Our 5 Favorite Slow Cooker Recipes

Clay loves to lovingly tease me about my cooking. Well – not my cooking per se because my experience as a prep chef at an upscale bistro and my love for well-prepared food have proven me to be damn good cook. He gets a kick out of the fact that I almost never use recipes. I use a dash of this, a pinch of that, and add a little pizazz when needed. I’ll follow a recipe to a T when baking but when it comes to cooking – all bets are off. Therefore, whenever someone asks me for a recipe of a dish I made, I always seem to respond along the lines, “Uhhh…well – I use a little bit of this, a lot of that, add butter at this time (because it’s law that butter makes everything better), and do this right at the end!” A food blogger I am not.

Seeing as how spring is our busiest season and baseball practices and games are ridiculously long, our slow cooker gets used the most this time of year. And as delicious as eating Five Guys may be on a weekly basis, our heart health is important to us so we try and keep our meals there to a minimum despite it being so easy to grab a bite there on our way home. I am always on the hunt for delicious meals that utilize the slow cooker because on the days when we have Little League practices from 5pm – 8pm, it’s impossible to find the time to cook a meal for the kids that doesn’t involve chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese.

Below are some of our favorite slow cooker recipes that our family enjoys during this time of year (click the heading to see the original recipe). All of these yield leftovers and some of them can easily be repurposed into another meal (tacos, nachos, etc…) later on in the week. How can you not love that?

Mississippi Roast

I discovered the recipe about five years ago and it has been a staple in our house ever since. We will eat it as a pot roast the first night and then shred the meat for tacos later on in the week. I’ve modified the recipe over the years to accommodate our tastes (see notes below) because I’ve found the au jus packet unnecessary and 1/4 cup of butter to be superfluous.

  • 1 ranch packet
  • 1 jar of pepperoncini juice (we like a bit of a kick so I also add at least half the pepperoncinis in the jar)
  • 1 tablespoon of butter

Chicken and Dumplings

There are a lot of slow cooker recipes for chicken and dumplings but unfortunately, a lot of them call for cans of condensed soup, which we don’t consume in our household. The ingredients in this linked recipe are what I typically use when I make chicken and dumplings in the slow cooker except I use a can of cut-up (raw) biscuits instead of making homemade dumplings. Because if I’m using the slow cooker, it means that I certainly don’t have time that day to make dumplings. Ha.

  • 4 chicken breast
  • 1 container of chicken stock
  • chopped celery, carrots, and onions
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • salt and pepper

Slow cook the above ingredients. When done, use an electric beater to shred the chicken or pull apart with forks. Then add a couple of cups of milk and more broth/stock/white wine if desired (you get the choose the consistency…it’s all part of the fun of cooking!). If you are going to be away from home for awhile, you can always add the milk and extra broth/stock in the beginning.

About 45 minutes to an hour before dinner will be served, I add the cut up pieces of biscuit dough and close the lid. See this Pillsbury recipe for details about using biscuit dough as dumplings. But don’t actually use these ingredients because mushrooms are nasty and don’t belong in chicken and dumplings.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

This is another staple in our house and a crowd-pleaser. I follow this recipe fairly close. I add more seasoning than it calls for because more flavor is always a good thing. And I also add Tajin Clasico Seasoning with Lime because it’s amazing. I tend to use chicken stock instead of chicken broth for more depth of flavor. Additionally, if we have limes on hand I’ll add a few fresh squeezes because acidity in soup is wonderful.

Barbacoa

This is another recipe that I follow pretty closely as written. I use beef stock, add a few more cloves of garlic, and omit the oregano. I also add Tajin Clasico Seasoning with Lime seasoning.

Chicken Tiki Masala

Even if you’re not a fan of Indian food, chances are you’ll like this recipe…it is a great primer into the world of curry. I don’t use the heavy whipping cream – we always have sour cream in the refrigerator so I almost always add a cup of that instead. My preference is making chicken tiki masala in my cast iron pot but when we have a million activities going on in the afternoon and evening, I’ll toss the ingredients (including yogurt) in the slow cooker that morning with great results come dinner time.

