Before I delve into this week’s topic, I just wanted to comment on last week’s survey results. The survey, entitled "Small Changes" was based upon my post last week about small steps you can make to better manage your diabetes. More than 1,000 votes were cast, which is great! Also, I noticed that most people chose to set a goal to check their blood glucose two hours after meals more often, take their medication as prescribed by their provider, or keep appointments with their providers.
To some, these goals may appear too easy or insignificant. Yet, it’s often these “simple” management steps that can be the most challenging to follow through on. So congratulations to all who took the survey. And as we move forward through 2009, let me know how you’re doing with your goal!
Many of us resolve to eat healthier, especially when the New Year rolls around. However, healthier eating sometimes requires a little bit of work — making sure you have the right ingredients on hand, taking the time to prepare the meal, and cooking the meal in a healthful way. Well, if you haven’t done so already, give slow cooking a try.
OK, I admit that the concept of slow cooking can dredge up memories of “Crock-Pots” from the 1970’s (my mother still has hers — in Harvest Gold, too!). Stifle the snickers and keep an open mind. Crock-Pots have morphed into slow cookers, and these kitchen tools are just the ticket for easy, healthy cooking. My mother gave me a slow cooker a few years ago for Christmas, and I’ve turned into a big fan.
Slow cookers come in several sizes, ranging from one-quart models (great for one or two people) to 12-quart models (good for a large family or cooking for a crowd). Most major kitchen and cooking companies have their version of a slow cooker, including All-Clad, Cuisinart, KitchenAid, and Hamilton Beach. They come in different colors, as well, to coordinate with your kitchen color scheme.
Why Use a Slow Cooker?
- It can save you time. You can start a stew, soup, or chicken dish in the morning and forget about it until dinner time. And when you get home from work or school, your meal is ready for you!
- It can save you money. Rather than getting take-out or stopping at the grocery store for a prepared meal, you can make your own soups, casseroles, stews, and even desserts. And you can turn cheaper, less tender cuts of meat into melt-in-your mouth main dishes. Slow cookers use less electricity than an oven, too.
- It’s good for you. Because foods are cooked slowly at a lower temperature, the vitamin and mineral content of foods are preserved. And since you control the ingredients, you can make soups and stews using lower-fat, lower-sodium broths and lean cuts of meat and skinless poultry; include more whole grains, such as brown rice or quinoa in your meals; and even make desserts a little healthier by cutting back on some of the sugar and fat.
Tips for Slow-Cooking Success
- Always thaw frozen food before cooking in a slow cooker.
- Only fill up the slow cooker one-half to two-thirds full. Any more than that and the food may not cook thoroughly; any less and the food may cook too quickly.
- Cook ground beef in a skillet before adding to the slow cooker.
- Add tender vegetables, such as tomatoes and zucchini, only during the last 45 minutes or so of cooking to avoid mushiness.
- Add spices and seasonings during the last hour of cooking for better flavor.
- Don’t lift the lid too often — every time you take off the lid, you extend the cooking time by 20-30 minutes.
You can try this DSM recipe for “Slow-cooked Southwestern chicken chili.”
You can sign up for Prevention magazine’s free “Slow Cooker Smarts” newsletter for recipes and tips here.
Check out these cookbooks for easy, healthy recipes:
- The Everything Slow Cooker Cookbook by Margaret Kaeter
- The Healthy Slow Cooker by Judith Finlayson
And if you’re a slow cooker fan, please share tips and recipe ideas with us!