Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cooking Homework Update

A month ago, I satisfied my school cravings and assigned myself cooking homework. My goals were to buy and use a slow cooker, to enter the scary world of baking and, for extra credit, make a dish without a recipe. Many of you jumped on the homework bandwagon formulating your own personal cooking goal.  In retrospect, my course load was a little heavy. I was mainly interested in slow cooking but included the baking and recipe-less items for an extra challenge.  Most of you were much smarter and picked a singular goal. Going forward, that’s what I’ll do.

My beautiful new slow cooker (above) arrived shortly after last month’s post. I chose a Breville. I own a Breville juicer and wanted a larger slow cooker. I love that it has an insert so you can brown things before slow cooking.  Because every class needs a textbook, I chose Make it Fast, Cook it Slow by Stephanie O’dea. Stephanie has a blog called A Year of Slow Cooking. She vowed to use her slow cooker every day for a year.  I loved that these recipes were simple, that most were gluten free and that a “verdict” is included telling you who liked the recipe in her family and who did not.
There was no question what my first recipe would be. We stop at a place on the way to Vermont that makes the best pulled pork on the planet. When I thought about slow cooking, stewy things came to mind. My book contains a pulled pork recipe but like a true nerd I had to cross-reference. I found that a pork butt roast was the cut to use. After being briefly nauseated I learned this was not in fact the pork “rear” and located an organic roast.  I made the recipe on a Saturday; if you’re an impatient person I wouldn’t suggest slow cooking while you’re hanging around the house. Eight hours later, dinner was done. All four of us loved it.
dark picture, delicious dish
The boys were excited about our new addition to the family and I let them pick my next recipe. They choose an apple crisp.  While this was also delicious, “crisp” is a little misleading. Despite some hanging out under the boiler, there wasn’t anything crispy happening. Nobody objected; we used it as a topping for Greek yogurt.

Finally, on a day I was taking the boys to a birthday party that ended at dinnertime, I decided on Split Pea Soup.  This was as easy as could be and again the aroma was amazing. The only problem was this soup was thick and filling. I could’ve thinned it a little bit but was too excited to dig in.

Cooking Homework Month 1: Grade is B.
For some inspiration, here were some other assignments:

Baking Homework
Justine- to make bread
EA- to make gluten free sourdough bread
Sam- to bake a cake from scratch
Kristen and Andrea- to bake
Jen to bake something from Ruhlman’s book Ratio

Appliance Homework
Gina- to add a slow cooker to her wedding registry
Stephanie – to use her dehydrator
Carolyn- to use her juicer
Pearl to use Le Crueset pot to make stews and braised dishes
Carrie- to make healthy soups and stews
Einat and Claire to use slow cooker

Variety Homework
Erin- to experiment, she said homework would be “easy” for her, wonder if it was
Jenny- 2 new recipes from her cookbooks

Specific Homework
Madeline- to make Korean food with her mother in law
Jess- to make Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
Allison- to cook one new veggie a week
Caron- to cook kasha

This month I’m going to continue slow cookery, I’m going to focus on a chicken dish, an oatmeal something and using The Indian Slow Cooker book I purchased.
Did you do your homework? What grade would you give yourself? What’s your assignment this month? With Christmas, I’ll set our deadline for early January.


  1. I would love your slow cooker pulled pork recipe. It's one of the things I'd like to make, but all the recipes I've found are pork and a jar a BBQ sauce. I was hoping for some fresher ingredients.

  2. well, it seems like every day in the kitchen for me is a new homework assignment. My latest was to not only cook Brussels Sprouts but to kid my kids to moderately like them and it worked! I'm giving myself a B+ and would LOVE your pulled pork recipe.

    My other homework assignment was to join the Great Blogger Cookie Swap and I did! I'll be baking three dozen cookies to send to three strangers across the US!

  3. Oh many, I don't even know if I can wait until my wedding next year to get my slow cooker!! It's added to my registry, like I said, but after this post I'm thinking that might be too late!! Everything sounds wonderful.

    My homework for this month is to do more experimenting with gluten free flours in our demo kitchen at work. I get a lot of questions about GF baking and I really don't know much...

  4. Gina- vegetarian times great review of GF flours, I love this assignment.
    Shari- what's your homework for this coming month? Oh many the cookies. Claire- so many slow cooker recipes aren't super healthy.

  5. I LOVE my slow cooker -- it saves me lots of money buy helping me to cook dried beans so I don't have to buy canned!

  6. Any slow cooker favorites Lauren? Homework you want for this month?

  7. I did do my homework! I had a great time cooking with my MIL and learned quite a bit :)

    Love the slow cooker ... seriously a life saver sometimes! I use mine on Thanksgiving too ... I make my mashed potatoes the day prior and then put them on low in the slow cooker for a couple hours before dinner. Keeps them nice and warm!

