Every slow cooker cookbook I own has variations on the same recipe, but no new ideas. I was getting tired of making the same old slow cooker variations on chili and roasts. Then I came across Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann.
First, I was sold on it because it has a venison recipe. (Big Bad Dad hunts, and we have a freezer full of Wisconsin whitetail.) Now most of the time I treat venison like very lean beef and haven't had problems with a gamy taste. Well, most of the time, anyway. Even so, a slow cooker venison recipe was rare.
Then my curiosity was piqued when I saw "Beef in Guinness" and "Japanese Curry Rice." I thought, "How unique. How different. How not-another-boring-recipe-for-chili."
The first slow cooker recipe I made was for Sloppy Joes, a slow cooker classic but much more sophisticated take on it. The results were terrific. I liked the recipe because it was full of veggies, like diced red pepper and celery. It also gave the option of adding more vinegar or sugar depending on your personal tastes. Amazingly, my kids LOVED this. Boo Girl liked hers with spaghetti squash. And Monkey Boy liked his on the traditional hamburger bun.
The second dish I tried was the "Braised Beef in Espresso." Yes, a slow cooker roast made with coffee. Don't worry, it really doesn't taste like a tall latte. Instead, the coffee super-tenderizes the meat and gives it a bit of a smokey flavor. Unfortunately, the dish was rather bland 1) because the turnips, carrots and potatoes didn't add much flavor and 2) since the cookbook recommends seasoning with salt and pepper after cooking. It needed a healthy dose of garlic salt to make it just right.
The next slow cooker dish I made was the "Honey and Apple Bread Pudding with Golden Raisins." I was intrigued since it was a bread pudding without eggs. (Always an issue since Boo Girl is allergic to eggs.) This one wasn't so successful with my family, however. They thought it was weird. I liked it even though it tasted and looked like turkey stuffing. I think it was the lemon juice and zest. There was too much of it and it clashed with the raisin, cinnamon and nutmeg flavors. Orange juice and zest would have worked better.
Right now I have the "Beef in Guinness" prepared and waiting to be made on Sunday night. I made it with Murphy's Irish Stout and not Guinness however, not that it should matter. (The Murphy's was on $2 cheaper than the Guinness, and the liquor store was donating $1 of the sale towards cancer research.) Since there are more vegetables in this than in the "Braised Beef in Espresso" I have a feeling it will be a tastier dish. Can't wait.
The only drawback on the beef recipes is that you must braise or brown the meat and saute the vegetables before cooking it in the crock pot. Many cooks feel browning meat "locks in" the taste. They're probably right, but it does add an extra step and another dish to wash.
However, you could get a West Bend 84716 Versatility 6-Quart Oval Slo-Cooker which you can use both on the stove top and as a slow cooker. There are a couple of others for sale at Amazon.com, like the Rival SC7500 5-Quart Round VersaWare CrockPot Slow Cooker, Brushed Stainless Steel and the Rival SC7600 6-Quart Oval VersaWare CrockPot Slow Cooker, Brushed Stainless Steel. However, the West Bend had the best reviews. The lids of the Rivals supposedly are awkward and easily break. Also, you can't use cook on the stove top at high heat with their crocks.
However, next time I break my crock pot (which happens every several years when I drop it on the floor with a cooked roast inside, shattering the crock and sending the food over the entire kitchen floor) I'll look into one of these dual purpose slow cookers.
Even so, I look forward to making more dishes from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook soon.
- 1 lb. lean ground beef
- 1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 large bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
- 1 large rib celery, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 6-oz. can tomato paste
- 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar, or more if needed
- 2 Tbsp. firmly packed light or dark brown sugar, or more if needed
- 1 tsp. paprika
- 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. chili powder, or to taste
- 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- dash of hot sauce, such as Tabasco
- dash of cayenne pepper
- hamburger buns or other soft sandwich rolls for serving
- In a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, cook the beef with the onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic, stirring to break up the meat.
- When the meat is cooked through, transfer the meat and vegetables to the slow cooker.
- Add the remaining Sloppy Joe ingredients and stir to combine well.
- Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 7 hours.
- Taste and add more vinegar or sugar, if desired.
- Serve the meat mixture spooned on to the buns.
Variation: This was very tasty serving this on top of cooked spaghetti squash. This could also be served on mash potatoes.
