Long-time cooking teacher JoAnn Rachor is the author of “Fast Cooking In A Slow Cooker Every Day Of The Year,” a self-proclaimed vegetarian cookbook that is actually what most of us would call vegan — not only does it have no meat, it also has no dairy. Yet this book has plenty to offer to everyone, including meat-eaters.
The cookbook lends to practical, very healthy cooking for real families who live busy lives. The recipes do not attempt to be fancy or gourmet, but the food is certainly tasty.
In fact, the recipes and techniques are often quite creative. Rachor has done a lot of research and experimentation, including testing out recipes on many different types of slow cookers—she personally owns 25 of them so she’s well qualified for the job. With them, she has come up with ways of preparing all kinds of food that I would never have thought possible in the slow cooker, let alone without using eggs or dairy.
Some highlights include a variety of breads and rolls (oatmeal raisin, focaccia, old world black bread), pizza (including the crust), baked potatoes, roasted corn-on-the-cob, roasted onion rings, even vegan ice cream and brownies.
I discovered this recipe for “Crusty Whole Wheat Bread” in that just begged to be tried out.
Crusty Whole Wheat Bread
Yield: 1 ¼ lb loaf
Cooker size: 5 -7 quarts (note: we used a 4 quart cooker – no problem)
1 cup warm water
1 tbspn sweetener (i.e. honey or sugar)
1 tbspn baking yeast
1 ¾ - 2 cups of whole wheat flour
½ cup white flour
2 tbspn olive oil
1 tspn salt
- Stir together the water, sweetener and yeast, and let sit 8-10 minutes for the yeast to bubble.
- Add 1 ½ cups of the whole wheat flour to the yeast mixture, followed by the white flour, the olive oil, and the salt. Stir vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes to develop the gluten in the wheat.
- Mix in as much of the remaining flour as you need to create a dough that does not stick to your hands, but remains slightly sticky. Knead 3 to 4 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball.
- Optional step: For decoration, you may want to make a few light cuts on the top of the bread with a sharp knife, then dust the top of the dough with flour. This step is not necessary.
- Spray the cooker with a food release cooking spray (non-stick spray). Place the ball of dough in the middle of the cooker. Cover the cooker with 2 layers of paper towels. Cover with the lid. Bake on LOW until the top and sides are lightly browned (between 1 ¾ and 2 ½ hours). Remove with a metal spatula. Place the bread on a cooking rack. The bread will be 1 ¾-2 ¾ inches high.
Recipe from FAST COOKING IN A SLOW COOKER EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR by JoAnn Rachor. Copyright (c) 2006 by JoAnn Rachor. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
When we made this bread, we forgot to place the paper towels under the lid, so ours turned out moist rather than crust. Yet it still turned out so well that we devoured the whole loaf in one sitting.
There seems to be some sort of magic when yeasted dough rises then bakes in that warm, moist slow cooker environment. Absolutely delicious! And best of all, it’s ready in just 2 hours — that's half the time it takes in my bread machine.
Rachor's recipe for spaghetti is particularly practical. Most slow cooker spaghetti recipes are really just for the sauce, directing you to cook the pasta separately on the stove. Her “Easy Does It Spaghetti” lets you cook both your pasta and sauce together in the slow cooker, which is so convenient.
Rachor says that a marvel of cooking without meat or dairy is that it is actually safe to let your prepared slow cooker insert sit and wait for several hours before turning itself on, which is obviously not safe to do with meats or dairy. She describes an inexpensive little tool called a Lamp Appliance Timer that will turn your cooker on after a set period of time. If your recipe needs to cook for six hours but you'll be gone at work all day for nine hours, you can prepare the cooker before you leave at 8 a.m., set it to turn on at 11 a.m., then come home to a perfectly cooked meal at 5 p.m.
Finally, "Fast Cooking" has the largest and most thorough section of basic slow cooker tips and techniques I’ve ever seen in a cookbook. It includes very useful charts detailing exactly how to cook a variety of beans and cereal grains in each kind of slow cooker. Rachor outlines a process for assessing how fast your slow cooker cooks relative to average, which allows you to know more precisely when a dish is done. This can be very helpful since most slow cooker recipes give such a wide range of cooking time, for example between four and six hours.
Those who read her cookbook and can’t get enough can also check out Rachor's web site: http://www.familyhealthpub.com. It has short video demonstrations of approximately 20 of her recipes and techniques, including focaccia and coconut crunch banana bars, along with various other health related links and information.