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Slow Cooker is Savior of Cool Fall Days

Everyone has those days when all they want to do is spend hours in their kitchen. Taking the time to chop fresh vegetables into perfect pieces, making homemade stock and stirring thick sauces for hours, the way our grandmothers did it, is a joy. Standing in front of the stove watching your creation bake from start to finish is heaven on earth. Then, there’s the rest of the year. Like cool fall days in Mississippi, the only period of time when outdoor activities are pleasant. It’s then that chopping knives and wooden spoons are put away and the slow cooker proves its worth.

I mentioned this theory to a friend last week when the temperature finally dropped below 80 degrees. I was shocked to learn she’s one of the few people on earth who doesn’t own one of the best kitchen appliances known to man. At last count, I have three, including a Ninja 3-in-1 that triples as an oven, stove top, and slow cooker. Another favorite is my programmable Crock-pot that can be set to cook for several hours and clicks off when the food is done.

Digging through my cookbooks for a new slow cooker recipe, I ran across a book containing over 1,000 recipes. Unlike many recipes with banal names, this book is filled with intriguing-sounding entries. Record-Breaking Beans caught my eye, but on second glance, I realized it’s a basic baked beans recipe. However, Beans to the Rescue offered a new twist on a vegetable medley.

To make it, rinse and drain a pound of dried pinto beans, then place them in a sprayed slow cooker along with a 1/3 cup of brown rice, 12-ounce carton of chicken broth, 10-ounce thawed package of frozen chopped bell peppers and onions, 11-ounce can of drained Mexicorn, package of small cocktail sausages, teaspoon of minced garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon of spicy seasoning. Cover and cook on low for 7 to 9 hours. Just like that, you have an interesting side dish that's hearty enough for a main dish.

Hash Brown Prosperity, The Onion Solution, Krazy Karrots, Pirate Stew for a Chew, Terrific Tortilla Soup Threat, Make Believe Chicken Chili, Neighbor Night Sandwiches, and Big Taste Corn are also on my must-try list.

One recipe with an equally-appealing name stood out for its creativity and its appeal to adults and kids. When you tell children meatloaf is on the menu, you receive a chorus of groans. And most adults don’t consider pizza a well-balanced meal. However, when you combine the two, everyone gets their wish. So, place Everybody’s Happy Meatloaf Pizza in the slow cooker, flip the switch and enjoy fall!

Everybody’s Happy Meatloaf Pizza

1-1/2 pounds ground chuck

1 cup pizza sauce (more for topping)

1 egg

10-ounce package chopped green pepper and onions, thawed

3 slices white bread, crusts removed

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Dash of salt and pepper

Cut bread into 1-inch cubes, cover with milk in a bowl and set aside for five minutes. Then combine all ingredients, including soaked bread cubes, form a loaf, and cook in a foil-lined slow cooker on low for 8 to 10 hours. Use enough foil to cover bottom and to create long pieces up the side of the slow cooker. When done, remove meatloaf by pulling up foil sides. Place meatloaf on a heat-save serving dish and top with another cup of pizza sauce, cup of mozzarella cheese, and any additional favorite toppings, including pepperoni, mushrooms, etc.

Remove foil and place dish in the microwave for 2-3 minutes to melt cheese.

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