ADVOCATE-TESTED RECIPE

Slow Cooker Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs

This is an unbelievably easy low-carb meal to enjoy after a night of parades. The spaghetti squash is more tender than usual after the long, slow cooking.

Makes 4 to 6 servings. Several different recipes compiled by Judy Walker.

1 medium spaghetti squash

About 3 cups (1 to 2 pounds) cooked, frozen meatballs

24-ounce jar spaghetti sauce

Parmesan and/or parsley for serving

1. Wash the squash well. Cut in half with a heavy knife. Use the tip of a grapefruit spoon to clean out the seeds.

2. Coat the interior of a 6-quart slow cooker with nonstick spray. Place the halves cut-side down in the bottom of the slow cooker.

3. Pour in half the spaghetti sauce. Pile meatballs around the halves. Pour in remaining spaghetti sauce.

4. Cover and cook on low 6 to 7 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. The squash is done when it’s pierced easily with a knife.

5. When finished, use tongs to remove the halves. Hold each over a bowl and scrape out strands with a fork. Separate strands lightly with the fork if needed. Stir the sauce and meatballs. While “spaghetti” is hot, pile on plates and cover with sauce and meatballs. Serve at once with Parmesan and/or parsley if desired.

ADVOCATE-TESTED RECIPE

Slow Cooker Beef and Broccoli

Makes 4 to 6 servings. Recipe is from delish.com.

Note: Freeze the meat to make it easier to cut into thin strips or buy pre-sliced meat. It cooks in about four hours. 

1½ pounds sirloin steak, thinly sliced

1 cup low-sodium beef broth

½ cup low-sodium soy sauce

½ cup brown sugar

3 tablespoons sesame oil

1 tablespoon sriracha

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 green onions, white and green parts, minced, plus more for garnish

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 cups broccoli florets

Sesame seeds for garnish, if desired

Cooked jasmine rice for serving

1. Coat a large slow cooker with nonstick spray. Add steak, broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, sriracha, garlic and green onions. Stir lightly.

2. Cover and cook on low until beef is tender and cooked through, 3½ to 4 hours.

3. When steak is tender, spoon a few tablespoons of the broth from the slow cooker into a bowl and whisk with the cornstarch. Pour back into slow cooker and toss with beef until combined.

4. Add broccoli and cook, covered, 20 to 30 minutes more.

5. Serve over hot rice, garnished with sesame seeds and green onions if desired. Also good over riced cauliflower. 

ADVOCATE-TESTED RECIPE

Slow Cooked Barbacoa Beef Tacos

An advertisement for salsa was the origin of the recipe I adapted here. Slow-cooked with chipotles, broth and cumin, the beef is a filling for tacos, burritos or chalupas. You can crisp the meat in a hot cast-iron skillet before serving. The beef can be cooked overnight, shredded in the morning, and then refrigerated and de-fatted before serving in the evening.

Makes 6 to 8 servings. Recipe adapted by Judy Walker. 

4-pound beef chuck roast

Salt

2 cups beef broth

2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce

1 tablespoon ground cumin

For serving: Corn or flour tortillas, lettuce or shredded greens, salsa, other condiments of choice

1. Coat a 6-quart slow cooker with nonstick spray. Add beef and sprinkle with salt.

2. In a blender or food processor, combine broth, chiles in adobo sauce and cumin. Blend until smooth. Pour over the beef. Cover and cook on low 8 to 12 hours.

3. When beef is ready, transfer to a large board or plate. When cool enough to handle, remove bones, fat and connective tissue. Shred beef. While waiting for meat to cool, strain broth still in the slow cooker. (I skimmed it several times with a flat long-handled strainer.) Put shredded meat back into the slow cooker and let sit 15 minutes (or more) to absorb juices.

4. To prepare tacos: If desired, crisp the meat. Heat a cast-iron skillet (no oil) over medium-high heat. With a slotted spoon, transfer a layer of beef to the hot skillet. Let it cook, stirring every couple of minutes, until beef is crispy, 6 to 8 minutes total. Repeat until you have enough for serving. Or, skip this step, and use a slotted spoon to drain the meat well before serving.

5. Heat tortillas. Layer with beef, greens and salsa. Serve immediately.