Last updated: January 10. 2014 11:23PM - 1161 Views
By Virginia A. Smith The Philadelphia Inquirer (MCT)



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PHILADELPHIA — In 1978, at the height of the Crock-Pot fad, Phyllis Pellman Good received one as a gift. “Here,” said the neighbor who bestowed it, “you need this.”


Good was a working mother of two small girls and, while husband Merle was great at cleaning up, the cooking fell to her.


No stranger to the kitchen, she and her husband were founders of Good Books, the Intercourse, Pa., publisher that specializes in cookbooks and other works about Amish and Mennonite life, and she already had several titles under her belt and a local following.


So she tried this new countertop appliance embraced for its ability to cook one-dish meals with a low, moist heat, over many hours, without anyone needing to be in the kitchen. “But it didn’t work. I wasn’t very impressed,” Good recalls.


All that changed in 2000, when she and her husband were heavily lobbied by their Good Books staff to produce a slow-cooker cookbook.


“I kept saying to them, ‘How many ways can you make beef stew?’” she says skeptically.


Eventually, she solicited slow-cooker recipes from friends, local cooks, and visitors to the People’s Place, the Goods’ Amish-Mennonite educational center in Intercourse. About 2,000 recipes poured in.


“I was totally overwhelmed. I had to take this seriously,” says Good, a convert to what she now calls “a near-miracle appliance” that, according to the NPD Group, a consumer market research firm, 83 percent of Americans own.


Channeling their workhorse forebears, the newer slow-cooker models can still turn out aromatic buckets of chili and stew. But their aerodynamic lines and sophisticated safety features and heat and temperature controls herald a new day, and a year-round culinary repertoire that includes meat, fish, vegetables, bread, pizza, pasta, and desserts.


Here, Good, 64, a Mennonite who learned to cook only after she married, has found her niche. You might even call it an empire.


Over the last 30 years, Good has written 15 cookbooks, including seven for a slow-cooker series called “Fix-It and Forget-It.” In 2002, without advertising or marketing, that first “Fix-It” cookbook was the top-selling trade paperback in the country. (With 5 million sold, it remains one of the best-selling cookbooks ever.)


That same year, the second “Fix-It” was 15th on the list.


In 2013, Good released two more in the series, one with the American Diabetes Association. Another is due out in fall. “You have to be careful,” she says, anticipating a visitor’s question. “If you bring them out too fast, you can cannibalize yourself.”


In all, this modest, self-taught home cook has sold more than 11 million cookbooks. Yet she remains unknown to all but her fans, people who, as Good puts it, “cook because they must.”


“I’m not a celebrity. I’ve never been invited on a TV cooking show,” Good acknowledges, although she’s a regular on QVC.


She explains: “My heart is with people who want to feed their families at home, who work, whose kids’ schedules are crazy, who are involved in their community, but who see the value of sitting at the table every night.


“Slow-cookers take the pressure off between 5 and 6 p.m., the horror hour,” she says.


Good is particularly attached to her cookers — two at home, eight more at her Good Cooking Store in Intercourse, where she gives cooking classes — from Thanksgiving through Super Bowl season.


“People are home. They’re always around, for all kinds of meals, not just feasts,” she says.


Slow-cookers range from 1.5 quarts to 8, costing $20 to $200. They free up oven space, always a plus at holidays, and don’t heat up a room, which puts the lie to the canard that they’re cold-weather appliances only.


The new models do, however, cook hotter and faster, increasing the risk of drying things out. It even happens to Good once in a while.


During a lengthy interview for this article, she lost track of time, and while the apples and sweet potatoes in the pot still had nice texture, the pork loin was dry.


“Pork is particularly susceptible to drying out,” Good says. “You need to get to know your cooker. It takes some dancing to get used to.”


Good has some advice:


Make the first recipe in your new slow-cooker on a day when you’re at home. Cook it for the shortest amount of time the recipe calls for, check to see if it’s done, and adjust accordingly. Write your findings next to the recipe, for next time.


By then, you can just “fix it and forget it.”


——


HERITAGE PORK ROAST


Makes 4 to 6 servings


½ cup apple juice or cider


11/2 pounds sweet potatoes, sliced ½-inch thick


3 medium onions peeled, sliced, and separated into rings


4 medium apples, sliced


2 pounds center-cut boneless pork roast, trimmed of fat


2 teaspoons Dijon mustard


¼ teaspoon black pepper


6 fresh sage leaves, snipped, or ½ teaspoon dried sage


¼ cup cold water


1 teaspoon brown sugar


2 tablespoons cornstarch


1. Pour apple juice into slow cooker.


2. Add sweet potato slices in a layer, followed by onion rings, and then sliced apples (peeling optional).


3. In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, brown pork on all sides.


4. Settle pork onto the apple slices.


5. Brush mustard over the roast. Sprinkle with pepper and sage.


6. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours, or until the roast is done and registers 145 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.


