Season to taste

Crock Thank you everyone for your take on staying healthy over the winter! There was so much brilliant stuff in the comments. The podcast listeners will be lapping up your collective wisdom next week.

Meanwhile I'm adjusting to the darkness much faster this year, aided by lunchtime walks, kickboxing and the slow cooker! That's crock pot to you Americans. I bought one in January and was in such a zombie state that I couldn't work up the energy to get it out of the box. But now? DUDE. What an invention! Shove foods in the pot in the morning, add hot liquid, switch on, ignore for 8 hours then be rewarded with a hot dinner? Everyone's a winner baby, that's no lie.

It is unsettling though, to arrive home to the smell of a tasty meal and bypassing that whole WTF's For Dinner panic. I never realised how time-consuming that panic was.

What do you want for dinner? I don't know, what do YOU want for dinner. I don't know, I asked you first. Well what's in the fridge? Dying mushrooms and jar of non-inspiration, what's in the cupboard? Just BORING stuff, lentils and shit, we never have anything good. Well we could get a takeaway. You said you were trying to be healthy. Yeah well I said that before my tastebuds were bored to tears by the contents of the cupboard. Fine. Why don't we have beans on toast? But I already had that for lunch.

Thanks to the slow cooker we sat down to dinner at 6.15 the other night. Before we knew it, forks were resting on empty plates and we looked at each other and said, "Now what?" I mean, it was still a whole 85 minutes before University Challenge started.

I fear the slow cooker will accelerate our descent into middle age. Next thing you know when I invite people over for dinner and they say, "Sure, shall we say 7PM?" I will reply, "I was thinking more like FOUR THIRTY," in the manner of some parents-in-law I may or may not know.

I've got a couple of cookbooks and have been reading blogs such as the insanely comprehensive A Year Of Slow Cooking, but if you have any crock pot crackers – particularly vegetarian ones – I'd love to hear them!

Bon weekend, comrades!

P.S. Not a slow cooker recipe, but a few weeks ago I made Juliet's Roast Chicken from one of my favourite blogs, A Wee Bit Of Cooking. It's basically a whole chicken roasted on a bed of sauerkraut, seasoned with paprika. It's the simplest dish ever but there aren't enough superlatives in the world for its goodness! I've been hassling everyone I know plus random strangers to cook it immediately… and now I am pestering YOU 🙂

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46 thoughts on “Season to taste

  1. oh oh oh how I love this sentence:
    I fear the slow cooker will accelerate our descent into middle age.

    it’s the opening line to a book.

  2. 4.30! LOL
    Do you really need crockpot recipes? Surely it’s the perfect thing to go with your organic veg box – put in a range of unidenfied vegetables, so water and stock and hey presto – vege stew.
    Or am I missing something?

  3. Love the sneaky little Hot Chocolate reference in there, saucy.

    I love my slow cooker but after a while everything sort of tastes the same, meat and veg. Meat and veg.

    Any good vege ones you find I’d be interested in too.

    I have read that you can adapt most recipes for the slow cooker, I think there are sites which tell you how… or.. you know, something like that.

  4. I love my slow cooker. Unfortunately all of my recipes include meat/chicken.

    I even roast chickens in them. The meat just falls off the bone!

    There are some great sauces on the supermarket shelves for slow cookers, which include recipes on the back. Have had some good results, and a few iffy ones!!

    Good luck with the winter hibernation. I don’t do winter very well and would love to spend 6 months in Australia during the summer, and then migrate to somewhere warm and sunny when winter hits here!

  5. @LaLa – I've read a lot of people say that it can get dull and samey! Will need to keep on my toes with different spices and whatnot.

    @Sandra – I don't *need* recipes per se, but I find it really good sometimes — in this internet age when there are 10 trillion blogs and an overwhelming number of ideas and recipes out there — to hear about what combinations/recipes that people you know have tried and liked. Kind of like a recipe filter! 🙂

    @JayKay – the whole chook sounds excellent 🙂

  6. The recipe section at bhg.com has been a goldmine of inspiration for me and my slow cooker. I’m enjoying curried dishes at the moment, as I have an abundance of squash and sweet potatoes which marry well with Indian spices and chickpeas or lentils. We eat at 5 p.m., we must be nearly as old as your in-laws. Heh.

