While winter has not been as traditionally cold, dark, and gloomy this year, it still is weather that makes me want to enjoy winter meals. One way to make winter meals easy is slow cooking.
January is National Slow Cooking month, so it is a great time to focus on warm, comforting meals. Slow cookers are good kitchen appliances to help with dinner prep. They require little work, basically you put all ingredients in the slow cooker, turn it on a few hours before dinner and then enjoy. Slow cookers can also help keep family meals warm on those nights when everyone may not make dinner at the same time. While we think of slow cookers as a time saver for family dinners, they also make for fast breakfast meals. Overnight oatmeal can be basic or elaborate depending on what your family enjoys. There are lots of recipes out there but one you might enjoy is by my fellow Registered Dietitian Ellie Krieger
Slow Cooking Tip
Using the slow cooker is as simple as – grab your ingredients and throw them in the pot but there are some tips that you should know to keep your meal safe. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has developed a list of 10 tips to keep your slow cooking safe. With the lower temperature of slow cookers, it is important that you check that your slow cooker gets food hot enough to kill any foodborne bacteria. Tip #5 addresses how to start the slow cooker in the morning, to ensure that it will move food to a safe temperature.
It is easy to want to pack the slow cooker to get the maximum benefit from the cooking method. However, packing it too full can make it harder for food to reach the right temperature, which can impact food safety. The best rule is to fill the slow cooker about two-thirds full. Filling to that level makes it easier for you to stir during cooking, if needed, and it ensures that all food can cook thoroughly.
Tips for Leftovers
Slow cookers can help you prepare food for more than one meal at a time but that means you need to properly store the leftovers to keep them safe. It might be tempting to put the “big” slow cooker pot in the refrigerator but for food safety, put leftovers into smaller containers. The concept here is the same as not filling the slow cooker too full. If you store leftovers in a large container, the center of the food will take longer to cool, increasing the potential for foodborne bacteria to grow. If you will not be using all the leftovers within three to four days, freeze some of them to enjoy later. As with any leftovers, make sure you put them into the refrigerator or freezer within two hours of serving.
To Your Health!
Slow cookers are a wonderful way to boost the vegetable content of your meals. For ideas on what vegetables might be good to add to your slow cooker recipes visit this previous post. Adding a variety of vegetables to most entrees makes vegetable consumption easy and enjoyable!
About Connie – Connie is a Registered Dietitian with extensive experience communicating in the food and nutrition space. Taking the science of food and nutrition and translating it to simple messages, new products, or exciting menus is her expertise. Making nutrition messages clear, accurate, and engaging aids all consumers.