Crockpot Apple Cake

by Marykate Smith Despres, Salem Depot

I found it! A slow-cooked dessert! The cake is “baked” in the crockpot over diced apples creating a sort of pie meets cake creation that is incredibly moist and delicious. The cake itself can be made with either pumpkin or sweet potato and calls for just a little bit of applesauce to tie it all together. I used sweet potato for my cake, as did the blogger behind Finding Joy in My Kitchen, the cooking blog on which I found the recipe adapted here.

You’ll need:

1 3/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup whipping cream

2-3 Tbsp butter

4-5 medium apples, peeled & sliced

2 cups whole wheat flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

pinch of ginger

1 cup pumpkin or sweet potato puree

2 eggs

1/3 cup applesauce

Grease your crockpot with cooking spray and line the bottom with diced apples.

Melt butter, 1 cup of brown sugar and cream in a small saucepan, stirring until incorporated, and pour over apples.

Combine dry ingredients. Add puree, applesauce and eggs and mix until smooth. Pour over apples.

Cover and cook in crockpot for about 2 hours on low. Test readiness as you would any other cake using the toothpick/knife in the center trick.

Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream.




Creature Feature

by Marykate Smith Despres, Salem Depot

If you grow your own vegetables, snails and grasshoppers may be the last thing you want to see. But the fact is, these critters are resilient, and though I loathe them, I do reserve a modicum of admiration for their ability to hang on.

This grasshopper, for example, literally hung on to my car for the two mile plus ride from our house to downtown Salem.

He looked slightly less composed just seconds before:

And see that tiny speck on the faucet?

Need a closer look?

I washed this guy off my chard the night before and assumed he’d gone down the drain to perish in the jaws of the disposal. And no, it didn’t bother me a bit, because besides the groundhog that continually eats the tops off all my carrots and is in a class of villains all his own, the snails are garden enemy number one. I found this one on the chard, remember?

I woke the next morning to discover this miniature mollusk as whole as ever. Surprised and impressed, I transferred him outside to the grass and asked him to remember my charity and please eat from my neighbors’ gardens instead of my own.


Two More for the Crockpot

by Marykate Smith Despres, Salem Depot

It’s the final week of the regular season and we’ve got a few more crockpot concoctions for you.

These meaty meal ideas are more recollections of things we’ve recently thrown in our crockpots to cook than they are actual recipes. That’s usually the way I cook with crockpot anyway. I start with whatever meat or veggie I have a lot of and go from there, adding a dash of this and a squirt of that until the pot is almost full. Then I turn it on and forget about it. I’m usually putting my crockpot on before bed, so I often start it on high about an hour or so before I’m ready to turn in and then switch it over to low before hitting the hay.

Our Operations Manager, Julie Pottier-Brown, made a slow-cooked dinner recently using ham hock from last year’s local pig, plus split green peas, a chopped onion, and some water. It all went into the crockpot and cooked on high for two hours (because the hock was frozen) and then for another six to seven more on low. She pulled out the ham, separated the meat, fat, and bones, shredded the meat  and return it to the pot. Julie said that she, “stirred in my leftover collard greens from breakfast, and yum.” Although this whole meal sounds delicious, I was most impressed with the addition of the collards, not because of the greens themselves, but because they were left-over from breakfast! Way to eat your greens at every meal, Julie!

If you’d rather chicken than pork, try my favorite way to slow-cook it: with peanut sauce! I throw about six frozen chicken breasts in the pot, followed by a few cloves of chopped garlic, about 1/3 – 1/2 cup of peanut butter, a can of coconut milk, a heaping tablespoon of miso, a squirt of Bragg’s, a few heart shakes of cayenne pepper, ground ginger (though I prefer fresh ginger if I have it) and a bit of whatever other hot pepper, fresh, powdered, ground or pickled, I have on hand. It only takes a few hours to cook. You’ll know it’s ready when you attempt to stir it and the chicken starts to fall apart. At this point, toss in whatever greens you have or prefer (I often use a tougher green like kale or collards, but have enjoyed it with chard as well), allow to cook until they are tender and serve over soba noodles or rice.

Stay tuned for my final crockpot post of the season later in the week, Slow-Cooked Dessert!


Consider the carrot

by Marykate Smith Despres, Salem Depot

There is little on this earth that is quite so satisfying as knuckling down in the dirt and pulling out the carrot which is ready to come. Just a bit of resistance before the smaller roots release with an audible crackle you can feel through your fingertips, and the taproot slides out. Until this moment, the carrot has lived a subterranean life. A tiny seed that stretches itself in two directions in yogic form – root down, rise up – its leaves are tens of tiny hands reaching each finger out to the sun, soaking it in and sending it down to create a stronger and stronger base. The root, for its part, pushes out against the inside of the ground. Water is sought. More roots form. Little ones like the fins on a whale seemingly too small to steady, but they do. And if it were to have eyes, I believe the carrot would be blinded by the sun as it slipped from the earth, would meet its fate following the light.


Black Bean Soup and Tamale Pie

by Marykate Smith Despres, Salem Depot

We have gotten some great responses to our Call to Slow Cookers, including these two black bean recipes.

First, Melissa Perry Giamanco, of the Melrose Depot, shares her Black Bean Soup recipe:

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, roughly chopped

2 carrots, roughly chopped

1 rib of celery, roughly chopped

1 red pepper, roughly chopped

1 green pepper, roughly chopped

4 15 oz cans of black beans, drained and rinsed, or 1 bag soaked dried black beans

4-5 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1 1/2 Tbsp chili powder

2 tsp cumin

salt and pepper to taste

Optional spices -chipotle chili powder, cayenne pepper, or crushed red pepper

Heat olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, celery, and peppers and cook for about 10 minutes until the onions are softened, stirring occasionally.

Add beans, broth and spices and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover pot, and simmer for about 15 minutes or until carrots are soft.

Remove soup from heat. Use an immersion blender (or work in small batches in a blender) to blend soup until smooth. Taste to make sure spices are okay, and serve.

If you want to spice this up, you could add some crushed red pepper to the vegetables in step 1, or a bit of chipotle chili powder (which adds a smoky spice) or a tiny bit of cayenne pepper with the other spices in step 2. Adjust any of the seasonings to make this the way your family likes it!

Serve soup with toppings like: shredded cheese, chopped green onions, plain lowfat Greek yogurt, chopped tomatoes, avocado chunks and crushed tortilla chips.

If you’d rather a twist on black bean chili, try Salem Depot member Rebecca Hains’s favorite recipe for Slow Cooker Tamale Pie:

For the cornbread topping:

3/4 cup cornmeal

1 1/4 cup flour

1 cup milk

1/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1 tsp baking powder


For the Chili:

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can fire roasted tomatoes

1 can corn, drained

1 Tbsp chili powder

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp paprika

1/4 cup onion, diced

1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Spray crockpot with cooking spray. Dump in the filling ingredients and stir very well to distribute the spices evenly. In a separate bowl, mix together the cornbread topping. When finished, pour evenly over the filling, spreading with a spatula if needed. Cover and cook on low for 4-7 hours or on high for 2-4.

Thanks, ladies! The season is winding down, and I’d like to do one more crockpot post, so keep sending us your recipes! Some members have been sharing their favorites right on our facebook page or in the comments section of the slow cooking posts here on the blog, so be sure to check those spaces for more great recipes.