Get the lowdown on your favorite authors with Jennifer Vido.
Meet Stephanie O’Dea
December 14, 2010
I am the first to admit that cooking has never been my forte. There was a time
when a dinner consisting of baked chicken, Bob Evans mashed potatoes, and corn
was considered fine dining in my home, but no more. All that changed the day I
brought home a Crockpot from Target. Who knew that in less than four hours an
entire meal could be made? Not me! That’s for sure. From yummy dinners to
mouthwatering desserts, cooking has never been so easy.
This month’s Jen’s Jewels
shares my admiration for this miraculous kitchen appliance
in her latest release MORE
MAKE IT FAST, COOK IT SLOW 200 Brand New Recipes for Slow Cooker Meals
on a Budget. Known for her popular Crockpot blog, she dishes up lots of
scrumptious recipes perfect for a family on a budget. With helpful cooking tips
including gluten-free menu selections, this cookbook will surely become your go-
to kitchen resource.
This book officially releases on December 28th; Hyperion Books has
graciously donated five advance reading copies for you, my favorite readers!
Thank you very much, Hyperion Books. What an extraordinary treat! So,
don’t forget to
look for the trivia question at the end. And, thank you for making Jen’s Jewels a part of your holiday season.
Jen: Your cooking adventure started with a New Year’s Resolution back in
2008. Please share with us the details and how it launched a new profession for
Stephanie: Sure! I abruptly quit my job mid-2007 when my
two-year-old began vomiting sporadically (we later learned it was because she
had Celiac). I began working from home at the end of the year for
BlogHerads.com, knew that to better understand my job, I should start a blog.
My husband and I weren’t comfortable sharing too many personal details with the
Internet, and we both liked the idea of a food blog. But I didn’t cook much---I
pretty much only used my slow cooker to prepare our family meals.
When I joked with Adam that I should make a New Year’s Resolution to use my
Crock-Pot slow cooker every day for a year and write about it on the Internet,
he told me to go for it.
Jen: For those readers who have their doubts about slow cookers, how
versatile can cooking this way be? And in terms of health benefits, how
nutritious are the various recipes?
Stephanie: Before my year-long challenge, I was like many and mostly
used my slow cooker as a glorified pot roast machine. Since it wasn’t healthy
to eat meat and potatoes every day, I was forced to learn how to cook “outside
the crock”---and learned to make side dishes, steam fish in foil packets,
create delicate desserts like crème brulée and cheesecake, and even use it to
make homemade yogurt! The slow cooker is an incredibly versatile and valuable
tool to put to work in a busy household.
Since slow cookers allow meat to tenderize in their own juices, you can use a
much leaner cut of meat than needed when cooking traditionally. I’m grossed out
by visible fat, and skin all of my poultry, and trim my red meat. When slow-
cooking vegetables, the cooking liquid is retained, and therefore all of the
vitamins and nutrients stay in the pot.
Jen: A very basic question but one I have to ask, which size and type of
Crockpot is best to purchase? Do you prefer one brand over another?
Stephanie: There are many slow cookers on the market, in a variety of
price-points. I recommend purchasing a programmable model. For a family, a 6-
quart is usually the correct size to purchase. If you’d like to make less food,
you can insert an oven-safe dish into the stoneware to create a smaller cooking
vessel (this is great for dips and desserts!). You can find a very good 6-quart
programmable for right around $50.
Jen: Please take us on a slow-cooker crash course. What are some basic
tips when cooking with a Crockpot?
Stephanie: One of the reasons I like slow cooking is the lack of rules!
That said, your machine will work the best when it is 2/3 to ¾ of the way full.
If you find that you aren’t regularly filling your pot to this capacity, you
may want to invest in a smaller model.
I do not follow the “no peeking” advice that. I like to stir, taste, and prod
my food. It makes me feel useful (although it certainly isn’t necessary for
your food to cook properly. It just makes me happy).
Jen: Is it safe to reheat meals in the Crockpot? Why or why not?
Stephanie: All of the slow cooker manufacturers advise against reheating
food in the slow cooker. The stoneware should always be room temperature when
it’s put into the heating element to keep in the proper “safety zone” and to
ward against possible cracking.
Jen: Your blog, crockpot365.blogspot.com, is very popular with
over 55,000 subscribers. Please take us on a brief tour of your website
highlighting the most helpful cooking sections.
Stephanie: I began the site with the intention of creating a highly-
trafficked website without spending any of my own money (outside of groceries).
I wanted to see if it was possible to create a kitchen-table (or counter, in
this case!) business that would provide passive income for our family. The site
was built with search engines in mind. While I do have a great deal of
subscribers, most of my web traffic (over 1 million page views a month) comes
directly from search engines.
Jen: Your latest endeavor is MORE MAKE IT FAST, COOK IT SLOW 200 Brand New Recipes for Slow
Cooker Meals on a Budget. How does this book differ from the original MAKE IT FAST, COOK IT
SLOW? And, are all of these recipes your own?
