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New slow cooker cookbook takes your crock beyond soups and stews (+ recipes for you to try!)

Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes A Joy Makin' Mamas ReviewI have featured my bottom of the line, workhorse 4 quart slow cooker in my photos so often that I have occasionally thought maybe I should get a new one just so you guys would have something new to look at. I kept using it even after the original handle broke off- I just picked up an orphaned lid from the thrift store and turned it into the Frankenstein’s Monster of slow cookers. (A nice perk is that the new handle is much easier to grab, so I don’t worry as much about dropping the lid. It also doesn’t get as hot. I’m dangerously close to advising you to void your warranty by modifying your cooker with off-list parts… I’ll stop before I get us all into trouble.) If I need any further credentials regarding my expertise in the world of slow cooking, well… I don’t have much to offer you except that I’ve been a dogged fanatic for almost 16 years now.

The news says they are making a “come back.” The theory is that the recession has led to fewer restaurant meals, and so the ease and convenience of the slow cooker is leading us all right back to it. Combine that with new demographics discovering the joy of entertaining, and slow cooker sales are booming. I am not surprised they are popular, but I confess I WAS surprised to hear they are “back.” I hadn’t realized they were ever gone. It would be impossible, in my opinion, to overstate the convenience they offer. Whether your household is DINK, WAHM, SAHM, SAHD, or one crazy cat lady, that slow cooker is a simple, inexpensive, hands off way to make sure dinner is ready when you are hungry. (And I have used mine in every situation but SAHD. YES, my crazy cat lady credential arrived early in life. DEAL WITH IT.)

That’s why I am so excited to have in my hot little hands a review copy of Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes: 200 Recipes by Donna-Marie Pye. I think most of us look for similar things in a cookbook- ease of use, which means good organization, eye candy/food porn (PICTURES, okay?), and whether our family will eat the food. That last one is kind of a deal breaker… if it’s just got pretty pictures of food no one here will eat? I’ll browse it in the book store but it’s not going to live on my shelf. (Ok, maybe my virtual shelf? I could see having an e-cookbook just for the pretty pictures, but actual shelf space is at a premium around here.)

Buy on Amazon: Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes: 200 Recipes {Aff Link}

If you would like to do more than the “add a can of this” type of slow cooking, you’ll appreciate this book. Moving beyond soups and stews, this book not only offers recipes for a wide variety of dishes, it includes helpful ingredient hints, like how to cook with a tomatillo. I’ve never touched a tomatillo, but I may just make it a point to go there now that someone has brought it up. (Why have I never done that, you ask? Because you cook with what you can get your hands on, and I can honestly say I don’t remember ever seeing one in the small town I lived in before moving to the metro area I now call home. After 11 years, you get into habits, ok?) As you can see from the sample images I’ve included (with permission from the publisher, of course), it does indeed include attractive, full color, full page photos to make you drool while you plan your menu.

Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes is organized by main ingredient or type of dish. The second to last chapter (right before desserts- my personal favorite) is called “Double Duty Dinners.” This section is devoted to meals you crock cook the first night, and then transform into something totally different the second night. Cook once (-ish, or and-a-half) and eat twice. I like it. This is a great idea for busy families, particularly since this type of forward planning tends to help you with your time budget and your money budget, both. Also, the size of slow cooker needed for each recipe is noted at the top of the recipe, so there will be no ugly surprises after you start cooking.

Much as I would like to have made (and eaten!) every one of these 200 recipes before writing about this book- and I did work up an appetite while I was reading them all- it would take weeks or months for me to do that. I did have a hard time picking just a couple to try, because a great many of these pass the “will my children eat this” test, and even more of them pass the “will I put the children to bed early so my husband and I can eat this in peace” test. In the end, I decided to test drive one of the Double Duty dinners, and I got permission from the publisher to share three of the recipes with you, so you can try them yourself.

