Sunday, January 24, 2010

Black Eyed Peas


Black Eyed Peas, a classic Southern staple, are traditionally made on New Years Day to usher in and bring luck to the new year.  These were not made on New Years Day.  This Vegetarian Slow Cooker has never made or even tried black eyed peas before today.  Black eyed peas were but one of  the abundant varieties of dried legumes featured in the Winco bulk bins. Accomplished Southern cooks say that making these correctly results in a bean gravy.  They are supposed to be filling and comforting.  Traditional recipes always involve a meaty ham hock and, more often than not, a lot of sausage. This adaptation tries to create a similar, if not perfect, replication of the flavors from those absent meat components.

The beans were soaked from afternoon until just before bedtime.  Then everything was tossed in the crock and they cooked on low all night and through the morning.  They were ready at late lunch time. 

Winner, Loser or Meh

These were very good.  Not having had the original, I can't make an informed comparison, but I loved these! They were so soft and tender.  The sausage was just okay - not my fav.  I can't tell how much the Boca sausage added to the flavor of the bean gravy. Uncle Meat & Potatoes, a major bean lover, enjoyed these very much as well.

Recipe:

I used a 6 quart crock for this

Ingredients: 
  • 1 lb dried black eyed peas
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 Tbls white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbls brown sugar
  • 1.5 ounces imitation bacon bits (about 1/2 a jar)
  • 8 oz package of Boca meatless breakfast links, cut into chunks
  • Kosher salt to taste, about 2 tsps
  • 2 Tbls butter or margarine
Soak the beans overnight covered by 2-3 inches of water. Drain the bean water and add the soaked beans, 6 cups of water, and all other ingredients.  Cover and cook on low for 10-12 hours.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ooglash


What the heck is this you ask? The entire extended family, aunts and uncles alike, love, love, love a 50's style ground beef concoction Grandma Yan made as a weekly kitchen staple while they were growing up. She calls it "Goulash". The entire family calls it "Goulash".  When assorted family members venture back to the Owens Valley for a visit, they call ahead and request a huge pot be on the stove when they arrive.It was time for a meatless adaptation.

This Vegetarian Slow Cooker called her Grandma today to get the original recipe. " Oh...you know, it's all the same stuff that's in stuffed peppers," she said, and proceeded to talk enthusiastically and appreciatively about her new blanket.  At an appropriate break in the conversation, she was asked for specifics about the recipe. She quickly rattled off a proportionless list of ingredients, and without missing a beat, changed course, gleefully recounting her adventures with the new blanket. At the next conversational break, she was asked about ingredient proportions and said absently, "Oh, you know, a bunch of ground beef .... a can of tomatoes in the blender....," and then went right back into blanket revelry. For those who might not have guessed, she loves the new blanket. 

Research on authentic Goulash reveals it to be a Hungarian chunk beef stew that usually has potato as the starch component.  There are numerous Americanized versions of Goulash, and they all have ground beef and starches ranging from potatoes to macaroni, but never corn.  There is only one thing unilaterally common to all Goulash recipes, be they American or Hungarian, and that is paprika. Yan's "Goulash" has no paprika. Its only starch is corn.

For search engine purposes, calling this Goulash didn't seem right and renaming it  "Goolash" seemed even worse.  So because everyone in the family loves Yan's recipe, but especially our recently departed Uncle Oog, (yes that was his real family nickname), its new Vegetarian cyberspace name is "Ooglash".

Winner, Loser or Meh

Three authentic family members love this and have eaten the entire batch in under 20 minutes. Yes. All.Of.It. Grunting Junk Loving Teenager, the one with the broken leg whose wisdom teeth were removed yesterday, jumped the gun and started back on solid food as soon as this was finished.  He had two bowls and returned to his temporary couch ridden life of pain relievers, warm saline oral rinses, jello, and Madden NFL 10.  Uncle Meat & Potatoes, second only to Oog in his love for the original recipe,  has declared it "very, very good." Ya think?

Recipe:

I used a 6 quart crock pot for this

Ingredients:
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled, diced
  • 2 green peppers, seeded, diced. (I used one green and one red pepper)
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 28 oz can tomato puree, Italian style
  • l lb bag frozen sweet corn
  • 2 12 oz packages frozen Morningstar Farms Grillers Crumbles
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 3/4 tsp salt (or more to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Saute onions and peppers until onions are translucent and peppers are softened.  Add garlic and saute for a minute or two more.  Add this and all other ingredients (yes put the stuff in frozen) to the crock.  Stir. Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 7-8.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mandarin Orange Curd


Family Grays Anatomy bonding night. There is no question that this experiment in curd was inspired by Grandma Yan's Lemon Curd, a drop dead winner if there ever was one.  Confession: It was equally, if not more inspired, by the fact that it was already 6PM and there was nothing in the crock on this fifth day of unrelenting wind and rain.  No crock plans had been made, pantry supplies were low, and the cook is tired. Auntie EQ had some aging Mandarin oranges lying around, Gray's would be over by 10 PM, so this became tonight's dessert plan by default.  Announcements were made by this Vegetarian Slow Cooker that a new curd would be started. Silently, Auntie EQ got up, reached into the freezer for her stash of rice flour, and started working on a new batch of Scottish shortbread.  The unspoken symbiotic bond between us grows stronger each day.  Keep in mind that culinary inspiration such as this is usually not based on considered and informed flavor profiles. Let's hope for the best and expect the worst.


