Does anyone besides me long for the cooler, crisp days of fall? It seems like fall is mighty slow getting here this year. But when it does, I have found for us the best ever slow cooker recipes.

It is so easy to get out the crock pot in the morning and have a delicious supper when we arrive home from work or even if we have been home all day. It seems like slow cookers are gaining in popularity, and new recipes are being shared daily, including main dishes, casseroles, soups, stews, beverages and desserts.

Today, in preparation for those cool days of fall, I share with you recipes for Spiced Caramel Cider, Beef Stroganoff, Sweet and Sour Chicken, Potato Soup, and Rum-Raisin Rice Pudding. Make your life a little easier by using your slow cooker often for scrumptious meals made easy. Happy fall, y’all! Enjoy.

Spiced Caramel Cider: Hands on time- 15 minutes — Cook time- 3 hours and 15 minutes

1/2 cup sugar

3 TBSP water

1 TBSP butter

1/3 cup whipping cream

5 whole allspice

5 whole cloves

2-3” cinnamon sticks

10 cups apple cider (if you prefer less spicy, substitute apple juice)

1/4 cup orange juice

1 TBSP lemon juice

Place sugar and water is a small, heavy saucepan.

Cook over medium-low heat for 3 minutes or until sugar melts, stirring gently.

Continue cooking for 5 minutes or until golden (do not stir).

Remove from heat.

Let stand for 1 minute,

Add butter, stirring until melted.

Gradually add whipping cream, stirring constantly.

Cook over medium heat 1 minute or until caramel sauce is smooth, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat.

Place allspice, cloves and cinnamon sticks on a double layer of cheesecloth.

Gather edges of cheesecloth together and tie securely.

Place in a 4 qt slow cooker.

Add cider, orange juice, and caramel sauce, stirring until caramel sauce is dissolved.

Cover and cook on low for 3 hours.

Remove and discard cheesecloth bag.

Stir in lemon juice.

Beef Stroganoff: Hands on time-15 minutes — cook time — 8 1/2 hours

1 lb top round steak, 1” thick, trimmed

1 cup chopped onion

2 TBSP chopped fresh parsley

2 TBSP Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp dried dill

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 — 8 oz pkg sliced mushrooms (about 2 cups)

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup low sodium beef broth

8 oz reduced fat sour cream

2 cups hot cooked medium egg noodles (4 oz uncooked noodles)

Cut steak diagonally across the grain into 1/2” thick slices.

_Place steak, onion and next 7 ingredients in a 3 qt slow cooker.

Stir well.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup and level with a knife.

Place flour in a small bowl.

Gradually add broth, stirring with a whisk until blended,

Add broth mixture to the slow cooker and stir well.

Cover and cook on high for 1 hour.

Reduce heat to low and cook for 7 — 8 hours until steak is tender.

Turn slow cooker off and remove the lid.

Let the stroganoff stand for 10 minutes,

Stir in sour cream.

Serve over hot noodles.

Sweet and Sour Chicken: Hands-on time 10 minutes — Cooking time 6 hours

1 cup chopped onion

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup ketchup

1/4 cup orange juice

3 TBSP corn starch

3 TBSP apple cider vinegar

2 TBSP soy sauce

1 TBSP grated and peeled fresh ginger

1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken thighs cut into 1” pieces

2 — 8 oz cans pineapple chunks in juice, drained

1 large green pepper cut into 3/4” pieces

1 large red bell pepper cut into 3/4” pieces

3 cups hot cooked white rice

Combine first 12 ingredients in slow cooker.

Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or high for 4 hours.

Serve over rice.

Potato soup: Hands-on time — 15 minutes — Cook time — 8.5 hours

3 bacon slices

1 cup chopped onion

3 lbs baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4” slices

Cooking spray

1/2 cup water

2-14.5 oz cans fat free chicken broth

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

2 cups 1% low-fat milk

4 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided

1/2 cup light sour cream

4 tsp chopped fresh chives

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp.

Remove bacon from heat reserving 2 tsp drippings in a pan.

Crumble bacon.

Add onion to drippings and saute for 3 minutes or until tender.

Place potato slices and onions in a 5 qt slow cooker which has been coated with spray.

Combine 1/2 cup water and the next 3 ingredients into the slow cooker and stir well.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours until potatoes are tender.

Mash mixture with a potato masher.

Stir in milk and 3/4 cup cheese.

Increase heat to high.

Cover and cook for 20 minutes until soup is thoroughly heated.

Ladle into bowls and top with sour cream and remaining 1/4 cup cheese.

Sprinkle with bacon and chives.

Rum-Raisin Rice Pudding: Hands -on time 10 minutes — Cook time 4 hours

1/2 cup raisins

1/4 cup dark rum

1-12 oz can evaporated milk

1-1/2 cups water

1/3 cup sugar

3/4 cup uncooked rice, preferably Arborio rice

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (may use powdered nutmeg)

Combine raisins and rum

Set aside.

Combine evaporated milk and 1-1/2 cups water in a medium saucepan.

Bring to a simmer over medium heat.

Add sugar, stirring to dissolve.

Remove from heat.

Pour milk mixture into a 3 qt slow cooker.

Stir in rice and salt.

Cover and cook on low for 4 hours or just until pudding is set in the center.

Stir after 1 hour and stir again after 3 hours.

Stir in raisin mixture and nutmeg.

Let stand uncovered for 10 minutes.

Serve warm.

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