One thing I’ve noticed since my daughter has gotten older that we have more and more activities to do and with that increased amount of activities comes days when there seems like there isn’t enough time to get dinner on the tableand I think this is where kitchen tools, like slow cookers, really help to ease that burden. Prior to receiving the Fix-It and Forget-It: Healthy Slow Cooker Cookbook by Hope Comerford I had two dishes in my slow cooker recipe repertoire: chili and lasagna. But I’ve found it more challenging to find good, meatless recipes for the slow cooker. So looking and cooking through this book was exciting because it challenged what I thought could (and should) be cooked in a slow cooker.
What the aim of this book is to help busy home cooks utilize healthy ingredients in order to get food on the table without any stress. The beginning of the cookbook starts with the chapter Slow Cooker 101 which helps cooks to (re)familiarize themselves with the types of slow cookers and different tip and tricks one can use to make using this piece of kitchen equipment more efficient. While she recommends is having two slow cookers (a 3-4qt and a 6qt+) because she says that cookers work more efficiently when they’re 2/3 – 3/4 full but I found that using my 6qt cooker worked just fine for the recipes I tried. While I don’t mind having several small kitchen appliances I feel that having more than one cooker seems a bit excessive (however maybe if I really used my cooker more I’d feel differently).
Each recipe is marked with symbols signaling whether the recipe is Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, Nut-Free, Low-Cal, Low-Fat, Low-Sodium, Sugar-Free, Vegan, Vegetarian, Paleo, or High-Protein and at the end of the book there is a Special Diet Index which allows you to see all the recipes for any given diet. The book is divided into 6 chapters (Breakfasts, Appetizers & Snacks, Soups, Stews, & Chilies, Main Dishes, Side Dishes & Vegetables, and Desserts) and at 150 recipes I think there are recipes to suit everyone.
What I found is that there weren’t as many vegetarian (or vegan) main dishes that I would have liked to see but I found some really great lunch/dinner ideas in the Soups, Stews & Chilies section. Both the Split Pea Soup and the Red Bean Stew were really tasty. I started cooking them in the afternoon (don’t have a timer on my slow cooker) and by supper I had very little mess to clean up (except for the cooker and dinner dishes) and I was able to have enough leftovers for dinner a second night (I could have frozen the extra too).
For all of the recipes I tried, I found that sourcing the ingredients was very easy. Most of the components I was able to find in my pantry (such as stock and canned beans) and it was nice to be able to pull together a recipe without having to shop beforehand. Some of the recipes even helped to build up pantry staples — such as the granola.
I’m not sure if cooking granola in a slow cooker saves time over using the oven-method but I found it nice to try different ways of preparing food. However there were some recipes, such as the frittata recipe, that I don’t think I would try just because while the skillet method for making frittata is less than a half-an-hour the slow cooker method takes 3-4 hours (maybe if you were having a family brunch this cooker method might save time). There were recipes, such as the oatmeal recipes, that I wanted to try but in the past I’ve made slow cooker oatmeal and found that they didn’t work as well in my slow cooker because it over cooked. This is where a timer function would be handy for a particular recipe so that it wouldn’t overcook.
Another recipe I tried in my slow cooker that my husband and daughter really enjoyed were the Zucchini Chocolate Chip Bars (pictured below). When I posted this picture to my Instagram people had the same reaction as I did when I first saw this recipe — You can make bars in a slow cooker?! This goes to show that slow cookers can be real workhorses in the kitchen and can be used in myriad recipes. If you’re curious to see what I’ve been cooking from this cookbook in the Fix-It and Forget-It series, check out my custom Instagram hashtag #eatworthyslowcookerrecipes or my dedicated Facebook post.
What this cookbook does really well is to make whole food cooking really accessible to the home cook with the different ways in which a slow cooker can be used to create tasty family meals. The recipes are meant to be flexible and forgiving so that if you lack a certain ingredient you should feel free to substitute. Overall, I think that Comerford wants home cooks to see that using a slow cooker can help ease meal-time stress so that the time is more enjoyable.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Skyhorse Publishing for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.