The real genius of the crock pot (and my favorite slow cooker recipes).

The real genius of the crock pot (and my favorite slow cooker recipes).

A few months ago, I shared a list of the things that are saving my life right now in the newsletter. My crock pot was one of them.

I resolved to use it more this year, not as an aspirational goal but because I felt like I needed to. This year it’s more than a kitchen appliance for me: it’s a sanity saver.

The crock pot probably saves me a little bit of time, although that’s not why I love it. Laura Vanderkam opened my eyes to the real genius of the crock pot: “The genius is that it moves the task of making dinner from a time when you have a lot of things going on (6 p.m.) to another time of your choosing, when you have less.”

I generally enjoy cooking. Will and I often pour a glass of wine and debrief the day while we’re making dinner together. But there are plenty of days when, for one reason or another, that’s not an option.

Like last night, the kids and I got home at 4:30 and I had to leave for a meeting at 6:00. If I hadn’t put dinner in the crock pot at 8:00 a.m., I would have been frantic to get everything done.

But when we got home, dinner was cheerfully cooking away. So we took the dog for a walk, and got some fresh air and Vitamin D before the sun went down. Then we sat down to a hot (if short) meal together before I had to leave.

Other days while dinner is cooking in the crock pot I might drink a cup of tea and read a good book, one of my favorite things to do on cold winter afternoons. Or I might spend an hour writing: late afternoon is good “thinking time” for me.

These are some of my favorite crock pot recipes (many of which I got from you in the comments here: thanks for the suggestions!)

Smokey pulled pork from Pam Anderson

Chocolate chili from Melissa Joulwan

Salsa verde beef from Good Cheap Eats

• Balsamic roast beef from Add a Pinch

• Slow cooker taco chicken bowls from Budget Bytes

I love my crock pot, but I don’t use it as much as I could. (I love my dutch oven even more, and since we’re often home in the late afternoon, that’s a great option for stews, braises, and other winter comfort foods.)

Please share your favorite crock pot recipes (I need more!) and any and all sanity-saving tips in comments. 

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  1. Joanna says:

    A few years ago when I got a slowcooker for Christmas I was hmm..not 100% excited. Now, i use it all th time! Pop things in, forget about tchem for a few hours, enjoy your effortless dinner!

  2. Annery says:

    Agreed on the crockpot helping the evening craziness! I like to make BBQ chicken – chicken breasts with brown sugar, Worcestershire, thousand island and BBQ sauce.

  3. Andee says:

    I made the balsamic roast beef this weekend and it was great. The leftovers make an awesome topping for nachos. Thanks for the recommendation.

  4. Melissa says:

    The pulled pork recipe sounds amazing, but the recipe in the link is for oven/grilling. How did you adapt it to work in your crock pot?

    • Anne says:

      I just put it in the crock pot instead of the oven. In mine that takes about 8 hours on low. I’ve done it many times. It doesn’t hurt that pork shoulders are very forgiving when it comes to how you cook them.

  5. Beth says:

    One thing I do with my crockpot ALL the time is put frozen chicken breasts in it with about 1/2 a can of chicken broth and just let it cook on low all day. The chicken shreds really easily when it’s done and it’s very moist. Then you can make it into sandwich (I love a good chicken, bacon, ranch and avocado sandwich), toss it in with some pasta sauce, add bbq sauce to it, add it to a salad, mix it into a quick casserole (my favorite is poppyseed chicken: spread shredded chicken on the bottom of a 9×13 pan, mix a can of cream of chicken soup and 8 oz. of sour cream and pour it on top of the chicken, melt 1/2 a stick of butter and crumble ritz crackers into it and pour in some poppyseeds–mix until it’s coated with butter and pour that on top of the casserole. Bake for 30 min. at 350 and serve with rice and veggies.) The possibilities are endless and you can use the chicken in several different meals throughout the week according to the amount of time you have available for cooking 🙂

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