Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cranberry Swiss Dip


This was the second dip served in the Rival Double Crockpot as part of Auntie EQ and Uncle Meat & Potatoes annual New Years Eve party. The other half of the double had Chili Cheese Dip. Uncle Meat & Potatoes, a regular reader of the blog, read about the Spinach Artichoke Dip made for another party with friends while I was out of town over Christmas.  He requested it and I had to turn him down. This is the practical downside of trying to produce a new slow cooked item every day for a year.  I felt very guilty and hoped one of the two dips would redeem the situation.

Uncle Meat & Potatoes, ever the consummate educator, had party attendees view a documentary on the making and distilling of various scotch and whiskey products throughout the world.  He set up a product specific spirits bar.  He paused the DVD after each featured brand, and all guests sampled shot glasses filled with whatever brand of liquor had been featured in the segment. He even had the national flags of each liquor distillery location taped on the mantel.  It was something to behold on many levels. 

Winner, Loser, or Meh

During the second segment of the liquor documentary, before anyone was thoroughly plastered, Uncle Meat & Potatoes rushed over to my chair with dip cheese dripping from a cracker and his lower lip.  He breathlessly whispered in my ear "this is the best thing I have ever eaten".  I went to the bar for a taste of the dip and it was almost all gone.  I think this is a winner.

Interestingly, the dip is not really sweet.  The Jarlsberg cuts sweetness. The tangerine and cranberries were really set off by the nutty flavor of the cheese.  Both dips were assembled in under 5 minutes on the bar before I rushed off for other errands.  The guests had already arrived before I could get back and Auntie EQ shot a quick photo while I was gone and before the dip had its final stir.

Recipe

I used a 2 1/2 -3 quart crock for this.  A 1 1/2-2 quart crock would work as well.

Ingredients:
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2/3-3/4 cups Jarlsberg cheese, grated (Swiss works, too)
  • 2 Tbls orange juice
  • zest of 1/2 a tangerine (orange or cutie would work, too)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tsps sugar
Spread the cream cheese on the bottom of the crock.  Spread the grated Jarlsberg evenly over the top.  Sprinkle with orange juice and zest.  Sprinkle the cranberries on top and dust the cranberries with the sugar.  Cover and cook on high for about an hour, until the cheese is melted.  Stir and serve straight from the crock on the warm setting.  We served them with wheat thins.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Chili Cheese Dip



The Rival Crockpot Double was dusted off to serve as a double dipping station at Auntie EQ and Uncle Meat and Potatoes annual New Years Eve party.  The other half of the double had Cranberry Swiss Dip.  Auntie EQ and other attendees provided a full service soup bar, bacon dips, artichoke dips, and desserts palooza - basically a pig festival extraordinaire.  Mrs. Treebeard brought a black bean soup and this dip was the perfect accompaniment to those flavors.  Both dips were assembled in under 5 minutes on Auntie EQ's bar before I dashed off to a many months overdue hair appointment.  By the time I returned all the guest had already arrived and Auntie EQ had taken a quick photo of the crock before the dips were gobbled up.  Good thing she did, because this was gone in under 30 minutes.

Winner, Loser, or Meh

This was very easy and very good.   

Recipe:

I used a 3 quart crock for this, but it would work in a 1 -2 quart one as well.

Ingredients:
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 15 oz can chili (I used Nalley's Vegetarian)
  • 1 cup salsa (any kind)
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese (or any combination Mexican cheeses)
Spread cream cheese on bottom of crock evenly.  Pour can of chili on top evenly.  Pour salsa on top of chili evenly.  Sprinkle cheese on top evenly.  Cover and cook on high for about an hour until the cheese is melty on top.  Reduce heat to warm and serve straight from the crock with tortilla chips.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Lasagna I


A frenzy of holiday "no sew" fleece blanket making (see background)  resulted in little attention paid to the documentation of the Vegetarian Slow Cooking lifestyle.  Rest assured, while the blankets were not being sewed, the crocks were still cooking.  The writing was put on hold and these entries will be back-dated until things are all caught up.  I promised a crock lasagna to a reader in a recent comment.  This was the first experiment.  Ease of preparation was a primary requirement.  No cook lasagna noodles a must.  This was made during the holiday stay at Cousin Cake Queen's house.  It took 12 minutes from start to finish.  The onions and garlic were sauteed in olive oil, but if one is more hurried the taste should not suffer too much by omitting the step. It was assembled during Cousin Cake Queen's lunch hour and ready at the end of the work day.  Once could assemble this the night before, and place it in the crock cooking base plugged into a lamp timer in the morning for a delayed afternoon start and a poerfect end of workday finish.



Winner, Loser, or Meh

This was absolutely delicious.  When first served, it was so melty cheesy wonderful Cousin Cake Queen and I both squealed.  We could hardly wait for the next day when we knew it would taste even better. (All soups and casseroles taste better the second day.)  The picture was taken after it had a few hours to cool off and firm up.

Recipe

I used a 5 1/2-6 quart oval crock for this.

