The slow cooker is the busy person’s dream come true. You throw a few items in the Crock-Pot in the morning, turn it on, and by the time you get home after work, you’ve got a delicious meal waiting for you, with meat that falls apart if you so much as breathe in its general direction. I’ve recently been obsessed with a few slow cooker recipes from The Robin Takes 5 Cookbook for Busy Families because they are so simple, and well, at five ingredients, it makes the shopping trip waaaay easy.
The Healthy Slow Cooker: 135 Gluten-Free Recipes for Health and Wellness is not that book. In fact, as far as slow cooker cookbooks go, I imagine it’s definitely of the more complicated persuasion — for someone who genuinely loves to cook and doesn’t mind dedicating a lot of time to a meal. And it has so many details and facts about the foods and ingredients themselves that I’d say it’s for someone who really wants to live and breathe their meals — the person who sniffs the produce at the supermarket and tries to breathe in all of the aromas, if you know what I mean. Not as much a mom fighting through the grocery store ready to bribe her kids with donuts when they become seriously unruly (that would be me).
As I flipped through the book to find a couple of recipes to make, I wanted something simple, so when I’d come across ingredients I didn’t recognize — harissa? Buckwheat groats? Scotch bonnet peppers? — I’d just keep flipping. I finally found two recipes I could make that were more complicated than my usual Crock-Pot meal, but that didn’t require a trip to a specialty store: Indian-Style Chicken with Pureed Spinach, and Caldo Verde.
As Jenn has said in another cookbook review, having to cook before you throw things into the slow cooker kind of defeats the purpose of the “set it and forget it” crock pot mentality. But many, many of the recipes in Healthy Slow Cooker require just that. In fact, I was juicing lemons and sauteeing onions at 7 a.m. one morning for this chicken recipe.
After marinating chicken thighs in lemon juice for half an hour, and cooking up those onions, all of that went in the fridge — which leads me to my other beef: This recipe cooks on low for six hours and high for three — not ideal if you’ve got a commute and can’t exactly put it in at noon or don’t want to eat super late in the evening. I threw mine in at 11 a.m. so it’d be ready by 5 p.m. But, I wasn’t done at 5 o’clock because I then had to puree frozen spinach, chiles and chicken stock in a blender before adding it AND a turmeric/lime juice mixture to the pot for another 20 minutes.
So yeah, you kinda have to be on your game for some of these recipes. I served it with rice, and while it doesn’t look especially appetizing, it was pretty tasty and I had seconds and ate it for leftovers. I imagine it would have been even better had I not forgotten the coriander at the store (see, I’d never manage a specialty store!).
The second recipe I made, Caldo Verde, was a soup that was simpler than the other recipe, but still not the worry-free type.
This time, I had to cook carrots and onions in the morning before adding the mix to chicken stock and chickpeas. Later, I had to add some kale, kielbasa and a paprika/lemon juice mixture before letting it go another 30 minutes. This one however really rang my bell. The recipe called for potatoes but I was out of luck on that front as I had to toss a bag that had gone bad, but honestly, my husband and I preferred it without potatoes. (You can also puree the soup and I think the potatoes then would be an awesome add.) But the broth was seriously DELICIOUS. I didn’t expect much — it just looks kinda meh — but the looks are so deceiving because it’s truly yummy. My husband and I were both writing rave reviews.
So am I a cook-before-you-slow-cook convert? Not totally. But for a weekend meal where you have a bit more time to dedicate to checking in on a meal? You just might find some recipes in this book that make it worth it!
Do you like a slow cooker to do all the work or are you okay with a few extra steps? —Erin