Slow and Steady Wins the Meal

When Beverly Lynn Bennett let it slip well over a year ago that she had a slow cooker cookbook in the works, it may or may not have had a strong influence on my biggest birthday request. Timing also played a significant role in the decision, as I scrambled to find something, anything, to populate my sparse wishlist, but it was also too enticing a concept to resist. A gadget that independently bubbled away on the counter and produced hot, comforting dishes without any further human intervention? Moreover, a kitchen gadget that I didn’t yet have? Preposterous. With a bit of help from generous parents, that gift pushed me firmly into the world of slow cooking at last.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vegan Slow Cooking may not look like much on the shelf, but it contains a wealth of knowledge that only an expert could bring to the home kitchen. A decorated chef and author, Beverly has been in the game for decades, boasting one of the earliest vegan recipe websites to my knowledge, providing a sturdy crutch to countless new, practiced, and simply curious cruelty-free cooks. Having had the pleasure of sampling many of her creations through past photography assignments, I had a feeling that her take on the mysterious slow cooker would be worth waiting for, and I was not wrong.

Cautiously dipping my toes in the water first, I went with one of the most common uses for the contraption first: Stew. What could be better than just tossing a whole mess of ingredients into the spacious pot, setting a timer, and going about your day? Anything that does more work for me is welcome in my kitchen, so I eagerly piled in the vegetables and proteins for the Basque Potato Soup (page 88). When dinner time rolled around a few hours later, the rich, tomato-scented air was driving me mad with hunger. Packed with hearty chunks of potato and seitan chorizo, the intense flavor flew in the face of its humble, oil-free beginnings. An underlying smoky, roasted, and gently piquant flavor lurked throughout, giving the whole stew incredible depth. Though the heat grows with each successive bite, it never reaches nuclear levels, staying quite manageable no matter your spice tolerance. For such a basic soup, this one really hits all the high notes.

With one staple passing the slow cooker test with flying colors, it was time to move on into more adventurous fare. Beverly fills the pages of her book with plenty of tried-and-true preparations, ranging from chili to hot fudge sauce, but where this book really shines is in the more inventive uses for the contraption in question. Take, for example, quiche. Yes, a whole quiche cooked right in the slow cooker! Crustless Vegetable-Tofu Quiche (page 44) had my name written all over it: Mushrooms, zucchini, red onion, and of course tofu, all wrapped up in a savory brunch-worthy package. After painstakingly waiting for the quiche to cool before slicing, the texture was positively luxurious. Like a silky custard throughout, it was as creamy as a cohesive tofu dish can be. Unfortunately, the taste didn’t quite measure up to that strong start. Best described by my mom as a “mild vegetal flavor,” it was unfortunately rather bland, with a faint salty bitterness at the back of the palate. Bumping up the seasonings or swapping them out for a new set entirely would easily elevate this dish into a clear winner.

Finally, I went for a real grand finale, and pulled out one dish that had everyone exclaiming, “You made that in a slow cooker?!” Yes indeed, that Sweet Potato Streusel Coffeecake (page 250) pictured above never saw the heat of an oven, spending a solid three hours getting acquainted with my slow cooker instead. At first, it seemed like an inevitable failure. Though the recipe fails to say when the margarine should be added, I slipped it in while mashing the potatoes, still warm and readily drinking in the added fat. It was only after “baking” that I became concerned though, testing for doneness at least a dozen times over. Still, the center toed the line between a super-moist sad streak and dough wad of moist raw flour. Luckily, after serving it to a crowd, the overwhelming consensus was that rather than being a disappointment, this was in fact an asset. Perfect for anyone who loves cookie dough or slightly under-baked banana bread, it was simply a cake with a dense crumb, no disclaimers needed. A hearty wheat flavor gives this treat a more wholesome impression, but make no mistake, it’s still plenty sweet enough to pass for dessert. This is one idea that clearly needs further exploration, because guests couldn’t stop raving about that crazy concept.

Whether you’ve never touched a slow cooker before or are a seasoned pro, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Vegan Slow Cooking is sure to give you something new, and definitely delicious, to stew over.

