On Your Table: Slow cooker recipes warm up winter nights

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By Cathy Branciaroli, Food Correspondent

 

In deepest, darkest winter, a surefire cooking solution is to pull out the slow cooker.  Crock pot recipes are an ideal way to beat cold outdoor temperatures since these dishes warm us from the inside and help keep us cozy when the days are short and the nights are long. They can transform any kind of food into something fragrant and tender.

 

 
Crock pots not only serve up comforting meals, but this kind of cooking also is effortless. Well, kind of.  For the best flavors it’s good to brown meats before popping them in, and to prep vegetables.  This can be done first thing in the morning and then you can turn on the heat setting and walk away, only to return in the afternoon or after work for a dinner just waiting for you.  And crock pot dishes are not just for meats.  Soups, stews and even vegetarian dishes benefit from slow cooking.

 

healthy-slow-cooker-italian-meatball-soup-0075

Crockpot dishes warm the soul on cold winter nights but they can be healthy too, such as this delicious Italian-style soup. Photo courtesy of Food Done Light

I surveyed a few of my food writing friends for their favorite slow cooker recipes and they came back with an amazing array of tasty dishes.  Here are some of my favorites.

 

 

From Christie at Food Done Light, here is a soup option, a delicious and healthy soup filled with little meatballs, beans and spinach.  Doesn’t this look like healthy way to start off the year?

 

http://fooddonelight.com/slow-cooker-italian-meatball-soup/#_a5y_p=4800290
From our friends at Curious Cuisiniere: The use of a crock pot makes this Chicken Tortilla Soup a perfect weeknight meal. This is a simple, comforting dish, made from good chicken stock that has been blended with roasted tomatoes, onion, garlic, chilies, and fried tortilla strips.

http://www.curiouscuisiniere.com/chicken-tortilla-soup/
From Renee Dobbs at Magnolia Days who offers a Cuban Pork Slow Cooker dish where a pork butt is transformed into juicy, fall-apart tender meat. The bonus is a wonderful sauce that is created in the process. The sauce starts as a marinade made with orange, lemon, lime, garlic, onion, and spices. It becomes a Cuban mojo sauce once it is cooked and concentrated.

http://magnoliadays.com/2014/slow-cooker-cuban-pork/
And here is another from Renee who says that for Slow Cooker Spiced Beef Stew, a great  addition is apricots, which adds a tangy taste to the beef. The flavor is reminiscent of Caribbean or other tropical dishes because of the cumin. Serve it over couscous, or over rice for a gluten-free option.

http://magnoliadays.com/2015/slow-cooker-spiced-beef-stew/
And then there is always a pasta option, this one from the website Taste and See.  This is a Crock-Pot Beef Ragu with Penne and ricotta which can be plated after the ragu is cooked just like a regular pasta dish.

http://tasteandsee.com/beef-ragu-with-ricotta/

 

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