The weather turns coldest in the South in the weeks after Christmas and New Year’s, coinciding with a time when most people seem to go into recovery mode from all of the intense cooking and eating during the holidays. That means it’s a perfect time to rely on a slow cooker to help prepare easy dinners to warm up on nights when the sun goes down early and the temperature drops quickly.
These are some of our very favorite slow cooker meals that are incredibly easy to prepare if you’re short on time, money or ideas. Each one will feed four people, give or take, so just modify the basic recipe to fit your needs.
A hearty meat and bean chili with a touch of spice can really warm up a winter evening. You’ll need:
1 pound ground beef
1 can kidney beans
1 can chili beans
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilis
salt and pepper to taste
Brown your ground beef, and then mix all of your ingredients in your slow cooker. Set to high if you want your chili ready sooner, or cook on low if you plan to let it simmer for a while before eating. Since your ground beef is already cooked, you’re really just allowing time for the flavors to blend and heat. Also, because you’re using the tomatoes with green chilis, you’ll get a spicy kick without having to test out different seasoning combinations. You can add chili powder or other spices if you want, but we’ve found this recipe removes the need for them. The chili goes great with a piece of corny cornbread.
A slow cooker roast produces a full meal without using a lot of dishes or time. All you need is a few minutes to chop your vegetables and six or seven hours to allow the meat to fully cook and the veggies to soften. For this dinner you’ll need:
a bottom round beef roast (we usually go for about 3 pounds)
white, red or yellow potatoes
2 beef bouillon cubes
water to cover your ingredients
I like to start by placing the roast lengthwise in the slow cooker. Then I drop a bouillon cube on each end and surround everything with my chopped vegetables. (You can decide how much you want of each vegetable.) Finally, cover everything with water—to assure enough moisture for cooking everything in the pot—and cook on high for at least four or five hours. If you’re able to be around the house during cooking, you can then turn the slow cooker to low for a few hours to finish the job and prepare your dinner. If not, you might want to plan to cook on high for a slightly shorter period of time to ensure everything gets done.
There’s something so “comfort food” about a bowl of Southern butter beans, especially when accompanied by a homemade biscuit or piece of cornbread. For the beans you’ll need:
2 cups dry large white lima beans
6 cups water to cover beans well
4 tablespoons of butter
Pieces of leftover meat to flavor
We like to add leftover country ham or ham steak, bacon or beef sausage to our butter beans for extra flavor. You can cook them on high for three hours or so, check to see if you need more water so the beans don’t dry out and then turn the slow cooker to low. (Unlike many recipes you’ll find online, we don’t recommend soaking the dry beans beforehand. Molly says she can’t tell a difference in the results – beans made this way are just as good and much easier!) You can also slow cook them on low for a longer period of time. The result is a pot of soft, buttery beans with a hint of whatever meat you’ve added to flavor them. Butter beans go great with a homemade biscuit. Additionally, Molly likes to mix a few spoons of Duke’s mayonnaise into her bowl for added flavor. I dissent on that practice and prefer my beans straight out of the slow cooker.
A slow cooker might not be the first option that comes to mind when you think about making a sandwich. But for the meat that goes in a cheesesteak sandwich, it’s the perfect and easiest option. You can’t really go wrong! You’ll need:
2 pounds top sirloin
1 green pepper
½ sweet onion
salt, pepper, seasoning to taste
sandwich buns (your choice, we like sub style)
Slice your steak, pepper and onions into thin strips. You’ll need a sharp knife for the meat. Season the steak with salt and pepper as desired. We like to include beef bouillon cubes in our slow cooker for flavor, and then cover the meat, cubes and veggies with water. Cook six or seven hours. Once your steak has cooked, divide it evenly onto your sandwich buns. Cover your steak with the desired amount of cheese. Stick your cheesesteaks on a pan and melt the cheese in an oven or toaster oven. Serve your sandwiches with any side you choose. We prefer simple French fries or homemade potato wedges.