In the height of summer, most people have forgotten about their slow cookers. But my slow cooker never gets put into storage; I think of it as a year-round tool. (Don't miss these 7 tricks for better slow-cooking in your crock pot.)
For starters, it never stops being convenient. Just the way it warms you up after a day skiing, your slow cooker can deliver an easy, nourishing meal after a soccer game or a day at the beach. And no, you don't have to be eating beef stew in August. Recipes like Pulled Pork with Caramelized Onions (pictured, see the recipe below) are great for summer. Just top it with some cool and crunchy slaw and a tart pickle and you've got yourself the perfect summer meal. Or make meatballs in your slow cooker for a crowd-pleasing meal. (Try this recipe: Nonna's Spaghetti & Meatballs). Pair that with a salad and you can't possibly go wrong.
And who would argue that lasagna is a dinner only to be enjoyed in the winter or fall? What probably keeps most people from making lasagna in the summer is not wanting to turn their ovens on for a long period of time. Well, you don't have to. Because you can make lasagna in, you guessed it, your slow cooker! (Get the recipe: Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Lasagna.)
So think outside the box and get your slow cooker back in the kitchen this summer.
Pulled Pork with Caramelized Onions
Makes 8 servings, about 1 cup each
Active time: 1 hour | Slow-cooker time: 5-9 hours | To make ahead: Prepare through Step 1, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. To finish, bring the sauce to a simmer and continue with Steps 2 & 3. The cooked pork can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. | Equipment: 4-quart or larger slow cooker
Cost per serving: under $2
Traditional pulled pork is barbecued, which gives it a smoky flavor. But the slow cooker happens to be the absolute easiest way to cook pulled pork-and you can get a hint of smoke by adding chipotle chile.
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 large onions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup raw cane sugar, such as Demerara or turbinado (see Notes)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 cup chili sauce, such as Heinz
1 1/2-3 teaspoons minced chipotle chile in adobo sauce (see Notes)
3 pounds boneless pork shoulder or blade (butt) roast, trimmed
1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, 3 to 6 minutes. Add sugar and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the onions are golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes more. Add garlic, oregano, pepper and salt and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add vinegar and bring to a boil. Cook until mostly evaporated, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in chili sauce and chipotle to taste.
2. Place pork in a 4-quart (or larger) slow cooker and cover with the sauce. Cover and cook until the pork is almost falling apart, about 4 hours on High or 8 hours on Low.
3. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and shred using two forks. Stir back into the sauce.
Per serving (without bun): 358 calories; 18 g fat (6 g sat, 9 g mono); 90 mg cholesterol; 21 g carbohydrate; 9 g added sugars; 25 g protein; 3 g fiber; 664 mg sodium; 510 mg potassium. Nutrition bonus: Zinc (31% daily value), Vitamin C (17% dv).
Notes: Raw cane sugar (such as Sugar in the Raw) is steam-cleaned, coarse-grained and light brown in color, with a slight molasses flavor. Find it in the natural-foods section of large supermarkets or at natural-foods stores.
Chipotle chiles in adobo sauce are smoked jalapeños packed in a flavorful sauce. Look for the small cans with Mexican foods at large supermarkets. Once opened, they'll keep up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator or 6 months in the freezer.
Do you use your slow cooker in the summer? What do you make with it?
By Hilary Meyer
EatingWell Associate Food Editor Hilary Meyer spends much of her time in the EatingWell Test Kitchen, testing and developing healthy recipes. She is a graduate of New England Culinary Institute.
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