The weather is cooling off (yay-fall!) and there is something about a warm meal that is so comforting to me on those first chilly nights of the season. Plus, I am the type of mom that believes that if there is any way you can make something easier, do it! So when we got a slow cooker many years ago, I never really understood the importance of this oh-so handy kitchen gadget. The crockpot saves me time, and with a little planning, it’s so simple to have a meal on the table, with minimal effort. Below are some of my favorite slow cooker recipes that I have collected over time.
Cilantro Lime Shredded Chicken
16 oz. jar of salsa
1 package taco seasoning (I use Ms. Dash because it’s low sodium, and the flavor is still there)
1 lime, juice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast
Place the salsa, taco seasoning, lime juice, and cilantro into a slow cooker, and stir to combine. Add the chicken breasts and stir to coat with the salsa mixture. Cover the cooker, set to high, and cook until the chicken is tender and cooked through, about 4 hours. Alternatively, you can set to low and cook 6 to 8 hours. Shred chicken with 2 forks to serve.
I serve this with tortillas, rice, and beans for taco/burrito night. This chicken also freezes well, so I suggest making the full recipe, and then serving what you need for a meal and freezing the rest. Perfect for those “I just don’t want to cook nights.” You can also play around with the type of taco seasoning and salsa that you use to change out the flavors.
Roasted Tomato and Veggie Soup
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic (2 cloves)
3 – 14 oz. cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 cups cut-up, peeled, and seeded butternut squash
1 – 14 1/2 oz. can fire-roasted diced tomatoes or one 14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 – 15 oz. can white kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 cup small broccoli and/or cauliflower florets
1 tablespoon snipped fresh oregano or 2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In a 3 1/2 to 4-quart slow cooker combine onion, celery, carrot, garlic, broth, squash, tomatoes, beans, and dried oregano (if using fresh, omit at this time). Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 7 to 8 hours or on high-heat setting for 3 1/2 to 4 hours. For the last 30 minutes of cooking, turn cooker to high-heat setting (if using low-heat setting) and add zucchini, broccoli, fresh oregano, salt, and pepper. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.
To save on time, I cut everything the night before and usually purchase the pre-cut butternut squash from the store, if I remember to buy it. I then put all of the veggies in the same bowl and cover overnight. In the morning I simply add everything to the crockpot, turn on, and run out of the door. I also don’t know what it is, as my kids are not big on veggies, but I serve this up with bread and the kids love dipping the bread in the soup, which ends up turning into them eating the soup. It’s a win-win for everyone at the dinner table.
Easy Breakfast Casserole
1 Small Zucchini, Sliced Thinly
8 oz Fresh Mushrooms, Cleaned and Sliced
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 dozen Medium Eggs
1/2 Cup Milk
Salt and Pepper, To Taste
4 Thick Slices of Bread, such as “Texas Toast”
8 oz. Cream Cheese, cubed into small pieces
1/2 pint Grape Tomatoes, washed and halved
1/2 Cup Sausage Crumbles or Cooked Sausage
1/2 Cup Shredded Mexican Blend Cheese
In a skillet over medium heat, cook your zucchini and mushrooms until golden and tender. Set aside. Spray crock pot with non-stick cooking spray and place bread and cream cheese cubes evenly on the bottom. Top with tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Top with zucchini mixture. In a bowl, whisk together eggs and milk, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Pour egg mixture over casserole. Top with sausage and cheese.
Cover with lid and cook on high for 2 to 2½ hours. It’s done when eggs are set and cheese is melted. I found this recipe when my son was just a few months old and didn’t have a ton of energy in the morning (that is what happens when you have a non-sleeper). This is perfect for a lazy weekend morning when you’re up, but not quite ready to eat. To save time, I have cut everything ahead of time, and even sautéed the zucchini and mushrooms. I also put the bread and cream cheese on the bottom of the crockpot, and have actually stuck my crockpot in the refrigerator overnight, so in the morning a few steps are done, it’s more of a dump the ingredients in the crockpot, plug it in and cook type situation — perfect when you’re half awake in the morning before the coffee sets in.
Easy Apple Cider
1 (64 oz.) bottle apple cider
3 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon whole cloves
In a slow cooker, combine apple cider and cinnamon sticks. Wrap allspice and cloves in a small piece of cheesecloth, and add to pot. Stir in brown sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat, and keep warm.
Make sure that you have a cheesecloth on hand when making this cider. I did not have one the first time, so I just put the allspice and cloves into the cider. I have also read (although never tried) that you can use a handkerchief if you’re in a bind. I will say though, this is a very simple, yet tasty recipe, especially for those cold nights, or when you’re out taking the kiddos trick-or-treating.