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Dusting off the crockpot

(post, Dee Greenwood)

Yesterday was Mom’s birthday and we had plans - a movie at 3:30, then back to my apartment for dinner and another movie at home (she had received “The Dark Knight” but wanted to watch it on a larger screen than her TV.) Given the activities, plus knowing I had to clean the house for her visit (she is allergic to cats and I have 2) I realized I had to cook in advance. My eye traveled up the shelves and lit on the crockpot. I don’t use it very often but thought this a perfect excuse.

The current issue of Real Simple has a Spicy Braised Beef recipe in it for a crockpot and I decided to give it a try. As usual, I did the recipe as printed (I always try to do that the first time) and just put all the ingredients into the crockpot without any browning of the meat. It included sweet potatoes, red onion, dried apricots, cumin, ginger, cayenne, a large can of plum tomatoes and a bit of water. It smelled divine when we returned from the movie. Then I added some chickpeas (left over from the weekend’s falafel making), and baby spinach, turned the machine off and waited 10 minutes or so while I made some couscous and salad. Top the plate with some chopped almonds and voila! An easy meal and tasty. And leftovers for at least two more meals.

If I do this recipe again I will brown the meat first as I think it really does make a difference. I will also add garlic and perhaps some ground coriander in the spice mix. But the flavors were nice and bright and the texture was good - adding the chickpeas and spinach at the end and topping with nuts helps elevate this from the usual mushy consistency that the crockpot can deliver.

I am a big fan of braising in the winter and am not quite sure why I don’t use the crockpot more often. Especially on a weeknight. And the cleanup is quick and easy as well. Perhaps I should move it to a lower shelf. To be continued...