Ingredients:
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled, diced fine
  • 2 Tbls olive oil
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 oz package frozen Morningstar Grillers Crumbles (frozen vegetarian meat substitute)
  • 1lb 10 oz jar marinara sauce (I used Ragu)
  • water to rinse marinara jar (about 1/3 cup) 
  • 15 oz tub ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted, water squeezed out
  • 1 lb package shredded Mozzarella cheese
  •  3/4 cup grated Italian hard cheese blend (like Parmesan, Asiago, Romano - whatever is on sale, I bought one small tub and used the whole tub for this and the topping ingredient which follows later)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • generous twists of fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2  of 9 oz package no cook lasagna noodles
Topping
  • 1/2 cup grated  Italian hard cheese blend (see above)
Spray crock with no stick spray.  Heat oil in skillet over medium high heat.  Saute onions until soft, then add minced garlic for a minute or two.  Turn off heat.  Add jar of marinara sauce to skillet. Add water to the empty jar to shake the sauce from edges of jar and add this mixture to the skillet.  Add package of frozen crumbles and stir.  In a bowl add all other ingredients except the lasagna noodles and topping. Mix well.  Ladle 1/4 of the sauce onto the bottom of the crock.  Break 2 no cook lasagna noodle sheets to form a layer covering the sauce in the crock, then layer evenly with 1/3 of the cheese mixture, followed by 1/3 of remaining sauce.  Repeat the noodle, cheese, sauce layers two times, ending with the sauce.  Top with the remaining grated hard cheese blend.  Cook on low for 4 hours.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Chocolate Molten Lava Cake


In the never ending search for a better crock brownie recipe, one was found which ended up not even remotely resembling a brownie.  Lucky for us, it did turn out to be a perfect crock Chocolate Molten Lava Cake.  This was assembled in about 5 minutes and smelled delicious while cooking away.  The first layer of batter was very thick.  I was sure this would bomb when I poured the watery chocolate second layer on top.  It was baffling to believe that the watery chocolate layer would end up on the bottom and turn into a hot chocolate syrup.

Winner, Loser or Meh

This was very yummy.  We were already stuffed and Auntie EQ & I couldn't resist having a nice warm yummy serving.  Very easy to make. I did not take an artistic final shot, but instead chose to take a picture of how the layers look in the crock.  It tastes much much better than this looks.

Recipe

I used a 2 1/2-3 quart round for this

Ingredients:
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips (2 oz)
  • 2/3 cup & 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 Tbsp & 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups hot water
Spray crock with no stick spray.  Melt butter and chocolate chips in quart or larger Pyrex in microwave for about 2-3 minutes. Whisk in 2/3 cup sugar, 3Tbsp  cocoa, vanilla, salt, milk, and egg yolk. Stir in flour and baking powder. Pour into crockpot and spread evenly. In medium Pyrex whisk together remaining sugar, cocoa, brown sugar and hot water until sugar is dissolved. Pour over batter in crockpot. Cover and cook on high for 2 1/4 hours.  It will start to pull away from the sides.  Turn off, uncover and let cool for 20-30 minutes before serving.  This is great with vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Brownies


What's not to love about brownies?  The mission:  See if we can love them if they come out of a crock pot.  I Googled about looking for a tried and true crock pot brownie recipe.  There was one which seemed to hit all the right notes.  This is an adaptation of Audrey's Easy Crock Pot Brownies.

Winner, Loser, or Meh

The original cooking time called for 1 1/2 hours. It  was not enough to cook the batter all the way through.  Perhaps this was due to high altitude cooking, but I doubt it.  I have adjusted the cooking time in the recipe below to account for the under-cooking in this batch.  These had a decadent, rich, dark chocolaty texture.  They were fudgey.  They firmed up after they cooled off, but were still a bit too wet. We served them with peppermint ice cream which was the perfect combination.

Recipe

I used a 5 1/2 - 6 quart crock pot for this

Ingredients:
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil 
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup cocoa 
  • 1 package  brownie mix
Spray crock with no stick spray.  In a large Pyrex measuring cup microwave butter, oil, sugar, water and cocoa in until warm (about 1-2 minutes) and and stir until the cocoa is well mixed.  This can also be done in a small sauce pan over on the stove.  In a mixing bowl add the eggs, walnuts and brownie mix, stir.  Pour in the cocoa mixture and stir until smooth.   Pour batter into the crock.  Cook on high for 1 3/4 hours - 2 hours.  Turn off heat, remove lid, and let stand for 30 minutes before serving.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Italian Lentil Stoup


This Vegetarian Slow Cooker was to visit dear old friends and their family for dinner tonight in the icy high dessert surrounded by glorious snow capped mountains.  Not wanting to venture to the store in the cold morning, I raided Cousin Cake Queen's pantry and fridge in search of whatever hodge podge of ingredients might pass for a warm and hearty stoupy accompaniment to the evening.  This was the result.  It was started at 10 AM, and other items tossed in around 1 PM.   It was loaded into the car around 5 PM and continued simmering as old friends chatted away.  There was about a bowl left for the ride home

Winner, Loser or Meh

This was good and very very good on the second day.  Very filling, hearty, and easy.  Mr Treebeard's father enjoyed it especially.

Recipe

I used a 5 1/2 - 6 quart oval for this

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb package dried brown lentils, rinsed, drained
  • 8 cups vegetable stock (or water and vegetable "Better than Bouillon" to make  8 cups)
  • 3 Tbls butter (vegans can use extra olive oil)
  • 1 Tbls olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled, diced fine
  • 3 large cloves garlic, mined
  • 2 carrots, trimmed, scrubbed, diced fine
  • 2 celery stalks, trimmed, scrubbed, diced fine
  • 3 Tbls chopped basil
  • 1 3/4 Tbls dark molasses (or dark brown sugar)
  • 2 1/2 Tbls lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 Tbls dry Sherry
  • salt & pepper to taste
Toppings for serving:
  • chopped scallions
  • Balsamic vinegar
 Place lentils in the crock.  Add stock.  Cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours.  In a skillet over medium high heat, saute onions, celery, and carrots in butter and olive oil until soft and starting to brown.  Add the garlic and cook another couple of minutes.  Add all of this to the crock.  Cover and continue cooking on low for another 3-4 hours.  Stir in lemon juice, sherry, molasses, salt & pepper and cook on low for another 30 minutes.  Serve warm topped with scallions and a drizzle of vinegar.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Spinach Artichoke Dip


This holiday season snow and ice are on the ground in the Owens Valley, a high desert paradise nestled between the High Sierras and the White Mountains with breathtaking views.  This Vegetarian Slow Cooker was invited to spend the evening with old childhood friends, their parents, and a large assortment of extended family.  About 1/2 of the 11 attendees were vegetarians, the other half were not.  An easy hot appetizer was in order to take the chill off the cold night.  This was assembled  at Cousin Cake Queen's house, cooked in the crock, and  loaded in the car for the 10 mile ride up the hill towards ski country.  I had already sliced up a fresh sourdough baguette to bring along.  The crock was plugged in at the final destination and everyone dipped their bread straight into the warm crock.

