A happy New Year to all – may all your dreams come true!
(Yes – I know I’m a little late, but nevertheless…)
First of all I cannot present any lists of 2015 recipes at the moment because there aren’t so many until now. Of course I thought about the year in review & managed to make plans for the upcoming year during (prolonged) Xmas holiday.
Now: what’s on the plate for 2016?
I decided to wrap up some dishes & dinners I prepared during the last months because winter hasn’t come to an end until now (in the Western part of Germany you can say: it has not yet really begun!) & winterly recipes will fit for some weeks. Furthermore I plan to continue my travel reports – which I started with an account on pre-Xmas Dresden – to cover 2015 & its trips to Southwest USA, Malta…
Afterwards we’ll start headfirst in new cooking & baking adventures!
Today I’ll write about my new slow cooker & testing it with a roast beef dinner. It was a dinner for 4: Roastbeef with red cabbage & roasted pumpkin, mashed potatoes & lots of gravy – finally some orange chocolate cheesecake.
During the last months I read a lot about using a slow cooker (aka crock-pot): a slow cooker is a crock (aka earthen pot) of about 3.000 – 6.500 ml capacity (or maybe even more!) with a glass lid sitting in a somewhat bigger metal pot heated by electricity (just plug in!). Normally you’ve got 3 set-points:
- high: about 90 – 100°C
- low: about 80 – 90°C
- keep hot: about 60 – 70°C.
As a rule you’ll need several hours for cooking meat, but the big advantage: you don’t need care for anything during this time! (This was the crucial point for me!)
Let’s start with the roast beef!
This photo: The fat is at the bottom – don’t disturb it!
I sliced the roast beef as evenly as I could; now the fat is at the top (next photo). Then I placed in the slow cooker & added BBQ sauce & some water & rosemary & bay leaves.
I closed the slow cooker, plugged it in & waited for some hours for the slow cooker to do its duty.
Now: what about the dinner menu?
- There is the roast beef to be done by the slow cooker in somewhat less than 5 hours altogether.
- The red cabbage is easy: there’s a lot in the freezer.
(Just take 2 double servings out of the freezer in the morning, let it defrost & heat it in the microwave or oven about 20 min before dinner – don’t forget a final tasting!
Well: If you hadn’t had enough time – until the planned dinner – to produce your winterly red cabbage reserve or it is already totally consumed rely on frozen red cabbage from your trusted food store… (forgo any preserved red cabbage – my experience says it’s not the appreciated quality!).)
- Roasted pumpkin is also easy if you have some servings stored in the freezer – if not you allow about 70-90 min for preparation from the scratch.
- Mashed potatoes will take about 1 hour for preparation – also from the scratch (freezing isn’t quite a good idea!).
- The gravy comes with the roast beef.
- …and then there is the orange chocolate cake: for the dinner I prepared one with a very thick cheesecake layer – estimate about 90 min overall.
Of course you can start with the dinner preparation in the morning – assuming you don’t have any other activities… e. g. no office work hours, no shopping, no hairdresser’s appointment… or you try to optimize your time fitting to the tasks. If you leave your office not too late the day before, you can start with the roast beef in late afternoon: remember there isn’t much to do after having prepared the meat & plugged in the slow cooker. Parallel to the drudging slow cooker you can start preparing mashed potatoes:
Just fill the mashed potatoes in the china pot you’ll need for serving & let it rest: you can heat it in the microwave next day w/o any loss of quality.
Afterwards you can start with the dessert if you like. The preparation of the cheesecake takes less than 30 min & afterwards it’s the oven that has to work:
After leaving the oven the cheesecake is rather high & fluffy, but within 10 mins it collapses a little – that’s ok. Just leave the cheesecake to cool down during the night – there is no need of any additional decoration activities…
Next day you can start in the afternoon preparing the roasted pumpkin – as I did because there wasn’t any frozen left:
The preparation is quite easy: Just remove the seeds from the Hokkaido pumpkin & cut it into bite-size pieces – you need not bother with peeling when dealing with a Hokkaido pumpkin. Afterwards just mix the pumpkin pieces with olive oil & balsamic vinegar, salt & pepper, add some cubed apple & some fine diced bacon as well as spring onions & put it in the oven for about 30 – 40 min – depending how soft you like the pumpkin.
When done arrange the roast beef & prepare the gravy. The oven will be still somewhat warm to hot so put the meat in the oven as well as the red cabbage – the roasted pumpkin will be waiting there, too. Make sure that the red cabbage is no longer frozen – use the microwave to defrost. Put gravy & mashed potatoes in the microwave for final heating.
Now you can relax, lay the table & dress up – you can welcome your guests, have some aperitif … Later – about 20 min before dinner – you can start the oven once again: make sure to stir the vegetables once more & maybe cover the meat to prevent drying-out. Start the microwave: if your microwave is not big enough to hold gravy & mashed potatoes at the same time start with the mashed potatoes which will need some more time than the gravy.
My slow cooker testing made me happy: it is a very convenient & resource-saving kitchen tool especially when you need to prepare a larger amount of meat for a dinner of 4 or 6. On the other hand the meat will be very soft i. e. it isn’t like a roast out of the oven with the results like “rare”, “medium rare”, “medium”… the meat will always be “well done”!
I used a BBQ sauce for seasoning: it is also possible to use other sauces or add some onions, carrots, beans, green & red peppers, any conveniant stock or whatever. At the end you’ll always get a lot of slow cooker stock to be processed into a delicious gravy.
The combination of rather hearty vegetables with rather mild mashed potatoes – yes: of course you can also prepare some hearty mashed potatoes – and a hearty gravy & BBQ flavored meat is a good fit for cold winter temperatures – choose a red wine with dinner. The dessert – a rather full-bodied cheesecake – is a delicious finish in combination with coffee/espresso.
For the record:
I always tend to prepare some more food than necessary – partly because as a rule of thumb the preparation time doesn’t change, partly because I like left-overs for the next day (you don’t have to do anything but reheating!).
The Businesswoman with too man office hours thinks
Pls don’t pretend that it isn’t a lot of work to be done! However, it seems that there arn’t any unconquerable difficulties concerning shopping & food preparation. I think by following the timetable for preparing the dinner I could manage a dinner for 4 as well as a dinner for 6 by just adjusting the amounts – the cake will do anyway! When only having to defrost the vegetables – assumption: I was a hard-working kitchen girl before – it’s even better timing.