If you love the soft, creamy, tangy goat cheese that comes with greens at French restaurants, you'll fall for this beautiful dish from Stephanie O'Dea's new Five Ingredients Or Less Slow Cooker Cookbook. It features a base of garlic- and lemon-laced cream cheese dotted with pieces of goat cheese and topped with sliced cherry tomatoes that add a bright pop of color. To take this party food straight from the slow cooker to the table, place an oven-safe dish inside the slow cooker and put all the ingredients in that. Then, once the cheese is hot and bubbly, and the tomato skins have wilted, lift out the dish (using pot holders) and serve with crackers or bagel chips.
One of the best parts of Buffalo wings is the contrast between the sweet and spicy meat and the cool and creamy dipping sauce that accompanies it. This recipe from O'Dea combines the two into one addictive dish that's bound to be a massive hit at your next party (and also happens to be way less work than deep-frying a bunch of chicken wings). It's as simple as stirring together cooked and shredded chicken, ranch-dressing mix, cream cheese, cheddar and Buffalo wing sauce then setting your slow cooker to high for two hours. The dippers, naturally, are carrot slices and celery sticks.
There are dozens of ways to make festive, fondue-like baked Brie, but O'Dea's version is one we hadn't tried before. She has you sprinkle tart, dried cranberries over the cheese, along with balsamic vinegar (which turns into a rich syrup when cooked) and finely chopped, fresh rosemary. The result is a savory and sweet complement to the melted, buttery Brie that's perfect with crackers, sliced apples or toast points.
A Delicious Way to Turn Anyone into an Onion Lover
If you haven't tried caramelizing onions in your slow cooker, prepare to be blown away. It can take some time to get these sharp-tasting roots to turn into the rich, savory, silky strands that are so tasty mixed into sour cream—so a slow cooker makes perfect sense. Once the onions are a deep golden color, you coarsely chop then stir them together with sour cream, cream cheese and parsley. Break out the thick-cut potato chips and look out—because this is going to go fast.
A Vegetarian Appetizer That Transports You to Greece
Greek flavors shine in this healthy, chunky dip that uses dried gigante or lima beans, which become tender and creamy in the slow cooker. You simmer the legumes in a savory tomato sauce, then sprinkle everything with tangy feta cheese. Pita wedges are a natural accompaniment, though we'd also happily dig in with sturdy tortilla chips.
Myth #1: If You Open The Lid During Cooking, You'll Ruin Dinner
Here's the thing about peeking inside: Every time you take the top off to sniff or stir, the temperature inside the pot drops 10 to 15 degrees, and <a href="http://www.extension.umn.edu/food/food-safety/preserving/safe-meals/slow-cooker-safety/docs/factsheet.pdf" target="_blank">you extend the overall cooking time by 30 minutes</a>. If you can wait until you're within an hour, or so, of the finish time, though, you're probably not going to do any damage by opening the lid. <a href="http://stephanieodea.com/" target="_blank">Stephanie O'Dea</a>, who has written four slow-cooker cookbooks, says that if, for instance, a recipe suggests a six-hour cooking time, you're likely okay checking the dish after five hours; since, by that point, the majority of the cooking is done, and the flavors are just deepening and melding.