I enlisted some help and JMM Danette Z and I tested some of the recipes from this book. We are pleased to report that the directions are easy to follow, the cooking times are accurate, and the recipes come out as they are supposed to. Like always, we got mixed reviews from our families depending on what we chose… but trying something new is always fun, and adding even three or four new slow cooker favorites to the family rotation means three more nights a month when I can set dinner up when I have time, and eat it when it’s ready! I’m in!Nonnas Mini Meatball Soup Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes Joy Makin' Mamas Review

Nonna’s Mini-Meatball Soup, page 49, kid-fav
Recipe type: soup
Cuisine: Italian
• Minimum 5-quart slow cooker Makes 6 to 8 servings This soup reminds of the one I’m served when I visit my friend Maria’s house. Her mother always has a pot of soup on the stove, or if she doesn't, she will quickly make one for you with whatever.
  • 1 lb lean ground beef 500 g
  • 1 lb lean ground pork 500 g
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese 250 mL
  • 1 cup fine dry Italian bread crumbs 250 mL
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, finely chopped (about 1 cup/250 mL)
  • ½ tsp salt 2 mL
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper 2 mL
  • 6 cups chicken broth 1.5 L
  • 2 cups packed baby spinach, coarsely chopped, 500 mL (or chopped escarole)
  • 2 cups cooked small pasta, such as elbows, tubetti, shells or stars 500 mL
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
  1. In a large bowl, combine beef, pork, Parmesan, bread crumbs, eggs, parsley, salt and pepper. Using your hands, roll into ¾-inch (2 cm) meatballs. Place meatballs in slow cooker stoneware. Gently pour in broth.
  2. Cover and cook on Low for 8 to 9 hours or on High for 41?2 to 5 hours, until soup is bubbling and meatballs are cooked through.
  3. Stir in spinach. Cover and cook on High for 10 to 15 minutes or until greens are wilted, bright green and tender. Stir in cooked pasta.
  4. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with additional Parmesan, if desired.
Tip: If you don’t have homemade chicken stock, use ready-to-use chicken broth. I like to keep 32-oz (1 L) Tetra Paks of broth on hand, especially the sodium-reduced variety. They come in handy when you’re making soups and stews. Another option is to use three 10-oz (284 mL) cans of broth and add enough water to make 6 cups (1.5 L). Avoid broth cubes and powders, which tend to be salty.

Courtesy of Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes by Donna-Marie Pye, 2014 © www.robertrose.ca

Reprinted with publisher permission.

Holy Mole Chili Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes Joy Makin' Mamas Review
Holy Mole Chili, page 86, vegetarian
Makes 4 to 6 servings With its notes of cumin, cinnamon and chocolate playing off the gentle spices, this meatless chili combines the best of a mole sauce and a Cincinnati-style chili. Its rich body makes it a seriously satisfying dinner any night of the week. • Minimum 4-quart slow cooker
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 can (19 oz/540 mL) diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 can (14 oz/398 mL) baked beans in tomato sauce
  • 2 cups cooked or canned romano or pinto beans (see page 84), drained and rinsed 500 mL
  • 2 cups cooked or canned black beans (see page 84), drained and rinsed 500 mL
  • 1 tbsp chili powder 15 mL
  • 2 tsp ground cumin 10 mL
  • 2 tsp ground coriander 10 mL
  • ¼ cup mole paste (see tip, at left) 60 mL
  • ½ cup vegetable or chicken broth 125 mL
  • Crushed tortilla chips, chopped fresh cilantro, shredded Cheddar cheese (optional)
  1. In slow cooker stoneware, combine garlic, green pepper, onion, tomatoes with juice, beans in tomato sauce, romano beans, black beans, chili powder, cumin and coriander.
  2. In a bowl, combine mole paste and broth. Using a fork, gently stir together into a thin sauce. Stir into bean mixture.
  3. Cover and cook on Low for 5 to 6 hours or on High for 21?2 to 3 hours, until vegetables are tender and chili is bubbling. Serve topped with tortilla chips, cilantro and cheese (if using).
Make Ahead: This dish can be assembled up to 12 hours in advance. Prepare through step 2, cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day, place stoneware in slow cooker and proceed with step 3.

