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Welcome to WFAEats — a fun adventure where we explore all things tasty and interesting in the Charlotte food scene. We want to share stories, recipes and culinary escapades and hear about yours!

Brussels Sprouts: A Holiday Makeover

Amy Rogers

The woman muttered, “I can’t, I can’t,” as she backed away from the tasting counter at Trader Joe’s last week. Such is the loathing some people harbor toward Brussels sprouts.

The store was serving up samples of sprouts cooked with chèvre and cranberries. But the mild cheese and tangy fruit did nothing to reduce that poor woman’s revulsion. It was justified if she grew up having to eat boiled and mushy, stinky Brussels spouts.

These days, it’s become fashionable to love Brassica oleracea. They’re milder than they used to be, thanks to breeding advances that reduce the bitterness in the little cabbages. What’s more, creative cooks are roasting and grilling the sprouts with good-quality oils and herbs. That’s made Brussels sprouts a trendy favorite on restaurant menus.

Even so, getting a skeptical eater to try them again may require a leap of faith, so WFAEats asked for advice from accomplished vegan cookbook author Kathy Hester.

She said, “I think Brussels sprouts just need a good PR person. They come in that cute miniature size that kids love, the flavor is more delicate than some of its cabbage cousins, and if you take the time to slice them you can get the biggest hater to eat them.”

A certain picky eater at Hester’s home in Durham was won over with a simple preparation that doesn’t even require a recipe: Sauté sliced sprouts with a little liquid smoke and maple syrup, then toss in a handful of chopped pecans.

But the stakes are higher at holiday time, so Hester shared her recipe for Slow Cooker Balsamic Brussels Sprouts from her book, The Vegan Slow Cooker. She explained, “The sweetness of the balsamic vinegar masks the slight cabbage smell that make some people Brussels sprout haters. For the cook, they are a no-brainer since you make them in the slow cooker, leaving you free to concentrate on the other dishes you're making. That makes this dish a perfect fit into any holiday meal.”

And a perfect time to try Brussels sprouts again.

Credit The Vegan Slow Cooker
Holiday Slow Cooker Balsamic Brussels Sprouts

Holiday Slow Cooker Balsamic Brussels Sprouts

8 ounces Brussels sprouts

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons red wine or an extra 1 tablespoon balsamic

4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

1/2 teaspoon agave nectar or maple syrup

1/2 cup water

Salt and pepper, to taste


*Please note: this recipe uses a 1-1/2 to 2 quart slow cooker

Cut the Brussels sprouts into quarters and combine with all the ingredients, except for salt and pepper, in the slow cooker. Cook on high for 2 hours.

Remove and discard the thyme sprigs. Taste, add salt and pepper then adjust the seasonings.

Serves 4

(from The Vegan Slow Cooker by Kathy Hester, published 2011 by Fair Winds Press; used with permission of the author)