Crockpot meals simmer through the day

Plan ahead and do your prep early in the morning to have a warm and inviting dinner made with ease

    If you’re looking for a simple meal, a crockpot meal may be the way to go. You can start the meal in the morning and let it cook throughout the day.
    A delicious, homemade meal will be the payoff.
    The moist heat and slow cooking will turn even the toughest meat into a tender, delicious entree. And because the vegetables, meat and pasta can be cooked together, the flavor permeates the entire meal.
    Slow cookers are the ultimate in convenience. For some recipes, you can assemble the ingredients in the insert the night before and refrigerate it. Next morning, set the insert in the slow cooker, turn the heat to low and head to work or run errands.
    Other recipes call for the dish to be cooked on high heat for one hour and then reduced to low heat. This allows the slow cooker to heat up faster and penetrate the meat, killing harmful bacteria.
    It may also help to cut any large piece of meat in half to allow it to come to a safe cooking temperature quickly. For that reason, make sure meats are thawed before placing them in the slow cooker.
    The crockpot must reach temperatures of at least 165 degrees for safe cooking. The low heat on most models is about 200 degrees.
    For best results, a slow cooker should be between half and two thirds full.
    Because the ceramic insert in a slow cooker can crack if exposed to abrupt temperature shifts, don’t put a hot insert on a cold counter or a cold one onto a preheated base.
    Browning meat, especially ground meat, and sautéing vegetables in a skillet before adding them to the slow cooker can improve the flavor of a meal. If you dredge your meat in a little flour before browning, you will get a thicker sauce.
    For more even cooking, trim excess fat off meats. If you’re cooking a dish with both meat and root vegetables, place the vegetables on the bottom and sides of the insert and the meat on top.
    Dairy products, like sour cream, milk or yogurt, tend to break down in the slow cooker. To prevent this, add them during the last 15 minutes of cooking.
    Following are a few recipes for crockpot entrees from

Slow Cooker Beef and Sweet Potato Chili

1 pound 90% lean ground sirloin
4 cups unpeeled sweet potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 -1/2 cups unsalted beef stock
2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup unsalted tomato paste
2 tablespoons chili powder
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
8 garlic cloves, minced
2 14.5-ounce cans unsalted diced tomatoes, undrained
1 15-ounces can unsalted black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

    Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Brown beef about three minutes, stirring often, just until crumbled and mostly browned. Beef will not be fully cooked. Remove from heat.
    Combine sweet potatoes, beef stock, onion, bell pepper, tomato paste, chili powder, salt, cumin, red pepper, garlic, diced tomatoes and black beans in a six-quart slow cooker. Stir in beef.  Cover and cook on low for seven hours.
    Stir in 1/2 cup cilantro, then ladle chili into eight bowls. Top with cheese and remaining cilantro.


Slow Cooker Mississippi Pork Roast

3-1/2  to 4 pound boneless pork shoulder
1 ounce packet ranch dressing mix
1 ounce packet brown gravy mix
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 jarred pepperoncini salad peppers, plus 2 tablespoons pepperoncini liquid
2/3 cup cold water

    Place pork in a slow cooker. Sprinkle with ranch mix and one tablespoon brown gravy mix. Top with butter, pepperoncini peppers and pepper liquid. Cover and cook on low for seven to eight hours, until tender and meat pulls apart easily with a fork.
    Transfer pork to a serving platter. Skim and discard fat from cooking liquid and reserve 1/3 cup cooking liquid. Whisk together cold water, reserved cooking liquid and remaining brown gravy mix in a two-cup glass measuring cup. Microwave 2-1/2 to three minutes until slightly thickened.
    Shred pork, and serve with gravy.


Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce

1 pound 90/10 lean ground beef
12 ounces hot Italian sausage, casings removed
8 ounces diced pancetta
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup dry red wine
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 fresh bay leaf
2 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes, drained and rinsed
2 pounds uncooked ziti or penne pasta
Freshly shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Fresh basil leaves

    Combine ground beef, sausage and pancetta in a large skillet. Cook over medium-high heat about eight minutes, stirring to break into small pieces, until browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer meat to a six-quart slow cooker. Reserve drippings in skillet.
    Add onion, celery and carrots to hot drippings and cook over medium-high heat about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add garlic and tomato paste and cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly, until fragrant. Add red wine and cook two minutes, stirring occasionally, until liquid has almost completely evaporated. Add onion mixture to slow cooker with meat. Stir in sugar, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and bay leaf. Using hands, crush tomatoes to break apart, then add to slow cooker and stir. Cover and cook on low about six hours, until flavors meld. Remove and discard bay leaf.
    Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions. Drain well. Serve sauce over pasta and top with cheese and basil.
    Sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container as long as five days or frozen for three months.


