Don’t Press That Button | Crock Pot Express Diary, Part 3

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.

Just joining us? Make sure to check out part 1 and part 2.

Day 4: Smooth Sailing

I was feeling pretty good about our working relationship by Friday night, and set about to prep the Beef Medley with Blue Cheese and Cabbage (Zinman, 60) without any hesitation.

It’s so nice to be able to saute the meat and vegetables in oil in the same vessel it will pressure cook in, though being on the shorter side it is, perhaps, a touch more awkward than preparing the same dish would have been on the stove.

Truth be told, I was feeling quiet comfortable with the new kitchen toy. Perhaps a bit too comfortable.

Day 5: Our First Error

Saturday’s supper wasn’t quite a set it and forget it sort of deal, the way the last few nights had been. The Orange Marmalade-Glazed Chicken Thighs (Stewart, 57) only needed 5 minutes under pressure (again, not specified, but I figured the Poultry setting would suffice–call it a hunch) and the lowest that preset will program is 15.

In this case, I needed to watch the display count down and then press the Start/Stop button to end the process, let the pressure release, and then serve up supper.

Sidebar: I wasn’t quite brave enough to try the pot-in-pot, 2 dishes in one setup that some sources say you can (in this case setting the steaming rack on top of the chicken thighs and placing the rice and water in a bowl above it. Maybe next time…

At any rate! The rice cooker must be feeling the pressure (oh, gosh, really bad pun, totally not intended) because I did set it up to cook the rice for the meal and it worked perfectly. I can hear it now “Please don’t throw me away!!!!”

Thinking I knew what I was doing, I did the start/stop, but then figured I could manually switch it over to Keep Warm. Exie set me straight with an E4 error code that that was a no go, ghost rider. Oops!

To clear the error I needed to unplug the appliance and let it cool down. Since that was the general plan anyway, dinner was not harmed due to my hubris.

And if I was worried that 5 minutes under pressure wouldn’t be enough to cook the chicken thighs, I needn’t have been. Those suckers were registering at 200 degrees F by the time  the pressure released sufficiently to check them.

Too bad a turkey won’t fit in there!

Day 6: Six Minute Soup

I’d expected Sunday to be rainy, with a bit of a chill, so the Thai-Style Sweet Corn Soup (Stewart, 323) seemed like a really good idea. Sunday actually ended up rainy and muggy, but the soup was still tasty!

Once again, the 6 minute pressure-cook time was less than the Soup preset would allow, so I had to babysit Exie and hit Start/Stop at the appropriate time to let the pressure start to come down. Once it had, I switched it back over to Saute so I could add the final ingredients.

It was a nice and easy coast to the finish line of our first week together. I still have a lot of functions to try out, though!

More (or Less) Meatless


The second week of our cooking through Almost Meatless was just as tasty as the first. Maybe even more so?

Shabu Shabu Soup

Shabu Shabu Soup

We started with Shabu Shabu Soup. Traditionally this soup is served as a flavorful broth and a tray of thinly sliced meats and vegetables that cook almost instantly in the hot soup. It’s the sound of the add-ins sliding through the soup that gives the soup it’s name, according to the authors.

Tip for this recipe: to get the thinnest slices of steak without a deli slicer, slice the steak when still partially frozen. Just watch the finger-tips, they tend to go a bit numb doing this sort of thing, increasing the possibility of an ouchie!

This version of Shabu Shabu soup has all ingredients cooked before arriving at the table but it was another excellent choice for a summer meal. Not too heavy and an amazing flavor. The bok choy leaves do lend a bit of bite, along the lines of mustard or turnip greens, but any chance to use soba noodles in a dish makes me very happy (even if I had to check 3 grocery stores before finding them).

Springtime Spaghetti Carbonara

Springtime Spaghetti Carbonara

Next we skipped ahead to the eggs chapter and tried out the Springtime Spaghetti Carbonara. What could go wrong with fresh asparagus, peas and bacon? I’m not entirely sure but there was something just a touch off. Maybe it was the whole-what pasta we used? Maybe it needed more bacon (though, you know, that’s pretty much a given)? Or, maybe it just wasn’t what we were after that day. Who knows. It was fine as far as a pasta disk goes but it wasn’t the best thing we tried from the book.

Finally, it was time for the Albondigas. I just love saying that word: al-BON-di-gaas. Lamb and Irish-oat meatballs, a little spicy from the chipotle pepper, cooked in a rich tomato (or, in our case, roasted red bell pepper sauce). I had a pound of ground lamb and only needed half that so I made a double batch with plans for the leftovers already brewing.



One of the few recipes that came with serving suggestions, instead of lime rice we made lime quinoa and served it with the suggested flour tortillas. It was a nice little accompaniment to the spicy meatballs and helped dampen some of the fire. The steel-cut oats really added to the texture of the lamb and kept in a significant amount of moisture for the lean lamb.

The leftovers? Well, I’d been craving a meatball sub for quite some time and saw this as my opportunity to act on it. Picking up a load of french bread and provolone cheese, we spread the split loaves with mayonnaise (adds a wonderful creaminess to the acidic sauce on the meatballs) and lined them with provolone before popping them under the broiler to melt the cheese. The meatballs and sauce were added, another half slice of provolone on top and back under the broiler until the cheese melted again and the edges of the bread crisped.

Mom taught me that pickles make a lovely counterpoint to the rich taste of both tomato sauce on a meatball sub as well as barbecue sandwiches, so I added a little relish to my sandwich as well. Oh, so, yummy. A little extra grated Parmesan on top and these sandwiches totally cured my craving. In fact, a little queso fresco on top of the standard albondigas wouldn’t go amiss should we make these again!



And, hey, I got to drag my baguette pan out of storage–it makes the perfect holder for toasted subs to get maximum crispiness on the edges without spilling any of the filling!

After working our way through the cookbook (selected recipes, that is), did it fulfill those cover-flap promises?

Eating less meat is…

  • healthier? Probably. I mean we did eat less meat and more veggies. Did we, like, lose any weight in the process? Nope. If anything I felt heavier after some of these recipes than some of the balanced and properly portioned meaty meals we’ve eaten in the past.
  • cheaper? Definitely not. My grocery bill was the same if not more for 7 days of eating out of her book. Mostly from the vegetable requirements and specialty items that needed to be tracked down. I’m betting if you had a farmer’s market nearby (one that isn’t open only during workdays, for instance–sometimes it seems like you have to sacrifice a “normal” workday for access to healthy eating) or access to smaller portions of meats you might actually be able to save some cash. Keep in mind, too, that we already had several items so the higher bill came with the somewhat-shortened list.
  • eco-friendly? This one’s harder to say, for sure, but we definitely used less packaged items, created less trash and all that. It would take much more than a week, though, to really create any sort of environmental change.

All in all I enjoyed trying these recipes and look forward to making others at another time. I just don’t think I’ll be using this as my meat-adjusted bible any time soon.