Winner, Loser or Meh 

The flavor was mild, light, barely present orange.  I doubt this would happen with an orange like a Valencia.  Mandarin oranges are very mild as it is. It also curdled slightly (see photo and edges of the Pyrex) so the instructions to whisk once after an hour will need to be modified and it should be whisked every 15 minutes.  Uncle Meat & Potatoes liked this better than the Lemon Curd, claiming it was less sweet.  It had the exact same amount of sugar as the Lemon Curd, so I am not sure what he was tasting.  The rest of us like the Lemon Curd best.  This experiment needs work.

Recipe

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

Ingredients
  • Juice and zest of 4 Mandarin oranges
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 8 Tbls butter
  • 4 eggs
Turn crock heat to high. Pour enough very hot tap water into the crock to go 2/3 up the outside of an empty 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup (or similar heat safe bowl). Put orange juice, zest, butter, and sugar into the 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup (or other heat safe bowl) and set it inside the hot water filled crock. Cover the crock with its lid and cook for about 30 minutes, until the butter and sugar have melted and dissolved. Stir the orange mixture well. In a bowl, beat the eggs with a fork. Add a few tablespoons of the orange mixture to the beaten eggs while stirring vigorously to temper the eggs before adding to the orange mixture in the crock. Then, slowly pour the egg mixture into the orange mixture in the Pyrex while whisking the contents of the Pyrex. When everything is well blended, cover the Pyrex with foil. Cover the crock with its lid and reduce temperature to low. Cook for 1 1/2 - 2 hours, whisking after about an hour. Towards the end of the cooking time, whisk well and test to see if it is done. It is done when the orange curd coats the back of a spoon. Makes about 3 cups. This will keep for about 3 weeks, covered in the fridge.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Glazed Carrots



What's up Doc? More vegetable side dishes.  One pound bags of organic baby carrots were $0.99  today.  Auntie EQ has a few tablespoons left of home canned Orange Marmalade made by her brother, Treasured Landscape Visionary.  Hopefully the combination will be a match made in heaven. 

Winner, Loser, or Meh

These were good.  We all liked these. They have a  light natural sweetness to them.  If I make these again, I will add a little fresh ground nutmeg just before serving.  If you are expecting a heavy syrupy style glazed carrot dish, this is not your recipe.  If you want a light natural and slightly sweet accompaniment to a meal, these are the ticket.

Recipe

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

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb baby carrots
  • 2 cups very hot water
  • 1/4 tsp salt 
  • 3 Tbls butter or margarine
  • 2Tbls pecans or walnuts, chopped
  • 3 Tbls orange marmalade
Put first 3 ingredients in crock. Cover and cook until carrots are tender about 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low.  Stir in remaining ingredients and cook on high for 30 minutes.  Serve.

Bavarian Red Cabbage (Sauerkraut)



Time for some vegetable side dishes to be used with meals later this week.   This is a variation of a classic subtle sauerkraut  recipe accompaniment to pork dishes. Butter or margarine and some soy sauce was substituted for the traditional bacon grease. It can also be chilled and served as a cold side dish.

It's cheap and easy.  Everything can be tossed in the crock in the morning and left to cook on low all day.  It can also be started in the afternoon and left to cook for a few hours on high.

Winner, Loser, or Meh 

These were very good.  I just really wanted traditional pork sausages to go with it.  I am saving this batch for tomorrow's dinner. Uncle Meat & Potatoes liked this and wants some Polish Sausage to put it on. I may be off to Trader Joes in the morning to find some mock pork sausage.  Any readers who want to chime in with some great tried and true mock pork sausage recommendations will be greatly appreciated.

Recipe

I used a 2 1/2 - 3 quart crock for this and it was packed to the brim.

Ingredients:
  • 1 small head red cabbage, cored and sliced into strips
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled, diced
  • 1 cup very hot water
  • 2 tsps salt
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  • 3 Tbls butter or margarine
  • 1 1 /2 Tbls sugar
  • 1 cup white vinegar
Add all ingredients to the crock. Stir. Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours. Serve.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Lemon Curd


A year after leaving for college, and shortly after moving into an apartment, loneliness and homesickness settled in for a long unwelcome stay. Longing for the comforts of my childhood haven, a call was made to Grandma Yan  (Yan 1, Yan 2, Yan 3).  Her comfort and advice frequently sought, she administered a loving dose of laughter and good cheer. She was asked to send a few easy recipes so that the mastery of inexpensive home cooking could begin.  A few days later, an envelope arrived with an assortment of her left hand written recipe cards. French Onion Soup, Clam Chowder, and Lemon Curd were amongst them.  On the card for Lemon Curd, she noted: "Delicious!  Eat this with cookies, (or biscuits as they are always called by the English)  and a good hot cup of tea."   Over the last 30 years, her sound advice on this matter has been taken often .