18 thoughts on “Slow and Steady Wins the Meal

  1. I got rid of my slow cooker a year ago because I didn’t feel like there were a ton of interesting veg recipes out there…but how wrong I was! I wonder if I can get it back from the friend i gave it to…

  2. I don’t have a slow cooker but am always interested in recipes that I can adapt to bubbling away slowly on the far extent of Brunhilda while she works her way quietly and confidently through our carefully hoarded piles of firewood through winter. I haven’t tried vegan quiche yet and am going to definately kick it up a notch. We are flavour people here and bland things don’t cut the mustard ;). Every one of your recipes that I have tried has been gorgeous and flavour rich so I will just hunt for a quiche recipe here and try that instead :). I thought I didn’t know who Beverly Lynn Bennett was, but as soon as I headed over to the link I realised that she was The Vegan Chef! Of COURSE I have been there! I trawled (and shamelessly plundered) her recipes many years ago. I have been a vegan for 15 years now and she was one of the first sources of interesting vegan cake recipes that I could find (aside from the old wartime staple with vinegar). I don’t think I will be racing out to buy a slow cooker or Beverly’s book BUT you did just reaquaint me with her site and I think I feel another plundering session coming on! ;). Have a great weekend and pretty soon your birthday slow cooker will be hiding in the cupboard as spring bleeds into summer and in the depths of our winter you will be wafting icecream under my frozen nose! ;) I can always make it and dollop it on top of hot pudding ;).

    1. The good news is that any slow cooker recipe can easily be adapted to the stove top, and in many cases vice versa. Heat and time would need to be adjusted, but the basic concepts are solid, for sure.

      Oh yes, I think that everyone has heard of Beverly, whether they actually realize it or not. She’s been a staple on the vegan cooking scene forever, or so it seems.

      PS, I was very careful about picking out the perfect slow cooker… It’s actually an electric “multicooker” which can function as a rice cooker and pressure cooker as well. I use it all the time, so it’s not going to sit around in the summer either! It’s completely changed the way I look at dried beans, and saved my butt when our stove broke. I couldn’t recommend it more highly!

      1. It sounds like a magic piece of equipment Hannah! I was reviewing a book today that someone asked me to review on Amazon (which then sold her a book) and I noticed that I hadn’t reviewed your books that I purchased so I reviewed Vegan a la mode and someone liked my review and bought your book!!! This is exciting! Might start having to review more :)

      2. Oh my goodness, I would be so eternally grateful if you did! Amazon has started going through and removing reviews that it has deemed as “coerced” or fake and deleted my own mom’s statements. Because we’re related. How fair is that? So, my books have been really lacking in positive press lately, and it’s hard for me to ask people to review them without, um, asking them to review them (it would be manipulation!) You are such a dear. <3

      3. No problemo, I would hate for any self respecting vegan to be without a copy of your wonderful book this coming summer in the north :). Totally uncoerced and most well deserved praise for one of the most innovative young vegans to come out of the North in years :) Kudos girl, your recipes rock :) Glad to be of help :)

  3. If I had a reliable slow cooker (mine runs so hot that anything meant to be cooked on high must be cooked on low), I might be more inclined to use it. Honestly, though, I think it’s so easy to make soups and stews on the stove that I don’t see a whole lot of point because that’s probably all I’d use it for. Now, if someone would just give me a hands-on pressure cooker lesson so I don’t have to be frightened of it…

  4. I don’t use my crock pot nearly enough! However, next week begins a crazy schedule of 3 kids in 2 activities each so every weeknight is very busy. I was just browsing the internet today looking for vegan slow-cooker recipes as a matter of fact. That soup looks awesome and the sweet potato coffee cake? OMG, I die! I’ve made a lot of meals in the crock pot but never have I attempted a dessert. That’s obviously about to change.

  5. Thanks for the honest review Hannah. I havent invested in a slow cooker yet.. I just make everything on stove top or in the pressure cooker:) i cant imagine cooking something over hours and hours:)

  6. When I started reading your review I never expected to see quiche, or especially not a sweet potato streusel coffeecake. It sounds really marvelous on the face of it. I hope the book helps you get the most out of your slow cooker, and I’m glad to hear how multi-purpose yours is. I have a Sanyo rice cooker that can fill a few of the functions of a slow cooker, especially with the porridge function.

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