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Friday, September 24, 2010

My first slow cooking experience

It has been one week since I purchased my first slow cooker ($30, President's Choice) and what a joy that week has been. In the week prior to my spontaneous purchase, my friend had bought one for her boyfriend and proceeded to spend $100+ on all sorts of meats at Costco and a cook book! I've always shied away from leaving my stove on low for hours on end so I stay away from making soups and braising meats. The closest I've come to slow cooking is Vietnamese-style claypot cooking, but since I only have a small 1-serving-sized claypot, the choices are limited in what I could make.

I really hate buying broths (especially Vegetable broth) or soups at supermarkets because of how inexpensive making it really is and how packaged stuff almost always contains enough salt for your day or weekly intake.

Anyway, after hearing the good things that were coming out of my friend's kitchen, I decided thatthis was the next step in my culinary journey, I took the leap and bought my first slow cooker!

Along with the slow cooker, I ran around Superstore purchasing a large ham butt (with bone), split peas, celery, carrots, onions, parsley, garlic, butternut squash, and a load of fresh and dry herbs/spices. Boy was I excited to see what this magical device could do.

Before I went to sleep, I soaked the split peas and went to sleep. The next morning, I eagerly wake up, look up slow cooked split pea and ham soup recipes and started chopping! Onion, carrots, celery, garlic. I had to split up the ham because it wouldn't all fit in my slow cooker. Chop chop chop (thinking about how awesome my knife was and thankful to Ming for the great gift)...I added the bay leaf and spices I got from various recipes and a few cups of water. And that was all ! I closed the lid, turned the slowcooker to high for 5 hours.

About 3 hours in, I could smell a lovely scent in my house and I did something that all the websites told me not to do, open the slow cooker! Since it works on moisture/steam, I probably did mess up the cooking process but I couldn't help it! Yup, the split peas were still hard...and the ham was not done...but a sip of the broth was delicious! So I took a few spoonfuls of the broth and ate it like a soup with rice. It was so flavourful and delicious! I closed the lid again and set it for another 4 hours.

My house was smelling unbearably delicious as I tried to work thru the afternoon. FINALLY dinner time was around the corner and I was going to share my soup with a friend (who was also slow cooking some pulled pork that night). So I opened up the lid and after enjoying the rush of yummy ham/split pea soup smells, I tasted some, scooped out enough for 2 and off I went. That night we had a nectarine/spinach salad with the split pea and ham soup then some delicious bbq pulled pork then digested while bouldering at the climbing gym.

When I got home that night, I split up the rest of my split pea and ham soup into 5 zip lock bags. Each were a good one portion size, and laid them flat in the freezer to freeze. I had plenty of ham left over too. This doesn't take up too much room in the freezer and makes for a quick instant hearty snack (without the sodium and fake tastes of instant-soup)

Ever since that lovely day last week, I have made butternut squash soup, borscht, and today cream of cauliflower soup! Each offers a hearty and healthy cure to the rainy Vancouver weather. I hope to write up some of these recipes as I am still experimenting and perfecting them as I go :) So many possibilities that will come out of my kitchen this winter: kalua pork, whole chicken, chiles, beef stews, pho are all on my to-do list.

Oh and the good news to all of this, at least this month is that I'm trying to follow a Paleo diet of eating organically grown vegetables, fruits and free range/grass-fed meats. And the slow cooking does wonders for all the options you can eat on this diet.

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