This is an experimental crock adaptation of Yan's Lemon Curd.  It was assembled in a few minutes using fresh lemons from Meticulous Yard Man Neighbor's backyard tree.  The batch was left in the crock to succeed or fail during tonight's airing of American Idol auditions.

Winner, Loser, or Meh

This is simply divine.  So much simpler, easier, and foolproof than the double boiler stove method. Three of us ate warm spoonfuls while making love sounds. Uncle Meat & Potatoes and I  had visions of  eating this warm, slathered over shortbread, during tomorrow night's continued  American Idol tryouts.  Auntie EQ suggested we mix it with Greek style yogurt because "it would be more healthy".  I scowled. Uncle Meat & Potatoes announced he would pick up 'Nila Wafers on the way home from work. Accepting that she was outnumbered,  Auntie EQ came to her senses and reached for her privately printed family recipe collection which has a top secret authentic Scottish Shortbread recipe, one that came over on the immigrant's boat. (Cheat:  The secret ingredient is rice flour) Living for tomorrow!

Recipe:

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

Ingredients
  • Juice and zest of 3 large lemons, unwaxed (Like the ones from the backyard)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 8 Tbls butter
  • 4 eggs
Turn crock heat to high. Pour enough very hot tap water into the crock to go 2/3 up the outside of an empty 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup (or similar heat safe bowl). Put lemon juice, zest, butter, and sugar into the 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup (or other heat safe bowl)  and set it inside the hot water filled crock.  Cover the crock with its lid and cook for about 30 minutes, until the butter and sugar have melted and dissolved. Stir the lemon mixture well.  In a bowl, beat the eggs with a fork. Add a few tablespoons of the lemon mixture to the beaten eggs while stirring vigorously to temper the eggs before adding to the lemon mixture in the crock. Then, slowly pour the egg mixture into the lemon mixture in the Pyrex while whisking the contents of the Pyrex.  When everything is well blended, cover the Pyrex with foil.  Cover the crock with its lid and reduce temperature to low. Cook for 1 1/2 - 2 hours, whisking after about an hour.  Towards the end of the cooking time, whisk well and test to see if it is done. It is done when the lemon curd coats the back of a spoon. Makes 3 cups. This will keep for about 3 weeks, covered in the fridge.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Ranch Potatoes


This was a complete experiment, not expected to turn out well.  It was never planned as a serious contender for today's evening meal.  Uncle Meat & Potatoes and Auntie EQ went to Grunting Junk Loving Teenager's football awards night.  The Spinach Fluff had been consumed, Auntie EQ had a pasta and cheese casserole and then there was a mad dash out the door  for the awards.  The potatoes would be finished sometime after 9 PM, around the time everyone was scheduled to return.  When they returned, Uncle Meat & Potatoes asked for some potatoes.  We dished up some bowls.

Winner, Loser or Meh

Everyone had 3 bowls.  I guess they were our dessert.  I thought the flavor was a bit too strong from the ranch mix and maybe it needed less of it, in fact I would have preferred potatoes alone smothered in butter. Everyone else seemed to think it was great.  Note, I had 3 bowls, too.  It was being consumed so fast, I was afraid there wouldn't be any left for a picture.  There are loads of sauce with this, even after the potatoes are consumed.  Uncle Meat & Potatoes wanted crusty bread cubes so that he could pretend the sauce was fondue.  He's likely to get his wish tomorrow.

Recipe

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

Ingredients:
  •  2 lbs red potatoes, unpeeled, cut into large chunks
  • 1 envelope ranch dressing mix 
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • salt & pepper to taste
Spray crock with no stick spray. Put potatoes in crock pot. Mix the ranch mix, cream cheese, and soup together in a bowl until well blended.  Pour over potatoes.  Cover and cook on low for 7-9 hours.  Stir and add salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

French Onion Soup


The rain started today.  Six full days of heavy rain are expected, perfect soup crock weather. In omnivore times, this Vegetarian Slow Cooker made French Onion Soup on a near weekly basis.  It always started with the prior night's crock pot roast juices.  Creating a fabulous French Onion Soup without an animal base has been a challenge.  A small batch was tried last week, using crock Vegetable Stock as the broth component. It was way too sweet and did not have the intense rich flavor of an animal stock.  Today another attempt was made using Vegetable Better than Bouillon and some soy sauce as the broth base.  Do not be intimidated by the length of the instructions below.  This has got to be one of the easiest things to make in a crock.  It is very forgiving.  Start the onions the night before or in the morning.  Even letting the onions sit in the unplugged crock for a few hours or overnight in the fridge won't hurt it.

