The cold weather has been steadily rolling into New Jersey. Winter is officially here to stay – well, for a few months at least. Nothing helps you keep warm quite as well as a hot meal. With the sun setting so early, winter days can feel very short. Sometimes the last thing you want to do is cook after a long day at work. It’s on these days that a crockpot can really come in handy. Set it in the morning and come home to a fully cooked hot meal ready to be eaten. Crockpot cooking seems to be made for the winter. Here are a few recipes that will help keep you warm all season long. 

Chili

This one requires a little more work by browning the beef ahead of time, but – trust me – it’s worth the extra step. Brown 1 pound of beef and ½ of a chopped onion. Drain the liquid and add the beef and onion to your crockpot. Add 1 can of rinsed and drained red kidney beans, 1 (28 oz. can) of Tuttorosso tomato sauce, 1 (4 oz.) can of green chilies and 2 cans of Ro-tel. Season with ½ teaspoon of cumin, ½ teaspoon of ground mustard powder, 4 minced garlic clove, ½ teaspoon of black pepper, ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper, 1 tablespoon of chili powder, ½ teaspoon of dried basil and 1 tablespoon of salt. Set the crockpot to low and cook for 4-6 hours. Serve with shredded cheese and sour cream. 

Creamy Chicken Pasta

 Add ½ of a chopped onion, 4 chopped garlic cloves, 1 pound of chicken breast, 1 (28 oz.) can of tomato sauce and 2 blocks of softened cream cheese to the crockpot. Season with Italian seasoning and 2 bay leaves. Place the crockpot on a low setting for 4 hours. Shred the chicken breast in the crockpot and stir it all together. Add cooked pasta and serve.

Vegetable Soup

In a crockpot, add 1 large chopped onion, 3 chopped celery stalks, 2 chopped carrots, 3 medium diced potatoes, 2 cans of Ro-tel and 1 bag frozen mixed vegetables. Season with 2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 3 minced garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of pepper, 2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning and 8 cups vegetable stock. Set the crockpot on low and cook for 6 hours. 

Apple Crisp

Let’s not forget about dessert! Core, peel and slice about 8 apples. Mix together 1/3 teaspoon of cinnamon, ¾ cup of flour, ½ cup of oats, 1 cup brown sugar and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. Fold in the apples until they are evenly coated. Spray the inside of your crockpot with cooking spray. Place the apple mixture inside. Pour in ½ cup of apple juice. In a small bowl, mix ½ cup of flour, ½ cup of brown sugar, ½ teaspoon of salt, 4 tablespoons of melted butter and ¼ cup of oats. Sprinkle the mixture on top of the apples in the crockpot. Set on low for 3 hours and serve alone or with ice cream.

By Tara Ippolito-Lafontant

Tara Ippolito-Lafontant is a long-time Bergen County resident and local foodie. This stay-at-home mom is the creator of Al Dente Diva, a page where she shares recipes, entertaining tips and cooking hacks with her followers. Visit her on Instagram (@AlDenteDiva) for a peek into her everyday culinary adventures.

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