A changing economic climate calls for creative thinking, and to create time-saving, healthy and affordable meals, Cos Cob food writer Dina Cheney calls on the slow cooker to do just that.
Ms. Cheney’s third cookbook, Year Round Slow Cooker: 100 Favorite Recipes for Every Season, which is available now on Amazon.com, attacks every angle of the family meal with the slow cooker, her artist’s eye, and a mind for delicious and healthy food that doesn’t break the bank.
“People are working more and longer hours while also having to watch their budgets, so they’re bringing their slow cookers up from the basement,” said Ms. Cheney, and because of this there is a surge of slow cooker cookbooks on the market.
But what makes this book stand out is Ms. Cheney’s seasonal and “from scratch” approach in creating her signature slow cooker recipes that people can follow in their own kitchens without having to go to elaborate lengths. The recipes in the book are meant to be easily accomplished by families without a lot of muss and fuss; after all, a key element of a slow cooker is to save time.
“Unlike most slow cooker recipes which rely on lots of processed ingredients [like onion soup mix and bottled sauces], the recipes in [Year Round Slow Cooker] feature tons of fresh, seasonal produce and minimal processed ingredients,” Ms. Cheney said.
Because of this, she said, even self-proclaimed “foodies” will be delighted at the book’s offerings, as her dishes are truly modern and worldly and are composed with the eye of an artist.
Ms. Cheney grew up in a Syrian Jewish home that celebrated food and flavor. She pursued art and writing as a child, and at 14 she decided she wanted to be a food writer. But still, her art background is evident in both her writing and the dishes she creates. In fact, it’s what makes her slow cooker recipes particularly special.
“Food writing is still writing, so it’s intellectual, but you’re also creating something. I want there to be a lot of color and shapes [in the meals],” she told the Post in an interview about her new book.
Ms. Cheney’s mother was of great influence, as she studied art as well and cooked memorable meals for her family, applying that same artisanal and visual approach to her creations in the kitchen.
“The way she cooked was very visual,” Ms. Cheney said. “I remember her making a salad and it would look like a beautiful stained glass window.”
Now Ms. Cheney looks to bring the same love of cooking and flair for presentation to her own work, and it shows.
While applying artistic composition to daily family meals may sound time-consuming and unaffordable, this book is all about being able to make that kind of delicious presentation while still remaining focused on the bottom line. Because Ms. Cheney’s recipes use more humble cuts of meat and fresh produce, as opposed to packaged and processed foods, her choice of ingredients ends up cutting costs, while the slow cooker saves time. With Ms. Cheney’s distinctive seasonal approach to the use of the slow cooker, the benefits of her recipes may be enjoyed all year long.
While the slow cooker may conjure thoughts of wintry stews and soups, Ms. Cheney’s modern recipes debunk any previous connotations of the slow cooker and what it’s capable of.
“Something that many people don’t think about is using their slow cooker in the summer, but the slow cooker doesn’t heat up the house like the stove does,” said Ms. Cheney. The book tells how to prepare a variety of sandwich fillings, such as pulled chicken with cherry chili barbecue sauce.
A recipe that speaks to New Englanders enduring cold winter weather is Ms. Cheney’s short ribs with hoisin sauce, tangerines and scallions. And for dessert? People might want to try the citrus lemon grass rice pudding.
Ms. Cheney’s artistic approach modernizes the use of the slow cooker. When creating a dish, she says, she is “painting with flavors.” It is the opposite of the “brown sludge” typically associated with a slow cooker, said Ms. Cheney, and her recipes and techniques are designed to avoid that. With her colorful composition and taste for global seasonings, this book is anything but the average slow cooker cookbook.
Year Round Slow Cooker: 100 Favorite Recipes for Every Season is available on Amazon.com.