TL;DR: We never imagined we’d own a slow cooker.
We’re doing something different
What’s different? First and foremost, we give you sensible recipes in a simple, clean format. The Smart Slow Cooker is an easy-to-use resource for the most requested slow cooker recipes and questions. In an increasingly cluttered world, we aim to be a place of calm.
When its time to get family dinner on the table, nobody needs to know how to make yogurt, moonshine, or brownies in the slow cooker.
What does that mean for you? Well for example, you’ll only find one recipe for Sloppy Joes over on our blog. Why? Because most people don’t actually want a “creamy” version or a “cheeseburger” interpretation. We give you simple, classic recipes that you will want to make over and over again.
What else is different? We aren’t here to gush about slow cookers or to convince you that you need one — chances are, you don’t. But sometimes life calls for a slow cooker, and when it does, recipes should be reliable and good.
To successfully use a slow cooker, you do not need 1000’s of recipes — you just need your family’s favorites. And no, you will not use a crockpot 365 days a year.
The Smart Slow Cooker was born out of a need at a specific point in time. My family faced a dinner time challenge when an after-school activity kept us away from home twice a week until 8:30pm. For my crew, not eating at a “normal dinner time” was new and 8:30pm was bedtime.
We considered our dinner options. The kids wanted to eat at home versus eat out because they were exhausted by the end of the day. Cooking at home is cheaper and healthier — and it was our usual — so this was fine by me.
Cooking ahead and reheating food wasn’t a good fit because my group wasn’t keen on anything perceived as leftovers. And time spent reheating food would only delay bedtime.
My chef sister suggested using a dutch oven in a low temp oven. Sure, a slow oven would be better, but I wasn’t super comfortable leaving my old oven completely unattended for 7+ hours.
A friend suggested a pressure cooker for quick cooking, but this also would have taken too much time when we got home. We needed instant dinner!
So despite believing slow cookers were trying to solve a problem that didn’t exist, I had to admit that the answer for how to cook at home on these particular nights was…a slow cooker.
Food as a Family tradition
Good food has always been a part of my world. While I love a great food truck or a trendy restaurant as much as anyone else, my fondest food memories are from the family dinner table. Good food means home cooking, traditional recipes, and healthy ingredients.
Growing up in the 1970’s (i.e. before Food Network), my mom was the best cook I knew and Gourmet magazine was her culinary bible. My dad is an expert griller and pit master. Both of them learned these skills from each of their fathers. My sister and I baked for fun as kids, and she went on to become a classically-trained chef after college.
In my 20’s, I learned more about how my food was produced and the impact it had on the environment and my health. I was fortunate enough that shopping for sustainable and organic foods could become my norm.
As a new mom, I made organic baby food and kept a detailed spreadsheet on our fridge of when to introduce new textures and foods to my babies. One of my oldest child’s first words was “onions-ssss” as he mimicked the sound of sautéing. My toddlers devoured kale, fought over asparagus, and thought blue cheese was delicious. My kids played Iron Chef for entertainment and the youngest begged for a hand-crank pasta machine at ten years old.
My mother managed to gather us for family dinner for what seemed like 7 nights a week for 18 years (never owning a slow cooker), so bringing my group together for family meals — or at least aspiring to — means I’m passing along a family tradition.
Right now my main dinner issue is trying to get teenagers to family dinner. Mostly, I never seem to know who is coming or going or when. And regular family dinners seem like a quaint idea from our not-so-distant past. But making dinner for my nearly grown kids feels like a connection to a simpler time. And a slow cooker means everyone can eat on their schedule.
The Slow Cooker Challenge
After purchasing a slow cooker, it was surprisingly difficult to find a variety of recipes that met our specific need: dinners that could cook for 8 hours, and result in great flavor, and were ready to serve when we walked in the door (without additional steps or prep).
I was determined to make meals with real flavor and texture. After making a simple recipe of Slow Cooker White Beans, I knew it might be possible. So I scoured the internet, poured over cookbooks, and adapted family favorites to collect a variety of recipes that are suited to longer cooking times.
Doing things different
Again, what I assumed would be an easy task proved to be unusually difficult.
Sites that offered good user experience and slow cooker recipes, like America’s Test Kitchen, were only available as an on-going subscription. Our go-to resource, NYT Cooking, offered very little at the time.
Most food blogging sites were a mess with annoying ads and repetitive recipes. Who has the time to sort through 18 versions of pulled pork or 23 takes on chili?
And cookbooks were loaded down with filler recipes — things like “how to make yogurt in the slow cooker”. We needed dinner.
So, we decided to do something different.
You can find shorter-cooking recipes and quality resources over on our blog. And we give you an outstanding collection of longer-cooking slow cooker recipes in our online cookbook. No ads. No filler. No fluff. No subscription. Just simple access for a one-time fee. Bon appétit!