December 1st has come and gone and we’re off with the countdown to Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. Everyday the to-do list gets longer and the hours after work are whittled away with school celebrations, office parties and shopping. Yes, the holidays are stressful and the family dinner is often the first thing to go. Who has time cook an elaborate or even a simple dinner?
This is when my favorite kitchen appliance, the crock-pot, gets pulled from the cabinets and finds a home on the kitchen counter. With just a few minutes spent adding ingredients, I’m rewarded hours later with a hearty and delicious meal. And the best part is—I didn’t have to do anything aside from plop a few ingredients into the pot. At the end of a long day, it’s a delight to open the door and be greeted with the aroma of a home-cooked soup, stew or roast. It’s like opening a window on an Advent Calendar—a small gift that warms the heart and brings Christmas cheer.
To take full advantage of the minimal cooking technique of the crock-pot, be sure to stock your pantry and freezer with easy to use convenience foods. Don’t be afraid to improvise, just about every combination of vegetables, beans or meats is delicious. Just remember to thaw frozen ingredients before adding them—a few minutes in the microwave will do. I’ve also learned that green vegetables look better if they are added during the last half hour of cooking. Almost any soup or stew recipe can be prepared in a crock-pot; I generally add an extra cup or two of liquid if I’m leaving it unattended all day.
Great Crock-Pot Ingredients
- Frozen & chopped onions, carrots, corn, potatoes, spinach or other vegetable blends. I love to add thawed squash puree to my soups. It’s chock full of vitamin A & fiber and it adds a subtle sweetness.
- Plenty of fresh vegetables—a crockpot soup is a fantastic way to use up veggies that are slightly beyond their prime.
- Canned chicken, beans, tomatoes, or other vegetables.
- Canned or boxed chicken, beef or vegetable broth.
- Spice mixes such as Mrs. Dash or any of the McCormick or Price Chopper blends.
- Diced leftover meats, poultry or fish are flavorful additions to any soups and stews.
Make a meal in minutes by trying some of our crockpot friendly recipes.