(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking
at Creators Syndicate
Slow cooking is a misnomer. Using the inexpensive appliance as a home to tempting economical ingredients that meld their flavors over hours without any work from you means that time is your own to achieve lots of other accomplishments done fast and to still have prepared a delicious family meal. Old-fashioned, plain recipes are no longer the norm when it comes to slow cookers. Hip fusion dishes, exciting ethnic fare and everything from appetizers, to side dishes, to entrees, and even healthy desserts, emerge perfectly cooked, like creamy, yet sugar-free, corn pudding; sweet 'n' spicy veggie meatballs; a whole turkey breast succulently surrounded by onions, garlic and warmed orange and apple slices; and an out-of-this-world devil's food cherry and apple cobbler. Best of all, the preparation time really is only seconds. Your main cooking instruction is usually, "Toss" - toss all ingredients into the slow cooker!
This type of cooking can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun - and fast - as these menus of split-second family-friendly sensations prove. They take
just 10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare
. The meals are delicious proof that everyone has time for tasty home cooking and, more importantly, the healthy family time around the kitchen table that goes along with it! Another benefit: You effortlessly become a better cook, since, for the most part,
there are no right or wrong amounts
. These are virtually-can't-go-wrong combinations, so whatever you - or your kidlet helpers - choose to use can't help but draw "wows" at the family dinner table.
SLOW COOKER APPETIZERS
Sure-to-be-Gobbled-Up Ground Turkey Nacho Dip
After browning and draining ground turkey, place it and cubed American and Monterey Jack cheeses, store-bought pineapple salsa, Worcestershire sauce and chopped cilantro in slow cooker, cover, and cook on high for 1 hour. Serve with baked tortilla chips.
Mini Pita Pizzas
After browning and draining ground chicken breast and veggie Italian-style sausage, place it and cubed cheddar and Mozzarella cheeses and store-bought Italian seasoning blend into slow cooker, cover, and cook on low for 1 hour. Spread toasted whole-wheat pitas with pizza topping, carefully cut into sixths and serve.
Sweet 'n' Spicy "Meatballs"
Shape mini "meatballs" from thawed frozen veggie burger patties combined with whole-wheat breadcrumbs and a little egg white and place in slow cooker with chili sauce, grape (or berry) all-fruit spread (available in the jam aisle of most supermarkets) and curry powder, stir gently, cover, and cook on low for 4 hours or on high for 2 hours.
SLOW COOKER SIDE DISHES
Corny but True Sugar-Free Pudding
In slow cooker, combine 3 tablespoons cornstarch, 2 slightly beaten eggs, a can of cream-style corn, a can of evaporated milk and sugar substitute, cover, and cook on low for 4 hours. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Creative Creole Broccoli
Saute red onions and garlic cloves in olive oil in a skillet and combine in a slow cooker with chopped fresh broccoli, chopped red bell pepper and store-bought Cajun seasoning blend and, cover, and cook on low for 4 hours, or until broccoli is firm-tender, but not mushy.
Going Green with Your Barbecued Baked Beans
In a slow cooker, combine fresh-cut green beans, diced red onion, chopped veggie bacon, freshly ground black pepper, salt substitute and ketchup, cover, and cook on low for 5 hours, or until beans are tender and heated through.
SLOW COOKER ENTREES
Tantalizing Turkey Breast
Rinse a whole turkey breast, pat dry, rub with olive oil, sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and salt substitute and place meaty side up in slow cooker with sliced onions, sliced garlic cloves, peeled orange slices and unpeeled apple slices around it. Cover and cook on low 10 hours (depending on size of turkey breast could be shorter or longer), or until a meat thermometer stuck in meaty part of breast reads 180 F. Let stand 10 minutes before carving.
Nothing Fishy About It Lentil Stew
In a slow cooker, combine dry lentils, drained and flaked canned tuna, canned diced tomatoes, canned chicken or vegetable broth, freshly ground black pepper and salt substitute, cover, and cook on low 5 hours, or until lentils are tender, but not mushy.
In a slow cooker, combine chopped shallots, chopped mushrooms, freshly ground black pepper, salt substitute, grape juice, vegetable broth and short-grain rice, such as Arborio, cover, and cook on low 90 minutes, or until rice is tender when stirred and liquid is absorbed. If rice seems dry, add a little warm water. Serve topped with shrimp you've sauteed in a skillet and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
SLOW COOKER HEALTHY DESSERTS
In a slow cooker, place upright whole firm ripe pears, like Anjou or Bosc. In a bowl, combine molasses, sugar substitute, white grape juice, orange juice, grated nutmeg and ground cinnamon and spoon over pears. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours or low for 4 hours, or until pears are tender when carefully tested with a fork. Cool in the cooker, occasionally basting with the sauce and pouring the sauce over the pears once they are removed from cooker. Chill before serving. Good served with Gorgonzola cheese.
In a slow cooker, place seedless red grape halves, ground cinnamon, grape juice, fresh lemon juice and honey, cover, and cook on low 2 hours, or until grapes are slightly mushy. Transfer to a blender, add small amount of soy milk, blend until smooth and serve (adding sugar substitute or more honey, to taste, if needed) slightly warm, at room temperature or chilled accompanied by sugar-free vanilla wafers and pieces of dark chocolate.
Cheery Chocolate Cherry Cobbler
Lightly spray a cold slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Place a mixture of cherry pie filling and apple pie filling in slow cooker and cook on high for 30 minutes. In a bowl, mix together packaged devil's food dry cake mix, 1 egg, 3 tablespoons evaporated milk and a dash of allspice and ground cloves and pour over hot pie filling. Cover, and cook on low 3 hours, or until a fork inserted into center comes out dry. Serve warm or cooled.
QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK:
A way to quickly and easily cut calories and carbohydrates from pizza is to go St. Louis style. The Midwestern city, known for its arch and its ribs, is also renowned for it cracker-style, crispy, flat crusts, which still let the topping flavors shine through. Imo's, one of the town's most famous parlor brands, can be ordered frozen and half baked online at websites like
. Frozen brands, like Kashi, Freschetta and DiGiorno, sell crispy flatbread styles in supermarkets. You also can make versions at home in seconds. Take regular or whole-wheat matzo (now sold in the ethnic aisles of most supermarkets year round) or whole-wheat pitas or lavosh (Armenian unleavened flatbread) and top as you would any pizza. Broil until toppings are cooked, making sure crust does not burn.
Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling
The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes
(Avery/Penguin Putnam) and
Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet
(Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission Granted for use on Dr.Laura.com.