07 April 2008

I want to love my Crock Pot. Talk amongst yourselves.

Amazon: Slow Cooker Revolution (America's Test Kitchen)I recently came across A Year of Crockpotting, one woman's chronicle of her New Year's resolution: to use the slow cooker every day. It brought on a wave of envy and regret. I have a Crock Pot. I know it could be a part of simplifying my meal planning. I'm a good person. So why does everything I make in my Crock Pot taste boiled and bland? Am I the only one who feels...lukewarm about her Crock Pot?

It could be that good, simple vegetarian recipes for the Crock Pot are few and far-between (I was so excited about Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker, but never find myself cooking from it). It could be because my kids refuse to eat anything stew-y. But I know I'm thinking too simplistically. Right? Can someone please educate me?

What are your favorite Crock Pot tricks? I'm thinking cookbooks, recipes (online and linkable, meat is fine), or just the ways you integrate the slow cooker into your cooking week.

Related: Surprising uses for the Crock-Pot Little Dipper?

Your comments

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I am recently trying to do the same thing with my family. The two sites that have been most helpful have been:
Top 30 Crock Pot Recipes - Southern Cooking
http://southernfood.about.com/od/crockpotrecipes/a/top_crockpot.htm
Crock Pot Recipes for Kids
http://kidscooking.about.com/od/dinnerrecipes/p/crockpotrecipes.htm


The thing that has surprised me the most is that not everything is stewy! In fact it's great.

Chilli! Roast beef, or chicken are my favorites, no need for basting. also soup!

Here's the secret. 90% of cookbooks are garbage, filled with untested and poorly described recipes just thrown in for filler. The carefully tested, detailed recipe is a rarity. I don't mess around with most cookbooks anymore, I am stuck on those published by America's Test Kitchen (formerly Boston Common). If you follow one of their recipes you won't go wrong. They are honestly foolproof (but not dumbed down) and never have vague instructions like "mix and simmer until done." Try em. (The Best Make-Ahead Recipe has a slow cooker chapter).

I don't know if it will help if your kids won't eat soups though.

This blogger has some great Crockpot recipes - scroll down a few weeks back and look for the Short Rib one and my faviorite is the Chicken & Sweet Potato curry one - a wonderful flavor and not bland at all.
http://workitmom.com/bloggers/orderingdisorder/

Not vegetarian, but our favorite meal in the slow cooker is carnitas, which is basically shredded meat. We love to use fresh game that hunter friends of ours give us, but I've also used chicken and pork.

And the best part? My favorite recipe uses BEER as the cooking liquid . . .

Check "Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker" for some great recipes including some decadent desserts!

http://www.amazon.com/Your-Mothers-Slow-Cooker-Cookbook/dp/B000Q67862/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1207579049&sr=8-1

I don't know anything about vegetarian recipes, but I do know that my wife makes a mean pulled-pork, bbq ribs, and other delicious meat-y recipes in our slow cooker. Combined with her freezer cooking approach, we always have yummy dinners waiting to be enjoyed! Her favorite sources are "Don't Panic, Dinner's in the Freezer". Personally, I've found some winners from allrecipes.com.

Canadian Living Magazine has yummy recipes for crock pots. Probably some of my more successful attempts have come from them. They have a website.

I also have made some great stuff from these two books, but they often have a fussy list of ingredients. http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/Canadas-Best-Slow-Cooker-Recipes-Donna-marie-Pye/9780778800248-item.html?ref=Search+Books%3a+%2527slow+cooker%2527
http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/150-Best-Slow-Cooker-Recipes-Judith-Finlayson/9780778800385-item.html?ref=Search+Books%3a+%2527slow+cooker%2527

I don't crock as much as I would like to but I have posted a collection of recipes, a lot of which are crockpot ones on my blog at http://learningmywaythrough.wordpress.com/recipe-archives/
Neeps and Tatties and Easy Roasted Veggies are vegetarian plus there are some crock pot desserts too.

Ugh. I feel exactly the same way about my slow cooker. It was a special request for Christmas this year, but after a couple disappointments, it languishes in the basement. And we have it easy compared to you - we eat meat and stews!

Part of the problem is timing. My husband won't eat any stew meat that hasn't been browned first, but I don't have time in the mornings to brown the meat before I leave for work, and I'm not sure it is safe to brown it the night before. Plus, on the days I'm at work, I'm gone for 10 hours, and most slower cooker recipes are not that long - even on low.

