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Fall slow cooker recipes

I use my slow cooker all year long, but fall and winter are definitely the seasons I use it the most.
I remember the crazy days and nights of our fall schedule — the kids are back in school, extra-curricular activities, homework and school projects — dinner was too often an after-thought. Enter the slow cooker to save the day — or night, rather.
Here are some slow cooker recipes your family is sure to love. They also make great leftovers.

Fully loaded potato soup
4 large Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
3/4 cup onion, chopped
5 cups chicken stock
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/3 cup sour cream
4 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
2 green onions, chopped (or chives)

Add potatoes, onion, chicken stock, garlic, salt and pepper to slow cooker. Cook on low for eight hours or on high for four hours. Add butter and puree soup with immersion blender, or if you like it chunky, smash with a whisk or potato masher. Stir in heavy cream. Ladle into bowls and top with some shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream, some bacon and green onions.

• • •
Everybody loves fajitas, but did you know you can make melt-in-your-mouth fajitas in your slow cooker?
This is a great alternative to tacos — and it is terrific for leftovers.

Slow cooker steak fajitas
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 pounds flank steak, preferably grass fed
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 red bell peppers, seeded and sliced
2 green bell peppers, seeded and sliced
1 large red onion, halved and sliced
Flour tortillas
Toppings: Salsa, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, cilantro, green onions, sliced avocado, lime wedges

In a small bowl, combine chili powder, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper. Rub mixture all over flank steak, on both sides. Place steak in bottom of the slow cooker. Add soy sauce, jalapeno, garlic, red and green bell peppers, and onion. Cover and cook on low for 10 hours or on high for six hours. Remove steak from slow cooker and shred with two forks. Serve with tortillas, peppers, onions and toppings.

• • •
While barbecue lovers don’t consider slow cooker barbecue to be “real” barbecue, I’ve never known anybody to not gobble up this simple, yet delicious slow cooker barbecue.

Slow cooker barbecue
3 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
1 onion, peeled and sliced
3 1/2 pounds pork shoulder, cut in half

In a bowl, combine paprika, salt, pepper, cayenne, onion powder, garlic powder and thyme. Pour in honey, red wine vinegar, olive oil and liquid smoke.
Place pork in slow cooker and pour honey/spice mixture over pork pieces. Add onion slices and cover. Cook on low for eight to nine hours. Remove pork and shred with two forks.
Serve on buns with some of the slow cooker sauce.

• • •
This chili is so hearty, nobody will likely miss the meat. That being said, you could easily cook some ground beef, turkey or chicken when you sauté the onions and add that to the mix. This is especially good with corn bread.

Vegetable chili
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juices
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons chili powder (more to taste)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Pinch cayenne pepper (more to taste)
Toppings: sour cream, cilantro, avocado, shredded cheddar and/or Monterey Jack cheese

In a sauce pan or skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper and jalapeno and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Pour onion/pepper mixture into slow cooker and add corn, garlic, tomatoes, bay leaves, chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper and cayenne. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for seven to eight hours or on high for four hours. Serve with desired toppings.