Winner, Loser or Meh

This was outstanding. People could not get enough of it and kept coming back for more.  It was so good, it was almost the main course. I will make this again and again and again.  Easy and delicious.  This was so good I wanted to have a romantic relationship with it.  It's all a daze now, but I might have.

Recipe

I used a single setting 1 1/2 quart crock for this

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained, chopped coarse
  • 10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed of all liquid
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded, cored, diced
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Serve on:
  • sourdough crostini or sourdough baguette slices from a full baguette
Spray crock with no stick spray.  Place first 5 ingredients into the crock and mix well.  Top with mozzarella cheese.  Cook on low or high until warm and the top cheese is melted - about 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 hours.  Serve warm, right out of the plugged in crock.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Roasted Summer Vegetables


Served hot or cold, roasted summer vegetables are a light, healthy  and fabulous delight.  Cousin Cake Queen was craving healthy vegetables after the double whammy of recovering from a cold, a few days of my bad food grazing influence, and  Farmville marathons. This was the perfect prescription for what ailed her.

Winner, Loser or Meh

These were delicious.  First served warm, then served cold from the fridge the next day for lunch.

Recipe

I used a 5 1/2 - 6 quart crock for this

Ingredients:
  • 2 large red bell peppers, cored, seeded, cut into large strips
  • 2 red onions, peeled, cut into 1/8ths
  • 3 yellow squash, trimmed, cut into long strips
  • 3 zucchini, trimmed cut into long strips6 ounces green beans, ends snapped
  • 5 whole peeled cloves of garlic, flattened with flat blade of knife
  • 2 Tbls olive oil
  • 1 Tbls fresh chopped basil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbls balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
Add all ingredients to the slow cooker.  Toss to coat evenly. Cover and cook on high for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  Serve warm or cold.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cream of Artichoke Soup


This Vegetarian Slow Cooker had no energy and felt like a slug.  There had been a days long frenzy of holiday travel, Farmville all-nighters, and a vast array of junk laden sugary treats as a chaser. Lucky for me, Cousin Cake Queen is my holiday hostess. Inspired by a recipe in Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook and not wanting this blog to fall by the wayside, she agreed to shop for and completely make a recipe for the blog.  I lounged on her couch, moaning and groaning, while harvesting virtual crops, golden mystery eggs, heinous farm floats, and lighted gift boxes while she slaved away in the kitchen.  This soup was the result of her valiant labors.

Winner, Loser, or Meh

This was delicious.  It had a soft mellow flavor, and then the full sweet taste of artichokes would linger at the back and sides of the tongue after each bite.  Here's to you Cousin Cake Queen!

Recipe 

Cousin Cake Queen used a 5 1/2-6 quart crock for this.

Ingredients:
  • 6 Tbls salted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 white onion, peeled, chopped
  • 3 leeks, (white part and 1 inch green), washed, sliced, thin
  • 3 10 oz packages frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
  • 6 cups vegetable stock (or water and vegetable "Better than Boullion" to make 6 cups)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup whipping cream
Place first 3 ingredients in slow cooker and cook on high for 30 minutes.  Add stock and artichoke hearts and cook on low for 5-6 hours.  Puree in crock with immersion blender.  Add salt and pepper and cream.  Stir, cover and cook until heated through, but not boiling, about 15 minutes.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cranberry Pineapple Vodka Punch (Tropical Vodka Wassail)


This Vegetarian Slow Cooker attended a wonderful holiday party last week that ended with the entire group of attendees joyfully singing Christmas carols.  A couple of us were being downright silly.  The silliness was inspired by a lyric in one of the carols about "wassailing".  We were informed by the older set that "wassail" was a traditional mulled hot beverage served during the holidays.  The silly amongst us were convinced it had to be alcoholic given the joy being expressed in the lyric.  Later research revealed that traditional wassail usually does not involve spirits of any kind. I decided not to be a traditionalist on two fronts.

A large contingent of my family lives in Hawaii, including my son who attends the University of Hawaii.  I graduated from High School there and over the last few years, that is where I have spent my holidays. This year I would be absent.  So as a nod to the islands, this is a tropical variation using different juices than those used in traditional wassails and taking advantage of the large bottle of Vodka in Auntie EQ's liquor cabinet.

Winner, Loser or Meh

This was good, but not nearly as good as the Hot Buttered Rum.  Uncle Meat & Potatoes thought it was too sweet.  Auntie EQ & I did not.  We had two large mugs full.

Recipe:

I used a 2 1/2- 3 quart crock for this.

Ingredients:
  • 4 cups unsweetened pineapple juice
  • 4 cups cranberry juice
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1-2 cups vodka
    Add all ingredients except vodka into the crock.  Cover and cook on high for 2-3 hours or low for 4-6 hours.  Turn heat to warm.  Remove cinnamon and cloves with slotted spoon.  Add vodka and serve warm ladled into mugs.

    Monday, December 21, 2009

    Orange Spice Air Freshener Potpourri


    Time for another impromptu crock air freshener made in the 1 quart mini crock during  Operation No Sew Blanket.  The week of holiday parties made home cooking unnecessary and the Farmville addiction and blanket making made it impossible. There were an abundance of oranges on the backyard tree, more ground cinnamon than a person could ever hope to use in a Costco industrial container, and plenty of whole cloves from the Winco bulk bins still in the pantry.  The crock air fresheners are wonderful. They are natural, cheap, and not overpowering like commercial plug in air fresheners.  This one was especially lovely.  It simmered all day, while home and away, and all night while sleeping.

