Over The River And Through The Slow Cooker

When the holidays are just around the corner you may find yourself stressing out over how to prepare a turkey or a ham.  And once you get beyond that, just exactly what are you going to serve with it?  A 20-pound turkey takes up most of the space in your oven.  You can make it all work by scheduling the cooking of side casseroles and bread.  But why not use all your resources and prepare some of your sides in your slow cooker.
Here are some tasty sides that go great with a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal.
Hot Mulled Ginger-Spiced Cider
Warm up your guests from the chilly outdoors while you make last minute preparations.  Treat them to a cup of simmering cider.  You can keep it warm throughout the meal.
What you’ll need:
3 whole cloves
2 (1 x 4-inch) strips orange rind $
2 whole allspice
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
1 (1/2-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger
12 cups apple cider
1/2 cup apple jelly
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Place the first five ingredients on a 5 inch square of cheesecloth.  Gather the edges of the cheesecloth and tie them securely.  Place the cheesecloth bag, cider, jelly and nutmeg in your slow cooker.  Cover and cook on high for four hours.  Remove and discard the cheesecloth bag.  Serve and enjoy.
Balsamic Root Vegetables
Try a delicious twist to your usual side vegetables.
What you’ll need:
1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes $
1 pound parsnips
1 pound carrots
2 large red onions, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries $
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Peel the first three ingredients and slice them in to 1 ½ inch pieces.  Combine the parsnips, carrots, onions and cranberries in a lightly greased slow cooker (6 quart is a good size), later the sweet potatoes on top.  Whisk sugar, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper together and pour over the vegetable mixture.  Just pour, don’t stir it in.  Cover and cook on high for four or five hours, until the vegetables are tender.  Toss with parsley just before serving. For some added flavor, crumble some bacon over the top.
Cornbread Dressing
Just right for spooning into bowls and topping with fresh sage.
What you’ll need:
5 cups crumbled cornbread
1 (14-oz.) package herb stuffing
2 (10 3/4-oz.) cans cream of chicken soup
2 (14-oz.) cans chicken broth
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 cup diced celery
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons butter, cut up
Combine the first nine ingredients in a large bowl.  Pour the cornbread mixture into a lightly greased slow cooker.  Dot with butter.  Cover and cook on low for four to six hours.
For an added twist cook 1 lb. of ground pork sausage in a large skillet.  Stir in sausage, and two peeled and diced Granny Smith Apples in before placing in the slow cooker.
Cranberry Sauce
What holiday meal is complete without the cranberries?
What you’ll need:
2 (12-oz.) packages fresh cranberries
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1 tablespoon orange zest
Lightly grease your slow cooker, then stir together first give ingredients with ½ cup of water. Cover and cook on high for 3 to 3 ½ hours or until the cranberries begin to pop.  Uncover and cook an additional thirty minutes.  Stir in dried cranberries and orange zest.  Allow the mixture to cool for about an hour, stirring frequently.  The mixture will thicken as it cools.  Chill for eight hours before serving.
Lauren Hill writes for Proctor Silex, a kitchen appliance company offering a wide selection of blenders, toasters, slow cookers and stand mixers.  Go here to see their most popular items and recipes.