Monday, November 30, 2009

Cornbread Stuffing with Apples, Raisins and Walnuts (Light Version)


The road trip is over and family back home still had an abundance of Thanksgiving leftovers. The full fatted version of this stuffing was such a hit, it begged to be made again.  Never thankful for a growing backside during the holidays, a calorie reduction was in serious order.  The original version called for 16 tablespoons of butter.  This lighter version shaves off 1200 calories just by reducing the butter, alone.  This recipe makes 12 half cup servings, each a full 100 calories lighter. 

After assembly it was alarming to see that it was much wetter than the original. Four hours later, when packed up for the voyage to Uncle Meat and Potatoes & Auntie EQ's, it looked perfect.  Now for the big question: Does it taste as good as the original? 

Winner Loser or Meh

This was delicious. Crunchy and crusty on the outside, moist in the inside.  Three of us ate dinner. Dinner included a major gravy based potato, vegetable, and turkey casserole.  After dinner, there were only two half cup servings of the stuffing left.  What we made up for in butter calorie reductions, we lost to second and third helpings of stuffing.  Burp.

While the butter festival version of the stuffing is better, I keep reminding myself that butter makes anything taste better.  Think about the divine taste of escargot.  Somehow I think a butterless version of escargot would taste just like...well...an icky garden snail.  Oh...wait....escargot are icky garden snails, they just have lots of butter and garlic. I rest my case.

Recipe

I used a 6 quart crock for this.  I used two bags from a big box of stuffing cubes, so this could easily be halved and made in a smaller crock.

Ingredients:
  • 1 twin bag box Mrs. Cubbison's Stuffin' Seasoned Cornbread
  • 4 Tbls butter divided, 2 of the Tablespoons cut into tiny cubes (vegans can use margarine or good quality oil)
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 5 inner ribs and leaves of celery, diced (enough to make 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 tart apple, cored and diced (I used Granny Smith)
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 3/4 cups vegetable stock (I used Vegetable Better than Bouillon and water to make stock)
Spray crock with no stick spray.  Pour contents of seasoned stuffing cubes into crock. Heat 2 Tbls butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Saute the onion and celery until translucent and soft.  Add contents of skillet to the crock and stir.  Add celery, apple, walnuts, raisins, parsley, and butter chunks to crock and stir to distribute all ingredients evenly.  Slowly drizzle stock over crock ingredients, while stirring at the same time.  Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours OR cook on high for 1 hour and reduce heat to low for 5-6 hours.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fig Jam


"Oh bring us some figgy pudding, oh bring us a figgy pudding, oh bring us a figgy pudding..."  It's that time of year again.  Today there will be no figgy puddings, but there will be some Fig Jam. This vegetarian slow cooker lives in an area of town called Fig Garden, smack dab in one of the fig capitals of the world. Two pounds of fresh figs and other goodies were turned into seven 4oz jars of slow cooked madness. Be prepared: This week will feature an abundance of chutney, jams, and fruit & nut butters, because Santa is busy in the workshop getting ready to ship slow cooked love in a jar to all - even the naughty. 


This took a long time.  Inspiration recipes called for only 5 hours of slow cooking, but this took too many hours to count accurately.  The reasons are not entirely clear.  There was the additional factor of a newly purchased double crock twin based slow cooker. Perhaps it cooks at a lower temperature than its single counterpart.  Perhaps not.   The recipes that came with the double have the exact same cooking times as any other Rival crock pot. The spoon notch was covered up with some aluminum foil, so heat loss could not have been the culprit.

A note on why the double crock and not the triple crock that is for sale at Costco right now.  The triple is long, large, and bulky.  It is likely to come out only during holiday and party events.  The double is easily carried and stored.  It fits nicely on a counter and leaves room for other things.  The crocks are about 2 1/2-3 quarts each, so it is perfect for a family to make a main dish and a side at the same time.  This was also the perfect size to navigate into a car for my dinner and dessert contributions to Grey's Anatomy family bonding night.  Bottom line:  It was likely to get more regular use.

Winner, Loser or Meh

This is delicious.  I am not a fig lover but this was really unique and special. The flavor combination is smashing.  It will be smashing on English muffins, and I also think a small jar over brie before baking would be divine.

Recipe

I used a 2 1/2 quart crock for this - perfect size

Ingredients
  • 2 pounds fresh figs, peeled with vegetable peeler, cut into 8ths  (I used Caifornia Figs, because, well.... they are in my neighborhood)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (I used organic pure cane)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 lemon, diced, including the rind, remove the seeds
  • 2 1/2 - 3 Tbls crystallized ginger, finely diced
Add all ingredients to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours.  Remove cover and cook until reaches a warm jam like consistency.  This was supposed to take 1-2 hours and instead took many (more than 5).  While still hot, pour into clean, sterilized 4 oz jars, cover with new lids, and process for 15 minutes.  OR store covered in fridge for 3 weeks. This makes 3 1/2 cups.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Mango Date Cherry Raisin Chutney


Yet another holiday canning Chutney project.  Mangoes were $.68 a piece, cheaper than any fruit at Winco.  The bulk bins were loaded with raisins, dried cherries, and pitted dates.  What more could a girl want?  This cooked nearly 12 hours.  Half the day covered, the other half uncovered.  Jars were sterilized, filled, covered with new lids and processed, all in under 30 minutes.  The most labor intensive part of this was chopping all the ingredients.

This filled 12 half pint jars with enough leftover to store a container for my own use in the fridge 

Winner, Loser or Meh

This is very reminiscent of a quality chunky barbecue sauce, but with a more exotic flavor. It is sweet, hot, spicy, with a pronounced vinegar tang. Its flavors and textures are perfect for warm weather climates or outdoor cooking. 

Recipe

I used a 6 quart crock pot for this.

Ingredients
  • 8 mangoes, peeled, flesh cut from pit and chopped
  • 1 pound pitted dates, chopped
  • 1 cup dark raisins
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 3 Tbls jarred minced ginger
  • 2 white onions, peeled, chopped
  • 4 limes, juiced, rinds diced and added to juice
  • 3 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 3 cups dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 cups sugar (I used organic pure cane)
  • 5 tsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 3 tsps cinnamon
  • 2 tsps vanilla extract
  • 2 tsps chili powder
  • 2 tsps ground coriander
  • 2 tsps aground allspice
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
Add all ingredients to the crock pot. Cover and cook on high for 6 hours.  Uncover and continue cooking on high until it cooks down and reaches a warm jam fresh jam like consistency, abou 4-6 hours more.  Pour into clean jars, cover with new lids, and process for 15 minutes OR store covered in the fridge for up to 3 months.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Candied Coconut Pecan Yams II

Here we go again!  Round two.  A shredded version of this recipe was featured previously and it was unspectacular.  This, despite numerous rave reviews on several cooking and blog sites.  How could all those reviews be so wrong?  The recipes were all substantially similar, with the exception of two different method for cutting the yams.  One was shredded, the other sliced.  So here we go again with sliced yams instead of shredded.

