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Recipes for your slow cooker

As the weather gets cooler and people get busier with holiday preparations, the slow cooker becomes a wonderful convenience — a way to create a home-cooked meal while you’re not even at home.
I prefer recipes that don’t require you to cook anything before it goes in the slow cooker, and this jambalaya recipe fits the bill. The only thing that will be left for you to do when you get home from work is make some rice, the perfect bed on which to ladle your jambalaya.
I use large chunks of chicken rather than the small cubes this recipe calls for. When it’s all ready, then I cut the large pieces up.
Why do I do that? I’m convinced that the chicken comes out more moist and tender that way.
I also use somewhat less chicken broth than this recipe calls for because I prefer my jambalaya to be more stew than soup, but such decisions come down to personal taste. I also sometimes leave out the shrimp, and I like to use chicken andouille because it contains less fat.

Colleen’s Slow Cooker Jambalaya
—allrecipes.com
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 pound andouille sausage, sliced
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 C. chopped celery
1 C. chicken broth
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. dried parsley
2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 pound frozen cooked shrimp without tails
In a slow cooker, mix the chicken, sausage, tomatoes with juice, onion, green bell pepper, celery, and broth. Season with oregano, parsley, Cajun seasoning, cayenne pepper, and thyme.
Cover, and cook 7 to 8 hours on low, or 3 to 4 hours on high. Stir in the shrimp during the last 30 minutes of cook time.

Beef is a great slow cooker choice. This recipe for Fragrant Shredded Beef Stew features flank steak, which is wonderfully tasty and has a texture that works very well in a crock pot.

Fragrant Shredded Beef Stew
— EatingWell: Feb./March 2006

1 1/2 C. reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/4 C. sherry vinegar
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
3 pounds flank steak, trimmed of fat, each steak cut into thirds
1/2 C. packed fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 C. chopped pickled jalapenos
10 corn tortillas, heated (see Tip)

Combine broth, vinegar, celery, onion, bell pepper, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper in a 6-quart slow cooker. Add beef, submerging it by tucking the vegetables under, over and between the pieces.
Put the lid on and cook on low until the meat is fork-tender, about 8 hours.
Transfer the meat to a cutting board; let stand for 10 minutes. Shred the meat with 2 forks and return it to the slow cooker. Stir in cilantro. Garnish with jalapeno and serve warm tortillas on the side.
Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to three days or freeze for up to one month.
Tip: Wrap corn tortillas in foil and bake at 300 degrees until steaming, about 10 minutes.

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If you’re looking for a vegetarian entree, this recipe from “Real Simple” pairs beans and sweet potatoes for a hearty chili.

Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Chili With Sweet Potatoes
— “Real Simple,” January 2011
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1Tbs. chili powder
1Tbs. ground cumin
2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
kosher salt and black pepper
1 28-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 15.5-ounce can black beans, rinsed
1 15.5-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed
1 medium sweet potato (about 8 ounces), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (many of the reviews of the recipe advocate using another sweet potato)
sour cream, sliced scallions, sliced radishes, and tortilla chips, for serving

In a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine the onion, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, cocoa, cinnamon, 1 teaspoon salt, and Ľ teaspoon black pepper. Add the tomatoes (and their liquid), beans, sweet potato, and 1 cup water.
Cover and cook until the sweet potatoes are tender and the chili has thickened, on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours (this will shorten total recipe time).
Serve the chili with the sour cream, scallions, radishes, and tortilla chips.

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