Friday, January 24, 2014

Easy Tailgating, Pot Luck And Super Bowl Recipes For Your Slow Cooker

This year's Super Bowl is fast approaching.  No matter what team you may cheer for, one thing is certain:  good food makes for a great game.

Especially when that good food can be easy to make and left for your slow cooker to do all the work.  Because we are so busy but want to eat healthfully, our slow cookers get a work-out every single week at our house.

Using your crock-pot for a giant part of the meal or for snacks makes a huge difference in stress and time for the cook.  If you want to be able to enjoy the game, not miss it entirely because you are chained to the stove, then a slow cooker meal can be a huge help.

Especially if you plan on feeding a crowd at a party or a big tailgate.

Here are some of my favorite ideas from easy tailgating and slow cooker meals from your crockpot that are perfect for a big game day feast:

My number one favorite idea is to make a big pot of chili, and let it simmer away in the crock-pot until the tomato sauce is thick and the flavors are perfectly melded.   I make a pot of chili with lean ground turkey and lean ground beef, fried up on the stove in a nonstick pan until browned with a little onion and garlic.  I pop this browned mixture into the bowl of the slow cooker, then add seasonings, beans, a big can of crushed tomatoes, some petite diced tomatoes, and sometimes a can of tomato paste depending on how thick I want it to be (thick is good if you are using this for nachos), and let it simmer in the crock-pot for hours.  I season mine with medium chili powder and adobo seasoning from Penzeys.

The key is the brown the meat well with the onions BEFORE you put in the crockpot, scraping up all the browned bits from the pan into the crockpot for a full flavor -- the browned bits are the key to some smoky depth in your chili.

If you let this simmer all day, by the time the game starts your house will smell amazing and your chili spices will have soaked into all the ingredients just perfectly.  This is a winner every single time.

Sometimes we eat our chili over cooked pasta (the way we always ate it growing up when I was a kid).  When you eat it this way, a looser chili is better, so the pasta can soak up a lot of the chili juice as you are eating -- it is delicious!  When we eat it this way, we top with a little grated Parmesan cheese for a savory, umami nod to spaghetti -- it sounds like it would taste a little funky, but once you try it, you will know why it is sooooooo good.

Sometimes, we'll serve the chili just plain in a bowl with a buffet of toppings:  sliced green onions, diced avocado, mini saltine crackers or oyster crackers, shredded sharp cheddar, chopped red onions, chopped cilantro, tortilla chips, chopped fresh tomato, sour cream, salsa, sliced pickled jalapenos, Tabasco chipotle hot sauce, you name it.  Then, everyone gets to top their bowl the way they like it.

The best part about a hot slow cooker full of chili is that you can make it work for a continuous nacho buffet.  I hate it when you make a big pan of nachos and they get soggy and disgusting by the time folks go back for a second helping.  By leaving the chili in the slow cooker, you can make the nachos one serving at a time -- your chips are always crunchy that way -- by layering your plate with chips, then cheese, then a ladle of hot chili over top, then whatever toppings you might want (see the above chili buffet ideas).

If chili is not your thing, there are a bazillion more possibilities for an easy game day or tailgating meal from your slow cooker.  Any of these are winners that we have had at our house:

-- Easy Tex Mex Chicken for nachos, tostadas, or tacos  (and another variation for chicken tacos is here)

-- The chicken recipe also makes a delicious Chicken Taco Salad.  So if you have any leftovers from game day, you are in serious luck!

-- Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas

-- Easy New Orleans-Style Dirty Rice

-- Slow Cooker Red Beans From Scratch 

-- Easy Meatball Subs:  A fun and easy way to serve these is to get the smaller Hawaiian rolls and make them into meatball sliders -- you can put out toppings like pesto sauce, sliced roasted red peppers, sliced hot Italian peppers, shredded cheese, etc., and everyone can make their own sandwich. The toppings also work wonderfully well for meatball subs, just get the larger hoagie or Italian-style buns and let your family and guests load their own sandwich. We have a local brand of Italian peppers that are fantastic -- Oliverio's -- and they ship nationwide, in case this sounds good to you, too.

-- Crock-Pot Sticky Chicken Legs and Thighs

-- Banana Macadamia French Toast CasseroleNot a crock-pot recipe, but an easy one nonetheless because you make it the night before.  This is more dessert-ish, in a bread pudding kind of way, but it makes for a fantastic day of the game or day after game day breakfast that you make ahead and just have to pop in the oven.  It also does make for a great dessert, especially if you top it with a few mini chocolate chips at the very end of baking, so that it gets coated with a layer of chocolate drizzle.  Yum!  Here's a variation on that made with some banana muffins back in the day -- delish!

Here are some past posts on slow cooker recipes, tailgating and game day food ideas that don't come from your slow cooker but are fairly easy nonetheless, and easy entertaining ideas:

-- Tailgate and Pot Luck recipes
-- Crockpot Recipe-O-Rama
-- More Tailgating and Crockpot recipes
-- Superbowl recipes
-- More Superbowl recipes (healthier version)
-- Slow Cooker Red Beans And Rice from scratch
--  New Orleans Recipe Round-up
-- Antipasto/Muffaletta Pasta Salad
-- Super Bowl Food and Mardi Gras Recipes
-- Slow Cooker Soups
-- Appetizers and Party Fare Ideas
-- Healthier Slow Cooker Recipes
-- Slow Cooker Ideas For Chicken Thighs (including a delicious recipe for butter chicken and tikka masala)
-- Crockpot Dal Recipe

(Photo via All Taken.)

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