Wednesday, October 12, 2011

My First Slow Cooker

So I'll admit it...I was a bit of a snob when it came to slow cookers. I never tried one and had rarely had anything cooked in one. I guess it's just not something I grew up with. Well, that all changed when I lucked into (or begged, how ever you want to look at it) a testing experience with Carla Kelly! Who knew this modest appliance could do so much! I clearly hadn't given it the credit it deserved. Carla has an amazing book coming out in January 2012 called Quick and Easy Slow Cooking and it is packed with 150 recipes that will make you fall in love with the slow cooker.

I can honestly say I have tasted a lot of what went into this book since I tested over 100 of the recipes for Carla. Not all made the cut because Carla always creates about double the recipes she needs for any given project, that's just how good she is! I have been bugging Carla to share some of the recipes that didn't make it into the book on her blog and maybe she will over MoFo (maybe you should go to her blog now and let her know you want them too!) Unfortunately I didn't take a bunch of pictures (lesson learned) but I do have a few to share and a few others that I have to tell you about even though I can't show you. Carla is still working on the editing and final cut of the book so I'm not sure which ones have made the cut but you should definitely pick up a copy of the book because I know there are loads of yummy meals waiting for you between the covers.
First up I have a picture of one that surprised me. This is Peasant Vegetable Sausage Stew!

It's super warming and delicious and hearty too! It has lima beans in it and this was my first try of these and I was admittedly a little scared of them. You always hear about the horrors of lima beans so I always thought they were gross but they so aren't, they are creamy and delicious! It has homemade Sun-dried tomato Seitan sausage in it (also Carla's recipe!) and all kinds of vegetables so it's also ridiculously healthy too! Always a bonus when something is healthy and tastes great!

Okay, please ignore my less than artful shot of this delicious Potato and Kale Frittata. I couldn't figure out how to get it out of the tin foil liner to take a picture of the whole thing while it was hot and wanted to eat it so badly. I'd never had a frittata before so I have nothing to compare it to but I can say that it tasted amazing! I ate up one slice with a garden salad and then went back for another! Great thing about this one is that it can be served hot or cold so you can make it ahead of time if you like. Also, it had a whole bunch of kale in there so it's a great way to eat up some greens!

This one is Soy Curl (I subbed Tofu) Vindaloo which I served with a Chickpea Roasted Onion flatbread I make all the time (the recipe was from Fine Cooking magazine with a few tweaks). I will preface my comments with this....Everything Carla makes that is Indian inspired was on my favourites list! This had just the right amount of spice, rich tomato sauce that was slightly thick from the lentils in there and because I didn't have access to soy curls, I subbed tofu and it soaked up all the yummy in that sauce! Fingers crossed this one made the cut!

This one is Meaty Mince Stew which was one of two minces I tried for this testing. This one was TVP base and the other was made from Adzuki beans. I made both so I could compare and pick a favourite but I really couldn't, they were both outstanding. I made this one and at Carla's suggestion added some veggies which really made it like Shepherd's Pie which is a favourite of mine.

I really loved this Pasta with Sun Dried Tomatoes, Red Wine and Sweet Pepper Pesto! I subbed the red wine with more vegetable broth since we don't really do liquor in our home. Carla, thankfully, puts all kinds of suggestions for substitutions for things like that. This pasta was seriously packed with flavour from the basil, roasted peppers, nuts and sun dried tomatoes. Sprinkled on top is Carla's Cheesy Mix.

I also tested two kinds of taco fillings for this book and also enjoyed both. I'm not sure which kind ended up being in the book (or maybe both will be in there!) but either way you are in for a treat. The ones in the picture are the Ground Beet Taco and no that isn't a typo! Carla is always trying new things out and this one really paid off. The beet was mixed with TVP and has all kinds of yummy spices added to make the perfect taco. The other ones were Bean Taco Filling and Carla was kind enough to make them at my request because that's the way I always made tacos (that is until tempeh came along). They were excellent too and I'm really curious if both or any of them made it into the book. Tacos are definitely a favourite supper around here!

Some others that I didn't get pictures of but seriously enjoyed were:

Bread Crust Stuffing - Totally changed my mind on stuffing. I never thought I would like stuffing with nuts and dried fruit in it and I loved this!

Miso Cider Onion Soup - Kind of like French Onion Soup but a little sweeter and a little miso-ier (that's not a word but I'm making it one)

Seitan Burgerz - These are seriously one of the best veggie burgers I've had. I couldn't believe how easy they were to make and that you could do that in a slow cooker.

Tomatillo and Tomato Tamales - Carla is a big fan of alliteration! These were my first attempt at making tamales and the first time I had eaten one as well. They were so delicious and this one I served to the in-laws and they enjoyed them as well! So creative that Carla figured out a way to steam them in the slow cooker!

Baked Artichoke Pasta - I was super curious to try cooking pasta in the slow cooker mostly because I was a little skeptical but it does work and this one had a rich creamy sauce mixed with some olives and peppers.

Carbonar-ish Pasta - I think all of the testers might have suggested Carbonara as a recipe we would like to try and Carla delivered. It has these little tofu nuggets that you cook in the slow cooker that taste like tofu pancetta cubes, then you make the sauce and later add them back in. This was a huge hit with Ryan and me. We were quite happy to have enough sauce for 4-6 people all to ourselves!

And tied for my absolute favourite would be the Roasted Cauliflower and Carrot Dal and Tandoori Baked Tofu. I seriously couldn't pick between the two and I think I joked about wanting to marry both of them at some point to Ryan. If these ones aren't in the book once it comes out I will personally campaign to Carla to put the recipes out on her blog or in another book because the world will be a much better place with them in the world! Trust me!

There were lots more that I loved (and another I will blog about soon) and I will remind everyone once the book comes out because this testing experience definitely changed my mind about slow cookers!

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