Slow Cooker Pot Roast

3 to 4 pounds chuck roast
4 potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 pound baby carrots
2 celery ribs, sliced thin
2 envelopes onion soup mix
2 cups water
1 onion, cut into quarters or sixths
    Place thinly sliced celery on the bottom of a crockpot that’s coated with cooking spray. Add carrots and quartered potatoes, then the roast.
    Combine onion soup and water and pour over the roast.
    Cover and cook on low for eight to nine hours or on high for five to six hours.


Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos

1 -3/4 pounds boneless pork shoulder,, trimmed
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 cups hot water
1 dried ancho chile
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 white onion, sliced
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
2 oregano sprigs
1 tablespoon canola oil
12 6-inch corn tortillas, warmed
6 tablespoons chopped white onion
Cilantro sprigs, optional
Lime wedges, optional

    Cut pork into three-inch pieces and place in a large zipper-lock bag. Sprinkle with brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Add two tablespoons lime juice and two tablespoons orange juice to bag  and seal, removing as much air as possible. Refrigerate for eight to 24 hours.
    Place two cups hot water and dried ancho chile in a bowl and let stand 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup soaking liquid.
    Transfer pork to a five to six-quart slow cooker and discard marinade. Add garlic, sliced onion, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, oregano, ancho chile, reserved soaking liquid, remaining lime juice and remaining orange juice. Cover and cook on low seven to eight hours, until meat is very tender.
    Transfer pork to a bowl, and pour cooking liquid through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a separate bowl. Discard solids.
    Heat canola oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Add pork and sear one minute without stirring. Return pork to bowl. Add 1/2 cup cooking liquid to skillet and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any bits of pork stuck to bottom of skillet. Pour over pork, then add remaining salt and pepper. Shred pork.
    Divide pork evenly among tortillas. Top each taco with 1-1/2 teaspoons chopped onion. Serve with cilantro and lime wedges, if desired.


Slow Cooker Cheesy Cottage Potatoes

6 large cooked potatoes, cubed or diced
1 onion, diced
1⁄2 cup diced bell pepper
1 cup stale bread cubes
1 cup cubed sharp cheddar cheese
3⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Fresh rosemary leaves

    Mix potatoes, onion, bell pepper, bread cubes, cheese, salt, pepper and rosemary in a greased crockpot.
    Pour melted butter over top and stir together gently.
    Cover and cook on high for 2-1⁄2 hours. Remove lid  and cook another 30 to 60 minutes on high, until potatoes are hot in the center of the crock. If you can’t remove the lid, the potatoes will be fine. They’ll have just a bit more moisture but no less flavor.
    Top with fresh rosemary. Serve hot.


Slow Cooker Bourbon-Peach Baked Beans

3 center-cut bacon slices, chopped
2 15-ounce cans unsalted cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 15-ounce cans unsalted pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 ripe peaches, peeled and finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup organic ketchup
1/2 cup bourbon
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

    Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add bacon and cook four to five minutes, stirring occasionally, until crisp. Remove bacon from skillet.
    Coat inside of a four-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Add bacon and remaining ingredients and stir well. Cover and cook on low for four to six hours. Keep covered until beans are ready to serve.


Slow-Cooker Split Pea Soup With Smoked Turkey

1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 small smoked turkey leg or ham hock
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 pound dried green split peas, rinsed
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Chopped chives

    Combine all ingredients except chives in a six-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on low about eight hours, until peas are tender but still retain their shape.
    Remove turkey leg and discard bay leaf. Stir soup to break apart peas and thicken soup.
    When turkey leg is cool enough to handle, pull meat into large shreds, discarding skin, bone, and gristle. Garnish soup with turkey meat and chives.


Slow Cooker Rosemary Beef Chuck Roast

2 pound beef chuck roast
1/2 cup olive oil
3 green onions, chopped
1 small yellow onion, quartered
1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves, loosely packed
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
5 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 habanero pepper, seeds removed
1 teaspoon black pepper
    Cut about 10 one-inch-deep slits in the surface of the roast.
    In a high-powered blender, combine remaining ingredients. Pour half the oil mixture into the bottom of a six-quart slow cooker. Place roast in the slow cooker and coat with the remaining oil mixture. Cover and cook on low for eight hours.
    Remove roast from the slow cooker and cut into slices. Place drippings in a saucepan over medium heat and simmer about 15 minutes, until reduced and thickened, skimming off the fat as necessary. Serve gravy with the sliced beef.




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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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