It's 4 p.m. and chances are you're wondering what's for dinner. Again. If you'd started a slow-cooker meal this morning, you'd have the answer. "The best thing about slow cookers is that you fix a meal, walk away, and it's ready when you want it," says Kitty Broihier, MS, RD, and co-author of Everyday Gluten-Free Slow Cooking.
After a long day or a tough workout, it's hard to muster the motivation to make a nourishing meal. Most of our slow-cooker dishes are meals in themselves, and they require little fuss to prepare. Even better: Slow cookers simplify cleanup, a big plus for busy people.
1 Moroccan Spiced Salmon
Didn't plan ahead? Fish cooks quickly, so it can be ready for lunch or dinner even when you don't get a head start. Salmon is brimming with omega-3 fats, the kind that tamp down inflammation and play a role in joint and muscle pain. Omega-3s also get kudos for helping reduce the risk of heart disease.
This zesty, no-carb dish gets its zip from cumin, coriander, and turmeric: spices with antioxidant properties that protect your cells from everyday damage. No salmon? Halibut and cod fillets work just fine. Marinate the fish the night before or in the morning.
- 4 cloves minced garlic
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1 tsp cumin
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 12-oz salmon fillets
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- Put the marinade ingredients in a large ziplock bag, then place the fish in the bag, making sure that the marinade coats both sides of the fish. Refrigerate for 4-6 hours.
- Add 2 tbsp water to the slow cooker. Cover and cook 2 hours on low. When done, let the fish sit, uncovered, for 5 minutes before serving.
- Use a spatula to remove the fish from the slow cooker and transfer to a plate. Gently remove any bones from the fish.
- To serve, divide the fish between plates, serve it on top of couscous or rice, and garnish each portion with cilantro.
Adapted with permission from Everyday Gluten-Free Slow Cooking by Kimberly Mayone and Kitty Broihier, M.S., R.D. (Sterling, 2012)
Serving Size (Makes 4 Servings)
Moroccan-Spiced Salmon PDF (15 KB)
2 Easy Pulled Pork
Pork tenderloin has no bone and very little fat to trim. It's also a zinc powerhouse, and one serving provides 20 percent of the suggested daily intake for zinc, which regulates blood sugar levels. Pork contains thiamin, too, which insures your muscles and nervous system work properly.
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 3 lbs pork tenderloin, trimmed
- 6 tbsp cider vinegar
- 1 cup Low-sodium Chicken Broth
- 2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
- red pepper flakes to taste
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- Place onion in a slow cooker.
- In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, paprika, salt, and pepper, mixing thoroughly.
- Rub the mixture on the meat, coating evenly. Place the pork in the slow cooker.
- In a medium bowl, combine the vinegar, chicken broth, Worcestershire sauce, red pepper flakes, sugar, mustard, and cayenne pepper, mixing thoroughly.
- Add to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.
- Remove the meat. Using two forks, shred the meat and onions coarsely and discard the fat.
Serving Size (Makes 8 Servings)
Easy Pulled Pork PDF (13.8 KB)
3 Beef With Root Vegetables
Lower-cost cuts of beef are well suited to slow cookers, since they require longer cooking times at low temperatures, which also allows the flavors to blend better. As for nutrition, root vegetables contain beta-carotene and other carotenoids, which are the nutrients that give orange produce its bright hue and serve as the raw materials for the body's production of vitamin A. (If you're watching your carbs, you can omit the veggies).
And there's no shortage of iron here, with nearly 60 percent of your daily target in one serving. Iron is especially crucial for active women, since a shortage of it can lead to fatigue, and it helps form the part of the red blood cell that ferries oxygen around the body.
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 2-inch chunks
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 medium turnips, peeled and chopped
- 3-lb bottom round roast, trimmed
- 1 tsp salt
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 15-oz can no-salt-added tomato sauce
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
- 2 tsp Chili Powder
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp mustard powder sprigs, roughly chopped
- Arrange onion, potatoes, carrots, and turnips in bottom of slow cooker.
- Season beef with salt and black pepper. Rub flour on the beef. Place the beef on top of the vegetables.
- In a medium bowl, combine the tomato sauce, brown sugar, chili powder, cumin, and mustard powder, stirring well. Pour the mixture over the beef.
- Cover and cook on low for 12 hours or on high for 8 hours.
Serving Size (Makes 6 Servings)
Beef with Root Vegetables PDF (55.2 KB)
4 Thai Peanut Chicken
Peanut-butter fanatics will love this delicious slow cooker dish. Peanut butter lends creaminess and great taste, along with heart-healthy unsaturated fat, niacin, and vitamin E. It's also the primary reason this entrée supplies nearly 20 percent of your daily requirements for vitamin E, necessary for guarding against cell damage and supporting your immune system, and nearly half of your daily requirement for niacin, necessary to convert the protein, fat, and carbohydrates you consume into fuel your cells can use.
Chicken contains choline, an essential nutrient that supports your heart, liver, and brain, and helps prevent neural-tube defects in early pregnancy; a serving of Thai Peanut Chicken supplies nearly 25 percent of your daily needs. You can substitute boneless chicken breast as well.
- 8 skinless chicken thighs
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup mild salsa
- 1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- 1 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce or fish sauce
- 2 tsp grated fresh ginger
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Lime wedges
- Season chicken with fresh ground black pepper and place in slow cooker.
- In a medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients except cilantro.
- Pour over chicken. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
- Using a slotted spoon, remove chicken and place on serving platter. Pour sauce over chicken.
- Garnish with cilantro and lime wedges.
Serving Size (Makes 4 Servings)
Thai Peanut Chicken PDF (54.4 KB)
5 Quinoa And Bean Chili
This cholesterol-free vegetarian chili is high in fiber and low in saturated fat, a dynamic duo that keeps your blood flowing to your muscles and organs. Plus, one serving packs about one-third of your daily potassium need, which keeps blood pressure in check and your heart and muscles in working order.
Quinoa, a gluten-free, easily digested grain with all of the essential amino acids you need to make muscle and other lean tissue, is also a source of fiber. Kidney beans supply protein and fiber, too, and they're loaded with manganese, a mineral your body requires to produce energy, make collagen, and help defend against cell damage.
No worries about leftovers, as this chili freezes well.
- 1 cup red quinoa, uncooked
- 2 15-1/2-oz cans red kidney beans
- 2 15-1/2-oz cans diced, no-salt-added tomatoes
- 2-1/2 cups water
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced, or more to taste
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tbsp finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp vegetable bouillon
- 1 tbsp lemon or lime juice
- 1 tbsp honey
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp ground chipotle powder
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- Add all ingredients to the slow cooker.
- Cover and cook 8-10 hours on low (or 4-5 hours on high).
- Remove bay leaf and stir well before serving.
Serving Size (Makes 6 Servings)
Quinoa and Bean Chili PDF (28.4 KB)