I am the laziest cook on the planet. (Or at least a serious contender.) I love the idea of cooking with a crock pot because you can throw stuff in, go away, come back later and eat stuff. Simple.
Back in the 70s, there was a craze for crock pot cooking. (Presumably because it gave people more time to do macrame?)
Photo credit: Henna
Anyway, my mother got one, and for awhile we had stew for dinner quite frequently. Then, for some reason, the crock pot gradually made its way to the pantry, to a shelf easily within reach. Then to a shelf a bit higher up and harder to get at. The last I saw it was on the top shelf beyond the grasp of all but the tallest of brothers. Maybe it kept going up through the ceiling and ended up in deep storage in the back of a closet.
All I know is, the craze for crock pot cooking came and went faster than a streaker at a track meet. Loads of people have one -- in the back of their deepest cupboard.
I can see why it would be popular in theory... let the dang thing cook while you're at work, come home to dish it out and eat. If it came with a butler to serve and a maid to wash, it would be invaluable.
I think the reason people stopped using crock pots was because what you could make with them seemed extremely limited. (Unless you're one of those Ultra Creative people, a Martha Stewart type, the sort who create complicated recipes that involve putting in layers of wire frames so that you could cook one dish on the bottom, another on a middle layer, and a dessert on top. I used to see those recipes in magazines. The finished pictures always looked incredibly polished. Me, if I tried that, all layers would fall down onto the bottom layer, and I'd end up with pineapple upside-down meatloaf.)
I started using a crock pot because I want to eat healthy without doing a lot of work. So I've been using the throw-veggies-in system, which sadly results in P.D.B. food. (Pretty Damn Bland.) Healthy, mind you, but still. Yawn city.
That's where the cookbook came in. (Yes, I'm promoting a cookbook. Shamelessly.)
Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker, by Robin Robertson
Brief tangent: Pasta Queen also wrote a post about Crock Pot cooking. (I was a bit miffed that she decided to use her psychic powers to read my mind and 'steal' the subject I was planning to write up, but I've decided it's wise not to be miffed at someone with such clearly superior psychic powers.) She mentioned a blog, A Year of Crockpotting, that has recipes online.
However, I've decided that this book is better because a) it's vegetarian b) the recipes are tasty as well as healthy and c) I bought it before I looked at the YoC blog.
I think mostly I love it because it's all vegetarian. I love the idea of trying to cook more vegetarian stuff. Even though I'm not really a true vegetarian, it seems sensible to eat less meat if you can. More economical, plus less saturated fat, plus the chance to feel smug about doing your bit to help global warming.
Smug and healthy? Who can resist a combo like that?
Take the crock out of crock pot cooking
Three things I learned from this book:
1 - Take five minutes to saute the onions first. Makes a huge difference in taste. (Or, if you're planning to contest my laziest chef title, roast onions in the oven for 20 minutes while you're sitting at the kitchen table with your feet up reading a good book. With this onion roasting recipe, you don't even have to peel the onion. It doesn't get any lazier than that. Then use the roasted onions in the crock pot.)
2 - Use vegetable stock. Either make your own or buy some. Easy enough to make your own.
3 - Bay leaves. Soup. Combine the two.
Yes, I knew theoretically that you could use herbs like bay leaves to flavor your cooking. But I'd forgotten. The book recommended using bay leaves, so I tried it. Then I read a bit further and added some fresh herbs, tomatoes, mushrooms... pretty soon, I was thinking Hey, this soup's starting to look like the ones you see in cookbook photos! Plus, it has some taste. Excellent.
Next lesson: how to make stuffing in the crock pot. I'm going to work my way through this book; methinks it will be a fun journey. Not sure about the recipe for making cheesecake in the crock pot, but it might be tasty.
Here are some sample recipes from the cookbook.
What do you think? Am I deluding myself? Is the 'crock' in crock pot justified? Or is it useful?
Should I go dig up that macrame project that I never finished in 7th grade?
photo credit: David Sifry