I will be the first to
admit that I love meat. My father likes to joke that I started early;
apparently, while my mother was pregnant with me, she would often arrive home
from work, grab my father, and hightail it to the nearest steakhouse.
However, I do love to try vegetarian dishes. So many times when you’re a carnivore, you need a great vegetarian dish to remind you how great veggies, grains and fruits can be on their own. So I was thrilled to get a cookbook that featured vegetarian recipes – all tailored for a slow cooker, no less.
Titled The Vegetarian Slow Cooker, this is the second vegetarian slow cooker book by Judith Finlayson. Flipping through it, I drooled over the 200+ recipes, pausing at ones such as Beet Soup with Lemongrass and Lime, and Blueberry White Chocolate Cheesecake with Chocolate Cookie Crust.
The book includes a range of cuisines, such as American, Italian, Mediterranean, Asian, and Indian. The chapters are similar to traditional cookbooks, covering breakfast through dessert. Yes, that’s right; you can make Apple Cranberry Bread in a slow cooker!
The recipes are pretty well laid out, and include notations like “Make Ahead,” “Entertaining Worthy,” and serving size, but I would have liked to see a prep time as well. I really appreciated the plethora of tips on the left side of each recipe – Finlayson describes shortcuts, variations on the recipe, and prep tips, among other tidbits.
Another aspect I found helpful was the introductory chapter. Finlayson covers the benefits of slow cooking, food safety, and basic explanations of the appliance to help you get the most out of the cookbook and slow cooker.
One thing to keep in mind if you’re going to really use this cookbook is to consider getting two sizes of cooker. For example, many of the dips and desserts call for a small cooker, and cannot be made in a large one. The opposite it true of many of the main dishes.
But of course, the best part of exploring this book was trying a recipe. I chose the Mushroom and Artichoke Lasagna to share with a couple of friends. It took me about an hour to make the filling and then layer cooked pasta with ricotta cheese, mushrooms, artichokes, onions, and spinach in my slow cooker.
It looked so good that I wished (just a little) that I could just pop it in the oven and have it ready in an hour!
Instead, I turned the cooker on to low and left my apartment to run errands and see a movie. Six hours later I returned and a delicious scent had filled my apartment – just a preview of what I would soon eat.
The verdict: delicious! The mushroom-artichoke filling was hearty had a great savory flavor. It paired wonderfully with some garlic bread and a salad. The next time I make this I may include some sun dried tomatoes for an extra burst of flavor.
Sound good? Try the recipe below, or click here for some slow cooker ideas from MyRecipes.com
Mushroom Artichoke Lasagna Serves 8
Recipe and tips from The Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Judith Finlayson
Tip: Unlike many recipes for lasagna, this one is not terribly saucy. As a result, the noodles on the top layer tend to dry out. Leave a small amount of the cooking liquid from the mushroom mixture behind in the pan, after adding to the slow cooker. Pour that over the top layer of the nodes, particularly around the edges, where they are most likely to dry out. (Writer's note: The top noodles were very dry, so you might try using more cooking liquid here or shortening cooking time slightly.)
Make Ahead: Complete Steps 1 and 2. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, complete the recipe.
Large (approx. 5 quart) oval slow cooker
Greased slow cooker stoneware
2 Tbsp. butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 lb mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 ½ cups quartered artichoke hearts, packed in water, drained, or thawed if frozen
¾ cup dry white wine or vegetable broth
12 oven-ready lasagna noodles*
2 ½ cups ricotta cheese
2 cups baby spinach
2 ½ cups shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
1. In a skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook, stirring, just until mushrooms begin to lose their liquid, about 7 minutes. Stir in artichokes and wine and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes, until liquid reduces slightly. Set aside.
2. Cover bottom of slow cooker stoneware with 4 noodles, breaking to fit where necessary. Spread with half of the ricotta, half of the mushroom mixture, half of the spinach and one-third each of the mozzarella and Parmesan. Repeat. Arrange final layer of noodles over cheeses. Pour any liquid remaining from mushroom mixture over noodles and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.
3. Cover and cook on Low for 6 hours or on High for 3 hours, until hot and bubbly.
* Per Finlayson, you can also buy uncooked noodles, undercook them by two minutes, toss with olive oil, and set aside until you’re ready to use them.