Healthy slow cooking

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Everyone loves a good home-cooked meal, but it can be difficult to find the time to make a warm, nourishing dish from scratch. Enter the slow cooker. Having a slow cooker, or crock pot, makes it easy: you can pour in some basic ingredients and liquid in the morning, and by the time you get home from work, your home smells amazing and there is a delicious dinner just waiting to be served.

To begin with, what features should you look for in a slow cooker?

Types of slow cookers

Whether you call it a crock pot or a slow cooker, the basic premise of these appliances is slow cooking through steady, moist heat.

So what is the difference between crock pots and slow cookers? Crock pots typically feature a removable ceramic or porcelain pot and a heating element that surrounds the pot. Slow cookers can have these attributes, or they can be made of metal or glass, have non-removable cooking surfaces, and can be heated from the bottom only.

Slow cookers also come in a variety of sizes. If you're feeding just your family, it may be wise to choose a smaller, four- or five-quart size. For those who do weekly meal prep or typically feed a large number of people, there is an eight-quart size available.

For those who plan to use the slow cooker while they're away from home, a programmable one would be best. These feature digital timers that allow you to pre-set a cooking time. When that time is over, the cooker shuts itself off, avoiding burned or dried-out food.

Healthy recipes

Now that you know what sort of slow cooker you should invest in, what can you make that is not only delicious and easy, but also good for you? While many recipes are healthy, many are full of cheese, oils, butter and other fats and high-calorie ingredients that make them downright
unhealthy. So how do you make sure what you're feeding your family is not only great tasting, but also nutritious?

If you're looking for something hearty and filling, this Spanish chickpea soup recipe is perfect. Packed full of vegetables, with an assortment of meats and spices, this flavorful soup is great for a warm winter lunch or dinner.

At under 500 calories per serving, you can feel good about your decision to make this soup.

For those seeking a more ethnic meal, how about this Moroccan lentil stew? It can easily be made vegetarian by replacing the chicken stock with vegetable broth, and the lentils provide a ton of fiber and protein. Lentils, like most pulses, fill you up with a minimum of calories and fat.

At just 152 calories per serving, this stew is perfect served with flatbread or seasoned rice for a full Middle Eastern meal.

If you want something that is pure comfort food, this recipe for barbecue brisket sandwiches is that and more. Using a leaner cut of beef ensures that your brisket, while slow-cooked to melting perfection, is less fatty and healthier than the typical cut.

At just over 400 calories per serving, this is one sandwich you can feel good about serving at your next barbecue!

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