Planning and preparing a Thanksgiving dinner takes days, if not weeks. And once dinner's over, you still have a pile of pots and pans to clean. Eliminate the mess, and cut down on cooking time (not to mention spend more time with your kids) with help from your crockpot. Use that handy appliance and these easy-to-follow recipes to whip up a few sides or an entire feast that the whole family will love — including the turkey. It's so simple you'll want to cook Thanksgiving dinner all year long.
For a healthy, protein-rich meal that doesn't rely on dairy for flavor, try this delicious Mexican-style chicken recipe full of fresh ingredients. This preparation results in an absolutely delicious, fall-off-the-bone piece of meat. Make sure to leave 15 minutes for the first two steps, then pour everything into your slow cooker, and let it do its magic. Serve this recipe over a bed of purple cabbage, black beans, or brown rice for a balanced meal under 500 calories.
Keep reading to learn how to make this healthy slow-cooker recipe.
Brussels sprouts, which grow in clusters on long stalks, are so named because they originated in Belgium. We love cooking and eating brussels sprouts when they're in season, particularly when braised in a flavorful liquid (stock, cream, or cider). These dressed-up brussels sprouts are perfect for the holiday table—and they leave the oven open for the main course. Chicken broth added savory depth, and a drizzle of balsamic glaze and olive oil contributed intense flavor and richness. Pine nuts lent a delicate crunch.
Slowly reducing and caramelizing applesauce creates the wondrous phenomenon known as apple butter. Tart, aromatic, and smooth, apple butter has a thick, spreadable consistency that's unlike the loose texture of applesauce. It's an obvious condiment for toast with butter on a Fall morning but also works well swirled into oatmeal or used as a filling in cake.
The applesauce slowly reduces and changes color and thickness as it cooks over the stove top. When the apple butter begins to look very dark and thick, pull that sucker off the stove and transfer it to a sterilized glass jar. Keep it refrigerated, and use within a week. Alternatively, multiply the recipe, process the jar (or jars) to store in the pantry, and enjoy it all season long.
Get your crockpots into gear — Fall is officially here, and there's no better time to reinvent some of your favorite slow-cooker classics for your family. While it's most commonly used for soups, stews, and hearty casseroles, the crockpot can also be the perfect vehicle for a hot breakfast or a sweetly satisfying dessert. Click through for 23 of our favorite ways to put your crockpot to work for your family this Fall!
Slow cookers — we love them on game day and for lazy weekend meals, but what about the weekdays? Is it safe to leave a slow cooker on and unattended for a full workday? The answer is mostly yes. While there is always a risk that something could go wrong, chances are nothing will as long as you follow these instructions.
Set it up properly
- Do not set the slow cooker on a finished wood table. Instead, place it on something more heat safe, like a tiled kitchen counter. To protect the counter or table surface, place a hot pad, trivet, or protective padding underneath the slow cooker.
- Keep six inches clear from the wall and six inches clear on all sides.
- Don't let the cord hang over the edge of the table or counter or touch any heated parts of the slow cooker.
While the chefs are slow cooking à la sous-vide, we'll stick to a good old-fashioned crockpot. Toss in all the ingredients in the morning, plug it in, and let the cooker do all the work for you during the day. Don't you love coming home to a warm, aromatic house with dinner already ready?
I live on the fourth floor of an apartment complex, and countless times as I return home from work, I walk up my staircase to catch a whiff of the garlicky spaghetti sauce that my first-floor neighbor is cooking, only to go up another flight to find out that my second-floor neighbor is baking roast beef tonight. And what's for dinner on the third floor? Cumin- and coriander-heavy Indian curry, no less. By the time I reach my apartment, my mouth is salivating but my heart is heavy, for a bubbling, aromatic pot of dinner isn't waiting beyond my door . . . until now!
Slow-cooked foods are making a comeback, and for good reason: a minor investment (some models will only set you back 20 bucks), minimal prep, and an afternoon of unattended simmering is all it takes to pull together a delicious meal. The preparation for this recipe shouldn't take longer than 30 minutes, so you can easily throw it together as you're making breakfast. Let it simmer away as you go about your day, and then, as if magic, you'll return home to a powerfully intoxicating, hearty-as-hell taco soup. I promise the scent will drive your neighbors crazy. It's payback time!
Getting a perfectly cooked, juicy whole chicken out of a slow cooker is actually much easier than it sounds. In our testing, we learned that the trick to getting a juicy chicken was to place the chicken in the slow cooker upside down. This was important for two reasons: First, it put the lean breast meat underneath the fattier legs and thighs, so that as the juices and fat rendered from the thighs, they dripped over the breast meat. Second, as the juices pooled in the bottom of the slow cooker, the breast was submerged, further helping the lean meat to retain moisture.
What's not to love about crockpot cooking? After all, you can put just about everything from Cuban chicken to beef chili in the slow cooker, then set it and forget it (until you're hungry, that is). As straightforward as a slow cooker sounds, however, there are a few tips to bear in mind that guarantee you'll yield the best results.
- Take advantage of the slow cooker to cook the cheapest cuts of meat — shoulder, shank, and ribs. Braising them over time will result in a tender piece of protein.
- Trim proteins of excess fat, which cooks at a faster rate. Vegetables don't cook as quickly, so layer them at the bottom of the appliance, closest to the heat source.
- To add more depth of flavor to your meal, brown your meat in a skillet first. Then deglaze the pan with a little bit of stock, wine, or water, and add those browned bits of flavor into your slow cooker, too.
- For a thicker sauce, dredge your meat in a little bit of flour before browning it in a skillet.
For some can't-miss crockpot tips, read more.