Monday, October 26, 2009

The $25 Oatmeal Cooker

Giving in to peer pressure usually ends badly for me. And by "badly" I mean it involves painful and expensive (but trendy!) footwear, a hair color not found in nature (at least not outside the exotic bird kingdom), an insufferable concert or a wildly creative explanation/apology.

And so it goes again, if with a little less drama since I'm Old Enough To Know Better.

"I couldn't live without mine," they said. And "Don't know what I'd do without one." And "Really? You don't have one? And you said you.... cook?"

So I bought a slow cooker, formerly known as a crock pot (Crockpot?). For years I resisted - it seemed like such a throwback, such a Grandma thing to have, such an Add-A-Can-Of-Campbells'-Cream-of-Anything. My friend Black Sabbath Kevin (not either of the other Kevins) once said, "My Mom said I should get one of those. For what? I can turn it on in the morning and, when I come home from work, the water is boiling?" Exactly.

But there are cool and sassy-looking slow cooker recipes these days, and even the crockery looks better and less Community College Art Class. More expensive models have high-tech looking settings besides "plugged in" and "not."

But alas... almost everything I've made has tasted like watered-down crap (which, I guess, is better than full strength). The most recent disaster was Tortilla Soup. I had thought that maybe, maybe, MAYBE a recipe with a processed sauce would help. Possibly that was putting too much of a burden on ten ounces of enchilada sauce, I don't know.

Sweetie reduced the soup some to concentrate the flavor, and I'm going to make sweet potatoes, halve them lengthwise, and top them with the fetched-with-a-slotted-spoon soup solids - black beans, corn, shredded chicken, and diced tomatoes WHICH SHOULD HAVE MADE A VERY TASTY SOUP. So at least it's salvageable, possibly even better news for my ego than my pitiful food budget.
I'll give it this, though, the slow cooker makes terrific, creamy steel-cut oats. So easy, so inexpensive, and one batch lasts for several days. Steel cut oats look a little gravelly when raw, but cook down beautifully - and as a whole grain, they are tremendously healthful. Even more so since there's no sugar added to this recipe. The original recipe called for 1 full cup of dried fruit, which would be way too sweet for me.

Let's get interactive, Stinkycheesers. The slow cooker and I are at a non-breakfast impasse at the moment, but perhaps we can find some common ground. What do you make in your slow cooker that you LOVE? What tricks and tips can you offer? Does it maybe sense my reluctance to commit? In the name of Suze Orman, please tell me there's something else I can do with this contraption besides make a wonderful breakfast!

It doesn't get easier than this, y'all.

1 Cup of steel cut oats (most inexpensively purchased out of a bulk bin at a healthfood store or even Whole Foods)
4 cups water (or one quart of unsweetened vanilla almond milk - I tried it in this week's batch and it's really good, although I'd never drink almond milk)
1 cup (or less) dried fruit
Combine all in slow cooker. Cook on low for 4 hours. Serve or keep in refrigerator.
Some good combinations -
Dried apples, cinnamon, and top with walnuts before serving
Dried blueberries and/or chopped dried apricots, ginger
Dried cherries and/or dried blueberries, and top with almonds before serving

I have my doubts about using dried mango or pineapple - if you use either, consider going down to 1/3 cup since they're both high-sugar.

Stay tuned - my domestic endeavor that's going better than slowcooking is refinishing. Two projects in progress - a $3 Goodwill chair, and these $ Goodwill vases. The "before" shots below, taken outside in our Spray Painting Field.


Cynthia said...

I would have thought that the soup recipe would have worked, but I always make soup on the stove because you have to monitor the water level closely.

The chili recipe I shared is best when made in a crock pot. If you put everything in and set it on simmer, then all the flavors meld beautifully. I have also had luck with beef stew and curry chicken.

But I do love oatmeal and I've not had time to make porridge. But if the slow cooker makes it easier, I will be trying your recipe. Question ~ how do you reheat the porridge after you've stored it in the fridge? Does it microwave?

Stephanie said...

It reheats in the microwave. When I take it out of the crockpot I split it out into the disposable Ziploc/Tupperware thingies in breakfast-size portions. Then I usually microwave for 45 seconds at 70% power, stir, and nuke again. And since it isn't soupy, it transports easily to work.