Healthy, easy slow cooker recipies?
- SteveTimko Sep 21, 2013 08:54 AM
I searched the home cooking archive and found five threads loaded with recopies for slow cookers. I will check them out.
What I'm looking for are crock pot recipes that are healthy and relatively easy to make. I'm not sure how to define easy. I thumbed through an American Heart Associated Cookbook on healthy slow cooker recipes and they require changing the ingredients in the pot after four hours and doing a bunch of things.
I want recipes that require minor preparation and maybe adding noodles or seasonings for the last half hour fo cooking. Otherwise I want to put the ingredients into the slow cooker when I go to work and eat when I come home.
I love black beans done with vegetable stock, garlic, strips of pepper (anything from bell to poblano, to Serrano), allspice, and a splash of cider vinegar. I also like Limas done with vegetable stock, minced onion, carrot, and celery, topped with a little Sriracha at serving. Good vegetable stock is your new best friend for healthy slow cooking. Of course, tossing in a ham bone, a couple of trimmed country ribs, or a few sausages won't ruin it either!
re: tim irvine
Thanks to all who replied. Meat is fine in the dishes, by the way. About the only thing I'll rule out is fish with bones.
I know slow cookers can overcook meat. The thing is, overcooked meat in a dish that's healthier is probably much better than opening a can of chili or Chef Boyardee.
Tim, I have recipes for vegetable stock that I'm indifferent too. Is there one you really like?
there are plenty of meat based dishes that lend themselves to a slow cooker but that doesn't necessarily mean it meets your definition of "healthy".
Some favorite meat based crock entrees my family loves are:
-Pot roast. Layer the bottom with one or two sliced onions. Season a bottom round roast with a rub of your choice and sear on all sides before placing on top of onions (I much prefer to sear the meat first for both flavor and presentation but it is optional), pour 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar and a 1/2 cup of water over the meat and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
-Pulled Pork. Just cover a boston butt with your favorite homemade or bottles BBQ sauce and cook on low 8 hours. Shred and serve on buns for sandwiches.
-Chicken and Rice. Layer bottom of crock with 1 cup brown rice, pour in 4 1/2 cups water or broth. Top with well seasoned skinless, bone-in chicken breast. I like rub with olive oil and then rub with s&p and rosemary. Cook on low for 4-6 hours.
I think dishes from many other cultures work better in a crockpot than traditional American dishes. That is why the crockpot craze of mushy casserole type foods from a few decades ago was a bit of an over cooked disaster. Lean meats combined with leaving starches and cheeses to cook for 8 hours or more just never made sense.
Meats from other cultures that tend to be tougher cuts and traditionally cooked all day are easy to convert to a crockpot.
Korean, Mexican, Moroccan, Indian, African are especially easy to make crockpot friendly. Shredded meats, ground meats, for fillings/ larb, lentils, beans, soups and stews all work really well.
First of all I keep a big freezer bag and throw in my vegetable trimmings. A typical bag has a gallon of onion peels, shallot peels, leek bottoms, mushroom ends, carrot peels, celery leaves, asparagus ends, tomato navels, and lettuce bottoms. When the bag is full I tump it out in a half jelly roll pan, sprinkle a little olive oil, toss it, and roast it at 450 F. until brown. Put it in a stock pot, add a dozen or so pepper corns, a few fresh bay leaves, a few stems of thyme, and salt to taste. Cover with about five or six quarts of water, bring to a boil, simmer an hour or two, strain into freezer containers.
I often make my soups for the weeks lunches (often meatless) or easy "bistro dinners" (soup/salad/sandwich/tart combo) in the crockpot with no specific recipe, but just a mix of vegetables, spices, herbs and broth. Moroccan flavors are a natural for the steamy environment of the crockpot (preserved lemon, Harissa, olives,etc).
I like all kinds of lentils/dals in the crockpot too, curry coconut milk lentils are nice. I dont know what your definition of "healthy" might be, but maybe check out recipes like this:
Oxtails are good in a crockpot (Chinese or Korean prep) over rice or quinoa or a vegetable purée. They don't overlook and everything is put in there at once. Same with pulled pork as far as it being ready when you get home.
A problem with the 'cook while I'm at work' method is that the food will either be overcooked, or will spend a long time in the dangerous temperature zone (below 135). Old cookers worked by slowly heating a heavy ceramic pot, which meant that the food didn't start cooking until halfway through the day. New cookers heat up faster, but unless they have sophisticated temperature controls, end up cooking the food in 4 hrs.
As for the 'healthy' issue, what do you want to cook? The kinds of meats that benefit from long slow cooking have lots of connective tissue, and fat (unless you trim that off). Lean meats (and fish) don't do well with this kind of cooking. Most vegetables don't need this kind of cooking either. Beans need long cooking, but most also need a brief time at full boil.
I suspect the AHAC recipes differ from others only in that they have less salt - by using fewer canned and prepared mixes and sauces.
An alternative to 'while I'm at work' cooking is to cook the items on the weekends, or in the evening while you are around, and reheat the food when you get home from work.
What you said! Cooking all day is, IMO, simply a recipe for overcooked food. Especially any vegetables but meat also. To make meat-type slowcooker recipes healthier, I'd cook ahead of time, refrigerate overnight and then remove as much fat as possible. I use my slowcooker regularly but never have anything that cooks for eight (or more) hours.
carrot ginger soup is very easy but "healthy" is hard to truly define. This would be healthy for a person who believes eating lower fat and lots of fruit and vegs is healthy but not for one who eats paleo/low carb
2 lbs carrots-scrubbed clean and roughly chopped
2 large onions, peeled/sliced
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3-4 quarter size slices of fresh ginger, cut into match sticks (you can use more or less to taste)
Throw everything into the slow cooker and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8, until the carrots are very tender. Its pretty forgiving so if your work day longer it will be fine. When you get home puree with hand blender until smooth. Taste for seasoning, adding S&P to taste. If you eat dairy serve with a dollop of sour cream or creme fresh.
Reading reports on how wildly crockpot temperatures diverge from those claimed by their manufacturers, I would not be comfortable leaving one turned on while not at home.
Using a covered Dutch oven in a low-temperature oven seems a lot safer to me, and with more reliable results, if your oven does not have a timer that allows you to set start and stop times.