Posted on: October 4, 2016
We’re one month into the school year – between dropping the kids off at basketball practice, dance class or SAT Prep – it might feel overwhelming, or even impossible to squeeze in a healthy, home-cooked meal for dinner. Enter the slow-cooker. You’re new in-home chef, and my personal best friend when I need a pork shoulder to lean on for a weeknight dinner and don’t have the time to cook. Here, I’ll explain the many benefits of the Crock-pot and share two of my favorite slow-cooker recipes for a healthy autumn. By Jackie Farrall, RD, CDN, Northern Westchester Hospital.
Is Fresh Always Best?
Though it’s a slow cooker, you may want fast preparation. You can always throw in some canned veggies and let the slow-cooker work its magic, while you work yours – outside of the kitchen. Crock-pot meals are simple because they often contain canned produce, no need to peel, cut or dice ingredients. Sure, you can always use fresh produce and though some will argue that “fresh is best,” when it comes to produce – canned fruits and vegetables, free of added salt and sugars, have the same nutritional value.
Turn up the Heat, Without Losing Nutrients
Canned tomatoes are a staple ingredient in a variety of crock-pot meals. When tomatoes are heated, the powerful antioxidant lycopene – linked to heart health, cancer prevention and even improved mood – becomes more readily available to your body.
Vitamin C, Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Folic acid and water-soluble vitamins are sometimes lost during cooking. However, in a slow cooker, lost vitamins are incorporated into the cooking liquids within the crock-pot. You can even use the remaining liquid in the pot as a gravy or sauce to top off the meal. This is the best way to maximize vitamin retention.
An Expensive Taste for a Cut of the Price
Using low-temperature cooking, slow-cookers make less expensive cuts of meat unbelievably tender. In fact, this technique is extremely effective for tough cuts of meat as they typically contain more connective tissue, which remains tough unless cooked slowly. Cooking meat slowly at low temperatures causes less moisture loss than high heat – resulting in a moist, tender meal at half the price.
The Colors of Autumn Will Fill your Crock-Pot with this Sweet Potato Chicken Quinoa Soup
1 ½ lb boneless skinless chicken breast, remove fat
1 cup of quinoa, rinsed
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 15oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 14oz can of diced tomatoes
1 Tsp of minced garlic
1 ½ Tsp of chili powder
½ Tsp ground cumin
5 cups of low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
Spray slow cooker with nonstick spray. Add all ingredients – chicken breasts, quinoa, sweet potatoes, black beans, tomatoes, garlic, chili powder, cumin and chicken broth to slow cooker. Slow-cook on high for 3-5 hours.
Recipe adapted from Chelsea Messy Apron
This Apple Pie Oatmeal May Cook Slow, but Will Be Devoured Fast!
1 cup steel-cut oats
2 large apples, peeled, cored and chopped into roughly ¾ inch pieces
1 ½ cups almond milk, unsweetened
2 ½ cups of water
2 Tsp ground cinnamon
¼ Tsp ground nutmeg
1 Tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp hemp seeds (or flax seeds)
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp coconut oil/cooking spray
Use coconut oil or cooking spray to grease slow cooker. Add all ingredients – oats, apple slices, almond milk, water, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, hemp seeds and maple syrup – to slow cooker and stir. Cover and cook on low for 7 hours. Give this delicious oatmeal a good stir and serve!
Recipe courtesy of Domesticate Me