I’m embarrassed to say this, but in addition to being a cookbook hoarder I am also a Crockpot addict. That’s right. I can’t imagine a better use for the floor of my new pantry than for my bevy of slow cookers, right below the long, long row of cookbooks.

Have I told you about my frantic eBay shopping to find original Crockpots, not the new-fangled ones that cook at too high a temperature, but the originals, unused wedding gifts stored for years in somebody’s attic and ready now for a good home? I didn’t think so. I don’t often admit it. But I have four.

I’m very good at making excuses for my obsessive Crockpot behavior. When we moved to a two-house lifestyle a few years ago, I decided I must have had a premonition. Without breaking a sweat I had slow cookers for both houses. Big ones, small ones, a little one for heating chocolate, an oval one that overheats for presentation, a slow cooker wannabe with adjustable temperatures, a giant wannabe for cooking turkeys or jambalaya for a party. All I had to do was move some north and some south and I was all set.

Excuses are only helpful for a little while. Unfortunately recently I’ve realized that 90% of all slow cooker recipes require chicken. And while we still eat meat, it’s much less often. Fish has never been a big item for slow cookers, and vegetables? Well. . .  What was I going to do with all these Crockpots?

So now, instead of searching for slow cookers that do what they were meant to do, I’m looking for recipes. Vegetarian main dishes. Vegetarian side dishes. Recipes without meat or canned soups. Recipes with few ingredients and very little preparatory cooking. I haunt Pinterest.   I have several cookbooks on my Christmas wish list. I’m the Sherlock of Slow Cookery.

Last week I saw this recipe on Pinterest, and last night my patient husband assembled it in one of my oldies but goodies and let it cook all night. This morning we were thrilled with the results. Not only did this recipe make enough oatmeal for us both to enjoy this morning, it made enough for my favorite Oatmeal bread recipe, which followed quickly on its heels and is now baking in the oven.

Give this a try if you’re enthused about waking up to the smell and taste of delicious hot oatmeal some morning soon. You won’t be sorry.

Overnight Oatmeal in your Slow Cooker

  • Slice two apples (preferably organic) and place in the bottom of a 3 quart slow cooker
  • Add 1/4 to 1/3 cup brown sugar, amount depends on your tastes and how sweet your apples are
  • Add 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Add pinch of salt (optional)
  • Add two cups of old-fashioned oats
  • Add four cups of water and DO NOT stir

Turn your slow cooker on low just before you go to bed.  Your oatmeal will be ready in 8-9 hours.

Variations: While we haven’t tried these, I’m looking forward to experimenting with using maple syrup or honey instead of brown sugar, adding raisins or dried cranberries, tossing in a little ground flax meal or any number of other yummy, healthy ingredients.  We just ate ours with milk this morning, but I’m thinking chopped walnuts and fresh fruit would be a great addition once it’s cooked.

As I said, I have OLD slow cookers which actually cook slowly.  If yours does not, use a timer to turn it on or off, or adjust in other ways.  Ours was perfect in this time frame.

Whatever you try, let us know how it turns out.

We’re having company to dinner.  Four friends we traveled with to Guatemala several years ago are coming to eat my homemade tortillas with all the (vegetarian) fixings.  Along with this I’ve made Cuban black beans and brown rice.  You can’t serve this meal to just anyone, but these friends?  You bet.  In exchange, they’re bringing photos of a recent trip they took to Africa. 

A good evening ahead, particularly since Michael’s just made our daughter-in-law’s Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookie Gelato to top off the meal.

To ready the house, Michael and I continued our “we-will-be-moving-why-do-we-have-all-this-junk” rampage.  Somehow I got suckered into going through my cookbooks.  We will live in two places once we move, so some are to go north and some are to go south.  Choosing which was the easy part.  Then came the inevitable ”these-cookbooks-shouldn’t-go-anywhere” moment.  And there were many that fit that description.

Wouldn’t you expect that part to be tough?  After all, if the cookbooks had taken up valuable room on my kitchen shelves all these years, of course they were worthwhile.  And hadn’t I hosted CHUsday here, nudging all of us to make recipes from cookbooks we hadn’t used in, say, forever? 