Thank you for the link to my blog!

I would have to say that shirky is ABSOLUTELY correct that 90% of cookbooks are filler. It is terribly disappointing.

I do have quite a few vegetarian recipes that are tried-and-true listed on my site. Although I was emailed recently that I included chicken broth as the base of my corn chowder. oops. use veg stock... ;-)

I've read the slowcooker books listed above, and I've gotten good recipes from all of them. I like to check things out from the library, though, because I hate storing anything.

My suggestion would be to start with very simple 5-ingredients or less recipes and build your way up.
you are more than welcome to email me for suggestions!

(and it's okay if you don't fall in love. really. ;-0 )

xox
steph

Beans come out great in the crock pot, and if you make a big ol' pot of 'em, they can be used for lots of meals throughout the week.

We've found that a great way to use our crock pot is to pre-make meals with all-dry ingredients (rice, beans, freeze-dried veggies, spices, etc.), and store them in well-sealed bags on a shelf in the pantry. I can cook many meals at once this way, and my husband always has something he can just throw in the crock-pot at the beginning of the day.

Also, take your favorite marinade and a roast that it will taste good on. Put the marinade on the roast, maybe with a few tablespoons of wine / sherry / vinegar to soften the meat, in a freezer-safe container. Add chopped onions, carrots, and other veggies that freeze well. Store until you realize one morning that you haven't planned dinner yet. Throw in crock pot (some pots may need a little water to avoid going dry; ours does not). The veggies you put on top should end up on the bottom of the crock pot, but don't have to be perfect.

This is a very versatile style of cooking that we do from time to time.

We don't use our crockpot as much as we had hoped, but I will say that the Hot & Sour soup recipe in "Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker" is easy and quite possibly the *best* hot & sour soup we've ever had.

The January issue of "Real Simple" magazine also had a recipe for making lasagna (!) in the slow cooker. Haven't tried it yet but it looked intriguing..

We've become real fans of Alton Brown's Overnight Oatmeal recipe, though we shorten the cooking time somewhat and use a timer to start the crock-pot up in the wee hours.

Recipe:
http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/recipes/recipe/0,,FOOD_9936_17138,00.html

We discovered after we'd asked for one when the twins were born that many crock pots are not calibrated and may cook at too high of a temperature. We were always getting overcooked meat when we used it. I tested the temperature for Low and found it was running hot. We got a new crock pot (the All-Clad) that is programmable so that it doesn't overcook. It's made a huge difference.

The BEST slow cooker recipe ever is lasagna. You could either leave out the meat or add some veggies to fit your family better. It freezes really well too. Our family loves it so much however that we never actually get any into the freezer. I've posted the recipe on my blog: http://azwhipple.blogspot.com/2008/04/slow-cooker-lasagna.html

My family is also vegetarian and I use the crockpot a fair amount, but I find that I almost always have to cut the cooking time in half to come out well in my crockpot. I've had good luck with some of Steph the Crockpot Lady's recipes! Some things in Fresh from the Slow Cooker taste awesome, but in general I feel the amount of prep isn't in keeping with the beautiful "fix it and forget it" potential of the crockpot.

I also use my crockpot for things like baking potatoes or sweet potatoes, or cooking beans or lentils to use in other recipes. In winter, I use it to keep warm milk for cocoa waiting for us when we come in from the snow. For Valentine's Day, I used it to make the spicy truffles here: http://familycorner.blogspot.com/2007/11/slow-cooking-thursday_29.html

My point is, even if you can't find main course type recipes that work for you, there are probably other uses for your crockpot!

epeepunk, how did you test the temperature?

We LOVE this recipe for turkey chili and it makes a huge amount so we always freeze some for later:
http://www.parents.com/recipes/recipedetail.jsp?recipeId=R100282

And another one we often use is about 2 lbs skinless chicken breast, 1/2 cup water, and one packet of Old El Paso Low Sodium Taco Seasoning, shred chicken after a few hours of cooking and serve as chicken tacos (or enchiladas, burritos, etc). Yum.

I had the same issues with my crockpot until my mom bought me the cookbook you mentioned. My family absolutely loves the Almost-Irish Stew. Seriously, it is so good, especially with biscuits on the side. A lot of the recipes in that cookbook are really good, though they often come out tasting the same as each other. We still manage to use the crockpot once a week during the cold months. Good luck!

