My initiation to slow cookers was when my mother, fearing I would survive on salty chips and cold pizza sent me off to college with a tiny Crock Pot to ensure my good nutrition. Truth be told, I was rather unique – one roommate had the latest gadgets, another had enough cosmetics to run a beauty salon, while I had my good, old slow cooker. Guess who was considered Ms. Congeniality? I’d throw ingredients together (practically at random, I must admit), turn it on, and voila, my ravenous friends would be singing me hosannas a few hours later when we open the lid and let the aroma tease our whetted appetite. Come to think of it – was I that good a cook or was it the free chow that elated them most? Amazing how this ceramic pot encased in a metallic container does wonders for the utterly clueless chef wannabe!
The premise of bringing a slow cooker to college was to keep me on a healthy, balanced, calorie-appropriate diet. You see, I was a bit weight disadvantaged with tastes that favored creamy, sweet, or gravy-doused concoctions. Either that or I would be happily feasting on sandwiches piled high with nitrate-containing deli meat my mother frowned upon.
Since time and effort were issues, the slow cooker was picked as the guarantee that I don’t go nutritionally astray. Looking back, I did keep my figure from bloating and developed a long-term relationship with my kitchen’s best friend: the slow cooker.
Keeping the Slow Cooker Recipes Healthy
Having a slow cooker handy keeps you from devouring nutrient poor, overly processed, calorie laden, taste-enhanced takeaways from fast food chains and supermarkets all the time. You get to pick choice produce and fresh lean meats or fish; prepare them mess-free and simmering altogether in a single pot without fussing over temperature and clean-ups. Quite perfect for the busy career person and home-maker! Men who want to wine, dine and impress the ladies can’t have a better tool. You save time without sacrificing the health benefits freshly prepared food offers.
It takes very little time or effort to whip up delicious recipes whether you are cooking for one or a multitude. In fact, even leftovers taste great and can be made into saucy sandwich fillings that are far healthier than hotdogs or bacon.
Tips for Healthy Recipes
Slow Cooker recipes are healthy because you don’t need to cook with oil. Even cheaper cuts of meat are “tenderized” and rendered juicy by this method of cooking. If you find cooking with water a bit bland, use broth instead. If you don’t have enough time but would like your meat fat-free but “almost melting in your mouth”, try cooking with a few slices of pineapple. The enzymes do a great job of breaking down the toughest fibers.
With slow cooking, you can use the less tender parts of asparagus, cauliflower or broccoli – a great way to maximize nutrition because these vegetables are rich in anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals. Water is kept with the broth or sauce so nutrients are not washed out. Because the flavor is sealed in, you can go easy on the salt. Your heart will thank you for it.
For those particularly vigilant about fat in the diet, you can cool your dish in the fridge until the fat solidifies. You can easily spoon this off to shave calories. Better still, remove all visible fat from meat and chicken but not fish) prior to cooking. The dish won’t be as tasty but you’ll rest better knowing you are not overloading your heart, gut and liver with fat!