Okay – I showed you mine, now you show me yours. What are some of your favorite slow cooker recipes?

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Why You Should Have a Charcuterie Display at Your Next Party

Not only do I love to attend parties but I absolutely adore entertaining too. I enjoy cultivating a guest list from various social groups and seeing how many people we can squeeze into our house. I like putting together food and drink menus and coming up with the perfect dish. So when we found out that Clay would be frocked earlier this month, we knew we wanted to throw a party in some capacity. After briefly considering a third-party site like a restaurant or brewery, we quickly decided that our house would be the best place to host the festivities due to the short-notice and timing of the ceremony.

We looked into having Wegman’s catering the party (we’ve used them before with great success) but when we determined that we wanted a giant charcuterie display as the pièce de résistance, we figured it would be easy to do ourselves. And guys? Not only was it an amazing display that everyone loved and found to be delicious – it was super easy to prep and required very little attention the day of the party. Even though we had a lot of hands on deck with out of town guests, we didn’t have much time in between rushing home from the Pentagon in Friday night traffic and the party starting at 7pm so being able to do most of the work beforehand was clutch.

I bought four large cutting boards that are easy to store when not in use and can easily be used for future parties. The meats and cheeses were sourced from Costco, Trader Joe’s, and Aldi. I printed out the names of the cheeses on card stock and hot-glued them on toothpicks. The night before the party, I arranged everything on the cutting boards and wrapped heavily with plastic wrap and put them in the basement refrigerator. The night of the party, I unwrapped the boards and arranged them on the kitchen table. I added dried apricots, dates, gherkins, blackberries, strawberries, and olives for contrast and color. Seriously guys – so easy.

Some of the Best Things to Buy at Trader Joe’s – Fall Edition

Due to the popularity of my post that highlighted the products I love to buy at Trader Joe’s, I wanted to write another post featuring fall-related items because Trader Joe’s is really on top of their seasonal product game. I plan to do another one during the holiday seasons because Trader Joe’s is amazing when it comes to Christmas and other holiday celebrations. But let’s get the conversation back to flannel, hot cider, and pumpkin spice.

Trader Joe pumpkins

While I appreciate pumpkin flavor, I think we as a society are going overboard – there is an abundance of all things pumpkin spice and I’d even argue that as a society, we are becoming caricatures of ourselves when it comes to the flavors of fall. Many adore the notorious pumpkin spice latte (PSL to those in the cool circles) and I concede that pumpkin bread is one of the best things bestowed to humankind, but pumpkin spice Oreos are unnecessary at best and I am still processing the horror of pumpkin spice chicken wings. As evident by the proverbially vomit of pumpkin spice products that hit the grocery store shelves (yes – even at my beloved Trader Joe’s) this time of year, I think it is safe to conclude that there can be too much of a good thing.

chocolate mousse pumpkins trader Joes

Despite my curmudgeonly attitude displayed in the previous paragraph, there are quite a few fall-related products at Trader Joe’s that I am all about. I highly recommend the Chocolate Mousse Pumpkins. I whole-heartedly agree with the sign – they are cute, festive, and delicious! They are only chocolate (no pumpkin flavor) and can easily be placed on top of a cake for an even more festive sugary celebration of fall.

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It’s hard to go wrong with a can of pumpkin and Trader Joes sure doesn’t. We like to eat pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, and pumpkin waffles year-round so I always have a couple of cans in the pantry. For a super easy chocolate muffin recipe, mix one box of chocolate cake mix with one can of pumpkin and bake according to the directions on the box. Is it healthy? Not particularly. But is it easy? Yes.

petite pumpkin spice cookies Trader Joe's

These petite pumpkin spice cookies are quite addicting. It is impossible to eat just one and I find the pumpkin spice not to be too overwhelming. The more I am writing the post, the more that I am realizing that I really don’t care for pumpkin spice all that much. Probably because I loathe nutmeg – so much so that I refuse to put it in my homemade apple pie. However, I find pumpkin spice flavoring that isn’t overwhelming to be satiable most of the time. And these cookies fall nicely into that category.

pumpkin biscotti Trader Joe's

These pumpkin biscotti are made with pumpkin puree and they are amazing. The kids love to eat them for breakfast and I rather enjoy them with a cup of coffee. If you only get one thing from this list – make it these pumpkin biscotti.

spiced cider Trader Joe's

This spiced cider is absolute perfection warmed up – with booze or without!

