow potatoes cut into bite-sized pieces, 1/2 cup chopped white onion, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1 teaspoon dried basil, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/2 teaspoon celery salt, 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, salt to taste, ground black pepper to taste, 2 pounds seafood (I used 1 pound large shrimp and 1 pound cherry stone clams), defrosted if frozen, chopped fresh parsley.
In a crockpot, stir together tomatoes, tomato paste, broth, garlic, potatoes, onion, thyme, basil, oregano, celery salt, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Cover and cook on high for 2 to 3 hours or low 4 to 6 hours, or until potatoes are tender. Add seafood to the crockpot and return to high heat. Cook for 30 to 60 minutes, or until seafood is fully cooked. Top with parsley. Serve hot with crusty bread like day old sourdough.
Finally, here is a dessert that my family has always loved using the crock pot. This one does not include raisins, but you can always add them to it if you like.
Carol, this one is for you. On low heat place 1 cup old-fashioned rice, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon vanilla, 1 tablespoon salt, and 6 cups of milk. Cook for 6 to 8 hours, stirring occasionally. When you remove the lid from the pot to stir, do not let the moisture gather on the lid drip into the pot. I cooked this rice pudding on high for 5 to 6 hours and it turned out fine. Add raisins, if desired, the last 1 to 2 hours of cooking. When serving, sprinkle some cinnamon on top.