Do you want to save time, fuss and effort in the kitchen? Don't we all? Fall time can bring about, back to school patterns, busier traffic on the roads, the start of a new season of sports and extra curricular activities. Who doesn't want to have a warm dish ready when they arrive home at the end of the day. The next best thing to having your own dedicated personal chef...
The Slow Cooker.
If you've yet to experience the benefits of our must-have kitchen tool for fall, here are five quick tips to consider when selecting your dedicated kitchen assistant, a.k.a, The slow cooker.
- The Insert. Some specialty inserts are efficient at browning meats, but a standard slow cooker insert is not. Not to worry, pair your slow cooker with a good stove-top skillet for browning to allow for ultimate versatility.
- Shape. Traditionally oval, rectangular and round inserts are available. The oval and rectangular varieties provide more flexibility than round ones when because they provide more space for larger cuts of meat such as a pot roast.
- Lid. Ensure the lid on your slow cooker fits snugly (a small jiggle is acceptable). A good seal is essential for cooking. A clear glass lid makes it easy to peek into the pot without letting heat escape and dramatically increasing the cooking time for your recipe. Simply tap the surface of the lid to clear the condensation below to see how your food is coming along.
- Handles. Ensure the handles of your insert are easy to grip with oven mitts. The hot stoneware insert is heavy alone, and becomes heavier with the addition of a tasty meal inside.
- Capacity. Slow cookers 4 ½ - 6 litres in size which will prepare 4 to 8 servings. Choose a size the suits your household and/or entertaining needs. Smaller slow cookers are available and work best for preparing desserts, appetizers, sauces and vegetables.
- Programming. A new feature of today’s slow cookers are programmable and automatic timers. Most also include a warm setting, either manual or automatic, which can be a great asset on the days when you are delayed. This way you can choose to set your slow cooker to turn from the cook setting to warm setting to prevent overcooking your meal. Traditional slow cooker recipes will need to cook for 6 to 8 hours.
For experienced and novice home-cooks alike this slow cooker recipe for Creamy Butternut Squash Soup is sure to hit the spot.
Butternut Squash Soup
with Red Pepper Drizzle
Makes 6 servings. Make with a 4.5-6L Slow Cooker
Fall is the time of year where root vegetables begin to stand out in the grocery store, from pumpkins to beets to potatoes and an abundant variety of winter squash are now in season. These hearty vegetables are ideal for savory recipes and are delicious in full bodied, creamy soups.
- 2 tbsp of butter or vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp mild curry paste
- 2 tsp minced gingerroot
- 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
- 5 cups cubed peeled butternut squash
- 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
- 1 large potato, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/3 cup milk
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
Red Pepper Drizzle:
- 2 Windset Farms sweet red bell peppers
- Soup: In a large skillet warm butter/oil over medium heat. Fry onion, garlic, curry paste, ginger, salt and pepper, stirring until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add squash, and stir until coated. Scrape into slow cooker.
- Add 1 cup of broth to the skillet; bring up to a boil and scrape up any brown bits from bottom of skillet. Scrape into slow cooker along with remaining broth, potato and tomato paste. Stir to combine.
- Cover and cook on low until vegetables are tender, about 5 to 6 hours. Stir in milk and lemon juice.
- Using an immersion blender, or stand blender puree the soup in batches until smooth.
- Ladle soup into bowls, and drop red pepper pain decoratively in the centre of each bowl .
Serving Tip: For a simple complete meal, add cubed tofu and a table spoon of pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds to each bowl.
Transform this dish into a crowd pleaser: You can bump up the glam factor for a fall dinner party by garnishing this a simple bowl of butternut squash soup with Red Pepper Paint. To Prepare Red Pepper Paint: On a baking sheet, broil red peppers turning twice, until charred (about 20 minutes). Let cool. Peel the skin and remove the seeds. Puree in a blender or food processor until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve. Set aside.
Featured Food Producer
Windset Farms, Delta British Columbia
Windset Farms' story began with the Newell Family, In 1996, they constructed a four-acre greenhouse on their Abbotsford farm in British Columbia. Windset Farms has since expanded to greenhouses in North America. With substantial growth under their belt quality means a great deal. Their fruits and vegetables are all hydroponically grown and non-GMO Project Verified. This year, Windset Farms was named the World’s Best Tomato Grower during the 2014 Tomato Inspiration Event in Berlin.
"Feeding people the freshest and most flavorful produce possible is what we do. A simple idea that drives a complex process."
-John & Steven Newell, Owners
Windset Farms Maestro Sweet Bell Peppers are grown in Windset Farms greenhouses in Delta B.C. between March through November. During the remainder of the year they are grown in their greenhouses around the world, including Mexico. You can find out more about Windset Farms and the products they make here or by visiting: www.windsetfarms.com