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Be Inspired by Slow Cooker Meal Ideas

Slow cooking is a great option for people with a busy schedule who want a hot meal when they get home for the day.

January is National Slow Cooker Month – and also the month for New Years’ Resolutions. Slow cooking is a great option for people with a busy schedule who want a hot meal when they get home for the day. With new resolutions for healthier eating, be aware of different ways to fit slow cooker recipes with healthy lifestyles. Using these tips and tricks, you will enjoy eating tasty, nutritious meals with minimal effort.

  • Use lean meats such as chicken breasts or pork loins to reduce calories and fat. Less tender cuts of beef (chuck roast, etc.) usually are lower in fat and less expensive, and they become tender during the long, slow cooking process.
  • Build flavor by browning herbs, aromatics, and meats before putting them in the slow cooker. Use just a small amount of canola or olive oil to sauté these ingredients and then place it in the slow cooker with some broth for complete cooking. Add even more flavor to lean meats with pungent spice rubs, glazes made with fruit preserves, or tasty vinaigrettes and relishes.
  • To cut down on calories, be mindful of the type of cheese used. Higher-fat cheeses melt more easily, but hard cheeses such as Parmesan and Asiago add more flavor. Fresh feta, goat or queso fresco are healthier alternatives to the fattier types of cheese.
  • Be mindful of sodium in hearty slow cooker recipes. If you use commercial broth, canned tomatoes, and canned beans, look for cans with “no-salt-added” or “reduced sodium” on the label. Drain and rinse beans in water before adding them to the slow cooker. Try swapping canned vegetables for fresh or frozen vegetables.
  • Try morning recipes such as oatmeal, made with 5 cups of water to 1 cup of steel-cut oats heated overnight for a hot-and-ready morning meal. Egg dishes such as crustless quiches and stratas also are great options for a quicker slow-cooker meal.
  • Make snacks in your slow cooker. Try roasting nuts, turning berries into jam, chopped apples into applesauce, or fresh pears into compote for yogurt to enhance snack time.
  • Finally, keep in mind what is being served with slow cooker meals. The soft, warm food should be paired with other fresh textures, such as a crunchy salad or slaw, fresh fruit and a glass of milk.
  • Visit www.ag.ndsu.edu/food and click on “Recipes” for many slow cooker options.

Sallie Yakowicz, Program Assistant – NDSU Extension Service

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