I haven't used my crockpot in forever, but a couple of years ago I got a cast-iron stewpot that goes on the stovetop or in the oven, and I've learned a few things cooking with it. Most importantly, DON'T skimp on ingredients. Salt, pepper, peppercorns, herbs, garlic, wine or beer -- all of these things add flavor and take less than a minute to add. Want flavor? Add ingredients!

I use my crockpot to roast chicken. Just crumple aluminum foil in the bottom, season a chicken the way you like and put in on low. Beautiful chicken, the fat drains under the foil so it is not greasy, and much cheaper than buying the cooked chicken in the store. :)

Not really a recipe. . . maybe a hack. They use crock pots at our church to warm baby bottles. They keep water warming in the pot all the time and just pop the bottles in when needed. Maybe everyone else has seen this, but I hadn't. I think it's great for moms of multiples!

I'm glad that I'm not the only one. Every fall I promise myself that I'll find at least a few crockpot (vegetarian) recipes that are at least somewhat tasty, and every year I put it off. Too many bland, unimpressive results in the past. But now I'm feeling inspired again. Thanks. :)

I, too, am a crockpot fanatic, but I've been struggling to find flavorful recipes that don't dry out while I'm away at work during the day. I bought this cookbook http://www.cqproducts.com/item_details.php?item=7014&category=4
called 12-Hour Slow Cooker Recipes. So far I've tried seven of them and they have all been winners. Just thought I'd tell you about it!

great topic. My fav cookbook is Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1558322450?ie=UTF8&tag=preschoolnutr-20&link_code=as3&camp=211189&creative=373489&creativeASIN=1558322450

I'm making the chicken tortilla soup tonight. It has loads of great recipes and I've only found one or two that I wouldn't do again.

One thing I do often is make a meal to eat on another day. This helps if you are gone at work for long hours. Sometimes, you can even cook it overnight. Then, just store the whole thing in the fridge. Plus, stews always taste better the next day.

As for the kids, I know what you mean about stew-dislike. Mine will eat basic chicken soups and some of the bean stews (which are great from the crockpot).

Easiest crockpot recipe -
pork roast
bottle of bbq sauce
1 can of Coke

put the pork roast in, pour the bbq sauce on top then add the coke. Cook for 7-8hrs on low. Shred the pork for wonderful pull pork bbq sandwiches.

I forgot to mention this: since so many vegetarian slow cooker recipes only take 3-5 hours (in my crockpot, anyway), I often use an appliance timer with it. This only works with the type that have the warm/low/high switch, not the ones that you have to "program" when you turn it on.

The most successful slow cooker meals in our house are the ones that don't include the whole meal, but the part that takes the longest.

For example, this Slow Cooker French Dip (http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Easy-Slow-Cooker-French-Dip/Detail.aspx) is amazing and so easy! The slow cooker makes the meat, you finish off the meal when you get home by toasting the rolls, etc.

The other all-inclusive slow cooker meals where everything is made in the cooker, I agree, turn out too bland.

Here are two recipes that I love and use every month:

Easy Crockpot Chicken
I know this is not a sophisticated ingredient list. But this is really good. My children request this and are always happy when it's for dinner.

4-5 chicken breasts (can be frozen)
1 block of cream cheese
1 cup of cream of mushroom soup
1 cup of sour cream
1 cup of milk
1 packet of Zesty Italian salad dressing mix
1/2 stick butter

(you can use all low-fat ingredients--neufchatel cheese, reduced fat & sodium soup, low-fat or fatfree sour cream, FF milk, and less butter, it will still taste very good but the sauce will not be as smooth).

Turn the crockpot on. Put everything but the chicken in the crock pot and stir as well as you can. You might want to break up the cream cheese a bit if you won't be able to stir at some point about halfway through cooking (if you will be gone). Add the chicken and try to scoop the wet ingredients over the chicken as much as possible.

Cook on high for 4-5 hours, low for 6-7. If you will be gone all day, use frozen chicken breasts and cook on low. If you are around, try to stir about halfway through and again about an hour before done.

When finished cooking, stir well, use a fork and knife to chunk the chicken into smaller pieces, and serve over rice (our favorite) or noodles. My husband also likes to dip bread, chips, whatever into the sauce.

Second recipe below.

