Tasty meals from a slow cooker

Margaret
Margaret Prouse
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The Healthy Slow Cooker is my kind of cookbook.

The author, Judith Finlayson, emphasizes the use of whole foods such as vegetables, legumes and whole grains.

Herbs and spices are used as seasonings, to add flavour without a lot of salt. Most of the food preparation is done hours before mealtime, so that the dish will be ready when you want it with minimal last-minute fuss.

Additional information such as tips, variations, relevant nutritional information, and nutritional analysis is included with recipes.

Finlayson describes her strategy for healthy eating in the book’s introduction: “eliminate processed foods from your diet and habitually eat a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods, including an abundance of vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds.”  

People with celiac disease will appreciate that all the recipes are gluten-free, and those who refer to Canadian Diabetes Association values when planning their meals will find values for all the recipes listed in the final chapter.

Recipes are grouped in 10 chapters: breakfast, starters and snacks, soups, poultry, fish and seafood, beef and veal, pork and lamb, vegetarian mains, sides and sauces, and desserts. The selection is not limited to traditional Canadian flavours, but includes recipes influenced by many styles of world cuisine, proving the versatility of slow cookers.  

I was somewhat puzzled by the inclusion of the Thai-Style Coconut Fish Curry and several other of the fish recipes.

The slow cooker is great for foods that benefit from long slow cooking to tenderize ingredients and blend flavours. Given that 8 of the ingredients in the fish curry are added during the last half-hour of cooking, I wonder whether there is any advantage to preparing this type of dish in a slow cooker.

The finished dish tastes good, and it makes sense to add those ingredients, particularly the fish, near the end of the cooking period to prevent overcooking. However, the only reason I can think of for slow cooking this dish instead of going the conventional route is time management. Most of the time-consuming chopping is done early, making it easy to finish the dish by adding the remaining ingredients near mealtime.

The recipes that I tried were easy to follow, and the results were tasty. This vegetarian soup was one of my favourites, and I will be making it again.

 

Mushroom Lentil Soup

From Finlayson, Judith: “The Healthy Slow Cooker, second edition”. Robert Rose Inc., Toronto, 2014.

 

Use a large (approx. 5 quart) slow cooker.

500 mL (2 cups) hot water

30 mL (2 tbsp) dried wild mushrooms (see tip, below)

15 mL (1 tbsp) olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

4 stalks celery, diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

5 mL (1 tsp) chili powder

1 can (796 mL/28 oz) tomatoes, including juice, coarsely chopped

1 L (4 cups) vegetable or chicken stock

500 mL (2 cups) brown or green lentils

30 mL (2 tbsp) freshly squeezed lemon juice

freshly ground black pepper

sea salt, optional

plain yogurt, optional

125 mL (1/2 cup) finely chopped parsley leaves or chives

 

In a heatproof bowl, combine hot water and dried mushrooms. Let stand for 30 minutes, then strain through a fine sieve, reserving liquid. Pat mushrooms dry, chop finely and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, celery and carrots and cook, stirring, until carrots are softened, about 7 minutes. Add chili powder and chopped dried mushrooms and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add tomatoes with juice and reserved mushroom liquid and bring to a boil. Transfer to slow cooker stoneware. Add vegetable stock and lentils. Cover and cook on Low for 6 hours or on High for 3 hours, until vegetables are tender. Stir in lemon juice, ground pepper and salt to taste, if using. Ladle into bowls and drizzle with yogurt, if using.  Garnish each serving with 15 mL (1 tbsp) parsley. Makes 8 servings.

Tip: If using a strongly flav-oured dried mushroom, such as porcini, to make this soup, 30 mL (2 tbsp) will be sufficient. But if using a mixture of mushrooms, some of which may be more mildly flavoured, you may need an additional 15 mL (1 tbsp) or so.

I also enjoyed this Indian-influenced rice pudding. I used regular white sugar instead of evaporated cane juice sugar.

 

Basmati Rice Pudding

From Finlayson, Judith: “The Healthy Slow Cooker, second

edition”. Robert Rose Inc.,

Toronto, 2014.

 

Use a small (maximum 3 ½ quart) slow cooker. Grease the slow cooker stoneware lightly.

1 L (4 cups) whole milk or fortified rice milk

75 mL (1/3 cup) evaporated cane juice sugar

10 mL (2 tsp) ground cardamom

175 mL (3/4 cup) brown basmati rice, rinsed

125 mL (1/2 cup) chopped unsalted pistachio nuts

 

In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring milk to a boil, stirring often. Add sugar and cardamom. Remove from heat and stir in rice. Transfer to prepared slow cooker stoneware. Place a tea towel folded in half (so you will have two layers) over top of stoneware to absorb moisture. Cover and cook on High for 3 hours, until rice is tender and pudding is creamy. Transfer to a serving bowl and cool to room temperature. Garnish with pistachios, dividing equally. Makes 6 servings.

 

Margaret Prousea hone economist, can be reached at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or margaret@islandgusto.com.

Organizations: Robert Rose, Canadian Diabetes Association

Geographic location: Toronto, North Wiltshire

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