Using the Slow Cooker
Slow cookers, especially in the Southern kitchen, have stood the test of time, more than forty years, in fact. I remember my mom breaking out her vintage Rival, a 5-quart round cooker bearing the tell-tale colors of the 1970s: avocado and brown. She’d make everything from pinto beans to apple butter in it, and no matter what she was whipping up, the house always smelled divine.
Slow cookers are not only incredibly efficient, but they can also make typically laborious cooking tasks, such as making homemade chicken stock, a breeze. The cooker’s gentle, low heat is simply made for breaking down tough cuts of meat like ribs, roasts, and shoulders until they are meltingly tender. And who knew you could bake a cake in the slow cooker? Well, you can, and it can be 100 percent homemade.
One of the best features of the slow cooker is that it can be left unattended for long periods of time, letting you take care of other business while the cooker does all the work. Also, even though some of the recipes in this book have less than six hours of cooking time (such as desserts and some side dishes), many do require longer cooking times and are, therefore, appropriate for prepping before you head off to work or to bed.
This hearty, slow-cooked, tomato-based dish gets its name from the long-grain rice that is blended into the meatball mixture giving it a quill-like quality. This is comfort food at its finest and an ideal cold-weather meal. Serve these delicate meatballs topped with grated Parmesan alongside a green salad and a wedge of crusty bread for soaking up any leftover sauce. For an amazing second-day meal, you can make meatball subs: just spoon some warm meatballs into sub rolls, top with provolone cheese, and broil until the cheese melts. • The meatballs are different from traditional Italian meatballs. They are more fragile, so avoid stirring them too much, or they’ll fall apart. If they do break apart, no worries, just serve them over mashed potatoes, which is another great combination.
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chiles (such as Rotel brand), drained
1 (5.5-ounce) can tomato juice
1 (10.75-ounce) can tomato soup
1 cup water
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1½ teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried parsley
2 bay leaves
Spray the inside of the slow cooker with cooking spray.
To make the sauce, add both cans of tomatoes, the tomato juice, tomato soup, water, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, oregano, dried parsley, and bay leaves to the slow cooker and stir well.
1½ pounds extra-lean ground beef
½ cup uncooked long-grain rice
1 small onion, diced
½ cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1½ teaspoons prepared horseradish
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of celery salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and black pepper
Fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced, for garnish
Grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
To make the meatballs, mix together the beef, rice, onion, milk, egg, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, garlic, basil, oregano, salt, pepper, and celery salt in a large bowl. Gently form into round balls 1½ to 2 inches in diameter.
Heat a large sauté pan on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil. Add the meatballs and brown well on all sides, about 5 to 7 minutes.
When the meatballs are all browned, add them to the slow cooker along with the pan juices. Stir gently once or twice until all of the meatballs are coated in sauce, being careful not to break them up. Cover and cook on low at least 6 hours, and up to 8 hours.
If you would prefer a thicker sauce, set the slow cooker to high and uncover it for the last 30 to 45 minutes of cooking, or until the sauce is thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the bay leaves.
To serve, spoon the meatballs and sauce into individual serving bowls and top with fresh parsley and Parmesan cheese.