NDSU Extension - Sargent County

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Fast Meals from Slow Cookers

slow cooker“I’ve been too busy!”  Does a day go by that we don’t hear that phrase exclaimed by some one?  Perhaps we even hear ourselves say it!  However, whatever we can do to avoid being “too busy” to eat together SOMETIME during the day is well worth the effort.

The advantages and benefits of family meals are well documented.  Sharing breakfast time, snack time, or other meals as a family helps create healthy, happy kids.  Sharing family mealtime also:

    -   Decreases risky behaviors such as smoking, drug abuse and alcohol use;
    -   Lowers soft drink intake;
    -   
Increases smart eating choices such as more fruits, veggies, grains and dairy;

-   Increases the odds of kids having a healthy weight;
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Decreases the likeliness of depression;
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Gives kids opportunities to develop and use language (communication and conversation) skills; and
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Helps kids do well in school.

But how do we accomplish family meals when our lives are busy and schedules are hectic?  A slow cooker can be part of the solution to making family meals a reality!  They save time by allowing one-step cooking and clean-up, and they do the cooking for us while we are away!  They also save money because they are energy efficient, and they allow cheaper, less-tender cuts of meat to become tender. 

Keeping food safety in mind, use a slow cooker effectively and efficiently following these guidelines:
   -   Thaw meats and poultry in the refrigerator before placing it in the slow cooker.
   
-   Cutting the meat into smaller chunks helps ensure thorough cooking. 
   -   
Keep cut-up meats and veggies in separate containers in the refrigerator until ready to use.    
   -   
To speed and simplify clean-up, spray the inside of the cooker with non-stick spray, or use slow cooker liners.
   -   
Fill the slow cooker no less than half full and no more than two-thirds full.
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If possible, cook on high for the first hour, then on low for the remainder of the time.
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Put leftovers in shallow containers, not more than two inches deep, to cool and store in the refrigerator.
   -   
Use the stove or microwave to reheat leftovers thoroughly, then keep them warm for serving in a preheated slow
       cooker.

Get more tips, plus recipes, by requesting your copy of “Now Serving: Slow Cooker Meals!”  and “Family Meal Times” newsletters from your county extension office.  Those publications can also be viewed online at  https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/foods/fn1511.pdf and 

https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/publications/gsearch?q=family%20meal%20times

PHOTO CREDIT:  https://pixabay.com/en/pressure-cooker-food-clipart-197203/  (Downloaded 3/28/16)

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