As a fairly recent convert to slow-cookerdom, I’ve embraced the appliance (Michele Scicolone’s three books The French Slow Cooker, The Italian Slow Cooker, and The Mediterranean Slow Cooker are in constant rotation in my house!). I have ATK’s Slow Cooker Revolution Volume 2: The Easy Prep Edition and tried several dishes that I loved. So when I heard that ATK was coming out with a healthy slow cooker book, I knew this was the one for me. I’m pescetarian and follow a low-fat diet, and I knew from previous ATK titles that there were sure to be veggie, grain and fish dishes that appealed to me. When I finally had the chance to flip through “Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution” shortly before New Year’s, I’d quickly tabbed dozens of recipes to try.
In the last two days, I’ve tried out four recipes from “Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution”: the Spanish tortilla with roasted red peppers, vegetarian pho, poached salmon with caper sauce, and the fingerling potatoes (see photos). Having lived in Spain twice, I’ve never mastered the stovetop art of the Spanish tortilla and feared it was forever out of my league; even when I tried to cook it on low heat, the bottom ended up scorched and the top was runny. No more! ATK’s recipe produced a gloriously thick, hearty tortilla that can be easily cut into squares and served with the optional aioli just like in tapas bars in Spain. The contrast of the bell peppers and the peas makes each slice look like stained glass. I’d tried another vegetarian pho recipe in the past, but I loved the addition of the meaty mushrooms (a mix of fresh portabello and dried shitake) and lemongrass. Instead of veggie stock, I recommend using a carton of Trader Joe’s miso ginger broth for an extra dash of umami. The poached salmon was so easy; due to the moist heat and steam, fish turns out moist and flavorful (I’ve overbaked it and dried it out in the oven previously). The herb relish can be adapted using whatever you have on hand; lacking capers, I used chopped picholine olives and lemon olive oil from Italy. And the fingerling potatoes with lemon were every bit as good as those done in the oven; I loved the addition of lemon peel and lemon juice that gives them a bright pop. I loved the veggie sides like maple-glazed acorn squash and braised butternut squash with pecans and cranberries and the grain mains like farro primavera, wild rice pilaf with cranberries and pecans, and spiced barley pilaf with dates and parsley. Vegetarians are well represented; you’ll even find a vegetarian French onion soup and Vietnamese pho. And because this focuses on healthy cooking, desserts are mostly poached fruit and lighter offerings (although you will find two cheesecakes).
Comparing the book side-by-side with Slow Cooker Revolution Vol. 2, several things jump out: first, the recommended slow cooker brands have changed dramatically; gone is the All-Clad (which I own), which is missing entirely from the new book. Each recipe now includes nutritional info, and the readability (font and spacing) has changed for the better in the new book: they’ve switched to a sans serif font and darker print that make it easy to read from a cookbook holder. Each recipe comes with nutritional info as well as a suggested veggie pairing or accompaniment, a very convenient feature since you don’t have to flip between sections to find the perfect side dish. There is also more of an Asian influence as there are many Thai-inspired vegetable curries and soups, tagines, and even a Turkish-style eggplant casserole that I look forward to trying.
Although shortcut processed foods are absent, there is still some detailed prep required (slicing / mincing veggies, browning meat, microwaving ingredients to parcook them before adding to the slow cooker), so if you are looking for a “dump it and go” book, you may be disappointed. As other reviewers have mentioned, most of these recipes are done in 4-6 hours with the exception of soups, so you can’t leave them cooking all day to come back to them in time for dinner (particularly true for fish, which only takes 1 to 2 hours on low). Also, while testing recipes I found that my slow cooker runs a little hot, so be sure to check recipes at the low end of the range first.
Overall, “Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution” continues the tradition of ATK’s last two slow cooker books, allowing you to make a wide range of mains and sides with various international influences. As I am always looking for healthy low-fat vegetarian ideas, I found more recipes in this book that appealed to me than in some of their other slow cooker offerings. Having the nutritional info provided was extremely helpful as well. I loved everything I made and have many more recipes flagged to try in the coming weeks.