I recently got my first slow cooker, and it has changed my life. I grew up with a busy working mom who would throw random food into a Crock Pot in the morning, and then we’d get home for dinner and bam! A delicious meal! In college, I had nowhere to put a slow cooker and no money to buy one. After I moved to NYC, I turned to ordering delivery, with just the occasional cooking night in. Now that I am an actual real-life adult, it was finally time to get a slow cooker and make magical dinners very, very slowly.
There are a lot of different slow cookers on the market, and they all work similarly. According to Wikipedia: A slow cooker maintains a low temperature (low in comparison to baking, boiling, or frying) and simmers food, which allows for unattended cooking over several hours. The heating element heats the contents to a steady temperature in the 79–93°C (174–199°F) range. The contents are enclosed by the crock and the lid, and attain an essentially constant temperature. The vapor that is produced at this temperature condenses on the bottom of the lid and returns as liquid. Some water-soluble vitamins are leached into the liquid.
I have a new slow cooker, so it has a digital timer, a stirring arm, a warming setting, and a remote. But it works the exact same way my mom’s old Crock Pot from the ’70s works, and just as well! Fun fact: Crock Pot is actually a brand name, slow cooker is what it is. All Crock Pots are slow cookers, not all slow cookers are Crock Pots. In 1940, Irving Naxon patented his cooking device, the Naxon Beanery, inspired by stories of cholent from his Jewish grandma. In 1970, The Rival Company bought Naxon and rebranded the device as Crock Pot in 1971.
Now that fall has officially and decidedly arrived (brr!), it is time to break out those hot, stew-y, comfort food fall favorites. Many of these can be pre-prepared. Chop up the ingredients, portion them into freezer bags, and freeze. Pull out a large portion and throw it into the pot in the morning before work, and come home to a house smelling of dinner! I like to make a big slow cooker meal on Sundays, and it is actually three full meals for my fiance and I!
On to the foods of fall:
There are a lot of chili recipes out there, and here are a couple really good versions of fall’s favorite dish. One of the things I like about chili is that you can make it a bit healthier using ground turkey instead of beef. Because of the simmering and how many ingredients and seasonings there are, most people seem to agree that you can’t taste the difference! Also great about chili is that you can really up your seasonings and spice levels! Any of these chili recipes would be great on these Chili-Cheese Nachos by Chowhound, and make a great party food, appetizer, or gooey snack.
1. Easy Slow Cooker Chili by BettyCrocker.com.
This recipe is super simple, and doesn’t ask you to cook the meat or onions in a skillet before putting it into the slow cooker!
2. Laura’s Quick Slow Cooker Turkey Chili, courtesy of Allrecipes.com.
This one looks great, has excellent reviews from home cooks everywhere, and is a healthier option at only 276 calories per portion!
3. Spicy Crock Pot Chili by DadWithAPan.com.
This one has jalapenos and this dad says it is a hit at all potlucks. He does cook the meat prior to putting it in the slow cooker, so it takes a bit longer to make than when you don’t precook your meat. You can also change the meat type, or spice it up or down to your tastes!
4. Vegetarian White Bean Chili With Poblanos by Potluck.OhMyVeggies.com.
For the veggies out there!
5. To go with your chili: Slow Cooker Cornbread! Cornbread In A Slow Cooker from 365daysofcrockpot.com.
How amazing is it that you can make cornbread in your slow cooker? One-pot meals are really stepping it up!
Soups are the epitome of a cold night. Imagine: hot soup with some crusty bread for dipping, while you get curled up, possibly near a fire. I love soup! Let’s see some great soups you can make in a slow cooker!
6. Cheesy Potato Soup from BettyCrocker.com.
This has a short prep time, is creamy and delicious, and is garnished with bacon! Life is great.
7. Easy Crock Pot Taco Soup by TheFrugalGirls.com.
This website is great for quick and easy recipes, especially in a slow cooker! This is like the above chili, but with a taco kick! I love the garnishing with tortilla chips, too. And if you like that, they also have a similar-but-different Chicken Tortilla Soup.
