Slow Cookers: Gourmet Meal Ideas With Less Mess
If you're anything like me, you love weekly menu plans made up of fast and easy dinner recipes that please the whole family. But, every once in a while, you also like to take things up a notch and go a little gourmet. The challenge is how to get that fancy schmancy meal with the ease of the more quick and simple recipes. Slow cookers are your answer.
Traditionally, our dinners involve both the stove top and the oven, which results in lots of dirty pots and pans. So even though I was new to the world of slow cookers and using counter top appliances in general for making complete meals, I was happy when Ninja sent me a Ninja Cooking System to test out. And what I discovered is that it so much more than a slow cooker.
Slow Cookers: Making Mealtime Easy and Delicious for Families
The same day that I received the Ninja Cooking System, my husband, who is a blog ambassador for Kraft Cheese, received a delivery of several varieties of Kraft Natural Shredded Cheese with a Touch of Philadelphia. After setting aside what he needed for a delicious meal he will be making soon (What's not to love about an ambassador program that encourages guys to be in the kitchen more?), I noticed we had lots of cheese left over. Therefore, we decided as a family to make the Upside Down Mac & Cheese from the cookbook that came included with our Ninja Cooking System. And you can only imagine how thrilled I was to not have to shred the 6 1/2 cups of cheese required for this recipe (Thanks, Kraft!).
In addition to the shredded cheese, my husband's box of Kraft products included some packages of Fresh Take (delicious cheese and bread crumb mix). Since the Mac & Cheese recipe called for bread crumbs, I swapped out plain bread crumbs and used a couple of Kraft Fresh Take packages, which added a variety of cheese as well as bacon. And yes! Bacon does make everything better. Switching out plain bread crumbs for the Kraft Fresh Take packages increased the yumminess and gourmet factor a million percent (at least according to my kids!).
Now, you know my love for all things cheese. And this Mac & Cheese, with its amazing bacon and cheese flavored crust, was remarkable (major points for the cook book having awesome recipes)! But the real bonus of using the Ninja Cooking System was the convenience factor.
Since the Ninja Cooking System has the ability to not only slow cook, but sauté, roast, sear and bake, we were able to cook everything all in one place. We used one bowl and one pot for the entire meal. How can you not enjoy dinner when the kitchen is clean before you even sit down to eat? Score!
Benefits of the Ninja Cooking System
To be candid, I have always wondered why people rave about slow cookers. We received 13 for our wedding and returned all but one, which we have only ever used occasionally, and just to make pot roast. But, here are the top reasons I recommend purchasing the Ninja Cooking System (approximate ARV: $160) and why I can't wait to check out more of the recipes:
- The versatility (all in once appliance) and convenience make it so much more than a slow cooker.
- It's a must-have for moms looking for quick and easy meals. You can make complete meals, layering the main course, vegetables, and pasta or rice, in 30 minutes.
- It would be great for anyone looking for portable cooking appliances.
- You can steam-bake cupcakes, cakes, and more with half the butter or oil of your favorite recipes. (Gonna try out this feature for my next post! Blueberry muffins anyone? Mmmmmm!)
- If your stovetop and oven are otherwise occupied (like for meals at special occasions), you don't have to go next door to borrow your neighbor's stovetop or buy a double oven. You'll be covered!
The only real downsides I experienced? The serving size for the Mac & Cheese said eight. So, we were thinking we'd have leftovers and be good. But, the person writing the recipe must have had giants in mind or a table full of teen boys, because our dish made at least 16 servings. Good thing it was delicious. My tween son had some for breakfast and an after-school snack the next day!
Disclosure: I was provided with a Ninja Cooking System to review for this post. All opinions expressed are my own. Adversely, I was not provided with product nor was I compensated by Kraft Cheese for the use of or review of their product for this post. I simply used some of the product sent to my husband to make this delicious gourmet Mac & Cheese for my family. The benefits of being married to a dad blogger. Thanks, honey!
What are your favorite recipes involving slow cookers?