Ghosts and Bats crispy potato snacks Trader Joe's

If your kids (or you – no judgement here) are fans of veggie crips, then I recommend the ghosts and bats crispy potato snacks. While there is very little flavor beyond a hint of potato and salt, the shapes are a fun addition to the ol’ lunchbox. You can’t beat the price either.

pumpkin and pancake waffle mix

The pumpkin pancake and waffle mix is a pantry staple in our household. I’ve heard great things about the gluten-free version too. In addition to pancakes and waffles, I use it to make muffins (with applesauce instead of oil) and they’re always a hit with the kids.

pumpkin spiced pumpkin seeds at Trader Joe's

If you love all things pumpkin spice then you will adore these pumpkin spiced pumpkin seeds. They’re crunchy, toasty, and sweet. While many love to eat them on their own, I find them to be a little too overwhelming in pumpkin spice flavor so I prefer to toss them into a homemade granola or pumpkin muffin batter for an added kick.

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How fun is this pasta? You can easily add pureed carrots to make a tomato sauce more orange and really lean into the whole fall-themed pasta dish. In full disclosure, I have yet to prepare this pasta but they did have it as a sample and it was delicious so I feel comfortable recommending it. Plus it is pumpkin shaped – how can you not love it?

pumpkin iced sugar cookie at Trader Joe's

And lastly, it’s hard to go wrong with a simple iced sugar cookie. I encourage you to check out Trader Joe’s if you’re lucky enough to live near one. Heck – you can even pick up a PSL on the way. There are plenty more fall products that I haven’t highlighted in this post – these are just a few of my favorites. What are some of your favorite fall-themed items? And if you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, what are some of your fall-themed items in general?

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Some of the Best Things to Buy at Trader Joe’s

I love Trader Joe’s. I realize that this declaration is neither unique nor controversial. After all,  Trader Joe’s is often only second to Wegmans when Americans vote for their favorite grocery chain. Known for its quirky culture, Trader Joe’s are neighborhood-centric grocery stores filled with Hawaiian shirt-clad employees who are helpful, friendly, and very knowledgable about the products sold. That’s not to say that Trader Joe’s is universally loved – over at the Thrillist you can read why one guy thinks Trader Joe’s sucks and Slate advertises that the ultimate Trader Joe’s hack is to not shop at Trader Joe’s. The stores are often difficult to navigate during peak shopping-times and it seems like the majority of Trader Joe’s have parking lots that are more fitting for dystopian landscapes rather than suburbia.

I do not shop exclusively at Trader Joe’s but there are a handful of products that I consider to be ride-or-dies. I’m at my local store at least once-a-week so I consider myself fairly well-versed with their products. While the stores do carry some name-brand items, the majority of items bear the Trader Joe’s (or some variation) name. For the sake of clarity, this list will only feature products that are Trader Joe’s private label. This list will also only feature regular non-seasonable items because it totally stinks to fall in love with a product only to discover that it isn’t available year-round (I’m looking at you Trader Joe’s Swiss and Gruyere Fondue and Trader Joe’s pumpkin-spiced pumpkin seeds). So without further ado, here are my ride-or-die, favorite, go-to items found at Trader Joe’s.

Trader Joe's Balsamic Vinegar of Modena

Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. Can you imagine living in a world without balsamic vinegar? I use it almost daily and for the price, I find it to be the best around. It has a super robust flavor without too much bite and works in a variety of dishes – from salad dressings, roasts, sauces, and even desserts (try Ina Garten’s strawberries with balsamic vinegar recipe!).

