Category Archives: Weekend Cooking

Weekend Cooking Guest Review: Sensational Slow Cooker Gourmet

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Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads. This week’s Weekend Cooking feature is a guest post from Katie from the Doing Dewey blog.  See the original post here: Slow Cooker Recipes Review. Thanks to Katie for suggesting this week’s exchange of cookbook reviews!

GUEST POST by Katie

Book Title: Sensational Slow Cooker Gourmet

Author: Judith Finlayson

Rating: ★★★★★

Review Summary: Very focused on convenience and does a good job of spelling everything out – plus it finally got me to use my crock pot.This book of slow cooker recipes was a great fit for my busy schedule and most recipes don’t look like they’d be too pricey for my poor college student budget either 🙂 In fact, the recipe I made cost me less than $20 for ingredients and will probably make at least 6 meals. But before we get into the recipe, lets start with the book…

Image of cookbook cover

The Review: The introduction included some very useful information, such as tips for getting to know your crock pot and advice on avoiding mistakes that could lead to food poisoning. Unfortunately, this is buried in some of the typical fluff one finds at the beginning of such a book (“slow cooker recipes are awesome and convenient” kind of stuff), but I would strongly recommend reading this section any way. Where the book really starts to shine though, is the slow cooker recipes themselves.

The recipes all have great pictures, which is a must for me when picking a cook book. It’s by far the easiest way of identifying recipes I want to make. Nearly every recipe begins has a wonderful section called “Make Ahead” in the sidebar which tells you what you parts of the recipe you can prepare several days in advance. This makes it very easy to do the cooking when it’s convenient for you! Most of these slow cooker recipes can cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low, which means it’s possible to complete a recipe in a day or let it cook over night depending on your schedule. Although I certainly don’t plan on going out and getting a new crock pot, I did appreciate that the author specified the best sort of crock pot for each recipe. Like many cook books, this book does include some cooking instructions in the ingredients list (“barley, rinsed and drained”, eg) which it’s easy to miss until you actually need to add the barley. Aside from that small and common problem, I liked everything about it.

The Recipe: To truly test out the book, I decided to try making the “Miso-Spiked Vegetable Soup with Barley” and everything went fairly smoothly. I spent about 15 minutes chopping vegetables and another 30 minutes frying them and figuring out my crock pot. I spilled a few things, missed that I needed to drain and rinse the barley until it was time to add it (immediately) to the frying pan, and discovered that the author was serious when she sad a larger crock pot would be better (5 quarts instead of 2.5 like mine). To deal with the smaller crock pot, I only added about half of the called for chicken broth.

In the morning, I discovered that a tiny bit of my barley had burned to the crock pot and my soup was more like a stew – even after adding the rest of the chicken broth. I added an approximate amount of parsley, which ended up being the strongest flavor in the finished product. However, the soup was very tasty any way and even with mistakes the time required to make it was under an hour in the evening and about 30 minutes in the morning. I’ll definitely try making it, and other slow cooker recipes, again 🙂

Picture of finished soup

Weekend Cooking: Moosewood Restaurant and Mollie Katzen’s Cookbooks

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After almost 30 years of putting dinner together a few times a week, I turn to the same cookbooks again and again: the Moosewood Restaurant cookbooks and cookbooks by Mollie Katzen, originally part of the Moosewood collaborative.

Greek Pasta Salad, made from recipe in Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home

With the garden produce dying out, I wanted to make at least one last lunch from stuff picked fresh from the garden. Since a few cute baby eggplants were ready to pick, as well as cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers, and since we had Kalamata olives and feta cheese in the fridge, I pulled out one of my most used cookbooks, Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, for its Greek Pasta Salad recipe. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any fresh dill (which really adds to the salad’s flavor) or scallions (which I meant to replace with red onion, but forgot) but the salad was still delicious.

Book cover imageThe Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, NY, includes fish on its vegetarian menus, so a few recipes call for fish or shellfish, but most of the recipes are completely vegetarian. What I like about the Moosewood cookbooks is that they use only ingredients that can be pretty easily found if you’re anywhere near a large town, so you don’t have to make a special visit to a natural foods store before using the cookbooks. They also make great reading, with their entertaining recipe introductions and casual air of friends in the kitchen; Mollie Katzen’s cookbooks also have pleasing illustrations and a friendly design. The recipe directions imply confidence in your culinary skills, giving you enough information but not an overload of strict precautions and precise measurements. None of them have intimidating glossy color photos of meals that look like they were made by professional chefs or put together by food stylists.

Another old favorite, The Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas, didn’t survive the transition from just-married to three-child family and Laurel’s Kitchen‘s didn’t survive the transition from country to city life, but the Moosewood Restaurant cookbooks, as well as several by Mollie Katzen (especially Moosewood Cookbook and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest) have been the source of many favorite family meals over the years.

A neighborhood landmark, the Moosewood Restaurant has been owned and operated by a collective of the people who work there for almost 40 years, and was named one of the 13 most influential restaurants of the 20th century by Bon Appetit. (See Cornell Daily Sun article.) The Moosewood Collective also donated its papers, including some original cookbook manuscripts, to Cornell University’s Carl A. Kroch Library.

Weekend Cooking is a weekly feature hosted by Beth Fish Reads. Click here to check out all Weekend Cooking blog posts. A printable list of my favorite Moosewood cookbooks is on Book Lists page.