Best of Bridge Slow Cooker Vegetarian Polenta Casserole

December 5, 2012


Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting Mary Halpen and Sally Vaughn-Johnston of Best of Bridge fame.

In case you missed it, here’s yesterday’s post where I talk about the enduring success of these books and adoration of Mary and Sally.


And if you’d like more information about previous books, you can find all of my reviews and recipes that I have published on this site in their own category entitled Best of Bridge Cookbooks and Recipes (on the right side of the One Cook, Two Kitchens home page).

Best of Bridge Slow Cooker Cookbook comes after a series of successful books spanning almost forty years.  As Mary told me when we met last week, “We were simply busy mothers compiling recipes for other busy mothers.”

So now comes the ultimate time-saving cookbook, and a natural next step for the Ladies of the Best of Bridge, and what I am sure will become another classic:  Best of Bridge Slow Cooker Cookbook.

Sally Vaughn-Johnston, who joined the Best of Bridge crew just a few years ago, has adapted several classic Best of Bridge recipes (including the now famous Canadian classic Christmas Morning Wife Saver), and she has created many of her own.

Slow Cookers have really come into an entirely new level of popularity.  I’ve been using slow cookers since I left home and moved into my first place, but back then, there weren’t many cookbooks on the subject.

Interestingly, Best of Bridge’s publisher Robert Rose has launched several slow cooker books on everything from vegetarian to diabetic to Indian and Thai curry themes, many authored by food writer/recipe developer Judith Finlayson, so you have to figure that suggesting that Best of Bridge launches a slow cooker book of their own means that there is room for one more on the market.

And certainly, the Best of Bridge fans that I personally know unanimously agreed that this is a natural next step, almost in a ‘what-the-heck-took-you-so-long?’ kind of way.

Personally, I have three slow cookers in varying sizes, plus two Little Dippers, and although I am probably not normal, I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t own a slow cooker.

Many of the recipes in Best of Bridge Slow Cooker Cookbook allow you to simply throw everything into the pot, then set it and forget it.  And if it does require prep, you can often do it in advance, then throw everything in, and happily enjoy a meal with little last minute effort a few hours later.  Sally covers this in her well-written intro to the book entitled Slow Cooker 101.

This book, like the last six that they have published with Robert Rose, features the hard-cover lay-flat design that the winners of the Best of the Best and Rest of the Best giveaways earlier this year, both said they loved.  And the book has the trademark hand-lettered design and one-liners scattered throughout.

Best of Bridge Slow Cooker, like the other books in the Best of Bridge series are organized by course, starting with All Day Breakfasts, which range from hot cereals to stratas to a variety of breads, and then onto Nibbles, Dips and Drinks, soups, meats, meatless mains, side dishes and desserts.

I have really gone the distance with trying recipes from the Best of Bridge series over the years, so I wanted to sample a real mix of old and new.  So with this in mind, I tried two classics: Christmas Morning Wife Saver and Jelly Balls (both turned out very well).

And then I tried a few of Sally’s new additions, including Tomato Soup with Smoked Paprika, Big-batch Bolognese Sauce, Sweet Potato Cannelloni and Vegetable Polenta Casserole, which were all wonderful.

In particular, the Sweet Potato Cannelloni and the Vegetable Polenta Casserole, were just amazing.  And my meat-loving husband  and I loved the fact that that we have two new favourites that are vegetarian.

Honestly, if I didn’t have so many cookbooks to review, I could curl up with this book for the rest of the winter and cook from it exclusively.  It’s that good.

If there is someone on your Christmas list who does not yet have a slow cooker – perhaps a student or someone with their first apartment, a slow cooker along with a copy of this book is a very thoughtful gift.  The recipes are, in true Best of Bridge tradition, delicious and reliable, and you just can’t beat the convenience of a slow cooker.  I use mine constantly through the winter.

Today, I’m posting the recipe for Vegetable Polenta Casserole.   Courtesy of Robert Rose Publishing, I also have one copy of Best of Bridge Slow Cooker Cookbook to give away in a random draw.


Entering is easy.  All you have to do is answer this question:  What is your favourite slow cooker meal?

Here’s the fine print:

  1. Open to residents of U.S. and Canada.
  2. To enter in today’s post, simply answer in the comments section:  What is your favourite slow cooker meal?**
  3. When entering your comment, please ensure that you include your full email address so that if you win, you can be contacted.  You can use your first name only in the comments section, and rest assured, your email information will never be shared.
  4. Contest closes Friday, December 7th, 2012 at 6 pm EST.
  5. The first name drawn will be contacted by email and required to respond within 24 hours with your mailing address.  No response within this time frame will disqualify the entry and the next name drawn will be contacted.
  6. **You can add additional entries by going to yesterday’s post and tomorrow’s post and entering your answers to those questions as well.
Good luck!

Vegetable Polenta Casserole

Yield: Serves 6

Polenta is a versatile Italian grain dish made by cooking cornmeal in broth or water. Here, it’s transformed into a hearty vegetarian entrée. Start the meal with a salad.

Excerpted from Best of Bridge Slow Cooker Cookbook by Sally Vaughan-Johnston & The Best of Bridge Publishing Ltd. © 2012 All rights reserved: May not be reprinted without publisher permission.


  • 1 cup cornmeal 250 mL
  • 1?2 tsp salt 2 mL
  • 1?8 tsp pepper 0.5 mL
  • 3 cups boiling water 750 mL
  • 4 oz cream cheese, cubed and softened 125 g
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, 250 mL
  • divided
  • 1?2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided 125 mL
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil 15 mL
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced 2
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced 1
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced 4
  • 3 cups sliced mushrooms 750 mL
  • 2 cups tomato-based pasta sauce 500 mL


  1. Grease the insert of a 31?2- to 4-quart slow cooker.
  2. Grease a 13- by 9-inch (33 by 23 cm) baking dish.
  3. Place cornmeal, salt and pepper in prepared slow cooker.
  4. Gradually add boiling water, whisking constantly until blended.
  5. Cover and cook on Low for 11?2 to 3 hours, until liquid is absorbed and cornmeal is tender. Transfer slow cooker insert to a heat-resistant surface. Stir in cream cheese, 3?4 cup (175 mL) mozzarella and 1?4 cup (60 mL) Parmesan. Spread two-thirds of the polenta in prepared baking dish; set aside.
  6. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, red pepper, garlic and mushrooms; cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Stir in pasta sauce. Spread over polenta in baking dish. Drop remaining polenta by spoonfuls over top. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.
  7. Bake, uncovered, for about 25 minutes, until heated through and browned.
  8. **Make Ahead: Prepare the polenta base and spread in the baking dish. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Place remaining polenta in another container, cover and refrigerate. Prepare the vegetable mixture and transfer to a separate container. Let cool, cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day, assemble casserole and proceed with the recipe.







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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ashley December 5, 2012 at 7:03 am

I like to make chili in my slow cooker and come home to dinner already made!


Brenda December 5, 2012 at 11:31 pm

My favourite slow-cooker meal is definitely beef stew. My husband makes it slightly different each time but it’s always yummy.


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