Thursday, October 10, 2013

HOW THE MODERN POPEYE TAKES HIS SPINACH

I know it doesn't look terribly appetizing, but no one said crock pot cooking was pretty!  I must say, though, for an appliance I've mocked and tortured since I was a kid, I absolutely love cooking with one.   IF you find the right recipes and cookbooks (and I've talked many times about our favorites, AMERICAS TEST KITCHEN Slow Cooker Revolution Volumes 1 and 2) then you are well on your way.  Sure, places like Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table sell slow cookers for $300+ but THAT IS INSANE when you can get a perfectly good one for around $20.  We have two..one for my camping adventures (a 4 qt) and our home cooker, a Hamilton Beach I bought for around $70 and love, love, love.  All slow cookers are different, so before diving into a more complicated recipe, it's best to test your cooker on simple things like this great appetizer of Spinach Artichoke dip (and a fun way to get your kids to eat their veggies).  I've noticed that our Hamilton Beach cooks much faster, so when recipes call for 4 hours on HIGH it's usually ready to go at around 3 hrs and fifteen minutes.  The beauty with these, as you well know, is you can prepare the meal, plop it in and GO (if you have curious animals, make sure to safeguard wandering paws by setting cooker away from edges, etc.).  Because we love Cooks Illustrated and the accompanying program on PBS, Americas Test Kitchen, we love these slow cooker cookbooks because they test everything and print the recipe that works best. So, let's cook a fun appetizer tonight together and email me and tell me how yours went!
EASY APPS:
Force your kids to put down those dang phones and focus on making a fun meal together.  Here are your ingredients (don't substitute for fat free or low cal as that totally changes the taste..roll with this one now and substitute later).  This is for a cooker of 1 quart to 7 quarts in size.
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste
18 ounces frozen artichoke hearts, thawed, patted dry and chopped
10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
SO, here goes.  First mix the cream cheese, mayonnaise, lemon juice, water, garlic, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper together in a large bowl.  Fold in artichokes and spinach until well combined.  Transfer to slow cooker, cover and cook until heated through, 1 to 2 hours on high.  Stir to combine and serve.  Depending on the occasion, I like to serve in individual ramekins for each guest or, especially during the holidays, carve out small pumpkins or gourds and fill with dip.