Nicole and I both LOVE a good party! Even if they cause some stress and craziness before the event, it is all worth it when our homes are busting at the seams with conversation, laughter, friends, family, and kiddos running around.
From getting the house cleaned top to bottom, serving dishes ready, decorations prepared, invitations, the list goes on! But with The Entertainer chapter in our new cookbook It’s Our Crockin’ Life we were on a mission to make food prep one less thing to stress about! Not only does it free up time for you to take care of other party prep obligations, but it stays perfectly warm until everyone is ready to eat! There are lots of great party dishes in this chapter that will definitely make your get together a success!
In May we threw Stella a “Puppies That Wear Crowns” party per her request… HA! She loved every second of her one of a kind themed party. Here are some pics of that tail waggin’ good time…
My mother-in-law recently celebrated her 58th birthday… She is constantly doing for others, so it was the family’s chance to do for her. Now if we would have suggested all getting together to eat, she would have insisted on cooking the food herself- and that just wasn’t in the plan for us… so we had to make it a surprise!
We decided on frying up some fish and having a pool party at my brother in law and sister in law’s house, and Stanton kept her occupied for the day while the rest of us party prepped.
Everyone brought their own dish to compliment the meal- and with the wild and crazy week we had with shipping books out, I knew my dish would have to be crockin’! The DELICIOUS shrimp jambalaya that we will be featuring in an upcoming video was the perfect answer! Another complementary crockin’ side was the crock of beans my sister in law brought. It was nice to have two things that didn’t have to be cooked in the last minutes before she arrived for the surprise, and they stayed warm so nicely in programmable crocks. She was surprised, the food was great, and a good time was had by all! SUCCESS!
Recipes that are perfect for entertaining:
Woo Hoo! We are so excited to get this to y’all! We have been asked more times than we can count, “Which slow cooker we recommend.” Since we have been at this for three years now the answer has changed a few times! We did a crockin’ review a couple of years back but since then two of our favorites have been discontinued (pause for a moment of silence as we shed a few tears, lol). The GE non-stick slow cooker really opened our eyes to the “new wave” of slow cookers. Before we started using it all we knew were ceramic crocks but boy does that non-stick insert really help with casseroles and desserts! The older model of Kitchen Aid that we fell in love with was really pretty, cooked evenly, and cleaned well too even though it was ceramic. It was programmable with the switch-to-warm feature. These two crocks have a special place in our hearts but neither are available for our crockin’ community to get their hands on any more. So, we felt it was our duty to do some research for y’all! We have been on a mission to find something we love as much as our two favorites and we found some pretty close contenders! Here is a list of features that we LOVE to see in our slow cookers and this is what we based our review on.
Programmable – We love the fact that slow cookers with this feature pretty much do all but the chopping! Having a programmable slow cooker means it probably has the auto switch-to-warm feature which buys an extra 4+ hours. Most programmable crocks will allow cook times to extend to around 14 hours with the warm feature but one of our testers allowed 24 hour programming! Keep an eye out for that special crock! Programmable cook time is a must for those who are too busy, or work long hours. With this feature you don’t have to be home when the cook time is up!
Non-Stick Insert – This is a fairly new feature in slow cookers and one that we LOVE! A non-stick insert will help you make desserts with ease and cleanup is a breeze! What more could we ask for! Some of these non-stick inserts allow you to place the insert directly on the stove top to brown/sauté vegetables and meats which eliminates the need for a skillet! Most of these are lighter and easier to handle than the ceramic and you don’t have to worry about cracking or breaking them. The main concern with using a non-stick insert is that it can be scratched so you must be careful about what utensils you use.
Travel Features – Cord storage, locking lid, weight of slow cooker, sturdiness, and a few other things all influence whether or not your slow cooker is made to be “on the go.” We love to entertain at home but we also don’t like to arrive empty handed to a party or pot luck! Making and taking meals with the slow cooker is made much easier with some genius ideas of convenience some of these slow cookers have!
Price – You can find slow cookers priced anywhere from under $20 to the $300 range, depending on features, quality, and brand. We always try to bring you a little taste of crockin’ using slow cookers in all price ranges. One thing we do tell our crockin’ community is that we do not typically use the ones in the under $30 range because most of the time they are lacking in features we love and they tend to burn and dry out your food – that is just a BIG no-no.