Fourteen to sixteen people are coming for Thanksgiving. If this turns out to be a flop, who cares?  There will tons of other great food to divert everyone's attention. Two sides were made in the crock for this feast, which freed up oven space, left lots of time to make other goodies, and the crocks did double duty as chaffing dishes.

Winner, Loser or Meh

This was outstanding and went fast.  People wanted the recipe. Cousin Cake Queen told them it would be on the blog. What a difference a slice makes.  This got all crusty and nice on the edges.  A new Thanksgiving staple.

Recipe

I used a 6 quart crock pot for this in order to accommodate Thanksgiving dinner for 16.  This recipe can be halved and still fits in a 6 quart crock or halved and made in  a 3-4 quart crock.

Ingredients:
  • 4 pounds yams, peeled, sliced into 1/4-1/3 inch thick rounds or halves
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (this would have been half vanilla and half coconut, but no coconut could be found)
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted (vegans can use margarine)
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup pecans pieces
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 Tbls butter, cut into tiny cubes
Spray no stick cooking spray in crock. Add yams to the crock.  Add vanilla to melted butter.  Pour butter over yams.  Mix sugar, coconut, pecans and cinnamon together in a small bowl.  Spread evenly over the yams.  Dot butter chunks evenly over the top. Cover.  Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours. Serve warm.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Cornbread Stuffing with Apples, Raisins, and Walnuts



Thanksgiving is usually no holiday for the host.  Putting on a major holiday meal can be a major logistical stress.  Oven space is limited, serving dishes and counter space are at a premium, and there is never enough time.  The slow cooker comes to the rescue in solving many of these problems.  Most traditional dishes are perfect for the crock. Whether assembled the morning of Thanksgiving, or made ahead and stored, they can all be made and served in the same dish.  Stuffing, Yams, Cranberry Sauce are perfect for making and serving from the crock.  Other dishes, like Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, and Green Bean Casserole can be made ahead via traditional oven or stove top means, stored in a crock, and then reheated via the crock and kept warm while guests come and go. All this leaves more time and less stress for the host to spend time with friends and family.


This year, while traveling on the road, stuffing and Candied Coconut Pecan Yams, were easily prepared by this Vegetarian Slow Cooker to contribute to Cousin Cake Queen's impressive Thanksgiving spread.  Sixteen were invited.  Cousin Cake Queen's kitchen is small and has one oven, which was occupied by a rather large bird.  Both slow cooker dishes dishes were assembled earlier in the day, while there was a lull in the kitchen, then plugged in out of the way. They were served straight from the crock.

Winner, Loser or Meh

This was  outstanding.  I have never been a huge fan of cornbread stuffing, but this was easy and delicious.  The edges and top got all crusty.  It was moist, yet firm, and flavorful.  I basically used boxed seasoned bread cubes, vegetable stock, and parsley to provide lightness.  Then added other available goodies from the cabinet.  It was all gone by bedtime.  Cousin Cake Queen stuffed her bird with regular bread stuffing, so there was a lot of stuffing.  I will make this again and again, and always in a crock.

Psst.... check out Cousin Cake Queens very perfect Pecan Pie in the top shot.

Recipe

I used a 6 quart crock for this.  I used two bags from a big box of stuffing cubes, so this could easily be halved and made in a smaller crock.

Ingredients:
  • 1 twin bag box Mrs. Cubbison's Stuffin' Seasoned Cornbread
  • 1 cup butter, (2 sticks) divided, one stick cut into tiny cubes
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 5 inner ribs and leaves of celery, diced (enough to make 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 tart apple, cored and diced (I used Granny Smith)
  • 1/3 - 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1/3 - 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock (I used Vegetable Better than Bouillon and water to make stock)
Spray crock with no stick spray.  Pour contents of seasoned stuffing cubes into crock. Heat 1 stick butter in a large skillet over medium high heat and saute onion and celery until translucent and soft.  Add contents of skillet to the crock and stir.  Add celery, apple, walnuts, raisins, parsley, and remaining butter chunks to crock and stir to distribute all ingredients evenly.  Slowly drizzle stock over crock ingredients, while stirring at the same time.  Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours OR cook on high for 1 hour and reduce heat to low for 5-6 hours.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cran-Apple Chutney


Tis' the season.  Apples and cranberries are never more affordable or in abundance than in the weeks and days leading up to Thanksgiving. This is the perfect time of year to add yet another slow cooked home canned goody into the crock.  This couldn't be easier. Whether making a batch to be sent out with holiday gift baskets, used as a house gift during holiday visits, or served right alongside the Thanksgiving spread, this is nothing short of delicious.  Sweet, hot, smoky and rich.  This makes an excellent spread for savory cheese sandwiches and your omnivore friends will probably slather it all over poultry sandwiches.

Winner, Loser, or Meh

This was and is delicious.  It's going in my holiday gift packages, along with previously made Apple Butter, Pumpkin Butter, and goodies to come in the next two weeks. It filled, exactly, 14  half pint jars.

Recipe

This barely fit into a 6 quart crock pot and can easily be halved and still made in a 6 quart crock pot.

Ingredients:
  • 4 jumbo sized shallots or 8 small ones, peeled, chopped
  • 3 large oranges, zest only, zest then cut into 1/2 inch strands (use a zester that yields longer thicker strands)
  • 3 12 ounce bags cranberries
  • 3 pounds tart apples, unpeeled, cored, finely diced (I used Granny Smith's)
  • 2 pounds dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup dried apricots, diced
  • 3 inch ginger chunks, peeled, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 3/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 3/4 tsp allspice
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
Combine all ingredients into the crock and stir well.  Cover and cook on low for 5 - 5 1/2 hours.  Uncover and continue cooking on low until it cooks down to a jam like consistency.  Freeze or store covered in the fridge if you like.

OR Immediately pour into clean half pint canning jars, cover with new lids that have been simmering in hot water, tighten with bands and process, fully covered, in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.  Remove from bath with jar lifter and let cool on the counter overnight.  As the jars cool, you should hear a popping sound as the lids vacuum seal.  Check lids in the morning to make sure they are sucked down and do not pop up and down.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Senate Bean Soup


While our elected officials are busy carrying on the nations business in Washington, the senate kitchen carries on the daily business of turning out a bean soup classic, available to anyone who stops by. This delicious soup has been a Senate kitchen staple for decades.  The recipe, a U.S. treasure in and of itself, has been available to the public for ages.  It just doesn't work for vegetarians because it requires a ham hock. Well not anymore.  Thanks to liquid smoke and some butter, the ham hock is not necessary at all. The original recipe also was not designed for the crock, but most bean based soups are easily adaptable.  This adaptation will simmer away on the counter unattended all day while you tend to the nation's business or your own.  This makes enough to feed a small army, leaves a surplus, and won't contribute to the  family budget deficit.

