The Twelve Days have passed, so Christmastide is complete. New Year’s Eve is a memory, too. And, I trust, you did your share of after Christmas shopping….for next year, even! Then, you will enjoy today’s offerings….using a slow cooker than might be new to you, and enjoying “foolproof” recipes for cookies and cake for now (or Christmas 2009).
Perhaps you, like me, are enjoying your. Christmas gifts knowing that some are easier than others. For things “electronic” I am always a bit more challenged than kitchen stuff.
Were you one of the thousands (millions?) who were gifted with a slow cooker? Originally the CrockPot from Rival manufacturing, appliance now generally referred to as the slow cooker has seen an incredible resurgence and is well supported by any number of cookbooks.
Confession time? I missed the first round of slow cookers and didn’t have one until just a bit ago. Now I have two! One has 4-quart capacity and the other has 6-quart capacity. .
So I have been quite busy discovering this “new” old appliance .In the beginning there was one size. Now, there are several and you will need to know the capacity of your personal slow cooker as recipes do vary. I’ve marked the capacities on the bottom of my appliance. You may want to do the same. From “Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker, Recipes for Entertaining” by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann, published by Harvard Common Press, here is a chart of the current sizes for Slow Cookers:
Slow Cooker Sizes at a Glance
Little Dipper 1 qt. to 1 ½ qt. capacity
Small 1 ½ qt. to 3 qt. capacity
Medium 3 qt. to 4 ½ qt. capacity
Large 5 qt. to 7 qt. capacity
Also, may I suggest that really good cooking in these appliances is not just always throwing it all the crock and letting it just go. Granted some recipes are just that: throw it all in the pot and your work is done. However, more of the recipes I have seen have preliminary steps to assure the fullest flavor and best texture. This includes soaking or precooking beans, for example, when making bean soup.
The “goof” proof cookie and cake recipes come from two of my favorite food companies: Land O Lakes and McCormick and Co. The former has been helping all of us bake our best for 85 years…they know their baking. You’ll love both the brownies and butter cookies with 3 variations through the year.
My relationship to McCormick and Co. dates to my early professional life when their home economist and I were great friends. She was such a grand personality….every event she hosted was a testimony to her creativity and professionalism. The desserts today feature their pure vanilla and almond extract. While others may select imitations, with everything involved time, other ingredients and energy….I go for the best flavorings. Which is a reminder for those who like almond flavoring. Sometimes it is seen to be a “holiday” ingredient and is not easily gotten later in the year. I buy extra bottles now so I don’t run out.
This soup was one of my most delicious efforts. We loved the variety and knowing that it was on the “healthy” side.
Slow Cooker Supper Soup
(6 qt. capacity)
1 pkg. 15 or 12-bean soup mix
l ham bone or 2 ham hocks
6 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 red pepper, cut in slivers
3 stalks celery, chopped
½ tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. cumin
½ package fresh baby spinach, stems removed
Soak beans in water overnight or as package directs, reserving seasonings packet as directed.
Drain soaking water. Place beans in a large pot with ham bone. Bring to a boil. Simmer 1 hour.
Turn into 6-qt. slow cooker ceramic pot. Add onion, carrots, red pepper, celery, chili powder and cumin. Turn to high and cook for 4-6 hours or until beans are tender. Or, cook on high for 2 hours, then reduce to low for remaining time. Just before serving, add
Cut spinach into thin strips and add to soup. Cook just until spinach strips are wilted.
Serve hot. Makes 8-10 servings.
My professional friends at Land O Lakes know how to be creative yet savvy with today’s demands so here is one simple recipe with three different interpretations.
Super Fudgy Three Way Topped Brownies
¾ cup Land O Lakes butter
2/3 cup sugar2 cups (12 oz. package) semi-sweet chocolate chops
½ tsp. vanilla
1 cup all purpose flour
½ tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place butter and sugar in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on “high” for 2 minutes or until mixture just starts to boil; stir until well mixed. Add 1 cup chocolate chips; stir until melted. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well. Add flour, baking powder and salt; mix well. Add flour, baking powder and salt; mix well. Stir in remaining chocolate chips.
Pour batter into an ungreased 8-inch square baking pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs. Top brownies as desired using one of the three variations:
Peanut Butter Cup Brownies: Prepare brownies as directed. Coarsely chop 4.5oz (weight of unwrapped peanut butter cups).Sprinkle evening over hot brownies. Lightly press into brownies. Cool completely before serving.
“Smore Brownies: Cool brownies completely. Just before serving, cut cooled brownies into 16 servings; place each brownie on a serving place. Dollop each with l tbsp. marshmallow cream and crushed graham crackers.
Candy Caramel Brownies: Cut 3.4 oz.. round chewy caramels coated with milk chocolate into fourths. Sprinkle evenly over hot brownies. Lightly press into brownies. Cool completely before serving.
Makes 16 servings.
Here’s another Land O Lakes creation… a simple cookie with variations.
Versatile Butter Cookies
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup Land O Lakes Butterr
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine sugar, butter and eggs in a large bowl. Beat at medium speed until creamy. Reduce speed to low; add all remaining ingredients, except Decorator sugar(s). Beat, scraping bowl often, until well mixed.
Place decorate sugars in small bowl(s). Shape rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into 1-inch balls; dip in decorator sugar. Place 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 7 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Makes 5 dozen cookies.
Cherry Chocolate Bits: Omit decorator sugar. Stir in ½ cup chopped or grated semi-sweet chocolate. Shape rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Place l draiqned maraschino cherry half in the center of each ball. Bake as above.
Spice Drop: Omit decorator sugar. Shape rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Press cut spice gum drops into each ball. Bake as above.