Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Re-Introducing Your Slow Cooker

Staying on a Scheduled & Healthy Meal Plan During the Holidays

'Twas the week before Christmas
And all through the house,
Everyone was running around like crazy
Even the spouse!

It can seem almost impossible at this time of year to not only stay on a scheduled meal plan, but to have it healthy too?! Allow me to (re)introduce you to that wonderful kitchen appliance- your slow cooker!
As clinic "Slow Cooker Queen" we thought it was a great idea to share not only some quick, basic tips on this fantastic yet somehow underused & intimidating appliance, but also to pass along some healthy recipes that will save you time during this hectic period. A little pre-planning, sometimes as little as 7-10 minutes prep time in the morning or the night before and you & your family will stay on track and avoid grabbing food on the go!
So head down to the basement, dust off the box that has been sitting there since your bridal shower and pull our your newest friend- you'll thank me!

Slow Cooking 101

1. The Basics: Meat, vegetables/legumes, spices, some liquid: YUP, it is that easy!!! Whether making a stew, chili or a roast this basic recipe gets you through every time. Once you become a bit more comfortable you'll find this is literally what makes up any good meal.

2. Timing: Standard cooking times you'll see for recipes are 4 hours on high and 8 hours on low. These work great EXCEPT for white meat, especially boneless (i.e. chicken breasts, pork loin). I decrease the cooking time to 5 1/2-7 hours on low and 3-3 1/2 hours on high or else they get very dry.

3. Spice up your Life: Some recipes may look like they have a lot of spices but don't be afraid if you have a plainer palate. Don't forget that you are SLOW cooking for a long time so you need the flavour to be sustained.

4. Making Better Choices: A lot of recipes you'll see are the 'quick fix' for slow cookers i.e. using pre-made spice packets or "add a box of this, add a can of that" but beware: while this can give you the sense of scratch cooking don't be fooled, the sodium can be off the charts!  You can alter these and make them a healthier option: if you must add a can of something chose the 'no salt added/low salt' alternative and of course if you can grab organic all the better. 

5. Keeping the Flavour: If adding a large piece of meat such as a roast or large chops I find that searing all sides for 2-3 minutes each really helps to seal in the juices and keep it from drying out. Do this while prepping your vegetables and dinner prep can be as little as 10 minutes! For an added punch of flavour, any recipe that calls for onions, peppers etc... can be carmelized first before adding the slow cooker.

So there you have it. To get your feet wet I thought I'd start with that basic of basic slow cooker recipes. And what better way to welcome all of this snow? CHILI!

There are of course 1000s of ways to make chili so feel free to modify: remove the meat for a more vegan choice, add more beans or veggies of your choice, alter the spices etc...this is a great recipe for slow cooker newbies to play with and get more confidence. It also helps you start making better cooking from scratch or No Salt and Organic choices when at the grocery store instead of grabbing your regular items by rote.

Basic Slow Cooker Chili

1 lb ground turkey, chicken or extra lean ground beef                 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
5-6 freshly chopped roma tomatoes OR 28 oz. can No Salt Added/Organic chopped tomatoes*    
1 large onion, chopped                                                              1 tbsp. chili powder
1 green and red pepper, chopped                                              1 garlic clove, chopped
1-2 stalks of celery, chopped                                                    1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. paprika                                                                        1 pureed roma tomato OR 1/2 cup                                                                                                               Low Sodium tomato puree*
14 oz.each kidney beans, black beans and/or chick peas, soaked overnight OR 14 oz. can of No Salt Added/Organic of each THOROUGHLY rinsed*

* you KNOW which one is the better choice ;)

- brown the meat and drain/rinse off any excess fat
- rinse the beans as directed if needed (or soak overnight the night prior)
- while meat is browning chop vegetables and add everything to slow cooker
- stir very well to make sure all ingredients including spices are well mixed; add meat and beans and stir again
- cook on LOW for approximately 5 hours
- serve with salad

SUPER EASY I promise! And the prep time is maybe 12-15 minutes on a slow day...12-15 minutes! Only! For your family to have a healthy, filling meal AND leftovers that is satisfying and so much better than food on the go. Plus the bonus: you get to sit down as a family and enjoy- isn't that what the season is all about?

Happy cooking and stay tuned for more healthy options from your slow cooker during the busy holiday season and upcoming cold winter months. 


  1. When you say beans soaked overnight, are you talking about uncooked dry beans soaked overnight and then added without cooking them first?

  2. Hi Hilda, that's exactly right! Soaking the beans preps them and the slow cooker process cooks them no problem. If cooked prior to adding to slow cooker they turn out too mushy.