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Best Menu, Recipes, and Ideas for Slow Cookers and Crockpots

Best Menu, Recipes, and Ideas for Slow Cookers and Crockpots

Best Menu, Recipes and Ideas for Slow Cookers & Crockpots

If your slow cooker or crockpot are not front and center on your kitchen counter, it’s time to get them out and start cooking! They are so easy to use and cut down on clean up time in the kitchen! Many recipes consist of simply putting all the ingredients in the pot, set it and forget it or an effortless, quick second step. Plus, how wonderful is it to come in the kitchen at the end of the day and smell a completely cooked meal, ready to go!  

Yes, comfort foods are high on the list of go-to recipes for crockpots and slow cookers – but you can adjust the ingredients to work best for you and your family. Modern recipes and ingredient twists are also available so you can make dinners that are not just ho-hum stews and soups. 

So, let’s get started! Take a look at some of the updated recipe ideas you will want to make tonight…  

2Step Carnitas

Pork shoulder can be magically transformed into tender, tasty, pork tacos – that is the definition of carnitas. In this case, the meat is perfectly shreddable after 8 hours in the slow cooker or crockpot, but an extra quick step will add a bit of color to the edges of the meat, making this recipe a go-to favorite. 

Ingredients: 

  • 3-pound pork shoulder  
  • 2 cups of chicken or vegetable broth 
  • 1 medium onion (yellow or white) 
  • Salt and pepper, to taste 
  • Juice of 1 lime 

Serving Suggestions: 

  • Taco shells 
  • Diced onion 
  • Lime wedges 
  • Sour cream 
  • Cilantro, for garnish 

Directions: 

  1. Place all carnitas ingredients in the slow cooker or crockpot. 
  2. Set on high for 8 hours and cook. 
  3. Remove meat from the pot with a slotted spoon and shred with two forks on a sheet pan. 
  4. Drizzle reserved cooking liquid over meat. 
  5. Place pan under broiler on high for about five minutes, turn meat over and return to broil for an additional five minutes to produce crispy edges on the pork. 
  6. Serve with suggestions listed above or use pork in quesadillas or over nachos. 

*Note: Since this pork has only been seasoned for cooking, it is also a great pulled pork recipe to be used for sandwiches. Just add your favorite barbecue sauce. 

Jambalaya Jazzed Up with Kielbasa

Breaking the rules of standard recipes is encouraged, but here is a bit of history about true Jambalaya. The Creole version always includes the use of the “holy trinity” which is celery, onion and green bell pepper. But, if you want to have a bit more color and a bright, confetti look once the dish is cooked – go ahead and add one green and one yellow or red pepper. Feel like adding more vegetables like carrots or okra? Go right ahead. 

The use of andouille sausage with kielbasa and shrimp is also not traditional. Jambalaya typically consists of chicken or pork with andouille, but these trades make for a delicious dish with a kick. 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 pound andouille sausage 
  • 1 pound kielbasa 
  • 2 chopped bell peppers – any color 
  • 2 stalks of chopped celery 
  • 1 diced yellow onion 
  • One 28ounce can of crushed or diced tomatoes 
  • 1/2 cups chicken broth 
  • 1 cup of uncooked rice 
  • bay leaves 
  • 1 pound of cooked, peeled and deveined shrimp* (the shrimp are added after the bulk of cooking time – do not add with the sausage/kielbasa or they will overcook) 

Seasoning/Spices – feel free to adjust to taste. 

  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika 
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano 
  • 2 teaspoons of prepared Cajun seasoning (consider reducing cayenne if using a prepared mix) 
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper  
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme 
  • to 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley, for garnish 

Directions: 

  1. Keep cooked shrimp in the refrigerator until needed. 
  2. Combine all other ingredients and seasonings in the slow cooker or crockpot and set on low for 4 hours. Cook. 
  3. Stir contents, add shrimp, and cook an additional 15 to 20 minutes. 
  4. Garnish and serve. 

Perfect Pairing: Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

There are so many opportunities to customize a mac & cheese dish! Need gluten free pasta? OK. Prefer cavatappi, small shells or rigatoni to elbows? Perfect. Trying to get more vegetables on the plate and in your family’s bellies? Voila! Searching for a side dish to go with just about anything? All set. Need a meatless Monday main dish? Here it is.  

Ingredients: 

Phase 1 

  • 1 pound of diced butternut squash (check the produce section of your grocery store for pre-cut, if desired) 
  • 1 cup of vegetable stock 
  • 1 diced clove of garlic 
  • 1 diced onion 
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage 
  • Salt and white pepper, to taste 

Phase 2 

  • 1 cup cooked pasta of choice 
  • 8 ounces of shredded sharp cheddar  
  • 1/4 cup milk 
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter 

Directions: 

  1. Add all the Phase 1 ingredients: squash, stock, garlic, onion and seasonings to the crockpot and set on low for 6 to 8 hours to cook. 
  2. Blend well using an immersion/hand blender or traditional blender and return the puree to the pot. 
  3. Combine with Phase 2 ingredients: cooked pasta, cheese, milk and butter. Heat through until the cheese is melted and all pasta is well coated. 

Using appliances like a slow cooker or crockpot does not mean you have to make old-fashioned meals. Remember to modify the ingredients and seasonings to make dishes zestier or milder based on your preferences and switch up proteins or vegetable combinations to keep the menu fresh and fun!  

About The Author

Sharon MacGregor

Writing from her desk in New York, Sharon MacGregor is a contributing reporter, freelance writer, and blogger with a passion for human interest stories as well as meals shared with friends and family. Her blog, Fed Well includes recipes with upcoming tips to prepare foods for infants and toddlers, simple and seasonal cocktails, and easy modifications to create dishes respecting dietary restrictions including dairy and gluten intolerances. She loves entertaining for the ones she loves including her new grandbabies!

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