Shorter days and chillier temps call for pulling out our slow cooker and using it for a variety of versatile dishes from soups and stews to casseroles and even better breakfasts. While convenient and perfectly poised to make a long day easier, the slow cooker blends all the ingredients you add to it, with no opportunity to “drain fat” or modify it in another beneficial way. That said, there are important habits we can adopt to avoid some common slow cooker traps that lead to dishes that may be all about convenience but low on nutrition.
Too much sugar
When you’re seeking the perfect glaze for a roast or sweet touch for an overnight oatmeal, you may be tempted to add jams, bottled glazes, and the like to your slow cooker. While this may provide the sweet flavor you’re looking for, they also add a significant amount of sugar and calories to your overall recipe. Seek alternatives such as coating meats in corn starch (and searing) before cooking to create a great glaze or using fruit to add sweet.
Too much salt
When recipes call for pre-packaged seasoning blends, bottled sauces or other “quick” tools for “slow cooking” such as marinade bags, they are also are likely to be high in sodium. While the dish may not taste salty that sodium is not doubt cooked into the recipe. Avoid this trap by using whole foods, fresh and dried herbs and spices and other “clean” ingredients. Limit the amount of salt used and, if truly needed, add a (very little!) bit before serving to achieve a salty flavor.
Too much fat
As this method of cooking requires that you leave it closed for several hours, you won’t be able to modify a recipe until closer to serving when most ingredients have already blended. That said, if you start with high fat meats and other decadent ingredients, you will have a high fat dish. The simple solution here is to use skinless meats and other leaner ingredients as much as possible, noting that if you modify a recipe you may also need to modify cooking time so that meats don’t dry out.
Too low on fiber
It’s easy for a slow cooker recipe to be low on fiber, especially when it calls for plain pasta, white rice or other low fiber grains. Avoid this by using whole wheat pasta or other fiber-rich grains. Also, intentionally choose recipes that include vegetables, beans and other high fiber ingredients.
Too much creamy sauce
A chowder, thick sauce or other dish may call for whipping cream and other full fat dairy options to achieve the consistency you’re seeking. What you may not be looking for is the saturated fat and excessive calories that comes with it. Pass on the whipping cream and create a thick sauce or soup by adding pureed beans or by simply blending a portion of the recipe and then adding it back.
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Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken (2 Guiding Stars)
Made with skinless chicken thighs, this flavorful recipe is lean without compromising on taste. For more flavorful “fall” recipes and more on the Guiding Stars nutrition navigation program please visit www.guidingstars.com.
1 onion, coarsely chopped
8 oz. baby carrots
½ cup prunes
1 (14 oz.) can low-sodium vegetable broth
8 skinless chicken thighs
1¼ tsp. curry powder
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
In a 4- to 5-quart slow cooker, combine onion, carrots, prunes, and broth. Top with chicken. Sprinkle with curry powder, salt, and cinnamon.
Cook on LOW for 8-10 hours or on HIGH setting for 4-5 hours. Serve hot.
Moroccan Chicken prepared in a slow cooker is perfect for chilly fall evenings.