Most of French Onion Soup fun is the wondrous crusty melty cheese top.  The weekend at Uncle Meat & Potatoes and Auntie EQ's was perfect for taking advantage of their working oven. If you don't have a broiler or oven to finish off the crusted cheese top, add the cheese to the bottom of the bowl, then the crouton, and ladle steaming hot soup on top.   It won't look as spectacular, but it's still a good eat.

Winner, Loser or Meh

This was very good.  Good enough to write and post about. We had it for a late lunch and everyone ate it all up very quickly with little conversation until their individual two cup soup crocks were empty. My only complaint is that the Vegetable Better than Bouillon has an intense celery seed like flavor and I was not thrilled to end on those bitter notes. It was, however, infinitely better then the version last week.  Any readers who know of a drop dead wonderful substitute for beef broth in vegetarian cooking, please pass on your finds.  I'd love to try them. 

Recipe

I used a 6 quart crock for this

Ingredients:

See and use Caramelized Onion recipe for the base.  The following amounts for this batch of onion base was cooked overnight on low until it reached the color in the picture below:
  • 3 Tbls butter
  • 5 large onions, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, peeled, minced



After the Caramelized Onion base has finished, add to the crock the ingredients below. Cover and cook on high for about on hour:
  • 1 Tbls soy sauce
  • 6 cups vegetable broth (Vegetable Better than Boullion and water)
  • 1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
After this has enough time to get simmering hot, add:
  • 1/3 cup dry sherry
  • pepper to taste
Cook the soup covered while the broiler is started, and the below items prepared:
  • 3/4 pound Gruyere cheese, grated
  • 6 slices crusty french bread or 12 large garlic croutons made from single slices of baguette 
Ladle soup into oven safe bowls.  Top with bread slice to fit or two croutons to fit.  Cover with 1/6 the cheese.  Place all bowls on a cookie sheet and place under broiler until the top is brown and melted.  Remove tray from the broiler and using oven mitt place each bowl on a room temperature plate. Serve immediately.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Eggless Rice Pudding


The chilly rain pours.  No one wants to venture out.  Something warm and comforting is needed. There is a bag of lemons, fresh picked from Meticulous Yard Man Neighbor's backyard tree, and a 1/2 carton of heavy cream for which the "sell by date" passed two days ago.  Surely there is something that can be made without leaving the house.  This is easily assembled with ingredients most people have in the pantry.  It takes about 5 minutes to throw together. Warm and comforting, a perfect rainy day dessert or breakfast.

Winner, Loser, or Meh

My Lord this was good. It was a cross between a dessert and a wonderful hot breakfast cereal.  The combination of the nutmeg, golden raisins and lemon zest was nothing short of sensational, refreshing and light tasting.  Don't make this without the zest. The top will get a brown speckled filmy crust when finished. It is delicious. The picture below was taken after a big spoon broke the crust and tasting had begun. This does not bind like a regular rice pudding.  Who cares. It's very satisfying.



Recipe

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

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup uncooked converted rice
  • 2 1/2 cups 2% milk
  • 2/3 cup sugar 
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup cream
Spray crock with no stick spray.  Add all ingredients.  Stir. Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours.  Serve warm (with a generous splash of milk) or cold.

(Backdated: Made and written Sunday 1/17/2010)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Spinach Fluff


According to the source recipe, this was supposed to be a Spinach Souffle.  This Vegetarian Slow Cooker knows enough about food to know that mayonnaise does not a souffle make.  So what?  Perhaps it would be more of a white trash souffle. Who cares, so long as it tastes good? This was easy to assemble, taking about 5 minutes.  It was the perfect size for a 2 1/2 - 3 quart crock.  When it was finished, it bore absolutely no resemblance to a souffle, white trash or otherwise.  It didn't taste like one either.  Does that mean it was bad? And what do we call it?

Winner, Loser or Meh

This was very fluffy and light, even though it is loaded with fat and not even remotely light.  Uncle Meat & Potatoes and Auntie EQ really really like it, I was thinking more of a meh.  It has many of the same ingredients that are in spinach dips, but it tastes much lighter even though it isn't "light" in the calorie department. Uncle Meat & Potatoes opened up a tube of Ritz crackers (that I was saving for another recipe ) and  loved it even more with the crackers.  I wished I had either used sharp cheddar or garlic or salt or all three for a bit more of a flavor punch. Bottom line everyone really really loved this, except me.  I can still taste the mayonnaise as I type this.

Recipe

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

Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 8 oz Neufatchel cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 30 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed of all water
  • 1/4 cup onion, peeled, grated 
 Spray crock with no stick spray.  Add first 4 ingredients to a bowl and mix with a fork until well blended.  Add spinach and onions and stir until evenly distributed.  Pour into the crock.  Cover and cook on high for 2 - 3 hours.