Size – When crockin’, sometimes size matters. We typically do not buy anything less than a 6 quart slow cooker, unless we are buying it for appetizers. If you are short on storage then we highly recommend a 6 quart since it can be used pretty much universally with our recipes…. However, if you have shelves to spare you may like to start a collection like we have!
Temperature – So many crocks now will boil on LOW. This is why some people end up having so many flops in slow cooking. It is rare to find a slow cooker that is true to its word and cooks dependably on LOW and HIGH, instead of boiling on no matter what temperature. Our favorite method in crockin’ is LOW AND SLOW when possible so cooking too hot is a big no-no. We want to be able to trust that our slow cooker is going to cook our food how we want without having to be there to baby it all the time. We are so disappointed when we come home to a dinner gone wrong because of what we like to call a “hot crock.”
Kitchen Aid – Since the older model Kitchen Aid is one of our FAVORITES, trying this new one made us a little nervous! What if it didn’t compare? One thing we loved right out of the box was that it was a little more compact and light weight. The old Kitchen Aid at 7 quarts was nice but a little bulky. The new one is a 6 quart crock which still works for us as most of our recipes are cooked in a 6 quart. A unique feature of the Kitchen Aid is its rectangular shape. This is ideal for pizza, lasagna, and some fun desserts. It also gives a little extra room if you are wanting to double recipes or cook for a crowd! The programmable feature on this model allows a 24 hour option – this is the longest time we have seen! It auto switches to warm also. We love the Kitchen Aid because it cooks evenly and the temperatures are dependable. Although the crock is ceramic it cleans very easily. This model also includes a minimum fill line and a maximum fill line to help you know how much to fill it in order to ensure even cooking! This slow cooker comes in right at the $100 price range. We found it on amazon.com.
– 6 quart
– programmable up to 24 hours
– auto switches to warm
Crock-Pot Casserole Crock – The Crock-Pot brand is not what we usually buy because this brand often boils our food and cooks unevenly; however, this model really interested us because of its unique shape and size. This is basically like a 13” x 9” baking dish but it is a slow cooker insert! It is rectangular which makes it perfect for casseroles, and just screams, “Take me to a pot-luck!” With it being ceramic and a Crock-Pot brand we had fears that it may burn our food but we had a good experience with this particular model. We only had one corner of a macaroni dish get a little stuck and burned but the overall outcome was great! The insert was easily cleaned as well. This slow cooker is not for you if you plan on having just one slow cooker because it is pretty specific to casseroles since it is shallow. It will not cook a roast or stew very easily so keep that in mind. The locking lid and sturdy rectangular shape make it ideal for travel! This slow cooker can be found for around $40?
– 3.5 quart
– not programmable
West Bend – What a DANDY little slow cooker! Nicole’s first hand-me- down slow cooker her mom gave her was a West Bend. In fact we were still crockin’ in it when we began our Crockin’ Girls journey! We knew they were dependable and that the old one cooked evenly. We were hoping the same would be true more than 30 years later and we were definitely pleasantly surprised! The new West Bend that we just recently ordered still has the same style and light weight, space- saving design which is perfect for those short on storage! So many slow cookers now cook entirely too hot and will boil even on LOW so we were so excited to see that the new West Bend cooked with the same trustworthy, even temps that are sure to lead you to many crockin’ successes! When we did the “Macaroni” challenge, the creamiest result came from this slow cooker. This slow cooker is a little smaller than our others in that it is only 5 quarts but it can still handle most of our recipes. It would be a great 2nd crock to have in your home! BONUS FEATURE: When you remove the crock, the base is actually a griddle, making this the best answer to a soup and grilled cheese combo that we have ever seen! We are in LOVE! The only thing missing from this slow cooker is the programmable feature but we feel totally safe leaving our food in this crock without a timer and trusting it will not burn it! You can find it for around $30.
– 5 quart
– oven, stove top, and freezer safe
– mini griddle
– not programmable
Farberware – When our beloved GE was discontinued we began the search for something that resembled its features. We found the Farberware and had high hopes which were somewhat deflated when we started experimenting. Like the GE it is a 6 quart, cast aluminum (non-stick) insert. It is programmable and has one of our favorite slow cooker features – a retractable cord! However, the Farberware cooks very HOT. We will only be using the LOW option on this slow cooker and even doing that we know to expect things to cook more quickly. We will be limited to cooking soups and other recipes that are not prone to burning. Casserole-type recipes and desserts in this crock will not turn out great. The macaroni that came from the Farberware in our experiment was scorched and not edible. This slow cooker gave the macaroni dish a totally different texture than the other 6 slow cookers. The cheese almost looked curdled due to the high temperatures. This slow cooker was in the $30 range.