So what a surprise to discover that I owned not just wonderful, “I-will-use-you-someday-I-promise” cookbooks, I still had far too many ”I-would-not-cook-anything-in-this-cookbook-ever-again” cookbooks.  Lots of them.  An entire box, in fact.

Even more surprising was the way the cookbooks mirrored my personal and culinary history.  How about the one with stories about a young woman’s adventure exploring 1960s communes and getting recipes from each?  Couldn’t toss.  I did, after all, spend two years in Berkeley, California in the early 1970s, so I also kept Moosewood and it’s Tassajara buddies, too.  Ah, the memories.  Then there was a set of Better Homes and Gardens basic cookbooks, none of which had been opened in years.  Browsing through them, I understood why.  Out they went.  We think differently about food now.  These were relics.

How many crockpot cookbooks does one family need?  Particularly a family that doesn’t often eat meat?  And three bread machine cookbooks.  Really?  I haven’t owned a bread machine since I started baking bread the old-fashioned way several years ago.  Muffins?  Waffles?  French county cooking?  And all those collections from charities or causes I can’t even remember.  Some stayed, some left.   One of my favorites, from the New Orleans Junior League, will forever be enshrined in my personal cookbook hall of fame.  Michael, be warned, don’t touch this one.

These days we cook with fresh ingredients, little if any meat, lots of whole grains, plenty of herbs and spices, and olive oil.  Shortening?  What’s that?  Butter, just a dot, not a stick.   I was surprised and pleased at how many cookbooks and food habits I’ve left behind, and how many great recipes I still have to try.

So, if you’re ready for a quick personal growth inventory, you might look through your cookbooks, as well.  The memories are great, but the recipes may not be.  I bet, like me, you’ll find that you and your tastes have changed.  Let us know how.

 

Today a quick CHUsday update.  Remember CHU or Cookbook Hoarders Unlimited?  Last year we had fun sharing recipes from cookbooks we hadn’t used in years or even possibly, never.  When the giveaway that went with it ended I promised occasional CHU updates if I found something to share, and today I’m as good as my word.

I’m a fan of the King Arthur Flour catalog.  I love the wonderful flours and food products, and since I bake all our bread, I’m always looking for new things to add to my pantry.   Among other products I’ve tried and approved their Harvest Grains blend, the Ancient Grains flour, and the Vital Wheat Gluten (great to add a tablespoon or two if you use all whole grain flour, which I do.)   I routinely use their white whole wheat flour when I make my weekly oatmeal bread and was successful keeping their sourdough alive until I just didn’t care to anymore

Every time I looked through their catalog, though, I came across a product called Original Bakewell Cream.   Now, call me a biscuit snob, but the catalog swore that the best biscuits come from New Englanders who use this product, and, of course, having grown up in the South, I knew for certain the best biscuits came from cooks on the lower side of the Mason-Dixon line.

I wasn’t always a biscuit snob.  I grew up in Florida, but I never had a “real” biscuit until 7th grade, when a friend invited me for dinner and her mother made fried chicken, homemade biscuits and chicken gravy.  I was pretty sure I’d walked through a portal to heaven.  While we never ate this meal at home, the moment I began to cook for myself, this was my “special meal” the one I made any time anyone in my family needed cheering up. 

As the years progressed and I learned about things like “cholesterol” I reluctantly stopped frying chicken and making gravy.  Sadly the biscuit part of the equation wasn’t hard to stop, in fact it was a relief.  The problem was that my biscuits themselves were “hard” and always had been.   It never seemed to matter what recipe I used.  Whether I tried step-by-step cookbook biscuits carefully rolled and cut, or beaten biscuits like I learned to make as a VISTA volunteer in the rural Ozarks. My biscuits were tough or mealy.  Only rarely was I proud of what I’d accomplished.

Then last month I finally broke down and bought Bakewell Cream.  Despite its New England origins.  Despite my prejudices.  I followed the recipe on the can and only substituted butter for shortening, to avoid trans-fats and go straight for the artery-cloggers.  Every time the biscuits have risen high and been light and fluffy.  Even after they’re frozen, they’re a delight.

