I really love my slow cookers. I have three of them and they get used a lot. In fact, right now the medium one has lima beans in it (we thought we had blackeye peas and don't!!) and before I head to work this afternoon I'll have a bowl of hot, well seasoned and thrifty limas. Mmmm!
Here are a few of my standby slow cooked dishes that are easy to throw in the crock and don't cost an arm and a leg.
Cheater's Slow Cooked Steak and Gravy - the soup and broth from the meat make the gravy so even a person who has gravy making issues can produce lovely gravy!
beef (I use 1 lb of inexpensive steak or carne picada)
onion to taste, chopped, sliced, however you like it (I like a lot)
salt, pepper, garlic and any other seasonings desired
cream of mushroom soup or homemade equivalent (use cream of chicken with mushroom to save some carbs)
small can chopped green chiles
Put the beef in a slow cooker, add the onion and spices, and cook on high for about an hour until the meat shows little or no pink. Drain enough liquid that there's only 1/4 cup or so in the crock. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook on low for at least three hours. Serve over rice, noodles, potatoes or vegetables. I love this over riced cauliflower.
"Smoked" Chicken in a Crock - this is so simple and the resulting chicken has a nice smoky flavor that's a welcome addition to many dishes!
I love the flavor of smoked chicken but without a smoker I have to get creative to get that flavor. After a little experimentation I hit on the right combination of things to get a decent smoky flavor in my slow cooker. This is very simple but tasty and the leftover chicken makes delicious chicken salad.
Wash and rinse chicken pieces or a whole chicken. I prefer to use whole chicken. Pat it dry and season with a little pepper, salt, and garlic. Put the chicken in the crock of your slow cooker and add 2 Tablespoons of Liquid Smoke. Add sliced onions, bell peppers, squash or any other vegetable you like, put the lid on the crock, set it to low and let cook about 6 hours. Because I don't like the boiled chicken thing that often happens in slow cookers, I drain the broth a few times during the cooking process, freezing it for later use.
When the chicken is cooked, carefully remove it from the crock. It will more than likely fall apart so you might want to put the chicken and vegetables in some netting or cheesecloth before you put it in the crock. I don't do that normally but do if I think I won't want to mess with fishing out pieces of chicken.
Chicken & Biscuits - another easy favorite, though a bit too high in carbs for us to eat often! I do occasionally use Carbquick to make low carb biscuits for this, though.
3 cups chicken, cooked and chopped
3 cups chicken broth (water and chicken bouillon work, too, as does vegetable broth)
5 small carrots, chopped
1/2 to 3/4 onion, chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
8 ounces mushrooms, fresh or canned
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 cup frozen green peas (I often use chopped green beans instead)
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup cold water (I often use juice from canned vegetables)
Bring chicken broth to a boil and add garlic and vegetables. Simmer about 15 minutes. Add chicken and peas or beans and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes. Dump it all in the slow cooker and set the heat to low. Make a paste with the cornstarch and cold water and carefully add it to the chicken mixture a little at a time, stirring well. Stir a bit then put the lid on the crock and continue to cook on low for at least an hour. At this point, if you're going to eat it immediately, just pour everything into a casserole, top with biscuits, and bake at 375 until the biscuits are light brown.
To freeze, pour into a glass casserole dish, cover with foil, place in a good freezer bag and put in freezer. When ready to eat, thaw and place in 375 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and place raw biscuit dough or pre-made biscuits on top. Bake 20 to 25 minutes until hot and biscuits are lightly browned.
Prevention's site has some nice sounding inexpensive slow cooker recipes, including corn chowder, kidney bean and beef chili, brownies, and "baked" apples, and most can be made for less than $2 per serving. If there's something in one of the recipes that makes the cost too high for your budget, eliminate that item or substitute something else. And check out their line of hearty and healthy soups and stews, too! Just because the site is Prevention's and the recipes are healthier than a lot of others doesn't mean the dishes aren't very good!
Speaking of soup, Tipnut has a list of 15 comforting homemade soup recipes, including my very own Slow Cooked Beef, Barley, and Vegetable Soup.
This is a great time of year for soups so find some good recipes or get creative and make your own but make plenty of that warm, hearty soup!