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Home plate: 1940 ‘pot’ is still a kitchen staple

 Anyone who heard wedding bells in the 1970s, likely had a Crock Pot in the cupboard after nuptials. An inventor named Irving Naxon is to be credited for the device, inspired by his mother’s stories about a bean-based stew she concocted in her village bakery at home in Lithuania. He acquired a patent for the Naxon Beanery in 1940, subsequently selling his design to Rival Manufacturing in the early ’70s. Sales died down a little in the ‘80s, perhaps coinciding with the rise of the microwave, but today, an estimated 83 percent of families own the slow cooker, according to Consumer Reports.  And there’s nothing better than coming home to find dinner ready

 Mexican Beef Stew  1 pound beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces    2 tablespoons all-purpose flour    1 tablespoon canola oil   1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained    2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped    1 medium onion, chopped    2 cloves garlic, minced   1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained    1 (14.5 ounce) can reduced-sodium beef broth    1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder    1 teaspoon ground cumin    1/2 teaspoon salt    1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper    1 cup frozen whole kernel corn    Chopped avocado, cilantro, and/or crushed red pepper (optional)  Line a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker with a Reynolds Slow Cooker Liner. Coat the beef with flour. Cook and stir beef in a large skillet in hot oil over medium-high heat about 5 minutes or until browned.  Place the beans, carrots, onion, and garlic into the prepared slow cooker liner. Top with the beef. Add tomatoes, broth, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Cover and cook on low 7 hours or until the beef is fork-tender. Stir in the corn gently with a rubber spatula. Cover and cook 10 minutes more or until heated through. If desired, serve with avocado, cilantro, and/or crushed red pepper.

Hungarian Goulash  2 tablespoons vegetable oil  2 lb beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces  1 large onion, sliced  1 ¾ cups beef broth  6 oz tomato paste  2 cloves garlic, finely chopped  1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce  1 tablespoon paprika  1 teaspoon salt  ¼ teaspoon caraway seed, if desired  ¼ teaspoon pepper  ¼ cup cold water  3 tablespoons all-purpose flour  1 medium green pepper, cut into strips  8 cups hot cooked noodles  In a 10-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook beef in oil about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until brown; drain.  Spray 3 1/2- to 6-quart slow cooker with cooking spray. In slow cooker, place beef and onion. In medium bowl, mix broth, tomato paste, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, paprika, salt, caraway seed and pepper; stir into beef mixture.  Cover; cook on Low heat setting 8 to 10 hours (or High heat setting 4 to 5 hours) or until beef is tender.  In small bowl, stir water and flour until well mixed; gradually stir into beef mixture. Stir in bell pepper. Increase heat setting to High. Cover; cook 30 minutes longer. Serve goulash over noodles.

Charley’s  Mexican Style Meat 1 (4 pound) chuck roast 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon ground black pepper 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 large onion, chopped 1 1/4 cups diced green chile pepper 1 teaspoon chili powder 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper 1 (5 ounce) bottle hot pepper sauce 1 teaspoon garlic powder Trim the roast of any excess fat, and season with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place the beef in the hot skillet, and brown it quickly on all sides. Transfer the roast to a slow cooker and top it with the chopped onion. Season with chile peppers, chili powder, cayenne pepper, hot pepper sauce, and garlic powder. Add enough water to cover 1/3 of the roast. Cover, and cook on high for 6 hours, checking to make sure there is always at least a small amount of liquid in the bottom of the cooker. Reduce heat to low, and continue cooking for 2 to 4 hours, or until meat is totally tender and falls apart. Transfer the roast to a bowl and shred it using two forks (reserve 2 cups of cooking liquid, if desired). Serve in tacos or burritos

Chicken Enchilada Soup  1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves    1 (15.25 ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained    1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes including juice    1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth    1 (10 ounce) can enchilada sauce    1 (4 ounce) can diced green chilis    1 white onion, chopped    1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro    2 bay leaves    3 cloves garlic, minced    1 teaspoon ground cumin    1 teaspoon chili powder    1 teaspoon salt    1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste  Rinse and pat dry the chicken breasts, place into the bottom of a slow cooker. Add the corn, tomatoes, chicken broth, enchilada sauce, green chilis, onion, cilantro, bay leaves, garlic, cumin, chili powder, salt, and black pepper.  Cook on Low for 6 hours. Transfer the chicken to a large plate, shred the meat with two forks. Return the chicken to the slow cooker and continue cooking for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

BBQ Pork Sandwiches  2 large green sweet peppers, cut into strips (2 ½ cups)  1 medium onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings (1 cup)  2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca  1 2 ½ - to 3-pound pork shoulder roast  1 cup barbecue sauce  3 to 4 teaspoons chili powder  10 to 12 Kaiser rolls, split and toasted  Coleslaw (drained), optional  In a 3 ½ - to 5-quart slow cooker combine sweet pepper strips and onion rings. Sprinkle tapioca over the vegetables. Trim fat from roast. If necessary, cut roast to fit into the cooker. Place roast over the vegetables.  In a medium bowl, combine barbecue sauce and chili powder. Pour the sauce over the meat.  Cover, cook on low heat setting for 11 to 12 hours, or on high heat 5 ½ to 6 hours. Remove roast from cooker; thinly slice or shred the meat. Skim fat from sauce. Return sauce and meat to cooker; cover; Turn cooker on high and cook 15 to 30 minutes more to heat through.  Serve on Kaiser rolls, split and toasted with coleslaw, if desired.