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Fresh From the Vegan Slow Cooker: review

Posted Sep 27 2012 6:30pm
The color of my first slow cooker was harvest gold, and the crock couldn't be removed from the metal casing. That gives you an idea of its age. It had been a hand-me-down from a friend who kept a kosher kitchen which required two sets of all eating and cooking equipment — one set for meat and one for dairy. When she became a vegetarian, she gave away everything that had ever been used for meat, and the slow cooker came into my hands. It looked brand new because it had hardly ever been used, and I was delighted to have a new kitchen toy in my possession. Like many pieces of cooking equipment, it got used a lot initially, then not so much. Mostly it sat in an upper cupboard — the one where I kept the stuff I didn't use much but still wanted. You know that cupboard, don't you?

Yosenabe, page 66
When prolific cookbook author and blogger Robin Robertson put out a call for people to test recipes for her upcoming book on vegan slow cooking, I was intrigued once again by the possibilities of my now-ancient cooker, and volunteered to be a tester.

Layered tapenade potatoes, page 213
The fact that our slow cooker was still at our old house that we rent-out in Wisconsin, and we we're living in Seattle, didn't seem like much of an obstacle, because after all, wasn't it time to move into the 21st century and get a new, modern appliance that had more settings than just "high" and "low?"

Chickpea, artichoke and mushroom paté, page 33
I purchased a shiny new six-quart cooker with a removable crock and high, low ... and keep warm — still pretty basic but it gets the job done, though I'm sorry to say it does have a couple of "hot spots" where food tends to stick. Armed with my new toy, I was about to find out that you can make a lot more than soup and stew in a slow cooker!

Fresh From the Vegan Slow Cooker starts with hints and tips for choosing and using a slow cooker, and information on ingredients. Then it moves right ahead with snacks and appetizers. Did you know you can make things like warm and creamy artichoke-spinach dip or chickpea, artichoke and mushroom paté in a slow cooker? That's just the beginning.

Stuffed collard rolls
As you work your way through chapters on soups, stews and chili, beans and grains, main dishes, stuffed vegetables, vegetables, condiments, desserts, breakfasts and bread, and hot drinks, you can't help but be impressed and surprised at what can be prepared in a slow cooker.

Carrot cake with pineapple, page 252
 I didn't expect to be testing recipes for cake, for example, or stuffed kabocha squash.

Chipotle-polenta bake, page 135
The images you've seen so far were recipes I tested for the book, but when my copy of the newly published cookbook arrived, I immediately started looking for something new to try, and the recipe I chose was chipotle-polenta bake. I had all the ingredients, which always makes a recipe appealing, and it seemed so simple to prepare.

My tomato, cucumber, olive, roasted red pepper and parsley salsa
It was fabulous, but so spicy that without the salsa topping I made, I might not have been able to eat it! When my nothing-is-too-spicy-for-me family recently came to dinner, I made the polenta again, toning down the spices a bit so it tasted just right to me, though it was still pretty spicy; no one at the table added extra hot sauce. My son, who doesn't like polenta, had two servings, and said it was really good.

Using a slow cooker can really take some of the pressure off when you want something delicious for dinner but won't be around during the day to cook. If you have time to set up the cooker before you leave, you'll find your meal deliciously cooked when you arrive home — not to mention a wonderful-smelling house. Or, as Robin suggests, you can prep the meal the night before and store the crock in the refrigerator until morning. You can also get a cooker that is programmable if you need more control over cooking times. I like to plan part of a company meal for the slow cooker, so there's one less thing I have to prepare at the last minute.

Although using a slow cooker can be a time saver, and the cookbook is filled with delicious possibilities, many of the recipes tend to have a lot of ingredients, though they are not difficult to assemble. It's a little more involved than just tossing a few things into the cooker. But not much!

Autumn fruit crock
I plan to use Fresh From the Vegan Slow Cooker a lot, and I recommend it to you as a source for delicious recipes for both every day and special occasions. (I can't wait to re-make autumn fruit crock for Thanksgiving.)

Full disclosure: I received a free copy of the book as a thank you for being a recipe tester. All opinions are my own.
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