Second recipe: Crockpot Carnitas
This is really not carnitas, as carnitas is slow-roasted, but it is delicious, possibly my favorite crockpot dish and SO EASY.

1-2 lbs pork loin (you can cut into chunks...but I never bother)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup salsa

Mix brown sug and salsa, pour over pork in crockpot, cook 4-6 hrs/until done and shred. If you don’t have a crockpot, you can cook it in a covered stockpot on low heat for an hour or two.

Delicious. This is especially good with the dressing (below) and great for burritos, a big hearty salad, quesadillas, nachos, you name it.
.........

SUGGESTED MEAL: Burritos

DRESSING: (this is really incredibly good. Do not leave a single ingredient out. Tastes even better a few days later, if there is any left over)
(mix and refrigerate)
1 1/3 cup sour cream
3/4 cup mayo
1 bunch cilantro chopped, no stems
4 TBS salsa verde (green salsa)
1/8 tsp Tabasco
1/2 packet powder ranch salad dressing mix

TORTILLAS and TOPPINGS:
Tortillas
Black Beans
Corn
Cooked Rice (this really is good on the burritos)
Shredded cheese
Shredded lettuce (romaine and iceberg)
Salsa

I hope someone will try and love this!

There are tons of great comments here and I'm going to check out all of these websites! I love my crockpot and am always looking for new stuff to cook in it.

I wanted to add a couple of things to the to the discussion though:

1) To think outside the soup/stew/casserole boxes, think of the crock pot as a replacement for either your oven or your skillet. It obviously doesn't work all the time, but you might be surprised at how often is DOES work. For instance: Ground turkey + BBQ sauce + some onion and green pepper in the morning = sloppy joes when you get home (obviously not for vegetarians!).

2) Your crock pot doesn't have to be the main dish. Who has time to make mashed potatoes after work? But you can have all the potatoes cooked while you're away and all that's left is the mashing when you get home. Mac and Cheese from the crock can also be great (with a taste between Kraft Dinner and the sublime oven-baked stuff).

3) Main or Side, think of a boxed/prepared food that you rely on because it's so much faster than making it fresh, then see if you can find a crock pot recipe for it. You might be surprised!

We don't have a slow-cooker, but we go through periods of just loving our pressure cooker, which I guess you could also call a fast-cooker. But it fills the same niche in not having enough time to get dinner on the table by using standard cooking methods. Rather then putting the food in in the morning, you put it in shortly before eating, and enjoy the speedy fast cooking. Also great for dealing with dry beans that you forgot to soak.

Baked potatoes ROCK in the crock pot. Wash, prick with a fork and wrap in foil. Cook on high 4 to 5 hours. Cook on low all day. Top with veggies and cheese and whatever other toppings sound good. I'll never make a baked potato in the oven again.

I have this cookbook

http://tinyurl.com/439rwl

and like it a lot (that's a chopped down amazon link). It's not from the "toss it in and leave it" crockpot school. You have to do prep first, but the recipes come out delish. Provencal Chicken Stew is my favorite and if you serve it over couscous or something, it's more of a chicken with sauce thing than a stew thing.

There's a lot of good crock pot (slow cooker) recipes here: www.chefrousseau.com. Awesome Pork Tacos & French Dip. The best beef roast I ever made is the Savory Pot Roast - first time it didn't dry out!

@jen: I got the instructions from About.com (http://busycooks.about.com/od/slowcookerrecipes/a/crockpot102_2.htm). In a nutshell: 2 quarts of water on low for 8 hours should be 185 degrees F, and ours was closer to 210.

I agree, I hate most crock pot recipes. I use my crockpot on a semi-regular basis, but I rarely use special "crock pot recipes." I use my regular favorite recipes that can be done in the crock pot, like hunter's chicken or hungarian goulash or spagetti sauce or chicken and dumplings or roast beef - basically anything that has liquid in it or cooks in a little liquid.

If the meat needs to be browned I brown it the night before and add all the ingredients and put it in the fridge. Then in the morning turn it on and that's it. I even do things like pot pie filling, and chicken and dumplings. When you get home, transfer the filling into the pot or dish you need, add the crust or biscuits or dumplings or whatever, and finish it off in ten minutes.

