Usually when we think of a crockpot we think of hearty stews and savory casseroles, perfect for warming up on cold winter nights. Then the long, hot days of summer roll around, and the crockpot goes into storage, gathering dust until the first cold snap hits and makes us remember coming home to a crockpot full of dinner. Don’t be so fast to put that crockpot up for the summer. After all, who wants to cook in a hot kitchen or fry over a grill after playing outside in the sun all day? In this edition of Eat This, Not That, we take a look at delicious, easy crockpot meals especially geared for the summer.
Instead of: Boiled corn-on-the-cob
One of the hallmarks of a delicious summer meal is corn on the cob, fresh from the farm. But nothing is fabulous about sweating over a vat of boiling water. Fishing them out with tongs can be a painful disaster.
Try: Crockpot corn
Not only does the crockpot get the job done without any boiling water, but you can also make several different toppings for the corn at once, cooking up to ten ears at a time. Here’s how:
- Shuck the amount of corn you desire. A large crockpot can cook between four and ten ears of corn at a time.
- Lay each ear of corn on a piece of aluminum foil.
- Before you seal the foil, flavor the corn. You can do a simple salt, pepper, and olive oil or butter, or get crazy with lime, chili, and cilantro, coconut curry, or other flavor combinations. Seal up the foil and cook, from two to five hours, depending on how much corn and whether you cook on the low or the high setting.
We got these flavor and method ideas from The Yummy Life, but when it comes to seasonings, the sky is the limit.
Instead of: Traditional low-country boil
Sure, fresh seafood, corn-on-the-cob, and new potatoes are a delicious and satisfying way to end a long day at the beach. But who really wants to supervise an open flame outside or an oversized pot of boiled ingredients inside?
Try: Crockpot low-country boil
All of your favorite elements of the low-country boil without the fuss or danger of a huge pot of boiling liquid. Start this low-country boil in the crockpot right before you head to the beach, then finish it as everyone hits the showers. By the time the sand is washed away from between everyone’s toes and the newspaper is spread out on the table, dinner will be ready to serve!
Instead of: Fall-off-the-bone grilled beef
Barbeque fans wait all summer long to fire up their smokers to 200 degrees and cook a hunk of beef for 12 hours until it falls apart. While this tender, succulent beef makes a delicious taco or barbecue sandwich, not everyone has the time or the grill to make this happen.
Try: Slow-cooked fall-off-the-bone beef in a crockpot
In the ultimate set-it-and-forget-it move, take a large chuck roast (grass-fed and pasture-raised for heart-healthy omega-3s) and coat it with a dry rub of cumin, smoked paprika, black pepper, and chili powder (as spicy or mild as you like). Brown in olive oil, then pop into the crockpot with stock (beef, chicken, or vegetable) and two or three sliced onions. You can add chilies in adobo sauce for an extra kick, or keep the beef as-is. Cook on low for six to eight hours or on high for three to five.
When it is done, you have a base for shredded beef tacos (serve in corn or flour tortillas with sour cream, guacamole, fresh tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and cheese), barbecue beef sandwiches (add your favorite barbecue sauce and a healthy scoop of coleslaw), or Philly cheesesteaks (add a slice of provolone and some sautéed green peppers and onions). If there is any left over, freeze in individual portions for a quick summertime lunch. No grill or special smoker needed!
Instead of: Salad, salad, and more salad for your vegetarian friends
Sure, summer is the best time of the year for salad with the bounty of fresh, seasonal produce available. But after a while, even with fresh and inventive combinations, salad can get a little boring. Sometimes your vegetarian guests want something seasonal that is a little less like an appetizer and more like an entrée.
Try: Summer vegetarian lasagna in the crockpot
It is almost criminal to have a meal without the summer’s plethora of fresh vegetables, and this delicious crockpot lasagna takes full advantage of the local farmstand with eggplant, fresh corn, zucchini, and summer tomatoes. Take even further advantage of summer’s veggies by making your own tomato sauce for this dish, and use gluten-free noodles and “bread” crumbs for friends who are eliminating gluten.
Instead of: Burbling, bubbling jams and sauces on the stove
You have been to the berry farm (twice!) and picked many flats of sweet summer berries. Or your tomato plant is bursting with tomatoes, begging to be made into sauce. But who wants to stand over a hot stove for hours while they cook down and turn into jammy, sauce-y deliciousness?
Try: Jams and sauces in the crockpot
It’s true: most of what you cook down for hours on the stove to can or freeze for winter can be made easily and safely in the crockpot. Annah van Dunk has a glorious collection of recipes pinned to her Pinterest page Crockpot: Jams, Jellies and Jars, from strawberry rhubarb jam to homemade marinara. While you still need to follow proper canning technique to save these sauces and jellies for a longer period of time, the crockpot eliminates the messiest part of the process, creating a nearly hands-free way to preserve the harvest for the long winter ahead.
Check out more delicious ways to use your crockpot in the summer right here!
Image by Elisha Project via Flickr