Stephanie: The new book focuses on one of my favorite hobbies: saving
money. I’m kind of a closet-cheapskate, and while the first Make it Fast
cookbook was revolutionary because it explored new and different uses for the
slow cooker, some of the recipes weren’t practical for many families. All of
the recipes in each book have been adapted by me to be gluten-free and for use
in the slow cooker.
Jen: Please describe for us the format of the book and how best to make
use of the sections.
Stephanie: The book is separated into 3 sections: $7 recipes, $10
recipes, and “splurge” recipes for $15 or less. I’d suggest making a meal plan
and budget and utilizing the section that best fits your family’s needs.
Jen: In terms of taste, is there a noticeable difference in gluten-free
cooking? And, for those on a diet, does gluten-free cooking provide a viable
alternative for losing weight?
Stephanie: Most of my recipes are naturally gluten-free. Gluten is found
in wheat, barley, and rye and I simply choose to not focus on recipes that call
for such ingredients. When I need to use flour, I use a gluten-free baking mix.
For stuffing, I use brown-rice bread.
Everything I make is gluten-free, and I have never had a complaint by a gluten-
eater. If you are not gluten-free, simply ignore my notes or file them away in
case you ever need to cook for someone with a gluten sensitivity.
I would not advise going gluten-free if you are trying to lose weight.
Jen: With the holidays upon us, how can we use the slow-cooker to help
with the busyness of the season? Can you make mashed or sweet potatoes in the
Stephanie: Yup! This past Thanksgiving we had 6 slow cookers lining the
countertops. I love getting all the chopping and food prep done early in the
day. By noon the kitchen was clean and mopped and we were able to enjoy our
guests and watch football (okay, not me. I wasn’t really paying attention to
the game—but it was on!).
Jen: Appetizers are easy to make in the Crockpot due to the simplicity
of most recipes. If we wanted to dazzle our guests, what would you suggest we
Stephanie: My friend Mir just wrote to let me know that she threw a
fondue party for her husband’s 40th birthday. One of the biggest hits was my
Fruit and Horseradish Cream Cheese Spread. While it looks and tastes fancy,
it’s super easy to throw together: 8-ounces cream cheese, 1 tablespoon prepared
horseradish, 1/3 cup apricot preserves, and a handful of dried cranberries.
Cook on low for about 2 hours, and then spread onto your favorite crackers.
Jen: As for stew, is there an insider’s tip for cooking non-chewy meat?
I confess…my stew never turns out the way mom used to make on the stovetop!
Stephanie: Ah! This actually means that you aren’t cooking your meat
long enough. Chewy or dry meat isn’t from over slow-cooking; it’s from under
slow-cooking! Your stew meat should pull apart easily with a fork.
Jen: Surprisingly, the slow-cooker can also be used for desserts. Is it
possible to make decadent gourmet desserts using the slow-cooker, or do simple
recipes work best? And, which ones are your favorite and why?
Stephanie: You can be fancy and do turtle pudding, or an Oreo
cheesecake, or you can be super simple and make a caramel dipping sauce for
apples—your choice! I’m currently eating a little too many of the Sugared
Cinnamon Almonds (they’re pretty addicting!).
Jen: What’s next for you? Are you currently at work on your next
Stephanie: I have a shortcut book for busy families coming out in August
of 2011, based upon my totallytogetherjournal.com blog. I actually wrote this
book before I started on any of this Crockpot craziness!
Jen: Thank you so much for stopping by to chat with my readers. I am
looking forward to making my slow-cooker a permanent fixture on my kitchen
counter! There is nothing tastier than a slow-cooker meal. Best of luck with
the book! Happy Holidays!
Stephanie: Thank you so much for having me! Please let me know if you
need any help with your cooker. :-)
I hope you have enjoyed my interview with Stephanie. Please mark your calendars
for December 28th so you can stop by your favorite bookstore or library branch
and pick up a copy. Better yet, how would you like to win one now?
Okay, be ONE of the FIVE readers to answer the following trivia question and
you could win an advanced copy of MORE MAKE IT FAST, COOK IT SLOW 200 Brand New Recipes for Slow
Cooker Meals on a Budget!
What is the name of
In January 2011, I will be bringing to you my interview with Lynn Schnurnberger,
author of the hilarious book THE BEST LAID PLANS. You won’t want to miss it.
31 comments posted.
Re: Meet Stephanie O’Dea
Oh my gosh! I LOVE Stephanie and her "A Year of Slow Cooking" blog! Her blog started my obsession with my slow cooker! :)
Thanks for posting this great interview!
(Sharie Hyder 9:30am December 15, 2010)
I read Stephanie's blog everyday and make yogurt in my slow
cooker at least once a week! Her "A Year of Slow Cooking" blog
has changed the way my family eats - we spend less on
groceries and eat healthier every month!
(Becky Cooper 1:55pm December 15, 2010)
I love Stephanie's blog-"A Year of Slow Cooking" and her recipes. I have used so many of them for my family-they are great and save lots of time!
