As busy as so many of us are these days, it can be a real challenge to put dinner on the table every evening. I look for ways to make food preparation as easy as possible, especially during the week when time is at a premium. Between getting to my kids’ lacrosse games, working around my husband’s commitments, running errands, training clients, and getting my own workouts done, it can be difficult to get us all together for a meal. Much less fix dinner after I have been out and about all day.
So a slow cooker or crockpot can be a real life-saver when it comes to preparing meals. A slow cooker has a number of benefits – it is inexpensive; it is economical to use; it enables me to utilize cheaper cuts of meat; it is a healthy, low-fat method for cooking; it requires a minimal amount of effort; and it allows me to prepare a meal when my schedule allows.
Here are two of my “go to” crockpot recipes. The pulled pork recipe is just what the name implies – super easy to put together, no searing or precooking required. A crockpot of pulled pork will keep in our fridge for about a week and is very versatile. We can use it in sandwiches, quesadillas, as a pizza topping, even in our scrambled eggs. The chicken and veggie recipe, on the other hand, is a complete meal with the addition of a mixed green salad. And it comes together quickly with ingredients that are probably already in your pantry and refrigerator.
Easy Slow Cooker Pulled Pork from Chowhound.com
“The easiest and, arguably, tenderest pulled pork comes out of the slow cooker. Here, we coat pork shoulder with a spice rub of dark brown sugar, chili powder, cumin, and cinnamon, then cook it on a bed of garlic and onions moistened with chicken broth. Six to ten hours later, the juiciest pork imaginable is ready to be shredded. This no-fuss, versatile recipe makes enough to feed a crowd, and the leftovers—should you have any—freeze well.”
- 2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
- 4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 cup chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 (4-1/2- to 5-pound) boneless or bone-in pork shoulder (also known as pork butt), twine or netting removed
- 2 cups barbecue sauce (optional) – I highly recommend Stubb’s BBQ sauce because it’s made with all natural ingredients and contains NO high fructose corn syrup.
- Place the onions and garlic in an even layer in the slow cooker and pour in the stock or broth. Combine the sugar, chili powder, measured salt, cumin, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Pat the pork dry with paper towels. Rub the spice mixture all over the pork and place the meat on top of the onions and garlic. Cover and cook until the pork is fork tender, about 6 to 8 hours on high or 8 to 10 hours on low.
- Turn off the slow cooker and remove the pork to a cutting board. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium heatproof bowl. Pour the onion mixture from the slow cooker through the strainer and return the solids to the slow cooker. Set the strained liquid aside.
- If the pork has a bone, remove and discard it. Using 2 forks, shred the meat into bite-sized pieces, discarding any large pieces of fat. Return the shredded meat to the slow cooker, add the barbecue sauce, if using, and mix to combine. If you’re not using barbecue sauce, use a spoon to skim and discard the fat from the surface of the strained cooking liquid, and then add 1/4 cup of the liquid at a time to the slow cooker until the pork is just moistened. Taste and season with salt as needed.
Serve it up with some homemade coleslaw or a big green salad, and some oven-roasted sweet potato wedges for a complete meal.
Slow Cooker Herbed Chicken and Vegetables
- Rinse 3 pounds skinned chicken legs, thighs, or drumsticks; pat dry. In a large skillet on medium high heat, brown the chicken pieces in 2 tablespoons olive oil.
- Combine the following in a 4-5 quart crock pot:
- 4-6 medium potatoes, quartered
- 4 medium carrots, cut into 1/2″ pieces
- 2 stalks celery, cut into 1″ pieces
- 1 small onion, sliced
- In a bowl combine the following:
- 1 cup chicken broth, organic, low-sodium
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 Tbsp fresh parsley (or 1 tsp dry)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme, crushed
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Place the browned chicken pieces on top of the vegetables. Pour broth mixture over the chicken. Cover; cook on low heat setting for 8 to 9 hours or on high heat setting for 4 to 4 1/2 hours.
- The chicken and vegetables pairs really well a creamy polenta, risotto, or a big mixed greens salad.