Slow cooker tips for busy weeknights
Elizabeth Hall, Community Contributor
Sep 19, 2018 at 4:30 PM
It’s 5 o’clock and you’re finally on your way home when the inevitable question arises, “What’s for dinner?” If busyness keeps you from cooking more meals at home, the solution may be no further than the slow cooker on your kitchen counter. A slow cooker can be a great resource that allows you to come back at the end of the day to a nice, home-cooked meal.
September is National Family Meals Month! Celebrate by eating more homemade meals, and less fast food, to ensure that your family gets the fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and low-fat dairy they need. A slow cooker does all the work of cooking for you, minimizing time spent in the kitchen.
Slow cookers aren’t just for winter soups and stews - you can make appetizers, side dishes, fillings for sandwiches and tacos, and even desserts in a slow cooker. Unlike the oven or stove, a slow cooker gives off very little heat beyond the base, keeping your kitchen cool when it’s hot outside.
Try these simple tips to make the most of this versatile kitchen tool:
Prep ingredients in advance: Chop vegetables and trim meats on the weekends when you have extra time. Be sure to cut uniform pieces for even cooking, and store prepped ingredients in airtight containers or plastic bags in the refrigerator for up to three days. To save time, check out the “Shortcuts” section in the Food City Produce Department for pre-prepped fruits and vegetables. The Food City Meat Department also has pre-trimmed, marinated meats, perfect for Crockpot cooking.
Make ahead when possible: If your slow cooker has a removable insert, assemble the ingredients the night before and refrigerate the entire insert overnight. Just remember that starting with cool ingredients may lengthen the cooking time.
Reinvent leftovers: Instead of serving the same recipe two nights in a row, reinvent last night’s dinner into something new. If you make a large pot roast one day, serve the leftovers as a filling for quesadillas or sandwiches another day. Or, try freezing leftover slow cooker meals in sealed containers or plastic bags to eat later.
Elizabeth Hall, MS, RDN, LDN is a Food City Registered Dietitian.