Much unlike many a magazine editor who recommends you buy all sorts of crap that they most likely got for free, your Jezebel staff doesn't get jack shit (other than books, unsolicited). And that's how it should be. But on our own time, in our personal lives, we still buy stuff. So this is Worth It, our recommendation of random things that we've actually spent our own money on. These are the things we buy regularly or really like, things we'd actually tell our friends about. And now we're telling you.
My mom tried to give me one of her old Crock Pots for years but I wasn't feeling it, mostly because I was quite happy to subsist on ramen noodles and cheap, deli sushi. But one day, I had a sort of culinary renaissance and decided I really didn't mind cooking, and since soup is my favorite food I started cooking a lot of soup; in turn, I eventually came back around to the idea of getting a slow cooker. And believe me when I tell you, my life has greatly improved.
I was always under the impression that if you wanted to use a slow cooker, you had to make your meal in the morning and let it cook all day so it was ready when you came home from work or school or whatever. And you can still totally do that, but for me it was unappealing. I'm not a morning person, and the thought of dealing with raw meat and things at 6 am grosses me out. But when I actually started using my slow cooker, I realized that you can totally leave certain dishes cooking on high for only a couple of hours, which meant that I could prepare something in the mid afternoon when I wasn't so squeamish. Most of the soup/stew/curry recipes will have you brown and cook your meat before you put it in the cooker, which means that if you leave it in for longer the flavors will be much nicer, but you're not endangering yourself by eating undercooked meat if you only want to let it cook for 2 or 3 hours. It'll cook.
And soups are just so damn easy and become pretty much idiot-proof if you're using a slow cooker. You don't have to be too precise, and if you have a lot of leftover stuff you want to use before it goes off you can just fuck it in there and season to your heart's content (in my house this was known as "Refrigerator Soup" because it was whatever my mother had hanging around in the fridge). And when the slow cooker is doing it's thing, you can just walk away. I tend to become paranoid around anything on a burner, and will fuss at it and constantly check to make sure it's not boiling over/burning/evaporated, but with a slow cooker you can LEAVE THE HOUSE. I usually go out to do errands, and then am welcomed home by delicious smells.
Also, there's a whole world slow cooker desserts! I thought they were only for savory things, but you can do a mean apple brown betty with just some apples, melted butter, ripped up pieces of sliced bread, and cinnamon and sugar. Mix it all together and put it on low for 4 hours or high for 2 and it is sinfully delicious. If you throw in a little milk and egg it's like having french toast pudding.
Crock Pot is the most famous of the slow cooker brands, but there are others out there - search for whatever bargain works for you. They also come in different sizes, so if you've got a tiny apartment kitchen you can opt for a smaller one. Mine is pretty huge, because I tend to make a lot of something and then eat it for leftovers, but whatever trims your tree. I will warn that I learned the hard way that washing a large slow cooker dish without the assistance of a dishwasher can be tricky — it's pretty heavy and only barely fits in my sink — but it's not a deterrent.
There's a slow cooker alternative for almost every recipe — just do a search for "slow cooker ______" and the internet will guide you. You can spend the rest of the winter having delicious (and probably healthy!), flavor-infused meals that are low-effort and (often) yield lots of leftovers. You will be so cozy and happy!
Crock-Pot 3060-W 6-Quart Round Slow Cooker, $13.27 on Amazon.
Worth It only features things we paid for ourselves and actually like. Don't send us stuff.