September 27, 2012

Fresh From the Vegan Slow Cooker: review

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 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.) The two things that would have made the cookbook better are photos of the food (the only photos are on the front and back covers), and not having to turn pages to see complete recipes.

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

22 comments:

  1. Nice review, Andrea! It looks like there are a ton of xgfx recipes to choose from, too. I use my crock pot a lot, but not really for anything complicated. Mostly beans and stock, but it does make amazing awesome and easy stock. I love it for just that. Mine is old from the thriftstore, so it's not my favorite to leave the house when it's on, but I do use it a lot overnight.

    xo
    kittee

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    1. Thanks. The slow cooker would be a great way to make stock. For some reason I can't imagine, I've never done that.

      I used to worry about leaving my old cooker alone, too — sometimes the "low" seemed awfully "high."

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  2. i've heard great things about this book as well :) what a great review!

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    1. Thanks. It was fun testing the recipes.

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  3. Great review! Wow, those stuffed collard leaves look insanely good! I am a fan of collards raw or cooked, but there's something about that deep, intense flavor they get after a long cooking time that is something special. I imagine after a round in the slow cooker, they're buttery soft. I like your idea of cooking part of a meal for company in the slow cooker to ease off some of the last minute pressure when guests arrive, especially if the time is flexible, like at the holidays.

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    1. Thanks. As I recall, the collards were really good. Using the slow cooker when company's coming has really made a difference in how calm I stay. It may seem like a small thing, but it's almost like someone else is bringing a main dish!

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  4. a really good overview and the stuff you did looks fantastic. We'll get her book I think. I love using the slow cooker. It makes you feel like you've just had a meal prepared for you when you come back home and have almost forgotten preparing it earlier. I like that, and of course, the long cooking time definitely makes stuff taste better.

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    1. Thank you. Yes, it IS fun to come home to a house that smells like someone has prepared you a delicious meal!

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  5. I had the old version of this book - but never used my slow cooker. Now i've got one of those new fandangled slow/pressure cooker combos - and I find myself making more and more of Robin's recipes. Your photos of this look great - I think I'll be picking this book up!

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    1. I wonder how the two books compare — if all the recipes are different.I've always had trouble imagining how the fast (pressure) cooker and the slow cooker live inside the same pot, but I guess it works, right?

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  6. Hey, my crock-pot only has "high" and "low" and it is from the 21st century, lol.

    I have always heard that you can make cakes and other "baked goods" in the crock-pot, but have never tried it myself. Were you pleased with the way they turned out? Was the texture etc. good?

    Courtney

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    1. Ha! I didn't mean to insult your crock pot!

      The cakes were pretty good, though I still prefer the oven. If I needed to have a dessert prepared and I couldn't be home to watch it, this would be a good option.

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  7. Everything looks so homey and nourishing and it makes me want to get a slow cooker! All the reviews of this book are really alluring.

    Are you doing MOFO? Excited for it!

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    1. I'm not especially good at planning ahead, so it takes some effort to start the slow cooker in the morning — but I'm always glad I did!

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  8. I just used my own slow cooker to make a squash/millet stew tonight!

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    1. That sounds really good. I should eat more millet!

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  9. Adore the slow cooker. Simply adore. It is like a magician!! That pate looks so super yummy & savory!

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    1. It really does seem like magic to come home to a delicious meal that seems like it was cooked by someone else.

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  10. All of your pictures looks so tasty! I am so thankful to already have this book- I came *this* close to making that pate but ended up making other things. Now I'm wishing that I had! And that layered potato dish looks great too! You're making me want to dig into that book again soon! :-)

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    1. Thanks, Kristy. The layered potato dish was one of my favorites.

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  11. Yeah yeah, great review and pics, but I'm in it to win.

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    1. Win what? Sorry to disappoint you but I'm not giving away the book. My bad. I'll see what I can do.

      Delete

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