Five of our favorite food writers share their best family-friendly slow-cooker meals.
Everything in this slideshow
Cheesy Potato and Leek Chowder
"When I was a newlywed, one of the first dishes I made in a slow cooker was this scrumptious soup. It's a take on a French classic, so I felt just like Julia Child. It's been in my family's dinner rotation for years. Best of all, it's so easy!" -- Carla Snyder, author of One Pan, Two Plates
Cranberry Apple Pork Roast
"This pork roast, with its bright flavors of orange juice, cranberry sauce, ginger, and cider vinegar, is such a tasty, almost effortless dinner that I rarely cook pork in the oven anymore." -- Kathy Farrell-Kingsley, author of The Home Creamery
Chicken Mango Curry
"This not-too-spicy cross between a curry and a stew is even better after a day or two, when the flavors have had a chance to meld further. The mango adds sweetness, and the cashews give it a crunchy boost." -- Matt Kadey, author of Muffin Tin Chef
Polenta With BBQ Turkey
"My family loves to have this smoky dish on a cold winter night. Making polenta the traditional way requires endless stirring. With a slow cooker, you dump in the ingredients and walk away. Then just 20 minutes at the stove to make the barbecue turkey, and you're good to go." -- J.M. Hirsch, author of Beating the Lunch Box Blues
Buying a Slow Cooker
Don't own a slow cooker? For busy families, the delicious food produced by this countertop appliance can be a dinnertime revelation. Its biggest advantage: you can simply set it and forget it. If you're shopping for one, consider these key features:
--A 5- or 6-quart crock lets you cook larger pieces of meat and make enough soup for both dinner and the freezer.
--Both carrying handles and locking lids are handy if you need to transport dishes to potlucks.
--Cast-aluminum inserts allow you to brown ingredients on the stove top, then return the insert to the base for slow cooking. (Fewer pans to wash! Yes!)
--An automatic warming setting keeps the meal hot after the cooking time has ended, a boon if you arrive home a little later than you expected.
-- Carla Snyder
Beyond Beef Stew
As handy as a slow cooker is for making dinner, our staffers put their machines to a number of other creative uses:
- Tomato Sauce Factory: Senior Associate Editor Ellen Harter Wall fills her crock with chopped fresh tomatoes (no need to peel or seed), chopped onions, minced garlic, a pinch of sugar, some basil, oregano, salt, and pepper, a can of tomato paste, and a splash of water, then lets it simmer on low all day. When she gets home, she mixes it all with an immersion blender.
- Cider Muller: Editorial Assistant Jordan DeFrank likes to simmer apple cider with a few cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and orange slices.
- Steel-cut Oatmeal Machine: Senior Digital Editor Samuel Mead puts his slow cooker to work overnight. He mixes 1 cup of steel-cut oats, 4 cups of water, and 1/2 cup of apple cider with 1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon and salt in the crock before going to bed, sets it on low, and wakes up to a hearty breakfast with his family.
Originally published in the December/January 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.