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Lack Ideas for Dinner? Set It and Forget It... Crock Pot Style: 5 Healthy Family Meals

Lack of Ideas for Dinner? Set It and Forget It... Crock Pot Style: 5 Healthy Family Meals


Most people forget about the wonderful crockpot stored away in the bottom storage drawers of the kitchen. These smart slow cookers are great for people who work, for busy family go-ers and those who don't have the time or patience to sit over a stove and balance the kids while cooking a full 3 course meal. Who does that anymore? Slow cookers, however, should not be overlooked. They are not as "dangerous" to our health and to the nutrients of the food as people believe. Because crock pots are fully covered containers, there is a percentage of nutrients that is not destroyed by 200°F/93°C heat—even if released from the food—would be contained in the slow cooker and food liquids or residues.

In other words, if you consume all of the stewing liquid or soup liquid, you would be getting some amount of the nutrients that were lost from the food but not actually destroyed by the heat. And besides. . . the winter and cold spring season is perfect for soups, stews and warm food.

"In comparison to frying or prolonged boiling, slow cooking of foods would be an improvement in my opinion—even though I have not seen research comparing the nutrient changes. However, in comparison to the quick cooking methods I recommend, I believe that slow cooking would definitely be an inferior method in terms of nutrition. This doesn't mean that the slow cooker meal would not be tasty, nor convenient, nor not worth consuming, however" (WHfoods.org)

Below are 5 great healthy crock pot ideas for those who want to uncover or spice up your family meals!

If you are a vegetarian or vegan, replace meats with non-GMO tofu and soy products, legumes and other high protein substitutes.

1. Moroccan Stew (6 hours)


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons coriander
1 cup dried chickpeas
1 can (28 ounces) chopped tomatoes with juice
2 cinnamon sticks
2 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 bunch kale, chopped and tough stems removed
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
Black pepper
1/2 roast chicken, skinned and boned (optional)


1. Add olive oil, onion, carrots, red pepper, garlic, spices, chickpeas, tomatoes and juice, cinnamon sticks, and chicken broth to the slow cooker. Cook on high for 6 hours.
2. Twenty minutes before serving, when the cooker is just on the "warm" setting, add kale. (This is a good time to prep rice, if desired: Add 1 cup basmati rice, 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock, and 1 pinch saffron in a pot, cover, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes). Just before serving, add parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove cinnamon sticks and serve over rice with roasted chicken, if desired. (Shape Magazine, 2013)

2.       Chinese Pork Tenderloin with Garlic-Sauced Noodles (4 hours)


2 (1-pound) pork tenderloins, trimmed
1/4 cup lower-sodium soy sauce, divided
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon tomato sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
8 cups hot cooked Chinese-style noodles (about 16 ounces uncooked)
1 cup matchstick-cut carrots
3/4 cup diagonally sliced green onions
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/3 cup chopped unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
9 lime wedges


1. Place tenderloins in a 5-quart electric slow cooker. Combine 1 tablespoon soy sauce and next 5 ingredients (through garlic); drizzle over tenderloins. Cover and cook on LOW for 3 1/2 hours. Remove pork from slow cooker, and place in a large bowl, reserving cooking liquid in slow cooker. Let pork stand 10 minutes.
2. Strain cooking liquid through a sieve into a bowl. Cover and keep warm. Shred pork with 2 forks.
3. Return cooking liquid to slow cooker; stir in remaining 3 tablespoons soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil. Cover and cook on HIGH 10 minutes. Turn slow cooker off. Add pork, noodles, and next 3 ingredients (through cilantro leaves), tossing to coat. Spoon noodle mixture into bowls; sprinkle with peanuts and chopped cilantro. Serve with lime wedges. (Cooking Light, 2012)

