Friday, May 28, 2010

Better Living through Crock-Pot Cooking

I'm going to make an admission here: I really don't enjoy cooking. Don't get me wrong - I love eating ethically, I just hate working for my food. I'm kind of lazy, washing up afterward blows, and I'd rather be playing video games than slaving over a stove, especially when I was still a student and working full-time, and my leisure hours were precious to me. For years, dinner was pizza, microwave noodles, or instant mashed potatoes, because cooking is a chore and I didn't want to bother.

And that is why I love my crock-pot. I have come to believe that no vegan should be without a slow cooker. With 5-10 minutes of prep time, you can leave for work or school, and come back 8 hours later to a hot meal ready and waiting. I've made chili, stews, pastas, wheat-meat 'roasts', potatoes, and bean dishes in my crock-pot, and that's only scratching the surface of possibilities, thanks entirely to Robin Robertson's book "Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker". It's the easiest possible way for someone like me to get fresh vegetables and variety into their diet, and it solves the problem of typical dinner recipes where you have too much food left over if cooking for just one person - you can refrigerate the entire ceramic insert and pull out what you want to eat. Here is one of the best chilis I've ever eaten (and by far the best I've ever made for myself). From "Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker".

(onion not pictured)

Farm Stand Chili with Chickpeas
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 celery rib (I left this out and used celery salt instead)
1 eggplant, peeled and chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 Tablespoon chili powder (or to taste - I used 2)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 1 and 1/2 Cups cooked chickpeas)
1 can corn kernels, drained (or 1 Cup fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels)
salt and black pepper to taste (I used a lot of red pepper too)

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, eggplant, bell pepper, and garlic, and cook covered about 5 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the chili powder and cook another 30 seconds.

Put the diced tomatoes, chickpeas, and corn into the slow cooker. Add the vegetables from the pot and stir, adding salt and pepper to taste. Add about 1 and 1/2 cups water. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.

When cooking in a crock-pot or slow cooker, make certain not to overfill the ceramic insert. If making something like a chili that tells you to add water, add the water last so that you can better gauge how well your vegetables will fit. I have a very small crock-pot, so I have to be careful with recipes that call for a lot of ingredients. Also, no matter how delicious it smells while cooking, try not to lift the lid and taste it very often. It's estimated that each time the lid is removed, it pushes your cook time back an extra 30 minutes. But most importantly, food in a slow cooker can burn if left in too long. If you can't be home within a 6 to 8 hour time window, save the recipe for another day.



  1. And NOTHING beats coming home to the smell of hot, savory deliciousness waiting for you in the kitchen!

  2. I'm a lazy cook, too, Theresa. This is an awesome suggestion! I need to dust off my crock pot!