Friday, January 21, 2011

My Favorite All-Crock Pot “Comfort Dinner”

      It’s cold here in northern Texas right now, and nothing tastes better on a blustery winter evening than COMFORT FOOD! Now, up until three years ago, I was a Midwesterner, living in the far-north Chicago suburbs. I didn’t think it would ever get cold enough in Dallas to truly appreciate comfort food. But surprise, surprise, there are a couple months of the year here when this kind of cuisine really hits the spot.
      I have certain favorite foods I especially like to make during the winter months, and many of these entrees are cooked in a crock pot. There is nothing nicer than walking into your house on a cold day and smelling something delicious coming from your kitchen!
      Many times I use several slow cookers for one meal. I especially like to do this for weekend entertaining when company is coming over. Often times, we’re gone a lot during the early part of the day, and then will have guests over for dinner, like after church. It’s great when you can arrive home with your company, and the entire meal is all ready. You don’t have to frantically scurry around, trying to get the food ready.
      Now, you might say, but who owns several crock pots? Well, I must confess that I do. In fact, when we moved to Texas, one of our friends who was already living here (someone we’d known a long time—when we used to live in California) offered to help us unload our moving truck when we moved into our new home here in the Dallas area. Well, did I ever get razzed! He’d never seen so many boxes marked “Kitchen” or “Kitchen Fragile” in his life! Probably at least half of all the boxes we moved into our new house had the “Kitchen” label on it.
      What made this friend laugh even harder is that I had eight crock pots in those boxes. All he could say was, “Who needs that many crock pots?!!” Well, that many slow cookers may not be a “need,” but I do use them all. These crock pots are of different sizes. The larger 6 or 6 ½ quart ones are great for roasts and big batches of soup. The small ones are ideal for vegetables and other side dishes.
      One of my all-time favorite winter dinner menus uses six crock pots of varying sizes, each for a different course, entrée, or side dish. I’ve served up this menu a couple times this month for company, and both times it went over really well.
      What follows are the recipes for this all-crock pot dinner. You may not have enough crock pots to cook each of these dishes simultaneously, but you may want to try at least one of these recipes at your next gathering—especially if “comfort cuisine” is in order!

Roast Beef with Mushroom Gravy

In a 6 or 6 ½ quart crock pot, arrange 2 – 3 pound boneless chuck roasts (thawed) on top of 2 large Spanish onions, sliced thinly. Top with 2 packets dry onion soup mix and 2 family-size cans of cream of mushroom soup. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.

Extra Creamy Mashed Potatoes

5 pounds Russet potatoes, peeled, cooked and mashed
8 ounces cream cheese
1 pint sour cream
3 tsp. garlic powder
1 ½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
3 T. butter, softened

Combine all ingredients and spoon into a medium-sized (a 3- or 4-quart sized) buttered crock pot. Cook on low for 4-5 hours.

Orange-Spiced Sweet Potatoes

4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and diced in 1-inch cubes
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
6 Tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
2 ½ tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. grated orange peel
Juice of 2 medium-sized oranges
½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Put all of the ingredients into a medium-sized crock pot (4 quart size works well) and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours, until potatoes are fork-tender.

Creamed Spinach

3 16-ounce bags frozen spinach leaves, thawed
16 ounce counter small curd cottage cheese
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
3 large eggs
1/3 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
½ cup butter, melted

First, thaw and drain the spinach. Usually I’ll microwave the frozen spinach, one bag at a time, just enough to melt the ice and bring the spinach at room temperature, and then I wring out the water with my hands (one handful of spinach at a time). Put the spinach and all the other ingredients in a small crock pot (a 3- or 3 ½ quart size is ideal). Cook on high for 1 hour. Then turn to the low setting and cook for another 4 hours.

Green Beans Almandine—Slow Cooker Style

3 10-ounce packages frozen French-cut green beans, thawed
2 (10 ½ ounce) cans cream of mushroom soup
2 tsp. Parsley
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
¾ cup toasted slivered almonds

Combine all ingredients except almonds in 3-quart crock pot. Cook on low setting for 4 hours. When just about ready to serve, toast almonds: put them in a pan with a tablespoon butter, and stir over low heat until slightly brown. Sprinkle green beans with toasted almonds right before serving.

Dessert: Chocolate Fondue
1 12-ounce package chocolate chips (semi sweet or milk chocolate)
4 T. butter
2 cans sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract

In a small sauce pan or microwave, melt together the chocolate chips and butter. Remove from heat, and stir in the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. Pour into a small crock pot (Rival’s 16-ounce “Little Dipper” is just big enough to hold this recipe. You can also purchase 1.2 quart crock pots and these work fine too.). Turn the crock pot on low, and heat the chocolate fondue for 30 minutes to an hour—just until the mixture is warm. Usually, I’ll make up the chocolate fondue ahead of time, keep it in the fridge, and when we sit down to eat the main meal, I’ll start the chocolate fondue heating in the crock pot.

Serve the chocolate fondue with a variety of dippers, including fresh strawberries, banana slices, mandarin oranges, chunks of fresh or canned pineapple, marshmallows, pound cake cubes, angel food cake cubes, and macaroons.

Happy eating!!!


  1. Ooh, this sounds wonderful! Sounds like enough for an army!

  2. This meal you made was terrific! All of it -- except, of course, we didn't have the fondue for dessert that night, but some delicious pies and brownies instead. Yum-yum. There's only problem with making it in my home... I only have one crock pot, so I'd definitely either have to buy more or likely borrow some from friends.

  3. Thanks, Dara. Yes, we served a different dessert for you guys. We'll have to have you over for chocolate fondue sometime too.