slow cooker chicken carnitas

Photo: Ryan Szulc

Healthy Carnitas That Still Taste Ridiculously Good
Lightening up carnitas—the crispy pork filling you can pile into tortillas—is no easy feat, since switching to a leaner protein, such as chicken, and skipping the whole fried-in-oil step can result in dried-out meat that lacks the rich flavor and soft texture of the original. Make chicken carnitas in a slow cooker, though, and you'll have fall-apart tender, juicy meat that's healthy, too. This recipe, from Lick Your Plate, by Julie Albert and Lisa Gnat, is destined to go on heavy rotation in our kitchen (and, we're guessing, yours, too).

Get the recipe: Slow-Cooker Chicken Carnitas
slow cooker brownies

Photo: AnnaPustynnikova/iStock/Thinkstock

Lava-Cake-Like Brownies
Most brownies, regardless of mix-ins, are either cakey (read: moist crumb, a little fluffy inside) or fudgy (dense and very chocolaty). And if you're a fan of the latter, meet your new favorite way to bake the treat. It starts with a piece of aluminum foil you use to line the inside of the cooker, so the edges don't burn, and a parchment-paper bottom, so you can easily lift the finished brownies. The batter is basic (it includes a stick-and-a-half of butter, which helps impart a gooey consistency); the key is to keep the eggs custardy, so make sure you monitor for doneness and don't overbake the squares.

Get the recipe: Slow-Cooker Brownies
slow cooker pizza

Photo: Katerina Petrovska

A Homemade Twist on a Chicago Classic
Making pizza at home can be tough: There's the challenge of stretching the dough into an evenly formed shape that's neither too thick nor too thin; then, once you get it in the oven, the pizza can quickly go from undercooked to burnt-to-a-crisp in a minute. Using a slow cooker eliminates both problems and has the added bonus of keeping your kitchen way more comfortable than it might be if you crank the oven up to 500. This indulgent-tasting, deep-dish pizza is a light version of the personal-pan kind served in restaurants, but with much less oil (just a tablespoon).

Get the recipe: Puttanesca Pizza
crockpot oatmeal

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A Reason to Love Oatmeal Again
Steel-cut oats undergo an amazing transformation in the slow cooker, from pebble-like grains to silky porridge—a consistency that's tough to replicate on the stove. Making overnight oats is ridiculously easy, too. You just pour the cereal into the pot with water, milk and a dash each of maple syrup and salt. Set to low while you sleep, and in the morning you'll be spooning out a bowlful of the most comforting, rich oatmeal you've ever had.

Get the recipe: Overnight Oats
fruity tea cake

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The Holiday Indulgence We'd Gladly Enjoy Whenever
This healthy take on fruitcake is just as flavorful as the traditional version, despite its lack of butter, sugar and rum (a common ingredient in the classic). The recipe calls for dried cherries, raisins, apricots, figs and dates, but you can use any fruits you like. It also includes brewed tea and orange zest, which add bright notes.

Get the recipe: Fruity Spiced Tea Cake