An Inauspicious Start | Crock Pot Express Diary, Part 1

Tuesday Revews-Day

This is an entirely unsolicited, unsubsidized review of the Crock Pot Express and a few cookbooks relating to the appliance. While there will be Amazon affiliate links, that’s as far as it goes.


I know, I know, I’m a little late to the electric pressure cooker party. Mostly because my one experience with pressure cooking was mildly terrifying and I sent the thing back, even though it was well after the full refund period, because I had to hide behind a wall from all the rattling and hissing. #neveragain

Buuuuut, the week or so before Prime Day 2018, my rice cooker started showing signs of giving up the ghost. Now, sure, I’m perfectly capable of making rice on the stove, but I very much appreciate the convenience of my rice cooker and use it several times a month, so this was not good news. Add to that one of our slow cookers had definitely seen better days and we’d discussed upgrading to one of the programmable ones in the near future, and you have the final straw in my resistance to the lure of the new gadget.

Of course, ordering the damned thing wasn’t simple as Amazon could not even remotely handle the visitor volume and 15 minutes after the opening bell the site was already throwing up those lovely pups of Amazon like some consolation calendar pin-ups. I tried, over the course of several hours, to put the 6qt InstantPot that was on special into my cart only to have it disappear each time. Finally, figuring that it had already sold out and the app just wasn’t registering it, I looked around and settled on the 6qt Crock Pot Express. No, it wasn’t my first choice, but I am very comfortable with the Crock Pot brand (we own three slow cookers by them; yeah, we’re good), so it didn’t bother me too much that it wasn’t the other brand.

It did mean, however, that I needed to find some brand-specific resources to get me started, as so much of what’s out on the net it geared towards the other brand. And while the overall functions may be similar, I wanted to get my feet wet without having to do a lot of brand to brand conversions. There’ll be time enough for improv after I’m sure it’s not going to blow the Dollhouse to smithereens.

Putting my Kindle Unlimited subscription to good use, I borrowed three Crock Pot Express cookbooks to get started:

The Beginner’s Guide actually told me a lot of what I needed to know about using the Crock Pot Express and had a lot of great tips. I do recommend it, of the three, but with the usual caveats that seem to be needed with ebooks from Kindle Unlimited–a lot are self-published and, while I respect the work that goes into them (being a self-pubbed cookbook author myself), there are good ones and there are less good ones. Some information was repeated within the same section in a redundant sort of way that almost felt like it was compiled but not edited quite enough.

Says the woman who’s already written 500+ words and not gotten to the actual cooking yet. I point the finger at myself, too, folks. I get it.

At any rate, the Crock Pot Express arrived while it was still Todd’s week to cook. I unboxed it, flipped through the included guides, and let it sit until the following Tuesday, when it was finally time to face my pressure cooking fears and give this thing a whirl.

Day 1: Not Very Express After All

There’s something about having a new kitchen appliance to play with that makes me positively giddy–something I would not describe the last several months of meal preparation, so there’s that in that big ol’ box’s favor. (And speaking of the boxes, they’re the perfect size for doll rooms–provided I don’t have to return the cooker in them.)

I may have jumped into the deep end with the first two recipes I tried, tonight. First there was the Cheesy Leek & Kale Quiche (Stewart, 1).

Looks good, right? Too bad it took the stated 22 minutes in the CPE, then another 10, and then another 7.5 in the microwave before the center was finally set.

It tasted fine, once finally cooked, but the issue lies with the fact that the recipe failed to specify a cooking mode. Since we were using the steamer rack and pot-in-pot cooking method, I chose Steam for lack of a better option, and it may not have been the right one.

Unlike other cookers of this type, the Crock Pot Express does not have a full manual pressure cook mode (though three of the pre-sets–Beans/Chili, Dessert, and Soup–do allow pressure changes, and can be used as pseudo-manual modes). So I’m left to wonder if this was just poor writing or if Stewart nabbed the recipe from elsewhere and forgot to make the necessary adjustments.

The other recipe I tried was for novelty’s sake, really: a cake baked in a pressure cooker.

While not described as such, the Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake (Stewart, 485), is basically a “flourless” (it has 2.5 Tbsp of flour in it) chocolate cake. Unlike the quiche recipe, this one did at least specify a cooking mode (Beans/Chili), and a cooking time of 8 minutes.

