We got a slow cooker as a wedding gift. Colin has really wanted a slow cooker for a while. He doesn't do a lot of the cooking at home, but he does make some pretty fantastic soups, stews and chilis. And he thought the slow cooker would expand his horizons even more.
I, on the other hand, was dubious. I don't know what it is with me and slow cookers, but I just haven't learned to embrace them. I have a mental block figuring out how it is that they actually save people time... and how anybody with a day job can fit in all that prep work before going to work. I have this image of me multi-tasking in the morning (as if I don't do that enough) making coffee, feeding the kitties and chopping onions in my pjs. It just doesn't work.
But my friend and co-worker Michelle can't stop talking about how her slow cooker has revolutionized her life. Some days, she'll have two going at once making tons of food that she can freeze for later. She even got me a cookbook that was recommended to her by one of the foodies at work: Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook. It's filled with 350 unbelievable-sounding recipes from Thai Pork with Peanut Sauce to Carrot Cake (yes, really!). I've leafed through its pages several times in search of inspiration, only to read a few recipes and feel totally overwhelmed by the logistics and planning needed. Needless to say, we've had this machine for a year and have only used it once—that was Colin; he made baked beans. They were delicious.
But my other co-worker recently gave me some helpful advice (yes, we do talk about slow cookers that much at work): keep it simple and just use it on the weekends.
This morning, I didn't have a choice: I had volunteered to make chili for Sunday family night only to remember too late that our stove is not really working right now. Well, the baby burners work, but that won't cut the mustard with my Dutch oven.
So I took a deep breath and searched for vegetarian chili in the index of NYMSCC. There were two. The first recipe called for soaking beans overnight. Dang. That's where the planning would really be helpful. Luckily, the second recipe called for canned beans. And it looked pretty simple.
I dropped Col off at the airport around 11:15, went straight to the store to pick up some ingredients and got home a little before noon. I boiled water and soaked the bulgur, chopped and sauteed onions, peppers and garlic. I opened tons of cans, strained beans. And measured tons of spices. Now it's quarter after 1 and the chili is simmering away. It still took me about 45 minutes to prep, but that's okay with me. It's Sunday. And now I have one recipe under my belt and maybe this is just the beginning.
I guess the real test is how good it tastes, but I won't know till later... it's slow cooking afterall.