Make life simple and healthier — pull out that slow cooker!

This week we will look at the practical and health advantages of using a slow cooker. For those of who don't already own one, the ease of preparing a meal in the morning in a one-step preparation — doing all the chopping, cutting, and measuring, setting the timer — and then being able to get on with our day knowing that dinner is completely taken care of, is almost priceless.

Slow cookers have more to offer us than just being practical. The concept of a slow cooker is to cook on a low heat over 8 hours. Traditionally, when we cook food at high heat in the oven, it loses many of its nutrients, whereas cooking on low heat, the food retains more nutrients. In other words, make the most of what you eat by eating slow-cooked foods.

Making a bone broth in a slow cooker is so simple and the health benefits make it so worthwhile. It helps to reduce inflammation, helps to promote a healthy gut, as well as promotes healthy bones, hair, and nails. I use the leftovers from a roast chicken to make truly delicious immunity-boosting bone broth. So please, do not put the carcass in the compost but try out this recipe and then freeze the broth until you need it.

Another advantage of cooking meat in the slow cooker is not only that it is more tender, making it easier to digest, but you can use tougher, less desirable cut of meat, such shanks, oxtail, brisket and pork belly, and transform them into the most delicious meals. Slow cooking simply brings out all of the flavours in the food. This brings me to eating on a budget; add a few vegetables to these slow cooked cuts of meat and you have a delicious and healthy meal for all the family while saving money. It is truly is a win, win!

Try making this baked apple recipe in your slow cooker.

Slow cookers can also be used for other meals too. Making a fruit puree has as never been so easy. Why not try this baked apple recipe, which can even be eaten for breakfast. Or, why not warm up leftovers in your slow cooker, you will find that it tastes just as good as when you made it and it retains all of its moisture.

When cooking a meal that has both meat and vegetables, make sure that the vegetables go in first, placing the meat on top, then adding the liquid. This is because vegetables take longer to cook in the slow cooker than meat, this will ensure that they cook nicely.

If you are looking to convert a non-slow cooker recipe for your slow cooker, reduce the liquids by a third. Since the liquids in a slow cooker never actually boil, you need less. If you are adding grains or potatoes, add them in the last hour of cooking otherwise they will end up quite mushy, or cook them separately. If take the lid off at any point, add 15-20 minutes to the cooking time because when you lift the lid off most of the heat is lost and needs to be made up again. If your recipe requires you to add any dairy products, do this in the last hour to avoid any curdling.

Your slow cooker may only come out of the cupboard as the cooler weather sets in but I have learnt over the years that a slow cooker should in the kitchen year round. When you think about it, summers here in Ottawa can get so hot that the mere idea of turning on the oven seems unimaginable. A slow cookers can make your life easier even in the summer and they use less electricity than an oven. They will not make our kitchen feel like a sauna – just something to think of.

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