The 1970s was the era of the Big Mac “attack” and the heyday of Hostess.
As women began working outside of the home in greater numbers, homemade gave way to convenience. The Crock-Pot became popular as a way to ease women’s nightly dinner woes; it allowed moms to start a meal in the morning and come home to finished stews and casseroles.
While early Crock-Pot dishes featured processed foods like canned cream soup or hot dogs, slow cooking has evolved. Most new slow-cooker cookbooks have “healthy” in their titles and feature vegetarian, low-carb and gluten-free recipes. And slow cookers themselves have changed. We’ve updated ours from an old powder-blue behemoth that could throw your back out as you heaved it onto the counter, to a sleek, light stainless steel variety. We rely on it for hot meals on cold, busy days.
That’s why the slow cooker has become a Halloween staple. Our children are still young enough to thrill at the sight of pop-up Halloween stores on every corner and pour over costume catalogs. On Halloween, there is no time for cooking. There are school parades and parties, trick-or-treating in town and on our street.
With our slow cooker steaming along while we’re out, we can plate dinner before our kids can finish tallying their treats and bragging about who got more. Our favorites below include a chili updated with ground turkey and bits of sweet potato and drumsticks with chicken so tender it falls from the bone.
Asian Chicken Drumsticks
- Cooking spray
- 3 pounds chicken drumsticks
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup dry sherry
- 1/4 cup cider vinegar
- Scant 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/2 cup apricot preserves or orange marmalade, depending on your preference
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- Green onions, sliced for garnish
1. Coat skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium on stove. Add chicken drumsticks. Brown 3-4 minutes per side.
2. Whisk the rest of the ingredients in a bowl to make sauce.
3. Transfer chicken to slow cooker. Pour sauce onto chicken and stir to mix.
4. Put lid on slow cooker and heat 6-7 hours on low setting or 2 hours on high setting. If possible, stir gently halfway through cooking, pushing chicken on top to bottom. Garnish with green onions and serve.
Sweet Turkey Chili
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 pound ground turkey
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 2 15.5-ounce cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 large sweet potato, cubed
- 1/4 cup, beer (winter ale works well; avoid dark beers)
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
1. Heat olive oil in nonstick pan on medium-high heat on stove. Add onion and sauté until shiny and starting to turn translucent, about 2 minutes. Add turkey and cook till brown, breaking up and stirring as it cooks, about 4 minutes.
2. While turkey is cooking, measure garlic and spices (chili powder, cumin, ground ginger, salt, pepper) into a small bowl and mix together. Add mixture to pan with browned turkey and stir in pan to coat for 1 minute.
3. Transfer turkey mixture to slow cooker.
4. Add cans of kidney beans (drained), tomatoes (undrained), sweet potato, beer and brown sugar to cooker. Stir to mix.
5. Put lid on slow cooker and heat 6-7 hours on low setting or 2 hours on high setting.
Suggested toppings: sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped green onions, sliced avocado.
How to get the best results from your slow cooker:
- Fill only to 1/2 to 2/3 full; overfilling doesn’t allow cooking steam to circulate.
- Cut food into similar-sized pieces for even cooking.
- Defrost frozen meats and vegetables before putting in slow cooker to avoid potential food safety hazards.
- Keep the lid closed as much as you can during cooking (though some recipes call for stirring at intervals).
- Browning meats and vegetables before placing in slow cooker enriches flavor (make sure to scrape in the yummy pan bits).