A couple of people have asked about recipes for the crock pot, so all of you non-cooks can go find something else to read.
For anyone wanting to get better use out of their crock pots, I recommend checking the blog, "A Year of Slow Cooking." I bought both of her cookbooks and have made several things from them. I also have other slow cooking cookbooks. But I do love the ability to toss everything into the pot in the morning and not worry about dinner.
I also like just experimenting. Yesterday I had to do something with cubed butternut squash so I decided I could make my own recipe. It actually was quite good, though there was one piece I didn't think about. I know that many squash soups use coconut milk, which I love, but I didn't have any. However, many months ago I bought flaked coconut for a recipe and I thought I'd just add that to the mix. I didn't realize it would not soften up, so it added a good flavor, but was also crunchy in the soup.
The recipe was: put a container of cubed squash (or cube your own--I hate doing that, so I bought pre-peeled and pre-cubed) into the crock pot. I added a couple of hands full of the flaked coconut and about 2-3 cups of chicken broth, but if I had had it, would have used a can of coconut milk and 2-3 cups of chicken broth. I added about a tbsp of Garam Marsala instead of curry because I wanted a different flavor. Added a small onion, chopped. Before I started it cooking, I zested the rind of a small orange and squeezed the juice into the mix. I think I also added about 1 tsp of sea salt. Cooked the whole thing about 6-7 hours and then pureed it before serving. It made enough for 2 large bowls for dinner and I had the leftovers for lunch today.
The chicken dish I made the other night, which I wrongfully identified as "Mediterranean Chicken" was actually "Moroccan Chicken" and this is the recipe:
6-8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I used skin-on, bone in and did not defrost)
1 cup salsa (I used a combination of red and green)
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 tsp Tabasco sauce
2 tsp honey
1 tsp ground cumin (my favorite spice)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder (I happened to have it, but regular chili would be OK)
1/2 tsp saffron threads (I happened to have this too, but it would be just fine with the saffron left out--I don't really like the taste of saffron)
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup toasted almonds (I didn't have any and just left it out)
The directions say to use a 4 quart slow cooker, but mine is a 6 quart and it worked just fine. Put the chicken into the container. In a small bowl combine the salsa, broth, Tabasco, honey, spices and garlic. Pour on top of the chicken. Add the raisin and almonds. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hrs or on high for about 4 hrs. Serve with quinoa or couscous (I served couscous)
I should mention that my chicken was frozen when I put it into the crock pot and the meal was probably cooked at 6 hrs, but I let it go for the whole 8 hrs. Also, it may seem like a lot of spices but trust me--it's a very mild dish and you need that much to give the correct flavor blend.
The crock pot is also great for pulled pork...just put all this in the pot and cook for 8-10 hrs and then shred the meat with a fork when it's done: 4 lbs boneless pork shoulder, 1 onion, sliced in rings, 2 cups ketchup, 1/2 cu warm water, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp Tabasco sauce, 1/2 tsp kosher salt.
I'll try to remember to put in recipes of other things that I make that turn out really well. The pot is great in winter because you can make so many really tummy-warming soups and it's great in summer because you can cook in the cool morning hours and the go off and do your own thing during the day and come home to a home-cooked meal.
(The foregoing is not a paid advertisement for crock-pots!!!)