  7. I love my “crockpots” (yes, plural). Have three different sizes. Not only are they great for throwing raw ingredients in first thing in the morning and having dinner 8 hours later, but for instance, yesterday, had a container of leftover turkey in the freezer and a box of gravy mix. So I threw the turkey in the pot, mixed up the gravy, poured that in, and then 3 hours later, turkey and gravy that tasted like it had simmered all day!

    P.S. Shauna, finished your book last night…and can’t wait to start reading it again, but may opt to pass it on to a friend who is struggling. Love the way you write about your experiences! YOU ARE SUCH AN INSPIRATION!

  8. @Reen – wow, thank you, i really appreciate your words!

    @Debbi – curry! that sounds great. love sweet potatoes & pumpkin in a curry.

    @Dr Mo – well let us know if you do try one 🙂

  9. My favorite crock pot recipe book is Make if Fast/Cook it Slow by Stephanie ODay. She also has a terrific blog. She offers suggestions so that recipes are gluten free, can’t recall whether they are all veggie ones. I also limit its use to once a week – or things just seem all the same.

  10. One thing I learned about slow cookers is that you can cook dried beans without having to soak them and go through all that nonsense. Put in plenty of water, some onion, garlic, celery, etc., and crank it up to High for five hours – voila, tasty beans.

    There’s another dish I make once in a while. This has meat, but you can delete or substitute: put chicken pieces on the bottom (leg, thigh, etc.). Some diced onion and green pepper. Small red potatoes. Season with cumin, ginger, and cinnamon. Pour in a can or two of diced tomatoes, or whole tomatoes with liquid – enough to cover the meat and veg. Then the secret ingredient: about a tablespoon of peanut butter.

    I like this one because I agree it does all begin to taste the same – this one is a little different.

  11. I have just treated myself to the new Nigella ‘Kitchen’ recipe book, whilst she is not very complimentary about slow cookers herself, I have done her mum’s “Praised Chicken” (sarahcooks made it on her blog) and that worked fine in the slow cooker, another thing she is very keen on is a RICE COOKER, managed to pick one of these up from Asda for a mere £7, and it does the job a treat in no time at all, thought you might like this as you are soon going to be putting together lots of yummy veggie currys for you and Dr.G! – What about doing the dahl recipe/soup thing that you made in the book and posted the recipe up for a while ago? Also, our tesco here have a cheaper version of “soup and sauce” bags like Lakeland do, and they are a life saver for freezing homemade soups/stews etc, especially as because they go straight into the microwave – thus saving up on washing up lots of pots when you just want to flop in front of the TV and watch university challenge xxx

  12. sorry, me again, OMG! Just looked at the year of slow cooking blog site you linked to — BAKED POTATOES in the slow cooker! YAY! – the recipe speaks of a baked potato party – I can just see you and Dr G with your baked potatoes and an array of wonderful fillings and toppings , just how comforting, an oven “crock pot” cooked potato with a nice array of toppings, perfect veggie fodder!

  13. It has been awhile since I’ve used my slow cooker. You make me want to pull it out! I do remember that it is the perfect way to make up a big pot of beans though. I’d cook them up in the slow cooker, and then freeze them in one cup amounts for later use.

  14. Okay, for crockpot recipes, you’ve GOT to try out Judith Finlayson’s books – she’s got a bunch of them, and they’re gorgeous, and well-priced (at least here in Canada), and the recipes are great. And she’s got a vegetarian slow cooker recipe book too!

    Yum yum yum. Now I totally want to make slow cooker things. Too bad I’m stuck at work instead.

  15. Robin Robertson is a vegan cookbook author who has a book of slow cooker recipes. I have so many of her cookbooks I don’t remember the name! She has a blog as well: link to veganplanet.blogspot.com if you want to get an idea of her recipes. Glad you’ve joined the cult of the crock pot! 🙂

  16. I love my slow cooker. My mom brought me one a year ago and said “When you go back to work or you start really studying for the bar, you will appreciate this.”

    For months, I did not appreciate it.

    Then one day I found a recipe for a chicken dish I wanted to try and lo, I was a believer. Throw stuff in crock pot. Turn on low. Leave. Come home. Food done. Whoo! Now that I really AM studying for the bar, I am totally in love with this thing because I don’t have to interrupt what I’m doing to go “um, so, yes. Maybe I should begin dinner.”

    I find most vegetarian stews can be tossed into the crock pot pretty readily and cooked on low for about seven to eight hours. Here’s my favorite vegetarian chili as I make it in my crock pot:

    3 tablespoons chili powder

    1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flake (more to taste)

    Sea salt to taste

    Garlic as desired (I use about a tablespoon of diced garlic, or garlic powder.)