Trader Joe's Organic Virgin Coconut Oil

Organic Virgin Coconut Oil. Despite the Harvard researcher recently calling coconut oil poison, I’m still onboard the coconut oil train. I use it to cook with, I use it on my hair and skin, and I’ve even use it to polish wood occasionally. The price is right and when it is all gone, I even have a mason jar and lid to use. How can you not love that?

Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute

21 Seasoning Salute. This is my go-to universal spice. Inexpensive, super flavorful, and versatile. We use it on almost every cut of meat and no soup on our stovetop is complete without at least a dash of 21 Seasoning Salute. I also like Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend but use it in far less dishes than 21 Seasoning Salute.

Trader Joe's Handmade Flour Tortillas

Handmade Flour Tortillas. I don’t miss a lot about Texas but I do miss the fresh tortillas I’d buy at H-E-B Marketplace. I can’t stand the normal flour tortillas found in American grocery stores (no flavor!) so I make sure I always have a package of these on hand. I lightly brush olive oil on each side and then toss in a hot pan for a few seconds before serving.

Trader Joe's Roasted Garlic and Herb Butter Spread

Roasted Garlic & Herb Butter Spread. My mouth is watering looking at this picture. This product is absolutely perfect on a baguette, or seafood, or potatoes, or pretty much anything savory on which you’d put butter. I haven’t tried the Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Butter Spread yet but I’m sure it is just as tasty.

Trader Joe's Trandoori Naan

Tandoori Naan. I always like to have at least one package of the Tandoori Naan in our freezer. While my preference is to buy fresh naan, I really enjoy the flavor and texture of  Trader Joe’s Tandoori Naan and it’s nice to know that I can use it in a pinch without having to run to the store. We tend to use this naan when we cook Indian food, or as pizza crust, or just torn-up with hummus.

Trader Joe's Roasted Potatoes with Peppers and Onions

Roasted Potatoes with Peppers and Onions. This is another product that I always like to have on hand in our freezer. It’s a great side-dish and super easy to prepare. I’ve cooked it both on the stove-top in a cast-iron skillet and on a pan in the oven with similar results. Bonus – the onions are big enough that my kids can pick them out because they’re weirdos who don’t like onions.

Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream

Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream. It’s impossible to mention Trader Joe’s without someone pledging allegiance to their cookie butter. Yes – cookie butter is amazing but we do not purchase it in our household because it would be consumed immediately and our health would be at stake. It’s that dangerously delicious. However, Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream is a nice alternative and the perfect vehicle to consume cookie butter without going overboard.

Trader Joe's Garlic Fries

Garlic Fries. My family isn’t crazy about the garlic fries as I am (they are SO garlic-y) but I think they’re incredibly tasty. I always have a package of their sweet potato fries in the freezer and when I am feeling extra frisky, I grab a bag of the garlic fries too.

Trader Joe's Salsa

Salsa Autentica and Salsa Verde. We don’t use the Salsa Autentica or the Salsa Verde as stand alone salsa to eat with chips, rather I use them when I am cooking tortilla soup, taco soup, Mexican-flavored roast, etc… If I am making a Mexican-inspired dish, chances are that I will use one of these products in some way or form. They are just really good staples to have on hand.

Trader Joe's Sparkling Lime Water

Sparkling Spring Water – Lime Flavored. The kids love it. I love it. My husband does not love it because he is a freak who doesn’t like sparkling water. Whenever I’m feeling like I want to kick a meal up a notch, I drink this instead of regular water. Crazy – I know. It’s also great with some tequila and a fresh squeezed/muddled lime.

Trader Joe's Patisserie de Chocolat

Patisserie de Chocolat. When I am running short on time and we’re entertaining people for dinner, this is my go-to quick dessert that doesn’t require any effort from me beyond going into Trader Joe’s. Guys – this cake is amazing and everybody raves about it for good reason. You or your guests won’t be disappointed.

Trader Joe's flowers

Well – there you have it, some of the best things to buy at Trader Joe’s according to me. This list is nowhere exhaustive (it doesn’t even include wine!) so I look forward to revisiting this topic in the future. Are you lucky enough to live near Trader Joe’s? If so, what are some of your favorite products?

best products at Trader Joe's