Carmelized Onions in the Slow Cooker

Caramelized onions are one of my favorite foods. Can you call it a favorite food if you can’t eat it solo? I love things with caramelized onions – burgers, pasta, steak – you name it, you can throw onions on it. We’ve made quite a few dishes with them here at MMC.
My only real issue with caramelized onions is the time required to make them and in this, I am not alone. According to Alton Brown, the caramelizing onions process requires removing most of the onions’ moisture and converting the natural sugars within the onion (fancy fact: it’s called a Maillard reaction). There are many articles for making the perfect caramelized onions – but none of them are really regularly suited for the busy mom lifestyle.
I just knew there had to be an easier way. Every so often Kayte brags to me about the amazing jars of caramelized onions Mary makes. It’s a dedicated process in the oven, in which the onions are baked for an extended period of time and every so often you stir them. Totally worth it to make a huge batch! But still, there had to an easier way……You CAN cook down POUNDS of onions in a slow cooker with minimal effort. Once cooked, you can bag/can/otherwise store and freeze. I was able to defrost the onions straight from frozen.
After quite a bit of research, I experimentally cooked my onions, using a combination of two recipes from The Kitchn and Gimme Some Oven. The basics are as follows……
  1. Thinly slice up 3-5 lbs of onions and throw them in your slow cooker. 
  2. Toss with 3 tablespoons EVOO or melted butter.
  3. Cook for at least 8-10 hours on low. Stirring the onions occasionally will promote more even cooking, but is not required. 
  4. You can continue to cook 3 -5 more hours with the lid ajar. I highly encourage this, as my onions were full of liquid before this. The liquid is released during cooking, but can’t escape the slow cooker like it can in the pan. 
  5.  Use, refrigerate or freeze. 
You can add balsamic vinegar or brown sugar during the last couple hours of cooking. I did not do this. However, depending on what I was using them for, I did add balsamic dressing during the reheating.

Spinach, Mushrooms, and Onions – Pt 1

Bowtie pasta covered in a cream sauce 
with chicken, spinach, mushrooms and caramelized onions

I somewhat recently confessed to not liking veggies. That’s a fairly simply version of it. I have a difficult time incorporating a variety of veggies into our meals. I don’t hate vegetables, I just tolerate most of them. There are, of course, a few exceptions – two of these being onions and mushrooms. I am of the opinion that you can never have enough caramelized onions, or sauteed mushrooms. Its just not possible.

Cooking onions & mushrooms, while holding baby

I haven’t published too many post on either of these things (don’t worry, they are coming), but the making of this French Onion Soup – definitely had us discussing how to cook, and use caramelized onions. Just thinking of it makes my mouth water.

This Spinach, Onion and Mushroom recipe from Julia’s Album has already become a favorite in our house. Its incredibly simple, and with a bit of creativity we’ve been able to use it in a variety of dishes. This recipe is intended as a topping or side for meat (chicken, steak, etc) and comes with an optional “cream” recipe. Julia even list a few other ideas. This post is part one of three about different uses for this combo.

Plain spinach, onions and mushrooms

I have used it as a steak topper, pasta w. chicken, Alfredo pasta w. sausage, and for flat bread pizza. I even threw it in an egg scramble with some sausage!. I think it would be delicious in a red-sauced pasta. I’m sure you could make some kind of quesadilla, or even some kind of fancy veggie taco or burrito. Each time I have made it, I have varied the ratio of onion, mushrooms, and spinach based on what I have on hand. I have always “doubled” it though, and used a portion of the left overs for another dish.

With the cream sauce

This recipe is three basic steps: (1) caramelize the onion, (2) saute the mushrooms, (3) combine mushrooms and spinach with onions. Then use as you see fit.The first time I made it, I doubled the recipe, then removed half when finished. I added 1.5-2x the cream sauce, and added costco rotisserie chicken, and poured over pasta.I saved the remaining recipe (without sauce) for another recipe.

Spinach, Mushrooms & Onions
  • 3 Onions, sliced
  • 10 – 15 small mushrooms (I used baby bellas)
  • 2 Tbl Olive oil
  • 1 Tbl Balsamic Vinegar (I use dressing)
  • 3 Garlic Cloves
  • 3 C Spinach
  • Salt
  1. Caramelize the onions: heat 1 Tbl olive oil in a large pain, add onions. Begin on high heat, then lower and add a pinch of salt. Cook until caramelized (approx 30 minutes). Use 1TBL balsamic to deglaze the pan. 
  2. Saute Mushrooms: while onions are cooking, heat 1 Tbl olive oil in another pan, add mushrooms, garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook approx 20 minutes.
  3. Combine mushrooms with onions, and add spinach on low heat until spinach wilts
*Note More detailed instructions on the original website*
Optional Cream Ingredients:
  • 1/3 C Heavy Cream
  • 1/4 C Milk
  • 1/2 C Parmesan Cheese (I used italian blend)
  • 1/4 Tsp Salt
Instructions for Cream Sauce: Add listed ingredients to mix on med-low heat and mix until melted and coating all vegetables. 

Balsamic Pork Tenderloin

Pork Tenderloin, Veggie loaded macaroni & cheese, Salad

My baby just hit the 12 week mark. I have been planning since the first week he was home to write a fabulous post about bringing home baby, and how glad I was that I had stocked up food, and had a full freezer and pantry, and even had a vague meal plan. Well, between holidays and sickness and general lack of sleep – I never made it to that post. It seems a little late to be writing that post now, so all I will say is that we probably wouldn’t have eaten if it hadn’t been for all the meals in my freezer. We were able to either dump things in the crockpot, pressure cooker, or place in the oven, and pull it out hot and ready.

The only way I can cook

While my freezer was stuffed to the brim, it wasn’t all premade meals. I had also taken the opportunity before baby to stock up on meat. I figured that sale shopping post baby wasn’t something I would really be able to manage – one of the meats I was thrilled to get my hands on was a huge package of pork tenderloin. Honestly, I can’t remember the cost now – but it was a steal. I froze 3 of them raw, and we had one when I purchased them. We pulled out one of them and made this “slow cooker” Balsamic Brown Sugar Pork Tenderloin from slender kitchen just the other night. It is delicious and healthy! Only 5 WW points if you’re counting.

Dry rub & Balsamic Marinade

The tenderloin is rubbed down in brown sugar, cumin, garlic powder and (optional) chile powder. It’s cooked in a balsamic vinegar marinade. It’s written to be a slowcooker recipe, but I didn’t pull out my frozen pork till the afternoon. I threw it in a pot of cool water for about 45 minutes, then put in my pressure cooker for 25 minutes. It was tender, moist, and delicious. Check it out!