They say a watched pot never boils. But if you don’t watch it, it’s going to boil over. This very conundrum is why crockpots are as popular as they are.
Sure, they take a long time. No surprise there, that’s why they’re called slow cookers. But, who cares how long it takes? You don’t have to watch them. At all. You can just leave them simmering merrily away all night long while you sleep or all day long while you’re at work.
It’s easy to forget just how convenient they are. Maybe not quite as convenient as Judy Jetson’s robot, but still pretty convenient.
Of course, it’s not all that convenient if your recipe requires 18 ingredients, none of which you have on hand. The following recipes require no more than five ingredients and it’s highly likely you already have some of them on hand. Pre-browning and sautèing are kept to a minimum to keep things simple.
A perfect slow cooker meal is one where you can wake up in the morning, throw some frozen meat in your crockpot, open a few cans into it, turn it on and head off to work. And then come home to a home-cooked dinner. Which is exactly what the following recipe for salsa chicken does for you. You’re going to have to cook some rice while you set the table but if you’ve got a programmable rice cooker, you can walk in the door and dish up your dinner.
It’s not quite as good as having a robot to cook for you, a la the Jetson’s, but it’s pretty close.
6-9 chicken thighs
1 can rinsed black beans
1 cup chunky salsa
1 cup frozen white corn
Put your chicken in the crockpot. Doesn’t matter if it’s frozen. Just throw it in. Top with the rinsed black beans, salsa, and corn. Cover and cook on low for 6-9 hours, or on high for 4-5. Cooking time will vary depending on whether or not your chicken is frozen, and how big the pieces are. If you decide to use chicken breasts, increase your salsa by 1/2 cup. Breasts are drier than thighs.
White Beans and Sausage
4 cups white beans
1 large can crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. sea salt
12 ounces kielbasa sausage
Place navy beans in a large bowl and just cover with water. Leave at room temperature overnight. The next day, drain the beans and pour them into the bowl of a crock pot. Cover the beans with water and stir in the tomatoes, garlic powder, sea salt and sausage. Put the lid on, set the crock pot to high, and cook for 8 hours, or until the beans are tender. Add more salt or garlic powder to taste. Serve.
Crockpot Cheesy Tortellini
1 pkg. refrigerated mixed cheese tortellini (approx. 20 oz.)
1 (24 oz.) jar pasta sauce or homemade pasta sauce
4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
½ tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. dried basil leaves
Spray inside of 4 – 5 quart crockpot with non-stick cooking spray. Pour ½ jar of pasta sauce on the bottom of Crockpot. Spread out ½ of tortellini evenly in layer on top of the sauce. Sprinkle garlic powder evenly over the layer of tortellini. Spread out 2 cups of mozzarella over the tortellini. Pour remaining ½ jar of pasta sauce over cheese. Spread out remaining tortellini in layer on top of the sauce. Spread out 2 cups of mozzarella over the tortellini layer. Sprinkle evenly with dried basil leaves. Cook on high for 1 hour 30 minutes, or low for 3 hours, or until done.
Crockpot BBQ Chicken
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup BBQ sauce
¼ cup Italian dressing
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
salt to taste
Season chicken breast lightly ( a small pinch per breast) with some sea salt and place in your crockpot. In a mixing bowl combine BBQ sauce, Italian dressing, brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce. Stir until well combined. Pour over chicken, cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours. Once time is up, you can serve the breast whole, or shred with 2 forks. If shredding, recover and let cook in sauce for about 10-15 more minutes to soak up the barbecue flavor. Serve on buns, over rice, in wraps, on a salad or eat a plateful as is.
Crockpot General Tso Chicken
We’re breaking the no specialty ingredients here a little bit. But having homecooked Chinese food in a crockpot is worth picking up a bottle of sauce next time you’re at Trader Joe’s.
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, thawed
1 (12.3 oz.) bottle General Tsao stir fry sauce (Trader Joe’s has a good one)
8 dried Thai chilies
2 chopped green onions
Optional: sesame seeds
Cook chicken and dried Thai Chilies in Crock Pot on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours (covered). After 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low, drain juices from crockpot. Remove chicken, cut into cubes, then transfer chicken back to crockpot. Retain Thai chilies in crockpot – they add great spice, but eat at your own risk. Pour General Tsao Sauce over chicken, then cook on high for 30 more minutes, covered, or until done. Serve over cooked rice. Garnish with green onions and sesame seeds.
Crockpot Macaroni and Cheese
1 lb. elbows macaroni, cooked and drained
4 cans cheddar cheese soup
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
¼ tsp. garlic powder
Cook pasta according to package instructions, and drain. In large bowl, combine drained pasta, cheddar soup, shredded cheese, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Stir well. Transfer mixture into crockpot that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Cover crockpot, and cook on high for 1.5 hours, or until cheese has melted. Once done, remove lid, stir well, and serve.
Slow Cooker Sweet and Sour Chicken
4 – 5 boneless skinless chicken breasts, thawed
1 (12 oz,) bottle Sweet and Sour Sauce
1 can pineapple chunks
1 medium onion, chopped in ½″ – 1″ pieces
2 green bell peppers, chopped in ½″ – 1″ pieces
Pour pineapple yuice only from can into crockpot, then add chicken. Set drained pineapple chunks aside. Cook chicken in crockpot on High for 3 hours or low for 6 hours, covered. After 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low, drain juices from crockpot. Remove chicken, and cut into cubes, then transfer chicken back to crockpot. Mix together Sweet & Sour Sauce, drained pineapple chunks, chopped onions and chopped peppers, stir well. Pour mixture over chicken, stir all together in crockpot, and cook on High for 30 more minutes, covered. Serve over cooked white rice.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699 or on Twitter @BillColvard.