8. Crock Pot Clam Chowder also by TheFrugalGirls.com.
I never once tried clam chowder while living in Florida, but since moving to NYC, this has become one of my all-time favorite soups. I cannot wait to make this now that it’s cold out!
9. Thai Curried Butternut Squash Soup by GarnishWithLemon.com.
Nothing says fall like butternut squash! Look at this creamy concoction!
10. Comforting Cheesy Potatoes by JuliesEatsandTreats.com.
These look so amazing and would be perfect with a comforting meatloaf or turkey meal!
11. Slow Cooker Pizza Pasta by AndreaDekker.com.
Here is a really interesting take on pasta! This is cheesy and amazing and has the zing of pepperoni!
12. Buffalo Chicken Tater Tot Casserole by CrockpotGourmet.net.
This photo is convincing enough on its own:
13. Bourbon Maple Baked Beans by AverieCooks.com.
If you like baked beans, this is a to-die-for version with a tangy kick, and it includes bourbon and barbecue sauce!
14. Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan by Fullbellies.blogspot.com.
This is a fantastic chicken recipe that is different from your standard baked chicken or fried chicken! This is a hearty comfort food meal that I can’t wait to make!
15. Meatloaf by WellnessMama.com.
Meatloaf is a great comfort food, and you should use this simple slow cooker meatloaf recipe as a perfect base, and add your own zing and spice to it to fit your tastes!
16. Brisket in Onion-Ale BBQ Sauce by MidwestLiving.com.
Like meatloaf, brisket is a soothing, tasty comfort food with tender meat and thick sauce for sopping up. And this onion-ale BBQ sauce is a winner!
17. Chicken & Shrimp Jambalaya by MidwestLiving.com.
At only 238 calories per serving, this Cajun spiced recipe is full of flavor and healthy too!
18. Pulled Pork by FearlessHomemaker.com.
Pulled pork sandwiches are perfect for game time or dinner time. And slow cooker pulled pork is so tender that you barely need to chew!
19. Turkey Breast With Cranberry Sauce by TheCreativeBite.com.
What says fall more than Thanksgiving? Get the taste of Thanksgiving anytime with this turkey and cranberry recipe!
Stews are the perfect autumn slow cooker meal. You can set it and forget it, and come home to a hot soupy stew with great fall vegetables, perfect potatoes, and melt-like-butter meats.
20. Classic Beef Stew by RealSimple.com.
A great stew warms you up and is filling, full of chunky vegetables and hunks of meat, smothered in a sauce you can’t live without. Make this more fall-specific by adding sweet potato chunks or butternut squash!
21. Chicken & Cornbread Dumplings by MyRecipes.com.
This amazing meal is not a soup, not a classic meat dish, and more than a stew, but this is just so great that I had to share!
22. Harvest Pork Stew from AllRecipes.com.
Adding apples to this stew, with the butternut squash and more, makes it perfect for fall, and the apples give it the exact needed amount of sweetness for this still-savory dish!
23. Spicy Chicken Stew by MyRecipes.com.
Kick it up with chili powder and salsa in a very cool chicken stew!
24. Crock Pot Monkey Bread by blogs.babycenter.com.
We all know monkey bread is made in a bundt cake pan in the oven, and now we can make it in the slow cooker? Yes, please!
25. Triple Chocolate Brownies from MarthaStewart.com.
Mmmmm, brownies. Warm brownies on a cold night, maybe with some vanilla ice cream? Heaven!
26. Double Apple Cake from MyRecipes.com.
Apples and spiced cider define fall for me, and cider would pair perfectly with this amazing cake! It’s also a quick recipe, taking less than 1.5 hours!
27. Cardamom Rice Pudding with Fresh Peaches by CookingLight.com.
This is a no-stir rice pudding, and would be yummy with fresh peaches of course, but also spiced apples, fresh berries, some maple and brown sugar… the possibilities are endless!
I hope this inspires you to curl up in some comfy pajamas by a roaring fire on a cold night, and to break out that slow cooker for fall!
Featured photo credit: jeffreyw via flickr.com