The first Slow Cooker I bought sat unused for two years. “Sarah, really, it will make your life so much easier,” said my mom. “I know,” I replied, and passed it along to a friend when we moved from London. When we arrived in Toronto, I bought another right away. “Seriously?” said my husband. “I know,” I replied.
After about six months, I decided it was time to get with the program, and my slow cooker hasn’t left my countertop since. With that, I bring you four tried, tested and true recipes. One is so easy it barely qualifies as a recipe. Two are so straightforward they can be assembled in 15 minutes. And the last one is for a Saturday, when you have an extra pair of hands. They all freeze wonderfully, so I double the ingredients and pull them out a few weeks later for an even easier dinner solution.
Let’s start with the most basic: BBQ Chicken. Ready? Cut four chicken breasts into smaller chunks (or buy pre-cut chicken breast chunks), dice an onion (red or Vidalia), add to the slow cooker, pour a bottle of BBQ sauce on top (I like Stubb’s Original BBQ Sauce, 18oz), and cook on low for eight hours. Stir every few hours (or not). Shred the chicken about an hour before you serve it and let it simmer for a bit longer. Serve on toasted buns (or with rice).
Beef & Black Bean Chili
This easy Beef and Black Bean Chili is from MarthaStewart.com. Like with most slow-cooker recipes, you can alter the ingredients and still almost guarantee a successful outcome. I always use stewing beef instead of beef chuck, and last time, I put in an extra cup of black beans and five additional ounces of tomato paste (as opposed to tomato puree), along with an extra red onion. We top it with cheese, sour cream and chopped onion, and it’s always a hit.
Sweet & Spicy Asian Pork
RealSimple.com, which turns out some really excellent recipes, came up with the indeed-simple Sweet and Spicy Asian Pork Shoulder. The first time I made it, I added a few dashes of ground cloves, ground cinnamon, and paprika since I didn’t have Chinese five-spice. It made it too spicy for my toddler (although my husband and I loved it), so the second time, I skipped the spices, lowered the chili-garlic sauce to 1/2 tablespoon, and served more of the sauce on the side. This time everyone loved it.
Jool’s Favourite Beef Stew
The last recipe, Jools’ Favourite Beef Stew by Jamie Oliver, is comparably complicated (and not officially a slow-cooker recipe), but don’t let that put you off. It’s straightforward enough, except for the artichokes, which I had never prepped for a recipe before. (Cut off the top and bottom, and removed the outer third or so of the leaves.) I intentionally added rosemary earlier in the cooking process, then out of laziness, skipped the lemon and garlic at the end. Again, you can add or remove ingredients (last time I couldn’t find parsnips) and still get a delicious result. We’ve eaten it with mashed white potatoes, sliced sweet potatoes, and rice — whatever we have on hand. (Note that you’ll need a super-sized slow cooker to double this recipe.)
Unfortunately, a lot of the slow cooker recipes out there are old-fashioned, bland, and not worth the time or price of ingredients. But the good ones are like gold, and like any convert, I’ll keep banging the drum (of my slow cooker) until every hold-out I encounter gets it, too.
Sarah Western Balzer grew up in Tampa, FL and worked in the music industry in New York, Washington, DC and London before she got married, started a lifestyle relocation business in London, and had a baby. Now she lives in Toronto and is a mostly full-time mom, but still oversees the Lifestyle section of London-based financial news website, Here Is The City. She and her husband, the German, have two sons, the Brit and the Canadian. UN meetings will commence once the 5-month-old learns to talk.