Make It Fast, Cook It Slow

The Big Book of Everyday Slow Cooking


By Stephanie O’Dea

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Make It Fast, Cook It Slow is the first cookbook from Stephanie O’Dea, the extremely popular slow cooking blogger: affordable, delicious, nutritious, and gluten-free recipes to delight the entire family. In December 2007, Stephanie O’Dea made a New Year’s resolution: she’d use her slow cooker every single day for an entire year, and write about it on her very popular blog. The result: more than three million visitors, and more than 300 fabulous, easy-to-make, family-pleasing recipes, including:
  • Breakfast Risotto
  • Vietnamese Roast Chicken
  • Tomatoes and Goat Cheese with Balsamic Cranberry Syrup
  • Falafel
  • Philly Cheesesteaks
  • Creme Brulee
— and much more. Make It Fast, Cook It Slow is the perfect cookbook for easy, quick prep, inexpensive ingredients, and meals that taste like you spent hours at the stove.


Make It Fast, Cook It Slow

The Big Book of Everyday Slow Cooking

Stephanie O’Dea


To my husband,
Thank you
for eating slow-cooked food
every day for a year,
and for doing the dishes.










Side Dishes


Pasta & Casseroles

Soups & Stews



Meatless Mains


Takeout Fake-Out

Snacks & Fondue


Fun Stuff



Searchable Terms






It Started With a Resolution

I went into 2008 with a New Year’s Resolution: I would use my slow cooker every single day for a year and document my results daily on a personal Web site, When I started my project, I didn’t expect that anyone would make the food I attempted. I figured people might tune in to read about the process, but I wasn’t expecting to come up with new uses or recipes for the slow cooker.

That changed on Valentine’s Day, 2008, when I made crème brûlée in the slow cooker. I was flabbergasted that a delicate restaurant-quality dessert could be made with very little effort in a slow cooker—something many (myself included, at the time) think of as a glorified pot roast machine. When the crème brûlée came out perfectly on the very first try, I got excited. Really excited. I sent an e-mail about my success to The Rachael Ray Show—and hinted that they should have me on to show her audience how they, too, could make this dessert easily. When a producer from the show called two weeks later, I knew I was on to something.

That’s when I decided to take my challenge to the next level: I became determined to “think outside the crock” and come up with innovative, fun uses for the slow cooker, along with an extensive array of family friendly meals. This book is a compilation of the recipes I prepared throughout 2008, minus the ones that just did not work.

Yes, I had some flops. I would not recommend trying to hard-boil eggs in the slow cooker: you’ll end up with a horrid smell in the house and greenish eggs. I needed to air out the house for forty-eight hours after that catastrophe. I’d also recommend not experimenting with bacon-wrapped scallops, unless you’re okay with tossing away $60 in fresh seafood after they become a rubbery mess in the slow cooker because they’ve swum in slimy bacon juice for six hours. I did learn through this challenge, however, that a really bad flop results in dinner out—certainly not a horrible outcome.

This book is a group effort. Scores of readers from all over the world sent me their favorite recipes to try in the slow cooker. Some were traditional slow-cooked meals, and some needed to be tweaked to work in the slow cooker. All of the recipes have been tested in my own home kitchen, with my own Crock-Pot® slow cookers, and tasted by my family: my husband, Adam, and my two girls, who were three and six years of age at the time. The dishes have also been tested in home kitchens around the world, with reader results posted in comment sections under each recipe on the Web site.

In order to save on publication fees and keep the purchase price of this book down, I’ve opted not to include photographs. If you would like to see a finished photo as well as preparation photos, please visit the Web site. Every dish has been well documented.

Unless otherwise indicated, you may use whatever variety and fat content of milk you desire.

Please note that children under the age of four should not be given hot dogs, nuts, seeds, popcorn, large chunks of meat, whole grapes, carrots, or any other food that may cause choking.

Save Money and Time

I received my first slow cooker when I turned twenty-one (along with a food dehydrator and pasta machine, which have since been freecycled). I still own my original slow cooker, and continue to use it about once a week. While I was in school I found that coming home to slow-cooked meals was a fantastic way to save money and stave off the dreaded “freshman fifteen.” As newlyweds, my husband and I used to eat meals from a pot of beans or a roast for a week. We’d eat leftovers over rice or pasta to stretch the meal, or stuff it into tortillas for burritos.

