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Thursday, May 18, 2006

DO YOU USE YOUR SLOW-COOKER MUCH?

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I don't use mine nearly as often as I should. We often think of it as an appliance for winter meals-- stews, soups, beanpots, etc.. But it's great in the summer, too, because it doesn't give out much heat. I've baked pudding cakes in my slow-cooker, and they came out beautifully.


                Peanutty Hot Fudge Pudding Cake baking in my slow-cooker

I got a brand-new automatic Rival 5 qt. Crockpot (oval) last year. It's great except for the fact that it cooks at too high a temperature. Now they tell me that, oops, yes, this was a flaw, but it's been fixed on the newer ones! What I do is just cook foods that are supposed to be cooked on "High" on the "Low" setting, and foods that are supposed to be cooked on "Low" on the "Keep Warm" setting. Whatever works! I cook the food on High for a little while at first, and then turn it down. (Here's a newer version.)





Seitan Pot Roast before and after slow-cooking

I've used my crockpot for all the usual suspects, but also for cooking seitan pot roasts and cutlets, and my special vegan "neatballs", which I developed to soak up juices from the sauce they are cooked in, so that they "plump up", but don't fall apart. (These recipes were all in my now-defunct newsletter, The Vegan Feast.)






You can see from these pictures how the "neatballs" swell up in the sauce.

As for beans, it has been my experience, and many slow-cooker experts agree with me, that beans often don't cook properly in a slow cooker. The cooking time depends on the type of slow-cooker, the variety of bean, the age and quality of the bean, the altitude, and whether you use hard or soft water. Consequently, many people used canned beans in slow-cooker bean recipes (you could freeze your own cooked beans). That said, to cook in a slow-cooker, they need to be soaked in lots of water overnight and drained, and then brought to a boil with plenty of fresh water and simmered rapidly for 10-15 minutes (and drained again) before placing in the slow-cooker with your other ingredients. Then they need to be cooked for 8-12 hours on Low, or for 5-6 hours on High. I use about 6 cups of liquid for 1 1/2 lbs. beans (which have bean soaked), though many books say 6 cups for 1 lb. I found that that left too much liquid.

               "  Drunken Beans"  from the current issue of the Vegan Feast.

Also, I have not found it to be true that you should not add salty, sweet, or acidic foods to the beans before they are completely cooked. I do that all the time! It might take a little longer, but the only reason I have found for beans absolutely not cooking is that they are very old.



Now here's a recipe and some info from about a year and a half ago in The Vegan Feast newsletter:

SLOW-COOKER PUDDING CAKES:

Some of you may already be aware of this, but you can make yummy vegan pudding cakes in your slow-cooker or Crockpot® (you know, the kind of cake that ends up with a sauce at the bottom of the pan). It cooks in 2 to 2 and 1/2 hours, and doesn’t heat the kitchen up (not a problem now, but come summer…). I baked mine in an glass casserole 7 1/2” across the top, 2 1/2” deep, and 6 1/2” across the bottom, which I placed in my 5-6 qt. oval cooker, but I understand that you can actually bake it right in the ceramic insert of a 3 1/2-4 qt. cooker. Either way, you can use your favourite pudding cake recipe that calls for about 1 c. flour in the batter.

THE BASIC SLOW-COOKER BAKING METHOD: Proceed with your recipe as normal, in a pan as mentioned in the paragraph above, or in the insert (well-greased) of your 3 1/2 -4 qt. cooker. Cover the cooker and cook on high for 2 to 2  1/2 hours, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the cake. Let stand, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes.

Here is an example for you to try:

BRYANNA'S PEANUTTY HOT FUDGE PUDDING CAKE
(Adapted from a recipe in my first book, "The Almost No Fat Cookbook”) 1.) Preheat the oven to 350 F.

