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  • Hui Hui Lee, RD/LD

Slow Cooker Meals Sync with Your Busy Schedule



Happy New Year to you! How’s your new year been treating you so far? Hope everything is going well with you and your family. Now the holiday is over, which means life’s busyness is starting again. Kids are back to school, and you are back to busy work schedules! You are constantly on the run, and are back to having no time for meal prepping. If you are thinking that, I want you to hold that thought for a moment. I am going to provide you with an easy fix. How about trying some SLOW COOKER (CROCKPOT) meals? All you need to do is to dump all your ingredients in the slow cooker early in the morning, and you come home with a ready-to-serve dinner (and if you make a bigger portion, you can pack some leftovers for your next day's lunch).


Before we start whipping up some slow cooker dishes, it is important to know some food safety tips for the slow cooker. According to Ellis (2021), there are 10 food safety tips we need to follow when using slow cooker:

  1. Start with a clean space: Use a clean pot, utensils, and also ensure your hands are clean when preparing food.

  2. Keep perishable foods refrigerated as long as possible

  3. Prepare meats and vegetables separately: To avoid cross contamination.

  4. Always defrost meat or poultry before putting in the slow cooker: to ensure the slow cooker reaches a proper internal temperature.

  5. Pay attention to temperature: Make sure your slow cooker reaches a safe internal temperature. Start by cooking on a high temperature setting for the first hour then switch over to low temperature for longer cooking.

  6. Make your food fit: Do not overstuff your slow cooker, do not fill more than half and/or two-third of your slow cooker.

  7. Cut your meat to smaller pieces: To ensure the meat is cooked thoroughly.

  8. Keep the lid on: To retain the heat when cooking. Only remove the lid to stir or check for doneness.

  9. Use a food thermometer: To ensure food reaches a safe internal temperature.

  10. Store leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate within 2 hours of removing from the slow cooker.


Now, are we ready to try some slow cooker dishes?


Slow cooker chicken parmesan pasta: This pasta dish is so easy to make, but is very flavorful. If you have some young ones at home, they will for sure enjoy this pasta dish! I served this chicken parmesan pasta with my favorite broccoli salad (just to have some veggies to go with my meal). Because the recipe yields a larger portion, you are going to have some leftovers, but you can bring the leftovers to work the next day! The recipe adapted from Damn Delicious.




Slow cooker quinoa enchilada casserole: I love this quinoa casserole dish. It is packed with fiber and protein. This dish is definitely freezable, best for people like you and I who have very busy schedules. Because it is packed with fiber and protein, it is so filling. I highly recommend you to try this recipe! Although this chicken quinoa casserole is fiber-packed, I still served it with garden salad on the side. The recipe adapted from Damn Delicious.





Barbacoa: Chef Brendan helped to make this barbacoa dish. This dish is very tender and delicious per Jessica and our student (Yen). We served it with tortillas, shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, and sour cream. The recipe adapted from Gimme some oven.







Slow cooker lo mein (with noodles cooked separately): Do you have cravings for Chinese noodles? This easy slow cooker lo mein recipe helps to take care of your craving. I cooked the ground turkey (the leftover ground turkey from making turkey meatballs from the other day) with the seasonings first in the crockpot (for about 2 hours), then added in broccoli, carrots, snow peas, and cooked for another 25 minutes. Meanwhile, I cooked the whole wheat angel hair noodle separately (per package instructions), then set aside. Lastly, I added the cooked noodles into the slow cooker. The recipe adapted from Damn Delicious.




Slow cooker Indian-inspired butter tofu: If you are looking for a warm comforting dish at the end of your busy day, this recipe fits perfectly. This dish is very versatile, you can definitely use other protein choices, such as chicken, and/or shrimp. I just happened to have tofu in my fridge, so I baked the firm tofu prior to adding it into the slow cooker. The recipe adapted from Jessica in the Kitchen.




Stuffed sweet potatoes with slow cooker buffalo chicken: It is a mouth-watering buffalo chicken dish, and is extremely flavorful. Baked sweet potatoes definitely pair well with shredded buffalo chicken! Prior to serving, I drizzled some ranch dressing on the stuffed sweet potatoes. The recipe adapted from the real food Dietitians.






Slow cooker Banh Mi Bowl: For this recipe, the pork is cooked in the slow cooker. I paired this shredded pork dish with cooked quinoa, pickle carrots and radishes, shredded red cabbage, sliced jalapeno, and sliced cucumber. The recipe adapted from Skinny taste.




Slow cooker balsamic brussel sprouts: I have to admit that I messed up this recipe. Instead of drizzling the balsamic reduction on top of the cooked brussel sprouts, I cooked them together with the brussel sprouts. Therefore, they came out darker in color. Oh well, these brussel sprouts are still very delicious! LOL! The recipe adapted from Damn Delicious.





Slow cooker pumpkin brownies: It is a healthy grain-free, gluten-free delicious treat! I highly recommend you not to cut back on the amount of maple syrup added to the brownies. These brownies do need some sweet to balance up the bitterness from the cocoa powder. The recipe adapted from the real food Dietitians.




***Most ingredients were sponsored by DRH Health Food and Nutrition Department


Reference:

Ellis, E. (2021). 10 Food safety tips for the slow cooker. Academy of nutrition and dietetics. Retrieved from https://www.eatright.org/homefoodsafety/four-steps/cook/10-food-safety-tips-for-the-slow-cooker

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