When I had children, I quickly learned that it was much safer to chop vegetables and prepare our evening meal in the morning while still heavily caffeinated, than in the evening with tired kids hanging on my ankles. The slow cooker became a permanent fixture on our kitchen countertop. I loved how a forgotten and frostbitten roast from the back of the freezer could come back to life by cooking it in its own juices, or with a bit of help from a jar of pasta sauce. I was amazed at how tender chicken breasts could become when slow cooked, and how well our family could eat with minimal effort on my part.

Cooking with the slow cooker is quite economical. With its help you can stock the freezer with homemade broth, stock, and cream-of-something soup. You can freeze your own cooked beans. You can make yogurt, granola, and baby food. You can cook a whole chicken for meat, and use the carcass for broth. You can even make playdough, crayons, soap, and food gifts, such as spiced nuts and apple butter. I learned through this challenge that the average energy used for slow cooking is similar to that of a desk lamp: 75 watts on low, and 150 watts on high. This is much less energy use than an oven, stove, or barbecue requires.

Choosing a Slow Cooker

Although there are many different brands of slow cookers on the market, I have only personally used the original Crock-Pot® brand of slow cooker. All the meals in this book and on the Web site ( were prepared in Crock-Pot® brand slow cookers. Please refer to your owner’s manual for proper use and care of your slow cooker and use your best judgment when in use. The cooking time is a range—if you know that your particular slow cooker seems to cook fast, stick to the low end of the cooking time. When preparing delicate dishes, and when baking, keep an eye on your cooker and don’t venture too far away. I recommend keeping your pot two-thirds to three-quarters full for optimum performance.

I have quite a few Crock-Pot® slow cookers, and am pleased with the variety of sizes available. If you are in the market for a new slow cooker, consider purchasing one with an auto-warm safety feature. This type of programmable slow cooker lets the cook choose the cooking temperature (high or low) and the exact amount of time that the heating element is cooking. When the time has elapsed, the cooker will automatically stop cooking and shift to a lower temperature to keep the food warm until you arrive home and are ready to eat.

If you are cooking for 1 to 2 people, opt for a 2-quart cooker. For a family of 3 to 4, a 4-quart slow cooker is a great choice. For a family of 4 to 6, a 6-quart would work well, and a 7- to 8-quart cooker is ideal for large families, or for entertaining groups. The 1-quart and smaller models are ideal for desserts, fondues, or for keeping dipping sauces warm. If you only own a large slow cooker, you can still make all of the meals, appetizers, and fondues by simply inserting an oven-safe dish (Corningware®, Pyrex®) into your stoneware to create a smaller cooking vessel.

Get to Know Your Slow Cooker

You don’t need to take your cookware on dates or for a stroll on the beach, but you do need to get to know your particular slow cooker. Start easy. Don’t try out a complicated dessert or pasta dish, or Blue Cheese and Steak Roll-Ups for one of your first slow-cooked adventures. The reason the machines come with a little book full of stews and soups is because they are easy and somewhat foolproof. Once you get the feel for your slow cooker (which is why you should start with the easy ones) you will be able to determine how long things will take with your own machine, altitude, and humidity level.

If you are going to be out of the house, cook for the shortest and lowest cooking time possible. I know, it doesn’t make sense. But if you are going to be out of the house for 10 hours, and the cooking time says 6 to 8 hours, don’t set it for 10. Set it for 6, and your cooker will automatically switch to warm for the rest of the time you’re gone. Worst case, the meal isn’t quite done and you flip the cooker to high while you change your clothes and set the table. You will get a feel, I promise. I’m a complete dunderhead when I’m in the kitchen, yet I can slow cook. You can, too. I promise.

Everything Is Gluten-Free

The recipes in this book have been prepared completely gluten-free, due to a family intolerance. If you do not have to worry about gluten, feel free to ignore my notes, or file them away in case you ever need to cook for someone with gluten sensitivity. Gluten is found in wheat, barley, and rye. Please read all manufacturer labels carefully; ingredients sometimes change with little or no warning.

