Slow Cookers: The Imaginary Chef in the Kitchen

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Apologies if this offends you, but for months slow cookers screamed mom status—much like the mighty casserole, which I refuse to make unless I have some Rugrats under foot. Slow cookers sang the (reasonable) defeated cries of the woman tired of carting her kids back and forth to extracurricular activities; the woman who was just trying to get something onto the table. A slow cooker just wasn’t for me. I was young, energetic, with time on my hands and a passion for frantic kitchen forays. And then I looked at my school schedule, and my upcoming work schedule (26 hours a week, baby), and realized perhaps the slow cooker, the original set it and forget it machine, needed to have a supporting role in the kitchen.

Prejudice aside, the wheels started turning. Why, I could throw everything into it during the morning, go to class, come back to check in, and go about my day. Six to eight hours later I would have a fragrant smelling home and enough food to last me throughout the week. My weekly soup obligation started to seem like less of a hassle, and, of course, the 21 year old in me saw the potential of still having a hearty dinner(s) during the weekend, despite a moderate hangover. Seeing as I have to pass through the kitchen to reach the bathroom, the hallowed resting spot for the all mighty Tylenol bottle, even angry at the world, mildly still inebriated me could toss a few things into the slow cooker and go back to bed. Hallelujah!

I was in no position to buy a slow cooker, so casually I called my mom, asked her about her life and nonchalantly asked if she, oh, had an unused slow cooker around. She did. And it’s probably older than me, because I have never seen her use it. Sturdy and made before the time of planned obsolescence, the old gal started up fine.

In keeping in line with frugal meals, I chose a spicy black bean soup. The ingredient list was simple: a pound of black beans soaked overnight, some spices, and good quality chicken broth made sweet kitchen love for six hours. Much like the rice and beans, the soup was humble looking, but surprisingly pleasant on the taste buds. While I don’t think anyone under the age of 30 should resort to making a tuna casserole (or any sort of casserole), I think all 20-soemthings can find a place in their heart—and kitchen—for this safe and efficient appliance.

Peel Away ❤

Jocellyn

Gluten Free Dumplings: Patience, Patience, Patience.

My relationship with dumplings is similar to the situation where you meet someone and really aren’t into them in the beginning, but out of nowhere you start falling for them at space shuttle re-entering the atmosphere speed—so, like, every middle school relationship, right? I had my first dumpling in high school. It was filled with veggies and I wasn’t digging it. Fast forward to freshman year during my short lived semester at High Point University, and I was regularly eating them with Steph and Maria, the two lovely ladies who kept me sane during those horrid months. We’d get together every week to do homework, listen to music, and eat boxes of dumplings. In fact, we had such a good rapport with the local place that one day when they told us the wrong amount, meaning we were short about $15, they let it slide because we were such great customers.

Once I left HPU my dumpling habit diminished and was quickly replaced by even more vodka and Wings over Burlington, which is sort of the rage for all dorm dwellers at Champlain. By the time I learned about the famous dumpling stand on Church Street (Hongs) I wasn’t eating meat, and thus could not partake. When I finally broke my pescetarian ways, I shuffled down to Church Street to gorge myself on a few of the doughy, fatty, bundles of joy. I remember driving with a Styrofoam plate on my lap precariously filled with six dumplings and sauce, stuffing bite after bite into my mouth because I just COULDN’T wait to get home and eat like a proper lady. (Though after admitting yesterday that I licked the sauce off my plate, I guess I’m not really that prim and proper anyway!) Sadly, my plump loves were ripped away from me very soon, as my gluten issue was coming to a catastrophic climax. It would be months before I ate one again. Thank goodness I found a nice gluten free substitute.

I must say that if you are gluten free and haven’t yet worked with gluten free dough, be prepared for frustration, ad-libbing, and acceptance the first few times around. GF dough likes to stick. It likes to rip. It likes to wrap itself around the rolling pin (yes the one that you have already doused in layers of the expensive GF flour mix you normally use at rates so conservative Rick Santorum looks like a bleedin’ heart.) Unless you have some wonderful beginners luck and the magic rolling touch, accept that everything might look a little, erm, not so cue.

Case in point: My dinner tonight.

Dumplings with the look only a mother could love. But you know what, despite their overflowing sides and vastly differing shapes that were sometimes pieced together with excess scraps  and looked nothing like dumplings, they were still very delicious. This recipe was messy, time consuming, and I obsessively checked the water every some often to make sure I wasn’t burning a red hot hole through my neighbor’s pan. I wouldn’t say this will happen on a regular basis (maybe a twice a year treat), but it was oh so worth it.

Gluten Free Pork or Chicken Dumplings

 

Mischievous Dough Ball

 

Pork Filling

 

Bragg’s Liquid Amino Acids. A gluten free alternative to soy sauce (your taste buds cannot tell the difference!)

 

You flour up with the best of intentions…

 

…And then this happens three times!

 

And you still have to do a little bit of wiggling and praying

 

Something tells me this is too much meat and that I should have cut the dough into squares and not strips…

 

A valiant attempt.

 

They didn’t get better looking as I went along, but they steamed fine and tasted mmm-mmm-good.

 

Peel Away ❤

Jocellyn