The first is a newly rediscovered favorite thing, and the other has remained at the top of my favorites list since I joined a sorority in college.
Though I guess I should use the term “slow cookers.” (Crock-Pot is officially a brand name — and there are plenty of other slow cooker brands out there now.)
Back in the day I used my slow cooker a lot when I was married and had a child in the house and ate meat on a regular basis. It was so great to come home in the evening with dinner ready and waiting. It was equally nice to encounter the welcoming aromas upon entering the house — especially a recipe that featured pork, onions, apples and cider. I can almost smell it now …
But for years now, my slow cooker has been stashed away, taking up precious cabinet space. I can’t even recall when I last plugged it in.
But now this empty-nester is the owner of a brand-new, cutest-ever, bright red 1.5-quart slow cooker thanks to Kathy Hester, who writes a meatless slow cooker blog and recently published her first book, The Vegan Slow Cooker.
Last week I attended Kathy’s cooking class hosted by Savory Spice Shop and tasted some great slow-cooked samples (including the cabbage hard cider stew pictured here), learned that small slow cookers do exist (got mine at JC Penney) and heard about some great tips.
TIP — I’m sure you know how hard it is to peel and cut hard winter squashes. (Especially the deceptively cute acorn squash, with those awful ridges.) Even if you just want to roast one in the oven, slicing through the tough outer shells puts your fingertips at great risk. Kathy shared with the class that if you’re going to puree the squash, just prick it with the tines of your fork like you would a baking potato and cook it in the slow cooker. Brilliant! She warned us not to be put off by the ugly, collapsed end product — just slice it in two and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Works for pie pumpkins, too.
OATMEAL — But best of all … Kathy explained that tiny slow cookers like mine are perfect for cooking overnight steel cut oatmeal. (Check out her oatmeal recipes.)
I adore oatmeal. Must be my Irish and Scottish roots — those folks love their porridge. And I really like the nutty-tasting, ultra-creamy and slightly chewy steel cut variety. But they take too long to cook when you’re hungry for breakfast.
Now it’s easy: Put the (few) ingredients in the slow cooker the night before, turn it on low, and a rib-sticking breakfast awaits in the a.m. This morning’s delicious serving was cooked with coconut milk “beverage,” vanilla and cinnamon. Before eating it I stirred in a mashed banana and a little bit of honey, and sprinkled walnuts on top.
Using a slow cooker again brought to mind two recipes. The first is one I used to make, and the second is one of my mom’s
RECIPE — To make Italian beef sandwiches for a crowd, put a London Broil in a large slow cooker. Sprinkle over/in a packet of Good Seasons dry Italian dressing mix, then pour in a can of beef broth. Cook on low for 16 hours+. (I used to start the dish late at night just before heading to bed in order to serve it the following evening.)
The meat will practically fall apart. Shred it with forks and serve it on buns with provolone cheese.
RECIPE — First of all, don’t be put off by the canned soup. My mom’s an excellent cook.
Brown large bone-in
pork lamb chops on both sides. Put them in the slow cooker. Pour over a can of cream of mushroom soup (condensed, Erica!) with garlic that’s been mixed with little water. Add fresh rosemary. Cook ‘til done.
A new World of Beer just opened next door to my workplace. Hooray!
World of Beer is a relatively new franchise with most of its locations in Florida. It seems to “borrow heavily” from The Flying Saucer (even giving rewards to patrons who drink X many different beers).
What I love more about World of Beer:
- Did I mention that it’s next door to my workplace?
- The female servers aren’t skankily dressed and referred to as “beer wenches.”
- World of Beer features even more beers than the Saucer.
What I don’t love about WOB: The one next door is very, very loud. It’s another of those establishments with very high ceilings and other acoustic features that seem to amplify the chatter. (I think it’ll be an off-peak-hours place for me for that reason.)
So how many beers does WOB feature? The Raleigh outlet has 50 varieties on tap and 450 in bottles. 500 different beers.
- Gulden Draak (Golden Dragon) — A Belgian “thick” beer with a natural toffee-like sweetness and a mellow hoppiness.
- Craggie Antebellum Ale — A North Carolina beer described as an 1840s recipe brewed with rye, molasses, ginger, spruce tips and native hops.
- St. Bernardus ABT (recommended by my server when I told her I like strong, unique beers) — A full-bodied, malty, rich Belgian Quad.
The Craggie was okay — kind of plain. But the other two. Yikes! Delicious. It’s hard to beat Belgian beer.
I can’t wait to return to enjoy full pints of Gulden Draak and St. Bernardus.
Or will I? After all, there may be other equally delicious brews waiting to be discovered.