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Fun with a Slow Cooker

I got a slow cooker weeks ago but haven’t had the chance (or the guts) to make anything with it yet. Since I often have more energy first thing in the morning than directly after work, I think it’ll help me actually cook on weekdays. And compared to the oven, slow cookers use such a low wattage that they save energy. Bonus!

This weekend I finally worked up the courage to experiment. But to be safe I chose probably the easiest thing imaginable—potato soup. Actually, Pesto-Potato Soup with Toasted Pine Nuts from the book Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker, with potatoes from our CSA, pesto from our porch-grown basil, and the first homemade stock from our freezer. And you know what? It was pretty good. A little bland, but I like bland. And easy! The only thing we needed to do to finish it was give it a whirl with the immersion blender and mix in the pesto and pine nuts.

It was so easy that we tried cooking two more things: oatmeal and acorn squash.

The oatmeal turned out awfully jelly-like. It’s edible, but not something I’d look forward to. I’ll try it next with steel-cut oats in the hope that they hold up better. But I do want to try again. There’s something really comforting about waking up to warm oatmeal.

And they even look pretty, too.

The acorn squash was amazingly simple to cook in the slow cooker. Just pop them in whole, add a couple tablespoons of water, and cook for 4-9 hours. Then we scooped out the flesh and made it into winter squash soup with gruyere croutons, which was absolutely delicious. I thought the croutons would be the best part, but the soup stole the show.

I think the slow cooker will be a nice addition to my root vegetable arsenal. Things like squash usually take so long to cook that I don’t bother, but with this I can get the pre-cooking out of the way.

I’m worried that I got the wrong size, though. I’d read that a 6-quart slow cooker would be the most versatile, and I was really happy that it fit all four of our acorn squash. But it seems awfully large for just the two of us. Both the pesto-potato soup and the oatmeal only filled it halfway, but made more than two meals for us. So what do you slow cooker veterans think? Should I downsize?


Comment from Jenn
Time February 18, 2010 at 7:56 am

You are like the 2nd person I have “talked” to this week who has just bought their first crock pot! : ) I wouldn’t downsize..I believe the directions from mine (also 6-qt) say that you should only fill it a max of 3/4 full? So even though it looks skimpy, you’re probly ok with that size! I had a 4-qt one before and there are, like, no recipes that fit in it! Also, that one didn’t have a removable crock, so was kinda a pain to clean. I think the 6-qt one is perfect for soups, chilis, roasts (hmmm…veggie roast? I wonder…). You can always freeze leftovers (or save for lunches) and the size is versatile enough that you can make a meal that will feed you and a few friends, too! : )

Comment from Sharon
Time February 18, 2010 at 8:43 am

You definitely need to use steel cut oats for long-term oatmeal. I understand it makes an enormous difference.

Here’s the recipe that made me think of you. It sounded good. Also, you always have too many apples in the fall.

Comment from Katie
Time February 18, 2010 at 9:22 am

I agree that it’s better not to downsize. To add to what Jenn said about only filling the crock 3/4 full, I’ve found that to be very important. I’ve converted a couple of stovetop recipes to my slow cooker and once a recipe filled it to the brim, and despite being on all night, the root veggies didn’t cook through enough. So I think bigger is definitely better.

Sharon, that recipe sounds awesome, I think I will have to try it. I also recommend rice pudding in the slow cooker – much more fun than standing in front of the stove for an hour to stir it!

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