  8. Great job! Ilove my crock pot and use it so much during the winter months.
    I love that you topped the "crisp" onto greek yogurt. Sounds delicious!
    I have always wanted to make bread from scratch so maybe with the extra time over the holidays, I will attempt it. :)

  9. Kristen- ok maybe Justine or EA will chime in about their breadmaking to help you. Madeline so impressed you an MIL cooked. Now I'm craving mashed potatoes #jobhazard.

  10. Oh man I can't remember what happened last week let alone what my cooking goals were....
    I think my goal was to experiment more w/ following recipes which I haven't done yet...
    Maybe for Christmas dinner!
    The slow cooker meals look amazing =) Esp the apple crisp!

  11. EIGHT hours later? oh my gosh, I think I qualify as an impatient person. For my homework, I'll give myself a B too. I have been using my juicer a bunch, lots of green juice experimenting - ps dont try to juice cabbage just because it's laying around - but I still buy it while out more often than I should. My other goal was to start cooking from recipes once a week and I've been surprisingly into it. I guess thanksgiving helped. For next time: Use juicer 2x/wk and try making almond milk with it. Yay thanks for the reminder and check in.

  12. I have that book and have yet to make one recipe! I *DID* whip out the slow cooker on thanksgiving to make my butternut squash soup in. I figured this way I could keep it in there all day and set to warm just before dinner. It worked out perfectly!

    I now need to do something more adventurous...

  13. I made the Kasha Varnishkas. I liked it and blogged about it. It was a really dry dish, but I made it with a roasted chicken. I added drippings from the chicken, which my coworker said was exactly the right thing to do! I had fun. I wanted to make some Jewish recipes. I still want to make challah and kugel.

  14. Caron, well done. Ina Garten has a great (great in the lethal sense) kugel recipe. Where is the kasha blog, did I miss?

  15. I bet Indian food turns out fabulously in a slow cooker...I need to try it one of these days. So far all I've made is lasagna and pot roast and both of them received rave reviews!

  16. Ameena we can try it and compare notes. I'm just having trouble picturing you and a slow cooker. Do you have a really fancy one?

  17. An Indian slow cooker book? Sign me up! Congrats on completing your homework. I did mine but will only give myself a B because I chose a muffin recipe for one my recipes. I love to bake so I kind of feel like I cheated :)

    I think for the month of December I am giving myself 2 assignments. The first is to use my slow cooker at least once a week. It really is the best thing for the days I work. The second is to make at least two of the Simmonds Family Christmas recipes that we received from my husband's Uncle last year in the annual Christmas letter. I found it this morning right after I read this post and took it as a sign :)

  18. Oh crap. (Am I allowed to say "crap" in your comments?) I got a big fat F. I completely forgot. I didn't even dig the dehydrator out of the basement. I did use my slow cooker though. Can I change my homework assignment after the fact? Ha!

    (Note to self: December is all about dyhydration.)

  19. I have been experimenting with cooking different kinds of fish, other than salmon, which is my go-to. My favorites so far are lemon sole and Jamie Oliver's tuna burger recipe. Caron, I'm going to email you my sister-in-law's Challah recipe. It is ridiculously easy (although I certainly don't make it as pretty as my SIL does).

  20. I love my slow cooker. Right now my favorite "recipe" is chili with lots of veggies and beans and a little grass-fed beef. The flavors really come together in the slow cooker...

    Okay, and now to my grade. Well, since I didn't do my homework I guess I'll get an "F?" Or maybe I can get an extension??? ;) I know nothing "new" is going to happen in December, but I'll rejoin in January...

  21. Yay!!! I give myself a B+. I did pretty darn good. Aside from when I was out of town, I stuck to experimenting with new veggies. I cannot believe you held us all accountable I LOVE IT!

  22. I did not do my homework. I actually forgot about it! Thanks for reminding em. Must bake cake from scratch this month! I did bake a pumpkin pie though.
    Never used a slow cooker but your post is giving me some serious inspiration..

  23. Thanks, Gayle! I would love your challah recipe. I forgot to grade myself. I give myself an A!!

  24. Thanks for the reminder Lauren, and congrats on getting your homework done! OK...on to my grade...."F" sigh... No GF sourdouugh bread making done yet, BUT i am putting it on my "To Do" list and I will get an "A" next time you check back in early January!!! A slow cooker is on my Christmas wish list. Of course I spend way to much time researching which one to get. I'm intrigued by the sear you love your Breville???

  25. Would love to hear more about the Indian slow cooker cookbook.

  26. Marie- I will let you know. I love indian food.
    I love the Breville. Consider size (assume you'd want 6 qt or larger), ability to brown first and if you're like me, how it looks :)
    Gayle/Caron love the recipe sharing.
    Sam- let me know how the baking goes, you have 5 weeks.

  27. I love indian food so much, and the slow cooker seems perfect for that.