Have all come from this book:
I bought the book about 5 years ago, and have never looked back. Judith Finlayson is the slow cooker whisperer. She teaches you how to utilize this kitchen tool to its best capabilities, and shows you how to make amazing meals from it. If you follow her recipes, you will never have certain veggies, like onions and peppers, that just dissolve into nothing, and disappear into the mush at the bottom of the crock.
If you like cooking with most of your ingredients coming from cans, this is probably not the book for you. The recipes inside use fresh, healthful, wholesome ingredients. Critics of the book say it’s too much work. They don’t like that she has you searing meat, and sauteeing vegetables before throwing them in to bring out their best flavors. Or waiting until the last 30 minutes of cook time before adding certain other ingredients so that they don’t get soggy. Some people want to be able to just throw things in the slow cooker, walk away, and come back when it’s time to eat. I get that, I really do, but I think that if you want incredible meals that you can prepare in the morning rather than in the evening when you don’t have the time or the energy, this is the way to go. Just think of it like this: The crockpot is not a tool you use when you don’t want to cook. It’s a tool you use when you want to do the bulk of your cooking in the morning, or when the flavors and textures of the dish will taste best cooked in this way. It’s all about how you look at it.
(There’s always an exception to the rule, though. My Fast and Easy Slow Cooker Spicy Shredded Chicken and Beans requires almost no prep work, and even uses frozen chicken breast that you just throw right in!)
IMPORTANT TIP ABOUT THE BOOK: The only thing Ms. Finlayson leaves out is taking the juices from certain recipes, and thickening them into gravy. Some recipes don’t need it, but some truly do to meet their full potential. I can’t imagine her never doing this step. My best guess is that she doesn’t want to be criticized for making yet another step.
A sampling of my favorite recipes from the book:
Thai Peanut Chicken— Literally one of the best things I’ve ever cooked or eaten. It is SO flavorful, the meat is so tender, the veggies are soft when they need to be soft, and crisp when they need to be crisp. The finishing touches, like adding salted peanuts and fresh cilantro right before serving, make it extra special. It’s a wonderful dish to serve guests. Do yourself a favor, and make gravy from the juices, then pour that gravy back over the whole thing before serving. I can’t recommend the recipe if you don’t do this last step.
Carbonnade with Collards— The single best slow cooker beef stew you’ll ever eat. No joke. I add carrots. The collard greens tast amazing in it. I remove the juices from this one to make gravy, and add the gravy back to the pot. The recipe calls for dark beer. I used Amber Bock before going gluten free, and it was wonderful. Now I use hard apple cider. Also fab.
Onion Braised Shrimp— This recipe is so ridiculously good, I can’t even tell you. It’s an Indian-style dish so full of flavors. The onions cook for about 6 hours before you add the shrimp. I love her for making it possible to cook shrimp in the crock pot. No gravy in this dish.
Thai-Style Coconut Fish Curry— This is the creamiest, most delicious recipe ever! You will impress the hell out of guests with it. I use snapper or mahi mahi, ’cause they’re nice and firm, and hold up great. I also throw in some shrimp, added at the end. I only make it when I have the ingredients on hand, ’cause I’ve purchased them on sale. Otherwise the fish makes it pricey. Make Gravy at the end of this recipe, too.
Chicken Cassoulet— This French inspired chicken, mushroom, and carrot stew is so hearty and delicious. Not to mention easy to make. It calls for herbs de provence (provencial herbs– a French mix) which includes lavendar and fennel. I used to serve it with whole grain rolls (as she suggests) to soak up all the rich, fabulous juices.
(I know you’d like to have the recipes, but I’m not sure I can legally share them. Next time I make one, I promise to take pics and share my modified version of the recipe.)
A bonus is that not only does she share all kinds of wonderful tips, but the glossary is great. There is also nutritional info for each recipe on the recipe page, and a glycemic index chart for each recipe in the back. And most recipes are high in fiber, and fairly low in calories (some very low), especially next to comparable recipes. Pretty nice, huh?
Do yourself a favor and buy this book. I can’t tell you how many slow cooker recipes I tried that were good, but not amazing, before I got this book. I used to use the slow cooker only occasionally, and mostly just when I had to. Now, I own 4 slow cookers: a 7 quart, a 5.5 quart, a 4 quart, and a 1 quart, and yes, I use them all. (Well, I did. I feel obligated to mention that I’m in the process of replacing them all with Hamilton Beach brand. I discovered that my Rival crocks have unsafe levels of lead in them. <tear> (You can test your dishes for lead at home with testing kits.)
Next time I make one of these recipes, I will take pics and share it with you. If you do get the book on my recommendation, or you already have it, let me know what you think!