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Enlist the Crock-Pot when burners busy and oven occupied

By Betty Shimabukuro

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LAST UPDATED: 07:52 p.m. HST, Nov 21, 2014


The Crock-Pot can be your friend at Thanksgiving, cooking up a nice side dish while your oven is busy with the turkey, your stove top is occupied with four other things and you're cleaning the house. Or napping.

This Thanksgiving edition of "Slow Ono," my monthly Crock-Pot feature, is dedicated to easy ideas for the holiday buffet.

Artichokes: Not a classic dish, so a platter of artichokes is a nice surprise. Trim 4 large 'chokes — cut off stems and tough outer leaves, slice 1 inch off the top and cut off thorny leaf tips. Separate leaves slightly, rinse, tuck a few garlic cloves among the leaves. Stand in a 6-quart crock and add 1 cup water or white wine and juice of a lemon. Cook on low 4 hours. Cool slightly, then cut each artichoke in quarters. Scoop out choke and tiny inside leaves. The flesh will have a nice, lemony flavor.

Cranberry sauce: Start with 2 bags (24 ounces) of raw berries. Add 2 cups of water (or red wine for extra zoom) and 3 cups of sugar (throw in a cinnamon stick if you have one). Cook on low about 4 hours, until berries burst. Customize with orange slices, raisins, nuts, citrus peel or whatever else you like. Make it a few days early to reduce stress on Thanksgiving.

Dark greens: Place 2 pounds of chard, kale, collards, even luau leaves in the crock with 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth (or use 4 cups water and tuck in a ham hock); cook on low 8 to 10 hours, until very tender. Chopped onions and garlic may also be added. After cooking, drain and chop leaves. Dress with vinegar, lemon juice or hot sauce.

Potatoes, mashed: For 3 pounds peeled, cubed Yukon Gold potatoes, add 1-1/2 cups water; cook on low 4 to 6 hours, until soft. Drain, then mash and add milk, butter and seasonings as you like. Do the mashing in the crock, then hold the potatoes on the warm setting until dinner.

Potatoes, roasted: This works for any type of potato, from russet to sweet. Scrub potatoes and pile into pot; cook on low about 8 hours (sweet potatoes will cook faster; very large russets might take 10 hours). Skins may be rubbed with oil and coarse salt if you like.

Pumpkin or squash: Toss wedges with olive oil, salt and pepper; cook on low 4 to 6 hours, until tender but not too soft. Soy sauce or butter and brown sugar can be used instead of salt and pepper. To make a purée, cook until very soft, then mash with butter and cream. (If you find it hard to cut up a squash, pierce the skin all around and put it in the crock for about an hour. It will be soft enough to cut.)

Soup stock: If you do nothing else with your Crock-Pot for the holiday, at least use it to deal with that leftover turkey carcass. Pile the bones into the crock (don't forget the neck), add water to about 2/3 full, turn it on low and go to bed. In the morning, strain, skim the fat and you'll have a delicious base for any type of soup. Or just sip it as is.

Stuffing: The slow-cooker is a great way to make a ton of stuffing when you have no spare oven space. Use your favorite recipe, using toasted bread cubes for best results. A 6-quart crock will hold about 2 pounds of bread, or a standard loaf. Add sausage, onions, apples, celery, eggs and seasonings you like. Cook on low 4 to 6 hours. Stuffing will brown on top and will hold on the warm setting until dinner.

This stuffing has been a favorite of mine for many years. It's good enough for a holiday and simple enough for everyday use with, say, a roast chicken from Costco.

PECAN BREAD STUFFING

Adapted from "Betty Crocker's Slow-Cooker Cookbook" (General Mills, 1999)

4 cups torn pieces of stale or toasted bread (about 6 slices)
1 cup crushed crackers
1 cup chopped pecans
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped, or 1/2 cup EACH chopped basil and parsley
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 cup egg substitute or 2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon EACH pepper and dried sage
1/4 cup margarine, melted

Combine dry ingredients in 5-quart slow-cooker. Combine broth, eggs, margarine and spices; pour into pot. Toss. Cook on low 4 to 5 hours, stirring once, until puffy and brown around the edges. Serves 8.

Approximate nutritional analysis, per serving (using vegetable broth and egg substitute): 405 calories, 20 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, no cholesterol, 720 mg sodium, 49 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 10 g protein

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Nutritional analysis by Joannie Dobbs, Ph.D., C.N.S. Write “By Request,” Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu 96813. Reach her at bshimabukuro@staradvertiser.com.

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