    The blanket under "no sew" construction this evening was made for my defacto niece, Cousin Cake Queen's daughter,  who I will affectionately refer to as "Star Muse".  She beats to her own drum in a very cool unconventional way. She is a breath of fresh air with a lovely singing voice. She loves pink.  How much does she heart pink?  All four bedroom walls and the trim are painted in varying shades of Caramelized Pepto Bismo Pink. This probably was not the name on the paint chip, but no doubt you get the idea.  The fabric had to reflect her natural lovely spirit and honor the pink.

    Winner, Loser, or Meh

    I really liked this one.  I have heard that adding a drop or two of oil or extract helps bind the scents more, but I really like that the scent was so light and unobtrusive.

    Recipe

    I used a 1 quart mini for this, anything smaller or larger would work just as well.

    Ingredients:
    • 2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1 orange peel (I also had part of a dying half orange and tossed it in)
    • 3 whole cloves
    • 1-2 cups warm water
    Cover with lid slightly ajar and turn on high. Add water as necessary. I didn't need to add any.

    Sunday, December 20, 2009

    Lemon Vanilla Spice Air Freshener


    (To be backdated to appropriate holiday date) Another allergy free cheap, light, air freshener using the crock. Prior posted versions, Apple Spice & Orange Spice also featured a No Sew Blanket made while the crock simmered. Today's No Sew Blanket was for Cousin Cake Queen with whom this Vegetarian Slow Cooker shares a Farmville addiction.  Cake Queen served as my Farmville pusher over Thanksgiving.  The blanket's assorted vintage cherry seed packets seemed a perfect fit. Not only does she harvest virtual cherry trees, she makes killer cherry jam using cherries from her father's tree.

    Prior to being overtaken by this crack like game, Cousin Cake Queen made amazing whimsical cakes.  The most spectacular of which was a complete three dimensional cake statue of Harry Potter, head to toe.  Photos of it did not survive.  Here is some of her other work.











    Winner, Loser or Meh

    This air freshener was light and barely perceptible. It really did lighten the air. It looked like this.



    Recipe:

    I used a 2 1/2 quart crock for this, but a smaller cor larger crock will work just fine as well.  Just adjust the water.

    Ingredients
    • 2 sliced lemons
    • 1 Tbls pure vanilla extract
    • 2 Tbls white vinegar
    • 2 -3 tsp cinnamon
    • 3 whole cloves  (or 1 Tbls allspice)
    • 2 quarts water
    Add all ingredients to crock and simmer on low with the lid slightly ajar.  This can go for a couple of days at least.



    Saturday, December 19, 2009

    Apple Pie Air Freshener Potpourri


    Another crock concoction made during  Operation Holiday No Sew Blankets.  Not only are there amateur craft distractions, a Farmville addiction, and a  full time job during the pre-holiday season, there is an assortment of  holiday parties throughout the week that must be attended.  These parties are always full scale smorgasbords, so no point in any home cooked meals this week. Never fear.  There is a giant Costco industrialized quart of ground cinnamon and a bunch of leftover softening apples in the pantry. Why shouldn't my house smell as warm and inviting as those having full scale holiday parties?  This was tossed in a very small crock in the morning and plugged into a socket in a centrally located bathroom,  the lid left slightly ajar.

    While it simmered away and as time permitted, I tied off this "no sew" blanket for my grandmother, Yan. (See Yan Canning, Yan  Garlic Cure). Yan is a true patriot and a loving homemaker  - every bit as American as apple pie, so it was fitting that the aroma of apple pie would be wafting about as her blanket was finished.  My grandfather, her husband of 70 years, passed away last spring.  He was a renowned Western artist, a mule packer, a lover of animals, children, and humor.  He was her best friend.  Yan is now blind and spends most of her time, at home,  in her bedroom. While there, she claims attention from those of us who love her is not much needed.  She insists she has a steady stream of cowboys who come by her bedroom to see her and they have a "rip roaring good time, thank you very much."  Yan is ever the lady, so I am quite sure they all take their hats off before climbing into bed.

    Winner, Loser or Meh

    Within 20 minutes the house started to smell like baking apple pie. It simmered away all day, and more water was added at bed and it simmered away all night, too. Very nice, homey and inexpensive.  Other potpourri's to be featured later.

    Recipe

    I used a single setting 1 quart crock.  A 'Lil Dipper would work perfectly, too.  Just use less water. If all you have is a large crock, it will work. You might try putting the ingredients into a smaller heat safe container and placing it within the larger crock.

    Ingredients:
    • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1 apple, unpeeled, uncored, cut into chunks
    • 1-2 cups water preferably hot (it just works faster that way)
    Toss in crock, set lid ajar.  Turn on heat.  Add water as necessary.

    Friday, December 18, 2009

    Hot Chocolate



    This was made during the unplanned frenzy of "no sew" fleece blanket making.  A note on "no sew" blankets: Blanket Madness was inspired by a group of longtime fellow internet bulletin board chums who roped me in with repeated thread titles like: Help!  I can't stop making these blankets.  This sort of posting was followed by picture after picture of said blankets.  I was late to join the frenzy.  The charm of these blankets involves needing no skills or talent whatsoever to make them and the materials being very cheap.  That many considered these blankets tacky (like the other half of the bulletin board members who commented with mixtures of disgust and amusement) was in no way a deterrent.  (No Sew Blanket Instructions)

    The particular blanket made this night was for Uncle Meat & Potatoes, who happens to be an amateur pilot, space and aeronautics enthusiast, and has a history of intense relationships with his blankies.  There is a rotting rag of a koala blanket, well over 35 years old, that gets dragged out on a regular basis. Perhaps this airplane blanket will turn out to be this half century's replacement. If not, at least it matches the color scheme of Auntie EQ's family room where weekly family Gray's Anatomy bonding routinely occurs.