    2 tablespoons olive oil

    28 ounces canned diced or crushed tomatoes

    4 cups canned beans, rinsed. I usually use black, pinto, and white beans. This takes about 3 cans.

    1 or 2 bell peppers (red or yellow is best), sliced into little matchsticks

    1 or 2 carrots, shredded (I usually cheat and steal the pre-shredded ones my husband uses on his salad)

    1 cup frozen corn kernals

    2 1/2 cups water or vegetable stock (I use a more like 1 1/2 because we like our chili thicker)

    4 squares dark chocolate (be reasonable if the squares are really big–I once took this quite literally and our chili tasted like chocolate. It was not entirely unpleasing but not the desired result)

    Splash of lemon or lime juice (or both!)

    Instructions:

    Put in slow cooker. Put slow cooker on “Low”. Walk away. Come back in six to eight hours (will hold as long as eight at low without burning in my experience). Eat chili. I promise as long as you don’t add *too* much chocolate the chili won’t taste like chocolate, but it will have a lovely richness to it. I make this for most of our pot luck type events and I am proud to say my brother-in-law, who boycotts healthy food on principle, likes it so much I had to teach him how to make it.

  17. Hmmm, I really should go a buy a better one. I bought a cheapy crock pot on sale for 5.00, and I’m afraid to leave it along all day while I’m at work because the contents will dry out.

    So far my favorite recipe is dumping some chicken thighs (or breasts) covering it with the salad of choice and then shredding everything come dinner time. I then serve it on a bed of couscous or rice (depending on how hungry I am or tired I am after work). Another yummy one was layering sliced onion, chicken, and brown rice (can’t remember the exact quantities), covering that with chicken stock and curry powder. The result is a nice chicken, curry, and rice dish.

  18. LOVE the crock pot, not to mention A Year of Slow Cooking! Speaking of chicken, try her whole chicken in a crock pot recipe. Amazing!

  19. I absolutely LOVE the slow cooker!!!! I actually have three of them…maybe a bit of overkill but oh well. They’re all different sizes so each have their purpose. I recently made yogurt in my 3.5 quart and it turned out great!

  20. You are far too young and hip to ever be yanked into middle age by something as lovely as a Crock Pot. Also, I love all of the recipes and am now going to come back here whenever I want to make use of my slow cooker (esp. now that it’s finally looking like winter here in southern California).

  21. This is very cool – I have asked Santa for a slow cooker for Christmas, so if I am very good and don’t beat the children too much, I may be able to join you in crockpot heaven.

  22. I would love to give you a recipe but all mine are “dinner starring PIG and/or COW.” LOL But hey … you mentioned a while back (I’ve been reading your archive) that Dr. G was vegetarian chiefly because meat dishes made a mess. Well not in the slow-cooker, they don’t.

    Good luck with the dark Scottish winter!

  23. It’s almost summertime here in Melbourne. However, I had the slow cooker out last night…mmm, lamb shanks…I was actually given my slow cooker, and at first, I thought ‘Huh? I’m no Nanna!’ But I’ve grown to love it. There’s a great book called ‘Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker’, which is great, and has lots of vegie recipes (especially chillies, and bean recipes too). Something I’ve learned…you can cook almost any recipe in a slow cooker. However, because the liquid doesn’t evaporate, either add less liquid OR use the same amount as you would in a stove-type recipe, and you will end up with beautiful stock (or soup-base). For example, I made a coconut curry chicken, and ended up with enough laksa soup-base to last for about 10 bowls of soup…

  24. I want a slow cooker now, but I don’t know where I’d put it! Our kitchen is tiny and my housemate keeps buying appliances. We already have the breadmaker sitting on the floor – one of the kittens likes to sleep on it!

  25. You must take that trip to Buenos Aires you were threatening a while back. Down here, we have supper at 10pm or later (supper after midnight is pretty standard at the weekends in this most nocturnal of all cities — NYC is not a patch on us). If having supper at 5pm makes you old, maybe our late suppers have a rejuvenating effect.

  26. You must try crockpot lasagna. just google ‘crockpot lasagna’ and ‘jessica seinfeld’. it was featured on an Oprah episode and believe the recipe is in the Oprah archives somewhere. I tried it the other day and couldn’t believe how delicious it was. And unbelievably easy – so that is right up your alley!

  27. Personally, I love my crock pot! I forget during the day that I made something, and then when I come home, it is like having a gift all ready.

