Cookbook author Carla Kelly has been vegan for seven years. But her husband and two kids are vegetarians and, when the holidays come calling, their dinner guest are often omnivores.
How does this Burnaby resident make everyone happy? For starters, she might use her slow cooker to make a “not-meat” loaf, a nut roast, or a stuffed and rolled seitan roast as a centrepiece for the big meal. Go-to sides include mashed and roasted potatoes, brussels sprouts, and broccoli.
“What I tend to do is do something a little bit over the top, something a little bit more special,” Kelly said in an interview at the Georgia Straight offices in Vancouver.
The aforementioned loaf and roasts are just three of the recipes in Kelly’s Quick and Easy Vegan Slow Cooking. Published in April by the Experiment, the 275-page cookbook is subtitled “More Than 150 Tasty, Nourishing Recipes That Practically Make Themselves”. It’s available in paperback and e-book formats.
In the book’s introduction, Kelly explains the when, why, and how of using a slow cooker. The nine recipe chapters cover the basics, soups, stews, curries and Asian-inspired dishes, chilies and barbecue-inspired dishes, casseroles and roasts, pasta bakes and sauces, grains, and quick sides that complement slow-cooked mains. Gluten-free and soy-free recipes are marked with icons, as are recipes containing nuts.
With fall here and winter on the way, Kelly says now is the perfect time to dust off that oft-neglected slow cooker. But she insists slow cooking should be seen as a year-round activity.
“I think that the slow cooker is more versatile than people give it credit for,” Kelly said. “I think people tend to have quite a narrow mindset of ‘this is what I can make in it’. And I think that they also tend to think that it is just for the winter. While it’s great for the winter, you can actually use it in all seasons.”
Born in New Zealand, Kelly has also lived in Australia, Scotland, and Thailand. She moved to B.C. with her family in 2005. Around the same time, she went vegan after being vegetarian since her late teens.
In 2008, she started her blog, The Year of the Vegan, where she reviews cookbooks written by other authors and posts about her kitchen adventures. Her first cookbook, Quick and Easy Vegan Bake Sale, was published by the Experiment in 2011. Kelly took the insert photographs for both of her books.
According to Kelly, one of the great things about using slow cookers—also known as crock pots—during the week is that most of the cooking happens while you’re at work. Slow cookers are also generally energy efficient. While slow cooking doesn’t have to increase your active cooking time, Kelly notes planning meals is essential.
“I think that the mindset needs to switch up a little bit when you’re slow cooking, because you can’t just come home from work and throw things together, and there’s dinner,” Kelly said. “You do have to plan in advance. I think sometimes that does scare people, because they think they don’t have the time to actually get it set up. But, when you look at the time you take to maybe throw together something in the evening, that time you can take at a different time and get it ready to go. So it’s beneficial, because it frees up that afternoon-evening time, where instead of worrying about dinner, your dinner’s already ready. So you can maybe use that extra time and go to the gym or take up something that you’re interested in.”
Kelly finds the process of writing cookbooks “quite rewarding creatively”. She’s interested in putting together a third vegan cookbook, perhaps focused on summer barbecuing or using less popular grains like amaranth and millet.
For now, Kelly encourages home cooks to think “outside the box” when it comes to slow cooking this holiday season.