Take this recipe for Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Chili with Porter, for instance. It's a perfect example of why slow cookers rock my world. Chili—and all its endless variations—is quite possibly my favorite vegetarian meal, and my beloved slow cooker makes it that much better. The flavors continue to develop the longer it simmers and sits—perfect Crock-Pot fare.
This version takes a cozy cue from fall, with butternut squash, black beans and a jolt of straight-up beer. I chose porter because of its chocolate and coffee notes, both welcome flavors in dark, hearty chili. If you can't find a good porter, its cousin the stout should work nicely instead.
Did you know the slow cooker is perfect for make-ahead freezer meals too? Oftentimes, when I make slow cooker chili, I buy the ingredients for two batches so that I can freeze one. But here's the catch: I don't freeze it after I cook it, I freeze it before. Alongside my Crock-Pot, I set up a large bowl lined with a freezer bag. And as I chop onions, scoop spices and open cans, I fill the bag with an entire separate batch. I label it and freeze it, and then, the night before what I know will be a particularly busy day, I'll pull it out of the freezer and set it in the fridge. By morning, the contents will have thawed enough to add them to the slow cooker, where it will simmer all day long for a practically instant meal that night.
Slow cookers, man. Is there anything they can't do?!
- 1 medium onion diced
- 1 jalapeño pepper seeded and minced*
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 cup porter beer
- 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 3 cups cooked black beans rinsed and drained (or about 2 cans)
- 1 small butternut squash 1 ½ pounds, peeled, seeded and cubed
- ½ teaspoon coarse salt plus more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus more to taste
- Shredded cheddar
- Cilantro leaves
- Chopped avocado
- Chopped sweet onions
- Chopped scallions
- Sour cream
- Greek yogurt
- Add all ingredients (except toppings) to the slow cooker. Cook on low for 8-10 hours. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if desired. Serve with assorted optional toppings. That's it!