My daughter, busy mom of two toddlers, with a full time job and going to school all at the same time (I'm tired thinking of it) loves her slow cooker, as do my neighbors...and we've eaten some very tasty treats at both homes. So when I got the chance to review Canadian Living's The Slow Cooker Collection , I jumped at the chance to give it another try. I love Canadian Living recipes...they never disappoint...and the book lives up to their standards. The "Slow Cooker Know How" intro has fantastic tips from what cuts of meat work best, the scoop on cooking times (just setting for high & low, can over/under cook your meal), why you should brown your meat first, plus...a great one... how to convert your favorite recipes for the slow cooker. In fact, I have to share their six essential tips to ensure perfection:
1. No peeking - lifting the lid to peek or stir adds 15 - 20 minutes to cooking time!But naturally you want to know about the recipes...
2. Watch the amount of liquids - leave at least 2" between the top of the food and the rim so it can simmer.
3. The slow cooker should be no less than half full and no more than three quarters full.
4. Always defrost meat and poultry thoroughly before placing in slow cooker. Frozen vegetables can be added at the end of cooking and heated until piping hot.
5. When lifting the lid, avoid tipping so condensation will spills on the food.
6. To refrigerate or freeze a dish ahead, transfer contents to shallow containers and let cool uncovered for 30 minutes on the counter and then completely - still uncovered in the fridge. Cover and then follow the directions in the recipe re freezing and refrigerating.
Well, all the photos had me drooling and there are recipes for everything from Appetizers, snacks and drinks - really! Dishes like sundried tomato and artichoke dip, Swiss cheese fondue, lots of spreads, and imagine coming back from a day of skiing or hiking to have some red cranberry mulled wine or creamy hot chocolate ready before you even get your boots off!
There are even recipes for desserts from baked apples with cider butter sauce, five spice poached pears, old fashioned berry cobbler and many more. But being more of a "main course" person myself, I was really taken by the soups, stews, chilis, curries, pot roasts, braises, ribs and casseroles. Whew! And if that's not enough to peak your interest, you'll also find pasta sauces, meatballs, vegetable dishes and other sides that all look wonderful.
Biggest challenge...which recipes to choose first. I actually borrowed the neighbor's slow cooker so I could give some of the recipes a try...naturally payment was ...sharing the dinner! And how to make soup AND stew with one slow cooker, you might wonder....easy ...
I made the spectacular Harira the day before and just reheated it in a pot on the stove while the Boeuf Bourguignon was simmering away in the slow cooker during the day of the dinner.
The Harira preparation was simple enough...10 minutes at the most and sensational to say the least.... a hearty, aromatic soup often served at day's end during Ramadan. The Middle Eastern Spices - cumin, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon, beautifully balanced with lemon juice and dates...not to mention lentils, chickpeas and tomatoes to fill body and soul. It would have been perfect on its own with some crusty bread and a simple salad...or not even. This is one soup that has everyone asking for more.
Unless of course, you know that you're about to have some very tasty Bouef Bourguignon served with some parsley buttered pasta to sop up the mouthwatering gravy. What you don't see in the photo are the flavorful mushrooms, sauteed in butter on the stove and added in the last fifteen minutes of cooking...or the chopped parsley (which I prepared earlier in the day and "lost" until we were clearing up...oh well). I do have one caveat though...prep for this took me close to forty five minutes....searing beef, peeling those tiny pearl onions (the tipin the book, to blanch them for 1 minute in boiling water and then immediately in cold water to stop the cooking, but loosen the skin worked, but it still took time). What that means is...give yourself time to put this all together. It's well worth the effort.
Final words....if you are a slow cooker fan, this book, with so very many tasty treats from around the world - Thai Green Curry with Vegetables and Tofu from Asia to Black Bean Chili with Avocado Salsa from Latin America; Saucy Pulled Pork from the Southern US and Choucroute Garnie (sausage & bacon stew with juniper berries and wine...among other savory ingredients) from France....and on and on.... This is the Slow Cooker book you'll want on your shelf.