My apologies to all the fabulous cooks of New England who’ve been using this product for generations. I can’t believe I ever doubted you.

So if you’re a biscuit snob, but your biscuits are less than perfect, give this product and the recipe that comes with it a try.  CHU won’t be sorry that you did.

Many thanks to all of you who participated in the CHUsday giveaways here at Southern Exposure.  We learned about your new recipes (and mine) and some of you won silly kitchen gadgets and autographed books.  Now the final winner has been chosen from the forty-two entries that came in beginning in August.  I faithfully recorded each one and my old buddy Mr. Random Dot Org chose number twenty-four.  The winner, Tina Huneycutt, has been notified and actually won once before.  I think she has the lucky gene. Congratulations to Tina.

Speaking of brand new recipes?  For my New Year’s dinner, I made gnocchi from scratch, and what fun it was.  I gave myself and a daughter-in-law gnocchi boards for Christmas, but a fork works, too.  If you’re interested, click on the blog and watch the King Arthur Flour chef make them.  There’s even a video, which helped me roll them the correct direction.  I used MUCH less flour in mine (1 and 3/8th cups as compared to the 2 it called for) and they were light and delicious.  The recipe made enough to freeze some for another time.  I used my own frozen basil pesto, with shrimp to go along with it instead of the parsley pesto from the website.  But doesn’t that one sound good, too?  I feel another new dish coming on.

I hope everyone’s been prodded into trying new recipes, clearing out useless cookbooks and opening forgotten ones filled with wonderful new possibilities.  Cookbook Hoarders United isn’t going to disband.  I’ll post occasional CHU blogs in the coming months as I try new recipes.  I hope you’ll continue to let us know what you’ve tried, too, and how you liked it.  There can’t be enough good recipes in the world, so why not find more?

Tune in tomorrow for a special treat.  I’ll be interviewing Casey Daniels about her latest Pepper Martin novel, out today.  Who knows what she’ll say?

Okay, in unison now. Gr. . oa. . n. All that food. Turkey, ham, shepherd’s pie, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans in every incarnation. Fruitcake, Christmas cookies, latkes and applesauce. Are you full yet?

And now we have leftovers!

I love taking whatever’s left of a turkey and making gumbo. Turkey gumbo, well, its even better than chicken, richer, deeper flavor. I add the leftover gravy and any broth I have left from the giblets. If you “really” want my recipe, you’ll find it if you go to my book page and click on Rising Tides. Iron Lace has the broth recipe. Just think turkey and go from there. (more…)

T’is the CHUsday before Christmas, and I don’t have to peek in your windows to see how fast you’re running.  Whether it’s Hanukkah or Christmas, Kwanzaa or Winter Solstice you’ll celebrate this week, you’re rushing and wrapping and decorating to chase away winter’s shadows.

This is the time of year for fast food, for drive-in hamburgers or buckets of chicken.  Even vegetarians can find possibilities as they zip from school concerts to office parties.

I’m not a big fan of fast food.  Sometimes it’s a treat, but most of the time I feel guilty.  I imagine my cholesterol and blood pressure charting new territory, and you have to admit, that sort of spoils the fun.  So to avoid the guilt as often as possible, I’ve developed a few recipes I can easily make from scratch and enjoy with just a bit of lead time and planning. (more…)

So how do you feel about fruit cake?  I see a collective screwing of faces out there.  But honestly this fruitcake, packed with chocolate chips, cherries, dates and walnuts  is hard to beat.  Did you get that?  CHOCOLATE chips in fruitcake?  Yum!

I learned to make this recipe in the 1970s, and I’ve made it every Christmas since.  The friend who gave me the recipe called it Bishop’s Cake, and why would I argue?  I’ve seen it called other names since then, but this one stuck for me.  It lasts a long time when refrigerated and it’s rich.  One small slice is plenty. (Don’t take the photo too seriously.  Bishop’s Cake is mostly nuts and fruits with much less batter than my illustration.)

