Busy cooks will be happy Food Columnist Judi Leaming has a few new recipes for slow cookers, including Crock-Pot Root Beer Pulled Pork. Angel Chicken, and Slow Cooker Pork Chops with Apple Chutney.

Is your schedule filled with kids’ athletic events, leaf raking, fall house-cleaning (does anyone do that anymore) or just the events of daily living? Get out the slow cooker that you’ve shoved into some nook or cranny and prepare these recipes. You’ll be so glad that you did.

But before we get to the recipes, let’s spend a little time on slow cooker basics. Rival (a major small appliance maker) introduced the name Crock-Pot in 1971 when it bought out a smaller company and began promoting the concept of moist-heat cooking at a relatively slow temperature in a way that allowed for unattended cooking. By 1974 Rival realized that it was much more convenient to have the stone “crock” separately removable from the electrical unit and things haven’t changed much since then.

Now we know that Crock-Pots come in a variety of shapes — and, more importantly, sizes. It is important to understand which size Crock-Pot you’ll need for a recipe. My reading has led me to understand that most recipes are written for 5- or 6-quart slow cookers but don’t assume this to necessarily to be true. For most effective cooking, the slow cooker should be 1/2 to 3/4 full of ingredients. Once the lid goes on and the temperature is set, the lid should not be removed until the cooking time is ended.

In today’s world of “let’s-make-things-as-easy-as-possible,” plastic, disposable slow cooker pot liners have become very popular. Saves a lot of time spend scrubbing that big pottery cooking vessel. Generally I just spray that “vessel” with cooking spray and carefully wipe the spray (using a paper towel) all around the top and bottom of the container. Just do what works best for you!

The recipe for Crock-Pot Root Beer Pulled Pork has appeared in a Gooseberry cookbook and has bounced around the Internet on several blog spots. There’s an unusual ingredient in this called “yellow label syrup.” Research led me to understand that this syrup has almost a cult following in the South. It is still made today by a company called Alaga — derived from combining the home states of the syrup’s creator, Louis Whitfield — born in Georgia — and his beloved wife Willey — born in Alabama. The syrup is said to have a honey-like taste. I substituted Karo cane syrup instead but you just might find — and fall in love with — this unique syrup said to be often found on the shelves in Walmart stores.

My friend Shirley Bowles introduced me to the blog, http://www.imnojunecleaver.blogspot.com/where she found the recipe for Angel Chicken. Her rave review led me to try it and it was a hit in our household too! Shirley served this with noodles; we enjoyed it over rice. I couldn’t find the specific Italian salad dressing that was called for so I substituted Creamy Italian.

Just as I was wondering what the third recipe for this column might be, the Pillsbury group sent along a newsletter that featured Slow Cooker Pork Chops with Apple Chutney. Don’t panic! You don’t have to rush out and try to find apple chutney. You just combine ingredients that are probably already in your pantry to season this.

Crock-Pot Root Beer Pulled Pork
2 to 3 pound pork roast
2 tablespoons Grill Mate Pork Rub
1 small onion, cubed
2 teaspoons liquid smoke, divided usage
2 cups root beer (NOT Diet!), divided usage
2 tablespoons yellow label syrup (or Karo syrup)
1 (18-ounce) bottle Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce
Rinse the pork roast off with water and pat dry with a paper towel. Rub the Grill Mate Pork Rub all over the roast making sure to cover the entire roast. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Get the skillet nice and hot; add the roast. Sear the roast on all sides. Remove from the skillet and place in the slow cooker. Add onion, one teaspoon of liquid smoke and one cup of root beer. Cover the slow cooker and cook on LOW for 5 to 6 hours. When done, remove the roast from the slow cooker and discard the liquid and onions. Let the roast cool; shred the pork into pieces using two forks. Return the shredded meat to the slow cooker. Add the remaining cup of root beer, remaining teaspoon of liquid smoke, yellow label syrup and BBQ sauce and stir to combine. Cook the shredded meat on LOW for an additional hour. Serve on hamburger rolls.

Angel Chicken (from http://www.imnojunecleaver.blogspot.com/)
3 or 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 can (10.75 oz) cream of mushroom, chicken OR celery soup
1/4 cup Kraft Tuscan House Italian Dressing
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
8-ounces angel hair pasta, uncooked
2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Blend cream cheese, soup, dressing and wine with whisk until blended; pour over chicken in small 2 1/2 - to 3-quart crock pot. Cover. Cook on HIGH for 2 to 3 hours (or LOW for 4 to 5 hours). Cook pasta as directed on package about 15 minutes before chicken is done; drain. Serve topped with chicken mixture and parsley.

Slow Cooker Pork Chops with Apple Chutney
4 center cut, bone-in pork loin chops, 1-inch thick (about 2 pounds) trimmed of fat
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries
2 medium baking apples, peeled and chopped (about 2 cups)
Spray a 3- or 4-quart crock pot with cooking spray. Sprinkle pork chops with salt and pepper and place in the bottom of the cooker. In a small bowl combine brown sugar, vinegar, ginger, cinnamon, red pepper and cranberries. Spoon over pork in crock pot and top with chopped apples. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 4 1/2 hours.