    But you are so right about the middle age thing. As someone who gets up at 4:00 a.m., when I have company over, I say “for two hours, right?” I know that is awful, but at least I then actually have people over for dinner during the work week.

    Try my chili, you will LOVE it! It is vegan, but those who eat meat love it as well. It is at my blog site. High in protein low in fat, astronomic on flavor.

  28. I made a new recipe last night, four chicken breasts, slice of cheese on each, pour over a can of cream of chicken soup, then top with a box of stove top stuffing and drizzle with butter. Cover & cook at 350 for 50 minutes. It was okay, but next time I’m putting it in the crock pot cause the chicken was pretty tough. I have had chicken from the crock pot before and it was wonderfully moist and tender. May even make that recipe again today, or perhaps put my leftovers in the crock pot and try to tenderize up the chicken?

  29. I use my slow cooker with a timer so that if something doesn’t need full 8 hours I can have it switch on whenever I want.

    My veg favourite in the slow cooker is: jar sauerkraut, sliced onion, a peeled/cored sliced cooking apple, sliced garlic, 2 tablespoons caraway seeds and some dried sage – mix together put in bottom of slow cooker then on top put a can of drained butterbeans and some 2 inch cubes of sweet potato or butternut squash. Trickle over a tablespoon olive oil, a tablespoon of cider or wine vinegar and 2 tablespoons of water, stock or wine if you have it. Cook on low for five hours. Serve with crusty bread.

    If you have the time you can make this with very finely sliced red cabbage but you’ll need to add some salt.

  30. Love the slow cooker! TOTALLY love the slow cooker.

    I have an excellent slow cooker book by Sally Wise it is called, perhaps suprisingly “slow cooker” It is from the ABC Shop in Australia. Brilliant book and Sally Wise also has books on preserving, Gluten free cooking etc.

    I am yet to make a dud from her books.

  31. Some suggestions: Chunked up butternut squash breaks down into a lovely stew-thickening mush in the slow cooker.Try using alongside whole carrots, etc for textural variety. Jerusalem artichokes look like nubby potatoes but slightly nutty taste adds interesting dimension. Dried mushrooms can take slow cooking better than fresh. Add cannellini beans, wine, garlic and thyme. Tightly wrap whole unpeeled beetroot in foil parcel on top of your stew. Cut open on plate like baked potato, add soured cream and chives.

  32. I have a crockpot, and I really like the theory of dinner cooking all day and being ready when I get home, but in practice my meals always seem to cook too quickly in my crockpot so that the 10.5-11 hours that I am away from home (8 hour workday plus commute) would mean that whatever it is would be overcooked (even though it’s supposed to stay on “warm” when it’s done).

    Also, many of the recipes seem to involve processed junk that I’d rather not eat. I mean, stuff like a can of cream of whatever soup, or envelopes of onion soup mix. I want to eat REAL food, not processed crap.

  33. Here’s one for you. I cannot remember where I got it, but it is really good. It is called Vegetarian Curry.

    4 medium carrots, sliced
    2 medium potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
    1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
    8 ounces fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
    1 cup coarsely chopped onion
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
    2 teaspoons curry powder
    1 teaspoon ground coriander
    1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1 14-ounce can vegetable broth or chicken broth
    1 14-1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
    Hot cooked rice
    Directions
    Note- May be made on stove top.

    1. In a 3-1/2- to 5-quart slow cooker, combine carrots, potatoes, garbanzo beans, green beans,
    onion, garlic, tapioca, curry powder, coriander, crushed red pepper, salt, and cinnamon. Pour broth over all.

    2. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 7 to 9 hours or on high-heat setting for 3-1/2 to 4-1/2 hours.

    3. Stir in undrained tomatoes. Cover; let stand for 5 minutes.
    Serve over hot cooked rice. Makes 4 servings.

  34. I’m a dietgirl lurker but couldn’t resist posting a comment to this thread.

    I often use the SC to cook legumes, specifically chickpeas. Cook them overnight and make delicious healthy salads for work the next day.

    Here’s my SC recipe for Chilli con Vege.

    Throw half a bag of Italian soup mix legumes in the SC the night before with loads of water (can you get these in Scotland? link to mckenziesfoods.com.au).

    Next morning, rinse and put back in the SC with a tin of tomatoes, a bit of salt and lots of mexican herbs (or if you’re lazy like me, a packet of taco mix).

    Serve with rice – yummo!