Entertaining By Way of the Slow Cooker

Bruce Von Stiers

Beth Hensperger has written a bunch of cookbooks. Her books are so well received that she won a James Beard award for one of them. Beth has put together a series of cookbooks utilizing slow cookers. The titles for this series always begin with “Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker.”

One of the latest titles in this slow cooker series is Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Recipes For Entertaining. Beth co-wrote the book with Julie Kaufmann, the Food Editor for the San Jose Mercury News newspaper. The book was published by Harvard Common Press.

One of the first things that I liked about this book is that it has sixteen glossy full-color pages at the front of it showing the results of recipes held with in it. From New Orleans-Style Vanilla Bread Pudding to Rolled Turkey Breast with Proscuitto, these pictures are mouth watering testaments to the great recipes in the book.

Soft-covered, the book has 466 pages. It has 15 chapters with a multi-paged index.

Beth and Julie designed the book to go side by side with Beth’s earlier book Now Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook. Whereas that book was more for standard dinner fare, this new one features recipes that could serve a large gathering as well as a family setting.

Before getting into the recipes, the book gives some background on slow cookers and some of the techniques used in cooking foods in them. The authors also provide and invaluable chart in this section of the book. This is the Recipe Time Conversion Chart. It shows a recipe time and its equivalent slow cooker time allotment on both Low and High settings.

The first chapter containing recipes has to do with appetizers. There are a couple of fondue recipes; one features black pepper, Gruyere cheese and a cup and a half of champagne as key ingredients. A simple yet very tasty dip recipe is the Smoky Black Bean and Cheddar Dip. It only has black beans, chipotle chilies and cheddar cheese as ingredients but is truly tasty. This chapter also holds two delicious sweet nut appetizer recipes, one for glazed pecans and anther for sugared walnuts.

We’ve all been to parties or held our own where hot drinks were served from a slow cooker. From hot apple cider to heartier beverages, a slow cooker is the perfect vehicle. So it makes sense that there would be a chapter in the book for making hot beverages in the slow cooker. The chapter is titled The Electric Punch Bowl and has twenty-nine recipes for liquid refreshments. Several of the recipes have alcohol products in them but a few others like Hot Eggnog and the Hot Tomato Virgin Mary don’t. There is a nice chai recipe along with one for Champurrado, a delectable chocolate, cinnamon and brown sugar based hot drink. For the one’s with booze in them, a few of those include a spiked wassail, a pretty easy athole Brose and a zinfandel hot drink with cranberry juice, cinnamon sticks and orange zest for some of its ingredients.

Then the book moves on to soups that will serve more than just your family. There is a tasty split peas soup that utilizes a ham hock and a delectable black bean soup with pumpkin. The first one serves 8 to 12 people whereas the black bean and pumpkin soup can only serve up to 10 people.

A really good use of a slow cooker is to make sauces. The book has a bunch of sauce recipes, including several really good barbeque sauces. A KC styled barbeque sauce calls for honey, soy sauce and Dijon mustard. There is also a pretty decent mint sauce that the notes say is a precursor for mint jelly. And if you’re like me and enjoy a good alfredo sauce, the book provides one a salsa alfredo sauce recipe that is a pure delight.

And then we have all kinds of recipes for slow cooked vegetables. From beets to curry, there is no lack of vegetable dish recipes in the book that can be done via a slow cooker. My favorite recipe in this chapter is the Twice-Crocked Stuffed Potatoes with Macadamia Nuts. Even if you aren’t that much a fan of potatoes, this recipe will make you one.

Before we got our combination steamer / rice cooker we have used the slow cooker for cooking grains. The book provides several grain recipes that will make cooking them a lot easier. This chapter of the book also has recipes for stuffings. There is a recipe for pumpkin-sage risotto and one for wild rice with dried apricots, cherries and pecans. If you’re into spicy grits, there is a green Chile grits recipe that is as hot as it is tasty. And one of my favorite types of stuffing stuff, spoonbread, is covered here with Double Corn Spoonbread.

Continuing on, recipes specifically for rice and other accompaniments can be found. A zesty orange rice recipe is there along with matzo balls and oven-roasted potatoes. The authors also included a couple of salad recipes. The Red Bean Stew and Rice is also pretty good.

We all know that a slow cooker is great for cooking beans and chili. From turkey chili to prune chili, the book has a lot of chili recipes.

Not to go strictly with beef recipes, the book has a whole chapter on poultry, game and rabbit dishes that can be made up in the slow cooker. The Chicken with Orange Sauce recipe calls for 8 boneless chicken breast halves and an orange flavored liqueur.

Going back to the beef side of things the book has a nice beer brats recipe and one for Beef Burgundy. Those of you into meatballs should enjoy the Italian Meatballs dish. And for a pot roast with an extra touch, there is the Cherry-Glazed Pork Pot Roast with Herbs.

And now for my very favorite part of any cookbook; desserts. If you don’t try out any other dessert recipe, you’ve got to make the Steamed Chocolate Pudding. Using both cold and warm heavy cream, almonds and both semi-sweet and unsweetened chocolate, this is a pudding to die for. There are also recipes for a gingerbread with a blackberry sauce and a steamed maple-raison brown bread.

You should be able to find any number of recipes in this book that fits your slow cooking wants and needs. From appetizers to main dishes, side dishes and even desserts, this cookbook has just what the doctor ordered for cooking larger portions using the slow cooker.

Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Recipes For Entertaining can be found at selected cookbook retailers.

It can also be ordered directly from Harvard Common Press at www.harvardcommonpress.com



© 2009 Bruce E Von Stiers