Yowza, it’s been a while! A good couple of weeks have passed since my last post, which is a bit pathetic considering I actually have been cooking. It’s more the uploading photos and writing part that has eluded me. With Dylan away for the past month doing a surgical rotation at UCSF, between work and taking care of Maddie I’ve been busy enough that in my spare moments I usually just want to collapse on the couch. I hate to say it, but blogging sometimes begins to feel like work. Added to that, our super-duper Nikon D70 and all its fancy lenses travelled up to San Francisco with Dylan, leaving me with our little point-and-click which clearly can’t compete, at least not with my limited skills as a photographer.
But enough bellyaching- no one wants to read a post full of ranting and complaining. After all, we’re all tired at the end of the day, right? We all have moments when even our favorite hobbies lose their appeal, don’t we? Enter the slow-cooker. My mom sent us one as a gift last year, knowing how much I love her crock pot apple sauce. But the thing is enormous, so much so that it doesn’t fit anywhere in our tiny kitchen, and I’ll admit I still think of it (unfairly) as a 70s fad, less appropriate for a modern gal like me.
That said, with Maddie’s arrival, I just don’t have as much time to cook, even though I want to try new dishes and hate to rely on take-out or packaged foods. And so begins my relationship with the crock pot. I saw this recipe, originally from Better Homes and Gardens, on YumSugar a few weeks ago and with many of my favorite ingredients (beans, polenta, veggies, and CHEESE!), it seemed like a good way to start. Paradoxically and somewhat inexplicably, I decided to take a short-cut and use packaged polenta (as suggested) for the first time only to decide that I had to make my own pesto, which then required additional prep work. Clearly, it will turn out best if you put in the extra effort of doing it all yourself, but regardless, it was a nice little nutritious dish and the leftovers have just kept going and going. And did I mention how awesome it was that dinner cooked itself while I went to the gym and picked up Maddie from day care? Yeah, I could get into this slow cooker thing…
Vegetable Casserole (serves 6-8)
2 19-oz. cans cannellini beans
1 19-oz. can garbanzo or fava beans
1/4 cup purchased basil pesto (or use your favorite recipe- I did the America’s Test Kitchen one)
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-1/2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning, crushed (I used the same amount of assorted dried savory spices instead)
1 16-oz. pkg. refrigerated cooked plain polenta cut in 1/2-inch-thick slices
1 large tomato, thinly sliced
1 8-oz. pkg. finely shredded Italian cheese blend (2 cups)
2 cups fresh spinach (I used frozen and added it earlier)
1 cup torn radicchio (I omitted this)
1. Rinse and drain beans.
2. In large bowl combine beans, 2 tablespoons of pesto, onion, garlic, and Italian seasoning.
3. In 4- to 5-quart slow cooker layer half of bean mixture, half of polenta, and half of cheese. Add remaining beans and polenta.
4. Cover; cook on low heat setting for 4 to 6 hours (or on high heat setting 2 to 2-1/2 hours).
5. Add tomato, remaining cheese, spinach, and radicchio.
6. Combine remaining pesto and 1 tablespoon water. Drizzle pesto mixture on casserole.
7. Let stand, uncovered, 5 minutes.