(Backdated: Made and written Monday 1/17/2010)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Pineapple Crisp


Time for another dessert in the other half of the Rival Double Crock.  Dole Canned Pineapple and Ritz crackers were on entry aisle super sale at Winco today.  Pineapple was $.88 a can and a giant boxes of Ritz crackers were $2.38.  Creamy Peas & Onions were cooking in one side of the crock. Pineapple seemed the perfect dessert  accompaniment to cut any leftover pea creaminess on the palate after dinner.  This was a breeze to assemble.  Into the crock in under 5 minutes and it only took that long because the pineapple had to be cut into chunks.  This was easily accomplished using a butter knife to cut the fruit right inside the can.


Winner, Loser, or Meh

This was very good.  Uncle Meat & Potatoes ate a bite and said "Mmmmm. Ding, ding, ding we have a winner".  I'd end the review here, except the next sentence out of his mouth was "how did you  manage to get the apples to have such an interesting texture?"  Given that he couldn't tell the difference between a pineapple and an apple I waited for independent evidence of the dessert's winningness.   When petite, rarely interested in food, Auntie EQ asked for her second bowl, I knew we had a hit.

Recipe

I used a 3 quart crock for this.

Ingredients:
  • 2 cans pineapple chunks or whole cut into chunks, well drained, divided
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar, divided
  • 3/4 cup crushed butter crackers (like Ritz), divided
  • 3 Tbls butter, divided (vegans can use margarine)
Spray crock with no stick spray.  Add 1 can drained pineapple to crock and spread evenly. Spread 1/2 the brown sugar evenly over the pineapple.  Sprinkle 1/2 the cracker crumbs evenly over the brown sugar. Dot top evenly with 1/2 the butter. Repeat layering process with remaining ingredients in the same order. Take a dish towel or a few paper towels and place across the top of the crock.  Cover and pull edges of towel into the center.  The towel will serve as a moisture wick. Cook on low for 2 hour.  Uncover and turn off heat.  Allow to cool for 15- 20 minutes before serving so juices can cool and set.

(Backdated: Made and written Saturday 1/16/2010)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Creamy Peas & Onion


Looking for easy cheap comfort food loaded with protein, calcium, and fiber.  This is just what the doctor ordered.  This was made in the Rival Double Crockpot with a Pineapple Crisp cooking right along side it. This Vegetarian Slow Cooker is spending a social weekend with Uncle Meat & Potatoes and Auntie EQ.  Grunting (still growing) Junk Loving Teenager broke his leg playing football and all food must be carried to him at all times by any and all nearby willing and unwilling adults. Did I mention the adults around here are exhausted?   Hopefully, this combo will save us all some time in the kitchen. 

Winner, Loser or Meh

This was wonderful.  I want to go steady with it.  The sauce was so perfect and the Creole Seasoning a must. We all loved  this and it was consumed so fast there were no leftovers.  Even Grunting Junk Loving Teenager asked for more, but it was too late.  All gone.

Recipe

I used a 3 quart crock for this.  This recipe can easily be doubled.

Ingredients:
  • 16 ounces frozen petite green peas
  • 2 Tbls butter
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp Creole Seasoning
  • 1 tsp flour
  • 1/2 cup light cream
  • 1/2 sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Add first three ingredients to crock. Stir. Cover and cook on high for 3 hours or low for 6 hours.  Sprinkle flour on pea mixture and stir.  Add cream and cheese and stir well.  Reduce heat to low and cook for 30- 45 minutes.  Sauce will thicken.  Stir to incorporate all ingredients.  Serve warm.

(Backdated: Made and written Saturday 1/16/2010)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Caramelized Onions


For those who love caramelized onions, the crock will be your new best friend.  In omnivore times, before discovering the wonders of the crock, this Vegetarian Slow Cooker would dutifully stand at the stove for nearly an hour or more, and go through the process of caramelizing onions to perfection for whatever cuisine was to be featured for the day - usually French Onion Soup.  Then came the crock.  After slicing and tossing, and possibly one or two stirs,  the result was exactly the same as the laborious stove top method. As these onions are allowed to cook in their own juices they slowly transform into the thick, deep, rich, sweet taste we all know and love.  These take a while in the crock, but it matters not if one plans ahead.  They keep in the fridge for quite a while. These are fabulous for tossing into vegetable side dishes, pastas, pizzas and perfect as the classic base of a French Onion Soup.  Slice as many or as little as you like.  The end result is the same.

Winner, Loser, or Meh

These are true winners.  I  have been making them for years.  Watch this carefully at the end until you know the quirks of your own crock because they can go from underdone to perfect to over done in plus or minus an hour.  I have made these in many types of crocks and each one has its own heat settings and quirks.  If you use a black crock, you may need to stir them once or twice in the first 6 hours as the black crockery causes the edges to burn slightly.  Even if you don't do this, it won't be fatal. 