Hmm, I do a lot of meat in the crockpot. But Laurie Colwin's recipe for vegetarian chili works well: a cup of black beans, a cup of small red beans, a big can of cut-up tomatoes with the juice, a big chopped onion, two minced garlic cloves, and 2 or 3 cups of water. Cook on low all day or high all afternoon. Voila chili. I also like to cook black beans all day and serve them over rice with vinegar and chopped red onions.

There's a great group on Facebook called Slow Cooker Recipes, also, I would recommend any of the Club House brand "Slow Cookers" seasoning mixes - we've done the BBQ Ribs twice now and they are AMAZING! Tomorrow is slow cooker chicken noodle soup...

Best of luck!

I use my crockpot in the summers to make the most luscious slow-cooked tomato sauce, for preserving (or eating immediately, as the case may be). Basically, I run romas or other tomatoes through a juicer and reserve just the pulp (use the watery juice in soup or something), to cut down some of the boiling time. Then I load up the cooker, add salt and start cooking on high with the lid cracked. Stir every so often to get the stuff off the sides as it cooks down.

Let it boil down to at least half the original volume, if not more. Just keep tasting until it achieves a thick, rich, sweet, almost caramelized flavor. Add any herbs you want right at the end, to preserve their flavor. Pressure can the sauce (these days, tomatoes don't always have enough acid to water bath safely) or serve immediately. It gives you all the wondrous yum of lovingly-stirred-over-a-fire-all-day tomato sauce, with almost no work.

Definitely have to second MamaChristy on the baked potatoes - it's great to have them in the summer without having to turn on the oven for an hour.

i 2nd the crock pot lasagna! and it's great with veggies and textured vegetable protein

i also use mine once every few weeks and clean out my veggie drawer and do a TVP veggie chilli
it's different every time...but always a treat

also great to do yummy warm dips when you're hosting a party

my sister sticks a roast and some veggies in and leaves it all day

i REALLY want a crock pot recipe book...must get around to getting one...however....the interweb is terrific for recipes whenever i want them, i rarely use any of my cookbooks!

fabulous French Onion soup:
slice onions and place in crock pot with 1/4 c. butter/Smart Balance and 1 can (beef or veg.) broth. Let carmelize 6-8 hours on high. Add another can of broth, 2 beef/veg boullion cubes, 2 c. water, 1 t Thyme, and 1/4c. dry white wine. Keep it on high for another 1-2 hours. Serve with bread or croutons and swiss cheese.

We're in the process of cutting back our budget (expecting our first child in August) and the crockpot has been an essential tool. We cook two crockpot dishes each weekend, one on Saturday and one on Sunday, and they go in the freezer and serve as lunches all week, eliminating the need to buy lunch and having emergency dinners too.

We have an older book called Crockery Cookery, which is extremely hit or miss--some of the recipes are phenomenal (turkey lasagna, bean soup, BBQ pork, chili) and some are revolting (curried raisins, anyone?).

I third (fourth? fifth?) on cookbooks being mostly filler, too.

epeepunk beat me to it (thanks!), our crockpot was the problem.

MANY of the ones available now cook too hot, or are variable. TEST IT.

The All Clad has a 'hold on warm' feature at the end of the cook time, which is a huge help for us 'work full days' folks. It was $150, but... well, stuff cooked in it isn't yucky.

I also love the Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook, which has recipes with some diversity, ethnic spices, and interesting ingredients. There are two of them, flip through and see which one has more stuff you'd like (one has much more ethnic variety than the other, I think).

I still don't use it every day. But I do use it regularly, and what comes out is really good. I mainly do whole chicken, meatloaf (something my kids will eat!), meatballs (another thing they'll eat), and pot roast (carnivore children, heh). I can't do many of the really FUN interesting ones, due to the digestive disorder the kids have (no onions, leeks, wheat, fruit, beans, etc. - some of the glazed-with-fruit stuff sounds sooooo yummy, and I love bean soups, but no go here). But they all at least WORK.

Anyway, glad my DH got in here early, since I didn't...

Crockpot applesauce is very good and very easy.

Beans do well too, as others have mentioned.

I'm no food safety expert, but I have browned meat the night before, then mixed all the ingredients in the crock, put it in the fridge over night and then cooked everything in the morning, and we haven't been sick yet.

