Slow cooker recipes perfect for cold weather

It's slow-cooker season. Try two bean and squash chili. (Courtesy of relish.com)

It's slow-cooker season. Try two bean and squash chili. (Courtesy of relish.com)

ELIZABETH BAIRD, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:12 PM ET

Canadians are keeners when it comes to barbecuing and slow cooking. Check the weather: It’s slow-cooker season. For fans of this easy road to delicious suppers, here are three recipes that will deliver comfort and pleasure to your household and friends!

Two Bean and Squash Chili

This is the perfect mix-and-forget chili, delicious with toasted whole wheat bagels and a cabbage and apple salad, fennel addition optional.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) canola oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 2 cups (500 ml) cubed butternut squash
  • 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) chili powder
  • 2 tsp. (10 ml) each dried crumbled oregano and ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. (5 ml) sweet paprika, smoked recommended
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) tomato paste
  • 28 oz. (796 ml) can diced tomatoes
  • 19 oz. (540 ml) black beans or red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 19 oz. (540 ml) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 ½ cups vegetables broth or water
  • ½ tsp. (2 ml) hot pepper sauce
  • 1 cup (250 ml) frozen corn
  • 1 sweet red pepper, diced

Toppings:

A selection of diced avocado, chopped coriander (cilantro), shredded Cheddar, sour cream or crushed plain tortilla chips.

Directions:

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat; add onion, garlic, celery and carrot. Saute until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in squash, chili powder, oregano, cumin, paprika and tomato paste. Fry, stirring often, until slightly darkened and aromatic, about 5 minutes. Scrape into slow cooker.

Stir in tomatoes with their juices, beans, chickpeas, broth and hot pepper sauce. Cover and cook on low until sauce forms around beans, about 6 hours. Stir in corn and red pepper; cover and cook on high until pepper is crisp tender, about 20 minutes. Serve with choice of toppings.

Makes 6 generous servings.

TIP: For a salsa topping, combine 1 diced ripe avocado with 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) shredded coriander (cilantro), half as much sliced green onion and 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) lime or lemon juice to add piquancy. Spoon a dollop of sour cream on the top of each bowl of chili, then add this avocado topping.

TIME SAVER: Instead of sauteing vegetables before adding to slow cooker, you can simply combine all ingredients, right up to corn and start cooking.

Beef Bourguignon Pot Roast

All the flavours of beef bourguignon in a pot roast. Perfect comfort fare for company. The roast is a little more work since you have to saute the mushrooms and those fiddly little onions and add them near the end of cooking time, but, as they say in recipe land, worth every minute. Julia Child, who immortalized the lusty stew versions of this pot roast, would appreciate your efforts.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pkg. (1/2 oz/14 g) dried porcini or morel mushrooms
  • ¾ cup (175 ml) boiling water
  • 4 oz. (125 g) thick cut lean smoky bacon
  • ½ tsp. (2 ml) each salt and pepper
  • 1 beef pot roast, boneless cross rib or blade, about 3 ½ lb (1.6 kg)
  • 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) canola oil, approximate
  • 1 each onion and carrot, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. (10 ml) dried crumbled thyme
  • 1 cup (250 ml) red wine
  • 1 cup (250 ml) beef broth, divided
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups (500 ml) pearl onions (10 oz./284 g bag)
  • 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) butter
  • 5 cups (1.25 L) button mushrooms (12 oz./375 g)
  • 1/3 cup (75 ml) all-purpose flour
  • Minced fresh parsley

Directions:

In a liquid measuring cup combine porcini and boiling water; let stand for 10 minutes. Reserving liquid, strain, chop porcini and set aside.

In a deep skillet over medium heat-high, fry bacon until crispy; with a slotted spoon, transfer to slow cooker. Meanwhile, sprinkle salt and pepper all over roast. If needed, add a little of oil to skillet. Brown roast on all sides, adjusting heat to prevent burning. Add to slow cooker. Reduce heat to medium; adding oil if necessary, fry onion, carrot, garlic, thyme and porcini mushrooms until softened, about 4 minutes. Stir in red wine, scraping bottom of pan to lift brown bits. Scrape into slow cooker. Add half of broth, reserved porcini soaking liquid and bay leaves. Cover and cook on low until beef is just tender, about 6 to 7 hours.

To peel pearl onions, soak in boiling water for 2 minutes before peeling. Melt butter in a large skillet; add onions and mushrooms. Saute over medium heat until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Scrape contents of skillet into slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 1 hour, by which time pot roast is fork tender. Remove bay leaves. Transfer beef to a cutting board; cover and let rest while sauce/gravy thickens.

Whisk flour into remaining beef broth, adding a little water if necessary. Whisk flour mixture into liquid in slow cooker. Cover and cook on high until sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Skim fat from surface of sauce. To serve, slice beef and arrange on platter. Spoon mushrooms and onions around beef and drizzle with the sauce. Garnish with parsley.

Makes 6 generous servings.

Pork Shoulder Roast with Wine, Olives and Tomatoes

In his Everyone Can Cook Slow Cooker Meals, Victoria-based chef, food writer and best-selling cookbook author Eric Akis writes: "This dish is like pot roast, except that it is made with pork, not beef. It is richly flavoured Italian-style.” If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, chop the meat and reheat in remaining sauce to serve over pasta. A supper bonus!

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) olive oil
  • 1 boneless pork shoulder roast, about 2 ¾ lb. (1,375 kg)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup (250 ml) red wine
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) tomato paste
  • 28 oz. (796 ml) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium sweet green pepper, cubed
  • ¾ cup (175 ml) pimento-stuffed green olives, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. (15 ml) honey
  • 2 tsp. (10 ml) dried oregano
  • 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

Place oil in a skillet set over medium-high heat. Season pork with salt and pepper to taste. When oil is hot, brown pork on all sides. Place wine, flour and tomato paste in slow cooker and whisk until flour is completely dissolved. Add diced tomatoes, onion, green pepper, olives, garlic, honey and oregano and mix to combine. Set pork in slow cooker, turning to coat with sauce. Cover and cook on low setting for 7 to 8 hours, or until the pork is very tender.

Remove pork from sauce and set on a plate. Tent with foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Skim off any fat from sauce. Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper, if needed. Slice pork, plate and top with sauce. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

TIP: If you like the idea of including the brown bits left after browning the pork shoulder, add some of the juice from the tomatoes to the skillet and simmer briefly, scraping up the bits. Add this meaty juice to the slow cooker along with the remaining tomatoes.

Thickening Sauces/Gravy: Liquids in a slow cooker do not evaporate as much as do liquids in dishes braised in the oven or on top of the stove. Be prepared to adjust the thickness of sauces at the end of the cooking time either by adding more of a liquid called for in the recipes, or by adding additional thickening.

Two Bean and Squash Chili


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