When it’s 100 degrees outside, most people avoid turning on their ovens or stoves. This is not the time for baking, roasting, frying, or braising. We do enough of that just laying out in the sun (except for maybe the braising, unless you count mojitos and tanning oil as braising liquids). When summer weather turns brutally hot, anything that raises the temperature of the house is out of the question. Perhaps that is why outdoor grilling is so popular in the summer. Who wants to bring the heat inside, when you can keep it outside and make even more delicious food with the help of your grill?
Another option for cooking healthy and delicious meals at home without heating up the house is dusting off the slow cooker. As the saying goes, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. But that certainly does not mean you have to give up cooking altogether.
The beauty of slow cooking is that you can do it any season in any temperature, and, despite the name, it’s actually pretty quick because it saves time. That means home cooks have more time for hanging out with their families, putting in an extra hour at the office, gardening, bicycling, reading, ordering another round at happy hour. . . you name it. In my opinion, the slow cooker is an underrated kitchen appliance. It is an important weapon in the home cook’s arsenal of time saving devices, and it does not get the credit it deserves. For those of us who want to have it all, the slow cooker helps make our dreams come true.
Unfortunately, most of the recipes out there for slow cookers contain meat. A quick search for slow cooker or crock pot recipes returns the same meat-centric dishes every time: pork BBQ, pot roast, taco meat, chicken and dumplings, beef curry, turkey chili. What is an I-want-it-all vegetarian cook to do, when she just doesn’t have the time to stand over the stove all evening to prepare a meal?
Do not panic. Remain calm. Do not order takeout. Get creative instead. Read through these menu suggestions. Plan ahead and let the slow cooker do the work for you while you are out saving the world, or whatever it is you do when you’re not stuck in your very hot kitchen. Whatever you do, do not let the meat eaters have all the fun.
Without further ado, let’s get on to the recipe roundup! We have some meatless mains as well as some fun dishes thrown in, so let’s get cooking.
Vegetarian Gumbo with Brown Rice from Vegology
Slow Cooker Peach Butter from Vegology
Cranberry Apple Butter from Vegology
Unsloppy Joes from AllRecipes.com. Modification: chop everything and toss it in the slow cooker, cook on low 6-8 hours.
For a lighter version, try it wrapped in a collard leaf, a la Eating Bird Food.
I love how the heat from the filling just barely steams the collard leaf from the inside out.
Make BBQ Tofu by crumbling extra firm tofu into the pot of a slow cooker, adding a jar of barbecue sauce, and cooking covered on high 2 hours or low 4 hours. I used McCutcheon’s Apple Butter BBQ Sauce, plus a little turmeric, for the batch pictured above.
Here are some ideas from the pages of some favorite bloggers:
Spicy African Peanut Stew from Peas and Thank You
Vegan Curried Pumpkin Soup from Eating Bird Food
Homemade Greek Yogurt from Bran Appetit
Sweet Potato and Lentil Veggie Chili from Daily Garnish
The list goes on and on, and I could give you a dozen more suggestions, but I think the point has been made. Vegetarians can slow-cook too! Now that I have shared some of my favorites, I am interested to hear what suggestions you have.
What is your favorite dish to make in the slow cooker?
Have you ever tried to make anything unusual in your slow cooker, like chocolate cake or homemade yogurt?
Have any tips (or cautionary tales) to share?