If you're cooking meat in the crockpot, you need to be sure to get cuts that do well with long cooking-- use chicken thighs, not chicken breasts.

i know what you mean - my kids are not into anything 'stewy' either. BUT we use ours for baked potatoes (which is see someone has mentioned) and to make big batches of marinara and curry to freeze. you can do it, asha! ;)

I wish I used my crock pot more too. My eldest doesn't link when the parts of the meal are "all mixed up" so that is a serious challenge with a crock pot meal. I'm definitely going to check out some of the links listed here. My husband and I really like the No Hurry Vegetable Curry from Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker and one of my other crock pot standards is a Beef Stew recipe from Everyday Food.There are notes for using a crockpot in the last step. http://www.marthastewart.com/portal/site/mslo/menuitem.fc77a0dbc44dd1611e3bf410b5900aa0/?vgnextoid=ec6d934be4b0f010VgnVCM1000003d370a0aRCRD&autonomy_kw=beef%20stew%20crockpot&rsc=header_7

There are so many great comments and ideas! Here is such an easy one that it is almost embarrassing to tell once you taste how good it is! Everyone loves Trader Joes, if you're lucky enough to have one in your town. I buy the pre-seasoned tri-tip in the meat area, add just one cup on water, set it on the 8 hour cook and forget about it. When it is finished, I cut some of it up for the kids, then add one bottle of BBQ sauce and instantly you have an amazing, tasty BBQ for on buns, salads or whatever. It also is great to keep in the refrigerator for next day too! All people love it! Could it be any easier? Enjoy!

Another note I haven't seen mentioned - the crock pot liners! These are awesome bags you put in the crock pot before all your ingredients. Works amazing and no gooey baked on mess to clean up. Just wipe out with a wet cloth & you're done!

I agree with Liz-
PRESSURE COOKER -all the way! IMHO it beats wondering if the house is going to burn down or any if the other scary scenarios of leaving it unattended. Not to mention it is quick and very tasty for vegetarians. I think crocks are more for meat eaters.

Heh. I posted my favorite crock pot recipe just friday: Crock Pot Risotto. It rocks.

http://sarabrumfield.blogspot.com/2008/04/no-stir-crockpot-risotto.html

Can be made vegetarian with veggie or (mmm) mushroom broth.

Here are 22 of my favorite crock pot recipes (a few are ones I created), including sweet potatoes, apple crisp, greek meatballs, and many others without processed ingredients:

http://www.recipezaar.com/cookbook.php?bookid=103318&ls=h

Also, this forum on recipezaar has lots of great crockpot discussion, tips, etc:

http://www.recipezaar.com/bb/viewforum.zsp?f=35

I don't think anyone's mentioned Rick Rodgers's Slow Cooker Ready and Waiting Cookbook, but it's the best one I've tried. There are some good vegetarian recipes in it. Once again, the key is in the prep.

I need to peruse these comments for good recipes too. I am not a great crock-potter, but one thing that worked for integrating it into my week was choosing a day to be crockpot day. For me, Sunday worked best, so it makes it easy when it has its own day, because otherwise I tend to not think about dinner until 4:30 or so ;)

WOW! Thank you all for the commiseration, the ideas, the recipes, the book suggestions...and the reminder to check out pressure cookers. I'll have to write up this great stuff in a new post.

I am now convinced mine cooks too hot and will check it out.

Mark Bittman wrote a column that describes how best to use a crock pot:

http://www.e-cookbooks.net/articles/slowcook.htm

Most of his recipes are meat based, but the description of when slow cooking works best is helpful.

I won't link up (as to not spam your blog), but we have under our food section a month of slow cooker recipes. I put this together right before my daughter was born. I stocked my freezer with all the meat that I could and ingredients that I could and we ate like that for months.

I still use my slow cooker four out of seven nights on any given week. I would be lost without it and lost without my bread machine. They make my life so much easier!

Sally, we made your crockpot carnitas tonight -- it was the very first crockpot recipe we tried -- and everyone, even my picky three-year-old, loved them. Thanks!

As a single mother of 3 to say that the crockpot was one of my closest and dearest friends would be an understatement. My kids love it when they come home from school/work and smell food cooking. My favorite dish to cook in the crockpot is what I call Mexican Soup. It really is chili kicked up a notch! Thanks so much for posting the link to A Year of Crockpotting!

The only thing I DON'T love about my crock pot is that my sink is tiny and it's a bit tricky to wash in there, but I ADORE what comes out of it, and how easy it is to use!