I use the following gluten-free foods and condiments in our home kitchen, readily found at neighborhood grocery stores, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, or

Barbara’s Bakery Organic Brown Rice Crisps cereal

Bob’s Red Mill Certified Gluten Free Whole Grain Rolled Oats

Coleman Natural chicken meatballs

Food For Life brown rice bread

General Mills Rice Chex

Glutino Pretzels

La Choy soy sauce, sweet & sour, and teriyaki sauce

Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce, Made in USA (only the U.S.-manufactured is gluten-free)

Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix

Redbridge beer (Anheuser-Busch)

San-J Tamari, Wheat-Free

Tinkyáda Brown Rice pasta (all sizes, including lasagna noodles)

Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Pancake and Baking Mix

Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value Gluten Free baking products

Real Life

I love how the slow cooker allows me to have wiggle room when preparing meals. I am not the best in the kitchen, and before this challenge, had no idea which spices went well together and why. I have certainly expanded my culinary expertise through this exercise, but I would never consider myself to be a good cook. I like having fun. I treat the slow cooker as an Easy-Bake™ oven for grown-ups.

I love that I can put something on and wander away without fearing the food will burn to a crisp or boil over (things that happen often when I cook using traditional methods). I also like that I can taste and tweak spices while cooking with plenty of time to “fix” anything that might happen. I’ve been known to accidentally add a tablespoon of salt instead of a teaspoon. The low and steady heat of the slow cooker gives me the opportunity to scoop out my mistake without burning my fingers, or the time needed to add more broth or ingredients to balance out my flub. I also appreciate that my children can sit on the countertop with me while I prepare meals and add ingredients without worry of being burned.

Cooking should be fun. When preparing dinner becomes a chore and it’s no longer enjoyable, money is wasted ordering pizza or takeout. One of the reasons the slow cooker has become such an invaluable tool in our house is because I can make do with pantry staples or with meat I buy on sale. Some of our favorite meals have occurred when I just started opening cabinets and dumping stuff in the pot. I urge you to do the same. Play. You might just surprise yourself with what you come up with!




Serving hot beverages during a party, play group, or meeting is such a fun use for the slow cooker. Visitors will love lining up for their drinks, and the house smells marvelous while the beverage stays hot. When serving guests, provide a ladle and keep the slow cooker lid off with the pot turned to low. When the lid is off, the drink will not remain hot enough if on the warm setting.












serves 2 to 4

The Ingredients

4 cups milk

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon sugar (I like baker’s sugar because it dissolves nicely)

4 cinnamon sticks (or 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon)

4 cardamom pods

4 tea bags (black tea)

The Directions

Use a 4-quart slow cooker. Put milk into the stoneware, and stir in the spices, vanilla, and sugar. Float the cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, and tea bags on top. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours, or until heated through.

The Verdict

Of the different hot beverages I’ve made in the slow cooker, this is my least favorite, but it’s because I’m just not a fan of tea. My husband, Adam, and I joked that a shot of espresso would really liven it up. But! If you like tea, and are spending $4 for store-bought lattes a few times a week, you should give this a try. I’ve gotten quite a few nice e-mails about this tea. Apparently it tastes just like the “real” thing.




serves 6

The Ingredients

4 cups cranberry juice

4 cups pineapple juice

1/3 cup hot tamales candy

6 cinnamon sticks

The Directions

Use a 4-quart slow cooker. Combine the juices in the stoneware, and add the hot tamales. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours, or on low for 4 to 5 hours. Stir. The candy will pretty much dissolve, leaving just a hint of cinnamony flavor. Ladle the punch into mugs and garnish with a cinnamon stick if desired.

The Verdict

This is the easiest hot drink I have made in the slow cooker, and the kids liked it the most. They drank two mugs each after school, and another after dinner. I really liked it a lot, too, and had two servings while watching Oprah. Adam only got a taste; he should have come home earlier!




serves 5

The Ingredients

4 cups warm water

1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed

4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter

pinch of salt (even if your butter is salted, go ahead and add it)

2 cinnamon sticks

3 whole cloves

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg, plus more for garnish (optional)


shot or two of rum

splash of eggnog

ground cinnamon (optional)

The Directions

Use a 4-quart slow cooker. Add the water, brown sugar, butter, salt, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and nutmeg to the crock. Cover and cook on high for 1 to 2 hours, or until the butter has melted and the mixture is quite hot. Ladle into a mug with a shot or two of rum, and add a splash of eggnog. Garnish with a sprinkle more nutmeg and cinnamon, if you like.