    But I digress . . . back to the hot chocolate.  It was made with a leftover $.88 cent can of  off-brand sweetened condensed milk, one that didn't fit in the crock when this Vegetarian Slow cooker wasn't making delicious Dulce de Luce (caramel sauce).  This could have been made on the stove top or in the microwave, but then  how would it have been possible for anyone (me) to go back 3 or 4 times and instantly have hot chocolate while slaving away during blanket making?  Please try and keep a straight face. 

    This is a great way to make and serve hot chocolate for a party, even if, as in my case, it is a party of one.  After it has cooked properly, simply reduce the heat to warm and guests can ladle up their own throughout the evening.  Try leaving mini marshmallows, whipped cream, and peppermint liquor next to the crock so people can make their own perfect version of cocoa.

    Winner, Loser or Meh

    Worked for me. Easy, cheap, delicious. Snobs go away.

    Recipe

    I used a 2 1/2-3 quart crock for this

    Ingredients:
    • 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
    • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
    • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/8 tsp salt
    • 6 1/2 cups water
    • mini marshmallows (optional)
    Add all ingredients in the order listed.  Stir well.  Cover and cook on high for 2 1/2-3 hours or low for 5-6 hours.  Serve warm topped with marshmallows.  This will store in refrigerator for up to 5 days.

    Wednesday, December 16, 2009

    White Basmati Rice


    Back for more adventures in rice.  To know more than you ever wanted to know about Rice Theory as it Relates to Slow Cooking  please see this chart, especially the bottom of the chart with links to all prior rice adventures and their results. (Or. . .Let me give you a sneak peak. It's all bad. Go buy a rice cooker.)  The original chart was my summary of one found in a published slow cooker cookbook. The author claimed rice in the crock works.  Come to think of it there was no direct claim that it would work, but a chart in a published cookbook, at the very least, strongly suggests it should work or, better yet, that someone actually tried it before.

    Today we try White Basmati Rice. Brown Basmati Rice previously scored the highest, coming in with a solid "meh". White Pearl Rice bombed, as did Brown Pearl Rice, leaving me with the conclusion that brownness or whiteness of the grain appears to have little relationship to the results. Perhaps Basmati rice, in any unconverted form, is the key to a marginally edible crock rice.

    Winner, Loser, or Meh


    The top half of the rice crock, fantastic - perfect, separates nicely. This was actually consumed with some old  Satay. The bottom half, like concentrated wallpaper paste. Photographic evidence below:



    On the upside, this is the first batch of rice in 3 attempts that was not dumped into the composter.

    Bottom line, if you have no stove and are too poor to purchase a rice cooker, you'll get even poorer as you repeatedly toss crock rice.

    Recipe

    I used a 2 1/2 quart crock for this.

    Ingredients:
    • 1 cup white Basmati Rice
    • 1 3/4 cups water
    • 1Tbsbutter or oil(I used oil) 
    Spray crock with no stick spray.  Add all ingredients.  Cook on high for  1 1/2 hours (mine took a bit over 2)

    Sunday, December 13, 2009

    Brown Pearl Rice


    More adventures in crock rice making and myth busting. This Vegetarian Slow Cooker has been on a mission to confirm or deny published cookbook claims, summarized in chart, that rice in the crock works. As differing types and quantities of rice are tried in various crocks, a link to the results will be posted at the bottom of the chart. So far, Brown Basmati Rice was a firm meh.  White Pearl Rice is such a loser, other dishes on the loser list think they are winners by comparison. Today we try Brown Pearl Rice. Perhaps the quasi-success of Brown Basmatti Rice was based on the coating from the unprocessed grain.  In that spirit, we venture forward.

    Winner, Loser, or Meh

    No, the photo above is not out of focus. That's really how this stuff looked. Good lord this was bad.  I suspect if 3rd world relief organizations air dropped this crock cooked rice on a starving nation, those starving would pass and pray for a different plane. Awful mush on the bottom and uncooked chewy hardness on top.

    Recipe

    I  used a 1 quart crock for this.  Please don't ever use any crock for this.

    Ingredients:
    • 1 cup brown pearl rice
    • 2 cups water
    • 1 Tbls butter or oil (these have been so bad, I have started using cheap oil)
    Add ingredients to the crock and cook on high for 2 1/2 hours. (this actually took 3, but it was inedible at any stage)

    Saturday, December 12, 2009

    White Pearl Rice (Sticky Rice)


    Because this next week involves parties with gluttonous holiday buffets, this Vegetarian Slow Cooker  will use the time to document crock rice experiments.  The crock rice chart, devised by a noted cookbook author, was used as the basis for the experiments.  Only here will you find the truth about crock rice.  The good, the bad, and the ugly, complete with photographic evidence.

    The first attempt at crock rice involved Brown Basmatti Rice, which turned out okayish, but not good enough to serve to company.  Today is the first attempt at a white rice.  A white pearl rice was chosen, the kind usually  used in sushi making.  This type is supposed to stick and clump together.

    Winner, Loser, or Meh

    The truth: Bad and  ugly.  Here is photographic evidence. There have been internet horror stories about crock rice making.  Themes of mushy on the outside, hard and gritty on the inside.  These stories are true. This photo shows the bottom layer of the crock as inedible rice mush.  It also shows some of the top layer of the crock as inedible tough grains that will make your dentist rich if you chose to bite.

    This was the result after 2 1/2 hours, instead of the 1 1/2 hour listed in the chart.  At the 1 1/2 hour mark there had been no water absorption and the grains were tough and/or rocky.  Bottom line: Do not believe ANY person on cyberspace (there are a few)or published authors who tell you crock white rice will work in the crock. Back tomorrow with another brown rice and a different crock to further test results.

