Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Better Homes & Gardens Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes

DELICIOUS

The philosophical message of the Better Homes & Gardens Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes is simple and straight-forward: start dinner in your slow-cooker before you leave in the morning, and eat healthy, delicious foods for dinner.
Slow cookers are hot. They always have been, of course, technically speaking. While there's a greater selection of colors, sizes and shapes than ever before, the basic mission of the slow cooker has not changed: to make your life easier and your meals tastier.

The BH&G cookbook is designed for the urban or suburban chef who wants to minimize kitchen time, but desires to control calories, fats, sodium, carbs—or cost. One of the best things about the recipes is found in the small text at the bottom of each recipe: a list of nutritional ingredients that will be in the completed dish if you follow the recipe exactly.
[Herbed Chicken and Mushrooms] Nutritional facts per serving: 360 cal, 7 g total fat (2 g sat. fat), 107 mg chol., 350 mg sodium, 35 g carbo., 3 g fiber, 34 g pro. Daily Values: 54% vit. A, 9% vit. C, 3% calcium, 20% iron.

In addition to sections on Appetizers & Beverages; Soups & Stews; Side Dishes; Beef, Pork & Lamb; Poultry; Meatless Main Dishes; and Desserts, the book also features two bonus sections: Five Ingredients recipes and One-Dish Dinners. (Some of the one-dish recipes in the bonus section do not use the slow cooker.) Recipes are one-page affairs, and each dish is introduced with a two-line description or serving suggestion.
[Beef and Borscht Stew] When peeling fresh beets, wear latex gloves to prevent staining your hands. Remember to serve the stew with sour cream, the customary garnish for this traditional Russian dish.

My favorites so far: Beer-Stewed Pork and Dumplings, and Argentina-Style Stew with pumpkin from the Soups & Stews section; Spicy Sloppy Joes (made with hot-style tomato juice), Slow Cooker Goulash, and Chicken with Artichokes and Olives from the meat entree sections, and Texas Two-Step Stew from the Five Ingredients section. But I haven't tried all the dinner recipes, and have not even begun to explore the Appetizers or Dessert recipes.
[Pear-Caramel Pudding Cake]
PREP:

20 minutes
COOK:
High: 2 hours
STAND:
30 minutes
MAKES:
6 to 8 servings
SLOW COOKER:
3½- to 4-quart

In addition to the standard recipe instructions, many recipes also include generic tips for using the slow cooker effectively. Even more important, when a tip applies to more than one specific recipe, there will be a reference on the subsequent page or an entry in the exhaustive index.
TRIMMING AND SKIMMING
Slow cooking requires little fat, thanks to low, moist heat. For low-fat meats, choose lean cuts of meat and trim away as much visible fat as possible... Once fat rises to the top, skim off any visible fat with a metal spoon.

If I have any complaint about this cookbook, it is that it is entirely too effective as an appetizer. I think I'll go make some "Slow Baked" Boston Brown Bread. It takes only 2½ hours, including prep time, and with a Mascarone cheese and toasted almonds topping, will make a great side dish for salad.
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By the way, I recommend the comb-bound version. The cookbook is also available as a trade-size paperback, but I find paperback cookbooks difficult to use. Comb-binding allows the recipe you've selected to lie flat, open to the page you're using.