by Jennifer Kornegay
Food/photography by Brooke Echols
In addition to good taste, slow cookers give us the valuable gift of time.
In the South, our culture puts a premium on slow. Our speech slides out with a drawl. We take our time and do things at a laidback pace. So, at first glance, a kitchen device with “slow” in the name seems like the perfect match for this leisurely lifestyle. But we all know that’s not reality, the lifestyle anyway. Today, even down here, most of us are daily moving at break-neck speeds, trying to cram more into every single moment by multi-tasking on many levels. And the slow cooker absolutely fits this scenario. By promising to deliver a hot, tasty meal that requires minimum effort at the end of a long, hectic day, slow cookers are just as popular now as in their heyday in the 1970s. Some sources claim that in 2011, 83 percent of American households contained and used a slow cooker. But it’s not just the convenience that we love. The way they cook – low and slow – has a lot of tasty benefits. It gives us moist tender meats (even when we use cheaper cuts), drastically reduces the risk of burning or over-cooking food, and gives the flavors in any recipe time to truly come together. They’re highly versatile. While they were originally used mainly for savory main dishes, now you can prepare pretty much anything, including desserts, in slow cookers. Plus, they use a tiny amount of energy compared to other kitchen appliances, and as another added bonus (especially for Alabama!), they won’t heat up your entire kitchen. So we’ve established a slow cooker is the busy family’s very helpful friend. But maybe we should also take a cue from the way a slow cooker works: Be open to all kinds of possibilities; take the time to really connect with those around us; and step away from the hustle and hurry sometimes. Good things very often come slowly, and they’re usually worth the wait.
Cook of the Month:
Myra Johnson, Central Alabama EC
Author Myra Johnson has taken her love of Tallassee, Ala., history and turned it into several popular books, including a cookbook. She’s also got a long history with slow-cookers, leaning on their reliability and convenience for decades. “I used to commute to Montgomery for work for many years, so I used my Crock-Pot all the time. It made my days so much easier,” she said. She’s got countless slow-cooker recipes, but one of her all-time favorites is her Gumbo with Chicken, Sausage & Shrimp. “I love it because it really is so simple. Just throw everything in and forget it,” she said. “It’s also versatile. You can adjust the heat level by adding hot sauce or cayenne pepper if you want it spicy.”
Very Easy Crockpot Gumbo with Chicken, Sausage & Shrimp
- 1 14.5-ounce can stewed tomatoes, undrained
- 16-ounce can tomato paste
- 1 can okra and tomatoes, undrained
- 1 pound skinless boneless chicken, cut into small pieces
- 1 large sausage link, sliced
- 1 14.5-ounce can reduced sodium chicken broth
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 3 basil leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper (I use coarse grind)
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or less to your taste)
- 1 bag frozen medium-sized shrimp, thawed (peeled and deveined without tails)
- 4 cups hot cooked white rice
Add tomatoes, tomato paste, okra and tomatoes, chicken, sausage, broth, bell pepper, onion, celery, Cajun seasoning, garlic and basil, black pepper and hot pepper to slow cooker. Stir gently to combine everything. Cook on low about 2 hours. Add shrimp and cook another 30 minutes until shrimp is warm. Serve over cooked rice or mix the rice in the slow cooker just before serving.
Ham Potato Bake
- 4 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced very thin
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 2 tablespoons margarine
- 2 tablespoons plain flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 can cream of celery soup
- 1 soup can water
- 1½ cups fully cooked ham, chopped into bite-size pieces
- 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
- 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
Spray slow cooker with vegetable spray. Place potatoes in bottom of cooker, then add onion. In a medium-sized saucepan, soften margarine; remove from heat. Add flour, salt, pepper and mustard; mix until smooth. Combine water and celery soup, stir until blended. Add to the mix in saucepan and stir until smooth. Place pan over low heat and bring to a simmer. Remove immediately and pour over ham and potato mix in the slow cooker. Cover; turn on low setting and cook for 8-10 hours. When done and just before serving, sprinkle cheese over top of the mixture and stir until cheese is melted. Serve warm.
North Alabama EC
White Chicken Chili
- 2 cans white northern beans
- 1 can mild Rotel
- 2 cups diced chicken
- 2 cups water
- 1 package white chili seasoning
Combine all of the ingredients and cook on low for 8 hours and serve with cheddar cheese and tortilla chips.
North Alabama EC
Crock-Pot Beef Stew
- 2 pounds stew beef
- 5 or 6 potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 4-6 carrots, peeled and sliced
- 3-4 celery stalks
- ½ small onion, minced
- ½ cup boiling water with 2 beef bouillon cubes dissolved
- 1 can tomato soup
- 1 can golden mushroom soup
Mix all ingredients together in slow cooker and cook on low at least 8 hours.
Crock-Pot Red Beans and Sausage
- 4 15-ounce cans kidney beans (light or dark)
- 2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes
- 2 pounds Conecuh sausage (or your choice)
- 1 package smoked turkey necks
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- Garlic powder, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper
Pour 4 cups of water into Crock-Pot, add smoked turkey necks and turn on low setting. While the turkey necks are on, chop sausage, bell peppers and onions. Let turkey necks cook for about 2 hours. Open and drain water off beans and tomatoes and add to the crockpot. Add in sausage, peppers and onion. Sprinkle in salt, pepper, garlic powder and crushed red pepper. Season to your liking. Continue to cook on low for 6-8 hours. Great with rice and Mexican cornbread.
Coming up in February…Spicy foods!
It’s time to spice up our recipe selection and you could be a winner! We are looking for fresh, creative recipes from readers just like you. In addition to our monthly Cook of the Month prize, beginning in January, all cooks who submit a recipe will automatically be entered into a drawing to win a gift basket full of Alabama Living merchandise. Take a look at our upcoming themes and send in your favorite recipes today!
Themes and Deadlines
March: Honey | Jan. 8
April: Bread | Feb. 8
May: Junior Cooks | Mar. 8
Editor’s Note: Alabama Living’s recipes are submitted by our readers. They are not kitchen-tested by a professional cook or registered dietician. If you have special dietary needs, please check with your doctor or nutritionist before preparing any recipe.