Saturday, November 7, 2009

Book Review: Art of the Slow Cooker by Andrew Schloss

I order this book last week from the library and was really excited to get started. I honestly hate buying cookbooks unless I have had a chance to preview it because my family has very traditional eatting habits and I often find that the recipes in the books are great but not practical. So, I thought this would be great! I mean slow cookers are a great time saver and mine does not get enough use. I will go a month of using it weekly and then I get bored with it.

My criteria for a good cookbook is simple...I am looking for simple straightforward ingredients and easy to fix meals. I do not mind buying a few specialty items, but I shouldn't have to for every recipe! The point is to be economical! Plus, in my household green things in food (ie herbs) are a big faux pas! So, I either cook them whole and remove them or I strip the recipe down! So, enough blabbing...

Overall, the cookbook was ok...maybe a B. The book itself is beautifully made with nice pictures, heavy pages and great directions...but remember criteria number one...simple ingredients and simple directions...Not here! The recipes could be simplified, but this is not your gramma's frugal cookbook! The other thing I did not like is the recipes require a lot of prep prior to being placed in the slow cooker. So, these are not speedy recipes although they are tasty!

I set out to make 4 recipes this week: Chicken Teriyaki, Beef Carbonnade, Pork and Beans and Chicken dinner.

Chicken Teriyaki
1 T veggie oil
4lbs. skinless chicken thighs
2 cloves garlic, minced
1T finely grated ginger
1/4c water
1/3 c soy sauce (I used low sodium)
1/4c sherry or Apple juice (I used the apple)
1 T rice wine vinegar (if you don't have use apple cider vinegar)
2T molasses
3T honey
2 t cornstarch
2 scallion, trimmed and sliced thin

1. Brown the chicken thighs in veggie oil over high heat. Cook about 3 minutes per side then place in the slow cooker.
2. Add the garlic and Ginger to the pan and cook over mediu heat about 30 seconds. Add water to deglaze (meaning let the water loosen all those brown stuck on bits). Add soy sauce, apple juice, vinegar, molasses and honey. Stir to blend. Pour over chicken and cook on high for 2-3 hours.
3. Preheat your oven to broil. Remove chicken from the slow cooker and place in the broiler for 2 minutes per side. While the chicken broils, remove the sauce and place in a sauce pan with a mix of 2t cornstarch and 1.5 T water. Allow to thicken about 1 minute.  Then, drizzle over chicken.

***This was super yummy! Not the easiest recipe with the final steps of broiling and thickening the sauce. Too many dirt dishes if you ask me! Instead, I put the cornstarch mix and sauce in a glass measuring cup and microwaved  in 30 second intervals until you achieve the desired thickness. I did broil the chicken, but you can skip this is not essential. I served over brown rice, but would also be really yummy with rice noodles. We used the left over sauce on chicken wings the next day...they were delish!

Beef Carbonnade
1/4 c flour
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
3 lb beef cubes, cut into 1/4" cubes
3 T olive oil
5 large onions, halved and sliced thin
2 sliced salt pork or bacon, finely diced (I used bacon)
1 T herbs or 1/2 t each thyme, oregano, sage, rosemary, and basil (I used whole rosemary, basil and's what I had and I removed the evidence from the pot before serving)
2 t brown sugar
1 bottle ale or lager beer (I used Newcastle)
2 bay leaves
Boiled noodles or potatoes (optional)

1. Combine flour, salt and pepper. Dredge beef. Heat oil in a large skillet (I used a cast iron) over meduim-high heat and brown in batches, 3-4 minutes per side.
2. Reduce heat to meduim-low, add onions and cook until tender (about 10 minutes). Transfer to slow cooker and place beef on top of onions.
3. Add bacon to skillet and cook through, but not crisp. Add herbs and reserved seasoned flour. Cook until flour browns (Watch your flour closely so it does not burn, you can skip this step if you want) Pour the sauce over the beef. Bury the bay leaf. Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours, or on low for 8-10 hours (but who has that time).

