Ten Reasons Why I Like Using A Slow Cooker
Last winter my Slow Cooker Challenge lacked effort - but not for want of trying. I actually used it pretty often but quite a few of the recipes were variations on a theme and I didn't want to get too repetative. However, I've almost perfected the Moroccan inspired dishes and found that, in addition to getting the spices balanced, it also helps to include a tablespoon of almond nut butter and also some diced sweet potato (thickens the sauce) and then at the end, so it doesn't overcook the flavours, to add some lemon juice and freshly chopped coriander (I think this is called cilantro if you live in the USA).
I promise to get some more recipes on here soon ....
Ten reasons why I like using a slow cooker
- Its a way of preparing healthy food
- It saves time in the kitchen - means you can go off and do something else instead
- Can be set up to cook while you're out so your food's ready and waiting when you get back home again
- You can make several portions at a time
- A good way of using up leftover veggies so avoiding waste
- Home cooked food from scratch is nearly always cheaper than convenience foods
- In terms of energy, is said to be more economical to use than a conventional oven
- Although uses low energy, still gives off heat and makes our postage stamp sized kitchen very cosy
- Slow cooking creates better flavours
- The aromas that fill the house are better than any scented candles
THE SLOW COOKER CHALLENGE
I've always like the idea of a slow cooker - you just throw everything in, switch it on and come back several hours later to a wonderful aroma in the house and a delicious meal waiting. Well, that was the idea. But we often found that some veggie casseroles were too watery, some meat stews were too bland or the veggies were taking forever to cook.
But I did a bit of reading up and although there's not a lot of preparation involved, there are certain things to consider which make all the difference, such as browning some ingredients first, cooking time variables, last minute additions, how far up to fill the cooker and timing factors. Its not complicated, but a little knowledge makes all the difference.
So enough of going off piste and throwing it all in and hoping for the best, I've decided to follow the recipes in the 3 recipe books that we have at home so that I can learn as I go along.
Not only that, I'm intending to try a recipe every week throughout the winter as part of my slow cooker challenge to myself - there are plenty of recipes to choose from (one of the books alone has 200 recipes so between them I could probably find something different every day for a year or more!).
All of my recipes will be vegetarian (sometimes vegan) and usually gluten free. Mr Cocopopia does eat meat, but I'm bringing him around to my way of eating and, unlike a few years ago, he is happy to eat meat free meals as long as they are tasty and filling.
Yes, its not just about stews and casseroles - I'm looking forward to trying other dishes such as lasagna, fajitas, stuffed vegetables, lemon curd, apple cake, poached pears, chai spiced breakfast bread, spiced cider and Mexican hot chocolate to name but a few ...Last week, my Slow Cooker Challenge took on Moroccan theme with a chickpea, sweet potato and mushroom tagine. Spices included coriander, paprika, cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper and fresh ginger and dried fruits (apricots and raisins) added to the flavour.
3. Moroccan Chickpea, Sweet Potato and Mushroom Tagine
My recipe is a bit long and off-putting to include here (there are 25 different ingredients to start with!) and I wouldn't want to put you off, so here's a link to the BBC Good Food Guide site for a Slow Cooker Chickpea Tagine. Its an easy recipe to start off with and you can play around with ingredients to suit your own taste.
2. Baked Cranberry ApplesI've been a bit behind in mentioning The Slow Cooker Challenge recently but that doesn't mean I haven't been trying - I just wasn't ready to post anything that didn't quite work (such as the macaroni cheese that came out a bit solid!).
However, I did make some rather tasty baked apples recently. It helps if you've got a crock pot wide enough to place them together in the base (mine didn't quite fit so I had to shape the edges of the apples a little to fit!). Here's the recipe:
|Slow Cooker Baked Cranberry Apples|
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup crushed, chopped or coarsely ground nuts (almonds, walnuts or pecans)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup cranberry juice
1. Core the apples to about 3/4 of the way down, leaving enough base to hold the filling inside the apple. Peel a 1/2 band around the top of the apples and rub exposed apple with lemon juice if you want to avoid discolouration.
2. In a small bowl, combine sugar, cranberries, nuts and cinnamon. Stuff the mixture into the apple centres, trying to get in as much as you can!
3. Lightly oil the slow cooker and place the apples inside. Pour the cranberry juice into the slow cooker to surround the apples.
4. Cover and cook on low until the apples are soft but not collapsing. Cooking time varies with slow cookers - mine took about 3 hours but they did overcook a little.
5. Remove the lid to allow apples to cool slightly and serve warm drizzled with the cooking liquid (yogurt or vanilla ice-cream also goes well with this too).
1. Fifty Shades of Orange Curry
An easy to make, healthy and nutritious curry made from mostly orange and red ingredients (plenty of beta carotene here!) Serve with naan bread or rice
2 teaspoons of olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove
half a teaspoon of fresh grated ginger
1 level tablespoon of curry powder
half a teaspoon each of:
ground coriander, ground cumin, turmeric
quarter a teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 - 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into half inch dice
1 carrot, very finely chopped
1 can of chopped tomatoes (or carton of passata)
1 can of chickpeas
salt and pepper to taste
1. Prepare your "base" by adding the oil to a frying pan and frying to onion for about 5 minutes until lightly browned. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute. Stir in the curry powder and other spices.
2. Transfer this mixture to your slow cooker. Add the potatoes, tomatoes and chickpeas.
3. Depending on the thickness of your tomatoes, you may need to add a small amount of water.
4. Cook on low for 4 - 5 hours (but this will depend on the temperature of individual slow cookers, and you may need to start on a higher temperature to soften up the carrots).
Can be served with some plain yogurt to add coolness and creaminess (optional).