Let me just be perfectly transparent on this: I received a copy of this book for free, from Stephanie, because Steph is a friend of mine and a very generous person. But I am also telling you the God’s honest truth when I tell you that Stephanie has changed the way I cook; gone are the days when my crock pot was merely for stews and soups. I consider this woman nothing short of genius, and if I want to rave about her cookbook, well then, I will.
Really, does Stephanie O’Dea need any introduction here? She’s the mastermind behind A Year of Slow Cooking, and she used her crock pot every single day in 2008 just for our amusement. And for her cookbook, Make It Fast, Cook It Slow: The Big Book of Everyday Slow Cooking, which just came out from Hyperion.
How do I love this cookbook? Let me count the ways:
The best of her website, without losing her voice. I’ve been a fan of Stephanie’s Year of Slow Cooking site forever, and while I have many of her recipes bookmarked, what I’ve always loved about it most is her “verdict” on each recipe. You don’t get “oh this was so scrumptious” on every single recipe; you get “the kids loved this, but the adults added some hot sauce,” or “the kids hated this but my husband and I loved it,” or even (on the site) “Lord, this was terrible. Please don’t make this.”
Obviously the “this was terrible” recipes aren’t included in the book, but they did leave in things like “our guinea pigs really enjoyed the beet stems,” which, really, where else will you see that sort of commentary in a cookbook??
All my favorites are here, and I can leave them in the kitchen. I’ve been known to bring my laptop into the kitchen while I cook, so that I can follow a recipe I found online. That’s a little less convenient than it sounds (and I don’t think it sounds terribly convenient.) As much as I often look up recipes online, nothing replaces the feel and heft and portability of a real cookbook. Now I have it.
This is the crock pot cookbook for people who think they hate crock pot cooking. “Oh, but my family doesn’t like soup,” is the most common response I get when I tell someone that I use my crock pot all the time. This is not just soup. Stephanie has not only come up with great versions of tried-and-true common crock pot creations, she’s adapted all manner of recipes you may never have thought to try in your crock. I suspect she may have sold a small piece of her soul to the devil. And yet, I’m okay with that.
No adaptations needed for the gluten-free amongst us. Stephanie has a daughter with Celiac, so all of her recipes are gluten-free. (In some cases, she has adapted it to make it GF, in which case she always explains what the non-GF amongst us could use instead.) Very handy for those of us avoiding wheat.
This is the crock pot cookbook for people who aren’t computer savvy and want to have all those cool recipes you say you got off the Internet. True, you can get most (but not all) of these recipes on Stephanie’s web site, but that’s not going to help your mother or your great-aunt Mabel who insists she doesn’t need a computer to be happy. Fine. Share the Internet goodness in book form.
It’s not just food. While I appreciate being able to look up a category of food and plan dinner, there’s an entire section of non-food things you can do, too. Just for fun. Like shrinky dinks! (Remember those?) And homemade soap! I mean, it’ll be a cold day you know where before I devote my already-scarce free time to making soap, probably, but it rather tickles me that it’s in there. What can I say… this book is just plain fun.
Bottom line: I pink puffy heart Make It Fast, Cook It Slow: The Big Book of Everyday Slow Cooking. It would make a perfect holiday gift for plenty of people. I will proudly join the Cult Of Crock Pot and brandish this cookbook. Congratulations on your newest “baby,” Stephanie!