Eating out is really expensive, especially for a family of four or more. I’m always looking for ways to enjoy our favorites at home, as it saves money, and calories. One of my favorite things to eat is a cheese steak sub. Thin, tender slices of meat entangled with sweet caramelized onions and peppers, topped with silky cheese. As delicious is that is, the roll and mayonnaise accompanying the sub puts the calories over the top, so I needed a solution.
I formally thought slow cooker meats always translated into a shredded product. And while I adore low-cooked dishes yielding tender, fall apart meat, it doesn’t have to end that way.
It’s my opinion the original idea of the slow cooker was a solution to a busy day – – throw it in the cooker, and go out for the day. If you are around my age, you will know from experience today’s slow cookers aren’t so slow compared to our mothers’ “Crock-pots.” Many recipes can’t go for longer than 5 hours (some less) on low without compromising the integrity of the dish. Even my slow cooker lasagna with uncooked noodles can’t go for more than 4 hours on low. Of course, it all depends on what you are making. Raw beans in the slow cooker will go all day, as will a big hunk of meat. When using older slow cooker recipes, you need to take into consideration, the times for those dishes were based on slow cookers of yesteryear.
One of my family’s favorite vegetables is kale. I got a 25 pound case of kale recently for 50 cents a pound. What will I do with all that kale? Fresh kale salad, dehydrated kale, kale pesto, kale gratin, and I will pressure can kale for even more uses. The great thing about canned kale, is it’s perfectly cooked for a quick dish – – silky soft and ready to eat.
I buy my oats in bulk, at 50 cents a pound. I split a big bag with my friend Tabatha, which still left me with 25 pounds of oats. I make homemade instant oatmeal, using fruit I dehydrated myself, and use oats in cookies, as a binder in meatloaf, and in bread, as I grind my own oat flour. Oats are also used in granola bars and protein bites.
I love vegetarian cooking, because it’s so adventurous. The exploration in mimicking meat-based favorites in vegetarian form can lead to some fun food combinations. Bean burgers are an obvious, but they can be tricky as some can be dry, or crumble easily. Throughout the years, I’ve tried many versions, and have struggled to find a bean burger which stays together while cooking. I recently made a delicious chickpea sweet potato burger, but it does have a significant amount of breadcrumbs, which does make for the firmest bean burger. I’ll be making that one again. I did create a black bean burger without bread crumbs, which also holds together nicely while cooking. I had no issues with crumbling, and these were moist and full of flavor.