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Making Friends With Your Slow Cooker

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If you're old like me, you probably remember the round, brown slow cookers that graced the counter whenever mom had to get a meal on the table on PTA meeting night or wanted to make chili that simmered all day. And also like me, you probably found them hilariously retro until right about the time you started cooking for people other than just yourself.

Our generation of moms loves, loves, loves our slow cookers. Everyone I know owns one. If you're working, it's the best thing ever to be able to toss some ingredients in the slow cooker and know it's making dinner for you; if you're not, you can get a meal together at naptime and it's ready when you are, no last minute rush of fitting in your children's needs around cooking. I like to have a meal going for my husband to feed the kids on nights I have class. If you use one of those nifty liners, cleanup is super fast as well.

Of course, the stereotype is that all the recipes are "dump and cook" chock full of processed icky things. But no, you can make delicious, healthy meals in your slow cooker without ever opening a can or going near a packet of onion soup mix. It's a dream at cooking lentils -- mix them with Indian seasonings for a quick healthy dal or add some sauteed aromatic vegetables and broth for delicious and quick lentil soup.

Mine doesn't get hot enough to cook beans, but if yours does it's a great way to make some ahead and freeze them for taco fillings and chili starters. And it coaxes every bit of flavor out of skinned, bone-in chicken parts and renders them so tender you won't believe you're eating something healthy.

Most recipes do well without any added fat, because with the slow, moist cooking method it's not needed as a flavor enhancer or to keep things from sticking. And refined grains tend to fall apart, but the whole grains we all should be eating more of stand up well to slow cooker preparation.

A few notes:

Most recipes do better with some liquid; wine, orange juice, chicken broth, or even water helps keep meats juicy.

Brown meat before putting it in; it's an extra step, but it adds little fat if you use cooking spray and makes a huge difference in flavor.

Cook any "softer," more watery vegetables like zucchini, green beans, etc. separately; tougher greens like kale and hard vegetables like carrots and potatoes do fine, though. Delicate greens such as spinach can be tossed in right before serving and the heat will wilt them for you.

How does your slow cooker help you maintain a healthy diet?

Image via IStockPhoto/© Robyn Mackenzie


by on May. 17, 2013 at 12:00 AM
Replies (21-26):
rhiannonaisling
by Member on May. 19, 2013 at 1:46 AM

I have always loved slow cookers...my mom did not get one until I was in my teens. I actually have more than one so that I can make a full meal while out. I have 3 stand alone mixers (a 5qt, a 2 qt and a 1 qt) and just recently got a three in one crockpot that has 3 2 qt pots (I thought it was smaller when I ordered it but...) I make roasts, veggie mixes, stews and soups, and "casseroles". I love to make beef, lamb, or rabbit stew in my crock pot...they are among my favorites. I sometimes make mexican chicken and rice casserole...I put my raw chicken (just lightly peppered) in the crockpot and cover with salsa (the longer you cook the spicier it gets so if you don't like spicy use chicken stock and add the salsa about 30-45 minutes before it's done), several diced tomatoes, baby carrots, and a little extra onion, and a little chicken stock (I have my teenaged dd start it at about noon, while I am at work, for dinner at 4-5 since they are homeschooled) and then when I get home I make rice and toss it in about 10 minutes before the end of cooking. It is a favorite meal of ours and has plenty of veggies...though I usually serve it with a salad.

I also make vegetables (potatos for mashing are favorites, as are glazed carrots and onions), roast or chicken and sometimes light veggie soups and/or dessert (berry cobblers and chocolate cake are always popular) in seperate crockpots for a multi course dinner.

rhiannonaisling
by Member on May. 19, 2013 at 1:51 AM

I also will set up my crockpots the night before so I don't have to get up early to get them ready. I get all my stuff cut and in a bowl to put in the crockpots first thing in the morning so it is just pour start and go.

ChancesMommy07
by on May. 19, 2013 at 11:20 AM
I have my moms old brown slow cooker, lol. She gave it to me when I moved out. I have a nice new one that I use all the time too but having the old one as a standby when I need to make a lot comes in handy!
outer.banks
by Bronze Member on May. 20, 2013 at 8:07 AM
1 mom liked this

 Couldn't have said it better.

Quoting michiganmom116:

 

I'm not afraid of natural fats so I have no problem cooking with them.  What I AM leery of is processed foods used in the crockpot (canned soups) and artificial food products like cooking spray.

 

Join us in the North Carolina Moms group!

outer.banks
by Bronze Member on May. 20, 2013 at 8:08 AM

 That's a great tip.

Quoting rhiannonaisling:

I also will set up my crockpots the night before so I don't have to get up early to get them ready. I get all my stuff cut and in a bowl to put in the crockpots first thing in the morning so it is just pour start and go.

 

Join us in the North Carolina Moms group!

SweetLuci
by Silver Member on May. 21, 2013 at 4:43 PM

 It helps me make healthy meals for my family consisting of meats or poultry and fresh vegetables and I don't have to spend all day at the stove.

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