The way some women rave about their crock pot, you’d think it was the latest greatest invention since the vibrator.
"If you’re a lazy cook, the crock pot is your best friend," a friend of mine gushed. "You just throw food in it and when you come home after work, it's done."
Yeah, but is the food any good?
I decided to find out for myself. I ordered a crock pot (a.k.a. slow cooker) online. Once it arrived, I let it sit in the box in the living room unopened for several days (the cat used it as a perch). Avo began counting the days before I put the crock pot up for sale on eBay.
I refused to let my crock pot fear get the best of me. Using a recipe from Betty Crocker's "Slow Cooker Cookbook," I whipped up "Lentil and Mixed-Vegetable Casserole."
It didn't make the crock pot my best friend.
Avo wasn't surprised the recipe was a bust.
"Here's a cooking hint: never cook a recipe that calls for a can of condensed golden mushroom soup."
I fear that the crock pot has begun to come between us.
"Please get rid of it," Avo begged.
I can see his point. For one thing, we don't have any room for it. For another, we haven't found a slow cooker recipe that doesn't suck. But I'm not ready to give up.
In a last ditch effort to save my crock pot, I decided to give this vegetarian chili recipe from Food Network a shot.
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
4 cups reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can white (cannellini) beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup frozen baby lima beans or regular lima beans
1 cup chopped onion
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon minced pickled jalapeno (from can or jar)
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano or regular oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 to 2 teaspoons hot sauce (I'd go with two).
1/3 cup couscous (I used closer to 2/3 cup).
1/2 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese (I'd say more).
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a slow cooker, combine all ingredients but the couscous, shredded cheese, cilantro and salt and pepper. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours or on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours.
Five to 10 minutes before serving (depending on temperature of slow cooker) add couscous, cover and cook, until couscous is tender. Season, to taste, with salt and black pepper.
Just before serving, top each serving with shredded cheese and cilantro.
According to Food Network, this should take just 15 minutes of prep time, but, of course, that depends on how fast you can locate ingredients, seed, chop, mince, open cans, and shred.
"I'm cooking!" I thought to myself as I headed out to pick up the girls at school and to take Ruby to dance class.
I made a mental note to check on the chili at 5 pm (since I put it in the slow cooker on high at 2 pm). But by 6:20, the chili was still mostly liquid. In an attempt to change the consistency, I added more couscous than the recipe required and crossed my fingers. Lo and behold, the couscous trick worked. All of the sudden, it actually looked like chili.
Unfortunately, it was pretty bland chili.
"This tastes like the sort of thing you might find at Anjelika Kitchen," Avo said, which was sort of a compliment (Anjelika Kitchen is a successful restaurant) and sort of not (their food is super-healthy, but not so tasty). Once you top it with the fresh cilantro leaves, Monterey jack cheese and douse it with hot sauce, it's not so bad.
"You know why I made this recipe, right?" I asked Avo.
"Yes, you wanted to use the crock pot so I don't throw it out. The problem is you've become emotionally attached to the crock pot, so now you need to find a reason to keep it."
He's right. I don't want to feel like a failure.
"Will you eat the chili for leftovers if I freeze it?"
"Perhaps," Avo answered.
Guess I'll have to keep looking for the crock pot recipe that will justify its existence.