Slow Cooker Hodgepodge

Slow Cooker Hodgepodge
Slow Cooker Hodgepodge, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

A slow cooker, also known as Crock Pot (which is a brand name I think), may seem like one of those kitchen gadgets that you’ll get, use once and forget. Although I use my slow cooker once a month or so, it is absolutely wonderful to have around. There have been many instances when my weekends were busier than my work days (and I do all my cooking on weekends) and slow cooker came to the rescue. I would set the thing up in the morning before I got out the door, and the dinner would be ready by the time I came back in the evening, warm and delicious!

For example, the recipe I am sharing here was the one I made for a dinner party – and everyone walked away with their bellies and taste buds completely happy!!! That’s another reason to get a slow cooker – it can really help with all those dinner parties and pot lucks. The crock pot serves not only to cook food but can hold food warm for hours.

My favorite thing to make in a crock post are sort of stews – hearty dishes with a handful of ingredients that are full of flavors and warmth. This jackfruit stew is a good example (and I also used jackfruit to make a “chicken” tikka masala in a slow cooker as well as BBQ pulled pork), as is this tofu-mango-chickpea curry.

The inspiration for this hodgepodge – which technically means “confused mixture” – was all the great vegetables that were in my weekly CSA share (CSA stands for Community-Supported Agriculture and is a program in the area where I live that supports local farmers and give local folks like me access to farm fresh produce). The recipe uses corn (kernels only), kale, potatoes, carrots, celery, and onion. All these ingredients work together well, and I don’t recommend that you make some sweeping swaps. Things that would likely work are using peas instead of corn, using rutabaga or turnip instead of potatoes, and chard, collard greens or spinach instead of kale.

However, there really is no substitute for the mirepoix – carrots, onions and celery. This makes the base of the dish and I can’t think of the ways to sub these – my apologies for those of you with onion allergies! Usually, mirepoix ingredients are sautéd; however, the slow cooker does not have this function. So, I recommend either sautéing diced carrots, celery and onion in a pan over medium-high heat for 8-10 minutes, or mixing the diced vegetables with some oil and putting them in a microwave oven for about 5 minutes. This will help brown and soften them, and will help with flavors!

Another shortcut that you can take when using a crock pot is to use a liner – this will make your clean up really, really quick! A liner is a special type of plastic bag that you put inside your crock pot and place all ingredients in it. The food cooks as it does normally and you end up with a clean pot afterwards. What’s not to love!!!

In addition to veggies, what makes this an amazing feast are the spices, curry powder and bay leaves, and coconut milk, which gives this stew its creaminess. Serve over rice or couscous, and perhaps with some coarse salt (which is what I topped mine with). Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Hodgepodge

Slow Cooker Hodgepodge

What you’ll need:

  • 1-1.5 lbs (500-800 g) white potatoes
  • 4 ears of corn, just the kernels (or 4 cups frozen corn kernels, defrosted, or about 2 cans (15 oz; 400 g) of whole kernel corn)
  • 1 bunch (6 cups) kale (or chard or collard greens), just sliced leaves, stems removed
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 6 talks celery, sliced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 can (13.66 fl oz; 400 mL) coconut milk
  • 4-5 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable (or olive, or canola) oil
  • OPTIONAL: Rice to serve

What you’ll do:

  1. Wash, peel and chop the potatoes into 1 to 1 1/2 in (2.5 – 3.5 cm) cubes. Place in the crock pot that has been lined with a liner, if using.
  2. If starting from fresh corn, wash the ears, and using a sharp knife go down each ear and get just the kernels. If using frozen corn, it’s best to leave it on the kitchen counter overnight to defrost, but you can start from frozen as well. If using canned whole kernel corn, drain and rinse before using. Place over the potatoes.
  3. Wash, drain and de-vein the kale to remove all the tough stems. Chop the leaves into rough shreds. Place over the corn.
  4. Peel and dice the onions and carrots, and dice the celery. Place onions, carrots and celery into a microwave safe dish, mix with 1 tablespoon of oil, and place in a microwave for 5-6 minutes on high power. You can also sauté on the stove top. Pour over the potatoes, corn and kale.
  5. Place a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the curry powder and dry toast for 1-2 minutes, then pour over the veggies in the crock pot.
  6. Pour the coconut milk, vegetable stock and tomato paste into a measuring cup or a mixing bowl large enough to hold everything. Mix together to combine. Don’t worry if there are chunks and clumps, but do give it a good mix. Pour over the vegetables in the crock pot.
  7. Give everything a good mix, tuck the bay leaves throughout the stew, cover with the lid and turn the crock pot on high heat for 6-8 hours.
  8. Serve over rice, or couscous, and sprinkle with salt (Note: this recipe does not use added salt, but you can add as little or as much salt as you like!).