It took three rounds of 8 minutes, and I wasn’t sure it was done even then, but I called it good enough and stuck it in the fridge to firm up. Turns out there’s a gooey-centered cake recipe in the booklet that came with the CPE and it called for 22 minutes on the Dessert setting. My first day using the machine and, yeah, I completely spaced that it even had a Dessert mode.

At any rate, by the end of the night I was seriously wondering if I’d need to send it back. Is it the recipes? Is it me? Is it the machine?

Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Review | Savory Pies by Greg Henry

Savory Pies by Greg Henry

image via

Pies have always had their fans, but it’s a food usually offered as an alternative to cakey goods. One of the main best selling points is the ratio of filling to crust you get in a pie that far outweighs the filling and frosting ratio in a similar cake. But that’s all desserts–what about pie as your meal?

Probably the first thing you think of when considering a main-dish or savory pie is quiche, that brunch staple, or else a chicken pot pie might come to mind. I admit an old episode of Emeril and his crawfish cheesecake is also lurking in the back of my head, so I was more than a little curious to see what inspiration there might lie in Greg Henry’s Savory Pies: Delicious Recipes for Seasoned Meats, Vegetables and Cheeses Baked in Perfectly Flaky Pie Crusts.

I was not disappointed.

The first thing to notice is that this is not just a book of pie fillings. Henry goes beyond the simple single- or double-crust pies with fluted edges into tarts, turnovers, pizzas, and pastelles. Pretty much anything that could be put into or under a crust or covering was considered fair game. There are sections for meat & seafood pies, hand pies, vegetarian options, appetizers, and, of course, a set of pie crust recipes to carry you through.

On New Year’s Day we got our cabbage quotient in with his Sweet Sausage Cabbage Pie with Dill and Feta (p.59). Another night found us feasting on a Sausage and Red Pepper Polenta Cobbler (p.93), a cast iron skillet concoction with fluffy cornmeal dumplings covering its surface. Seeing as we’re fans of breakfast for dinner, the Irish Breakfast Pie (p. 101) with it’s cheeky eggs poking out of the pierced top crust was a must-try for us, and very filling with it’s layers of thinly-sliced potatoes. About the only thing that could have improved that pie would have been some grated cheese in between the potato layers.

Strata of bacon, potatoes, and eggs in the Irish Breakfast Pie

Strata of bacon, potatoes, and eggs in the Irish Breakfast Pie

His Arichoke Clafouti (p.125) was akin to eating a slice of warm artichoke dip with a barely-there crust of breadcrumbs. And “The Oggie” Steak and Stilton Pasty recipe (p.156) sounded so good with it’s steak, potatoes, turnips, and cheese that even though I didn’t feel like making so many individual hand pies that night, it was just as good in a store-bought gluten free pie crust.

Artichoke Clafouti

It could certainly be a main dish, but we served this Artichoke Clafouti as a side dish to lemon-pepper tilapia for a nice, light supper.

As for the pie crust recipes, they are simple and easy to follow and I was quite surprised at how tasty his Gluten-Free Pie Pastry recipe (p.20) really was, especially as this book was being tried-out when I was early into my low-FODMAP diagnostic diet phase. And one of the best parts of gluten-free* pie crusts? You simply cannot overwork the dough as there’s no gluten there to toughen up on you! It also didn’t hurt that I’d received a Cuisinart for Christmas and am overjoyed at how quickly a pie crust comes together in that thing!

Steak and Stilton Pie

The filling for this Steak and Stilton pie was amazing!

And for those who consider savory pies a little to low-brow for an elegant supper, there are also wine pairings for each recipe, written by Grant Henry, “with an eye toward easy-to-find wines, staying away from wines that would require selling a major organ to purchase them.” Now that’s my kind of wine pairing!

When considering whether a cookbook is a hit or miss with me, it’s not just about what I’ve already made from the book but how many recipes I still have flagged that I want to make as I’m writing up my review. Based on the number of sticky notes fanning out from the book’s pages, Savory Pies definitely falls into the hit category. In fact, as soon as I find a good gluten-free puff pastry dough recipe, many more delicious things will be made from this book.


I was provided a copy of Savory Pies for the purpose of review. All opinions and experiences expressed above are my own.

*For the record, gluten poses no problem on a low-FODMAP diet as gluten is a protein and FODMAPs are particular carbohydrates. Sources of gluten like wheat, barley, and rye, however, do also contain the problematic-for-some FODMAPs and starting with GF products or recipes can be a good start. Thus ends the FODMAP disclaimer.