All-Clad – Are you looking at doing some SERIOUS crockin’? This may just be your crock! Coming in at a whopping 7 quarts, this heavy duty insert is able to go on the stove top or in the oven. This slow cooker was made to feed the masses! But don’t let this distract from the fact that it is also one of our prettiest slow cookers! If you have room, this stainless slow cooker would look great on your counter top. It is programmable with auto switch-to-warm and cooks very evenly. We are able to use this versatile slow cooker for all types of recipes from breakfast to dessert knowing that it is going to give us great results. Such great quality comes with a bigger price tag than most of the crocks on our shelves – look at spending close to $300. You still with us? I know that is more than most plan to spend on a slow cooker but if you have turned crockin’ into a way of life then it is totally worth it in our opinion. Look at it compared to what you spend on other appliances and know that it is an investment which can make your life a whole lot easier!
Hamilton Beach Stove Top – We finally found a Hamilton Beach that reached our standards! Through the years we have tried multiple slow cookers by this brand and found that they burned our food and cooked very hot. This slow cooker proved that you just have to keep searching sometimes! It is programmable and cooks evenly without having “hot spots” as found in previous models. The insert which is non-stick may be used on the stove top for browning purposes which is a nice feature. Its size and non-stick insert will allow you to cook the majority of our recipes with ease! Overall we like it a lot and recommend it. It is in the mid-price range at $60-$70.
– 6 quart
– stove top safe
Ninja – We have been wanting to get our hands on a Ninja (slow cooker, that is!) for a while now. We knew that this review would not be complete without it. We have heard nothing but praise about this slow cooker and it definitely made it on our favorites list. This particular slow cooker has some neat features including stove top and oven capabilities. It is programmable and the insert is non-stick – two features we LOVE! We know we will be using this one a lot as it will accommodate the majority of our recipes with its 6 quart size and non-stick insert! This slow cooker can be found in a price range of $100-$130 depending on where you shop!
– 6 quart
– auto switch-to-warm
All-Clad Deluxe 7 quart Slow Cooker –
Are you looking at doing some SERIOUS crockin’? This may just be your crock! Coming in with a whopping 7 quart heavy duty insert that is able to go on your stove top, or in your oven- this slow cooker was made to feed the masses! But don’t let this distract from the fact that it is also one of our prettiest slow cookers! If you have room, this stainless slow cooker would look great on your counter top. It is programmable with auto switch to warm and cooks very even. We are able to use this versatile slow cooker for all types of recipes from breakfast through dessert and we know that it is going to give us great results. Such great quality comes with a bigger price tag than most of the crocks on our shelves, look at spending close to $300. You still with us? I know that is more than most plan to spend on a slow cooker, but if you have turned crockin’ into a way of life then it is totally worth it in our opinion. Look at it compared to what you spend on other appliances and know that it is an investment that is making your life a whole lot easier!
– 7 quart
– non-stick aluminum
– stove top safe
Do you ever wish you had an extra set of hands? Yeah, we sure do too! There are mornings and days that we’re lucky if we get our hair in a ponytail and teeth brushed. Our cooking may be slow, but our pace is fast!
Something that makes our day a little less crazed is using Reynolds® Slow Cooker Liners. They’re really functional and make clean up a breeze. Who wants to clean dishes after a long day?! Not us! They’re made of nylon, BPA free, and fit majority of slow cookers on the market. You can put all of your ingredients in the liner and cook using the regular cook times. Once the recipe is done simply serve from the crock or dish it out, but leave the liner in the crock until it cools. Some of our dishes have juices left after they’re done so be careful lifting it out. And that’s it! Don’t be surprised if your kids start offering to do the dishes when they see you using a liner with your next Crockin’ Girls recipe! Oh by the way make sure to print off a $0.75 coupon on the Reynolds® Kitchens website. Happy Crockin’ Y’all!
What game? We’re all about the food (and the commercials)! Finger Lickin Ribs, to Delicious Dips, to Mouthwatering Meatballs, these slow cooker recipes will make watching the big game delicious. Best part is the food stays warm in the crock while you’re cheering on your favorite team! Victory!