(Laurie Hartgraves 2:07pm December 15, 2010)
I also am a huge fan of Stephanie's "A Year of Slow Cooking" blog! I use my slow cooker so much more now than I ever imagined.
(Sue Maynard 2:11pm December 15, 2010)
LOVE HER!!! I read her blog every time it comes out and I get so inspired!! The name of her blog is A year of Slow Cooking! I hope I win, :)
(Sy Bu 2:54pm December 15, 2010)
I love her blog! Have made so many of the recipes!! "A Year of Slow Cooking" is the name!!
(Cindy Hill 3:00pm December 15, 2010)
"A Year Of Slow Cooking!"
Her blog was so good I immediately bought her first book. I can't wait for the new one to come out!
(Rose Meiri 3:03pm December 15, 2010)
I love "A Year of Slow Cooking" and that's how I found your website that I definitely will be checking out more extensively! Thanks for a great giveaway!
(Mary Deeter 3:07pm December 15, 2010)
I love "A Year of Slow Cooking." I've gotten some great ideas from her.
(Stephanie Gattman 3:23pm December 15, 2010)
"A Year of Slow Cooking" It's always good for ideas. I'm
actually trying another one of her recipes tonight.
(Kimberly Mencke 3:24pm December 15, 2010)
A Year of SlowCooking, although if you add it in your faves it pops up as A Year of CrockPotting. Love Stephanie and her blog and her first book.
(Chrystal Logan 3:57pm December 15, 2010)
"A Year of Slow Cooking" :) I visit every day, and would STARVE (along with my whole family) if it weren't for that site!!!
(Katherine Cullis 4:19pm December 15, 2010)
"A Year of Slow Cooking" Love the recipes she has there!
(Kristina Dowty 5:33pm December 15, 2010)
A Year Of Slow Cooking! It's so great to have gluten free
(Marisa Haugen 6:24pm December 15, 2010)
"A Year of Slowcooking" I would love her book!
(Kari Klocke 10:30pm December 15, 2010)
I love "A Year of Slowcooking" I am a crockpot fan and love to cook different recipes. I would love to have Stephanie's new book.
(Karla Whittington 11:23pm December 15, 2010)
Her blog is called A Year of Slow Cooking. I followed it everyday in 2008 and still refer to her site when looking for something different to do with my crock pot.
(Lisa Hough 9:53am December 16, 2010)
Stephanies is well known for her Crockpot blog: crockpot365.blogspot.com, also known as "A year of Slow Cooking". Wonderful ideas, and this is sourkraute weather. One dish I always take to out Christmas get togeather is saurkraute and pork - and it is always one of the first dishes gone, noone cooks it anymore. Thanks for sharing.
(Neva Hanson 2:38pm December 16, 2010)
I love Stephanie's blog "A Year of Slow Cooking". I read it almost daily and cook in my crockpot at least twice a week now.
(Suzette Hudelston 7:33am December 17, 2010)
I check Stephanie's A year of slow booking blog frequently for ideas to cook!
(Suze Rice 6:13pm December 17, 2010)
The blog is called "A Year of Slow Cooking" and what a treasure trove it is for abysmal cooks like me! I just found it today and feel like Christmas came early. I get so wrapped up in books some days I've been known to burn things on the stove. My crockpot saves me. :) Great interview! Thanks for sharing.
(Kay Elizabeth 11:20pm December 17, 2010)
I love Stephanie's blog "A Year of Slow Cooking." It has given me so many great ideas.
(Becky Uram 6:53pm December 18, 2010)
Absolutely love "A Year of Slow Cooking" and have recommended it to every mom in my play group who swears she can't cook. Her applesauce recipe is a huge hit with my family!
(Jen Walthers 12:36pm December 19, 2010)
"A year of slow cooking"
love stephanies blog, my oldest child is gluten intolerant and this site has helped me learn to make really good food that we all can enjoy
(Trude Wofford 10:43pm December 19, 2010)
I love A Year Of Slow Cooking...it has inspired me to use the crockpot even more, and we all know what a blessing it is to have a hot meal waiting at the end of the day.
(Kate Horrell 10:33am December 20, 2010)
I hope I'm not too late to enter! I've been reading Stephanie's Blog, A Year of Slow Cooking for over a year now, and love it!
(Laurie Sawyer 12:07pm December 29, 2010)
A Year of Slow Cooking
(Meredith Miller 9:58pm December 29, 2010)
I love crock pot cooking expecially since my family is always late.would love to win this book
(Kathy Weber 1:49am February 12, 2011)
I'm way over 70, have arthritis, am single and have a part-
time job. I love and use the smallest crockpot, cut recipes
down and must say the crockpot is a lifesaver for me.
I have cooked some of your recipes with enjoyment.
(Joan Nilson 4:09pm February 19, 2011)
I am sorry about your daughter. THat must have been a scary time.
(Caroline Kolb 6:50pm February 19, 2011)
Looking forward to you slow cooking book. I dont like cooking and this sounds perfect for myself and hubby.
(Shirley Sego 9:05pm February 23, 2011)
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