Slow cook your way through these five weeknight recipes

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By: Lydia Sheaks
lsheaks@elkharttruth.com

A slow cooker is a magical machine that can help you dish up a legitimate meal on a weeknight — and its power goes beyond classic soups and stews. 

These five slow cooker recipes will get you through the coming work week. 

Slow Cooker Chicken Fajitas 

These slow cooker fajitas are from Eat at Home Cooks. With just a few basic ingredients and hardly any prep work, this dish comes together quickly and makes a good weeknight choice. 

You’ll need:

  • 1 lb. boneless chicken breasts
  • 3 green, red, and yellow peppers, sliced 
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 package of taco seasoning
  • flour or corn tortillas
  • toppings: sour cream, cheese, guacamole, etc.

Directions: 

Place the sliced peppers and onions on the bottom of the slow cooker. Place chicken on top.  Sprinkle taco seasoning on the top. 

Cook on low for 6 to 8 hrs or high for 3 to 4 hours. 

Shred everything up and mix in the juice. Serve with tortillas and toppings — sour cream, guacamole, cheese, lettuce, or whatever you like most. 

Slow Cooker Italian Meatballs

This meatball recipe from Girl Versus Dough requires just 15 minutes of prep time. Since it makes 40 meatballs, the author suggests halving the recipe or freezing the meatballs you don’t want to eat right away.

You’ll need:

  • ½ cup milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 12 oz. bulk mild Italian sausage
  • 1 ¼ cups Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • ¼ tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 (24 oz.) jars marinara pasta sauce

Directions:

In a large bowl, whisk together milk and eggs until combined.

Add ground beef, Italian sausage, breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and garlic powder; mix until combined.

Place an oven rack about 4 to 5 inches from the oven broiler and turn the broiler on high.

Lightly grease two baking sheets with cooking spray or oil. Shape the meat mixture into about 40 meatballs and place on the baking sheets. 

Broil meatballs 6 to 8 minutes, flipping halfway through, until browned. 

Place meatballs in slow cooker and add sauce. 

Cook on low 4 to 5 hours in the slow cooker. Meatballs are done when the internal temperature reaches at least 160 degrees. 

Serve on top of pasta or by itself. 

Slow Cooker Ratatouille

This ratatouille recipe from Better Homes and Gardens is an easy weeknight options for vegetarians. 

You’ll need:

  • 1 ½ cups cubed, peeled (if desired) eggplant
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped yellow summer squash or zucchini
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped tomato
  • ½  8 ounce can tomato sauce
  • ⅓ cup coarsely chopped red or green sweet pepper
  • ¼ cup finely chopped onion
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ⅛ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Directions: 

Combine eggplant, squash, chopped tomato, tomato sauce, sweet pepper, onion, salt, black pepper, and garlic in slow cooker.

Cook on low for 4 to 5 hours or on high for 2 hours.

Serve with Parmesan cheese melted on toast. 

Slow Cooker Stuffed Bell Peppers

Here’s another vegetarian dish to try. If you want meat, add some ground beef. This recipe comes from Crockpot 365

You’ll need:

  • 6 bell peppers, any combination of red, green, orange and yellow
  • 1 lb. ground beef (optional)
  • ½ cup pasta sauce
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (8-ounce ) can corn 
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cups cooked long grain rice
  • ½ tsp. smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • ⅓ cup water

Directions:

Cut the tops off of the peppers and remove the seeds and membranes from the inside.

In a mixing bowl, combine the pasta sauce, beans, corn, onion, rice, spices, cheese and ground beef, if desired. 

Mix well to combine.

Shove as much of the mixture as you can into each of the cored peppers. Carefully nestle the peppers into the pot. Pour ⅓ cup water around the pepper bases.

Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours.

Slow Cooker Chocolate Cake

Don’t limit your slow cooker to just weeknight entrees either. Try this weeknight chocolate cake recipe from Kitchme

You’ll need:

  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup water, boiling

Directions:

Spray crock of a large slow cooker with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In a separate small bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, oil and vanilla.

Whisk in the boiling water. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix well.

Pour the cake batter into the slow cooker.

Cook on low until cake has no wet spots on top and has pulled away from the sides, about 3 hours. Turn off slow cooker and allow cake to rest for 30 minutes before serving.

Follow reporter Lydia Sheaks on Twitter at @LydiaSheaks
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