7. Move the roast to a platter and cover it with foil to keep it warm.


8. Using a slotted spoon, lift the sweet potato, onion, and apple slices into a bowl. Cover to keep the mixture warm.


9. In a small bowl, stir together the water, sugar, and cornstarch until smooth.


10. Stir cornstarch mixture into the juice in the cooker.


11. Cook, stirring often until thickened, about 5 to 10 minutes.


12. Slice the pork. Top with the sweet potato, onion, and apple slices. Spoon the sauce over everything.


—From “Fix-It and Forget-It” by Phyllis Good (Good Books, 2013)


Per serving (based on 6): 458 calories; 42 grams protein; 59 grams carbohydrates; 18 grams sugar; 6 grams fat; 110 milligrams cholesterol; 118 milligrams sodium; 9 grams dietary fiber.


——


WHITE BEAN CASSEROLE


Makes 6 to 8 servings


2 cups dry white beans


4 medium onions, chopped or sliced thin


4 teaspoons olive oil, divided


½ teaspoon salt


¼ teaspoon pepper


3 cups water


2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried


2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or 2 teaspoons dried


1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried


4 slices toasted bread


2 tablespoons butter


1. Place the dried beans in a stockpot. Cover with 8 cups of water. Cover pot. Let the beans soak for 8 hours, or overnight.


2. Drain off the water. Put the beans into your greased slow cooker.


3. Stir in the onions, 1 teaspoon oil, salt, pepper, and water.


4. Cover. Cook on low 9 to 10 hours, or on high 4 to 5 hours, or until the beans are tender but still holding their shape.


5. Thirty minutes before the end of the cooking time, stir in the herbs.


6. After stirring in the herbs, blend the toast and the 3 teaspoons olive oil in a food processor. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the vegetables. Do not cover the cooker.


7. Cut the butter into chunks. Scatter over the bread crumbs. Do not cover the cooker.


8. Turn the cooker to high and cook 20 to 30 more minutes.


—From “Fix-It and Forget-It” by Phyllis Good (Good Books, 2013)


Per serving (based on 8): 249 calories; 13 grams protein; 38 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams sugar; 6 grams fat; 8 milligrams cholesterol; 207 milligrams sodium; 9 grams dietary fiber.


——


SPLIT-PEA SOUP WITH HAM


Makes 6 to 8 servings


1 smoked ham hock


1 onion, chopped


1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar


7 cups water


3 cups dried green split peas


3 carrots, chopped


2 ribs celery, chopped


2 bay leaves


1/8 teaspoon pepper


1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce


1. Place ham hock, onions, vinegar, and water in slow cooker.


2. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 8 hours, however much time you have. You are essentially making a stock for your soup.


3. Add the rest of the ingredients. Continue to cook on low for 4 to 6 hours, until the meat is tender and the split peas are as soft and disintegrated as you like. We cook ours until they have fallen apart into puree.


4. Use a slotted spoon to lift out the ham hock. Let cool until you can handle it. Take the meat off the bone, cut it up, and stir it back into the soup.


5. Check for salt and fish out the bay leaves before serving.


—From “Fix-It and Forget-It” by Phyllis Good (Good Books, 2013)


Per serving (based on 8): 291 calories; 21 grams protein; 49 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams sugar; 2 grams fat; 8 milligrams cholesterol; 222 milligrams sodium; 20 grams dietary fiber.


——


STEEL-CUT OATMEAL — 3 VERSIONS


Makes 6 to 8 servings


2 cups steel-cut oats (do not substitute old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats)


3 cups water


1 cup apple cider


4 cups milk, plus more for serving


1 teaspoon salt


2 tablespoons butter


1 good-sized apple, chopped


2 to 4 tablespoons brown sugar


1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


¾ to 1 cup chopped walnuts


1. Place all ingredients, except walnuts, into a 4-quart slow cooker (if you want to make a smaller amount, use a smaller slow cooker).


2. Cover and cook on low 6 to 8 hours, or overnight. If the oatmeal gets brown and crispy around the edges, just stir it down. It adds flavor.


3. Serve with milk. Top each serving with 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts.


—From “Fix-It and Forget-It” by Phyllis Good (Good Books, 2013)


Variation 1:


Replace apple cider with orange juice.


Instead of 1 chopped apple, use 1 cup dried cranberries.


Drop the cinnamon. Stir in ¼ teaspoon cardamom.


Top with sliced almonds instead of chopped walnuts.


Variation 2:


Follow the original recipe, but swap 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen) for the apple. Keep everything else the same.


Or follow Variation 1 and substitute 1 cup chopped dried apricots or dates, or go with 1 cup raisins instead of dried cranberries. Use either cider or orange juice.


Per serving (based on 8 and ingredients from original recipe): 272 calories; 10 grams protein; 30 grams carbohydrates; 14 grams sugar; 14 grams fat; 18 milligrams cholesterol; 372 milligrams sodium; 4 grams dietary fiber.

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