Have a goal to eat better? These slow cooker recipes will help
The start of the New Year often brings up a resolution—or at least a hope—of saving money, improving your diet and spending more time with family.
The slow cooker you rarely drag out of the cupboard is the key to approaching all three goals. Prep ingredients for many meals the night before, toss them in the cooker before you head to work and you’ll have a meal ready when you arrive home.
Not only will this curb the temptation to head out to eat, but it will stop the scramble to feed a hungry family in those weary after-work hours—and slow cookers are great at tenderizing tough cuts of meat. It’s also a great tool for vegetarian dishes that include low-cost beans and other healthy ingredients.
The Food Network suggests avoiding lean cuts like pork loin or chicken breast, which tend to dry out. The dark meat of the chicken, often more inexpensive portion, as well as pork shoulder and chuck roasts are better choices.
Other tips from the Food Network: Trim excess fat to avoid a greasy stock, cut food into equal-sized pieces, don’t overcrowd the cooker (it should be no more than two-thirds full) and never start with frozen meat.
In the market for a slow cooker? We like the Crock-Pot programmable 6-quart model, $39.99 at Target for basic family meals. Love to entertain? Pick up the Bella triple slow cooker, $39.99 at Target, that features three 1.5-quart cookers in one. And if you’re looking for a high-performing slow cooker, try the Cuisinart 4-quart three-in-one multi-cooker, $129 at crateandbarrel.com, that lets you program it to sear, brown, sauté or steam in tandem with slow-cooking. It also allows you to cook on high, low, simmer or warm for up to 24 hours.
We have a couple of recipes to warm you up on a cold winter day. One is a classic; the other from Charles Stahler, who offers Nancy Berkoff’s recipe for an unusual dish sans beans, for those who have “good health” on their resolutions list. Stahler is with the Vegetarian Resource Group.
CROCK POT CASHEW LOAF
- 3/4 cup chopped raw cashews
- 1½ cups soy or nut milk
- ¼ cup diced onions
- ¼ cup minced celery
- 1 cup fresh whole wheat bread crumbs
- 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
- Vegetable oil spray
- ½ cup uncooked fideo (vermicelli noodles or angel hair pasta)
- 3 seeded and chopped fresh chilies, such as chipotle (approximately 3 tablespoons)
- ½ cup chopped fresh tomatoes
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- ¼ cup chopped yellow or white onions
- 1 quart vegetable broth
- ½ cup sliced avocado
- ¼ cup shredded fresh cilantro
- Combine all ingredients, except vegetable oil, in a large bowl and mix until evenly combined. Form into a round loaf that will fit into a slow cooker. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Spray cooker with oil. Place loaf in cooker and allow to cook on medium for 1½ hours or until heated thoroughly.
Here’s a classic beef stew dish from allrecipes.com.
- 2 pounds beef stew cut into 1 inch cubes
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 clove minced garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 onion
- 1½ cups beef broth
- 3 potatoes diced
- 4 carrots diced
- 1 stalk celery
- Place meat in slow cooker. In a small bowl mix together the flour, salt and pepper; pour over meat and stir to coat meat with flour mixture.
- Stir in the garlic, bay leaf, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, onion, beef broth, potatoes, carrots and celery.
- Cover and cook on low setting for 10 to 12 hours, or on high for 4 to 6 hours.