You are dropping off the last child in your soccer mom carpool and you hear your child yell out, “What’s for dinner?” Immediately you rack your brain, should you just pick up something quick from McDonalds (after all you can get apple wedges instead of fries now), or should you search the freezer for something that you can throw together quickly and hope that they don’t have too much homework to do tonight.
If this scenario sounds familiar, the solution may be no further than the slow cooker on your kitchen counter. A slow cooker does all the work of cooking for you while you’re at work or busy with the kids — minimizing time spent in the kitchen.
As a mom of now two young children, I am learning the joys of using a slow cooker to produce fast, hot, healthy meals right when we get home. The kids are ready to eat, and I am ready to relax with the family! Eating more homemade meals, and less fast food, can ensure that kids get the fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy their growing bodies need.
The best part is slow cookers aren’t just for winter soups and stews — you can make appetizers, side dishes, fillings for sandwiches and tacos, and even desserts in a slow cooker. They are also great for hot days when you don’t want to heat up your kitchen by turning the oven on. A slow cooker gives off very little heat beyond the base, keeping your kitchen cool when it’s hot outside.
Try these simple tips to make the most of this versatile kitchen tool:
1- Prep ingredients in advance - Chop vegetables and trim meats on a Saturday or Sunday when you have extra time. Be sure to cut uniform pieces for even cooking, and store prepped ingredients in airtight containers or zip-top bags in the refrigerator for up to three days.
2- Make-ahead when possible - If your slow cooker has a removable insert, assemble the ingredients the night before and refrigerate the entire insert overnight. It’s important to note that starting with cool ingredients may lengthen cooking time.
3- Reinvent leftovers – Instead of serving the same recipe two nights in a row, turn last night’s dinner into something new. If you make a large roast, serve the leftovers as a filling for quesadillas or sandwiches.
Check out this recipe for a healthy, fun, delicious meal that my co-worker gave me (Thanks Val!)
P.S. You can also get the kids involved. Have them cut/tear up the ingredients and dump them into the crock pot. When the cooking is complete let them enjoy their masterpiece!
I found a lot of these great tips on the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website. Check out this site for more information.
Happy slow cooking!