Winner, Loser or Meh

They "ayes" have it.  Meat eaters loved this soup, too.  A true, rare, bipartisan success. This was hearty and delicious.  Even better the second day.

Recipe 

I used a 6 quart crock for this.

Ingredients:
  • 1 pound Navy beans
  • 2 yellow onions, peeled, minced
  • 3 potatoes, peeled, chopped
  • 6 stalks celery with leaves, minced
  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped, divided
  • 1 1/2 Tbls Vegetable Better Than Bouillon (or use 4 cups vegetable stock and reduce water to 6 cups)
  • 10 cups water
  • 2 Tbls butter (vegans can use margarine)
  • 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
Soak beans in crock overnight covered in 3 inches of water.  Drain.  Place beans back in crock.  Add next 4 ingredients and 1/2 the parsley. Cover and cook on high for 8-10 hours, until beans are soft but hold their shape.  Add remaining parsley and  last 3 ingredients.  Stir and serve warm.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Apple Sauce


There were lots of older apples rolling around the bottom of the bin in the pantry.  They were taken for a ride to Bishop, California, so that they would be put to use during Thanksgiving week.  Applesauce is a perfect accompaniment to smokey bean dishes, like Senate Bean Soup, which was served alongside this.

Cousin Cake Queen, put up with my crocking during Thanksgiving week, while I stayed at her place for free. She is a delightful cook, interested in all things food, whose pantry and spice cabinet rivals my own.  She makes the most wonderful whimsical cakes, which routinely win blue ribbons at the fair.  Perhaps if she is reading this she will send me some pictures and I can post some links to astound you.

Winner, Loser or Meh

I did not care for this.  Cousin Cake Queen did.  I used Fujii apples.  I think this would have been better with a different  apple variety.  No amount of sugar seemed to make the tartness go away for me.  It was better served cold.

I will try this again, in the future with a different recipe and a different variety of apple.

Recipe

I used a 6 quart crock for this, a medium sized crock would have worked as well.

Ingredients:
  • 9 apples, peeled, cored, chopped into eight pieces each
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 6 Tbls brown or white sugar (or more to taste)
Place first 3 ingredients into the . Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-7.  Blend with immersion blender.  Add cinnamon powder and sugar to taste.  Serve warm or cold.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Curried Yellow Split Pea Stoup


Cousin Cake Queen greeted me as her Thanksgiving week house guest by handing me a low fat soup cookbook (marked with an interesting recipe or two), tossing assorted bags of dried legumes on the kitchen  counter,  pointing to 3 crock pots, and insisting that anything in her well stocked kitchen was mine for the making.  I greeted her with a bag of ripening apples, potatoes, onions and other assorted items from my kitchen.  It was a match made in heaven. This stoup was inspired by a stove top recipe from the soup book, which looked good, but turned out not to have much flavor.  The spices were amped up a notch or two to suit our needs.

Winner, Loser or Meh

At first we didn't think we liked it.  Then we each had 2 bowls.  Cake Queens dad came by for dinner and he had 2 or 3 bowls.  This was great the second day, after the flavors had a chance to meld together.  If you ever plan on making this, try putting it in the crock the night before, adding the apples, potatoes, Swiss chard when you wake up, and then leaving it for the flavors to meld in the fridge while you go about your day.

Recipe

I used a 6 quart crock for this.

Ingredients:
  • 1 Tbl olive oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/4 cups yellow split peas
  • 7 1/2 cups water 
  • 3 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 7 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tsp salt.
  • 3 medium potatoes, scrubbed, cubed
  • 2 medium green apples, cored, diced
  • 1 large bunch Swiss chard or Nappa cabbage, chopped (we could not get Swiss chard and would have preferred it)
Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium high heat.  Saute onions and garlic until soft and translucent. Add to crock.  Add everything else to crock, except Swiss chard, potatoes and apples. Cook covered on low for 10 hours.  Turn heat to high, add potatoes and apples and cook until they are tender, about 1 to 2  hours.  Turn off heat.  Stir in Swiss chard or Nappa cabbage. Adjust seasonings and serve.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Stuffed Bell Peppers


The theme for this week has been to use up everything that has been sitting in the pantry or taking up fridge space before leaving to spend Thanksgiving week with family in Bishop, California.  Green Bell peppers were on sale for $.38 this week.  Couple that with some frozen leftover diced onion, a frozen bag of corn, a little bit of frozen brown rice, some frozen stock, too many tiny cans of tomato sauce, and old shredded cheddar in the fridge drawer, and it was time to make something up.  These stuffed peppers were the result.   It's just you and me kid.  No one has vouched for these in the past.

(It took a while to get this up because the pictures were in the camera while I was out of town.)

Winner, Loser or Meh

These were okay, but not great.  They grew on me the next day.  I would not serve this to company, but it is a serviceable hearty dish that can be made with items usually found in the house.

Recipe

I used a 2 1/2-3 quart crock for this and jammed the peppers in.  You can use a larger crock and place the peppers into a smaller oven safe dish that will fit inside the larger crock.  You can also  double the recipe and use a 6 quart crock.

Ingredients:
  • 4 bell peppers, tops cut off, cored, seeded
  • 1 16 oz bag corn
  • 1 to1 1/2 cups cooked rice
  • 8 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (I used Christopher's jarred)
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock, divided (you can used boxed)
Spray crock with no stick spray.  Pour 1/4 cup stock into bottom of crock.  Mix all ingredients except the peppers together in a bowl.  Spoon 1/4 of the filling into each pepper. Place each pepper into the crock.  If there was filling that would not fit, spoon it over the top of the peppers.  Pour remaining stock over the top of the peppers. Cover.  Cook on low for 7-9 hours or on high for 3-5 hours.  Serve warm.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Caramel Fondue


This was a long hectic work week.  Today there were lots of little fires to put out.  There was not a lot of time.  There was a  big need for an easy dessert. Every other family member was also busy with their own projects and they were all coming and going during the evening. This little dessert fondue could not have been easier.  A can of Dulce de Leche from last week's prior crock pot adventure, splashes of rum, a bit of milk, a tart apple, and $ .57 of Winco bulk bin mini pretzels and lemon animal crackers did the trick. This entire large dessert plate came in at $1.88.  If you have a Lil' Dipper, you can not only heat the fondue, but keep it warm while serving. If you don't have a Lil' Dipper, you can microwave the caramel for a few seconds if it starts to firm up.

