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Accessible tasteful creamy soup

January 10, 2012

Admittedly, I am a crock pot snob. Not that I don’t love the whole “easy, dinner is done, one pot” thing. I simply sometimes feel as though foods cooked in a crock pot end up tasting strangely, or they are so cooked to such smithereens that they fall apart - and not in that mouthwateringly tender way but in that “What was this, exactly?” way. Don’t get me wrong, I use a crock pot. Sometimes you just can’t beat the efficiency, but I usually prefer other cooking methods. However, I have recently been turned on to a couple of new recipes for my crock pot which have rekindled my respect for this handy device.
First, a friend recently told me about making her own yogurt in a crock pot. Since I’m a yogurt enthusiast, I had to try it. It works. and it’s good, easy, and cheap. I like to strain mine in a colander lined with paper towels (over a bowl to catch the excess water), and after several hours of draining, it is as thick as Greek yogurt.
Another discovery also involves breakfast food. I love steel cut oats. They make Quaker old-fashioned oats run and hide in shame, but I can never cook them perfectly, (and by “perfectly,” I mean like at Cafe Eclectic in Memphis, where boring old oats make you swoon and groan and sound like an Herbal Essences commercial). Mine are always too goopy or crunchy, both of which are disappointing after the 30 minute cook time (far too long to wait on breakfast, anyway).
Enter the crock pot. After Googling “Cooking steel cut oats in crock pot,” I found a method for using the crock pot as a double boiler of sorts, putting your oats and cooking liquid in a smaller bowl and then filling the surrounding crock with water. Left to hang out overnight, the next morning found me devouring the best bowl of steel cut oats I had ever produced. They were perfectly creamy yet firm without being crunchy at all.
On a simpler note, summer finds me busting out the crock pot for basic cooking tasks that keep me from turning on the oven or steaming up the house with the stove top. I’ll toss frozen chicken breasts in with some water in the morning and then shred it for chicken salad and other meals that require cooked chicken. Contrary to my “smithereens” disgust, I’ve actually liked how the slow-cooker gets the chicken to where it easily shreds into perfect chicken salad-sized pieces.
Finally, I’ve found some delicious soup recipes that are so appealing during this dreary time of year when all I want to do is hide under a blanket, watch the NFL playoffs and stay warm. I’ve included a new favorite crock pot soup creation.
Whether you’re one of those who just adores your crock pot and uses it every night or you’ve got some baggage in your relationship with it like I do, rekindle your romance with these new tricks.

Creamy Vegetable Soup
Ingredients:

3 (14 oz.) cans chicken broth
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 pkgs. (10 oz) frozen mixed vegetables
1 tbsp. onion powder
3 stalks celery
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 cups fresh broccoli, chopped
1 cup fat free half and half
2 cups zucchini, sliced

Directions:
In large slow cooker, combine broth, butter, mixed vegetables, onion powder, celery and seasonings and stir well. Cover and cook on low for six to seven hours or on high for three to four hours. Stir in zucchini and broccoli. If not using high temperature, turn heat to high and cook another 30 minutes to one hour or until broccoli is tender-crisp. Turn off heat and stir in half-and-half. Let stand about 10 minutes before serving.

Kate Salter is a lecturer at Mississippi State University. Email her at kbsalter@gmail.com.

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