Tip: If you can’t find mole paste, substitute 1 tbsp (15 mL) unsweetened cocoa powder and 1?2 tsp (2 mL) ground cinnamon. Mole paste is a rich, dark, reddish brown sauce used in many Mexican poultry dishes. It is a smooth cooked blend of onions, garlic, several varieties of chiles, ground seeds (such as pumpkin or sesame) and a small amount of Mexican chocolate, which adds richness without being overly sweet. You can find mole paste in the Mexican foods section of the supermarket or in specialty stores.

Courtesy of Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes by Donna-Marie Pye, 2014 © www.robertrose.ca

Reprinted with publisher permission.

Creamy Caramel Blondies Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes Joy Makin' Mamas Review
Creamy Caramel Blondies, page 346, desserts, kid-fav
Makes 4 to 6 servings My son, Jack, and I are caramel and butterscotch fanatics! Blondies are often described as brownies without chocolate, which I find silly: blondies have their own unique, delicious personality. While brownies depend on chocolate for their flavor, with blondies it’s all about the brown sugar. This tasty dessert combines a cake top over a creamy caramel sauce. Be sure to serve with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. • 4- to 5-quart slow cooker
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour 250 mL
  • 1 tsp baking powder 5 mL
  • ½ tsp salt 2 mL
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar, divided 250 mL
  • ¼ cup butter, softened 60 mL
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 5 mL
  • ½ cup milk 125 mL
  • ½ cup soft caramels, wrappers removed 125 mL
  • 1 cup boiling water 250 mL
  1. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.
  2. In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat half the brown sugar and butter until creamy.
  3. Stir in vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with milk, making three additions of each and beating well after each addition. Stir in caramels. Spread batter evenly in slow cooker stoneware.
  4. In a glass measuring cup, combine the remaining brown sugar and boiling water, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Pour evenly over batter.
  5. Cover and cook on High for 21?2 to 3 hours or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes
  6. out clean.
Tip: It is best to use individually wrapped soft caramels, but you can substitute ½ cup (125 mL) butterscotch chips.

Courtesy of Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes by Donna-Marie Pye, 2014 © www.robertrose.ca

Reprinted with publisher permission.

I’d love to hear how they go for you! This book is definitely going into my meal planning rotation, and I’m sure I’ll be singing the praises of the tomatillo for you soon.

Looking for more ways to live it up on a budget? Check out my Good Life Pinterest Board:
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Honey Praline Bread Pudding Recipe

honey praline bread pudding recipe Joy Makin Mamas
When I host a brunch time gathering, I like to make something that is definitely a treat, but that has enough substance to keep you going through the next part of the day. This hearty bread pudding was perfect on both counts. I tried it with fruit, nuts, whipped cream, and powdered sugar and cinnamon. My little guy declared it “honey cake” (Why? I have no idea, as it’s nothing like cake, but if it makes him happy, it makes me happy.) and kept trying to steal mine. (You’re lucky I got a photo for you, as he’s perfectly capable of inserting his spoon right into my photo shoot!)

My guests also seemed to approve, as I got many compliments. My only word of advice is to make sure you use a large enough casserole. I did not, and the praline topping boiled over into an unholy mess in my oven. Enjoy!

Honey Praline Bread Pudding Recipe
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Serves: 16
This delicious bread pudding has a slightly crispy praline topping and it's own, deliciously sweet syrup when you dish it up. Prep the night before and pop it into the oven for an easy brunch dish.
  • 1 16 oz loaf raisin bread, slices cut in half
  • 8 eggs
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • 3¼ cups milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¾ cup butter
  • 1⅓ cups brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons honey
  1. Grease the inside of a large (at least 2.5 liters) casserole dish. Arrange the bread slices inside.
  2. Beat together eggs, milk, melted butter, vanilla, and cinnamon. Pour over slices and cover. Refrigerate overnight.
  3. In the morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  4. In a large glass mixing bowl or measuring cup, combine remaining butter, sugar, and honey and microwave, on high, in 1 minute increments until hot and bubbly. Pour over bread and egg mixture in pan.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes uncovered, or until the center is set.

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Dinner Rolls From Scratch that turn out every time!