Winner, Loser or Meh

Yummy! Kids will love this.  Adults will, too. We did.

Recipe

I tossed everything into a 1.5 quart crock.  A Lil' Dipper would be perfect for this.  If you only have a large crock, put everything into a smaller baking dish and put the baking dish inside the large crock.  It will work.

Ingredients
Add to crock and cook on high for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

For dipping:
  • fruit slices
  • pound cake cubes
  • angel food cake cubes
  • animal crackers
  • pretzels

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Baked Brie with Apples, Cranberries & Pecans


If it's not already apparent, brie was on super sale last week, and there were many leftover odds and ends in the pantry from past crock adventures that needed using.  As the holidays approach, there is nothing better than warm appetizer based dinners and snacks. This one includes the best of seasonal ingredients on sale with the comforting tastes and smells of the holidays. The night was spent with family catching up on work and missed television episodes.  This, a bottle of wine, and Caramel Fondue (which will be featured next) was the perfect simple evening fare for our needs. We served this on corn based crackers out of respect for those with gluten intolerance.

Winner, Loser or Meh

This was good and very satisfying, but not quite as yummy as the Baked Brie with Caramelized Apricots & Pecans, but please don't get me wrong.  None of it is left. This was more "desserty" than the apricot brie.

Recipe

I used a 1 1/2 quart mini crock for this, but any size crock will work for this if the ingredients are placed in a smaller over safe dish that will fit in a larger crock.

Ingredients:
  • 1 tart apple, unpeeled, cored, diced
  • 1/4 cup pecan pieces
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 Tablespoon brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 Tbl butter, cut into pieces
  • 1  8 ounce round brie cheese
Mix all ingredients together, except the brie, in a small bowl.  Slice the brie wheel in half horizontally.  Place one half of the brie, rind side down, in the crock pot.  Spoon half the bowl mixture over the brie.  Top with other half of the brie wheel rind side up. Spoon remaining half of bowl mixture over the top.  Cover crock and cook on high for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  Serve warm with crackers.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Maple Spiced Dried Fruit Steel Cut Oatmeal


Time to try another healthy warm breakfast cereal.  Last month, this month, and next month involve an intense work trial.  Usually breakfast gets forgotten under such circumstances, especially when it's cold out.  Steel cut oats are supposed to be the best. They are rich in fiber, a whole grain, cheap in bulk, and do well with prolonged crock cooking.  They were purchased, and right before bedtime, unceremoniously tossed in the crock with available leftover dried fruit and other assorted ingredients from past crock projects  Sleep came soundly. Hours later, as the morning dawn light broke through the window blinds, the rich wonderful aroma of this concoction flooded from the kitchen and wafted into the bedroom.  This is oh so much better than it looks.

Winner, Loser or Meh

I do not like warm breakfast cereals.  I loved this.  I had a bowl at breakfast.  I sat at work in court all day and wanted it for lunch, too.  I was beyond sad I didn't bring any.  I had it for dinner.  The fruits, maple, and spice in this are fabulous.  The cherries and cranberries make it so different and exotic in flavor. 

Recipe

I used a 6 quart crock and placed a smaller souffle dish inside it which contained all the ingredients. You can also use a small crock pot for this.

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • 2 Tbls maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch ground cloves
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 6 twists nutmeg from grinder
  • 4 cups water
Spray crock with no stick spray.  Combine all ingredients in the crock and stir well.  Cook on low overnight, 7-9 hours.  Serve warm.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cranberry Sauce


Gobble, gobble.  Thanksgiving is just around the corner and traditional items associated with the holiday are on sale.  Cranberries were $1.49 a bag today.  This is a basic stove top whole cranberry sauce recipe, like the one that comes on the bag, converted for the crock.  There are fancier versions, which might be featured over the next month or so, but for now, keep it simple.  This will keep covered in the fridge for up to 3 weeks. For the organized, busy, or lazy host, there is no time like the present to get this item out of the way and ready for the big meal next week.

Winner, Loser, or Meh

This is a delicious basic fresh whole cranberry sauce.  It could not have been easier to make.  No fuss, no muss, no stir. Foolproof.

Recipe

I used a 6 quart crock for this because my 1 1/2 quart crock was already in use.  I mixed all the ingredients into a one quart Pyrex measuring cup and set the Pyrex inside the larger slow cooker.  You can do the same with any oven safe baking dish. 

Ingredients:
  • 1 12 ounce bag fresh cranberries, rinsed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • grated zest of an orange
Combine everything except the zest in the slow cooker.  Cover and cook on high for 2 - 2 1/2 hours, until the cranberries have popped open.  Turn off heat, stir in zest.  Keep lid off and  allow to cool to room temperature.  Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Glazed Maple & Mustard Brussel Sprouts


Fresh full stalks of Brussels sprouts could be had today for about  $2 at Trader Joes.  Sprouts fresh cut from the stalk are sweeter than those purchased already cut from the stalk.  For those who hate sprouts, ones that are fresh and served with a glaze are likely to cause a conversion.  Many are likely to become true believers.

The fresh sugary stalk was brought home, and stored with the cut end in water until needed.  The sprouts were broken off, quickly peeled of outer leaves, cut in half, and tossed in the crock with all the other yummy ingredients.  Prep time was less than 10 minutes.  While these slowly crocked, library books were returned, the weeks shopping was done, and the end of a movie was watched.  

This can be made using frozen sprouts or those already cut from the stalk.  Just adjust the cooking time if starting with frozen sprouts.

Winner, Loser or Meh

Two haters liked these.  One said they liked the fresh sugary taste of these and enjoyed the al dente crunch. These were good.  An underdog winner if ever there was one.

Recipe

I used a 1 1/2 quart mini crock  for this, but you can put these ingredients into a small oven safe dish and place within a larger crock if you don't have a smaller one. 

Ingredients
  • 1 Tbls butter (vegans can use olive oil)
  • 1 stalk Brussels sprouts (about 2-3 cups) blemished or tough outer leaves removed, halved
  • 1 1/2 Tbls Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbls pure maple syrup
  • 1 Tbls lemon juice
  • 2 Tbls pecans, chopped
  • Coarsely ground black pepper to taste
  • A few twists of fresh grated nutmeg just before serving (optional) 
Add all ingredients except the optional nutmeg to the crock.  Cook on high for 2 1/2 to 3 hours until al dente.  Adjus salt and pepper and add nutmeg. Serve warm.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Baked Brie with Caramelized Apricots & Pecans


Friday nights are perfect for Happy Hour at home.  The work week is over, and a warm sweet and savory appetizer is perfect dinner fare.  Baked brie.  What's not to love?  Buttery, warm, sophisticated and simple, all at the same time. 

