Midday Fix: Stock the Crock

Phyllis Good

www.Stockthecrock.com

To purchase a copy of the book:

Stock the Crock: 100 Must-Have Slow-Cooker Recipes, 200 Variations for Every Appetite

Sausage-and-Spinach Cheese Tortellini
by Moreen W.

Ingredients:
1 1⁄4 to 1 1⁄2 pounds of your choice of sweet or hot Italian sausage, cut into 1⁄4-inch-thick slices
1 (38-ounce) package cheese tortellini
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced Italian tomatoes, undrained
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, cubed
2 cups fresh spinach, chopped; set aside 3 to 4 Tablespoons for topping

Directions:
Grease the interior of the slow cooker crock with butter or nonstick cooking spray. Put the sausage slices straight into the crock. Add the tortellini, broth, tomatoes and their juice, and the cubed cream cheese to the crock. Stir well. Cook for 3-4 hours. Stir in the chopped spinach just before serving, reserving several Tablespoons as topping. Swap out for plated dishes. Top each individual serving with a scattering of chopped fresh spinach to add flavor and bright green beauty.

Simple Swaps
This recipe has room for delicious flexibility. Substitute diced tomatoes with zesty green chiles for diced Italian tomatoes.
Substitute another sausage, such as sun-dried tomato and basil, bratwurst, spinach and feta, and orange Sicilian sausages. Any of those varieties work in this recipe, giving just a subtly different tilt to the overall flavor.

Make It Gluten-Free
Gluten-free cheese tortellini is available. Track it down, and your gluten-intolerant friends will thank you forever.

Make It Vegetarian
Substitute a plant-based sausage for the Italian sausage.

Pumpkin Spice Crème Brûlée by Kristin O.
6 or 7 qt. slow cooker

Ingredients:
3 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
2 cups whipping cream
1⁄2 cup pureed pumpkin (canned is fine as long as it’s pure pumpkin)
1 1⁄3 cups sugar, divided
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves

1. Place the egg yolks and eggs in a good-size bowl. Beat them gently.
2. Slowly pour in the whipping cream, mixing it into the eggs as you pour.
3. Gradually add the pumpkin puree, stirring continually.
4. In a small bowl, stir together 1⁄3 cup sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Stir those dry ingredients into the liquid mixture gradually.
5. Grease a 1 1⁄2- or 2-quart baking dish that fits into your 6- or 7-quart oval slow cooker crock. Fill the baking dish with the pumpkin mixture. Place it in the crock.
6. Pour water around the baking dish in the crock until it comes halfway up the sides of the dish. Be careful not to get any water in the filled dish.
7. Cover the cooker. Cook on Low 2 to 3 hours, or until the brûlée is set but not hard. It should be a little soft in the center.
8. Using oven mitts, remove the baking dish from the crock and set it on a wire rack to cool to room temperature.
9. Then cover and refrigerate for 2 to 8 hours.
10. Before serving, let the brûlée stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
11. To caramelize the sugar for the topping, heat remaining 1 cup sugar in an 8-inch heavy skillet over medium-high until it begins to melt. Shake the skillet rather than stirring the sugar to heat it evenly. When the sugar starts to melt, reduce the heat to low. Cook it for 3 to 5 minutes more, or until it’s golden, stirring it as needed with a wooden spoon so it doesn’t burn.
12. Quickly drizzle the caramelized sugar over the brûlée. Serve it immediately.

Simple Swaps
You can prepare the brûlée in individual 6-ounce ramekins, too, but you’ll need two 6-quart slow cookers and 6 ramekins. Fit 3 filled ramekins into each cooker. Follow Steps 6 through 12 above to complete the dessert.
Stock up on 3 or 4 cans of pure canned pumpkin in the autumn in case the store doesn’t have any when pumpkin is out of season.
You can omit Steps 11 and 12. Instead, treat the brûlée as a less fussy custard and top it with fresh whipped cream or just serve it plain. It has great flavor—and it’s a surprising way to prepare brûlée, especially when the oven is full or the day is hot.

Make It for Two
Use a 6-quart oval slow cooker and the following ingredient amounts.

1 large egg yolk
1 large egg
3⁄4 cup whipping cream
4 tablespoons pureed pumpkin (canned is fine as long as it’s pure pumpkin)
2 tablespoons sugar
1⁄4 slightly rounded teaspoon ground cinnamon
1⁄4 slightly rounded teaspoon ground ginger
dash of ground cloves
1 1⁄2 tablespoons sugar

Follow the directions in the recipe, except in Step 5. Fill 2 (3- or 4-ounce) ramekins and set them on the floor of the 6-quart oval slow cooker. Continue with Steps 6 through 12.