Food Columnist Judi Leaming says instead of slaving behind a stove, let your slow cooker do the work. Try these recipes for Crock-Pot Tex Mex Pot Roast, Creamy Beef and Macaroni, and Cream Cheese Chicken Chili.

Those of you who have followed our RV travels during the last eight years may have realized that, along with visiting tourist attractions along the highways and by-ways, we’ve spent a lot of time in restaurants. You’ve let me know that your favorites among the photos that we’ve sent back are the snapshots of meals that we’ve eaten. The simple truth is that we love exploring new restaurants and new foods but our (almost) month that we’ve just spent in Key West meant that we were parked in one spot the entire time and that I really had very little excuse for not doing some cooking — aside from the fact that our 26.5-foot RV has very little food preparation space.

Therefore when we began planning for Key West, we included a Crock-Pot and we actually used it! Soon after we were settled in I “assigned” Spicer the roll of testing Crock-Pot Tex Mex Pot Roast. As you’ll see this is not a complex recipe but we really enjoyed it. This is a one-dish meal and you could round it out with some fresh fruit as a salad.

On another day I browned the ground beef that is called for in the Creamy Beef and Macaroni recipe, assembled the recipe in the Crock-Pot and we let it cook while we relaxed. You don’t even have to pre-cook the pasta! Could it get much easier?

I experimented with Cream Cheese Chicken Chili on one of the evenings when we were with our RV group in Jacksonville, Fla. The assignment for that evening’s pot-luck was appetizers, and I decided that this just might work. I had hoped that this would be thick enough to serve with tortilla scoops so when it turned out runnier, I simply took along foam soup bowls and offered it as a soup. The idea for this is great but you might want to play around with the seasonings because Spicer found the spice combination over-whelming so I’ve reduced those as I’m offering the adjusted recipe for you.

Crock-Pot Tex Mex Pot Roast
2 pound boneless beef chuck roast (trimmed of excess fat)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 (15-ounce) can chili beans, undrained
1 (11-ounce) can vacuum packed corn, undrained
1 (10-ounce) can original Rotel tomatoes and chilies, undrained
Use a 5- or 6- quart slow cooker. Place meat in lightly greased crock. Sprinkle chili powder over roast then pour undrained chili beans, corn and tomatoes and chilies over seasoned roast. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or on high for 4 to 6 hours.

Creamy Beef and Macaroni
1 pound lean ground beef, browned and drained (if necessary)
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of celery soup
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can low-sodium cream of mushroom soup
2 cups milk
1 (8-ounce) bag shredded Cheddar cheese
2 cups macaroni, uncooked
1/2 to 1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Lightly spray the crock of a 5-quart Crock-Pot with aerosol cooking spray. Combine ingredients in the order listed in the crock and gently stir to blend. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours. (If you try to cook this on high, you may cause the macaroni to fall apart!) Serve with a salad.

Cream Cheese Chicken Chili
2 or 3 boneless chicken breast portions
1 (14-ounce) can black beans, rinsed with cold water and drained
1 (11-ounce) can vacuum packed corn
1 (10-ounce) can original Rotel tomatoes with green chiles
1 or 2 tablespoons dry Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 (8-ounce) brick light or regular cream cheese (Do not use non-fat!)
Place boneless chicken breasts onto the bottom of a 4- or 5-quart Crock-Pot. Pour black beans, undrained corn and Rotel tomatoes over all. Sprinkle with ranch dressing powder, chili powder and onion powder. Cut cream cheese into small squares and sprinkle over the spices. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Use two forks to shred up the chicken into bite-size pieces and stir in the cream cheese to mix well.