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Morning Sun
  • Shoestring Living: Slow cooker is easy and cheap

  • Once fall and winter hit, I’m ready for cold-weather cooking. For me, that means roasting, braising, stewing and my all-time favorite tool for simple and inexpensive cooking: the slow cooker. This cooking vessel is something I just plain can’t live without due to its “fix and forget it” perfection and the endless possibilities it offers in terms of flavor.

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  • Once fall and winter hit, I’m ready for cold-weather cooking. For me, that means roasting, braising, stewing and my all-time favorite tool for simple and inexpensive cooking: the slow cooker. This cooking vessel is something I just plain can’t live without due to its “fix and forget it” perfection and the endless possibilities it offers in terms of flavor. 
    It takes some effort to go from a once-a-season user to a regular user, and I suppose I’m somewhere in between. While I haven’t graduated to desserts yet, I shoot for once a week usage, usually on days when our kid-activity lineup makes cooking a real impossibility. Here are my favorite slow cooker meals, created from what was on hand at the time, and sure to please even the pickiest eaters in your home. Oh, and the best part? They’re the kind of meals that you can throw together on a shoestring.
    Chicken Tacos
    • 4 skinless boneless chicken breasts
    • 1-14 oz. can diced tomatoes (we use Rotel)
    • 1 bell pepper, any color, chopped
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 1 T. cumin
    • 1 T. chili powder
    Place everything in your slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours, or on low for 7 to 8 hours. Shred chicken with two forks and eat with warmed tortillas, shredded cheese and sour cream. (Note: Don’t have tomatoes or fresh veggies? Add a jar of chunky salsa instead.)
    Spaghetti Sauce
    • 16 oz. lean ground sirloin or lean turkey
    • 2-28 oz. cans petite diced tomatoes
    • 1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 carrot, shredded
    • 1 t. dried oregano
    • 1 t. dried basil
    • 1 t. crushed red pepper
    • 1 t. salt
    • Other herbs to taste
      Brown ground beef or turkey in skillet on stovetop.  Add to slow cooker, with all other ingredients. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Use for topping pasta or to make a delicious lasagna. (Note: If you’ve got a bit of wine left over from last night, toss it in for some added depth of flavor.)
      White Chicken Chili
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      • 4 skinless boneless chicken breasts
      • 3 cans chopped green chili
      • 1 onion, chopped
      • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
      • 4 cups chicken broth
      • 2-14 oz. cans cannellini beans
      • 2 T. cumin
      • 1 T. chili powder
      • 1 t. salt
      • 8 oz. jalapeño Jack cheese, shredded
        Place everything but the Jack cheese into slow cooker and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. At end of cooking time, shred chicken and add shredded cheese. Serve with sour cream and fresh cilantro or scallions. (Note: Spice amounts are approximate. Determine what’s best for your family’s taste buds.)
        Molly Logan Anderson is a freelance writer who lives in the western suburbs of Chicago with her husband, Mike, three kids and two labs. Join Molly on her family’s journey of living a frugal life and making financial freedom their reality in her columns or visit her website at www.mollylogananderson.com.