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2019

Kale Pesto with Cashews

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Kale Pesto with Cashews, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Pesto, a fragrant bright green pasty sauce made by crushing or blending basil, garlic, pine nuts and olive oil together has been around in one form or another since Ancient Rome. There are quite a few variations on the original theme, but they all boil down to combining a ground nut base with a flavor enhancer, like garlic and basil, and fortifying these with some oil and usually cheese.

My first attempt at making pesto, many, many years ago did not go that well. I am a bit foggy on detail but as far as I can remember the follow up conversation with friends had revealed that I used arugula instead of basil, and that I should have used pine nuts, which I completely skipped. Still, it was not all a waste and a horde of graduate students, who this was made for, gobbled it all down nevertheless.

These days I know the difference between basil and arugula, and appreciate that a good pesto does need something more than just greens to give it real body and bite. Yet, as you will see, it seems that I remain determined not to use basil or pine nuts to make the pesto happen.

What happened this time around is that I had two large bags of kale without much interest to use them in a soup or roast them. So, I was looking for something more exciting to do – and the rest may go down in the pesto history!

And once I had my pile of pesto, I went very traditional and used it to dress my pasta. However, pesto, be it basil based or kale based, is quite versatile and you can use it in many different ways. There are even blog posts dedicated to showing what pesto can do beyond pasta (see here for a good example).

Whatever you decided to do with this pesto, I think you’ll like it. It offers a nice kale bite, mixed wit gentle cashew nuttiness and freshness that the lemon brings. And, of course there’s garlic!!!

Kale Pesto with Cashews

What you’ll need:

4 cups kale leaves, stemmed and chopped

1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water overnight

4 cloves garlic, sliced

1 lemon, juice and zest

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoon olive oil

What you’ll do:

  1. Clean the kale carefully and make sure that all the woody pieces of stems are fully removed. Although you will be using a food processor, which should take care of all the tough kale pieces, I recommend that you do spend some time making sure you have mostly nice, green kale leaves.
  2. Place a large pan over medium heat. Add oil and garlic, and sauté for just a minute, until the garlic starts to release it’s aroma.
  3. Add chopped kale leaves and let them wilt by tossing them with oil and garlic continuously. This will take anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes depending on the size of your pan. The more surface area your bottom has, the quicker it will be. Once the kale is fully wilted, turn the heat of and let the kale cool.
  4. Rinse the soaked cashews under some cold water, drain well and place in a large food processor. Add the wilted kale, lemon juice and lemon zest, and a pinch of salt and process until fully ground and smooth.
  5. Enjoy on pasta, in a sandwich, as a dip, on a pizza… The possibilities are endless and just remember that you are keeping it healthy and eating a whole bunch of kale!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

Warm Kale and Chickpea Salad

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Warm Kale and Chickpea Salad, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

Everybody is raving about kale. It’s a must-have super food and I’ve seen so many requests from people asking for suggestions and ideas on what to do with it. An obvious choice for kale is a soup, where the earthiness of kale and it’s sturdy structure add an interesting bite to it. Many also recommend using kale in smoothies, which I am not really all that interested in doing.

Another obvious choice is to use kale in salads. Unfortunately, kale is really sturdy and the only option you have for using it in salads is to go with baby kale. I used baby kale in the past, like in this salad full of great flavors of roasted beets, leeks, baby kale, and lemon vinaigrette.

But, recently I started playing around with ways to make kale work in a salad form, and discovered that the best way to do it is to sauté the kale to soften it. Also important is to remove all the big stems first – they are tough and chewy, so best removed before cooking. This makes the prepping process a bit tedious – you need to take a bunch of kale, wash it, remove the stems, and chop it – and very often I don’t really feel like doing it. You can buy chopped kale these days; however, most brands don’t do a great job at removing the pesky stems, so you will still need to inspect the kale carefully and ensure that all stem bits are out.

