Posted on: March 18, 2015
Simple, Slimmed-down Slow Cooking
By Caryn Huneke
In theory, I love the idea of using my Crock Pot to help get dinner on the table during the busy workweek (or weekend for that matter). But with the exception of chili and soup, my track record for finding timesaving, healthy, and delicious recipes wasn’t exactly stellar. Over time, I noticed there were three main culprits robbing me from slow-cooking culinary success:
1) Time: Is it really going to save me time or will I have to prep a ton of ingredients or remember to brown the meat first?
2) Nutrition: Is it going to be laden with butter, cream-of-anything, and flavor packets, piling on the calories, fat, and sodium?
3) Taste: Will it actually be a satisfying meal that I’d want to make again?
Turning to cooking blogs, Pinterest, and family and friends, I started gathering (and tweaking) recommended recipes. Below you’ll find four easy slow-cooker recipes that you can feel good serving to your family. (Disclaimer: I’ve yet to try each one, but they all come on excellent authority to be foolproof and tasty.)
• Filipino Adobo Pulled Pork
• Flank Steak Fajitas
• Brown Sugar Balsamic Glazed Pork Tenderloin (
• Beef Stroganoff
Filipino Adobo Pulled Pork
Adapted from Skinnytaste.com
• 1.75 lb lean pork center loin or tenderloin
• 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
• 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
• 1/2 cup water
• 5 cloves garlic, crushed
• 6 ground peppercorns
• 4-6 bay leaves
*Optional: 1 jalapeno, chopped; 2 tablespoons chopped scallions for garnish
• Place pork, soy sauce, vinegar, water, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaves (jalapeño if using) in the Crock Pot.
• Cover and cook at low heat 6-8 hours turning over half way through cooking (note: I did not do this and I cooked it closer to 9 hours).
• Remove the pork, shred with two forks and put it back in the Crock Pot.for one more hour to let the flavor get into the meat (note: I probably only left it for another 15-20 mins).
• Discard bay leaves and serve over brown rice and top with chopped scallions.
Slow-Cooker Flank Steak Fajitas
Courtesy of Against All Grain, by Lisa Leake (link from Lisa’s 100 Days of Real Food website)
• 1 ½ lbs flank steak
• 1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
• 1 teaspoon cumin
• 1 teaspoon coriander
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ¼ teaspoon black pepper
• 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
• 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 4 – 5 bell peppers, sliced, any color
• 1 onion, diced
*Optional fajita fixings: whole-wheat flour tortillas, reduced-fat grated cheese, fresh sliced avocado, cilantro, lime slices, fresh spinach leaves, reduced-fat sour cream, hot peppers, etc.
1) In a small bowl, mix together the chili powder, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper.
2) Rub the spice mixture over all sides of the flank steak and place it in the bottom of the slow cooker.
3) Pour the reduced-sodium soy sauce on top of the steak and add in the diced jalapeno and minced garlic. Slice the bell peppers and onion and throw those on top of the steak.
4) Cook on high for 5-6 hours or low for 8-9 hours, until the steak can easily be shredded with two forks.
5) Drain the meat and peppers and serve with the optional fajita fixings listed above.
Brown Sugar Balsamic Glazed Pork Tenderloin
Courtesy of Food52.com
• 2 pounds pork tenderloin
• 1 teaspoon ground sage
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ¼ teaspoon pepper
• 1 garlic clove; crushed
• ½ cup water
• ½ cup brown sugar
• 1 tablespoon cornstarch
• ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
• ½ cup water
• 2 tablespoons soy sauce
1) Combine sage, salt, pepper and garlic and rub over pork tenderloin.
2) Place 1/2 cup water in slow cooker and add the tenderloin on top.
3) Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
4) About 1 hour before roast is done, combine ingredients for the glaze in small saucepan. Heat and stir until mixture thickens.
5) Brush roast with glaze 2-3 times during the last hour of cooking. (For a more caramelized crust: remove from crockpot and place on aluminum lined sheet pan, glaze, and set under broiler for 1-2 minutes until bubbly and caramelized. Repeat 2 to 3 more times until desired crust is achieved.)
6) Serve with remaining glaze on the side.
Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff
Adapted from FiveHeartHome.com
*Note: Five Heart Home’s recipe for beef stroganoff doesn’t use cream-of-mushroom soup so you have to add a few more ingredients to make up for it, but it’s worth the sodium savings. To make it even healthier and easier, this modified version trims more calories and extra ingredients.
• 1.5-2 pounds lean beef stew meat (or lean beef round steak)
• 12 ounces white mushrooms, cleaned and pre-sliced
• ½ – 1 cup diced yellow onion (adjust the amount based on preference)
• 2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic (frozen or jarred would work too)
• 1 1/2 cups fat-free, low-sodium beef broth
• 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
• 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
• 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
• 6 tablespoons whole wheat flour
• 4 ounces Neufchâtel cheese or one-third less fat cream cheese, at room temperature
• 8 ounces light sour cream
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• Bag of whole wheat egg noodles
1) Place beef, mushrooms, and garlic in Crock Pot.
2) In a medium bowl, mix together beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, thyme, and flour. Whisk mixture until flour is dissolved. Pour into Crock Pot and stir all ingredients until coated.
3) Place lid on Crock Pot and cook for 8-10 hours on low (or 4-5 hours on high).
4) About 20 minutes before serving time, start boiling water to cook whole wheat egg noodles according to package directions.
5) Also add cream cheese to Crock Pot, replace lid, and after 10 minutes stir warmed/softened cream cheese into sauce, pushing with the back of a spoon to break it up and incorporate it into sauce.
6) Stir sour cream into sauce. Replace lid and cook on low for a few more minutes until heated through.
7) Season beef stroganoff with salt and pepper as desired and serve over hot egg noodles.
Caryn Huneke is a Registered Dietitian at Northern Westchester Hospital.
If you have any tried-and-true Crock Pot recipes, please send them to email@example.com for possible inclusion on our website’s recipe page. Be sure to include your name for proper acknowledgement.