The slow cooker is to fall what the grill is to summer: A great way to get dinner on the table quickly.
As family schedules start to get more hectic, the slow cooker can be a life-saver when it comes to making dinner without actually being at home.
As luck would have it, Phyllis Good, the fairy godmother of slow-cooker cooks, has released a new cookbook, the "Fix-It and Forget-It New Cookbook" (*29*) ($19.95, softcover, Good Books), with more than 250 slow cooker recipes.
The following is a variety of slow cooker recipes to suit a variety of tastes, from Asian and Italian to Indian and Latin.
Slow Cooker Italian Chicken Alfredo
4 (4 ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup water
1 (.7 ounce) package dry Italian-style salad dressing mix
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 (4.5 ounce) can chopped canned mushrooms
1 (8 ounce) package spaghetti
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1. Spray the crock of a slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Place chicken breasts in crock.
Combine Italian dressing mix and water in a small bowl.
Pour over chicken; sprinkle with garlic, cover, and cook on low 4 hours.
2. After 4 hours, whisk softened cream cheese and cream of chicken soup together in a bowl. Pour over chicken; stir in mushrooms. Cover and cook on Low for 1 additional hour.
3. Prepare pasta according to package directions and drain.
4. To serve, spoon chicken and sauce over hot cooked pasta and sprinkle with parsley. Serves 4.
Slow Cooker Asian Turkey and Vegetables
2 to 2 1/2 pounds turkey thighs, skin removed (chicken thighs can be substituted)
1 package (1.25 ounces) honey teriyaki seasoning mix*
1 cup water
2 boxes (9 ounces each) frozen Szechuan vegetables, thawed
2 cups uncooked regular long-grain white rice
4 cups water
1. In 3- to 4-quart slow cooker, place turkey.
In small bowl, mix dry seasoning mix and 1 cup water; pour over turkey.
2. Cover; cook on low 7 to 8 hours.
3. Remove turkey from cooker; place on cutting board. Remove meat from bones; discard bones. Cut turkey into bite-size pieces; return to cooker. Stir in both boxes of vegetables. Increase heat setting to High. Cover; cook 20 to 30 minutes or until vegetables are thoroughly heated.
4. Meanwhile, cook rice in 4 cups water as directed on package. Stir vegetable and turkey mixture. Serve over rice.
Serves 6, each 440 calories, 4.5 grams fat, 95 mg cholesterol, 1,460 mg sodium, 68 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams dietary fiber, 8 grams sugars, 31 grams protein. Exchanges: 3 1/2 starch, 1/2 other carbohydrate, 1 vegetable; 2 1/2 very lean meat, 1/2 Fat. Carbohydrate choices: 4 1/2.
*Note: If the honey teriyaki seasoning mix is not available, use a 1-ounce package of stir-fry seasoning mix.
Tip: Place the boxes of frozen vegetables in the refrigerator the night before so they'll be thawed in the morning.
8 Can Taco Soup
1 (15 ounces) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 ounces) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5 ounces) can petite diced tomatoes, drained
1 (15.25 ounces) can sweet corn, drained
1 (12.5 ounces) can white chicken breast, drained
1 (10.75 ounces) can cream of chicken soup
1 (10 ounces) can green enchilada sauce
1 (14 ounces) can chicken broth
1 packet taco seasoning
1. Mix all ingredients together in a large pot or slow cooker.
2. Heat until warm, stirring occasionally if in pot. In slow cooker, cook on high 3 hours.
3. Serve with tortilla chips and add a dap of sour cream or sliced avocado to the top of the soup.
BRAISED CHICKEN IN PEANUT SAUCE
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 pounds chicken pieces, washed, patted dry; skin-on breast, skinless legs and thighs
2 onions, peeled, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
1/2 to 1 long red or green chile pepper, minced
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
1/2 cup condensed chicken broth, undiluted
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons sherry or lemon juice
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
Hot cooked rice (about 3/4 cup per serving)
In a nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the chicken pieces and brown on all sides. Transfer to the slow cooker.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions to the skillet and cook, stirring until softened. Add the garlic, chile pepper, curry powder, oregano, salt and peppercorns. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the chicken broth, tomato sauce and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Pour the mixture over the chicken pieces in the slow cooker.
Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or on high for 3 hours, until the chicken is tender and the juices run clear when pierced with a fork.
In a bowl, combine the peanut butter and sherry. Add a little cooking liquid and stir to blend. Add to slow cooker along with the red bell pepper. Cover and cook on high for 20 minutes, until the pepper is tender.
Discard the bay leaf and serve the chicken over hot white rice.
Serves 6, each with 623 calories, 25 grams fat, 53 grams carbohydrates, 46 grams protein, 865 mg sodium, 108 mg cholesterol, 5 grams fiber.
