With winter upon us, it's a good time to think about creating hearty comfort foods. What better way to prepare those recipes than in a slow cooker?

Whether you'd like to make a stick-to-your ribs entrée or a delicious side dish, home cooks can make a variety of recipes in a slow cooker. Many slow cooker recipes are fairly easy to make, which leads to a stress-free experience for those having to make dinner every night. Most of the time, it's just a matter of blending assorted ingredients, placing them in the appliance and letting them simmer and cook for awhile. Choose one day a week to create a one-pot, slow-cooked meal that you don't have to think too much about.

Food experts agree that slow cooking recipes can often be healthier because you're not frying and using oil in the preparation. Slow cooking can also be more economical because you can use less expensive cuts of meat and still turn out an excellent recipe.

If you're looking for some good recipes for your slow cooker, try these dishes.

Slow Cooker Cranberry Sauce

Serves: 8

Ingredients

1 package (12 ounces) fresh or frozen cranberries

2/3 cup sugar

1 seedless orange, peeled and sectioned

2 bay leaves

1 cinnamon stick

Directions

Place all ingredients in 4-quart slow cooker. Cover. Cook 3 hours on high, stirring every hour. Uncover. Stir well.

From McCormick & Company

Caribbean Jerk Pulled Pork Sliders

Serves: 12

Ingredients

3 pounds boneless pork shoulder roast, trimmed

1/2 cup orange juice

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1/4 cup Caribbean jerk seasoning

2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar

24 potato slider rolls, toasted

Tropical Salsa:

1-1/2 cups canned crushed pineapple, well drained

3 tablespoons jalapeño pepper, finely chopped

3 tablespoons orange juice

1-1/2 teaspoons Caribbean jerk seasoning

Directions

For the sliders, place pork in slow cooker. Mix orange juice, vinegar, seasoning and brown sugar until blended. Pour over pork. Cover. Cook 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high. Meanwhile, for the Tropical Salsa, mix all ingredients in medium bowl until well blended. Cover. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Remove pork from slow cooker. Shred pork, using 2 forks. Return pork to slow cooker. Mix and heat with sauce before serving. Serve on toasted rolls with Tropical Salsa.

Slow Cooker Tip: For best results, do not remove cover during cooking.

Note: For less spicy heat in the pulled pork, decrease Caribbean jerk seasoning to 3 tablespoons.

From McCormick & Company

Slow Cooker Red Wine Pot Roast

Serves: 8

2-1/2 to 3 pounds boneless chuck roast, well-trimmed

1/2 pound baby carrots

1 large onion, cut into thick slices

1 pound red potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks (about 4 medium potatoes)

1 package Slow Cookers Savory Pot Roast seasoning

1 cup red wine

Directions 

Place roast and vegetables in slow cooker. Mix seasoning mix and wine until blended. Pour over roast and vegetables. Cover. Cook 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high. Remove roast and vegetables to serving platter. Stir sauce before serving. Thicken sauce, if desired.

Slow Cooker Tip: For best results, do not remove cover during cooking.

From McCormick & Company

Asian Slow Cooker New York Pork Roast

Serves: 8

2 to 3 pound boneless New York (top loin) pork roast

2 tablespoons Chinese five-spice

2 tablespoons plus 3/4 cup brown sugar, divided

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons red pepper flakes, divided

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1-1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons cold water, divided

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons soy sauce

Fresh chopped cilantro, for garnish

Lime wedges, for garnish

Directions

Place the pork roast in your slow cooker. In a small bowl, whisk together the Chinese five-spice, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, garlic powder, 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper. Rub the spice mixture all over the pork roast (including the bottom). Pour 1 cup of water around the side of the pork roast. Try not to pour it over the top. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours. When there is about 20 minutes of cooking time left, prepare your glaze: In a small bowl, mix together the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of cold water until dissolved. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, add 1/2 cup of the remaining cold water, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper, and 3/4 cup brown sugar. Bring to a simmer and then stir in the cornstarch mixture. Continue to stir until the glaze has thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Remove the pork from the slow cooker and discard the liquid. Generously brush the pork with the glaze while the pork is still hot. Serve the remaining glaze on the side. Serve the pork with chopped fresh cilantro and lime wedges. Enjoy!

From National Pork Board, porkbeinspired.com

Slow Cooker Root Beer Ribs

Serves: 6

Ingredients

2 racks St. Louis spare ribs (2-1/3 to 3 pounds each), cut into 3- or 4-rib sections

1/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons onion powder

1 teaspoon allspice

1-1/2 cup (12-ounce) can root beer (not diet), divided

2 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons cold water

Directions

Combine brown sugar, chili powder, salt, onion powder and allspice in a medium bowl. Set aside half the spice mixture (about 1/3 cup); sprinkle the rest over both sides of ribs. Pour 1/2 cup root beer into slow cooker and add ribs. Cover and cook on low 5 to 6 hours or on high for 3-1/2 to 4 hours, until ribs are very tender. With 10 minutes left on ribs, combine remaining root beer and reserved spice mixture in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add cornstarch mixture and stir until sauce thickens, just a few seconds. Remove from heat; set aside. Remove ribs to platter and cover. Strain the cooking liquid and pour off fat. Add 1/3 cup remaining liquid to sauce; stir until smooth. Brush ribs with sauce, serve with remaining sauce on side.

From National Pork Board and porkbeinspired.com

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