Planning dinner on your way home from work is never a good idea. I hate to admit how often I wait until someone asks- “What’s for dinner?” before I start thinking through the list of possibilities! While there may be plenty of quick and convenient options for dinner, hastily prepared food or grab-and-go meals are often are less nutritious and more expensive than planned, home-prepared meals.
Imagine a more satisfying evening when you return home from a hectic day to the delectable aroma of a hearty simmering stew. A slow cooker might just be the answer to getting a healthy home-cooked meal on the table–even on the busiest days!
Dust off the crock pot or slow cooker in your cupboard and reap the following benefits:
- Save time – Slow cookers can save time allowing you to prepare the ingredients in the morning and cook while you are gone. This one-pot meal can cut down on clean-up time too.
- Save money – Slow cookers help tenderize less-expensive cuts of meat as a result of moist cooking at low-temperature for a long time. They also use very little electricity.
- Add variety – Choose from a mixture of recipes such as soups, stews, meats and casseroles.
- Improve nutritional value – Use low sodium, low fat ingredients and add extra vegetables and whole grains to your final product.
Get to know your slow cooker better
- Most slow cookers have two or three temperature settings. The experts have discovered that it is best to kick-start your cooker by turning the slow cooker on the ‘high’ setting for the first hour of cooking time. After the first hour, turn it back to a lower setting that fits your needs for the remainder of cooking time. This helps the cooker quickly reach a safe temperature and assures the safety of the food.
- Because it takes slow cookers time to heat, you should never start with frozen meats. Instead, thaw meat on the stove, oven or in the microwave then place it in the slow cooker to cook.
- Avoid the temptation to lift the lid on your slow cooker during the cooking process. This can increase the cooking time an additional 20-30 minutes!
- Fill the cooker no less than half full and no more than two-thirds full. This is to assure safe and even heat distribution and cooking, and can also minimize scorching of the container.
I promise, you and your family will be greatly rewarded when you arrive home on a cold evening and all you have to do is serve up your yummy slow cooker meal. Toss a simple salad and slice a loaf of whole-wheat bread. Dinner is served!
Get more slow cooking tips in CSU Extension’s ‘Crockpot and Slow Cooker Food Safety.’