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When the air gets nippy, many home cooks pull out the slow cooker, the king of quick comfort food cuisine. According to Phyllis Good, acclaimed author of “The Fix-It and Forget-It” slow cooker cookbook series, the slow cooker is not just for use during cold weather. In her latest cookbook, “The Fix-It and Forget-It New Cookbook” (Good Books, $19.99), she is trying to dispel this myth.
“Slow cookers will definitely work for you year-round,” Good says.
Good is also trying to dispel the myth that the only thing to make in a slow cooker is beef stew. So she has filled her latest cookbook with not only the standard slow cooker comfort fare but with more unusual recipes like Rosemary Walnuts, Slow Cooker Pizza, Hot Butter Lemonade, Crème Brulee and Cornish Game Hens with Bacon and New Potatoes.
I own a few slow cooker cookbooks and use my slow cooker often. Over the course of two weeks, though, I made more recipes from Good's book than any other slow cooker cookbook in my library. Not just because I was reviewing it, but because so many of the recipes intrigued me and included many ingredients that I already had on hand.
I also was pleased to see that Good very rarely calls for canned cream soups in her recipes, typically a staple in most slow cooker cookbooks. Good proves that an easy slow cooker meal doesn't have to involve a can of this and a can of that. Fresh ingredients and flavors abound without much extra time involved.
I started with dishes that I know make for good slow cooker meals - like a roast. I chose Good's Ginger Pot Roast. The roast is cooked on low for 8 to 10 hours in soy sauce, onions and bits of fresh ginger. The result is a moist roast that is bursting with bright flavors. I added edamame to the dish and served it over rice for our meal. It tasted like we were eating take out from our favorite Asian restaurant. While the roast is succulent, the broth is so full of flavor that after all the meat was gone, I enjoyed just the broth over ramen noodles for lunch. I didn't miss the meat at all.
While I know the slow cooker can do much more, I have not often ventured far beyond beef stew. So, I took this opportunity to try a few recipes that I was skeptical of working well in the slow cooker.
I made Special Banana Bread which is a banana loaf with peanut butter and chocolate chips. It came out grainy and a bit on the dry side even with cooking it on the shorter side of the recommended cooking time. The loaf was more moist the next day but still not up to oven cooking standards of fruit loaves.
The second out-of-the-box dish I tried was the Slow Cooker Pizza. The pizza dough is buttermilk pancake mix made into dough, rolled out and then topped with your favorite toppings. In the end, it tasted like pizza on buttermilk biscuits. The dough also finished cooking well before the cheese became fully melted and bubbly like an oven pizza creates. The cooking time was only two hours, so I don't see the benefit of making pizza in the crockpot when in about the same time and virtually the same amount of labor you can make pizza with homemade dough. Yes, the slow cooker can veer from the normal fare, but I am still skeptical that it can do better than subpar versions of these dishes.
While these two recipes did not meet my expectations, there were many more that did like Spinach Squares, Sausage Sweet Potato Bake, Baked Corn and Orange-Glazed Sweet Potatoes. Quality and mouthwatering recipes make this a cookbook worth a spot on your book shelf.
Find more from Good on her weekly online cooking show on YouTube. She is also executive editor at Good Books.
Ginger Pot Roast
Makes 6 servings/Prep Time: 20 minutes/Cooking Time: 8 to 10 hours
3 pound boneless beef pot roast
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon oil
2 large onions, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 cup water
2-inch piece ginger root, diced, no need to peel
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 spring onions, chopped
Note: The ideal slow-cooker size for this recipe is 4 quarts.
Dip roast in flour and brown on all sides in oil in skillet. Remove roast from skillet and set aside.
Cook chopped onions in oil and browned bits left in skillet until just tender. Use a wooden spoon to stir onions and loosen browned bits from pan.
Stir in salt and pepper.
Spoon onion mixture into slow cooker. Settle roast on top of onions.
Combine soy sauce, water, and chopped ginger. Pour over meat.
Cover. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.
Stir ground ginger and spring onions into liquid. Taste to correct seasonings.
Slice roast and serve over rice, mashed potatoes, or your favorite stir-fried vegetables and noodles.
Source: “The Fix-It and Forget-It New Cookbook” by Phyllis Good