October 05, 2012

"Best of Bridge Slow Cooker Cookbook"

There is nothing old-fashioned about using a slow cooker; however, I think many outdated recipes involving cream-based soups and mounds of BBQ sauce have catapulted slow cooker recipes back to the old days. But think about it: a slow cooker is the perfect way for the modern woman on-the-go to make easy, nutritious meals. Yes, they can be nutritious with the right ingredients.


I recently got a slow cooker and have been looking for easy meals to turn on and let cook all day. There's nothing better than coming home to a wonderful smelling house with dinner warm and waiting. I was looking for healthier options and not any of those "cream soup" and "salty sauce" slow cooker favourites I often see on recipe searches.


I was excited when Robert Rose sent me a copy of Best of Bridge Slow Cooker Cookbook: 200 Delicious Recipes from their new titles for fall 2012. Some of their latest titles include "300 Best Bread Machine Recipes," "500 Best Quinoa Recipes," and "250 Best Beans, Lentils and Tofu recipes." That's a lot of recipes.

The book--written by chef, food writer and stylist Sally Vaughan-Johnston--features some classic slow cooker recipes for stews, soups, pot roasts and chillies, but also some new, updated recipes you should definitely learn if you want to become a slow-cooker connoisseur.

Did you know you can make bread, desserts, puddings, salsas and stratas in a slow cooker? I didn't. Are you saying you can put mostly anything in there, turn on the button and leave it to work its magic? I'm beginning to like this cooking method of "chopping up a bunch of things and throwing them in a slow cooker." Unfortunately, I haven't figured out a way to take a glamourous photo of the process.


The first recipe I made from the book was Pork Vindaloo (pg. 184). I like curries, but I was looking for a lighter take on traditional curry flavours and I thought a vindaloo with its vinegar-based sauce would be a little easier to handle for those who can't handle too much heat, like me. 

First I cooked the onions, garlic, ginger and some curry spices for about 5 minutes. The recipe said to use a "vindaloo or other hot indian curry paste," but I didn't have any so I used a selection of Indian spices.


Then I added the pork and stirred in the tomatoes, sugar and vinegar and a bay leaf.


I transfered everything to the slow cooker and cooked on low for about 5-6 hours.


I wouldn't say it was the most "curry-like" curry I've ever made (it seemed a little too tomato sauce-based for me and more like a ragu) but I enjoyed an alternative to the usual "coconut milk/cream/scathing hot death" curries. I realize now it could have been because I used dried curry spices instead of a curry paste and it didn't really achieve the same effect.


The next recipe I tried was Putanesca Pasta Sauce (pg. 250) also titled "the working girl's pasta sauce." I like it! I cooked up some ground beef, onions and garlic for a few minutes then transferred it to the slow cooker with the tomatoes and a touch of sugar.


Ok, it's not quite as easy as simply dumping the ingredients in the slow cooker. There is some preparation involved, but it's nothing back-breaking.


Then you add some green olives, black olives, capers and parsley after it's been cooking for a few hours. It's a little tangier and sweeter than most tomato sauces I've made, but it was a nice twist on my go-to sauce recipe. So what did I do with that sauce of mine?


I got some spaghetti squash and laid it down in a Corningware dish then poured the sauce over top and sprinkled some light mozzarella cheese and breadcrumbs on top; it's like a "pasta bake" without the pasta. Look at the slightly burnt cheese and sauce baked goodness. You don't need a can of condensed soup to make that. Plus it beats a can of plain old tomato sauce any day.


So stop "pinning" those slow cooker casserole recipes full of cheese, tacos and cream--you know the ones--and pick up a book with some recipes full of real food and ingredients, 200 recipes to be exact.

I can't wait to make the "Mushroom barley soup," "Java jive pot roast," (a pot roast with a subtle coffee flavour) "Chicken Santorini" and perhaps something to simmer away for those Thanksgiving leftovers.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experiences.

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