"Delicious & Dependable Slow Cooker Recipes created for America's Kitchens" by Judith Finlayson (Robert Rose, $22.95)
1 bone-in turkey breast (about 6 pounds)
1 envelope onion soup mix
1 can (16 ounces) whole cranberry sauce
Remove excess skin from the turkey breast. Place the turkey breast in the slow cooker. Mix together the onion soup mix and cranberry sauce and pour over the turkey. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours, then reduce to low and cook for 6 to 7 hours or until turkey is tender. Remove and serve slices of turkey with the cranberry slow-cooker sauce. Serves: 8
BEEF STEW WITH BUTTERNUT SQUASH
2 large onions, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1 boneless beef chuck pot roast, (about 3 to 31/2 pounds) cut into 1-inch cubes
3/4 cup dry red wine or lower-sodium beef broth
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or cider
2 cinnamon sticks (about 3 inches)
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
*1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 4 1/2 cups)
2 large firm cooking apples, cored and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
Place the onions in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Place beef on top of onions.
In a bowl, combine wine, tomato paste, vinegar, cinnamon, allspice, rosemary, salt and crushed red pepper; pour over beef.
Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 6 hours or on high-heat setting for 3 hours.
Adjust low-heat setting to high-heat setting. Stir in squash and apples. Cover and cook 11/2 to 2 hours more or until squash is tender. If using apples, add to cooker the last 1/2 hour of cooking. Remove and discard cinnamon. Serve pot roast with couscous and juices. Serves 8, each with 418 calories, 8 grams fat 36 grams carbohydrates, 41 grams protein, 347 mg sodium, 101 mg cholesterol, 4 grams fiber.
*Sweet potatoes can be substituted for the squash.
Finish this lasagna by browning the top under the broiler. You will need a slow cooker with a removable crock insert to do this. A 5- to 6-quart cooker is best for this recipe.
Slow Cooker Lasagna
2 pounds Italian sausage, casings removed
48 ounces tomato sauce
2 cups water
1 pound whole-milk ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
18 ruffle-edged lasagna noodles (not no-boil noodles)
1 1/2 pounds mozzarella cheese, grated
2 ounces fresh Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Thinly sliced fresh basil for garnish
In the stovetop-safe insert of slow cooker over medium heat, or in a skillet, cook the sausage, breaking up any large chunks with a wooden spoon, until the meat is browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain, if necessary.
Add the tomato sauce and water and bring to a simmer. Transfer the sauce to a large bowl.
In another bowl, stir together the ricotta, parsley, salt and pepper. Set aside.
Spread a thin layer of the sauce on the bottom of the slow-cooker insert.
Cover the sauce with a single layer of uncooked lasagna noodles (about 3), breaking the noodles as needed to fit.
Spread about 1/3 cup of the ricotta mixture over the noodles.
Top with about 2 cups of the sauce, then sprinkle with about 1 cup of the mozzarella and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan. Repeat the layering 4 more times, starting with the noodles.
Transfer the insert to the slow-cooker base, cover and cook on low according to the manufacturer's instructions until the noodles are tender and cooked through, about 4 hours.
Position a rack in the center of an oven and preheat to broil.
Transfer the slow-cooker insert to the oven and broil until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Let the lasagna rest for 20 minutes before serving. Garnish with basil and serve immediately. Serves 12.
Slow Cooker Mexican Pork Burrito Bowls
1 large sweet onion, sliced
2 tablespoons taco seasoning mix (from 1-oz package)
1 boneless pork shoulder (about 3 pounds)
1 can (10 ounces) red enchilada sauce
1 can (4.5 ounces) chopped mild green chiles, drained
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 cups hot cooked white or brown rice
2 cups shredded lettuce
Salsa, shredded Mexican cheese blend and chopped fresh cilantro, if desired
1. Spray 5-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Place onion in cooker.
2. Sprinkle taco seasoning mix over pork shoulder, pressing to coat. Place pork in cooker. Top with enchilada sauce.
3. Cover; cook on High heat setting 5 to 6 hours or until tender. Remove pork from slow cooker; shred meat with fork, discarding fat. Place shredded pork in large bowl. Strain sauce. Add chiles, salt and 1 cup of the strained sauce. Stir well.
4. Spoon about 3/4 cup rice into each of 8 individual serving bowls. Top each with about 1/2 cup pork mixture and 1/4 cup lettuce. Garnish with salsa, cheese and/or cilantro. Serves 6.
BRATS AND SPUDS
1 to 2 tablespoons oil
5 to 6 bratwurst links, cut into 1-inch pieces
5 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cubed
27-ounce can sauerkraut, rinsed and drained
1 medium tart apple, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1/3 to 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Brown bratwurst in oil on all sides in a skillet.
Combine remaining ingredients in a 4-quart slow cooker. Stir in bratwurst and pan drippings.
Cover. Cook on low 5 to 6 hours, or until potatoes and apples are tender. Makes 6 servings.
"Fix-It and Forget-It New Cookbook," (*29*)Phyllis Good