Though I love to cook, there are days when I’m so busy that all I want is a quick solution to dinner. Enter the slow cooker: it’s the best time-management tool any cook can have. A slow cooker allows me to prep ingredients for a recipe when it fits my schedule, then throw everything in the slow cooker, go out to work or run errands, and when I get home I don’t have to start fussing with dinner—the work’s already done.
You can also double the time-saving power of the slow cooker by using it to cook big batches of food. Sure, you can eat the leftovers later in the week. But even better, you can easily transform those leftovers into a totally different meal the next night by adding a few fresh ingredients or different seasonings. With this slow-cook-once, eat-twice strategy in mind, I’ve developed four slow-cooker recipes that provide the basis for quick-and-easy second meals.
—Judith Finlayson, "Slow Food, Fast," January, February 2011
This brisket is cooked with beef broth and loads of onions that melt down into a luscious gravy. Serve the brisket and gravy over a mound of steaming mashed potatoes with a side of green beans or sliced carrots for a perfect Sunday dinner.
Get the Recipe: Slow-Cooked Brisket in Onion Gravy
Chop the slow-cooked brisket and load up the sauce with veggies and some sweet and spicy seasonings and you get a great alternative to the traditional Sloppy Joe filling. These are best served open-face with a fork and knife. If you like your Joes extra sloppy, add more sauce along with the meat.
Get the Recipe: Brisket Sloppy Joes
Here chicken thighs cook in a simple herb-infused tomato-and-wine sauce. The bone-in thighs give it plenty of hearty flavor, and since you cook them without the skin, it keeps the dish healthy. There’s plenty of sauce, so serve it over pappardelle or brown rice. Steamed broccoli or sautéed broccoli rabe tossed with olive oil and a splash of lemon juice complete the meal.
Get the Recipe: Wine & Tomato Braised Chicken
Leftovers make this chicken gumbo an absolute breeze. The only prep you’ll need to do is to dice a bell pepper and slice some okra if you’re using fresh. That’s it! If you don’t have leftover chicken and sauce from Wine & Tomato Braised Chicken, you can use 2 cups shredded cooked chicken and 2 cups canned diced tomatoes instead of the leftover sauce.
Get the Recipe: Braised Chicken Gumbo
Traditional pulled pork is barbecued, which gives it a smoky flavor. But the slow cooker happens to be the absolute easiest way to cook pulled pork—and you can get a hint of smoke by adding chipotle chile. Serve the pulled pork with potato salad, collard greens and grits. Or make it into a sandwich and serve it on a bun with coleslaw.
Get the Recipe: Pulled Pork with Caramelized Onions
This fun layered tortilla and pulled pork dish is made in a pie pan, which is just the right size to fit an 8-inch flour tortilla. Serve with a dollop of guacamole or sour cream and a tossed salad.
Get the Recipe: Pulled-Pork Torta
This tasty vegetarian stew, studded with plenty of eggplant and protein-rich chickpeas, is reminiscent of ratatouille. The eggplant breaks down and makes a saucier stew if you peel it before cooking, but you can certainly leave the peel on if you prefer. Serve over quinoa or soft polenta with sautéed spinach on the side.
Get the Recipe: Eggplant & Chickpea Stew
Turn leftover Eggplant & Chickpea Stew into a comforting vegetarian baked-pasta dish. We love the taste of mint with the other Mediterranean flavors, but you can use parsley or basil if you prefer.
Get the Recipe: Eggplant & Chickpea Baked Pasta