I'll be the first to admit that I don't love cooking, but eating out or ordering in every night isn't financially sustainable no matter how much I love pushing send on the food delivery app. There is another option, though: If you're short on time, or just don't enjoy standing over the stove, Crock-Pot recipes are a simple way to cook your meals without supervising the process, and warm, soothing crockpot fare is perfect for winter. Crock-Pot cooking is a great way to make sure dinner is ready when you get home from work, and you'll have leftovers for lunch the next day. An added bonus is that your house or apartment will smell fabulous.
Raised by a single working mom, I grew up eating Crock-Pot meals, and as soon as we moved out, my mom made sure each kid was given their own Crock-Pot to continue the tradition. Getting starting is simple: All you need is a standard Crock-Pot, available at any department store, fresh ingredients like vegetables from your local farmer's market, meats or vegan proteins, herbs and spices, and water.
Crock-Pot cooking is also a smart way to use items you may have a surplus of for whatever reason, like if you subscribe to a community supported agriculture share or you have a family member or friend who gives you bounty from their garden. My grandfather used to grow tomatoes every summer, and he often showed up on my doorstep with bags and bags of them. What's a girl to do with 20-30 tomatoes? Because even the most devoted veggie and salad lover can't eat that many, I learned how to make my own pasta sauce and I challenged my brother to a crockpot chili cook off (did I mention crockpot food is great for potlucks?).
Try these easy Crock-Pot recipes to get started on your way to slow-cooking satisfaction.
Chicken Noodle Soup
Who doesn't love chicken noodle soup? During flu season — or whenever you want to feel warm and comfortable — this chicken noodle soup recipe from Damn Delicious tastes just like the kind grandma used to make. Gluten-free? Substitute the thin spaghetti for rice. With a prep time of only 15 minutes, and eight hours 45 minutes cooking, you can let this one simmer while you're at work, or just lazing around on a Sunday watching Netflix.
As far as I'm concerned, chili is always in season and it's a great dish to bring to any Super Bowl or Oscar party. Being from Ohio originally, I like to eat my chili on a bed of angel hair pasta with raw onions and fresh cheddar grated on top, but you can eat your beef chili any way you'd like. This easy and delicious recipe from Half-Baked Harvest has a 15-minute prep time and then cooks to perfection in about six hours. I like to use garbanzo beans in my chili, since I don't love most beans. Feel free to stick to the recipe or amend for your own taste.
Slow Cooker Vegan Chickpea Chili
If you're vegan and still want the warm comfort of a piping-hot bowl of chili, this vegan chili recipe from Tori Avey hits the spot. This recipe uses my beloved garbanzo beans and is ready in just four and half hours.
No Boil Mac and Cheese
Mac and cheese is being served up in some of the finest restaurants across the country, but you can easily make this nostalgic dish at home (and not from a box) with this Crock-Pot recipe from Cookies and Cups. This recipe is easy because you don't have to boil the pasta ahead of time, which is required of many slow cooker mac and cheese recipes. This delicious comfort food is ready to enjoy in just two-to-three hours.
Easy Crock-Pot Pulled Pork
I love pulled pork, and being able to easily make this delicious meal at home is a game changer. Using staples you probably already have in your cupboard, like brown sugar, paprika, other spices and a tangy cider vinegar sauce, this recipe from My Baking Addiction will satisfy your pulled-pork cravings at home. This one takes about 10-12 hours so it's great for a day when you know you're going to be home late and want to have a delicious dinner waiting upon your arrival.
This one is a perfect example of that surplus situation I mentioned earlier. If you happen to have an abundance of apples, consider this sweet treat that can be eaten alone of added to any meal. The Kitchn's recipe for homemade applesauce will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy, and it's super easy taking about four hours.
Healthy Crock-Pot Mini Turkey-Quinoa Meatballs
One word. Meatballs. I often find cooking meatballs intimidating, but I love to eat them so it's exciting to find this simple recipe. These turkey (perfect if you're staying away from red meat) meatballs from Home Sweet Treat are easy to prepare using quinoa. They take about six hours, and you can eat them alone or atop your favorite pasta.
Spicy Beef Queso Dip
Here's another one you can make to take to an upcoming Super Bowl or Oscar party, or just about any other potluck gathering. This spicy beef queso dip recipe from Brown-Eyed Baker can be made in your slow cooker in as little as one-to-two hours, making this something you can make on the fly while you're getting ready for the party.
The Crock-Pot is for tacos. Yes, tacos. These chicken tacos from Natasha's Kitchen take between four and six hours, and are tender and juicy, though they are slightly more labor intensive than some of the above recipes. If you love tacos as much as I do, consider giving this one a try because your slow cooker is not just for soups, stews and sauces.
The crockpot isn't just for dinner — you can also make dessert. Consider this stomach satisfying berry crisp recipe from What's Cooking Love to feed your winter sweet tooth. This crowd-pleasing dessert is easy to make and is ready to enjoy in two to three hours.