Healthy Eating With Slow Cookers

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By Lawrence Reaves

With recent studies saying that more than 50% of people in every state are overweight, more and more Americans are trying to eat healthy. Good, quality, healthy food is often more expensive. But there are ways you can feed your family a healthy, nutritious meal and still save at the grocery store.

While you may be tempted to think that its summer and slow cooking takes too much time and uses too much heat, think again. Really your only time invested is the preparation time. As for the heat, youd likely be standing over the stove anyway if not for the slow cooker.

You can buy a slow cooker in several sizes from one-quart to 12-quarts depending on whether youre cooking for a couple of people or a large group. Be sure to shop around because there are lots of options.

Even in the summer months, using your slow cooker for a stew, a soup or a chicken dish wont overheat your home during the day. Best of all, when you get home from your day, dinner is ready.

The healthy aspect comes from the way the foods are cooked. Because they cook at a slower rate, the mineral contents of the food are better preserved. But beyond that, you control the ingredients. No reading of the package and wondering what something is.

Some tips for cooking with a slow cooker include:

Choose the right ingredients. For example, cuts of meat which traditionally take longer to cook such as brisket, pork butt or a whole chicken do great in the slow cooker. Not only do they cook long enough that the meat falls from the bone, youre also pulling nutrients from the actual bone.

If your recipe calls for produce, use fresh. Canned vegetables will get soft and mushy when cooked for long periods of time in a slow cooker. Theyre already overcooked when theyre put in the can. Canned tomatoes are okay because its likely youre looking for them to become more of a sauce anyway.

Dont under season. The food will be cooking a long time absorbing the flavors. Saut onions, shallots or garlic before adding them to your recipe. The flavors will seep into the oil better if you do this. Add fresh herbs or a squeeze of lemon or lime at the end of the cooking time. Include ingredients that are high in flavor like roasted tomatoes or fire-roasted chilies for added flavor.

The slow cooker should be only one-half to two-thirds full when you add the ingredients. Adding too much or too little might mean your food is undercooked or overcooked.

Taking the lid off during the cooking process will lose some of the flavor and nutrients as well as increase your cooking time.

Here are a couple of healthy slow cooker recipes to try:

Chickpea and Spinach Stew


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 pinches red paper flakes

1 teaspoon dried rosemary

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (or 2 T dried parsley)

1 cup peeled, diced tomatoes, fresh or canned (I use 1, 14-oz can diced tomatoes, with liquid)

2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Salt and pepper to taste

1 bag frozen chopped spinach

Garlic Mayonnaise (add minced garlic to mayonnaise to taste)

Combine the ingredients in a medium to large slow cooker and cook on medium heat for 6-8 hours. Serve with a dollop of garlic mayonnaise and garnish with fresh parsley.

Chicken and broccoli pasta


4 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 12-inch pieces

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 package (1 ounce) Italian salad dressing mix

2 cups sliced mushrooms

1 cup chopped onion

1 can (10 34 ounces) condensed low-fat cream of chicken soup, undiluted 1 bag (10 ounces) frozen broccoli florets, thawed

1 package (8 ounces) low-fat cream cheese, cubed

14 cup dry sherry

Hot cooked pasta

Toss chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with Italian salad dressing mix. Place in five-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for three hours. Coat a large skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Add mushrooms and onion; cook five minutes over medium heat or until onions are tender. Add soup, broccoli, cream cheese and sherry to skillet; cook and stir until hot. Transfer to slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for one additional hour. Serve chicken and sauce over pasta.

About the Author: Lawrence Reaves enjoys writing about cooking and he also enjoys trying new recipes with his slow cooker. He has a nice collection of kitchen


that he owns including a slow cooker that he got



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