When I was a little girl, my maternal grandparents, the ones who owned a wholesale toy business (lucky me!), lived in a small brick rowhouse in Brooklyn. I loved two things about that house: the garage where my grandfather would park his car, leaving the trunk unlocked so we could paw through the toy samples on our Sunday visits; and the pear tree in the tiny back yard. I'm still partial to the pear sauce my grandmother used to make, with a just hint of cinnamon. Had she owned a slow cooker, I think Grandma might have liked this chai-spiced pear sauce, too. The warm spices (cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and cloves) transform pears, which are often a bit bland unless they are perfectly ripe, into a sophisticated version of the ultimate comfort food. On its own or topped with vanilla ice cream, this pear sauce makes a classy dessert or afterschool snack.
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Halfway through the cooking time for this soy-braised chicken, as the
aroma filled the kitchen and spilled out into the living room, I began to have
regrets. I regretted finding only one package of chicken thighs in the
freezer. I regretted not doubling the recipe. I regretted offering to share what I did make with my husband Ted. I want you to make this dish, without feeling the way I felt, so please, pull out your 4- or 5-quart slow cooker and double, triple or quadruple the recipe. Most everything you need is already in your well-stocked pantry. Serve the chicken warm, over rice, or wrap it in lettuce leaves or in a spring roll, with shredded lettuce and bean sprouts. Just be sure to cook enough chicken. You won't regret it.
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It's school vacation week, and you've got your hands full. Why not toss a few ingredients into the slow cooker, and let dinner cook all day while you're making snow angels or going to see The Hobbit with the kids? This Italian pot roast tastes great on the day you make it, served with boiled potatoes or egg noodles, and even better the next day. The balsamic vinegar and olives lend their perky tang, and sun-dried tomatoes deepen the sauce, turning a humble chuck roast into a divine stew. Dinner doesn't get much easier, or more comforting, than this.
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When I found a couple of bottles of O'Doul's nonalcoholic beer in the far recesses of my refrigerator, along with a partial bag of chopped kale, I searched the pantry and freezer for other ingredients that would bring those two together. This year I've made a real effort to cook with more dark leafy greens, especially kale, and though I didn't love it in January, I can say honestly that I love kale now. For my husband Ted, a true believer when it comes to any variation of beef stew, I decided to put that "near beer" to good use in this braised beef with kale. The slow cooker makes it easy; let the beef cook all day while you're out finishing your holiday shopping, and half an hour before you serve, stir in the kale so it retains some texture without turning to mush. Like all stews, it's even better the second day, and it freezes well, too.
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