This was made with leftover ingredients from food featured here in the past few weeks.  The mini brie wheel was on sale for $2.88.  It takes all of 2 minutes to toss together and then crocks away with no monitoring in a little over an hour.

Return some calls, talk about your day with your loved ones, enjoy a glass of wine, and then enjoy this.

Winner, Loser or Meh

Uncle Meat and Potatoes and I loved this. Auntie "EQ" had a love affair with it at the kitchen counter.  This was a big winner.

Recipe

I used a 6 quart crock for this, because my 1 1/2 quart mini was in use.  I placed the brie wheel into a small oven safe corning dish, and put the other ingredients on top.  This would have worked in a Lil Dipper or a 1 1/2 quart mini as well.

Ingredients:
  •  1 small brie wheel or large wedge of brie (I used an 8.5 ounce brie wheel)
  • 1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped
  • 1/4 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1 Tbl brown sugar
  • 1 Tbl water
  • 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp dried rosemary or 1 tsp fresh
Take wrapper off of brie.  Place the brie wheel into the crock or smaller oven safe dish that will fit into your crock.  Mix all other ingredients in a small bowl and pour over the brie.  Cook on high for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or on low for 3.  Serve with crackers and/or tart apple wedges.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cream of Squash Soup


Remember all that squash bought last month for super duper cheap?  We're finally in the home stretch of using it all up.  Today was a rainy day.  It's Thursday night Grey's family bonding night.  Perfect comfort soup weather.  There were 3 acorn squash left, which should have yielded 6 cups of squash for the recipe, but only 2 would fit in the 6 quart crock.  Time for plan B.  Less squash.  This was a breeze to make.  The squash were tossed in, just as I headed out to work.  At the end of the day, they were simmering on the auto warm cycle.  It took 10 minutes to toss it all together.  This was made for under $3.00. 

Winner, Loser or Meh

This was basically the squash version of the Potato Soup that was such a hit a few weeks ago.  I liked it, Auntie EQ liked it, Uncle Meat and Potatoes dreamed of bacon bits all over it.  He made his own wish come true.  I wanted it to have some garlic.  I want garlic on everything, so my opinion may not count.  It needed salt and when I added it, I liked it the best.  This was good.  I'd make it again.

Recipe

I used a 6 quart crock pot for this.

Ingredients
  • 1/2 onion, peeled, diced (I used some frozen from a bag)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 6 cups butternut or acorn squash (I used acorn squash, and could only fit in 2 so we had 4 cups and not 6 cups of squash)
  • 4 cups vegetable stock (or Vegetable Better than Bouillon & water to make 4 cups)
  • 3/4 tsp marjoram, dried
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot chili powder
  • 16 oz cream cheese or neufetchel or combination ( I used all neufetchel to cut back on fat)
Poke any squash used with a fork, add to the crock with a cup of water and let it cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Remove from crock and wash the crock, return to cooking base and turn on high.  Heat a no stick skillet over medium high heat and melt butter.  Saute the onion until well cooked and caramelized.  While the onions are cooking, cut the squash, seed it and scoop out the meat and return to the crock.  Add all other ingredients. Add onions and butter.sauteed in butter and all the spices and let it crock for another thirty minutes to an hour.  Adjust seasonings and add salt if desired. Use an immersion blender to smooth.  Serve.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Candied Coconut Pecan Yams I


Get ready to yam it up. Giant yams were $.39 each.  I got 3, each weighing in at over 2.5 pounds.  With Thanksgiving 'round the corner, it's time to get a jump on various crock pot options for the big holiday. This combination of flavors appeared with two different processing options for the yams.  This first one is a shredded yam.  Praise God for the food processor. It would never have been made if the only option was a hand grater.  It took 5 store runs to find coconut extract.  It used to be on shelves everywhere.  It was finally located at a local Asian market.  The next version of this has the same ingredient list, but the yams are cut into 1/2 inch circles.  To be continued.

Winner, Loser or Meh

This was good, not great.  It tastes better than it looks.  Perhaps  if there was a plate of other delicious side dishes around, I would think this was the best yam recipe ever.  I am used to childhood holiday yams swimming in obnoxious pools of sugary buttered goodness.  There were no buttery sugared pools in this version. Adults will love this.

This version was outstanding: Candied Coconut Pecan Yams II

Recipe

I used a 6 quart crock pot for this, a 3-4 quart would work fine, too.

Ingredients
  • 2 pounds yams, peeled, shredded
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted (vegans can use margarine)
  • 1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1/4 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp coconut extract
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • coconut, toasted (optional)
Spray no stick cooking spray in crock. Add potatoes, sugar, butter, coconut, pecans and cinnamon to crock.  Stir to mix all ingredients. Cover.  Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours.  Stir in extracts.  Top with toasted coconut.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Spiced Cider I


This was made Halloween night while enjoying the evening with family.  "It's mid November!" you say, "Why did you wait so long to post this seasonal treat?"  For starters, it was terrible.  Not to mention, we couldn't find any cool glasses to put it in for a photo shoot. (I lifted this photo from Brides.com).  There was talk of venturing out to purchase an appropriate glass for the photo, but then a major distraction occurred. Truth be told, the distraction involved attempts to delude ourselves into thinking the cider wasn't awful by mixing equal parts brandy to spiced cider and downing it between bites of mini-Snickers. At that point, it wasn't safe to drive anywhere, not to mention there were still lots of mini-Snickers, and I won't walk away from a mini-Snickers without a fight. As an aside, I must say that I thank God everyday (sometimes two or three times a day) that Snickers are vegetarian.

Winner, Loser or Meh

Depends.  Auntie "EQ" swears to this day that the cider was delicious, but she started with equal parts brandy to cider, so keep that in mind.

We'll try another version later this month.  This version is great:  Spiced Cider II

Recipe

I used a 4 quart round for this

Ingredients
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 large cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large orange, quartered with peel
  • 2 quarts apple cider
Place first 3 ingredient into a coffee filter and tie with string.  Add all other ingredients to the crock and stir.  Add tied coffee filter with spices and cook on low for 4 hours. Remove coffee filter and orange quarters.  Serve. (With brandy if desired).

Monday, November 9, 2009

Boston Baked Beans


The Boston tradition of smokey, sweet, molasses-infused, slow cooked, oven baked beans dates back to colonial times. Boston's thriving rum trade was fueled by processing sugar cane which left the region awash in molasses byproduct.  Abundant molasses and the need to do something with it, gave rise to this regional specialty dish, which gave rise to Boston's nickname, Beantown.  While the usual omnivore versions of this dish include salt pork, it is not necessary.  Shaker communities developed a wonderful adaptation that is fully vegetarian.   All versions of Boston Baked Beans take a long, long, time.  It matters not whether cooked in the oven or in the crock pot, the time is the same.  The oven requires frequent checking to make sure burning does not occur, the crock pot does not.  Advantage crock pot.

