Food

The Year-Round Slow Cooker: Ideas for Breakfast and Hearty Stew

Bridge the gap between winter and spring with a warm, three-grain breakfast and a vegetable-packed stew.

Welcome to our new column, a year’s worth of recipes for America’s favorite appliance: the slow cooker! The two of us have become aficionados of this tool and have written the 500-recipe Great American Slow Cooker Book (Clarkson Potter), known in the publishing industry by its technical categorization: a door stop. 

Last year about this time, we were finishing the manuscript, enjoying the last of the braises and stews we’d tested and developed for over a year. As the days hinted toward something beyond the bleakness of our New England winter sky, we couldn’t help trying to find lighter but still hearty fare for March meals. 

Here are a couple of our favorites: a breakfast that’s great on still-chilly mornings and a stew that turns the last of winter’s root vegetables into a satisfying dinner, ready and waiting when you walk through the door at the end of a long day. 

Modern slow cookers have some great new features. Some have a keep-warm setting that makes breakfast possible with no need to set the alarm clock. And they cook slightly hotter so root vegetables turn meltingly creamy by the time you’re ready to eat. If you’ve got an old avocado green model with a dial and no timer, maybe it’s time to trade up. Trust us: you’ll be using this appliance for so many great meals all year long, it’ll be worth it. 

So here’s to a year of slow cooking and lots of recipes ahead. We can’t wait for more! 

About the Three-Grain Porridge 
We adapted this rib-sticking breakfast from our cookbook, adding some bulgur for great texture and a little cinnamon for flavor. Don’t use regular or quick-cooking oats in the mix; the slow cooker morphs the steel-cut oats into a rich, robust cereal. And if possible, use whole-grain bulgur, available at larger supermarkets from small producers. In any event, the bulgur (and the apple) will melt into a creamy base for this very hearty breakfast. It’s also nice with a small dollop of low-fat plain yogurt or sliced banana. 

Ready to start cooking? Click here for the recipe.

About the Root Vegetable Stew
In the dreary last days of winter, take a trip to the south of France without the headaches of air travel by whipping up a batch of this enlightened take on traditional Provençal cassoulet. Because we’re heading toward spring (we hope!), we’ve nixed the wintry ingredients like pork shoulder, cut down the number of spices to lighten up the flavors, and stocked the stew with tons of vegetables. If desired, omit the beans. Serve in bowls and drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar (the more syrupy, the better!). 

Ready to start cooking? Click here for the recipe.