Between running a cattle ranch, raising kids, hosting a Food Network show, opening The Mercantile country store, and publishing a magazine, Ree Drummond — aka The Pioneer Woman — understands what a busy lifestyle looks like. So it makes sense that her forthcoming cookbook is all about taking it easy in the kitchen. But while we wait for her latest and greatest down-home recipes to debut, there are plenty of ingenious slow cooker ideas to snag from everyone's favorite country cook.
1. Chicken Tortilla Soup
This hearty, vegetable-packed soup recipe is anything but average. Pile chicken breasts, broth, bell peppers, beans, tomatoes, onion, and spices into the slow cooker and let it do its thing for a few hours. Once you lift the lid, you'll be dying to dive right in, but make sure you top off your bowl with diced avocado, a dollop of sour cream, and crushed tortilla strips to give it some extra texture and cool that slight spice.
Get the recipe: Chicken Tortilla Soup
2. Refried Beans
Whipping up this traditional side is easier than ever with the help of your slow cooker. Refried beans work as an extra ingredient for tacos, a side for slow-roasted carnitas, or even a dip for chips. Simply dump dry pinto beans into the pot with plenty of garlic, cumin, and cayenne, then cover it with water and walk away.
Get the recipe: Refried Beans
3. Caramelized Onions
Sometimes getting onions to caramelize to that perfectly silky, sweet state requires time and patience you just don't have. But Pioneer Woman's hack for browning these babies low and slow makes burgers, steaks, pasta, and more a cinch. All it takes is a bit of butter, salt, and pepper and you've got a big batch ready for all your garnishing needs.
Get the recipe: Caramelized Onions
4. Dulce de Leche
If you've ever tried to make caramel or dulce de leche from scratch, then you know that it's a tedious, sometimes scientific, but almost always dangerous process. (Anything that involves shooting sugar up to high temps is not a game I want to play.) But, shockingly, you can submerge cans of sweetened condensed milk in water and let your slow cooker transform them into a delicious dessert sauce. It's utterly ingenious and we can't thank Ree enough for pointing this out.
Get the recipe: Dulce de Leche
5. Sticky Spicy Slow-Cooked Ribs
Let your slow cooker do work on a few racks of pork ribs and you may never break out the smoker again. Depending on how much time you have, these babies can braise on low for six to eight hours or high for three to four hours. Either way, it's fall-off-the-bone perfection doused in Pioneer Woman's homemade apricot-barbecue glaze with a zing of chipotle pepper. Just be sure to keep the Wet-Naps handy.
Get the recipe: Sticky Spicy Slow-Cooked Ribs
Have you tried any of these slow cooker recipes from Pioneer Woman? Let us know in the comments!