3.       Barley Risotto with Fennel (3-4 hours)


2 teaspoon(s) fennel seeds
large or 2 small fennel bulbs, cored and finely diced, plus 2 tablespoons chopped fronds
cup(s) pearl barley, or short-grain brown rice
small carrot, finely chopped
large shallot, finely chopped
clove(s) garlic, minced
cup(s) reduced-sodium chicken broth, or "no-chicken" broth
1 1/8 cup(s) water, divided
1/3 cup(s) dry white wine
cup(s) frozen French-cut green beans
1/2 cup(s) grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup(s) pitted oil-cured black olives, coarsely chopped
tablespoon(s) freshly grated lemon zest
Freshly ground pepper, to taste


1. Coat a 4-quart or larger slow cooker with cooking spray. Crush fennel seeds with the bottom of a saucepan. Combine the fennel seeds, diced fennel, barley (or rice), carrot, shallot and garlic in the slow cooker. Add broth, 1 cup water and wine, and stir to combine. Cover and cook until the barley (or rice) is tender, but pleasantly chewy, and the risotto is thick and creamy, 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours on high or low.
2. Shortly before serving, cook green beans according to package instructions and drain. Turn off the slow cooker. Stir the green beans, Parmesan, olives, lemon zest and pepper into the risotto. If it seems dry, heat the remaining 1/2 cup water and stir it into the risotto. Serve sprinkled with the chopped fennel fronds. (Eatingwell.com 2013)

4. Slow-Cooker Black Bean-Mushroom Chili (6 hours 15 minutes)


1 pound(s) (2 1/2 cups) dried black beans, rinsed
1 tablespoon(s) extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup(s) mustard seeds
2 tablespoon(s) chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoon(s) cumin seeds or ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon(s) cardamom seeds or ground cardamom
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
1 pound(s) mushrooms, sliced
8 ounce(s) tomatillos (see Tips & Techniques), husked, rinsed and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup(s) water
5 1/2 cup(s) mushroom broth or vegetable broth
1 can(s) (6 ounce) tomato paste
1 tablespoon(s) minced canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (see Tips & Techniques)
1 1/4 cup(s) grated Monterey Jack or pepper Jack cheese
1/2 cup(s) reduced-fat sour cream
1/2 cup(s) chopped fresh cilantro
2 limes, cut into wedges


1. Soak beans overnight in 2 quarts water. (Alternatively, place beans and 2 quarts water in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour.) Drain the beans, discarding soaking liquid.
2. Combine oil, mustard seeds, chili powder, cumin, and cardamom in a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven. Place over high heat and stir until the spices sizzle, about 30 seconds. Add onions, mushrooms, tomatillos, and water. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are juicy, 5 to 7 minutes. Uncover and stir often until the juices evaporate and the vegetables are lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Add broth, tomato paste, and chipotles; mix well.
3. Place the beans in a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Pour the hot vegetable mixture over the beans. Turn heat to high. Put the lid on and cook until the beans are creamy, 5 to 8 hours.
4. Garnish each serving with cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and a sprinkling of cilantro. Serve with lime wedges. Stovetop variation: Total: 4 1/2 hours In Step 2, increase broth to 81/2 cups. Omit Step 3. Add the beans to the Dutch oven; cover and simmer the chili gently over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the beans are creamy to bite, about 3 hours. (Eatingwell.com 2013)

5.  Cajun Shrimp and Rice (5-6 hours)


1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 14-ounce can chicken broth
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 6- to 6-1/4-ounce package long-grain and wild-rice mix
1/4 cup water
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1 pound cooked, shelled and deveined shrimp
Hot-pepper sauce (optional)


1. In a 3-1/2- or 4-quart slow cooker, combine tomatoes with their juices, chicken broth, onions, bell pepper, rice mix with seasoning packet, water, garlic, and Cajun seasoning.
2. Cover; cook on low-heat setting 5 to 6 hours or on high-heat setting 3 to 3 1/2 hours.
3. Stir shrimp into rice mixture. Cover; cook for 15 minutes longer at high-heat setting. Sprinkle with hot-pepper sauce if desired.
(Fitness Magazine, 2011)

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