Wednesday, 23 November 2011

My Beloved Slow Cooker

I get the impression that people tend to either love, or hate slow cookers or crock pots….But I am definitely in team slow cooker!

 I received the slow cooker as a Christmas present from my Mum about 2 years ago, just prior to the start of my weight loss campaign (you can read how I lost 30kg here). Initially I thought it was too old-fashioned and  It took me a little while to get going, with more than one completely failed experiment!! But now I am in love!

I think there are tremendous health benefits to using the slow cooker. I love that the slow cooker enables you to make tasty, health meals based on vegetables and meat with little added fats and extra, empty carbohydrates. I often adapt most recipes I find to replace half the meat content with vegetables such as carrot, celery and onions. I mostly use tomato based sauces which are high in the antioxidant lycopene. I also tend to use a variety of spices such as paprika, cinnamon and turmeric and others which are also a good source of antioxidants.

 Using the slow cooker also fits well with my family’s sporty schedule. Often we arrive at home quite late from swimming, gymnastics or soccer training. To open the door and have the yummy smell of dinner waiting for you is a such a comforting feeling. In winter I’ll often set up the bread maker to have fresh hot bread ready at the same time. When the kids and I walk through the door, half frozen and wind-blown from being out on the soccer field, the aroma takes our breath away!

I usually prepare the meals for the slow cooker straight after I have got the girls away to school. Buster (4) just loves to help me. He takes his job very seriously and is the official adder of ingredients to the cooker and the official stirrer, but his favorite job is using the pepper grinder…I think it makes him feel all grown up, like mummy and daddy!

On Swimming nights, my daughter Flash (8), Buster and I arrive home from swimming training at about 6pm and Flash is ‘starving!’.  However, my other daughter, Muscles and GrumpyDaddy  will not arrive home until about 7.20pm- as muscles has gymnastics training most nights until then. If I don’t get food into Flash, she’ll most probably die J (according to her). To stop her incessant asking for food and her filling up on snacks before dinner I just usually give her and Buster an ‘early dinner’ The slow cooker makes this possible as I just take out her portion and serve it with some pasta, bread or rice from the rice cooker. The slow cooker keeps the food nice and warm for the rest of the family to have dinner later.

I find that the tender meat and vegetables from the slow cooker are very easy for the kids to eat and I know they are getting essential of iron from the meat and vitamins, minerals and antioxidants from the vegetables. To boost the vegetable content I usually add green vegetables to the slow cooker about 30min-1 hour before serving and I turn it up to high. Typically I’ll add broccoli, sliced zucchini or mushrooms (Flash’s favorite). Adding a cup of small diced frozen vegetables at this time also adds colour and interest to the dish. I also like to stir trough fresh herbs from my little herb garden just before serving to freshen up the dish. Typically I would use baby spinach, Italian flat leaf parsley or coriander. Fresh herbs such as these are reportedly high in antioxidants and vitamins.

Often, coming home from a hard day of child wrangling , I am just either too exhausted or just couldn’t be bothered to start a full dinner from scratch. Having dinner prepared in the slow cooler, ready to eat is the perfect antidote to stop myself from the temptation of ordering takeaway meals. If I could nominate the thing that has made the biggest contribution to turning my families eating habits healthier and helping me loose and maintain my weight, I would defiantly say it is my beloved slow cooker.

Please see some of my favourite recipes here in the slow cooker recipes tab.

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