    Recipe

    I used a 1 quart crock for this.

    Ingredients:
    • 1 cup rice
    • 1 3/4 cups water or stock 
    • 1 Tbls butter or oil
    Put in crock. Cook on high for 1 1/2 hours. (according to chart).  Cook longer if necessary.  Then chuck it all in the composter.

    Friday, December 11, 2009

    Pillsbury Bread


    Casual dinner with friends was last night. They made a seafood stew.  This Vegetarian Slow Cooker arrived with the Rival Double Crock filled with two experimental items.  The first, a crock filled with bread from the Pillsbury Dough case.  The second a  Black Forrest Dump Cake for dessert.  

    The bread could not have been simpler to prepare. Open can of dough, shape into a semi circle, and place in the crock to cook.  The dessert was much more complicated.  It took  2 minutes to assemble in the other half of the Rival double crock.

    Winner, Loser or, Meh

    This was pretty darn good, but not crusty on top.  I didn't expect it to get crusty on top, but it sure tasted good anyway and it was all gone within a few minutes. The bottom got a bit over browned, which tends to happen sometimes with black crockery.

    Photos were taken with friend's camera of the bread semi ring.  They were not immediately uploaded to the computer and were accidentally wiped from the camera by the next day, so there is no picture of the finished product.  I will make this again and add a photo the next time.

    Recipe

    I used a 2 1/2 quart crock pot for this.

    Ingredient:
    • 1  tube Pillsbury Crusty French Bread Dough
    Preheat crock to high.  Open tube of dough and bend into semi circle to fit crock.  Score top of dough with a few slits.  Place a dishtowel or paper towels over the top rim of the crock. Cover.  Pull edges of the towel in to the center.  The towel will serve as a moisture wick for better product texture.Cook on high for 2 - 2 1/2 hours.  If you will be gone during the day, you can put the dough in a cool crock pot and use a lamp timer to turn on while you are away.

    Thursday, December 10, 2009

    Black Forrest Dump Cake


    Casual dinner with friends scheduled for tonight.  They are making a seafood stew.  Another perfect opportunity to dust off the Rival double crock and bring a dessert and some bread.  Plan A was to make two complex awe inspiring recipes.  The recent addiction to Farmville has undermined the best laid plans of mice and women today.  Never fear.  Plan B an awe inspiring simple bread and dessert. 

    The preparation of both the bread and the dessert, combined, took less than 3 minutes.  Chocolate had yet to be tried in a dump cake.  The can of Comstock "Lite" Cherry Pie Filling and halving the recipe allowed me to claim "waistline consciousness" with a semi-straight face while my friends snickered and rolled their eyes at the ridiculous assertion that 4 tablespoons of butter and half a cake mix is "light" in any way shape or form.

    Winner, Loser or, Meh

    This was good, but overly sweet.  Of all the dump cakes (Pineapple Cherry Upside Down, Pumpkin, Apple Spice) this was my least favorite, although it was still good.  Not jumping up and down for joy is a  big statement coming from this major chocolate addict.

    Photos were taken with friend's camera of the dump cake and bread. They were not immediately uploaded to the computer and were accidentally wiped from the camera by the next day, so this is borrowed photography of how the dump cake looked, except we served ours with ice cream.

    Recipe

    I used a 2 1/2 quart crock pot for this and halved the recipe

    Ingredients:
    • 1 box chocolate or devil's food cake mix (I used 1/2  a box)
    • 2 cans cherry pie filling (I used 1 can Comstock Lite)
    • 8 Tbls butter, cut into pieces (I used 1/2 stick) (vegans can use margarine)
    Spray crock with no stick spray.  Dump cherries in to crock.  Dump  cake mix on top of cherries and spread evenly. Top with butter chunks, evenly.  Place a dishtowel or paper towels over the top rim of the crock. Cover.  Pull edges of the towel in to the center.  The towel will serve as a moisture wick for better product texture.  Cook on high for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  Serve.

    Wednesday, December 9, 2009

    Pineapple Mango Chutney


    The list of who's naughty and nice has been checked twice.  It's the home stretch of  jam, fruit butter, and chutney preparation for holiday gift giving.  I saved one of the purported best for last with visions of appreciative family members in Hawaii tickled to use a tropical inspired home canned chutney with their holiday meals.

    This recipe was time consuming.  There was lots of cutting and dicing, and it had to cook longer than specified to form any sort of semi workable consistency.  These things matter not provided the taste is sensational, especially when gifts for loved ones are the goal.


    Winner, Loser or Meh

    So.Bad.I.Want.To.Scream.  Too awful for even the naughty on your holiday list. There were promises that this recipe had a "euphoric" taste and aroma.  Neither was true.     Not only did it taste and smell atrocious, (sickeningly over  powering cinnamon taste and burn-like aroma), it looked repulsive. A housemate stumbled out from a bedroom after a string of not nice words came from my mouth when I first tasted it.  Housemate attempted reassuring encouragement that it couldn't be as terrible as I thought.  Housemate then had a taste, blanched, looked at the finished product, grimaced and declared it "awful". I am renaming this "Pineapple Mango UpChuckny".

    I am truly upset that so much money was wasted on ingredients and terribly sad that two pineapples lost their lives for this.

    Recipe

    I stupidly doubled the below recipe on faith.  I used a 6 quart crock pot.

    Ingredients

    • 1 fresh pineapple, peeled, eyes cut out, cut into one inch chunks
    • 1 mango, peeled, seeded, chopped
    • 1 white onion, peeled, diced
    • 1/2 cup raspberry vinegar
    • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
    • 2 inch chunk ginger, peeled, grated
    • zest and juice of a lime
    • 1-2 cloves garlic
    • 1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded, minced
    • 2 cloves garlic, mashed
    • 1 4 inch stick cinnamon
    Combine all ingredients in the slow cooker.  Cook on high for 3 hours until starting to reach a  jam-like consistency (which never happens).  Remove cover and cook for 1 - 1 1/2 hours until it cooks down and thickens. Cool.

