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I made 3 of Martha Stewart's slow cooker recipes and the easy, inexpensive meals blew me away

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martha stewart thumb salmon salsa verde
An Insider reporter decided to try out a few of Martha Stewart's slow cooker recipes and found they were surprisingly simple. Manny Carabel/Getty Images/Erin McDowell/Insider

The first recipe I made was Martha Stewart's slow cooker three-cheese macaroni and cheese, and the ingredients suggested it was going to be decadent.

mac and cheese ingredients
Macaroni and cheese ingredients. Erin McDowell/Insider

In addition to three kinds of cheese, the recipe called for milk and two cans of evaporated milk.

You can find the recipe in "Martha Stewart's Slow Cooker."

I started by dicing half of a white onion - I've never used onion in mac and cheese before.

chopped white onions
Chopped white onion. Erin McDowell/Insider

I was excited to see if this ingredient would add even more flavor.

I sauteed the onion in a nonstick pan until it softened.

chopped white onions sauteed in pan
White onion sauteed in a pan. Erin McDowell/Insider

The recipe recommended softening the onion in a tablespoon of butter, rather than oil.

After I shredded the cheese by hand, I added the ingredients to the slow cooker along with the onions.

shredded cheese in slow cooker
Cheese and onions in the slow cooker. Erin McDowell/Insider

The recipe calls for three cups of white sharp cheddar cheese and one cup of Gruyere in the macaroni and cheese mixture. The third and final cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano, is later added to the breadcrumb mixture.

It took quite a bit of work to grate the cheese by hand, and it got a tad messy on the counter. You can also buy your cheese pre-shredded to save yourself a little extra time. However, the cookbook does recommend getting the highest quality cheese you have access to.

I added in the uncooked macaroni noodles after adding in both kinds of milk, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper.

uncooked macaroni and cheese slow cooker
Macaroni and cheese ingredients in the slow cooker. Erin McDowell/Insider

One of the best parts about this recipe is that you don't have to sit around waiting for the macaroni to boil. Instead, you simply throw it in with the other ingredients and it cooks itself.

While the macaroni and cheese was cooking, I set about prepping the homemade breadcrumbs.

homemade breadcrumbs toasting in stainless steel pan
Homemade breadcrumbs toasting in a stainless steel pan. Erin McDowell/Insider

I made the breadcrumbs by pulsing two slices of bread in a food processor. I then toasted them on the stove for a few minutes until they were golden brown and slightly crispy.

The macaroni and cheese only took an hour and a half on high to finish cooking - it was much quicker than other slow cooker recipes I've tried.

cooked mac and cheese in slow cooker
Cooked mac and cheese in the slow cooker. Erin McDowell/Insider

Other slow cooker recipes I've tried have taken up to six hours, so I thought this was a serious asset.

One of my pet peeves about slow cooking is the planning and preparation it takes to do, largely due to how you have to start prepping your dinner around midday if you want it to be done in time.

I topped the macaroni and cheese with breadcrumbs and let it continue cooking, covered, for another 15 minutes.

cooked mac and cheese in slow cooker topped with breadcrumbs
Cooked mac and cheese in the slow cooker topped with breadcrumbs. Erin McDowell/Insider

This was by far one of the easiest recipes I've ever made in a slow cooker, and it wasn't too expensive either: The ingredients for the macaroni and cheese, which could have easily fed up to eight people, came to $33.38 at my local grocery store. That's just over $4 per serving.

The macaroni and cheese was rich and creamy, and the breadcrumbs added texture.

a spoonful of finished mac and cheese
A spoonful of the finished mac and cheese. Erin McDowell/Insider

The cheese added a ton of flavor, especially the smoked Gruyere, while the onions made the dish even more delicious. This was by far the most flavorful macaroni and cheese I've ever had, and I thought it was very easy to make in the slow cooker.

My only complaint was that the bottom layer of macaroni and cheese could have been creamier — it was a little watery compared to the top layers. However, it probably would have cooked through more evenly with a little longer in the slow cooker.

The second dish I made was a simple recipe for poached salmon.

poached salmon ingredients on kitchen island
The ingredients for the poached salmon with salsa verde. Erin McDowell/Insider

I already had salmon in my fridge that I needed to use, and the recipe required just a few other ingredients.

You can find the recipe in "Martha Stewart's Slow Cooker."

The recipe said to add vegetables and herbs to the slow cooker - it looked like a very sad soup.

vegetables and lemon ingredients in slow cooker
The raw ingredients in the slow cooker. Erin McDowell/Insider

It called for a halved shallot, carrot, two celery stalks, lemon slices, a bay leaf, thyme, and six peppercorns, as well as dry white wine and water.

I was a little confused by this first step, but I figured this would be the liquid for the poaching and that the ingredients would add to the flavor.

