I will be the first to
admit that I love meat. My father likes to joke that I started early;
apparently, while my mother was pregnant with me, she would often arrive home
from work, grab my father, and hightail it to the nearest steakhouse.
However, I do love to try
vegetarian dishes. So many times when you’re a carnivore, you need a great
vegetarian dish to remind you how great veggies, grains and fruits can be on their own. So I was thrilled to
get a cookbook that featured vegetarian recipes – all tailored for a slow
cooker, no less.
Titled The Vegetarian
Slow Cooker, this is the second vegetarian slow cooker book by Judith
Finlayson. Flipping through it, I drooled over the 200+ recipes, pausing at
ones such as Beet Soup with Lemongrass and Lime, and Blueberry White Chocolate
Cheesecake with Chocolate Cookie Crust.
The book includes a range
of cuisines, such as American, Italian, Mediterranean,
Asian, and Indian. The chapters are similar to traditional cookbooks, covering
breakfast through dessert. Yes, that’s right; you can make Apple Cranberry Bread
in a slow cooker!
The recipes are pretty
well laid out, and include notations like “Make Ahead,” “Entertaining Worthy,”
and serving size, but I would have liked to see a prep time as well. I really
appreciated the plethora of tips on the left side of each recipe – Finlayson
describes shortcuts, variations on the recipe, and prep tips, among other tidbits.
Another aspect I found
helpful was the introductory chapter. Finlayson covers the benefits of slow
cooking, food safety, and basic explanations of the appliance to help you get
the most out of the cookbook and slow cooker.
One thing to keep in mind
if you’re going to really use this cookbook is to consider getting two sizes of
cooker. For example, many of the dips and desserts call for a small cooker, and
cannot be made in a large one. The opposite it true of many of the main dishes.
But of course, the best
part of exploring this book was trying a recipe. I chose the Mushroom and Artichoke
Lasagna to share with a couple of friends. It took me about an hour to make the
filling and then layer cooked pasta with ricotta cheese, mushrooms, artichokes,
onions, and spinach in my slow cooker.
It looked so good that I
wished (just a little) that I could just pop it in the oven and have it ready
in an hour!
Instead, I turned the
cooker on to low and left my apartment to run errands and see a movie. Six
hours later I returned and a delicious scent had filled my apartment – just a
preview of what I would soon eat.
The verdict: delicious!
The mushroom-artichoke filling was hearty had a great savory flavor. It paired
wonderfully with some garlic bread and a salad. The next time I make this I may
include some sun dried tomatoes for an extra burst of flavor.
Sound good? Try the recipe below, or click here for some slow cooker ideas from MyRecipes.com
Mushroom Artichoke Lasagna Serves 8
Recipe and tips from The Vegetarian Slow
Cooker by Judith Finlayson
Tip: Unlike many recipes
for lasagna, this one is not terribly saucy. As a result, the noodles on the
top layer tend to dry out. Leave a small amount of the cooking liquid from the
mushroom mixture behind in the pan, after adding to the slow cooker. Pour that
over the top layer of the nodes, particularly around the edges, where they are
most likely to dry out. (Writer's note: The top noodles were very dry, so you might try using more cooking liquid here or shortening cooking time slightly.)
Make Ahead: Complete Steps
1 and 2. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, complete the
Large (approx. 5 quart)
oval slow cooker
Greased slow cooker
2 Tbsp. butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 lb mushrooms, stemmed
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 ½ cups quartered artichoke
hearts, packed in water, drained, or thawed if frozen
¾ cup dry white wine or
12 oven-ready lasagna
2 ½ cups ricotta cheese
2 cups baby spinach
2 ½ cups shredded
½ cup freshly grated
1. In a skillet, melt
butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3
minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook, stirring, just until mushrooms
begin to lose their liquid, about 7 minutes. Stir in artichokes and wine and bring
to a boil. Cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes, until liquid reduces slightly.
2. Cover bottom of slow
cooker stoneware with 4 noodles, breaking to fit where necessary. Spread with
half of the ricotta, half of the mushroom mixture, half of the spinach and
one-third each of the mozzarella and Parmesan. Repeat. Arrange final layer of
noodles over cheeses. Pour any liquid remaining from mushroom mixture over
noodles and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.
3. Cover and cook on Low
for 6 hours or on High for 3 hours, until hot and bubbly.
* Per Finlayson, you can
also buy uncooked noodles, undercook them by two minutes, toss with olive oil,
and set aside until you’re ready to use them.