Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ask the Internet: Do You Use a Slow Cooker?

Readers, you have installed Greek yogurt as Queen and Supreme Ruler of Mayofreeland and avocado as Prime Minister. Soft, spreadable cheeses and sour cream are their trusted advisers. Enemies of mayo rejoice!

For this week’s question I took a look deep inside (my kitchen):

Q: My mother gave me a slow cooker many years ago, at my request. I use it to make beans, collards, and oatmeal. Up to now, I’ve been fairly content with my alternating shining success/burning failure within this repertoire, but I’d like to expand. (And avoid setting off the smoke detector when I’m not home.)

Do you have any good vegetarian slow cooker recipes or resources? How about general slow cooker tips for expediting mealtime?

A: CHG readers, it’s all you today! The comments await your sage advice. Thank you!

Want to ask the interweb a question? Post one in the comment section, or write to Cheaphealthygood@gmail.com. Then, tune in next Tuesday for an answer/several answers from the good people of the World Wide Net.

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Jessica said...

I really like Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker from Robin Robertson.

Ros said...

I find most recipes made in slow-cookers to be mediocre at best (watery chili... I think not), but they are very useful for making the very best broth ever.

Toss onions/carrots/onions/bay leaves/whatever herbs you're using/any bones (or none, though a dried mushroom or two helps the taste of veggie broth) into the slow cooker before going to bed. Set on low. Sleep through the night. In the morning, dump the liquid in a bowl, put it in the fridge during the day. The fat can be skimmed off (if making meat-based broth, this is essential) and the broth can be used for dinner.

(Side-note: celery leaves, carrot tops, the unpleasant outer layers of onions, and leftover bones, along with a few herbs - thyme, parsley, and bay leaves, especially - make perfectly reasonable broth and amazing soups. It's like making whole extra meals out of what would otherwise go into the garbage. Highly recommended.)

Jessica J. said...

I just made a fabulous vegetarian stew/soup in my slow cooker on Saturday. Sort of a kitchen sink dish, but sooo tasty (and healthy!):


Sassy Molassy said...

Polenta! You can find tons of "recipes" for this on the internet. Polenta makes a great base for all kinds of savory meals, paired with a simple tomato sauce, sophisticated mushroom sautees, or spicy bean mixtures.

MsLeading said...

Seitan is EXCELLENT in a slow cooker! Just use it to cook your favorite seitan recipe instead of boiling/steaming/baking, and you'll be super happy with the results.

Or, toss in some carrots, onions, potatoes, veggie broth, Bragg's liquid aminos and/or vegan worcestershire, and thickener (and salt, pepper, thyme, garlic, whatever spices make you happy) in with your cooked seitan, simmer lowly all day, and come home to delightful unbeef stew. Serve with some quick drop biscuits, and you're golden.

Any variation of beans and rice is also excellent in a slow-cooker. Add well-soaked beans, dry brown rice, spices, and lots of veggie broth (2-3:1 ratio wet to dry).

Sarah in Georgia said...

My favorite place for slow cooker recipes is crockpot365.blogspot.com. Many of the recipes aren't vegetarian, but the variety is amazing.

Jenny said...

Sorry I do not have any vegetarian recipes, but I do have a tip! You have to use crock pot liners made by Reynolds. They are a must and fit crock pots that are 3-6.5 quart. Just put one in, cook and serve your meal, then at clean up just pick up the liner and throw it away! They are great for when we have parties and do not want to spend the whole night cleaning.

Natalie said...

I use my slow cooker for a LOT of different things, cooking beans in bulk for freezing (much cheaper than buying canned beans), making my own chicken stock (though I'm sure you could do vegetable stock too!). However, my favorite application is my sweet potato and apple recipe

However, there is a great website where a woman documented her use of a crockpot, every day for a year (and now she has a book!): A Year Of Slow Cooking
there are some vegetable recipes, but it's not exclusively vegetarian.