I have this one - begged for Xmas gift a year ago:
http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/sku8260341/index.cfm?pkey=xsrd0m1%7C16%7C%7C%7C0%7C%7C%7C%7C%7C%7C%7Cslow%20cooker&cm%5Fsrc=SCH

Love it because you do EVERYTHING in the same pot - insert is coated aluminum, so you put it right on the burner to brown your meat, then move it to the crock pot to finish cooking, WITH all the browned bits!

Fave recipe is corned beef, which I cook all day in the crock pot but finish for 20 minutes in a 350' oven (rubbed with plain yellow mustard and then coated with brown sugar, laced with ground cloves - yum!).

While that's happening, you put the insert back on the burner and cook potatoes, carrots, onions, then cabbage (last 10 minutes) in the stock you've got from the meat.

Man, it's so good!

Not Your Mother's...cookbook is excellent. Also excellent is the Versa Ware slow cooker. The stoneware crock can go in the oven, the freezer, the microwave, and on the stovetop. Oh, and of course it can be used as a slow cooker, too LOL! I have one and LOVE IT.

The Williams Sonoma one is also highly rated for proper temperature, so that's a good one. DOUBLE bonus on the metal liner, so you can brown in it, if that's the one I'm thinking of...

And to be fair, epeepunk is my DH, so the two votes for the All-Clad are really one vote, though we at least agree! (I did some serious research in reviews and comments about a lot of them, and the Williams Sonoma, All-Clad, and the OLD Rival ones were generally well-rated. The new Rivals and the Black-and-Decker, etc., were either poor or variable - some were fine, many were terrible, not so great on quality control! Check recent models for the performance comments, and then always check the temperature it goes to right off - you can return it easily if it isn't cooking to the right temperature.) Oh, and note that on Amazon, one of the reviews under the All-Clad is I think for the Williams Sonoma one, which is a bit confusing.

(Double-checked, and yes, the Williams Sonoma is the metal insert one, and it's an All-Clad at that, but specially made for Williams Sonoma. The All-Clad we got was $100 less, and ceramic insert not metal, but works well if you don't mind that one extra browning part. I drooled over the metal insert thing, but the price was too much.)

Here is a recipe for a great light chicken/potato curry. You can even skip browning the chicken if you want. Hooray!

Chicken Potato Curry – Slow Cooker

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed and seasoned to taste with salt/pepper
3-4 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 large onion, sliced, then halved

Broth:
1 can (14 oz) coconut milk
½ tsp of yellow curry paste
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 cup of chicken broth


Melt butter in skillet and brown chicken cubes. (Optional)
Combine all ingredients for broth in a large bowl and whisk until combined.
Add onions and potatoes to bottom of slow cooker, then add chicken. Add broth mixture last. Cook on low for 3-4 hours until cooked. Serve with steamed rice.

Check out www.crockpot365.blogspot.com

It's a mom that has resolved to use her crock pot EVERY DAY in 2008. Some of the recipes are AWESOME. Most are even Gluten Free, though you don't have to make them GF if you don't want to!

I have recently found this blog and love it! http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/

I am so happy to have found this post. I love using my slow cooker and will be trying the recipes mentioned in the comments.

I too like the Not Your Mother's...book. I too have the Fresh from the Vegetarian...and do not use it.

My only tip, which I think has not already been mentioned, is that with my big All Clad cooker (ceramic insert...but ooh that metal insert one is tempting!) I can put a smaller casserole dish inside to make a smaller amount of food. It is easier to clean. For something like rice pudding, if I want to make a normal amount for 4 people, the big insert would be too, too, too big. Any smaller casserole dish can that can fit inside can be used--I use those plain white Apilco casserole/souffle dishes. I am so happy to have hacked this. Is it even clever? I don't know. But I feel like a genius.

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Favorite slow cooker recipe for my family, and friends!

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Slow-Cooker-Chicken-Taco-Soup/Detail.aspx

I have played around with it by not adding chicken, adding more beans... of course anything you add sour cream and cheese to can't be bad. :P

We have the book The Indian Slow Cooker: 50 Healthy, Easy, Authentic Recipes (got ours on amazon)and so far we've been pleased with what we've made. We make Indian food, anyway, so have the spices on hand already, which could be a turnoff if you're looking to use what you already have, or aren't sure you will or won't like the flavor or heat of the dishes (although you can always take chilis out)

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