I bet you’re wondering what I was wondering – what is a Wonderbag? I had the chance to try out this product that’s new to the U.S. and it was a whole new way of looking at energy consumption. Cooking in the Wonderbag is a time-saver and it makes slow-cooked meals super portable.
I made up a fall favorite – my family’s chopped vegetable beef stew in the Wonderbag. It turned out awesome! It was great not to have to stir it frequently the whole time it was cooking!
The Wonderbag is a heavily-insulated bag that allows you to simmer your dish on the stove for a few minutes, then transfer it to the bag to finish cooking for up to 12-hours. It was designed to aid women in third-world countries who cook over fires – they can prepare a meal that won’t burn with less firewood and less water. Literally, in some areas of the world, women spend 4-6 hours of their day preparing meals over an open flame – that blows my mind from the comfort of my suburban home. Food cooked over an open flame is generally about 20% waste – the uneven heat source will scorch it. And lots of water is necessary as evaporation occurs. When you consider that food has to be foraged, water fetched, wood gathered and burned – the cost of a meal is pretty high. Simple insulation provides energy efficiency and empowers women in poverty.
And if you think that is cool – for every Wonderbag purchased, on is donated to a woman in need in Africa. So you can play a part in empowering these women.
While it was designed to make their lives easier because they don’t have access to running water, gas, electricity, or grocery stores… the same concepts apply here as well. With the Wonderbag you buy, you can make a great slow-cooked meal with less water and minimal energy consumption in your own home. It helps an African woman spend less time by an open fire – but it’s an eco-friendly option here that lets you spend less time tied to your kitchen, too.
Once your dish is in the Wonderbag – even if it’s not done cooking! – you can:
- Take it to a family dinner or potluck, and let it cook on the way. (Thanksgiving is coming – do you have a long car trip?)
- Take it tailgating.
- Send it to deer camp with the guys.
- Leave it in your trailer, tent, or car, while you enjoy your camping trip.
- Go run errands without leaving a slow cooker plugged in or something simmering on the stove.
- Stop guarding the heat source from small hands – the Wonderbag doesn’t get hot, so if your kids are like mine and love to “help” in the kitchen, you don’t have to say “no!” every 2 minutes.
- Save energy, save water, and save your time for other activities. You don’t even have to stir it while it finishes cooking.
Now, all that is great… but what can you make in it? Pretty much anything your slow-cooker can handle! It accommodates your own pots up to 9 quarts. You just start it on the stove, and use the guide included with the wonderbag to determine the cook time for veggies, beans, root vegetables, and meats to determine how long to simmer it (5-15 minutes – and note, this is after it comes fully to a boil). Then just move it to the wonderbag to finish cooking for up to the next 12 hours. It won’t overcook and it won’t dry out since none of the water evaporates from your recipe.
I’d like to share my recipe for chopped vegetable beef stew cooked in the Wonderbag. This is a recipe from my childhood – and our favorite when my sister and I were growing up.
What’s cool is, then next time I drive to visit her, I can start the stew on the stove, pop it in the Wonderbag and let it finish cooking on the 2-hour drive over, and serve it hot when I arrive!
- 1 - 1.5 lbs. diced beef (fat removed)
- 4 cups potatoes, peeled and chopped
- 4 cups vegetables, peeled and chopped - our favorite blend is:
- 2-3 carrots
- ½ head cabbage
- 1 small onion
- 6 cups water
- 2 tubs of Knorr concentrated beef stock
- 2 tsp. salt
- ½ tsp. pepper
- Chop your vegetables. As with any stew, a little more or less is fine, and using what your family loves and has on-hand is always a win. By chopping the vegetables in the food processor, you can "get away" with adding things like cabbage that your kids might not normally embrace. You can also shred, dice or grind them if preferred, but the small pieces ensure that each spoonful will have all the flavors melded together so small pieces are ideal.
- Bring your water, beef stock, salt and pepper to a boil, and add beef and veggies.
- Simmer for 15 minutes on stove top, stirring often. The texture will be thick.
- Remove from stove to the Wonderbag. Tighten bag and allow to cook for 2 hours or more. The Wonderbag will retain heat for up to 12 hours.
The Wonderbag is available on Amazon, and don’t forget that for every bag purchased, one will also be donated to women in need in Africa. You can also get involved by donating a Wonderbag!