I seasoned the four salmon fillets with salt and pepper and added them to the slow cooker.

salmon fillets in slow cooker
Salmon fillets seasoned with salt and pepper in the slow cooker. Erin McDowell/Insider

The large fillets — which weighed about 2.5 pounds — didn't fit evenly in my slow cooker, so I had to layer one on top of the others. I cooked the salmon for an hour on high, until it was flaky.

Before I knew it, the salmon was done. I was really impressed with this method of cooking the fish.

cooked salmon fillets in slow cooker
Cooked salmon fillets in the slow cooker. Erin McDowell/Insider

It was lovely being able to simply walk away from the slow cooker after adding all the ingredients, knowing it would be cooked perfectly after an hour. The salmon easily flaked apart and was perfectly cooked.

I served the salmon fillets with the salsa verde recipe recommended in the cookbook.

finished salmon fillets with salsa verde
The finished salmon fillets with salsa verde. Erin McDowell/Insider

While the salmon tasted very simple on its own, the salsa verde packed a ton of flavor. Its ingredients included cilantro, parsley, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

To help with dinner, my roommate prepared a delicious Caprese salad that paired perfectly with the salmon.

caprese tomato salad
Caprese salad. Erin McDowell/Insider

In all, the dinner took only an hour and 15 minutes to prepare and cook.

While I know you can just as easily poach salmon in a pot, I liked this slow cooker method because I could walk away from it and not worry.

salmon on fork dish plate
A fork with the finished salmon dish. Erin McDowell/Insider

My stove can be a touch temperamental, so it was reassuring to know the salmon wouldn't overcook or cook unevenly in the slow cooker. I would definitely make this dish again, especially because the only expensive ingredients you need are the salmon fillets.

Other than the fillets, the ingredients came to $10.68.

The last recipe I made, which ended up being my favorite, was Martha Stewart's recipe for chicken thighs with cilantro chutney.

chicken thighs ginger onion cilantro lime recipe ingredients
The ingredients for the chicken thighs with cilantro chutney. Erin McDowell/Insider

This recipe also called for only a few ingredients: chicken thighs, two onions, ginger, garlic, jalapeño, and a couple of ingredients to make the chutney.

You can find the recipe in "Martha Stewart's Slow Cooker" and online here.

I browned the onions in a stainless steel pan.

white onions sauteed in stainless steel pan
Yellow onions sauteed in a stainless steel pan. Erin McDowell/Insider

After about eight minutes, the onions were nicely browned and ready to add to the slow cooker.

The recipe also calls for five sliced garlic cloves, ginger, and jalapeño.

cooked onions garlic in slow cooker
The onions, garlic, and ginger in the slow cooker. Erin McDowell/Insider

A friend I was cooking for this night has an aversion to jalapeño, so I added in a few dashes of red pepper flakes to give the dish a slight kick instead.

Then I seasoned the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and added them to the slow cooker on top of the onion mixture.

chicken thighs in slow cooker
The seasoned chicken thighs in the slow cooker. Erin McDowell/Insider

The chicken thighs didn't need to be seared or browned first before adding them in, according to the recipe. However, in hindsight, I think this would have made the dish even more delicious.

The chutney also had only a few ingredients - roasted shelled peanuts, cilantro, light brown sugar, and lime juice.

chutney ingredients cilantro peanuts food processor
The ingredients for the cilantro chutney in a food processor. Erin McDowell/Insider

The short ingredient list made it even better in my mind. When I'm preparing a weeknight dinner, it's nice to use recipes that only require a few basic ingredients.

I also found that when I stepped away from the week, I remembered how to make all the dishes because of how simple they were.

The ingredients for this dish came to only $19.88 in total.

After two hours, I spread the chutney over the chicken thighs and let it sit for another half an hour.

chicken thighs with chutney in slow cooker
The chicken thighs with chutney in the slow cooker. Erin McDowell/Insider

The chutney was an appetizing, bright green color that I anticipated would add freshness to the meal.

After about two hours, my chicken thighs were done.

chicken thighs with chutney in slow cooker
The finished chicken thighs with chutney in the slow cooker. Erin McDowell/Insider

They weren't as browned as I usually like when I make chicken thighs in a pan or bake them in the oven. It looked delicious nonetheless.

I paired the chicken thighs with rice and a dollop of yogurt, per the recipe's instructions.

chicken thighs with chutney jasmine rice cilantro onions
The finished chicken thigh dish. Erin McDowell/Insider

It tasted fresh, light, and delicious — definitely something I would make time and time again.

I was amazed by how easy each recipe was, as well as how few ingredients the recipes required. I'll be making them again.

erin mcdowell holding poached salmon on plate
Me holding the plate of poached salmon. Erin McDowell/Insider

In the past, I've found one of the biggest drawbacks with slow cooking is how much time the recipes can take to prepare and cook. With these three recipes, I found the opposite.

Overall, I would definitely incorporate each of these recipes into my repertoire of weekly dinners.

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