When the temperatures plummet and you leave and arrive home in the dark, warm up with a slow cooked meal. January is National Slow Cooking Month, and from meats to soups to desserts, a slow cooker is a versatile piece of kitchen equipment that makes a hot meal easy after busy days.
“Slow cookers make many one-pot meals, such as soups, stews, and chili, more flavorful with long cooking,” said Caitlin Mellendorf, University of Illinois Extension Nutrition and Wellness Educator. “And less expensive, tough cuts of meat become tender after hours cooking at low temperatures.”
Slow cookers also don’t take up much countertop space and use less electricity than an oven. Add a few simple sides like bread, crackers, or salad and dinner is ready in minutes. The key with good quality, slow cooked meals is timing. Some recipes, such as Italian beef or shredded pork BBQ, can stand upwards of 10-12 hours. Other recipes hold up better at less than eight hours on low or four hours on high, such as soups with lots of vegetables. Desserts might only need a few hours.
“One of my favorite slow cooker recipes is white chicken chili,” Mellendorf said. “The fat in the chicken thighs help them stay juicy while cooking.”
White Chicken Chili (8 servings)
- 3 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (or 2 lbs boneless, skinless thighs)
- 2 cups frozen corn, thawed
- 2 (15-oz) cans navy beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 (4.5 oz) cans chopped green chilies
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- teaspoon oregano
- 1/2 cups reduced-sodium, fat-free chicken broth
- Toppings: Shredded cheese, green onion, tortilla chips
- Wash hands.
- Pull skin off chicken thighs by hand or cut off using kitchen shears.
- To a 6-quart slow cooker, add chicken, corn, beans, onion, green chilies, garlic, cumin, and oregano. Add broth and stir to combine.
- Cook for 8-10 hours on low or 4-5 hours on high. Remove chicken and shred; return to slow cooker. If using bone-in thighs, remove bones before serving.
- Serve with shredded cheese, green onion, and tortilla chips.
Nutrition analysis per serving (without toppings): 300 calories, 5g fat, 840mg sodium, 33g carbohydrate, 32g protein
Text by Caitlin Mellendorf, University of Illinois Extension, Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving DeWitt, Macon, and Piatt Counties; photo by Flick user polaritize, licensed CC BY 2.0.