‘Round the Table: Set It and Forget It, the Slow Cooker Way

I am guilty of using the terms “Crock Pot” and “slow cooker” interchangeably, although more often than not I toss about the term “Crock Pot” with abandon just like I call all soda pops, “Coke”.  I am wrong about Coke and I am also wrong about “Crock Pot”.  While all Crock Pots are slow cookers, not all slow cookers are Crock Pots.

While you may not imagine that the history of the crock pot is very interesting, I think you’ll be delighted to learn that a nice Jewish boy, Irving Naxon, invented the Crock Pot because he was inspired by his mother’s Sabbath bean stew, called cholent. The traditional Jewish dish is meant to cook all day in the slowly cooling oven and over the course of the 24-hour Sabbath; the heat would be enough to cook the cholent.

Naxon called his brilliant invention The Naxon Beanery. Catchy as that name was, those clever marketers at Rival Manufacturing rebranded the Beanery and christened it Crock Pot.

Rival marketed the Crock Pot to working mothers who could put dinner in the Crock Pot before leaving for work and come home to a cooked meal. Through the years, more and more manufacturers began to offer some sort of slow cooker, although the Crock Pot still rules the roost.

The rise of the microwave in the 1980’s put a tiny dent in the slow cooker popularity. Slowly, the popularity of the slow cooker is returning and Consumer Reports has reported that 83% of families own slow cookers.

These days, slow cookers are used to prepare more than beans. The ability to “set it and forget it” means less time scrambling over the stove and more time with family and friends.

If you’ve left the slow cooker behind in favor of the newest toy on the market, the Instant Pot, rejoice! I’ll be sharing my adventures with an Instant Pot soon.

Warm and hearty, these peppers are stuffed with mushrooms and farro; you won’t miss the meat!

Tuscan Stuffed Peppers

Yield: 4 servings

  • 4 large bell peppers
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • ½ pound of mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic minced
  • ½ cup of white wine
  • 2 cups of chopped kale leaves, washed and stems removed
  • 1 ½ cups of farro prepared according to the package directions
  • 2 ½ cups of prepared marinara sauce
  • (I use Rao’s)
  • 2-4 ounces of goat cheese

Wash the peppers; slice the top off and remove the ribs and seeds. Arrange the peppers in the crock of a slow cooker.

Set a large skillet over medium high heat and add the olive oil; heat the oil until it shimmers and add the onion, celery and mushrooms.  Sauté the vegetables until the onions are soft and the mushrooms are wilted and beginning to brown.  Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds or until the garlic becomes fragrant; add the wine and deglaze the pan scraping up all the brown bits.

Add the kale and cook, turning the kale constantly until it is wilted; stir in the farro.  Add enough of the marina sauce to make a loose filling and fill the peppers with the mixture.  Add the remaining marinara sauce to the bottom of the slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low for about 6 hours or on high for 3 hours.  When there are 30 minutes of cooking time left, top each pepper with goat cheese and continue cooking for the remaining time.

This slow cooker recipe for breakfast casserole makes getting out of bed worth it! It serves a crowd.

Breakfast Casserole

Yield: 8 servings

  • 1 bag frozen hash brown potatoes
  • 1 pound of bacon
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
  • ½ red bell pepper, diced
  • ½ green bell pepper, diced
  • 12 eggs
  • 1 cup of milk
  • Salt and pepper

Cut the bacon into small pieces, cook and drain. You could use precooked bacon to speed up the process.

Add half the bag of hash browns to the bottom of a slow cooker; top with half of the bacon, half the onions, half the green and red bell pepper and half the cheese. Top with the remaining hash browns, remaining bacon, remaining onions, remaining peppers and cheese.

In a medium sized bowl, beat the eggs and milk together; pour the egg mixture over the ingredients in the slow cooker crock. Add salt and pepper on top.

Cook for low on 4 hours or on warm for 8 hours.

Many people don’t think about using a slow cooker for dessert, but there is something special about have a hot dessert waiting for you after dinner.

The slow cooker isn’t just for pot roast; give this Gingerbread Pudding a try this holiday season.

Gingerbread Pudding Cake

Yield: 8 servings

  • ½ cup molasses
  • 1 cup water
  • ¼ cup of butter, softened
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ cups of all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • 6 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • ¾ cup of hot water
  • 2/3 cup of butter, melted
  • Sweetened whipped cream, optional

Mix the molasses with 1 cup of water. In a stand mixer, cream softened butter with sugar until light and fluffy; beat in the egg white and vanilla.  In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and spices; add to the creamed mixture alternately with the molasses mixture, beating well after each addition. Fold in the pecans

Pour into a greased 3-quart slow cooker. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Mix hot water and melted butter; pour of the batter but do not stir.

Cook, covered, on high until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 2 to 2 ½ hours. Turn off the slow cooker and let the cake stand for 15 minutes.  Serve with sweetened whipped cream if desired.