This entire huge batch is several cans worth of commercially prepared beans and tastes much better.  The total cost: $2.48 for the entire pot.  I get all rummy inside just thinking about it.

Winner, Loser or Meh

This was very good.  It took every bit of the 12 hours at the tail end of the suggested cooking time.  I got up early in the morning, after soaking the beans all night, to accomodate the 1 1/2 hour cook on high, and then set the timer for the full 12 hours, before leaving for work.  I was famished having to wait so long for dinner.  I suggest making this the day before you want to eat it, and taking the lid off in the last half hour to let some of the moisture evaporate. This will get nothing but better as it sits for a day before reheating.

Recipe

I used a 6 quart crock for this.

Ingredients
  • 1 pound navy beans (small white beans)
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (dark grade)
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried thyme 
  • 2 dashes mint
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled, end chopped
  • 4 whole cloves, stuck into the bottom of the onion
  • 1/2 cup butter or (margarine for vegans)
  • liquid smoke to taste (optional, use sparingly)
Rinse and pick through the beans to remove stones and discolored beans. Soak the beans overnight covered by 3 inches of water.  Rinse and drain.  Cover with fresh water by 3 inches and cook on high for 1 1/2 hours.  Drain.  Return the beans to the crock.  Add ketchup, molasses, maple syrup, pepper, salt, and savory.  Stir. Push the onion studded with cloves into the center of the beans.  Pour boiling water over the beans to cover by 1/2 an inch.  Cook on low for 10-12 hours.  Remove the onion, remove the cloves mash in the onion with the beans, stir in the butter, adjust seasonings.  Serve warm.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Spaghetti Squash with Tomatoes, Feta, Olives, & Basil


Get ready to rumble.  Time for  Round Two of Me vs Spaghetti Squash.   The oven to stove top version of this match up had countless 5 star ratings at All Recipes.  Interesting, given that almost no contender used the original recipe.  Many of the pictures didn't even match the ingredients in the recipe.  Punch drunk wondering how  it qualified as a 5 star recipe when 3 or 4 ingredients were either added or changed and the proportions were different.  Nevertheless, I carry on, dancing like a butterfly and stinging like bee.    

Round One, Spaghetti Squash with Sage, Pine Nuts & Romano,  started by sticking a squash several times with a  fork, dropping it in the crock with water, and letting it cook all day. Preliminary approach is still a knock out.  Another tip that I did not do in this round, but will do in the future: Don 't cut the squash lengthwise.  If you cut it the other way, the strands come out longer and more like spaghetti.  Then, the basic squash will be down for the count.

Winner, Loser or Meh

This was very good.  I think it would be fantabulous as a summer salad. I keep wanting to chill it and toss it with balsamic vinegar, which may be what happens with it tomorrow.  I might even make this again without the tomatoes, chill the "salad", then add the chopped tomatoes and some balsamic.  I am very sure this wants to be a late summer salad. I won't decide which list this goes on until after I have tried it as the balsamic salad.  Stay tuned.

It was better than Spaghetti Squash with Sage, Pine Nuts & Romano. - I think.  Not Sure.  I wonder whether or not I am really a fan of spaghetti squash.  I will reaffirm that the squash tastes better and is easier when cooked in the crock than it has been when I have cooked it in the oven.

Recipe

I used a 6 quart crock for this

Ingredients
  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 2 Tbls olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (I used Christopher's jarred)
  • 5 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 3 Tbls. black olives, sliced (basically the entire small can)
  • 3 Tbls. fresh basil, chopped
  • generous amount of fresh ground pepper 
Pierce a spaghetti squash several times with a fork.  Place in 1 to 2 cups of water in the crock. Cover.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for  3-4 hours.  Carefully remove the squash from crock with something to protect your hands. Let it cool enough to handle. Empty the water from the crock.

While the squash is cooling, heat oil in a large no stick skillet over medium high heat. Saute onion until tender, but still firm, add the garlic and stir.  Turn off heat. Slice the squash in half, seed it, and use a fork to shred the strands from the squash and return the strands to the crock.  Add the onion, garlic and oil mixture. Add the tomatoes and olives and toss so that they become warm, but the diced tomato pieces retain their shape. Add cheese and basil. Toss.  Serve warm.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Dulce de Leche (Caramel Sauce)


In Mexico, South America, and other areas of the globe a wicked wonderful milk caramel sauce, Dulce de Leche, has long been made by home cooks.  They boil an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk in water for a few hours, allow it to cool, and then open the can.  Manufacturers of sweetened condensed milk advise that you must never do this, because the can might burst open and spew boiling hot caramel all over someone.  So don't do this.  Ever.  You should also never put an unopened can or cans of sweetened condensed milk in the crock, cover with water, put on the lid, and cook on low for  8-10 hours, while you sleep, shop, or work. Never do this.  Ever. It can be dangerous if hot sticky caramel explodes all over you when you get home.

Even if the can or cans don't explode, just think how really bad it would be to dip apple slices into the caramel and eat half the caramel.  It would be terrible.  Clearly something you should never do if you value your health, your waistline, or the health of your family.  Trust me on this.  You might even think eating Fat Burning Soup for a week before eating caramel sauce on apples will make it okay.  It won't. So don't ever do this.

I know some of you are thinking it would be super cool to make homemade new labels on your computer and give cans of Dulce de Leche to family and friends for the holidays. Don't do it.  Also, don't get the cheap non Eaglebrand sweetened condensed milk that is on sale for half the price, like the stuff at Winco for $.98 a can.  Don't.   

Winner, Loser or Meh



I didn't do this, so I can't really speak from experience, but if I had done this, I would say it would probably be one of the most delicious, easy and wonderful things ever put into my mouth or the mouths of those I love.

I also didn't make delicious Bannofee Pie.   I did not take a graham cracker crust, put 2 cut up bananas inside it, and  pour 2 cans of caramel sauce over the bananas, allow the pie to cool in the fridge, and then top with whipped cream.  That never happened.

I also have no plans to buy a chocolate cookie crust and put a cup or more of crushed chocolate toffee bits into it and pour a can or so of this stuff over it and cover it with whipped cream.  Even if I have PMS, I will never do anything like that. 

Recipe

Don't put any single can or cans that fit in whatever size slow cooker you have that has a low setting.