I just can't say enough about how amazing it is to have a crockpot when you're super busy and want a great meal at night :o) Happy slow-cooking!

Alex said...

I LOVELOVELOVE this blog: http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/

She has a really wide range of recipes. Pretty much all of them are gluten-free because someone in her family has Celiac's, from what I gather.

I've tried several of her recipes. My favorite is probably the edamame dip:

From time to time, I just go to her Index page and look for new recipes, or ones that I meant to try but never got around to.

Megan said...

I'll give another shoutout to Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow-Cooker. It's been a great resource! I use the crockpot to cook a lot of our homemade staples - vegetable broth, dry beans, and marinara sauce. We save a boatload by making these few staples ourselves, instead of buying the processed stuff from the store, even at a deep discount.

Susan said...

I love the Gourmet Vegetarian Slow Cooker cookbook...I really have to buy it; I've checked it out of the library 5 times! The future-mister and I love the dal with spices recipe and the chickpea harira best, but the veggie chili is awesome (and flavorful) and the spaghetti squash with mexican spices is awesome, too. We'll be trying lots more in the months to come!

WendyStarr said...

You can make a ton of different kinds of curry in the crock pot like chick pea curry or potato curry and it comes out AWESOME. I make chili in there a lot and I've never found it to be watery even though one commenter apparently does (bad recipe maybe?). I've also made granola and apple butter in there with very minimal efforts and great results, especially the apple butter. So easy. Mine has a removable ceramic insert so I take it out to soak a bag of beans overnight, drain them the next day, put them back in the ceramic insert and then cook them up without having to use multiple bowls or pots.

I definitely recommend http://crockpot365.blogspot.com as someone else did too. It's not a vegetarian site but there are so many recipes that I'm sure you can find stuff to your liking. She even makes hot drinks, baby food, soap and candles in the crockpot on that site.

sunflowerramos said...

Go to this website. You will thank me later:


Leigh said...

MsLeading: Seitan, of course! I would make it more often if it didn't take so dang long. This will seriously change my life.

Y'all are mad geniuses. Keep 'em coming. And thanks!

christiems said...

I agree with the others who referred to this site: http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/search/label/vegetarian

That is the link to the vegetarian recipes. Enjoy!

Lacey said...

I love love LOVE my slow cooker!! And yes, crockpot365.blogspot.com is the best place for crock pot recipes and ideas. Stephanie O'Dea is great at detailing how meals turn out, and most importantly she is HONEST.

I love cooking gumbo in my slow cooker, which could easily turn into a minestrone type dish if one wanted to go vegetarian.

Also, using your CP for baking banana bread is a cinch when not wanting to turn on your oven. It takes a bit longer, but saves you from worrying if it's going to burn if you're busy.

Cathy said...

Last year I made strawberry butter in the crockpot. You cook strawberries and apples together until it's a thick paste--spreadable jam-like.


Marcia said...

"125 best vegetarian slow cooker recipes." Judith Finlayson

Good book. Not "easy" however. To develop good flavor without meat, you need spices and you need to prep the food correctly. It's not "dump and cook", but if you take the time to prep ahead, it's great.

My problem, mostly is that the prep time is equal to the time it would take me to just cook something else.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE my slowcooker and use it at least once a week. I hate to admit it but we eat a fair amount of meat but I also use it for; veg. pea soup, lasagne (assemble as usual but put in slow cooker and turn on low for the day), apple sauce, steel cut oatmeal for breakfast, spaghetti sauce...

I put all of these on my blog jane-adventuresindinner.blogspot.com

Kristin said...

I love to make Carrot Soup with Honey and Nutmeg from "Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker" by Beth Hensperger. It is a really good soup with falafel or Gyros. I shouldn't tell you this, but if you google "not your mother's slow cooker carrot soup" the google books search result will show you the entire page of that book with the recipe on it.

But I'm excited to try those blogs that are mentioned by readers.

amy said...

easiest, fabulous crock recipe:

1 3lb pork butt/shoulder
1 12oz (or larger) jar of pepporochini in liquid

Cook on low for 8-10 hours. About an hour before it's done, shred the pork so the vinegar-y liquid gets deep in there.

