By Suzanne Boyle News-Democrat
Some cooks only pull out the slow cooker when frost is icing the windows and a hearty stew is needed to warm chilled bones.
But why let your crock pot languish in the cabinet just because it's 80-plus degrees outside? If you think about it, what better time to use it than when you don't want to heat up the house by turning on the oven.
Besides, think how simple it would be on a Father's Day weekend to fill a pot with ingredients, flip a switch and walk away. All the while your slow cooker is creating an outdoor meal indoors, like ribs, pulled chicken, beef brisket and pork steaks.
No work for Dad, for sure. He won't have to make a last-minute run for charcoal briquettes. Cross off cleaning the grill. And, no standing by adjusting the temperature and turning the meat when he could be basking in all the attention he deserves.
So, here's to making your celebration simpler, cooler and, while not faster, at least less complicated: Six slow-cooker recipes, including some tasty wings as appetizers and a tropical cake for dessert.
Slow Cooker Chile-Chicken Tacos
1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 envelope (1 ounce) taco seasoning mix
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 can (4.5 ounces) chopped green chiles
1 cup corn
1 can (10 ounces) enchilada sauce
4 medium green onions, sliced (1/4 cup)
12 taco shells, warmed if desired
3 cups shredded lettuce
1 medium tomato, chopped (3/4 cup)
Spray 3- to 4-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Place chicken thighs in cooker. Sprinkle with taco seasoning mix and brown sugar; toss to coat. Mix in green chiles, corn and 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce. Refrigerate remaining enchilada sauce.
Cover and cook on Low heat setting 6 to 7 hours.
Place chicken on cutting board; use 2 forks to pull chicken into shreds. Return chicken to cooker. Stir in green onions. Cover and cook on Low heat setting 15 minutes.
Heat remaining enchilada sauce. Serve chicken mixture in taco shells with lettuce, tomatoes, warm enchilada sauce, as well as shredded cheese and sour cream, if desired.
Makes 12 tacos (no cheese or sour cream), each with 170 calories, 7 grams fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 310 mg sodium, 16 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 4 grams sugar, 12 grams protein. Exchanges: 1 starch; 1 1/2 lean meat, 1/2 Fat. Carbohydrate choices: 1.
Tips: Mild, medium or hot enchilada sauce varies the flavor -- and the heat -- of these tacos.
Fill tacos just before serving so the shells stay crisp.
Set out an assortment of taco toppings such as shredded cheese, sour cream, chopped avocado and sliced olives.
Some butchers will cut the ribs into sections for you, if you ask. This will save time and the mess of working with the raw meat.
Save even more time by using with a bottled barbecue sauce -- you'll need 2 2/3 cups.
Slow Cooker Barbecued Baby Back Ribs
1 1/3 cups ketchup
3/4 cup chili sauce
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon liquid smoke
4 pounds pork baby back ribs, cut into 3-rib sections
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1. In medium bowl, mix all sauce ingredients; set aside.
2. Spray 5- to 6-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. Place pork in slow cooker. Spoon about 1 1/2 cups sauce evenly over sections. Reserve remaining sauce; refrigerate.
3. Cover; cook on low heat setting 6 to 7 hours (or on high 3-3 1/2 hours), or until almost tender.
4. Remove pork from slow cooker; drain and discard cooking liquid. Return pork to slow cooker; spoon reserved sauce evenly over each section. If cooking on high heat setting, reduce to low. Cover; cook 1 hour longer.
Makes 8 servings, each with 580 calories, 27 grams fat, 140 mg cholesterol, 1320 mg sodium, 35 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 30 grams sugar, 48 grams protein. Exchanges: 2 1/2 other carbohydrates, 7 lean meat, 1 fat. Carbohydrate choices: 2.
Slow-Cooker Pork Steaks
6 pork steaks or pork chops
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon pepper
2 large onions, sliced very thin
Add pork to slow cooker and season with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.
Mix all sauce ingredients, including onions, in a medium bowl; pour over the pork.
Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours. Makes 6 servings.
Slow-cooker Beef Brisket and Onions
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 first cut of beef brisket (4 pounds), trimmed of excess fat
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves, for serving
In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine onion and garlic. Season brisket with salt and pepper and place, fat side up, in slow cooker. Add broth. Cover and cook on high until brisket is fork-tender, about 6 hours. Remove brisket and thinly slice against the grain. Serve with onion and some cooking liquid; sprinkle with parsley. Makes 6 servings.
Cook's Note: A whole brisket is made up of a first cut and a second cut. For this recipe, look for the leaner first cut, or "flat cut." Ask your butcher to trim the layer of fat on the brisket down to 1/4 inch, which is enough to keep the meat moist and tender as it cooks.
Slow Cooker Teriyaki Chicken Wings
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 pounds chicken wings (24)
In very large bowl, mix all ingredients except chicken wings. Add chicken; toss gently to coat. Refrigerate at least 2 hours to marinate.
Remove chicken from marinade; place in 4- to 6-quart slow cooker. Add about 1 cup of the marinade; set aside remaining marinade.
Cover; cook on high heat setting 4 to 5 hours or until juice of chicken is clear when thickest part is cut to bone (165 degrees).
If desired: Add some cornstarch to remaining marinade and boil on stove to serve over top of wings.
Tip: For an extra-sticky wing, remove from slow cooker after cooked and put under broiler for a couple of minutes.
Blogger Jessica Walker from lilmissbossy.com
Tropical Slow-Cooker Dump Cake
2 cans (15 ounces each) tropical fruit salad in fruit juice, undrained
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup butter or margarine
Spray 6-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Reserve 1/2 cup fruit juice from fruit salad; pour remaining juice and fruit into slow cooker.
In small bowl, stir cornstarch into reserved fruit juice until cornstarch is completely dissolved. Pour cornstarch mixture into slow cooker; stir to combine.
Sprinkle brown sugar over fruit. Sprinkle cake mix over fruit. Cut butter in small pieces; place evenly over cake mix.
Cover; cook on low heat setting 3 hours, or until cake is set when lightly touched in center.*
Spoon warm cake into dessert bowls; spoon fruit mixture over cake.
Tip: To prevent the cake from burning around the edge, line the slow cooker with cooking parchment paper.
Option: Substitute 2 same-sized cans of crushed pineapple and cook 3 hours on high.
For a nutty variation, try using butter pecan cake mix.
For a peach version: Sub a 29-ounce can of sliced peaches in light syrup and add 1/2 cup chopped nuts.
Blogger Angie McGowan of Eclectic Recipes