I recently had to say goodbye to a longtime kitchen friend.
My faithful slow cooker gave up the ghost last weekend. We had planned to use the handy appliance to heat up and rehydrate a turkey breast left over from holiday festivities. But when we plugged it into the outlet, it failed to heat up.
So it was on to Plan B: turkey breast tented in the oven with a bit of broth poured over the top. It worked OK, but was not as convenient as the slow cooker.
This particular slow cooker — I have one that is much larger, too, as well as one of the much smaller “dipper” models — was one that I had before Hubby Bryan and I got married. That dates it as pre-1992, and I would guess, by the looks of it, a number of years before that date.
While the others have their uses, this was the model that got used most in our kitchen. The medium size was just right for our two-person household. It could fit a small roast or a batch of soup without taking up too much valuable counter real estate. And we used it a lot, particularly on Sundays when our kitchen is reserved for beer brewing activities.
After 20-plus years of use, however, I have to admit that this particular slow cooker looked worse for wear. It had indelible stains streaking its metal sides as well as the inside of the cooking chamber. And the Harvest Gold color certainly put a date on its origins.
I have yet to search out a replacement, but not because I’m still in mourning for the old model (although I do feel some sorrow at the loss). I just haven’t had time to go looking and figure out which size best corresponds to my longtime fave.
I do hope to find one that has a latch on it, as on more than one occasion the old model tipped in transit. It’s not easy getting broccoli-cheese dip out of a vehicle’s carpet.
Speaking of dips: We are just days away from Super Bowl Sunday, which means that many cans of Rotel tomatoes and loaves of Velveeta are flying off the supermarket shelves.
Here’s a variation of that popular football fare, perfect for keeping warm in a slow cooker — if yours is in working order.
Southwestern Chip Dip
1 pound ground beef
One 12-ounce roll spicy (hot) sausage
½ onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
One 8-ounce can tomato sauce
One 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 small can green chiles
1 pound Velveeta cheese, cubed
Brown beef and sausage with onion and garlic. Add remaining ingredients. Heat together until cheese melts. Keep warm in slow cooker on low heat. Serve with tortilla chips.
Because so many party appetizers are rich and full of cheese, I often substitute lower fat or light products for the regular base ingredients. In particular, I like to use Neufchatel in place of cream cheese; and light sour cream, plain yogurt or Greek yogurt in place of the sour cream.
I have yet to have bad results from such substitutions, especially when it comes to dips and spreads. Most people won’t know the difference.
I recently came across this recipe that has already made such substitutions in spinach dip — another popular Superbowl Sunday option. One-fourth cup of this dip has 42 calories and 2 grams of fat. If you serve it with veggie sticks instead of chips or bread, it’s almost guilt-free.
Super Spinach Dip
One 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach
¼ package (2 tablespoons) dry vegetable soup mix
1¾ cups fat-free plain yogurt
One 8-ounce can sliced water chestnuts, drained and chopped
¼ cup light mayonnaise
3 tablespoons chopped green onion
¼ teaspoon ground mustard
Thaw spinach, drain and squeeze until dry. Stir dry soup mix before measuring to mix evenly.
Combine all ingredients and mix well. Chill and serve with raw vegetables or quartered slices of whole-grain bread.
This can also be served in a hollowed-out loaf of whole-grain bread. Cube the bread that you remove and use it for serving instead of slices.