Quick, healthy meals

Use your slow cooker to make easy, healthy and inexpensive meals.

February is a great time to use your slow cooker for a quick and hot meal that will be ready for you when you walk in the door after a busy day. Slow cooker meals are usually very easy to make before you leave in the morning. Simply put all of your ingredients in the slow cooker and cook. It’s a great alternative for working families or if you are having a family outing like a day out at the sledding hill.quick, healthy meals

 Here are some tips to remember when using a slow cooker:

  • Usually slow cooker meals can be prepared in eight to 10 hours. Cooking time can be shortened by using the high setting on the slow cooker to about five to six hours. Use a thermometer to make sure your meal is thoroughly cooked (165 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Tougher cuts of meat, which may be less expensive, can be used in slow cooker meals because the meat cooks slowly without loss of liquid. The slow cooking tenderizes the meat and the liquid does not get lost as escaping steam. The less tender cuts of meat cook with less shrinkage.
  • Keep the lid on the slow cooker. Every time the lid is lifted during the cooking time, 15 to 20 minutes is added to the overall cooking time.
  • A slow cooker is very economical to use because it uses low wattage over a longer period of time.
  • Add milk, cream or sour cream during the last hour of cooking to prevent separation or curdling.

The following recipe is from the “Eating Right Is Basic” curriculum from Michigan State University Extension.

Easy Spaghetti

1 pound lean ground meat

1 medium onion, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce

1 to 1 ½ teaspoons Italian seasoning

1 can (4 ounces) sliced mushrooms, drained

3 cups tomato juice

1 ½ cups dry spaghetti, broken into 4-5 inch pieces.

Brown ground meat and onions in skillet and place into crock pot. Add all remaining ingredients except dry spaghetti. Stir well. Cover and cook on low for six to eight hours (high three to five hours). Turn up to high last hour and stir in dry spaghetti. Add salad and milk for a complete meal.

For additional information about using slow cookers go to the USDA website. More recipes for slow cookers meals can be found at the University of Nebraska Extension website.

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