There’s a huge variety of slow cookers on the market, so it’s important to research features before buying one.
Many of the new models allow the user to set the length of cooking time required for the recipe, then the appliance goes to a warm setting. Older models usually had only a simple on/off switch and the choice of low or high heat.
If you plan to cook chicken or ham, choose an oval model, says Ricardo Larrivee, author of “Slower is Better” (HarperCollins).
“If you have a new appliance, be home the first few times you use it and check for doneness and stir occasionally,” adds Elizabeth Chorney-Booth, co-author of “Best of Bridge: The Family Slow Cooker.”
“But don’t constantly remove the lid as you let the heat out each time.” Most new models have clear lids so the contents can be viewed.
During recipe testing, Best of Bridge co-author Sue Duncan did an experiment, filling two different slow cookers with the same amount of water and turning them on for the same number of hours. When she took the temperature of the water there was a 10 C difference. “We do offer a fairly wide cooking range in all the recipes because of that,” says Chorney-Booth.
The Best of Bridge authors say slow cookers are a great way to save time. Cook a chicken or a roast one day and use the leftovers as the basis of a future meal, such as sandwiches, fajitas, tacos or salad.
Here are some slow cooker recipes featuring up-to-date flavours and textures:
Ease holiday strain by making the finale for the festive dinner in a slow cooker.
Larrivee says this recipe reminds him of the one his grandmother used to make with rum sauce. But he swaps out the special steam mould and double boiler for a loaf pan and a slow cooker. The slow cooking method provides the steam needed for a great result.
Serve the dessert sliced and doused in caramel sauce (the sauce recipe can be doubled).
Marsala is a dry or sweet Italian wine produced in Sicily. You can reuse the wine used to soak the fruit in the sauce.
Preparation: 55 minutes
Macerating: 12 hours
Cooking: 4 hours
Keep on Warm: No
Freezes well: Only the cake
105 g (3/4 cup) dried currants
145 g (3/4 cup) dried apricots, diced
140 g (3/4 cup) pitted Medjool dates, diced
145 g (3/4 cup) diced candied orange
175 ml (3/4 cup) orange juice
125 ml (1/2 cup) Marsala or port wine (see note)
1 orange, grated zest only
210 g (1 1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
135 g (1 cup) almond powder
5 ml (1 tsp) baking powder
5 ml (1 tsp) ground cinnamon
5 ml (1 tsp) five-spice powder
115 g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
120 g (1/2 cup) lightly packed brown sugar
Marsala Caramel Sauce
500 ml (2 cups) lightly packed brown sugar
250 ml (1 cup) 35 per cent heavy cream
50 ml (1/4 cup) Marsala or port wine
Fruit: In a bowl, combine all the ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and let soak for 12 hours or overnight at room temperature. Drain, reserving wine if you want to use it in the sauce.
Cake: Butter a 1.5-l (6-cup) loaf pan (25 by 10 cm/10 by 4 inches). Line with parchment paper, letting paper hang over both sides.
In a bowl, combine flour, almond powder, baking powder and spices. Set aside.
In another bowl, cream butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer. Add eggs and beat until smooth. At low speed or with a wooden spoon, stir in dry ingredients and drained fruit. Spread batter in prepared pan.
Place in slow cooker. Pour cold water into cooker to reach halfway up the pan.
Place a clean, dry cloth over the slow cooker without touching the batter, and cover with lid to hold it in place. This step prevents water from dripping on the surface of the cake.
Cook on low for 4 hours or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Remove from slow cooker and let cool completely on a wire rack before unmoulding.
Marsala Caramel Sauce: In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring all the ingredients to a boil. Let simmer for 5 minutes. Pour into a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let cool. Store at room temperature.
The cake will keep for about 2 weeks at room temperature.
Makes 12 servings.
This simple chickpea curry assembles quickly and results in a flavourful, inexpensive meal that provides a complete protein when served over rice or with naan. If you like chana masala spicy, add another jalapeno to bump up the heat. Serve warm, over rice, with extra cilantro.
In place of the coconut milk, you can use 375 ml (1 1/2 cups) chicken or vegetable stock.
2 cans (each 540 ml/19 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained (1 l/4 cups)
1 can (400 ml/14 oz) coconut milk
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
75 ml (1/3 cup) chopped fresh cilantro
2 to 3 garlic cloves, crushed
10 ml (2 tsp) grated fresh ginger
10 ml (2 tsp) ground cumin
5 ml (1 tsp) chili powder
5 ml (1 tsp) garam masala
5 ml (1 tsp) ground turmeric (optional)
Salt, to taste
Combine all ingredients in a 4- to 6-l (4- to 6-qt) slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours or until bubbling and stew-like.
Makes 4 to 6 servings.
This dish yields a sumptuous, custardy omelette for dinner and can be used for a frittata sandwich the next day.
Preparation: 30 minutes
Cooking: 3 hours
Keep on Warm: Up to 1 hour
30 ml (2 tbsp) unbleached all-purpose flour
5 ml (1 tsp) baking powder
2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt
375 ml (1 1/2 cups) milk
1 l (4 cups) baby spinach, chopped
500 ml (2 cups) small broccoli florets
2 large tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
250 ml (1 cup) grated mozzarella cheese
50 ml (1/4 cup) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
50 ml (1/4 cup) chopped fresh basil
Butter inside of slow cooker and line bottom with a strip of parchment paper, letting it extend upward on 2 sides.
In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk in eggs until smooth. Stir in milk. Add vegetables and half the mozzarella cheese. Season with pepper. Pour into slow cooker. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.
Cover and cook on low for 3 hours. The frittata can be maintained on warm setting for up to 1 hour.
Run blade of a knife between unlined portion of cooker and frittata. Remove frittata from slow cooker. Sprinkle with basil.
Serve warm or cold.
Makes 8 servings.
STUFFED RED PEPPERS
Rich and savoury stuffed peppers seem like they’d be fussy to make, but these come together very easily.
Look for red peppers that are quite hollow, rather than folded in, for this recipe.
If you don’t have caramelized onions on hand, chop a small onion and saute it in a skillet with a little oil until it’s browned and softened. Let cool before adding it to the other ingredients.
Yellow, orange or green bell peppers all work well in place of the red peppers. You can also substitute lean ground beef or pork for the ground turkey.
5 medium-large red bell peppers
500 g (1 lb) ground turkey
150 g (5 oz) Italian sausage (bulk or casing removed)
90 g (3 oz) mozzarella cheese, cut into 5 mm to 1 cm (1/4- to 1/2-inch) cubes
2 garlic cloves, minced
150 ml (2/3 cup) dry couscous
125 ml (1/2 cup) chopped caramelized onions
45 ml (3 tbsp) chopped fresh parsley
2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt
1 large egg, beaten
1 can (398 ml/14 oz) tomato sauce
Slice tops off peppers and scoop out cores. In a large bowl, gently combine turkey, sausage, cheese, garlic, couscous, onions, parsley, salt and egg. Divide meat mixture among peppers and gently press into cavities. Pour tomato sauce into a 6-l (6-qt) slow cooker, then set peppers upright in sauce.
Cover and cook on Low for 4 to 6 hours or until peppers are tender and stuffing is piping hot. Cut peppers in half vertically and serve each half with some of the sauce.
Makes 5 servings as a main dish or 10 as a side.