Use in tacos or sandwiches. Or anything. Apparently also works with brisket.

Anonymous said...

I'd also recommend Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker.

I am a meat-eater, but I make vegetarian/vegan soups weekly in the slow cooker.

Alyssa said...

I've been using this vegetarian crock pot recipe, for ratatouille, for years and am glad it's still online:


I use half the salt called for and add a bay leaf. I also way overfill the crock pot so the lid does not even sit on the crock, because it cooks down so much throughout the day. I cut the veggies pretty big because otherwise they will just disintegrate cooking that long.

This dish is great served cold or hot, especially with a little parmesan on top. In school, I would eat it until I started to run low and then would mix cooked pasta into it to make it last the rest of the week.

Autumn609 said...

I use my slow cooker for the beans/chili/marinara/roast beast regular suggestions. Just 2 of us so I have to have freezer space if I'm getting it out cause I can only eat so much, but great for stockpiling for weeknight dinner.

For thanksgiving I do a turkey breast in the slow cooker (since we don't care for dark meat that much) 8 hours or so on low and juicy tender fall of the bones which go right back into the pot for turkey stock. Sometimes I use onion soup mix as a rub for flavor. I tend to not add liquid cause the bird always is just a bit on the still not defrosted side.

I also use it as a warming dish for warm apps at social gatherings. I put the cooked food in, set it on low with the lid off, and then turn it on/off every hour or so. Keeps taco dip perfect this way.

I think it was on serious eats that my current favorite way was discovered. I sous vide in it. Vacuum seal the veggies (we like radishes and carrots, but not together) or protein (which I have been a little scared to try) and fill it with water, and heat until the water gets to 180 for veggies, or your desired final temp (ie 140 for a certain doneness of steak, but just google the temps) and throw the bag in. Veggies take about an hour. I sometimes throw the bag in before the 180 temp is reached to speed things along.

A friend makes a great cobbler in hers, but I haven't figured out how yet, and she's not talking. Another friend does stuffed shells in hers.

Broke in Memphis said...

I use mine for cassoulets, applesauce, apple butter, and everything in between. When I was working two jobs, it was an absolute life saver. I don't know how I would have consumed nourishing food without it. There is nothing better than coming home to the smell of dinner all ready go. I have two 4 quart crockpots, they aren't fancy, and I usually recommend people use a timer with them. The prep time is worthwhile since it keeps me from eating out. I halve all of amounts since most recipes call for a 6 quart crockpot plus I don't see the need to feed an army of one. Have fun, experiment, and if you can afford to, buy fresh ingredients. Good luck with your cooking y'all.

wosnes said...

@Autumn609 -- I'm a single and don't like freezing leftovers (or planned-overs) for future use. Plus I usually don't have that much space in the freezer. I cut recipes down to size and I've purchased a smaller (I think it's 1½ quarts) slow cooker.

Kalyn said...

The slow cooker is great for making any kind of soup. You don't really need a special recipe, just use a bit less liquid (maybe reduce by 1/3) when you're cooking in the slow cooker since vegetables release their liquid and none evaporates.

mollyjade said...

I love making meatless cholent in the slow cooker, and it uses up all those small amounts of miscellaneous beans I always have laying around.

Anonymous said...

Yes! Mostly I use recipes from the Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook mentioned by an earlier poster. Granola, winter squash, tomato sauce, tapioca (stir it only once!), all kinds of yummy soup, sweet potatoes, curries and even lasagna!

Lorin D said...

This website is for old folks, but it has a few hundred recipes for random slow cooker meals. I haven't cooked anything from it yet, but the sheer volume practically guarantees at least a few gems.


bluebirdjohnson7 said...

Thanks Lorin D. I have a few crock pots and want to use them more. I think I will like the site you gave. I'm no where near 50, but I don't think they will mind! :)