Ingredients
  • Can or cans of unopened sweetened condensed milk with the labels removed.
Don't put any can or cans of unopened sweetened condensed milk with the labels removed into your crock pot. Don't cover those cans with water, put the lid on, and then cook them on low for 8-10 hours.  Don't  do it for 8 hours to get a thinner sauce or 10 hours to get a thicker sauce.  Don't allow the cans to sit in the water for 10 minutes after cooking, with the power off.  Don't remove those cans very carefully from the water with a jar lifter and place the cans on a towel on your kitchen counter.  Don't let those cans sit there for one hour (at least) before opening them and using the stuff inside.  Don't.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Stuffed Acorn Squash


Weekly Grey's Anatomy family bonding plans were squashed on account of adult chaperon duty at a junior high school dance.  Always one to take defeating news lying down (okay, I take all news lying down), I managed to squash right back.  Acorn squash were .59 each a couple of weeks ago and I still had three.  Since there would be no sweet get together, I decided to savor my evening alone.  Most winter squash fare has a sweet component.  I looked for something with more savory accents and found this easy crockable stuffed squash recipe.  I have no idea who developed it, because it was found on multiple websites.  I altered nothing and prepared it exactly as written.  This is a light meal, coming in under 350 calories per half.

Winner, Loser, or Meh 

This was good and I was happy to get a winter squash dish that wasn't like a dessert. I enjoyed the combination of flavors in this dish.  The squash is sweet, but the hit of garlic, texture of the rice, earthiness of the pine nuts, with the tang from cheese and tomato balanced very well.  This gets to be on the winners list because it is easy, cheap, low in calories, and looks and tastes like something from the deli case at Whole Foods.  

Recipe

I used a 6 quart crock for this.

Ingredients:
  • 1 large acorn squash, halved lengthwise, seeded, bowl-like bottom of squash half sliced to sit flat
  • olive oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup wild rice
  • 1/4 cup raw pine nuts (pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds may be substituted)
  • 1 Tbls minced garlic (I used Christopher's jarred)
  • 1 Tbls tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta or goat cheese (I used feta)
Pour water into crock.  Brush squash halves with olive oil and place in slow cooker.  In a bowl, combine wild rice, pine nuts, minced garlic, tomato paste, salt, pepper, and spices. Stir & mix well.  Spoon rice mixture into each squash half.  Pour 1/2 the stock into each squash cavity, being careful not to let stuffing flow over. Pour any remaining stock around the squash. Cover.  Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for  6-8 hours. Sprinkle with cheese and serve warm.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Baked Potatoes


One potato, two potato, three potato, four, five potato, six potato seven potato more? With the crock the number doesn't matter.  Work all day?  Come home to steaming hot potatoes.  Having a party?  Use the crock for a potato bar set up hours in advance. Don't want to heat up the house? Forget about the oven, use the crock. On day two of the Fat Burning Soup diet?  Time for a baked potato. It couldn't be easier in the crock.  Simply scrub your potatoes, rub them with oil and kosher salt (or not), wrap in foil, and toss in the crock.  Add just one or two or fill the crock to the brim.  It doesn't matter.  Cook them all day and the potato meat inside will be slightly brownish in color, but tasty as can be.  If you cook them in half the time on high, the meat will stay white.  If pride demands the innards of the potato be white, plug the crock into a lamp timer to delay the start of cooking. Either way, it's a hot potato!

Winner, Loser, or Meh

These taste good.  They are easy and convenient.  Even though microwaved baked potatoes can be a quick convenience, these taste better and you can do many at once. Sure, a classic true oven baked potato is the best, but when time, convenience, or house temperature are issues, this is the perfect and best solution.

Psst...10 pounds of Russet potatoes were $1.68 last week and that's not a crock.

Recipe

I used a 6 quart crock for this, but use any size you want.  It doesn't really matter.

Ingredients:
  • Russet potatoes, scrubbed, as little as you want or as many will fit in the crock
  • oil (optional)
  • Kosher salt (optional)
Rub potatoes with oil, coat with salt, wrap in foil. Place in crock.  Do not add water.  Cover.  Cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 3-4 hours.  If you want the meat of the potato to stay white, use the high setting and cook for 3-4 hours.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fat Burning Soup


Remember those crazy cabbage soup diets from the 70's?  All I remember is the soup was fantastic, loaded with veggies, filled an industrial sized stock pot, and no one stuck with the accompanying rigid diet plan. Google the plan and you'll see why.  Some chums on  an internet bulletin board are making and eating various soups this week to jump start their diets.  The classic Fat Burning Soup ended up on one of the recipe lists.  I have modified it to be 100% vegetarian and to fit perfectly in a 6 quart crock.  There were promises of featured lighter fare at Vegetarian Slow Cooker as the holidays approach and this couldn't be lighter.  This  hearty, flavorful and nutritious soup is also a 0 point Weight Watchers item, vegan, and gluten free. Why not treat you and yours to a bowl? Try it even if you aren't on a crazy diet. Delicious.

Winner, Loser or Meh

This is wonderful!  I thought I would have to spice it to death when it was finished.  It didn't need it.  I put a little salt and pepper into the first bowl.  Perfect.

I halved the original recipe, substituting vegetable stock for beef stock; tomato sauce and more vegetable stock for vegetable juice (because that was what was here); more onion and Vegetable Better Than Bullion for the Lipton Onion Soup mix; and a full can of green beans instead of half.

Recipe

I used a 6 quart crock for this.  It was full.

Ingredients
  • 2 medium carrots, ends removed, chopped
  • 2 onions, peeled, chopped
  • 1/2 a 16 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, with 1/2 the liquid
  • 1/2 large head cabbage, chopped
  • 1 Tbls vegetable base Better Than Boullion
  • 1 15 ounce can cut green beans, drained
  • 24 oz tomato sauce (or 1 quart V8 or Tomato Juice, then reduce stock by 1 cup)
  • 1 green bell peppers, cored, seeded, diced
  • 5 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cloves garlic minced (I used Christopher's jarred minced garlic)
Put it all in the crock pot.  Stir.  Cover.  Cook high for 5 hours or low for 8.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Parmesan Risotto


Risotto is Italian creamy comfort food at its best.  Stove top risotto has never been hard to make, it just requires 20-30 minutes, or more, of constant stirring after all the ingredients are in the pan.  Well not anymore!  The crock is hands down the easiest way to make fool proof risotto, ever.  There is no stirring. It comes out creamy and perfect  every time - so long as you carefully respect the cooking time. I respected the cooking time by carefully checking the movie theater listings and selecting a movie that would get out in time for me to eat the risotto within minutes of returning home. 

Risotto is made with a special short rice grain which yields a creamy texture.  All rice grains are not created equal.  Do not try this with other types of rice grains.  It will not be creamy or delicious.  Trust me. 

This will not work in the crock if the crock is too large for the amount of risotto.  If only a large slow cooker is available, do not worry.  Use a 2-3 quart oven safe baking dish, put the prepared rice and liquid in it, and then place the baking dish inside the large slow cooker.  When the risotto is finished, be careful removing the smaller baking dish.  It will be hot. Use oven mitts. 

