Benton, Ark. – Americans’ busy lifestyles often show up in their cooking and eating habits.
Over 30 percent of calories are consumed away from home, with more than 40 percent of food dollars spent on food away from home, which is typically higher in calories and fat and lower in calcium, fiber, and iron. Planning meals ahead can improve health while saving time and money.
When families eat together, meals are likely to be more nutritious. Family meals also provide a great time for children and parents to reconnect. January is National Slow Cooking Month and one way to increase meals at home is to use a slow cooker. Check out the following information on slow cooker benefits, food safety, and recipe ideas.
Benefits of Using a Slow Cooker
- A slow cooker uses less electricity than an oven.
- Slow cookers are useful throughout the year. Coming in from a cold winter day, the aroma of hot soup is welcoming. Slow cookers also work well for summertime use; they do not heat the kitchen the way an oven might.
- As a result of the long, low-temperature cooking, slow cookers help tenderize less-expensive cuts of meat.
- Slow cookers usually allow one-step preparation. Placing all the ingredients in the slow cooker saves preparation time and cuts down on cleanup.
- A variety of foods can be cooked in a slow cooker, including soups, stews and casseroles.
Most recipes can be converted. Because liquids do not boil away in a slow cooker, you can usually reduce liquids by one-third to one half. This reduction in liquid does not apply to soups. Pasta may become mushy if added too early, so it could be added at the end of the cooking process or cooked separately and added just before serving. Milk, cheese and cream may be added one hour before serving.
Recipe Ideas for Slow Cookers
4 strips bacon, fried crisp, drained and crumbled
1 lb. lean or extra-lean ground beef, browned and drained
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. ketchup (low-sodium)
1/4 c. vinegar
1/4 c. mustard
1 (15-oz.) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-oz.) can butter beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-oz.) can lima beans, drained and rinsed
1 (28-oz.) can baked beans (do not drain)
Brown meat and fry bacon. Mix all ingredients and cook in a slow cooker on high for three hours or low for eight hours.
Makes 12 servings.
Cheesy Spinach-Artichoke Dip (21 servings):
1 (14 oz.) can artichoke hearts, chopped and drained,
1 (10 oz.) pkg. frozen spinach, thawed,
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, low-fat, softened,
1 (8 oz.) carton sour cream, low-fat,
¾ c. grated Parmesan cheese,
¾ c. lowfat milk,
½ c. onion, chopped,
½ c. mayonnaise low-fat,
1 T. white vinegar,
¼ tsp. black pepper,
½ tsp. garlic powder (optional).
Directions: Place ingredients in a 3½ quart slow cooker. Mix well. Cover slow cooker with lid, and cook on low for 1 hour. Stir occasionally. Serve warm with bread or tortilla chips.
Chicken Curry (Makes 10 servings):
2¾ lb. chicken breasts, without skin,
1 (16-oz.) jar salsa (mild or medium),
1 medium onion, chopped,
2 Tbsp. curry powder,
1 c. fat-free sour cream.
Directions: Place chicken in slow cooker. Combine salsa, onions and curry powder and pour over chicken. Cover with lid. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours (or high for 5 hours). Remove chicken to serving platter; cover and keep warm. Add sour cream to salsa mixture in the slow cooker. Blend and pour over the chicken.
By Kris Boulton
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Media Contact: Kris Boulton
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
1605 Edison Ave Benton AR 72015
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