Recipe

I used a 2 1/2 - 3 quart crock for this. A larger crock can be used for bigger batches.

Ingredients:
  • As many or as few onions as you like, peeled, sliced thin  (for this batch I used one giant onion)
  • 1-2 tsp butter or olive oil for every medium sized onion (I used 1 Tbls for the super giant onion)
  • (optional) 1/2 clove garlic, minced, for every 1-2 medium onions (I used Christopher's jarred, 1 clove equivalent)
Spray crock with no stick spray.  Add ingredients in order listed.  Stir. Cover and cook on high 10-12 hours. Check and stir once or twice to make sure the edges are okay. In my 3 quart crock high is what works.  In my 6 quart crock low is what works.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Baked Apples


On most frugal themed blogs in the vast cloud of cyberspace, January is "use only things already in your pantry month". No joke. Given the frigid temperatures in most of the country, one can only assume this has more to do with not wanting to go outside than being particularly frugal, but perhaps it is a combination of both. In the spirit of frugal blogs everywhere, nothing was used today that was not already in the cupboard. This body never ventured out the front door to face the cold either. Today's simple crock dessert was born of necessity. There is still an abundance of Satay, Tamales, and Wendy's Chili (Copycat) in the fridge. No desserts in sight. Reading about someone's apple pie on a non-frugal blog set off cravings which this satisfied. Too bad there wasn't any vanilla ice cream or whipped cream already in the pantry.

Winner, Loser, or Meh

These are really nice. Not overly sweet, and they taste very wholesome. Easy. Simple.

Recipe

I halved the recipe below and used a 2 1/2 -3 quart crock for this. A full recipe would work in a 5-6 quart round or oval

Ingredients
  • 4 large baking apples, unpeeled, cored
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup raisins, or dried cranberries, or dried cherries, or combination (I used raisins)
  • 2 Tbls butter, melted (vegans can use margarine)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (I used several twists from my nutmeg grinder)
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)(I used walnuts)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine or apple juice (optional) (I didn't use any, didn't have any and wasn't leaving the house)
Mix brown sugar and dried fruit together and stuff tightly into the cored apple. Sprinkle the apples with cinnamon and nutmeg. If using wine/apple juice add to the melted butter. Pour tthe butter mixture over the apples. Top cores with nuts. Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Tamales


In the Central Valley we enjoy the rich culturally infused presence of Mexican tradition. Holiday Tamales are but one of those traditions.  A full day is usually spent in holiday Tamale making.  An olive is always found in one - It is considered good luck to have them and bad luck if they are absent.

In omnivore times, a call was made to the Mexican bakery and orders placed for a fresh batch of specially prepared lard infused masa. Nothing in the world tastes quite like it. This Vegetarian Slow Cooker has no illusions. Tamales without lard will not result in any mystical food eating experience, but that doesn't mean we should give up entirely. I'm willing to have Tamales that are less than a religious experience, so long as they taste really good. Here is the first attempt.

The filling for this was inspired by a recipe on this blog.  My adaptation uses a lot more liquid and flavorings in filling and casings because there will not be a traditional mole.  The Masa was prepared according to the package instructions but modified as follows: Coconut oil was used instead of vegetable oil  and an  abundance of garlic and cumin were added since there would be no glorious flavor infusion from lard.

Instead of steaming these in a large water laden stock pot for an hour or more, the crock was used instead.  No water is required when steaming Tamales in the crock.  It takes about 6 hours. After the Tamales are prepared and rolled in the husks, load as many as you can stuff in the crock and walk away.  The house smells divine for hours, a small religious experience in and of itself.




Winner, Loser or Meh

These are sort of tasty.  On the dry side.  There will be attempts to make this better. They would benefit from some warm green sauce. They were crocked, and put right in the fridge overnight. Tasting occurred the next day.  These freeze well and the corn husk, left intact, is the perfect wrapping  for reheating in the microwave.

Recipe

This makes enough to fill two 5 1/2-6 quart crocks, so halve the recipe if you only have a single large crock.

Ingredients:

Casings:
  • 8 oz bag dried corn husks, soaked in warm water for 1/2 an hour, leave in warm water while preparing
  • 5 lb bag masa, room temperature
  • 1 cup coconut oil, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups stock, warm (I used Vegetable Better than Bouillon & water)
  • 1 Tbls plus 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tbls salt
  • 1 Tbls plus 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbls baking powder
Working in a large bowl, use your hands to mix  all ingredients together except the corn husks.  Work ingredients in in small batches until everything is integrated evenly.  It will have the consistency of  sticky mashed potatoes when finished.

