First, the tips:
1. If you’re doing anything with beans, get dried beans. Put them and a lot of water in the crock pot overnight–turned off. This will soften the beans and they’ll cook beautifully while you’re at work.
2. Instead of using a blender at the end of recipes that call for them, invest in an immersion blender. You will become evangelical about it.
3. If your soup or stew calls for rice, and you want it to come out great, buy minute rice. Put it in your crock pot stew 10-15 minutes before you want to serve.
Okay–on to the recipes! (I’m sorry, by the way, about the way most of the recipe sites I’m linking to are organized. You have to scroll a LONG way down to the actual recipe, and pop ads get in the way, but I don’t want to steal people’s recipes, either.)
Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan Soup. This is a favorite of my son.
Black Bean Soup. Book group and campus people love this one. It’s vegan, but you can have toppings: cheese, ham/bacon, sour cream, etc. I recommend green onions on top in any case. With this and other bean recipes, have some wine vinegar on the table–just a sprinkle refreshes the flavors.
Curried Lentils with Chicken and Potatoes (from Melissa Bender). So good, and warming in cold weather.
Jambalaya. I do this in the crock pot, though the recipe is for the stove top. See the rice hint above. I also add okra, cause it’s friggin’ jambalaya. If you use shrimp, add them relatively late. The trick to Jambalaya, though, is to do it the old-fashioned way–throw in whatever meat you have. I always use ham and sausage, and I usually throw in a frozen or fresh chicken breast and a frozen fillet of white fish if I have one lying around the freezer.
Red Beans and Rice. Make the rice on the stove or in the rice cooker. Soak the beans first, as described above, and sprinkle with wine vinegar at the end.
Basically, I do almost all the soups/stews I could do on the stove in the crock pot: chili, split-pea soup, white bean soup, chicken soup, vegetable soup, daal, pork tomatillo soup, potato soup, broccoli soup, etc. If you’re doing a pot luck, you can make the soup on the stove, but then take it to the party, or, in my case, the all day grading session, and leave perfection on low.
In addition to the recipes listed above, here are more favorites that book groups and colleagues alike have wanted the recipes for:
Creamy Tomato Soup. You know, the kind kids like. I add basil.
Spiced Carrot Soup with Lime. The boy and I decided this needed a little bit of rice and some coconut milk. We serve it with naan.
Indian Spiced Corn Soup. This is now my favorite corn soup.
Chickpea Vegetable Stew. This can be made vegetarian, or, if you’re making it for my son, you can make it more kid friendly by leaving out the chickpeas.
Yes, I know my son is no longer a kid. And he’s not picky in all the traditional kid ways. He doesn’t like beans, but love broccoli. He eats Japanese, Thai, and Indian all the time, but won’t eat some of the more traditional “American things.”
Just the other day, he had falafel for dinner with his friends. Since he’d been SO picky as a child, he asked if I was surprised.
“No. I know it would take something really exotic like an omelette or an apple pie to throw you now.”