Winner, Loser or Meh

Delicious!  There is nothing else to say.

Recipe

I used a 6 quart crock for this, but put all the ingredients into a smaller 2 1/2 quart souffle dish and then placed it into the crock.

Ingredients
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 medium shallots, peeled, minced; or 1 clove garlic, minced and 1/4 onion, peeled diced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/4 cup aborrio rice
  • 3 3/4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 1/2 Tbs lite soy or Braggs Liquid Aminos
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Spray crock or smaller baking dish to put in crock with no stick spray.  Heat oil in a no stick skillet over medium high heat. Saute shallots (or garlic and onion) until translucent.  Add wine and stir. Add rice and saute until the grains turn opaque (about 2-3 minutes).  Do not brown the rice.  Pour rice mixture into crock or baking dish.  Add stock and soy sauce. Cook on high for 2 - 2 1/2 hours.  It is done when there is still some liquid, and the rice is firm but tender.  Stir in 1/2 the cheese.  Use the rest of cheese to sprinkle on top of servings.  This will keep in the warm setting for about an hour.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Focaccia


Focaccia can be made in the crock. Oh, yes it can!  For the uber equipment and energy challenged, a no knead focaccia dough, made completely in a plastic storage container, requiring just a few stirs, will be featured later this week. So hold on and don't abandon all hope, yet.  Until then, let's just revel in wonder that focaccia and yeast breads are crockable.  A sample bread machine focaccia recipe is listed below.  It's just an example for proportions that work in a 6 quart oval crock pot.  Substitute any focaccia dough recipe.  This works with store bought dough, or dough made by hand.  The key is to follow the crocking instructions. 

Auntie "EQ", made a double batch of bread machine whole wheat focaccia dough this weekend.  Half was used for the loaf pictured here, the other half was refrigerated and used to make  a second loaf  the next day.  (Psst.  I love to call her Auntie because technically she is, but she is younger than I, so it makes me feel younger.  EQ is short for "Embroidery Queen", my name for her, not hers.  Don't tell.  Even though she regularly reads here.)

Winner, Loser or Meh

We liked this. It will be made again. Three adults scarfed down the first trial run in under 5 minutes.  I thought it had overcooked and was too hard.  The second run cooked for 30 minutes less.  It was much better.  Four adults scarfed it down in under 10 minutes with other appetizers on the table. There were no complaints.  I was a 5th adult with a complaint.  Everyone was so hungry and anxious to eat, I didn't let the finished focaccia rest for 10 minutes before slicing.  It would have been better.  No one else seemed to care.

The first batch had olives, basil, kosher salt, and mozzarella topping.  The second batch had olives, sun dried tomatoes, roasted garlic, basil, kosher salt, and Parmesan cheese.

Recipe

I used a Rival 6 quart crock for this.  (Other sizes and different manufacturers will require different proportions and different cooking times since settings vary among manufacturers.)

Sample Ingredients for a Focaccia Whole Wheat Bread Machine Dough for a double batch:
  •  1 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 3 teaspoons dry yeast
Proportions and ingredient list from Bread Machine Magic by Linda Rehberg & Lois Conway
    Follow instructions from bread machine manufacturer for order of ingredients and processing. Slick with some extra olive oil and store in plastic wrap.

    Crock Instructions:

    Spray crock with no stick spray. Roll out dough ball between two sheets of plastic wrap to form the shape of the crock oval. Let the shape be large enough to touch the edges of the crock. It can be slightly over.  Place in crock.  Puncture dough several times with a knife so that it remains flat when cooking.

    Add desired toppings or combination of topping such as:
    • olives
    • kosher salt
    • rosemary
    • cheese
    • basil
    • sun dried tomatoes
    • roasted garlic
    Place clean dish towel or layers of paper towels over crock and cover with lid.  Pull edges of towel into the center of the lid's top to make the towel taught.  The towel will serve as a moisture wick.  Cook on high for 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 hours.  Do not open the lid before the 1 1/2 hour mark.  It is done when the crust is firm and there is a slight hollow sounding when tapped.  Turn off heat.  Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

    Finished Focaccia  - Note Height



    Finished Focaccia in Crock

    Sunday, November 1, 2009

    Gratin Potatoes - Light


    The holidays are coming up, and the reading on the scale usually comes up right along beside them.  During the next few weeks at Vegetarian Slow Cooker, a sprinkling of lightened recipe conversions for typical high calorie fare shall appear. And not a moment too soon.  Yesterday, as three crocks of soon- to-be-featured lighter fare simmered away, trick or treaters rang at the door.  Each time the door closed behind costumed kiddies with their bags of booty, a mini Snickers found its way into my mouth, where it is sure to land on my booty.

    This is a low fat oven classic from In the Kitchen with Rosie, which I have adapted for the crock. It will not look as pretty as the oven version, nor will it be as crusty or firm, but it will taste just as good.  The potatoes were left unpeeled to provide added fiber and nutrients.

    Winner, Loser or Meh

    I spent last night with family, and everyone really liked this.  I was stunned.  My taste buds would have preferred more salt, pepper, and other spices (which I added to my serving) but the rest of the family insisted it was great just exactly as it was.  I was eating mine between bites of Snickers, so perhaps my palate was off a bit. 

    Recipe

    I used a 6 quart oval for this.  A large round would work as well.

    Ingredients:
    • 12 oz can evaporated skim milk
    • 3 medium baking potatoes, unpeeled, halved lengthwise, then sliced thin into half rounds
    • 2 Tbls all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat)
    • 1 medium onion, peeled, thinly sliced into half rings
    • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
    • 1 tsp paprika, divided
    • 1/2 tsp  black pepper (I use fresh ground)
    • 1 small zucchini or crook neck squash, ends cut, sliced into thin rounds
    • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg or several twists from the nutmeg grinder
    • 1/2 tsp Mrs. Dash or Spike or salt (I used salt)
    • 3 Tbls Parmesan cheese, grated
    • salt and pepper
    Spray crock with no stick cooking spray. Splash a layer of skim condensed milk on the bottom of the crock to prevent scorching. Layer a third of the potatoes to cover the crock bottom. Overlapping is fine. Sprinkle one tablespoon flour over the potatoes.  Layer with all onion slices. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper and 1/2 the paprika (salt and pepper to if desired). Layer another third of the potatoes.  Sprinkle with remaining flour, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of the Parmesan cheese. Layer with all zucchini.  Sprinkle with nutmeg, Mrs. Dash, and pepper. Layer with remaining potatoes (salt and pepper if desired).  Top with remaining Parmesan, paprika, and salt and pepper (if desired). Pour the remaining milk over the top, being careful not to disturb the cheese.  Cook on high 3-4 hours or Low for 6-7  (I did high for 4 hours).