Filling:
  • 2 bags Morningstar "chicken" strips, defrosted, shredded
  • 1 1/2 cups large garlic stuffed green olives, each olive cut into 4th, garlic cut in half. (I bought mine from the Winco deli case)
  • reserve liquid from olives, about 1/2 cup
  • 15 oz can garbanzo beans, drained, reserve 1/4 cup liquid to mash half the beans and then add to other half
  • 2 fajita seasoning packet mixes
In a large bowl add the chicken strips , olives, garbanzo bean mixture.  Make fajita sauce according to packet instructions, but use the reserved olive liquid instead of water. Add to the bowl and mix well.

Assembly:

Take a warm wet corn husk from the water, spread golf ball sized ball of masa in the center.  Spread to between 1/8th and 1/4 inch thickness.  Add 1 1/2 - 2 tablespoons filling.  Make sure a garlic segment and 1/2 an olive is in the middle.  Roll like a burrito.

When tamales are assembled,place in slow cooker.  Cook covered on high about 6 -8 hours.  Test for doneness by peeling back husk to see if masa will completely separate cleanly from husk.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Satay


Satay is a sweet spicy peanut sauce that is often used in Thai cooking.  This is a variation of a stove top satay that a Mother Unit makes which my brother, Golden Artisan Man loves.  I have made the original version for him as a Christmas gift in the past.  The family likes to serve this with shrimp ladled over rice.  In this modified version lemons were swapped out for limes to be more consistent with classic Thai flavors.  The spices were ramped up significantly, in some cases doubled.  More brown sugar was added to account for the use of 100% pure peanut butter, fresh ground at Winco. Most commercially prepared peanut butters have large amounts of sugar and other oils in them.   The original stove top version was simple enough, but this was even simpler.

Winner, Loser, or Meh

This was so good. I made it last night and actually ate some today  I really think it needs to have wedges of lime and cilantro as a garnish for serving. The taste is reminiscent of a warmed version of the dressing on a California Pizza Kitchen Thai Crunch Salad.  My camera is not being friendly, so sorry for the less than appetizing shot featured here.  This is oh so much better than the picture suggests.

Recipe

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

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/3 cup peanut butter (I used fresh ground 100% peanuts)
  • 6 Tbls brown sugar
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 15 oz can stewed tomatoes
  • 1 large sweet onion, peeled, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 green or red peppers or combination, seeded, cored and chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 Tbls plus 2 tsps soy sauce
  • 2 tsps chili paste 
  • juice of two limes (about 4 Tbls)
Add all ingredients except the lime juice to the crock.  Stir well. (I used a potato masher).  Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8.  (I did high for 3 1/2).  Stir in lime juice.  Add more water if thinner consistency is desired.  Serve warm over rice.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Wendy's Chili (Vegetarian Copy Cat)


Another regular addition to my family maintenance style cooking for the 20 years I had children at home during my omnivore life was a Wendy's chili copy cat.  It was a wonderful low fat, high fiber meal in its beef incarnation.  It was Weight Watchers point friendly and everything could be tossed in the crock in the morning in about 10 minutes before heading out the door.  It is even lower in fat and higher in fiber in this vegetarian adaptation.  The fat that is present in beef is usually a concentrator and conveyor of flavor.  So whenever fat is reduced or cut back in a  recipe, the spices need to be ramped up to compensate.

Winner, Loser or Meh

This was okay to good.  Uncle Meat & Potatoes liked it a lot and had a few bowls, but he really liked the Spaghetti Sauce Bolognese better.  This is the downside of crocking 2-3 items on the same day while family lingers about.  I think the spices needed to be ramped up just a tiny bit more to compensate for the serious low fat nature of this dish.  Still, goodish.  It doesn't have as much flavor as the meat counterpart, so spicing will have to be addressed in any future appearances.

Recipe

I used a 5 1/2 quart crock for this

Ingredients 
  • 1 Tbls olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 12 oz packages Morningstar Grillers Crumbles
  • 2-3 stalks celery, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 small cans diced green chilis and juice
  • 3 tomatoes, diced large
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 28 oz can pinto beans & liquid
  • 28 oz can red kidney beans & liquid
  • 28 oz can tomato sauce
  • 3 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper (or more)
  • 3 Tbl chili powder
  • 2 cups water (optional and varies)

Heat olive oil in a no stick skillet over medium high heat. Saute onion until translucent and then add garlic and cook for about 2 minutes.  (This step can be omitted and the onions and garlic simply added to the crock but the flavor will not have as much depth - it's still good, I used to do it that way when I was rushed for time)  Add to the crock with all other ingredients.  Cover & cook on low for 8-10 hours or high for 4-5 hours.  This overflows a 5 1/2 quart crock pot as it cooks, so use less water to compensate if that is the size you are using.  It seems to work perfectly in a 6 quart crock pot.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Spaghetti Sauce Bolognese


Bolognese sauce is "meat sauce".   Yes, a Bolognese sauce is a  non sequitor on a vegetarian cooking blog.  This version has no meat at all, but no one would know it.  This is a vegetarian and crock adaptation of my favorite Bolognese sauce from my prior omnivorous life.  The original was a weekly staple in my kitchen for over 20  years.  This version is even lower fat than the original, loaded with protein, and easy on the waistline.  The recipe as listed is the perfect amount for a pound of dry pasta.  The recipe doubles well for larger groups.