Braised Beef in Espresso
Cooker: Medium or large round or oval
Setting and Cook Time: LOW for 7 to 8 hours
- 3 lbs. beef site meat trimmed of fat, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks, and blotted dry
- 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
- pinch of salt
- pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 medium-size onions, chopped
- 3 carrots, cut diagonally into 2-inch chunks
- 4 new red or white potatoes, diced
- 6 small turnips, peeled and quartered
- 1 cup strong coffee
- 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- In a zippered-top plastic bag or a bowl, toss the beef with the flour, salt, and pepper, shaking off the excess.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil until very hot.
- Add half the beef and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes.
- Transfer to the slow cooker.
- Repeat with the remaining oil and beef.
- Add the onions to the skillet and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Transfer to the cooker and add the carrots, potatoes, and turnips.
- Add the coffee and thyme to the cooker.
- Pour the wine into the skillet and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly and scraping up any browned bits stuck to the pan.
- Pour into the cooker and stir.
- Cover and cook on LOW until the meat is tender, 7 to 8 hours.
- Taste for salt and pepper, and serve.
Variation: I thought this was very good with garlic salt. It's always a nice idea to let individuals salt and pepper their food to fit their own personal tastes, too.
Honey and Apple Bread Pudding with Golden Raisins
(Serves 4 to 6)
Cooker: Medium round
Setting and Cook Time: LOW for 5 to 6 hours
- 8 slices of your favorite bread
- ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted margarine, softened
- 3 cooking apples, such as Golden Delicious or Gala, peeled, cored, quartered, and sliced
- ¾ cup golden raisins
- 1¼ cups unfiltered apple juice
- ¼ to ½ cup honey, to your taste
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg Ice cream, whipped cream, or nondairy whipped topping for serving
- Coat the slow cooker with butter-flavor nonstick cooking spray.
- Preheat the broiler. Butter the bread on both sides and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Place under the broiler and lightly toast both sides; cut the warm toast into chunks.
- Put the bread in the cooker, then add the apples and raisins.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the apple juice, honey, lemon juice and zest, and spices.
- Pour into the cooker and stir to moisten the bread evenly. Cover and cook on LOW for 5 to 6 hours. If possible, gently stir halfway through the cooking process. Pierce the apples with the tip of a knife to make sure they are soft.
- Turn off the cooker and let stand, covered, for about 15 minutes.
- Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream, whipped cream, or nondairy whipped topping, if desired.
Variation: We didn't care for the lemon juice and zest. If I make this again, I'd try it with orange juice and zest and possibly more honey.
Beef In Guinness
Cooker: Medium or large round or oval
Setting and Cook Time: LOW for 8 to 9 hours
- One 2 1/2 pound chuck roast, trimmed of fat, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks and blotted dry
- 3 to 4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (O.K., it doesn't have to be freshly ground. The stuff from the bottle will do.)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 medium-sized yellow onions, roughly chopped
- One 14.9 ounce can or bottle of Guinness stout (any good stout will do)
- 1 pound baby carrots
- 3 medium-size turnips, peeled and diced
- 1 medium-size (1 lb.) eggplant, peeled or not, diced
- 8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- zest of 1/2 of a large orange, cut into strips
- 1 bouquet garni: 3 or 4 springs of fresh flat-leaf parsley, 3 or 4 sprigs of thyme, 1/2 California bay leaf or 1 whole dried Turkish one, one 2-inch piece of celery, tied together in a cheesecloth square
- In a zippered-top plastic bag or bowl, toss the meat, in batches, with the flour, salt and pepper, shaking off the excess.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the oil until very hot.
- Add half the meat and cook until browned on all sides, 4 to 5 minutes total.
- Transfer to crock.
- Repeat with the remaining oil and meat.
- Transfer to slow cooker.
- Add the onions to the skillet and cook, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the pan, until softened slightly, about 3 minutes.
- Transfer to the cooker.
- Pour in the beer and in layers add the carrots, turnips, eggplant, mushrooms, and garlic on top of the meat.
- Nestle the orange zest and bouquet garni into the center of the meat and vegetables.
- Cover and cook on LOW until the meat is tender enough to cut with a fork, 8 to 9 hours.
- Remove the bouquet garni, then taste for salt and pepper, and serve.
NOTE: This is a huge amount of food and it just barely fit in my 6-quart slow cooker. So beware!