Crock Pot Success!

Today was my first foray into crock-pot cooking. Yes, I have made it this many years into life without ever owning a slow-cooker. Getting one was out of the question when we lived in NYC, there wasn't any room in the apartment for that large of an appliance. And when we got the house, I figured at the time that I had gone so many years without one, I probably didn't need one.

But since I had a baby, I have been mulling over the thought of getting one. It seems like it would be a safe way to cook a hot dinner. Safe, because it is something I can do either while holding a baby or with a toddler underfoot. I can sautee safely in neither of those conditions. It's even a bit nerve-wracking trying to use the oven with W running around, although it's getting better since he now responds very well to my command to run to the refrigerator and hold on to the door and not let go until I've got whatever dish safely out of the oven and I tell him he can let go. It's like "the oven game" or something to him, but it allows him to watch what I'm doing while maintaining a safe distance, so I'm sticking with it.

I read through my crock-pot cookbook today, trying to decide what would be my first recipe. Now that I've taken a closer look at the recipes, I'm a little skeptical about them. It's not clear to me why I would prepare the dishes in the crock-pot rather than just braising them. At least with braising, I can brown the meat in the same pan that I cook it in. With the crock-pot, I've got to dirty a sautee pan AND the crock-pot. Other recipes do seem like they'd be pretty easy to make.

I thought I'd start with the recipe for Sloppy Joes, but I wound up spending a long time this afternoon grading the driveway and our road in preparation for putting fresh gravel on them, so I wouldn't have time for a slow-cooked dinner since I couldn't start cooking until after 5pm.

But I did see a recipe that intrigued me-- it was unlike any other recipe I'd ever seen, so I figured it must be peculiar to the crock-pot cooking technique. It was very simple, I'll describe the whole thing here so anyone else with a crock-pot can give it a try:

First put a can (20oz) of cherry pie filling in the bottom of the crock-pot. Melt 1 stick of butter in a medium-sized bowl, then dump in a box of cake mix (I used chocolate cake mix because that was what I had on hand in the pantry, although the official recipe called for yellow cake). Stir the cake mix and butter together. I didn't spend too much time on this, I mixed it with a spoon and it didn't appear that there was enough butter to thoroughly wet all the batter, so I just mixed it until all the butter was absorbed. Maybe if you used a mixer it would go together more evenly, but I don't know. Anyway, it was more of a crumble at this point than a batter, so I sprinkled it evenly atop the cherries. Then I sprinkled 1/3 cup of chopped walnuts over the top. That's it!

Since I didn't start this until 7pm, I took the faster option of cooking for 2 hours on high, instead of 3-4 hours on low. At 9pm I went down and turned the cooker off, and at 10pm when I got hungry for a snack I made some whipped cream. Then I served up the chocolate cherry dessert and put a dollop of whipped cream on top, and YUM!

It's an interesting dessert. Not exactly like cake, certainly not pie, the thing that comes closest to mind is bread pudding. The consistency is similar to bread puddings that I've had, but the flavor is very different. It's easier to make than cake since it doesn't need to be frosted, and doesn't use as many ingredients. I would say it's a great dessert for a dinner party, since you could start it when guests arrive (or earlier if you use the low-heat option), and forget about it until it's time for dessert.