Adventures in Slow Cooking

by Elissa

We have now gone 5 weeks without a true kitchen.  The end is in sight and I will hopefully be showing you all our shiny new kitchen soon. In the meantime, it hasn't always been pretty. We've eaten more than our share of frozen convenience foods, and the other night I served a dinner that consisted of toasted pita, hummus, cheese, and assorted raw vegetables.

Our makeshift kitchen

Our makeshift kitchen

But around the time that we embarked on the remodel, I decided to invest in a Crock Pot in the hopes that it would give us more meal options--it's that shiny number on the far right.  I also picked up a copy of Slow Cooker Revolution.  The folks at America's Test Kitchen have never steered me wrong, and Katherine gave it a good review.

The book features a bunch of "easy prep" recipes that don't require cooking anything on the stove.  Instead they recommend microwaving the aromatics for a bit to bring out additional flavor before tossing them in the Crock Pot.  My inaugural attempt was this recipe for Japanese Ramen with pork. 

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And it was a big success.  Although I'm sure it's not authentic, the recipe resulted in an excellent soup. I especially liked the shiitake mushrooms, which were delicious without being sauteed in advance. The kids loved this too; Elenor gleefully shouted "Noodles!" while devouring her soup.  I substituted pork spareribs for the country-style ribs called for with no adverse effects.

My next slow cooker effort was even better: I made Portuguese-style potato and kale soup. Both of my kids can't handle much spice (I'm hoping they'll grow into a greater appreciation of spicy foods) so I modified the recipe to tone down the spice. But I think my version turned out great--very smoky and flavorful, and the kids even ingested some kale!

Keeping it classy with Dixie paper bowls

Keeping it classy with Dixie paper bowls

Potato and Kale Soup (adapted from Slow Cooker Revolution )

1 onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon smoked paprika (sweet) 

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

8 ounces kielbasa, sliced into half-moons

4 medium red potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch chunks (about 1 pound)

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves chopped (I used red Russian kale, but I think any variety would work)

Paremesan cheese

Mix together the onion, garlic, olive oil, and spices in a microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave for 6 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes.  Add onion mixture to slow cooker along with kielbasa, potatoes, broth, water, and salt. Cook on low for 8 hours.  Add kale and cook on high for an additional 20 minutes.  Serve with grated parmesan and buttered toast.