The ultimate tool in “set it and forget it” cooking has revamped the way we look at comfort foods and weekday home cooking. And though I’m usually a stickler for keeping my kitchen counters cleared off, my crockpot has become a permanent fixture during the cooler months. But with the ease of throwing ingredients into a pot and coming back hours later to a home-cooked meal, it’s becoming a permanent resident year-round.
After all, why allow your slow cooker to collect dust during the warmer months? It would seem fitting that by using your crockpot during the spring and summer, you would afford yourself more time to be outdoors enjoying the sunshine. What’s more, this little energy-efficient appliance is also ecofriendly and saves you time and money!
Putting together a crockpot recipe is fairly simple, especially when you use my handy guide below:
Begin with a protein, such as:
- Chuck roast
- Short ribs
- Dried beans
Add vegetables (or fruit), like:
Choose your liquid, as needed, such as:
- Chicken or beef stock
- Red or white wine
- Soy sauce
Add in your finishing touches to complete your meal. Some of my favorites include:
- Fresh herbs
- Tomato paste
- Garlic and/or ginger
- Maple syrup
From here, it is all about your preference in terms of additional ingredients. You can add as many vegetables as you want, and the sky is really the limit in terms of flavor combinations. Once everything is added, you can set the dial to low heat or high heat depending on how much time you have or how long you would like the flavors to marry. And voila! Dinner is served.
Chef’s Notes: Generally speaking, when using any type of meat, it is a good idea to brown the outside prior to adding to the crockpot. You may also be able to brown your meat in your crockpot, depending on which type you have. Many of the newer versions have multiple settings, allowing you to use one pot for your entire meal. Once you have browned your meat, transfer to the crockpot (or simply change the setting) and choose a liquid to deglaze the pan, so you get the wonderfully flavorful bits that are leftover in the pan. Transfer this to the crockpot if you’re using a separate pot and add enough additional liquid to cover the meat.
An Endless Variety for Any Season
You don’t have to make a full-blown meal, however, as crockpots are great for main dishes, side dishes, and even desserts. In fact, I used the formula above to create the perfect side dish to kick off your spring or summer barbecue. I began with my protein (beans and bacon), added a fruit rather than a vegetable (peaches), and then added a variety of finishing touches for just the right flavor combination. Check out my Peach Bourbon Baked Beans recipe here:
Crockpot Peach Bourbon Baked Beans
- 6 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped
- 2 (15-oz) cans cannellini beans
- 2 (15-oz) cans pinto beans
- 2 peaches, peeled and finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ cup ketchup (no sugar added)
- ¼ cup bourbon
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp paprika
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Add all ingredients to crockpot.
- Heat on low for 6 hours or on high for 4 hours.
- The beans will remain warm for up to 2 hours once you have turned off the crockpot.
- Serve with your favorite grilled protein and enjoy!
Chef Note: If peaches are not in season, go ahead and use canned—be sure to use ones that have not been soaking in high fructose corn syrup but rather just in water or their own natural juices—or you can also use frozen peaches.
Chef Note: Two peaches yield roughly 2 cups.
Chef Note: If you have a concern about using bourbon, you may omit this ingredient. It may be important to mention that all of the alcohol cooks out during the cooking process, so this is completely acceptable for children or folks who don’t choose to imbibe.
Chef Note: You may use a variation of sugar substitutes, but I have found that pure maple syrup when used in combination with the other ingredients provides the perfect flavor profile for this peach bourbon baked beans recipe.
Nutrition Facts (per serving):
- Calories: 246
- Fat: 6.2 g
- Carbs: 33.4 g
- Fiber: 7.2 g
- Protein: 12 g
Whether you decide to give this peach bourbon baked beans recipe a try or create your own masterpiece with the formula above, I think you’ll find the crockpot is worth leaving out year-round for easy homecooked meals any day or night of the week. You can even enjoy simply delicious side dishes like these baked beans.