The holiday season is officially in full swing, as we trade out Christmas carols in favor of those sparkly New Year's hats. (If you've got one, please send it our way!)
In my household, this means a few things. First and foremost, we're hosting relatives and friends on every conceivable surface. That's not a cute way of me saying all of the beds are full—I'm also talking couches, air mattresses, and a sort of triple-blanket-nest right on the floor. It also means that our home is chock full of (joyful!) chaos. Half-finished board games are strewn about. Each time someone takes out the recycling, it instantly refills with a new batch of milk cartons, wine bottles, and the remnants of what were, days earlier, carefully wrapped gifts. And every day, around 4:15 p.m., someone, from some surface, brushes aside a deck of cards and bellows, "What are we doing for dinner???"
Others join in, tossing out suggestions—the threat of mutiny's imminent—"Pizza—again," says someone dejectedly. "I guess we could... have more leftovers?" another voice chimes in, will all the eagerness of deflated basketball. "We could... cook?" offers someone, timidly, and then, "But I'm not sure I'm really up for a project."
Enter set-it-and-forget-it dinners, courtesy of the humble-yet-mighty slow cooker. An answer to the big-batch, flavorful dinner conundrum, minus the effort.
This year, I'll be prepared. When someone asks, "What's for dinner?", I'll give them a choice between these five. (And once we settle on one, I'm going to clear a stack of Monopoly money off the last unoccupied chair, and challenge everyone to a Hearts tournament.)
Ella Quittner is a a writer at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.