So, is this salad worth the fuss? Perhaps the best way to determine is to try it once and see what you think. I recommend serving it warm, just a bit above the body temperature, but cold works too!

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Warm Kale and Chickpea Salad

What you’ll need:

1 lbs (454 g – call it 500 g) stemmed and chopped kale

4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 cup cooked chickpeas (from the can or homemade)

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

What you’ll do:

  1. De-stem kale with care, and chop roughly.
  2. Place a large frying or sauté pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil.
  3. Next, add the sliced garlic and let it sauté for just a minute.
  4. Add the kale and mix well to incorporate all the garlic. Let the kale sauté for 8-10 minutes. The kale should be fully cooked!
  5. Add balsamic vinegar, mix well and keep the heat on for 1-2 more minutes.
  6. Turn the heat off, add the chickpeas, and salt and pepper (if using) and mix well.
  7. Transfer the salad into a serving dish, and let it stand until just warm. The leftovers will store well in the fridge for 2-3 days, and you can enjoy this salad without reheating. Makes a great stuffing for a pita bread sandwich!

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2018

 

Hearty Vegetable Soup with Kale

 

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Hearty Vegetable Soup with Kale, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow

There’s always room for soup, and in some cases the soup is so rich that there’s room only for the soup. I definitely like making hearty soups that are rich and filling. I’ve already shared with you my split pea soup, which is on the left lighter side, and “clam” chowder and bean and leek soup with soy chorizo, which are both really more a meal in a bowl than a light intro to a main course.

Today’s soup is somewhere in between: not quite hearty enough to qualify as a meal yet not light by any means. It is full with vegetables and resembles Minestrone Soup. The soup builds on the classic mirepoix, a classic base of many soups and stews. Practically speaking mirepoix is a mix of diced carrots, onions and celery that is sautéed until caramelization starts to take place. This what I would normally do when making a soup like this but this time around I had to take a shortcut and I used a lot of frozen and canned veggies, including the frozen peas and carrots mix so my mirepoix started with only onions and celery.

At the end the soup came together well, with frozen corn and canned tomatoes and beans, and a whole bunch of kale. The main trick here was to let the soup simmer for a long time which helps soften kale, which has quite a sturdy leaf structure.

Hearty Vegetable Soup with Kale

What you’ll need:

6 stalks celery, diced

1 yellow onion, diced

16 oz (454 g) kale, roughly chopped

15.5 oz (439 g) can red kidney beans

2 cups yellow corn kernels, frozen

16 oz (454 g) peas and diced carrots mix, frozen

28 oz. (794 g) can crushed tomatoes

32 oz (907 g; 4 cups) vegetable stock

3 cups water

Cooking spray

What you’ll do:

  1. Dice celery and onions to a medium dice. It does not have to be very fine or precise because the whole soup is a bit rustic.
  2. Spray the bottom of a large soup pot with cooking spray and place over medium high heat. Add celery and onions and sauté for 5 to 10 minutes, with occasional stirring.
  3. While onions and celery are cooking, wash the kale and remove any parts of stalk that look particularly tough. Chop the kale roughly into smaller bits. If you are wondering how small should you make them, it’s really up to you. My preference is to keep them at about 2 in (5 cm). Set aside.
  4. Add the frozen veggies in all at once and cook with stirring for 5 to 10 minutes. They will not be completely thawed but they will start to soften.
  5. Add the beans – I usually drain and rinse mine but if you are a fan of keeping all the flavors of canned beans intact (including extra salt they use when canning) go ahead ad just dump the whole thing right in. Stir to combine and cook for 5 minutes.
  6. Add the crushed tomatoes, stir again and cook for another 5 minutes.
  7. At this point you are ready to add the kale. As with all other green leafy vegetables, the raw leaves occupy a significantly larger space than cooked, so don’t panic if adding the kale pushes your pot to its size limits. The kale will settle down. Gently fold the kale into the soup and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. By the end of this process your pot should look like it can fit the stock and water.
  8. Add the stock and as much water as you like really. What I do is dump the stock into the pot and then use water to rinse the carton out. But if you would like to keep this Soup really dense and almost like a stew you can skip adding water.
  9. Bring everything to boil, lower the heat to low and simmer for another 30 to 45 minutes or until the kale is done to your liking.
  10. Enjoy this soup with some fresh bread, top with some fresh parsley, with a squeeze of lemon or top with a bit of Cashew Sour Cream.

 

Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017