Slow cookers are one of those appliances that most people seem to own, but only use for a handful of dishes, primarily of the chili or pot roast variety. There's nothing wrong with that, I love crock pot roasts and chili. There is something beautiful about being able to fill the slow cooker with ingredients, and then basically leave it alone most of the day, ending up with something really yummy later on.
But years of working in the grocery business has taught me that a lot of people just don't know how to cook much of anything anymore, having grown up into adults that eat out most evenings. It's weird that I get asked questions like how to boil water (yes, that's been asked of me a few times) or how to grill a steak (for the record, putting it in a pan and applying heat usually does the trick) by grownups as often as I do, but it happens.
And one of the things I get asked the most is for recipes to make in a slow cooker. It seems like a lot of people get them as gifts and don't know what to do with one. I'm not sure what the deal is, but slow cookers are an object of mystery to many people I talk to.
Generally, I tell them to just search the Internet, because it's full of crock pot recipes of every conceivable variety. But being as cooler weather might be making an appearance in our area at some point soon, I thought I'd share a few favorite slow cooker ideas I've run across over the last few years.
4. Awesome 15 Bean Soup Stew
This one is super easy and something I developed back in my "starving to death musician" period. You take one of those bags of 15 bean soup - basically a bunch of different types of dry beans, and a weird flavor packet that seems to be mostly salt and pork dust. I throw that pack away immediately. Pour the beans in the slow cooker, then I fill it with cheap beer (always available in abundance back in the starving musician days), a little water, some canned jalapeño slices, salt and pepper, a sliced onion, and some kind of smoked pork - a couple of smoked ham hocks are ideal. Then I set the slow cooker on its lowest heat and longest cooking time, and let it go for as long as 10 hours. It creates an exceptionally filling and savory bean stew. Starving musician approved!