Winner, Loser, or Meh

This was a true winner. Uncle Meat & Potatoes didn't seem to notice that it wasn't really meat in the sauce.  He declared it delicious and had two helpings.  Auntie EQ and I also had some. Four teenagers, who usually have no interest in the adult fare served at the house wandered out of their lair and gobbled the rest of it.

Recipe

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

Ingredients
  • 1 Tbls olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic,minced
  • 12 oz package Morningstar Grillers Crumbles, defrosted
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 4  8 ounce cans tomato sauce
  • 3 tsp sugar or equivalent Splenda (I used Splenda)
  • 2 "Not-Beef" Natural Bouillon Cubes
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp pepper 
  • (optional) 1/4 cup dry red wine
Heat oil over medium high heat in medium skillet.  Saute onions until translucent, add garlic and saute for another two minutes.  Add to crock.  (This step could be omitted and the ingredients placed directly in the crock but the depth of flavor would not be the same).  Add all other ingredients except wine.  Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours or high for 3-4.  Stir in wine (if using) and continue cooking for another 20-30 minutes. Serve over pasta with optional sprinklings of Parmesan or other aged Italian cheese.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Hot Buttered Rum


Perfect for a cold winter party, there is nothing more wonderful and comforting than hot buttered rum.  It was cold and foggy today.  It felt too damp and miserable to venture out.  It was already 3 PM and there was nothing in the crock, yet.  There were no plans for a party.  So with the only available ingredients on hand it became clear there needed to be a party - but to celebrate what?.  Auntie EQ and Uncle Meat & Potatoes had spent the day at the movies, then cleaning up the remainder of Christmas holiday decorations and New Years Eve confetti, now damp in the street.  Their tasks were finished by 5:30 PM.  Sounded like a good enough reason to have a party to me.  This took about 2 minutes to toss in the crock, which was perfect for the amount of time I felt like investing in cooking today.

Winner, Loser or Meh

I don't like alcohol.  Little amounts make me sick the next day - like a glass.  This tastes so good, I don't think I care. I heart this more than hot chocolate.  This is the perfect thing to toss in the crock hours before a big party.  Guests could easily serve themselves from the crock throughout the night.

Recipe:

I used a 2 1/2 -3 quart crock for this.  This recipe can easily be doubled for a party and made in a larger crock.

Ingredients: 
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 4 Tbls butter
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1 quart filtered hot water
  • 1 cup dark rum
Topping
  • whipped cream
  • fresh ground nutmeg
Place first seven ingredients in the crock. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours or high for  2 1/2 -3 hours. Reduce heat to warm and add rum.  Serve from the crock into mugs and top with whipped cream and fresh ground nutmeg.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Chili - Buddy's Diner Style



There was a wonderful diner, now closed, in my town that served the most divine hot sweet chili.  This chili inspired two similar versions in my prior omnivorous life, including an all beef version.  The enormous New Years Day challenge is to recreate this recipe using no meat.  This is the first attempt.  I halved the proportions of my usual recipe expecting it to be a flop. The ultimate test would be whether or not Uncle Meat & Potatoes would eat it with reckless abandon. Uncle Meat & Potatoes had never tasted the original.  We had all been lounging about like slugs gorging on  party leftovers from the night before - another reason I expected people not to be very hungry and interested in this - unless it was delicious.

Winner, Loser, or Meh

I thought it was not going to taste as great as the original.    Uncle Meat & Potatoes asked for a bowl at around 7 PM.  He loved it instantly and is on his 5th bowl.  Auntie EQ had a bite of his. She is quite petite and got up and ladled a bowl for herself, too. 

Recipe

I used a 2 1/2 - 3 quart crock for this.  This recipe can easily be doubled.

Ingredients:
  • 1 Tbls olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled, diced
  • 12 oz package Morninstar Grillers Crumbles
  • 1 tsp Vegetable Better Than Boullion
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 Tbls soy sauce
  • 14 1/2 oz can diced peeled tomatoes
  • 15 oz can kidney beans, rinsed, drained
  • 1/3  6oz can tomato paste
  • 1/2 Tbls chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. ground pepper
  • 3 tsp sugar or Splenda equivalent (I used Splenda)
Toppings:
  • Shredded sharp cheddar cheese (optional)
  • Diced red onions (optional)
Heat olive oil in medium skillet over medium high heat.  Saute onions until soft.  Add to crock with all other ingredients except the optional toppings.  Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours. Serve warm with optional sprinkled cheese and onions. Makes 4 generous servings.