As I have previously mentioned, when my mother gave me a slow cooker one year ago, it transformed my culinary life. But when I first opened the Christmas wrapping, she had to explain to me what the purpose of this 1970s throwback was. Since I knew nothing about slow cooking, I proceeded to visit bookstores, perusing dozens of cookbooks in the surprisingly plentiful slow cooker section.
In all of my extensive searching, Slow Cooker Winners: 300 Easy and Satisfying Recipes by Donna-Marie Pye is one of the more exciting cookbooks for slow cookers I have encountered. Sure, it may not be the prettiest, with the glossiest pages, but what Slow Cooker Winners does provide is a recipe for almost every classic dish, reimagined in an inventive, delicious, and oftentimes completely surprising way.
Donna-Marie Pye knows her slow cookers, having had a meaningful relationship with them for over ten years, and the book opens with a breakdown of the slow cooker and useful tips to optimize the results of these recipes, such as using less tender meats, or whole herbs and spices. On every page of the book, there are additional helpful tips in the margins concerning ingredients, preparation, and serving. She even includes a very useful section on adapting conventional recipes for the slow cooker (with the equally useful following sections on food safety and understanding the limits of a slow cooker).
The first section covers Breakfasts, Breads and Beverages. I have personally never considered using my slow cooker for any of these categories, but I will now, given recipes for delicacies such as Overnight Blueberry French Toast and Mary’s Australian Ginger Beer. The idea of cooking your breakfast overnight and waking up to the sweet smell of Baked Apple Breakfast Cobbler is something I could definitely get on board with. And, as we are in the midst of the holiday season, entertaining with a big Crockpot of Hot Spiced Pumpkin Pie Latte seems like it would be a crowd-pleaser, and certainly cheaper than buying 20 of them from Starbuck’s.
The next section, Appetizers, Dip and Spreads, contains many gourmet dishes that, again, I would never have imagined could be made in the slow cooker. Rosemary Roasted Pecans, Cranberry Baked Brie, Goat Cheese Crostini with Fig Compote, Old-World Beer and Cheddar Fondue; the culinary sky is the limit with ten dollars worth of cheese and your trusty slow cooker. And, while I am completely satisfied with outstanding cheese dishes, for those of you who desire more of the animal, Pye suggests Moroccan Lamb Meatball Pouches, Red Thai Curry Wings, and Spanish Chorizo Dippers with Garlic AÏoli. She even has tips on storing preserves (yes, there are recipes for that in here, too!). Sure, many of these recipes, such as Roasted Garlic and Red Pepper Hummus, require some preparation outside of the slow cooker (a food processor in this case), but with such delectable fare, who cares?