Star-Bulletin Features

Wednesday, November 14, 2001

Thanksgiving side dishes all made in the crockpot include
a pumpkin cake (in the pot), and in the foreground, from
left, pecan stuffing, cranberry sauce flavored with
Zinfandel and sweet potatoes with apples and

Take it s-l-o-w
for Thanksgiving

Turn to the crockpot if you have
more food than space in the oven

By Betty Shimabukuro

Next Thursday you'll be feeling plenty thankful, but what you'd probably be most thankful for is an extra oven.

At party time on Thanksgiving Day, there never seem to be enough heat sources. If the turkey's not in the oven, the pies are. Stovetop burners are busy with potatoes, the gravy pot and who knows what else. And then the guests show up with their contributions -- and four out of five of them need to be reheated.

Here's a thought: Bring out the slow-cooker. It's a fuss-free way to get another side dish to the table.

Yams or sweet potatoes can go into a slow-cooker at the same time as the turkey, and come out piping hot when the bird's ready. Extra stuffing can be cooked there, as well as squash or even dessert.

The main advantage of the crockpot is that, unlike your stove, it can be left unattended for hours as you take care of last-minute shopping or cleaning, if you just need to sleep, or if you have to work on Thanksgiving Day but still want to contribute to the family potluck.

The root vegetables and squashes of Thanksgiving lend themselves well to slow-cooking, emerging soft but not mushy, and deeply flavored.

A number of dishes were tried out in the Star-Bulletin food lab (my kitchen). What follows are the best of the batch and would nicely round out a holiday table.

Crockpot cookbooks tend to offer two conflicting pieces of advice: First, cooking times will vary greatly depending on type of pot used; second, don't lift the lid or too much heat will escape. Well, it's pretty hard to check if the food's done if you don't lift the lid, so just be discreet. Poke the potatoes quickly and resist the urge to do it too often.

Keep in mind that food does not brown or carmelize in a crockpot, and often ends up muddy looking. Start with brightly colored veggies, such as yams, or dress up a dish wtih a sprinkling of nuts, cranberries or french-fried onion rings.

Also, don't try to make these dishes in an oven without increasing the liquid.

Yams with Candied Apples and Cranberries

"Sunset Crockery Cookbook" (Sunset Publishing Corp., 1992)

1-1/2 to 2 pounds yams or sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium Golden Delicious apple, peeled, cored, diced
1 cup cranberries
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup orange juice or orange-flavored liqueur
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Combine yams and apples in slow-cooker; sprinkle with cranberries. Combine sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg; sprinkle over yams. Drizzle with orange juice. Cook on low 7 to 10 hours, stirring occasionally.

Toast pecans over medium heat until golden. Sprinkle over cooked yams. Serves 6 to 8.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving: 258 calories, 6 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, no cholesterol, 18 mg sodium, 2 g protein, 52 g carbohydrate.

Rustic Potatoes Au Gratin

Adapted from "Best-Loved Slow-Cooker Recipes" (Publications International, 1998)

1/2 cup milk
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
8 ounces cream cheese
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
2 pounds potatoes, peeled, in 1/8-inch slices
1 medium onion, sliced

Heat milk over medium heat until small bubbles form. Remove from heat. Stir in soup and cream cheese; stir until smooth. (Or, microwave entire mixture 2 minutes on high.) Stir in garlic, nutmeg and pepper.

Layer crockpot as follows: 1/3 of potatoes, followed by 1/3 of onions and 1/3 of soup mixture; repeat twice. Cook over low heat 7 hours, or until potatoes are soft. If potatoes are still fairly hard after 6 hours, turn heat up to high; they will cook quickly. Serves 6.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving: 310 calories, 18 g total fat, 10 g saturated fat, 50 mg cholesterol, 550 mg sodium, 31 g carbohydrate, 7 g protein.*

Pecan Bread Stuffing

Adapted from "Betty Crocker's Slow-Cooker Cookbook" (General Mills, 1999)

4 cups torn pieces of bread (about 6 slices)
1 cup crushed crackers
1 cup chopped pecans
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped, or 1/2 cup EACH chopped basil and parsley
2/3 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 cup egg substitute or 2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup margarine, melted
1/2 teaspoon EACH pepper and sage

Combine dry ingredients in pot. Combine broth, eggs, margarine and spices; pour into pot. Toss. Cook on low 4 to 5 hours, stirring once, until puffy and brown around the edges. Serves 8.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving (using vegetable broth and egg substitute): 405 calories, 20 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, no cholesterol, 720 mg sodium, 49 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 10 g protein.

Glazed Carrots

Adapted from "The Ultimate Slow-Cooker Cookbook," by Carol Heding Munson (Sterling Publishing, 2001)

32 ounces baby carrots
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons butter
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup water

Combine all ingredients except cornstarch slurry in slow cooker. Cook 3-1/4 to 4 hours on low heat.

Spoon out carrots. Pour the juices remaining in the pot into a saucepan and add slurry. Bring to a boil, cooking and stirring until thickened. Pour over carrots. Serves 6.

Approximate nutrient analysis, per serving: 160 calories, 6 g total fat, 4 g saturated fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 90 mg sodium, 27 g carbohydrate, 1 g protein.*

Zin Cranberries

Adapted from "The Ultimate Slow-Cooker Cookbook"

24 ounces (2 bags) cranberries
3 cups sugar
2 cups red Zinfandel wine
1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
2 oranges, in segments
1/2 cup currants or raisins

Combine ingredients except currants in cooker. Cook 3 to 6 hours on high heat, until berries are mostly burst. Remove cinnamon stick and stir in currants. Cool to room temperature, then chill. Makes 7 cups.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving: 245 calories, 0.2 g fat, no saturated fat or cholesterol, 24 mg sodium, 2.9 g fiber.

Pumpkin Cake

Adapted from "The Best Slow-Cooker Cookbook Ever," by Natalie Haughton (HarperCollins, 1995)

1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup water
1-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup chopped pecans

Blend oil and eggs, then mix in sugar, pumpkin and water.

Combine dry ingredients, then blend into pumpkin mixture. Stir in nuts. Pour into a buttered 2-quart casserole. Place casserole in a 4-quart or larger pot. Cook on high, 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 hours, until a pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove lid and cool. Top with powdered sugar or whipped cream.

Banana-Blueberry Bread Pudding

Adapted from "The Crockery Cook" by Mable Hoffman (Fisher Books, 1998)

5-1/2 cups cinnamon bread, cubed (see note)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk or half-and-half, warmed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 large banana, chopped
1 cup fresh, canned or frozen blueberries, drained
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Combine all ingredients; spoon into 2-quart buttered casserole; cover with foil. Place a rack or trivet in the bottom of cooker. Pour 2 cups hot water into pot. Place casserole in pot. Cook on high 2-3 hours, until knife inserted into center comes out clean.

Note: Raisin bread may be substitute for cinnamon bread. Increase cinnamon to 1 teaspoon.

Nutritional information unavailable.

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