Slowly Simmered Dreams

I have finally achieved one of my goals in life: I have a slow cooker. I know. I know. It doesn’t sound like much, but it is a really huge development for me as a person.

Isn't she pretty?

Isn’t she pretty?

There are some things you just can’t make without a slow cooker. You can live without those things, but your life would be devoid of joy. You may think you are happy now, but there is happiness you can’t even imagine on the other side. CB asked me last night if our slow cooker has been off since we got it, and I was able to answer ‘yes’ only because I haven’t done any overnight experiments yet.

I’m convinced that my slow cooker can time travel (it is parked next to the TARDIS) or, at least, look into the future. When I first set it on the counter on Monday, I stared for a moment, contemplating what I should first make. It reached out to me, explaining that chicken noodle soup was truly the only option. I even had leftover roasted chicken from Sunday’s dinner! How did it know that, the very next day, I would feel bad and need something comforting and wholesome to eat? It’s magic!

One of the most appealing things about a slow cooker (and the real selling point for CB) is that I can make dinner at any time during the day. I sat down to write this post at 10:30am, and tonight’s dinner is already done. It is, honestly, a matter of practicality. In my ever-growing quest to understand my body, I had to realise that I don’t always have the energy to make dinner at dinner time. When it gets to be about 5pm and I’m not sure I can roll myself off the couch to cook, it makes the option for unhealthy take-away that much more enticing. If I’m brimming with energy at about noon, why not make dinner at noon? A slow cooker gives me the flexibility to create a healthy meal without undue strain on my body. I also already have three slow cooker meals in the freezer, ready to be thawed whenever we want them. I made almost an entire week’s worth of dinners in one day. One busy afternoon — without too much pressure because they didn’t have to be on the table at any particular time — and I had one dinner for that night, one for the fridge, and three to be frozen. I was inordinately proud of myself and intend to integrate it into a weekly ordeal.

Last night, I also made this apple pie risotto from our gfree life.  I added two tablespoons of flax meal to the recipe (I just can’t help myself).  It was amazing — sweet without being too sugary, dessert-y without being heavy, and filling enough that CB had some for breakfast instead of his usual porridge.

CB kept calling it "crumble" because that's what it smells like.

CB kept calling it “crumble” because that’s what it smells like.

Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup

Ingredients:

1 lb boneless chicken, pre-cooked and shredded or uncooked (It will cook along the way)*
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
dash of cayenne powder
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 small white onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 big handful kale, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups broccoli, in small pieces
1 bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon dried cilantro/coriander OR 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro/coriander, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried basil OR 1/2 teaspoon fresh basil, finely chopped
Choice of noodles/pasta — I used 2 cups of brown rice shells; eyeball how much you need and remember they will expand when cooked

*You can use bone-in chicken if you take the weight into consideration and understand that you may get loose bones in your soup. It does add a certain richness in flavour, but I don’t like taking the chance.

Hardware:
Slow cooker
Measuring cups and spoons
Cutting board and 2 forks, if uncooked chicken is used

Directions:
Dump all ingredients EXCEPT noodles/pasta into the slow cooker. Stir together and cook on low for 6 hours.

Choose your own adventure:

A. If using precooked chicken, stir in your noodles/pasta and cook on high for 30 minutes. Remove bay leaf and serve.

B. If using uncooked chicken, remove it from the slow cooker at this time. Place it on the cutting board and carefully use the forks to shred the meat. Return to slow cooker with noodles/pasta and cook on high for 30 minutes. Remove bay leaf and serve.

I was so excited for this soup.

I was so excited for this soup.

Lentil Soup

The UK version of soup tends to be a pureed mix of vegetables with the occasional chunked meat thrown in. As the weather is much colder here than I have ever continuously experienced back in the States, I have been wanting soups more often. Unfortunately, I just don’t find the puree-of-veg to be desirable day after day. I tried this lentil soup for the first time a few weeks ago, and I can’t wait to make it again. It was hearty and filling, did not involve pureeing, and was really quite easy to make. The hardest part was the Yetenet’tere zeyt (Ethiopian spiced oil), but I prepared it the previous night.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup lentils (I used green lentils)
4 tablespoons Yetenet’tere zeyt*
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon mashed peeled ginger root
1/4 teaspoon mashed garlic
salt to taste

7 cups warm water

Hardware:
stove
fine sieve
mortar and pestle (or anything that will allow you to mash well)
wooden spoon (preference, not necessity)

saucepan

Directions:

Wash the lentils thoroughly and allow to drain in the sieve until needed. Be sure to look through the lentils carefully; occasionally small, similarly-shaped pebbles can sneak through the packaging processes. You definitely don’t want to crunch down on one of those in your soup.

Heat the Yetenet’tere zeyt in the saucepan and add the onion. Saute on low heat, stirring constantly; you want the onion to become transparent, not brown. This make take up to 10 minutes.

Add the mashed garlic and ginger to the saucepan, and continue, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Turn the heat up to medium low and add the drained lentils to the pan. Stir continuously for 5 more minutes.

Pour the warm water into the pan and bring to a boil. Allow the mixture to boil for 20-25 minutes. Salt to taste.

The soup is great by itself as a main course, as a side, or served with pita.