The Verdict

We had this on Christmas Day, and it was delicious. My mother-in-law even liked this, and she usually doesn’t drink alcohol. Keep in mind that if your eggnog is right from the fridge, it will make the butter harden in the mug if you add too much (ask me how I know this…). It would be better to take a bit out of the fridge and let it warm to room temperature while the butter and sugar cook in the crock. My sister-in-law was pregnant, and she enjoyed plain eggnog with the butter and brown sugar.




serves 2 to 4

The Ingredients

4 cups milk

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 teaspoons ground ginger

½ cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

½ cup strong black coffee, or 1 freshly brewed shot of espresso, per serving

Cinnamon sticks, whipped cream (garnish)

The Directions

Use a 2-quart slow cooker. Put the milk into the stoneware, and whisk in the dried spices, sugar, and vanilla. Don’t add the coffee. Cover and cook on low for 3 hours, or high for 1 to 2 hours. The milk should be quite hot, but if your slow cooker tends to get hot enough to boil, keep an eye on it. Don’t let the milk boil. Pour into hot coffee or espresso. Garnish with whipped cream, a sprinkle of nutmeg, and a cinnamon stick.

The Verdict

I think this might be my favorite coffee drink I’ve made. It really hit the spot on a cloudy day around 3:00 p.m. when I really, really wanted to climb into bed for a nap, but didn’t have the time. After four or five sugar cookies and a latte, I was wide awake until 1:00 a.m. With any luck, you can have the same experience. The kids both had a cup of the warm milk mixture with whipped cream and were delighted. Adam didn’t get to try any, but I did save my mug for him to smell—I’m thoughtful that way.




serves 10

The Ingredients

2 (750 ml) bottles dry red wine (I used Cabernet Sauvignon)

1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 3 oranges)

¾ cup sugar

¼ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 cinnamon sticks

4 whole cloves

2 more oranges (one to float on top, and one for garnish wedges)

The Directions

Use a 6-quart slow cooker. Pour the wine into the stoneware, and squeeze the oranges to get 1 cup of juice. I’m sure you could get away with using store-bought juice, but the pulp floating around is what’s kind of neat about mulled wine; it’s more rustic this way. Stir in the sugar and ground spices. Float the cinnamon sticks and whole cloves on top. Slice one of the oranges in rings and float on top. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours, or on low for 4 hours. You want the wine to get as hot as a traditional hot beverage. Ladle the wine into mugs, and serve with a fresh orange wedge. When serving, leave the lid off and the slow cooker on low.

The Verdict

I liked this a lot. An awful lot. Maybe even a bit too much. The guests I’ve served this to have all been equally impressed. I like that you can use cheap wine (the wine I’ve used is between $2 and $4 per bottle) and it still wows even the toughest wine snob.




serves 10 to 12

The Ingredients


3 cups nonfat dry milk

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup milk chocolate syrup

1 to 2 teaspoons peppermint extract

7 cups water

marshmallows and candy canes, for garnish


Pour the cooked hot chocolate over a shot of espresso or a half cup of very strong coffee.


Omit peppermint extract and pour the hot chocolate over a shot of Peppermint Schnapps.

The Directions

Use a 4-quart slow cooker. Combine the dry ingredients in the stoneware and stir with a spoon. Squeeze in chocolate syrup, and add the peppermint extract. Add water a cup at a time, and stir well. The chocolate mixture will be bubbly and look powdery. It’s okay—I promise it will cook together. Cover and cook on high for 2 to 3 hours, or until completely hot. Serve with marshmallows and candy canes. If guests serve themeselves, keep the pot on low with the lid off, and provide a ladle.

The Verdict.


On Sale
Oct 13, 2009
Page Count
464 pages
Hachette Books

Stephanie O’Dea

About the Author

Stephanie O’Dea is the author of Totally Together: An Organizational Journal for the Busy Household. O’Dea developed a following of over 20,000 daily readers on her blog, A Year of CrockPotting ( O’Dea has a background in child development and psychology, and holds a degree in English Literature from San Francisco State University. She currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and two daughters.

Learn more about this author