So here’s a Christmas gift for you, an easy one to make once the ingredients have been assembled.  I guarantee you’ll be pleased. (more…)

Welcome to the final month of CHUSday.  To end with a bang this month, I’m giving away a $50 gift certificate to Barnes and Noble bookstores instead of a silly kitchen gadget.  That way you can indulge your cookbook fantasies or take the CHU pledge and use the ones you have and buy something yummy to read instead.  However you plan to use it if  you win, here are the rules:

  • Make a new recipe.  This month for the first time you can make anything new, a Christmas cookie recipe, a quick supper dish after a long day of shopping. It doesn’t have to be from an old cookbook gathering dust or a brand-new one you haven’t opened. 
  • Tell us what you made and where you got the recipe.  The recipe can be from a well-loved cookbook, the Internet, your next-door neighbor.  As long as it’s new to you. 
  • Post your entry as a comment on ANY of the CHU blogs including this one. 

Remember, if you’ve entered to win ANY month since we began in August, you’re entered in this final giveaway.  But multiple entries count, so make a new recipe and enter it this month, too.  You’ll have more chances to win.

Congratulations to Lee Ann who won November’s Piggy Wiggy Little Whisk and an autographed novel with this entry:

  • Fajita-Style Quesadillas (Better Homes and Gardens/Oct 2011/) It says just 43 cents per serving (gotta love that). I did add chicken to mine. Bought a precooked one at the store and shredded half of it. I also added Pico de Gallo to mine as well. Served it with spanish rice. DH loved it, aked if this was the first time I had ever made quesadillas, I told him it was the first time I had made them for him :)

I think Lee Ann’s DH is a lucky man.

And, as a nice surprise: In special CHU business, Barnes and Noble has a special treat for all cookbook hoarders today.  It’s a one day only cookbook sale.  50% off cookbooks.  Since cookbooks also make nice gifts, I thought I’d tickle your fancy.  But it’s only today. 

(It’s a day later and sale is over, but here’s another great link.  25 gorgeous cookie recipes from the Washington Post.  What are you waiting for?)

Remember, ANY new recipe.  $50 bookstore gift certificate.  Cooking for the holidays.  What are you waiting for?

 

Today Mollie Cox Bryan, author of Mrs. Rowe’s Little Book of Southern Pies (which Wanda covets) and Mrs. Rowe’s Restaurant Cookbook, is joining us to share some of her kitchen tips. Mrs. Rowe’s is a wonderful Southern-style restaurant in Staunton, VA, that I visit every time I’m down that way, so it was a treat for me when Mollie contacted me and asked if I would read her first mystery, Scrapbook of Secrets, and give her a cover quote.

First Mollie’s kitchen tips, then some info on her upcoming novel.  And finally, CHU business, including next month’s wrap-up of the silly kitchen gadget and autographed novel giveaway.

As Mollie told me, most of these tips have to do with stretching the dollar, but they were all brand new to me and helpful–can’t wait to try the pizza tip. Take it away, Mollie. 

  1. To reheat left over pizza, place in a non-stick skillet until it’s warm. This keeps the crust from getting soggy.
  2. If you buy cake frosting in a can from the grocery store, place it in a mixing bowl and beat it with your mixer. It will double in size.
  3. To warm biscuits, pancakes, or muffins that have been refrigerated, place them in the microwave along with a cup of water. This will help keep the moisture in and it heats faster.
  4. Store open chunks of cheese by wrapping them in aluminum foil. It stays fresher, longer.
  5. Tear apart your bananas (from the bunch) if you don’t want them to ripen too fast.

Mollie’s novel, Scrapbook of Secrets, A Cumberland Creek Mystery, (Kensington) will be published February 2012. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon and we’ll do a real interview with her once it’s out.

Having traded in her career as a successful investigative journalist for the life of a stay-at-home mom in picturesque Cumberland Creek, Virginia, Annie can’t help but feel that something’s missing. But she finds solace in a local “crop circle” of scrapbookers united by chore-shy husbands, demanding children, and occasional fantasies of their former single lives. And when the quiet idyll of their small town is shattered by a young mother’s suicide, they band together to find out what went wrong…Annie resurrects her reporting skills and discovers that Maggie Rae was a closet scrapbooker who left behind more than a few secrets – and perhaps a few enemies. As they sift through Maggie Rae’s mysteriously discarded scrapbooks, Annie and her “crop” sisters begin to suspect that her suicide may have been murder. It seems that something sinister is lurking beneath the town’s beguilingly calm facade – like a killer with unfinished business…

Thanks for visiting, Mollie.  I can attest this is one group of feisty women and a fun read, even for those who don’t scrapbook.