    Then toss in trash, or if environmentally conscious, the composter  (Beware: It might kill compost worms).

    Tuesday, December 8, 2009

    Asparagus Casserole


    There were the loveliest bunches of fresh asparagus at Winco.  It was time to try something new, something not a soup that would fit into half of the Rival Double Crocks.  This easy casserole fit the bill. Spiced Cider II was simmering away, and there were plans to visit Uncle Meat & Potatoes and Auntie "EQ" for a new episode of House, which turned out to be not on at all, but no one cared.  It was a good thing. A Farmville plantation was being outfitted with a hill and waterfall and a fresh episode of House  deserves and demands no less than one's full undivided attention.

    A note on Slow Cooking & Farmville addiction (or any other addiction).  For the recently addicted, of which I am, no means of meal preparation is better suited to hide said addiction from family while appearing functional and caring than crock potting. If the Farmville addiction (or any other addiction) becomes so bad that one can't simply toss a few items into the crock, it's time to seek help. This took about 8 minutes to assemble and that included making and peeling the soft boiled eggs.

    Winner, Loser or Meh

    This was good to okay when first served.  Better an hour later.  It firmed up.  It was reminiscent of asparagus with a poor man's hollandaise, which is a complete non sequiter because hollandaise is cheap to make.  I wanted a hit of lemon, and in the future, I would add some before cooking. It can be served as a side or a main dish.  Every bit of it was gone and others were having bowls of clam chowder.

    Recipe

    I used a 2 1/2 quart crock pot for this.  For a larger crock pot, you can double the recipe OR place the original recipe in a smaller over safe dish and place it directly into the larger crock pot.

    Ingredients
    • 1  large bunch fresh thin asparagus, wooded ends snapped, (or two can asparagus, drained)
    • 2 soft or hard boiled eggs ( I used soft and made them up while getting everything else together)
    • 1 can cream of celery soup or cream of asparagus soup (I used cream of celery)
    • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
    • 1/2 cup bread or cracker crumbs (I used bread crumbs)
    • 2 Tbls butter cut into chunks
    Spray crock with no stick spray.  Layer asparagus evenly over the bottom of the crock.  If your crock is smaller, break the spears in half.  Slice and crumble the eggs evenly over the asparagus.  Mix cheese and soup together and pour over the asparagus evenly.  Top with bread crumbs and dot with butter.  Place a kitchen towel or paper towels over top of crock and cover with lid.  Pull ends taught and into the center.  The towel will serves as a moisture wick while cooking. Cook on low for 7-8 hour or high for 4-5 hours. (I did high). Serve warm.

    Monday, December 7, 2009

    Spiced Cider II


    Snow fell where it had never fallen before. It was rainy, blustery and icy cold. The perfect storm, the arrival of which presented the perfect opportunity to attempt another spiced cider, one whose perfection was in no way dependent on brandy.  (See drunken Spiced Cider I debacle from Halloween.)

    This recipe is considerably simpler than the first and has no added sugar. The virtuous healthy sugar free readers are no doubt cheering. 

    This time, yet again, there shall be no home photography.  The problematic perfect clear photography mug has not yet been found.  Not to mention, this Vegetarian Slow Cooker was too busy soberly sipping delicious spiced cider to care about venturing out into the frosty cold night to find the perfect mug to for an enticing photo shoot.

    Winner, Loser, or Meh

    This cider was so yummy delicious, I had to take a photo of it.  Literally.  I lifted this photo of spiced cider from All Recipes, which sort of looks like what I made, even though it isn't their recipe. The recipe is very simple and the house smelled divine.

    Recipe

    I used a 2 1/2 quart crock pot for this.  If you have a larger crock pot, it will still be "scoopable" if you put a smaller over safe dish inside the larger crock.  You can also double the recipe for large gatherings.

    Ingredients:
    • 2 - quarts apple cider
    • zest of large orange
    • 3  4 inch cinnamon sticks
    • 15 twists nutmeg grinder
    • 2 pinches ground cloves
    Place all ingredients into the crock.  Cook on low for 4-5 hours or high for 2-3.  Serve warm with or without brandy.

    Friday, December 4, 2009

    Cheesy Tortellini

    Thursday night Grey's Anatomy family bonding night.  Time to take the new Rival Double crock for a trial run of a dinner and dessert combination.  There was no time today to cook or worry about a perfect dinner.  This old tried and true recipe was vegetarian modified by using frozen Morningstar Crumbles instead of ground beef. This product can be found in the frozen food section of the grocery store. The full recipe was halved to fit into the smaller sized crocks that come in the Rival Double.  The dish was assembled during a quick lunch break in under 3 minutes.  It is MANDATORY that the ingredients specified to be frozen go into the crock frozen.  It keeps the dish from burning, allows it to cook evenly, and prevents the pasta from falling apart.  It also makes the whole thing oh so much easier.

    Winner, Loser, or Meh

    This was really great! Hearty and filling.  Everyone really like it and was surprised it was so easy. It's hard to believe this was assembled in less than 3 minutes.

    Recipe

    I halved the recipe and made it in a 2 1/2 - 3 quart crock.  The full recipe fits in a large or medium size crock. 

    Ingredients:
    • 9 oz bag cheese tortellini, frozen ( I used 1/2 a bag)
    • 12 oz bag Morningstar Starters Griller Meat Crumbles, frozen (I used half a bag)
    • 1 cup bagged onion, frozen (I used 1/2 cup)
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced (I used 2 tsp Christopher's jarred)
    • 2 cups fresh sliced mushrooms (I used 1 cup)
    • 3 cups Mozzarella Cheese, shredded, divided (I used 1 1/2 cups)
    • 2  28-32 oz jars Marinara sauce (I used 1 jar Kroger's Mushroom Marinara)
    Spray crock with no stick spray.  Place all ingredients except for 1/2 the cheese into the crock and stir to mix evenly. Top with remaining cheese. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours or high for 3 hours.