**I served over egg noodles with a spinach salad. It was a nice, easy recipe...we did it onion free because my hubbies hates them. It was only half as good, but that one I can't get past him! It was basically an onion I would use vidalia onions.

 Barbeque Pork and Beans
1 c dried beans- white beans, pinto, kidney, or a mixture (I used white beans)
2 lbs boneless pork shoulder, cut into cubes
3 T Southwest Spice rub- 1 T salt, 2T paprika, 1/4 c brown sugar, 2 t chili powder, 1/2t cumin, 1/2t pepper
2 slices bacon, chopped finely
1 medium onion (I grated half an onion)
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2" chunks
1 t cuin
1 T flour
3c chicken broth
1/2 c BBQ sauce- 1/3c ketchup, 3T brown mustard, 3T cider vinegar, 3T brown sugar, 1T tabasco, 1/2t pepper
1 (15oz) can diced tomotoes (I used petite diced)

1. Put the beans in a bowl, cover with water and leave overnight. OR, put in a saucepan cover with about 3" water and boil for 3 minutes, then soak for 1 hour (this method is what I did one because I had beans leftover from making bean bags and because it helps limit the noise later int he evening). If I didn't already have the beans I would have skipped whis altogether and just used canned beans.
2. While the beans are cooking rub the pork cubes with 2t of the Southwest rub, wrap well and refridge.
3. In a large skillet, brown the bacon; remove. Turn the heat up to medium-high and brwon the pork cubes. Transfer to the slow cooker, add the beans and bacon. Toss to combine.
4. Add the onion and carrots to the skillet and saute until tender and lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Stir in the cumin, any remaining rub, and the flour. Stir. Add the chicken broth and simmer until slightly thickened. Stir in the BBQ and tomotoes and pour into the slow cooker. Cook 8-10 hours on low (or 3-4 hours if using can beans).
***This was a very easy recipe and great with corn on the cob. We will defiitely make this again...we are big pork and bean eaters here...not alway together, esp. not like this! :)

Chicken Dinner
1/3c flour
1/4c All Purpose Spice Rub- 1T brown sugar, 1T salt, 1t paprika, 1t dry mustard, 1t dried sage, 1t dried thyme, 1/2t dried rosemary, 1/2t garlic powder, 1/2t pepper (I used a bit of Italian seasoning, brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder and pepper)
1 roasting chicken- about 7 lbs (I bought the already cut up one..a bit more expensive, but much easier to work with unless you are skilled with cutting up a chicken)
1 1/2lbs. red potatoes (or any potatoes)
2T veggie oil
1 onion, chunked
24 baby carrots
1/2c white wine
2c chicken broth
2T mashed potatoes

1. Mix the flour and spice rub in a mixing bowl. Cut up the chicken and remove the skin. Dredge in flour mix.
2. Boil the potatoes until cooked and then  place in the bottom of the clow cooker.
3. Heat half the oil over medium high heat. Brown the chicken on both sides, about 4 minutes. Set aside. Add the remaining oil  to the skillet along with carrots and onion. Saute until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the left over flour along with wine and bring to a boil. Add the chicken broth and simmer until thick; pour into the cooker. Put the veggies on the bottom, then arrange the chicken in the pot with dark meat on the bottom. Cover and cook 3-4 hours on high or 5-6 hours on low.
4. Remove the chicken to a serving platter and surround with veggies. Turn the cooker on high and stir in the mashed potatoe flakes. Allow to thicken about 3 minutes. Spoon over the chicken.

***This was easy and yummy spin on roasted chicken. I still prefer a traditional baked/roasted whole chicken, but I did have plenty of leftovers which were awesome in soup (or chicken tacos, empanadas, chicken salad...) Since I am not much for processed foods, I skipped the potato flakes and used cornstarch instead. I served with a nice garden salad.

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