Get cozy

Get cozy.  Make a cup of tea.  Make a fire.  If you live at my house, you have to remove the plexi-glass that is covering your fireplace.  It completes the baby-proofed look of our living room.  Even with baby-proofing vigilance, Leo still manages to find anything that could potentially endanger him or my beloved cocktail glass collection.

Okay, the mood is set.

Now all you need is your slow cooker.  Back in London, I did a great deal of slow cooking.  I bought a great Cuisinart cooker that lasted me until we moved to the US and it became one of many appliances I couldn't plug into the new sockets.  A tragedy.

I couldn't afford to go out and buy all new appliances, especially since many of them were wedding gifts to begin with.  It pained me to see the useless thing sitting in front of me.  It hurt even more to pay for a new one.  I have a true obsession with a few appliances.  The ones that combine beautiful design with consistent results are my treasures.

Priority number one was  the toaster.  It's a basic, every day item, and I've seen many toasters fall into pitiful failure.  Burnt toast is unacceptable.  A waste of time.  Simplicity is key when it comes to toast, and Dualit is the king of all toasters, in my opinion.  My Dad replaced my UK version with a shiny new two-slicer with a pleasing American plug.  Voila.  Toasted bliss.

My ruby red Kitchen-Aid mixer is another story.  My wedding present from my Mother.  I remember opening the box in London.  I knew it was special.  It still is, and I can't get rid of it.  I've baked and stirred and suffered without it.  I need a replacement but haven't been able to bring myself to replace it.

And so brings me to the slow cooker.  It took me about 5 years to replace it.  All those ridiculously cold, frigid, below-freezing Chicago winters and no slow cooker to warm us up.  I did my research and found many top-name brands with terrible reviews.  So I enlisted the help of my Cousin, Becky Hays, Managing Editor of Cook's Illustrated who promptly sent me her recommendation.  The Crock Pot  not only was America's Test Kitchen approved, but was less expensive than the rest.  Done.

The idea of popping a few ingredients into a slow cooker in the morning and coming home to find the house filled with the aromas of dinner waiting for you is unmistakably inviting.  Especially if you are the person who cooks every night and there is never dinner waiting for you as you enter the door.

If you want a ton of old-school recipes for the crock-pot, you can't go wrong with Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook.

Two of my favorite slow-cooker recipes are from Kelsey Nixon's Kelsey's Essentials.  This Turkey Roast Dip with Melted Gruyere is amazing.  I also adore her Shredded Pork and Pineapple Tacos.

Most recently, my friend Holly Lignelli brought over the ingredients for her Beef Burgundy and we cooked up a feast this past weekend.  After a day at the Children's Museum, we couldn't have pulled this together without the help of the crock-pot.

Together with noodles and creamed spinach spiked with cayenne, it was truly a winter's treat.  With plans to spend the day at the children's museum with two small children and naps to navigate, the slow cooker is  your best friend.  She will deliver dinner without breaking a sweat.

I finished the meal with the coziest dessert ever made: Jamie Oliver's apple crumble.  No matter what you attempt in your slow cooker, I think a crumble, such as this one, deserves to follow.  I added a few sliced almonds to the crumble mixture and topped it with some almond gelato.