Now quickly, some CHU biz.  Don’t forget, just a few more days to try a new recipe from an “old” cookbook for this month’s giveaway, an autographed novel and the Piggy Wiggy Little Whisk–which I’ll be sorry to say goodbye to since Piggy herself is awfully cute.  Official rules are here.  This is a no-brainer.  Take a cookbook you haven’t used in ages (or forever) and try a new recipe.  Then tell us the name of the book and the recipe itself and whether you liked it or not.  Easy, right?  Then random.org will choose one submission to win.

December will be the final month, and because it is, let’s broaden the rules.  If you make anything new, a Christmas cookie recipe, a quick supper dish after a long day of shopping, then tell us what you made and where you got the recipe.  The recipe can be from a well-loved cookbook, the Internet, your next-door neighbor.  As long as it’s new to you.  Of course I’ll trust you on that.

Next week  I’ll announce the final prize.  Remember, in December EVERYBODY who’s entered since we began the giveaway in August is eligible to win, and not with just one entry per person, but one entry per recipe.  So cook your heart out and let us know.

With Thanksgiving on the horizon, I know there’s lots of cooking going on out there this week.  In fact some of you have already cooked and eaten your holiday feasts.  But for those of us who still have cooking to do, I asked my Facebook Page friends to help today.  They came up with great tips for all of us.  And the more hands in the kitchen, the better, right? 

Patty: Got baked on, burned on gunk in a pot or dish? Fill with hot water.  Add a dryer sheet (used one will work) and soak for several hours. The “stuff” just floats off!

Cindy: When you line baking sheets with foil for easy clean up, don’t forget to spray the foil with Pam!

Also from Cindy:  I buy large packages of ground beef and brown it all at once. Then I freeze it by the lb (about 3 cups per lb) in ziploc bags. Just thaw in the microwave for fast, ready to use ground beef.

Karen: I bought some inexpensive measuring cups to use as scoops inside my cannisters of flour and sugar. It makes it so much easier to measure ingredients quickly and not have extra things to wash. I put the 1/2 cup in the flour and a 1/4 cup in the sugar.

Susan: When cooking almost anything, always add cold to hot. If you’re making soups or gravies, the temperature variations often cause separation of liquids, fats, and solids (flour, etc.). I’m from Louisiana, so I make gumbo, couvion, and all types of soups and stews. My grandmother always told me to boil the liquids, then add cooler to warmer, rather than the other way around. I just spoke with my mom, and she reminded me that one of the exceptions would be when making custard.

Also from Susan: Use a small ice cream scoop for cookie dough.

Joan: My mother-in-law gave me some decorative tins many years ago. I keep cinnamon in one and cocoa powder in the other. I also keep a tablespoon in my flour to measure for gravy.  It just stays there with the sifter. I keep a few pieces of rice or popcorn in my salt shakers to absorb any moisture.

Laura: When making a cake that you want to take out of the pan, put waxed paper inside the pan first, then spray with cooking oil. For round pans, I lay the pan on the waxed paper, trace it, then cut the pattern out so it fits in the pan. After baking, the cake pops right out, with no broken corners!

Thanks to everyone who helped this week.  Great ideas, and great cooks, I bet.  Next week a few tips from a published cookbook author and mystery writer, Mollie Cox Bryan.

CHUSDAY ALERT:  This is a perfect week to enter our November giveaway.  I bet you’ve looked up a new recipe in an old cookbook and used it for the holiday, right?   Just tell us what you tried, where you found it, and whether you liked it.  Giveaway rules here and the silly kitchen gadget this month is the Piggy Wiggy Little Egg Whisk.  Can you afford NOT to enter for a chance to win Piggy Wiggy?

Happy Thanksgiving and happy cooking to all!