A Menu to Kick Off Comfort Food Season

Comfort food and slow cookers are a match made in heaven. And the fact that soups and stews top the list of favorite comfort foods makes it perfect for the fall months, when the thermometer starts dropping. [caption id="attachment_7303" align="aligncenter" width="545"] Some rights reserved by RBerteig[/caption] So, dig out your slow cooker and put that workhorse back into your cooking repertoire. This fall menu is a great kick off to fall—and to slow cooking.
Taco Soup
Serves: 8
 
This taco soup recipe is fabulous for three reasons: It’s quick and easy—only 10 minutes to prepare. It’s cheap. If you are a devoted couponer, you are going to recognize the ingredients as staples in your stockpile. And it is just plain delicious. Even the kids will love it.
Ingredients
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 16-ounce can chili beans, with liquid
  • 1 15-ounce can kidney beans, with liquid
  • 1 15-ounce can whole kernel corn, with liquid
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup water (less if you prefer a thicker soup)
  • 2 14.5-ounce cans peeled and diced tomatoes
  • 1 4-ounce can diced green chilies (more or less depending on your desire for heat)
  • 1 packet taco seasoning mix
  • corn chips
  • cheddar cheese, shredded
  • sour cream
Instructions
  1. Brown the ground beef in a medium skillet over medium heat.
  2. Drain, and set aside.
  3. Place the ground beef, onion, chili beans, kidney beans, corn, tomato sauce, water, diced tomatoes, green chilies and taco seasoning mix in a slow cooker.
  4. Mix to blend, and cook on low setting for 8 hours.
  5. Serve, topped with corn chips, shredded cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream.

Skillet Cornbread
Serves: 8
 
If you like your cornbread dry and crumbly, this is not your recipe. But if you prefer a sweeter almost cake-like cornbread—the kind you’ve had at an amusement park or Marie Calendar’s restaurant—this is it:
Ingredients
  • ⅔ cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ¾ cup cornmeal
  • 1⅓ cups milk
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Lightly grease an 8-inch skillet that has a heat-proof handle (wrap the handle completely with aluminum foil to make sure).
  3. In a large bowl, beat together sugar, salt, butter and vanilla until creamy.
  4. Stir in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and cornmeal.
  6. Stir flour mixture into egg mixture alternately with the milk.
  7. Beat well until blended.
  8. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
  9. Serve warm.

Double “Crust” Apple Crisp
Serves: 8
 
If ever there was a perfect solution for the abundance of fall apples, this is it. Granny Smith’s are ideal for this dessert, however any baking apple will do.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup rolled oats (not “quick”)
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 4 cups (about 7) peeled, cored and thinly sliced apples
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and melted butter.
  3. Stir until crumbly.
  4. Press half the oat mixture into a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
  5. Cover with sliced apples.
  6. In a medium saucepan, combine white sugar, cornstarch, water and vanilla.
  7. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until thick and clear, 10 minutes.
  8. Pour over apples.
  9. Cover apples with remaining oat mixture.
  10. Bake for 45 minutes, until bubbly and golden.
  11. Serve warm

SLOW COOKER TIPS

Spray the inside of the liner with cooking spray before you fill it to make cleanup easier.

Slow cooker should be no less than one-half full or foods will cook too quickly, and no more than two-thirds full or the cooker will not work properly.

Foods cooked on the bottom of the slow cooker cook faster and will be moister because they are immersed in the simmering liquid.

Remove skin from poultry, and trim excess fat from meats. Fats will melt with long cooking times, and will add an unpleasant texture to the finished dish. Fatty foods will also cook too quickly.

You can thicken the juices and concentrate flavors by removing the lid and cooking on high for the last half hour of cooking time.

Bacteria in food dies when it reaches 140 F. Low on a slow cooker is 200 F. and High is 300 F., which make slow cooking safe.

All foods should be defrosted before cooking so the food temperature can reach 140 F. as soon as possible.

Most meats require 8 hours of cooking on Low. Cheaper cuts of meat work better in the slow cooker because they have less fat. Long cooking times result in moist and very tender meats.

Ground meats should be cooked in a skillet before slow cooking.

Herbs, dried seasonings and Tabasco turn bitter with long cooking so add during the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Liquids do not boil away in the slow cooker, so if you are making a recipe that wasn’t specifically developed for slow cooking, reduce the liquid by 1/3 to 1/2 unless you are cooking rice or making soup.

Each time you lift the lid heat escapes requiring that the cooking time be extended by 20 to 30 minutes. To check progress without lifting the lid, spin the cover until the condensation falls off. Then it’s easy to see inside.

Question: What’s the most unusual thing you’ve cooked in your slow cooker? Post in comments here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bambi.cole Bambi Cole

    I learned to cook a whole chicken in my crock pot and it’s the moistest, most flavorful way I’ve found!

  • funnyfarm

    A wild jack rabbit my young son shot and dressed. We were not THAT hungry, after smelling it cook, but the chickens enjoyed it immensely.

  • chirping

    Here’s one for the holidays if you are cooking for 1-4 people. Large turkey breast + turkey/chicken/vegetable bullion 2 C. + 1 stick of REAL butter. Turn crockpot on low and relax. Comes out yummy, moist and the wonderful smell of the the holiday turkey fills the kitchen. Gravy can be made with the drippings; or if you’re a loner like me; for the the dogs/cats to feast too!

  • Ron Bruzan

    When we use the slow cooker at work we have a limited amout of cook time. So to reduce the cook time we will pre heat the meal to be cooked in the micro-wave oven. 20 minutes knocks off atleast 1-1.5 hours of cook time.
    Ron

  • GaelicWench

    Oh my, I’ve added all these recipes to my collection. I look forward to making and eating this wonderful food.

  • http://www.facebook.com/diannia.house Diannia House

    I like to use mine to make steel cut oatmeal and also fresh yogurt…yum!

  • Gandma Mamo

    My aunt makes chocolate peanut clusters in her crock pot!!Yum!!