2.) In a small bowl, mix together:

1 c. white or whole wheat pastry flour (or a mixture)
1/4 c. brown sugar or organic unbleached sugar
1/4 c. oat flour or oat bran
1/4 c. unsweetened organic fair trade cocoa
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

3.) Stir in, but do not over-mix:

3/4 c. nondairy milk
2 tsp. vanilla OR 1/2 tsp. almond extract
OPT: 2 T. coffee or chocolate liqueur

4.) With wet fingers, spread the batter into a lightly greased or non-stick 8x8 inch pan.


5.) Mix together in a small bowl:

1 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. unsweetened organic fair trade cocoa

6.) Sprinkle the sugar/cocoa mixture evenly over the top of the cake batter.

7.) And then pour gently over the top, but don’t in any way stir in (yes—it goes into the oven with soupy stuff all over the top!):

2 c. boiling water MIXED TIL SMOOTH WITH:
1/2 c. chunky natural peanut butter

Bake this for 35 minutes. (You might want to put a pizza pan or cookie sheet on the rack below the cake, just under it, to catch drips, if any.) OR use the Basic Slow-Cooker baking Method above. When it comes out of the oven (or slow-cooker), the cake will be on top with a sauce underneath. Serve plain or with vanilla nondairy frozen dessert.

Now enjoy!

I'd love to hear about your vegan slow-cooker adventures!

8 comments:

KleoPatra said...

Great eatin's there, Bryanna!!! Everything looks scrumptious and healthy!

SeĆ²na said...

I used my slow cooker a lot last summer when my oven was on the fritz ... I actually didn't realize how much I use my oven until I didn't have it!

I have a fairly new Rival as well, Bryanna, and I agree it does get rather hot. I've been cooking everything on the low setting and it seems to work fine, but I still like to be around to keep an eye on it [which kind of defeats the purpose!]. I also find that foods are usually cooked sooner than most recipes suggest.

Not long ago, I read that you can make yeast breads in a slow cooker. Did you know that? I was amazed! Apparently, a slow cooker is similar to the way a bread machine bakes. I have a few recipes for crockpot yeast breads, but I haven't tried them yet. I am very tempted though!

Shona :)

veganmum said...

We use our slow cooker often in the summer - your pudding cakes will definitely be on our cottage dinner table this year. :)
I generally pre-cook beans before putting them in the slow cooker; at least partially, like you. We make a big batch of old-fashioned molasses "baked" beans at least once every couple of weeks in the summer - great with barbequed potatoes and fresh-from-the-garden veggies! We spend our summers in our very low-tech cottage, which gets very warm very quickly, so the slow-cooker is wonderful to have there. On really hot days, I've been known to plug it in outside on the deck!

Starla said...

Bryanna: Do you know what issue the crockpot "meatballs" are featured in? The end result where they have soaked up the sauce looks scrumptious.

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

Hi, Starla! The original recipe is in the very first newsletter, the Aug/Sep 03 issue. There is also a recipe for "Cumin Koftas" using them. I believe that is what I took the pictures of. In the next one, the Oct/Nov 03 issue is a recipe using the "neatballs" for an Italian bean soup.

In the Feb/March 04 issue is a persian recipe using the "neatballs" in a creamy sauce. And in the Jan/Feb/Mar 06 issue is a recipe for Italian "neatballs" in sauce.

"Spice island vegan" also developed a vegan Albondigas soup using these, which she shared with us, but it's not in the newsletter-- I might add it next time as a Readers' Recipe, which we haven't had for a while.

And I have a recipe with a chipotle sauce that I want to use in the newsletter sometime, too.

To cook any of these recipes in a slow-cooker, cook on low for about 3 hours.

couscouscaboose said...

No slow-cooker adventures to speak of, but I'm drooling over those neatballs!

draiodoirmna said...

I use my slow cookers year round as they are so convienent. I don't really eat dessert so my crockpot cookery focus on soups, stews, and rice milk (which I just recently discovered how to do!).

Jane M said...

When I got married several years ago we got somewhere around 6 crock pots as wedding gifts! Was there a sale that month or what??? We gifted them out and now I am down to 1 crock pot. It's only a 3 1/2 quart one but I suppose it would work ok. Anyway, I love the pot roast! Very comforting.