They may not be glamorous, but it's very possible that slow cookers are the greatest thing to come out of the seventies (next to me, that is). It's a bit like magic: Chop a few carrots and onions, drop in a hunk of meat or some beans, and walk away. Hours later, you've got a perfectly cooked meal on your hands. And did I mention you cooked that meal in a single pot?
In celebration of the humble crock pot, here are my favorite classic recipes for cold winter days. Bust out your slow cooker (or pick one up at your local garage sale) and get ready to eat... in 4 to 8 hours.
Black Bean Chili with Sweet Potatoes
A gourmet-tasting, vegan-friendly chili that's sweet, savory, spicy and tangy, this recipe is 100% guaranteed to make everybody happy. The sweet potatoes add a rich, nutty sweetness that goes surprisingly well with beans and tomatoes; a good chili powder and a bit of cinnamon fill out the flavor. You can cook it in a traditional pot, but with patience and a slow cooker, you wind up with a smoother texture and better developed flavor. Don't forget the organic sour cream. There are lots of recipes out there; try this one from Real Simple: Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili with Sweet Potatoes.
Stout and Chicken Stew
The current favorite at my house, this one's hearty enough to feed a hungry construction worker and healthy enough to suit almost any diet. It manages to work in ingredients like beer and bacon, without losing sight of its true nature: a vegetable-heavy, protein-rich chicken stew that will fill you up with just a few bites. Be forewarned: This one requires a bit of prep work. It's worth it. See the full recipe from Eating Well: Slow-Cooker Stout and Chicken Stew.
This is why slow cookers were invented. Steel-cut oats, water, organic fruit, a pinch of salt and a dash of cinnamon. Set it before bed, let it cook overnight, and you'll never go to work hungry again. For the full recipe, see Eating Well's Overnight Oatmeal.
The secret to perfect pulled pork: A bottle of organic ginger ale (or root beer) and a good barbecue sauce. While pulled pork is often cooked in a smoker, your crock pot will do a beautiful job too. Serve it Vietnamese style, with pickled organic carrots, cucumbers and radish on a crusty roll. Try this recipe: Slow Cooker Pulled Pork.
All Night Apple Butter
Turning apples into apple butter takes a long time (about 16 hours, actually), but it's worth it. Apple butter is a smooth, rich, delicious alternative to jam. It's a great way to use up those last organic apples left over from autumn. As seen on Organic Authority: 4 'Butter' Recipes for Fall Breads.