And, oh my, what you’re rewarded with is deep, savory, slow-cooked flavor – what many restaurants now describe as “kettle cooking.”
In particular, healthy crockpot recipes do wonderful things for dried beans, rendering them creamy-buttery on the inside while firm and intact on the outside.
Our Executive Chef Anthony Stewart is also a big fan of crockpots. In his “Becoming a Pritikin Chef” lecture at the Pritikin Longevity Center, he points out that many of the Pritikin recipes, particularly the soups and stews, lend themselves well to crockpot cooking.
“You have better control, you don’t need to be hanging around the kitchen supervising the cooking, the nutrition and flavors are locked in, your meal stays warm until ready to serve, and you serve it directly from the crockpot to your dinner plate or bowl, so there’s a lot less clean-up.”
Crockpot cooking is just a lot less work overall. The following 3 healthy crockpot recipes can help you get started.
Healthy Crockpot Recipes…
Salsa Chicken – Two Ingredients. That’s it!
Here’s the easiest recipe ever! It’s just two ingredients: chicken breasts and salsa. (Do read labels to make sure you’re getting low-sodium or no-salt-added varieties of salsa.)
You simply put a pound or two of boneless, skinless chicken breasts on the bottom of the crockpot. Then pour salsa over the top of the chicken, enough to cover the chicken about one-half inch.
Then turn on the crockpot. You’re done!
If you’re new to slow cooking, do read the user manual so that you’re aware of any requirements regarding your particular crockpot.
For Salsa Chicken using my crockpot, I simply set the temperature to LOW. In four hours the chicken breasts are nicely cooked. I then remove the lid and with a fork shred the breasts so that the salsa soaks in everywhere.
I put the lid back on and let the shredded chicken sit there in the nice warm crockpot for a few minutes, heat turned off, while I get the rest of dinner ready.
What emerges from the crockpot is a deliciously juicy chicken that can be used in all sorts of ways.
- Make fajitas by ladling some of your chicken into whole-wheat tortillas with sliced green bell peppers and onions, stir-fried or raw.
- Use your Salsa Chicken as a topping over a big green salad (you don’t even need salad dressing) laced with sliced radishes and cucumbers, or any crunchy-style veggies you have on hand.
- Ladle your chicken over a cooked whole grain like brown rice. It works really well as a potato topper, too.
- Or whip up a super easy Mexican-style soup by adding your Salsa Chicken to a pot on the stove with some low-sodium chicken broth, pinto beans (canned, no salt-added), and corn (just pour in a cup or so from a bag of frozen corn). Heat your soup for about 15 minutes, and enjoy.
Feeling a little more ambitious and want completely vegetarian? And some of those creamy beans?
Setting the heat
The cooking temperature for crockpots is the same on all settings – about 210 degrees. So the setting you choose (usually LOW or HIGH) merely dictates how quickly your slow cooker gets to that temperature.
I like using the LOW setting as often as I can because I find that its slower, gentler cooking does a really nice job of bringing out flavors. And with 8-plus hours of cooking time, I can be gone all day from the house and not worry about dinner overcooking.
One more note: Most modern slow cookers will automatically convert to a “warming” setting at the end of cooking. So if you’re getting home a little later than expected, you know dinner isn’t overcooking.
Prepping the night before
There’s no need to get up early in the morning to chop up ingredients for your evening’s crockpot dinner.
Instead, prepare everything the night before. Put your ingredients into your slow-cooker’s ceramic pot, and cover and store in the refrigerator overnight. Come morning, get it out, lower it back down into your slow cooker machine, turn it on, and walk out the door.
For converting recipes you already have into crockpot-style cooking, here are some general guidelines:
- If a dish usually takes 1 to 2 hours on the stove, cook it in your crockpot for 3 to 4 hours on HIGH or 6 to 8 hours on LOW.
- If a dish usually take 2 to 4 hours on the stove, cook it in your crockpot for 4 to 6 hours on HIGH or 8 to 12 hours on LOW.
- Root vegetables such as beets, carrots, onions, parsnips, potatoes, radishes, and turnips can take longer than other vegetables, so put them near the heat source – the bottom of the pot.
Here’s our third healthy crockpot recipe. It takes just a few minutes to assemble but delivers loads of hearty, snappy flavor.
Healthy Crockpot Recipes…
As Chef Anthony and his fellow chefs at the Pritikin Longevity Center have always taught, don’t constrain yourself with written recipes.
Go with what you like – any ingredients you like! Some experiments may not first turn out as well as you imagined, but that’s okay. Make notes. Incorporate them the next time. When it comes to cooking – any kind of cooking – practice makes perfect.
For healthy crockpot cooking, here are 4 general guidelines:
- Put your dried beans, root vegetables, and seasonings on the bottom of your crockpot.
- Add enough stock or water to cover your ingredients about one-quarter to one-half inch.
- Then add your other veggies – a nice hefty pound or two.
- Turn on your crockpot. Then walk away!