Basic Dinner Rolls from scratch recipeEverybody loves fresh bread, so sometimes all you need to make dinner super special is some hot, fresh dinner rolls and a little butter. I bet you think they are hard to make, but you couldn’t be more wrong! Thanks to this super easy recipe from JMM Danette, you will be putting out hot, fresh dinner rolls any time you want.

If you love dinner rolls, you’ll be delighted to keep this basic recipe handy. All the ingredients are things you most likely keep on hand all the time, so you can throw them together without too much advance planning. They’ll be ready in just a bit over an hour, so if you start them when you start thinking about what’s for dinner, they’ll be ready when you are. Make ahead tip: Make the dough, do the first rise, and roll the balls for the rolls. Line your “roll pan” with foil and load up the rolls as though you were planning to bake them. Freeze them, pop them out of the pan, and store them in a freezer bag to bake later. Just pull them out of the freezer, put them in the pan and let them thaw and do their second rise in the pan. Bonus: The foil will save on cleanup. Continue reading Dinner Rolls From Scratch that turn out every time!

Mary-Alice’s No Honey Honey chicken

No Honey Honey Chicken RecipeWhen I went away to college and got the rudest dietary shock of my entire life, I used to dream about this chicken at night. It is so, so, SO good and you never get tired of it. I even developed a vegan version of it during my vegetarian/dairy intolerant years, because I couldn’t live without it. The vegan version isn’t QUITE the same, but it’s very very good, and I served it to many a tofu hater who was pleasantly surprised to find they liked it.

The chicken recipe is also included in our Joy Troupe Family Favorites cookbook, but this is the official internet debut of the vegan version. (Odd since I’m once again an omnivore, but I’m still a veg*an sympathizer!) Want to pin this recipe? Click here.

Mary-Alice's No Honey Honey chicken
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
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Serves: 6
this delicious chicken recipe is great immediately, perfect for buffet service, holds well, reheats well, freezes well, basically does everything well. It is the perfect food.
  • 2-3 lbs chicken parts
  • 3 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 5 oz soy sauce
  • 1 stick butter
  1. Combine all ingredients except chicken in sauce pan and melt over medium heat. Pour over clean chicken parts in baking dish and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 90 minutes.
TIPS: I use reduced sodium soy sauce and cheap maple syrup. The meat comes out very tender and has a nice, dark color to it. It makes great party wings. The only caveat is to make sure the pan you use isn't too big, or the tops of the chicken pieces will dry out and will not have the nice flavor of the rest. This is excellent served with egg noodles and salad. CROCK POT LOVERS: Rejoice- you can do this in the slow cooker if you substitute boneless, skinless thighs for the chicken pieces.

If you have ever had this, you will never, ever forget it, and you will always want more! Now, for the vegan version. If you are NOT vegan and you are making this for someone who is, be aware that “cheap” maple syrups may not be vegan, so get the real stuff.
Meghan's No Honey Honey Tofu
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
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Serves: 8
This is my vegan version of my favorite chicken dish of all time.
  • 2 blocks of extra firm tofu
  • 1 block silken tofu
  • 5 oz soy sauce
  • 3 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil (peanut or canola are my preference, but sesame is nice too.)
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • pinch of nutritional yeast (optional)
  1. Slice the extra firm tofu approximately ¾" thick, and drain on towels for about ½ hour.
  2. Combine soy sauce, maple syrup, vegetable oil, salt, and nutritional yeast.
  3. Lay extra firm tofu slices in a single layer in a baking dish. Crumble the silken tofu and spread evenly over top.
  4. Pour sauce over tofu and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 1 hour, until the tofu has darkened and the sauce has started to caramelize on top. (Sort of looks like the skin on pudding.)
I've also done this in the crock pot, but I don't remember how long it took. Four hours is a reasonable starting point if you want to experiment with it.

Both versions of this recipe are perfect served with rice or noodles and a green vegetable. I personally think green beans with almonds set the whole thing off just right, and the sauce from the pan over some noodles is almost better than the main event! Enjoy!

Visit our Cookin’ Hot Mamas page for more awesome recipes, indexed by ingredient.