Whether you own a slow cooker or received one for the holidays, here are some recipes that you might consider trying. They are easy to throw together and to prepare.
Slow Cooker Pork Chops
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 pound ice
4 1-inch thick bone-in pork chops
1 Granny Smith apple, large, sliced, skin left on
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dried crushed thyme
Combine the chicken broth, salt, brown sugar, and pepper in a medium saucepan and set over medium-high heat. Cook just until the sugar dissolves, then remove from the heat and add the ice. Place the pork chops into a 2-gallon zip-top bag along with the mixture and seal. Place in a plastic container and refrigerate overnight.
Remove the chops from the brine, rinse, and pat dry.
Place the apple slices in the slow cooker.
Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 12-inch stainless steel sauté pan over medium-high heat. Sauté the pork chops on both sides until golden brown, approximately 5 to 6 minutes per side. Once browned, place the pork chops into the slow cooker on top of the apples.
Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan followed by the onions and sauté until they begin to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the chicken broth to the pan to deglaze. Add the thyme and vinegar; stir to combine. Transfer this to the slow cooker, set to high, cover and cook for 1 hour. Decrease the heat to low and continue cooking for another 4 to 5 hours or until the pork is tender and falling away from the bone.
Slow Cooker Ham, Parsnips, Sweet Potatoes, and Apples
2 Granny Smith apples, sliced, with skin left on
3 cloves garlic, minced then smashed
½ teaspoon dried crushed thyme
3 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
4 bay leaves
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 4-to-5-pound smoked picnic ham (pork shoulder)
2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 cups dry white wine
2 cups water
Put the apples, garlic, thyme, parsley, bay leaves, and brown sugar in a 5-to-6-quart slow cooker. Add the ham and surround it with the parsnips and sweet potatoes. Pour in the wine and 2 cups water. Cover and cook on low, 6-7 hours.
Remove the ham from the slow cooker. Slice the ham and serve with the parsnips, sweet potatoes, and apples.
Italian Sweet Sausage Stew in a Slow Cooker
1 ½ pounds sweet Italian sausage links, cut into 1-inch coins
3 cups water
4 medium white potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
3 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 celery stalks, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 large sweet onion, cut into wedges
2-3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon dried sweet basil, crushed
½ teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
½ teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
2 bay leaves
½ cup ketchup
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
½ cup dry white wine (Optional)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
In a skillet over medium heat brown sausage, drain. In a slow cooker add 3 cups water, potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, Worcestershire sauce, basil, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, and parsley flakes. Cook on high for 15 minutes, covered. Lower heat to low, add sausage pieces, and cook on low for 3-4 hours until sausage is no longer pink and vegetables are tender.
Add ketchup and white wine, and cook 15 minutes longer. Discard bay leaf.
In a cup combine corn starch and water, stir until smooth; gradually stir into stew. Bring to a boil on high; cook and stir for 2-4 minutes until thickened.
Slow Cooker Bread Pudding
8 cups cubed day old raisin bread
2 cups milk
¼ cup granulated sugar
1/1 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ Teaspoon ground cinnamon
Place cubed bread in a 3-quart slow cooker.
In a bowl whisk together eggs, milk, sugar, butter, vanilla, and cinnamon. Pour over raisin bread cubes, stir gently. Cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.
Hope Cusick has won awards at the North Carolina Strawberry Festival in 2012; The North Carolina Blueberry Festival, winning first place for her Blueberry Cheese Danish Pastry in 2012, and placing on her blueberry spinach salad and dressing; and has won various other contest awards for her blueberry cheesecake, breads, cookies, brownies and jams. She resides in Hampstead.