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August 6, 2009

Tapioca Pudding

2 cups milk (low fat is fine)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup small pearl tapioca (not instant)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg

Coat the slow cooker with butter-flavor nonstick cooking spray.

Combine the milk, sugar, tapioca, and vanilla in the cooker; stir well with a whisk. Cover and cook on LOW until the milk is absorbed, the pudding thickened, and most of the tapioca balls are completely transparent, about 1 1/2 hours. Some of them will still have a white dot at their centers; that is okay. While cooking, the milk will be gently bubbling.

Beat the egg in a cup or small bowl. Stir the tapioca thoroughly to break up any clumps. Spoon a few tablespoons of the hot tapioca into the egg and beat well; pour the mixture into the cooker and stir well with a spoon or spatula to combine. Cover and cook on LOW for another 30 minutes

Turn off the cooker and let the pudding cool, partially covered, for 3 minutes. Serve warm or pour into individual bowls, cover and chill. Serve plain or with fruit or whipped cream on top. Store covered in the refrigerator.

Note: If you love tapioca pudding and you love chocolate, treat yourself to chocolate tapioca pudding. When the tapioca pudding is finished, add semisweet choclate chips (1/4 cup for each 2 cups of liquid in a recipe). Gently stir until the chocolate is melted and evenly distributed throughout the pudding.

Serves 4

Classic Italian Meat Sauce

1/2 cup olive oil
2 medium-size yellow onions, chopped
2 medium-size carrots, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 lb lean ground beef
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups dry red wine, such as Chianti
2 28-oz cans whole plum tomatoes, with their juice; or 2 lbs fresh ripe plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1/2 cup beef broth

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the onions, carrots and celery, stirring occasionally, until just browned, 10-15 minutes. Add the beef and cook until no longer pink; season with salt and pepper.

Transfer to the slow cooker. Add the wine to the pan over high heat and cook, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom, until it reduced to half in volume. Pour into the corck and add the tomatoes, tomato paste and broth. Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours. Serve the sauce hot. It will keep int he refrigerator up to 4 days and in the freezer for a month.

Serves 12

Spanish Brown Rice with Spicy Sausage

1/2 cup diced yellow onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium-size red bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 15-16 oz can crushed tomatoes with their juice
1 1/2 cups water
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup short-grain brown rice
1 Tbsp chopped jalapeno: en escabeche, nacho-style, or fresh
1 lb Santa Fe-style sausage or any other fully cooked spicy sausage, diced

Combine all the ingredients in the slow cooker and stir to evenly distribute. Cover and cook on LOW for 8-9 hours. Serve hot. The dish will remain warm in a turned-off slow cooker for up to 30 minutes.

Serves 6

Summer Squash Enchilada Casserole with Three Cheeses

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb green zucchini or other summer squash, ends trimmed and cut into 3/4-inch thick rounds
1 lb yellow scalloped squash, or other summer squash, cut into 3/4-inch rounds
1 tsp dried oregano or 2 Tbsp minced fresh oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 cup fresh corn kernels, or frozen corn, thawed
2 cups finely shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 cups finely shredded cheddar cheese
3-4 cups canned green chile enchilada sauce
1 dozen soft corn tortillas, each cut into 4 strips
8 oz queso fresco or rinsed and well drained mild feta cheese, crumbled

In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat, then add the onion and cook, stirring a few times, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, zucchini, yellow squash, oregano, and cumin and cook, stirring a few times until the vegetables begin to brown, 4-5 minutes. Add the corn and cook another minute or two. Remove the skillet from the heat.

Mix the Jack and cheddar cheeses together. Pour about 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce into the slow cooker and tilt to spread it around. In layers add 1/4 of the tortilla strips, 1/4 of the remaining enchilada sauce, 1/3 of the sauteed vegetables, and 1/4 of the cheese blend. Sprinkle with 1/4 of the queso fresco. Repeat the layers 2 more times, ending with the queso fresco. Finish the casserole with the remaining tortilla strips, sauce, cheese blend and queso fresco. Cover and cook on HIGH for 2 hours or on LOW for 4 hours. The casserole will begin to brown around the edges, but do not allow it to burn.

Let cool for a few minutes before cutting into squares or wedges to serve.

Crock-Roasted Garlic

2 or more heads of garlic
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Fresh or dried herbs such as rosemary, thyme, oregano, or marjoram (optional)

Remove the loose outer papery skins from the garlic heads, leaving the cloves attached. Put the heads, in pairs, on squares of aluminum foil large enough to hold them. Over each 2 garlic heads, drizzle 2 tsp of olive oil. If desired, add one of more herbs. If using dried, crumble a pinch of the herb between your fingers over the garlic. If using fresh herbs, place small sprigs into each packet. Try a 1/2 inch sprig of rosemary, 2-3 2-inch sprigs of thyme, or a 2-inch sprig of oregano or marjoram (or use a combination of 2 or more herbs). Fold the foil around the garlic and herbs, sealing the edges tightly. Place the packets in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW until the garlic is very tender (squeeze a head with your fingers to check for the degree of softness), about 5 hours.

To use the cloves, cut the heads of garlic in half, or simply cut off the pointed end of each head. Squeeze out the cloves. To serve with bread, break the heads into sections and offer one section to each person; squeeze the soft cloves out of their skins. The garlic will keep, refrigerated. for up to 3 days.

Baked Potato Soup

5 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup sour cream (don't use nonfat)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 oz bacon, cooked until crisp, drained on paper towels, and crumbled
6 green onions (white and green parts), sliced, or 3 Tbsp minced fresh chives

Put the potatoes in the slow cooker and add water to cover. Cover and cook on HIGH until the potatoes are cooked and falling apart, about 5 hours.

Turn the cooker to LOW, add the butter, half-and-half and sour cream, and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until hot, about 20 minutes.

Stir in the crumbled bacon and sliced green onions. Serve immediately or keep warm on LOW, adding water or milk to thin if necessary.

Serves 12

Tomato-Black Bean Soup

2 15-oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 4.5-oz cans chopped roasted green chiles
1 14.5-oz can Mexican stewed tomatoes with green chiles
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes, with their juice
1 11-oz can whole kernel corn, drained; 1 1/2 cups frozen yellow or white baby corn, thawed; or 3-4 ears fresh corn, kernels cut off the cobs
4 green onions (white part and 2 inches of the green), sliced
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 to 1 1/2 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin

Put all the ingredients in the slow cooker and stir to combine. Cover and cook on LOW for 5-7 hours.

Add some boiling water to thin, if desired. Ladle into individual bowls and serve hot with a sprinkling of shredded cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream.

Serves 4-6.