Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes one ingredient at a time.
Use Your Slow Cooker When the Weather is Hot
When the temperature is up, we need to go low—low and slow cooking. Yes, we can grill outdoors (unless, like me, you happen to live in an area where the air quality index is so bad that all outdoor burning is banned).
And that is where the Crock-Pot comes to the rescue. You probably use your slow cooker for slow-simmering winter soups and stews. But have you thought of using it in place of your oven during the summer? I have nine recipe ideas to get you started.
Recipes in This Article
(Yes, all of these are cooked in a Crock-Pot.)
- Baked potatoes
- Roast chicken
- Stuffed peppers
- Enchilada quinoa bake
- Cheesy chicken, bacon, and tater tot bake
- Honey garlic chicken and veggies
1. Baked Potatoes
First, allow me to make a brief disclaimer. I know that baked potatoes should not be cooked in foil. However, today it is 96 degrees outside and the air is so full of particles from forest fires that our indoor smoke detector has gone off four times. Sometimes a gal's gotta do what a gal's gotta do.
- 4 to 6 russet potatoes
- Olive oil
- Aluminum foil
- Toppings of your choice (suggestions follow)
- Scrub the potatoes with a stiff vegetable brush and then dry thoroughly.
- For each potato, tear off a square of foil large enough to enclose it completely.
- Poke each potato several times with a fork. Place in the center of the foil, and then drizzle with oil.
- Wrap the potato in the foil (make sure it is completely covered) and then place it in the Crock-Pot. Don't add water!
- Cover and cook on low for 8 hours (or on high for 4-5 hours). Remove from the cooker and carefully unwrap (it will be hot).
- Canned (or leftover homemade) chili con carne, grated cheese
- Spaghetti sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni
- Crumbled cooked bacon (you can cook it in the microwave on a plate in a single layer, 1 minute per strip, covered with 2 paper towels)
- For more ideas check out turning your baked potato into a meal.
2. Slow-Cooker Meatloaf
Melissa is the creator of the blog Number-2-Pencil and has devised a method for baking a meatloaf in the Crock-Pot. The low temperature ensures that it cooks thoroughly but does not dry out. This has been a lifesaver for me.
3. Crock-Pot Spaghetti
Sarah made spaghetti in her Crock-Pot, and says it tastes even better than the "traditional" way because the pasta simmers in the sauce and soaks up all of those wonderful flavors.
Be warned, this not a "dump in the pot and forget all day" type of slow cooker dish. It does require some stirring, especially in the last hour, but it you can keep the heat in a little cooker rather than filling your life with the steam from a large pot of boiling water, I think that's a winner.
4. Slow Cooker "Roast" Chicken
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 1 (5-pound) chicken
- 3 teaspoons kosher (not table) salt
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Spray inside of slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray.
- Pat chicken dry with paper towels.
- In a small bowl, combine all ingredients except chicken.
- Rub chicken thoroughly with the mixture, including inside cavity.
- Place chicken in the slow cooker.
- Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Do not add water.
5. Stuffed Peppers
Do a Google search for Crock-Pot stuffed peppers and you will be amazed at the number of hits. (I tried and got 3,780,000). But most of them begin with "Boil water and simmer rice until cooked... "
The reason I want to use my Crock-Pot is to get away from using the stove. A few minutes of sauteing ground turkey or beef is acceptable (especially if I can do it early in the morning), but standing over a pot tending rice is not my cup of fun on a hot summer day.
This paleo recipe for sausage stuffed peppers solves that problem. Cauliflower rice stands in for the traditional white or brown rice, and it absorbs all of those wonderful flavors too.
6. Slow-Cooker Lasagna
Ali provided this recipe for lasagna on her blog GimmeSomeOven. It's a fabulous, well-organized website with tons of recipes, all beautifully photographed and with detailed instructions.
On this particular recipe note that one reviewer had a problem with cooking for the full 8 hours on low; she said that her lasagna burned a bit at the edges. Another reviewer asked if it was necessary to use no-boil noodles in this recipe. One comment said that regular noodles actually result in a more al dente (traditional) texture. I have not tried this recipe yet so cannot provide any advice.
7. Enchilada Quinoa Bake
Jaclyn is the creator of CookingClassy, and devised this meal-in-a-dish enchilada bake that is colorful, full of flavor, and can simmer all day but keep you and your kitchen cool. Garnish with fresh cilantro, sour cream, and diced avocado for added flavor and texture.
8. Cheesy Chicken Bacon and Tater Tot Bake
This recipe is almost a complete meal in a dish and only takes a few minutes to toss together. Frozen tater tots are layered with diced raw chicken breasts, cheese, and crisp crumbled cooked bacon to make a tasty meal that can be ready in three hours. Just toss a salad or slice some fresh vegetables to have on the side. Thanks to RealHouseMoms.com for the great idea!
9. Honey Garlic Chicken and Veggies
Chungah uses simple, fresh ingredients to make amazing-tasting meals for friends and family. This chicken dish is flavored with honey and garlic; potatoes and vegetables simmer in the same pot so your entire meal is done at once.
How to Select the Best Crock-Pot
- Look for a cooker large enough to use for casseroles or whole chickens. Six- to seven-quart is ideal.
- Expensive is not necessarily better. Look for a slow cooker with controls that are easy to understand.
- Consider that small, hard-to-grasp handles might pose a burn risk if they are set too close to the hot rim. Larger handles that are easy to grasp are a wise choice.
- Glass or clear plastic lids are preferable so that you can see your food without removing the lid.
- My personal preference is a cooker that is dishwasher safe.
© 2017 Linda Lum