    Thursday, December 3, 2009

    Apple Spice Dump Cake


    Last night was the first use of the new Rival Double crocks for Grey's Anatomy family bonding night.  One side was filled with this Cheesy Tortellini and the other side with a half recipe of Apple Dump Cake.  This is a busy week and today required simple no fuss short cut cooking.  Both recipes were started during a lunch break and left to cook while the work day continued.  They were both finished at the same time and ready to be loaded in the car by 4:30 PM.   The full recipe works in a large or medium crock and the halved version was perfect for a 3 quart crock.  This dessert came in at $1.79 thanks to an abundance of $.88 cent cake mixes from last month and apple pie filling still on sale.

    Winner, Loser or Meh

    Like all previous dump cakes, this was just as yummy and easy! (See Pumpkin Dump Cake & Pineapple Cherry Upside Down Dump Cake.) Auntie EQ wanted it with some Oregon Chai

    Recipe

    I used a 2 1/2 to 3 quart crock (one side of my Rival Double crock) and halved the recipe. The full recipe will work in a medium to large crock.

    Ingredients
    • 1 box yellow or spice cake mix (I used half a spice cake mix)
    • 2 cans apple pie filling (I used 1 can)
    • 8 Tbls butter, cut into chunks (I used 4 Tbls)
    Spray crock with no stick spray.  Dump pie filling in crock. Dump cake mix on top, Dot butter chunks evenly over top.  Place a cloth dish towel or several paper towels over the crock rims, cover, and pull the edges taught and into the center.  The cloth will serve as a moisture wick for the steam as the cake cooks and results in a better texture.  Cook on high for 2 1/2 - 3 hours.

    Wednesday, December 2, 2009

    Steel Cut Oatmeal (Basic)


    This Vegetarian Slow Cooker has made no secret of her general dislike of hot breakfast cereals. Nevertheless, the steel cut oats were trotted out again to make a basic oatmeal, after the surprising success of  Maple Spiced Fruit Steel Cut Oatmeal.  Steel Cut Oats are groat grains cut into thirds.  Due to their dense grainy nature, they usually require soaking or long simmers on the stove.  This makes them perfect easy crock fodder. Toss oats and water into the crock before bed, and wake up to perfect, hot, creamy oatmeal. The proportions for basic Steel Cut Oatmeal in crock are 1 part oats to 4 parts water.  This basic recipe serves four.  Smaller or larger portions can easily be made in a large crock if that is the only size available.  If a large crock pot is all you have, choose an oven safe dish, mix your desired serving amounts in it, and place the smaller dish into the large crock.    

    Winner, Loser, or Meh

    I am stunned.  This was so delicious.  When I awoke it was creamy and perfect.  I scooped up a bowl, tossed a pat of butter on top and sprinkled a generous large spoonful of brown sugar all over it.  I had to force myself to stop after the second bowl.  This was so delicious, nutty, and hearty.  Yum!

    Recipe

    I used a 2 1/2 quart crock for this.  If you only have a large crock, you can make this or smaller servings by placing the ingredients into a smaller oven safe dish, and setting it inside the large crock. You can even make an individual bowl with the proper 1 to 4 ratio of oats to water, and wake up to an individual size serving.

    Ingredients:
    • 1 cup steel cut oats
    • 4 cups water
    (Serves 4)
      Spray crock with no stick spray. Add water and oats. Cover and cook on low all night. About 8 hours.

      Optional toppings that go well with steel cut oats:
      • butter(pictured)
      • brown sugar (pictured)
      • milk or cream
      • maple syrup
      • raisins
      • cinnamon

      Tuesday, December 1, 2009

      Barbecue Beans


      Traditional barbecue beans are tangy, hearty, filling and cheap.  They are great as a side or can be eaten as a main dish.  The problem:  The starting flavor base is usually bacon or salt pork. Converting such a recipe to a vegetarian diet requires more than the addition of some fat or oil.  Bacon or other cured pork has a  smokey, sweet, salty rich flavor from the smoking and curing spices.    For a vegetarian version of these beans, the addition of extra salt, cloves, and liquid smoke makes up for the lost bacon. These are simple to make.  Toss everything in and forget about it.  Either soak the beans during the day, and cook all night while sleeping, or  soak the beans overnight and cook while at work.  

      Winner, Loser or Meh

      These were hearty and delicious.  The butter, cloves, extra salt and  liquid smoke made up for the missing traditional pork.

      Recipe:

      I used a 6 quart crock for this.   This will work in a medium crock as well.

      Ingredients:
      • 1 lb dried Great Northern Beans
      • 5 cups water
      • 3 Tbls butter or margarine (I used butter)
      • 1 yellow onion, peeled, diced (leave 1/8th section of union unchopped)
      • 2-3 whole cloves
      • 3 cloves garlic, minced (I used Christopher's jarred)
      • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce or ketchup
      • 1 Tbls mustard
      • 1 Tbls vinegar
      • 1/3 cup brown sugar
      •  1/2 tsp pepper
      • 1 - 2 tsp liquid smoke (to taste)
      • 1/2 - 1 tsp salt (to taste)
      • hot pepper sauce (optional to taste)
      Soak beans overnight in crock covered by 3 inches of water.  Drain. Stud the onion piece with the 3 cloves. Put everything into the crock except the except the salt (salt toughens beans while cooking), liquid smoke, and hot pepper sauce.  Stir.  Cover. Cook on high for 8-10 hours.  Use the back of a spoon to mash some of the beans in the crock. Cover and let cook a bit more so that the crushed beans can act as thickener. Add salt, liquid smoke and hot pepper sauce to taste.