Slow Cooker in the Summer

photo by Christine Caruso

I’m a woman who likes routine, and the life of a dietetic intern is far from routine. Juggling demanding deadlines and schedules that change almost weekly can leave me feeling like I’m lost on the highway without GPS. Making sure I have easy-prep meals that keep me satisfied is a must to keeping me healthy and less stressed during particularly busy weeks.

So, what’s been my best friend throughout all of this? My slow cooker! I can just toss in some simple ingredients and let the slow cooker do the work for me. I get my veggies, lean protein, even fruit and grains with low-maintenance meals, and I don’t have to worry about preparing dinner or a lengthy clean-up when I get home.

But, “It’s summer time,” you say. Fear not! The trusty slow cooker isn’t just for fall and winter dishes. Here are some tasty treats to give your oven (and your air conditioner) a break during the hot summer months.

  • Vegetarian Lentil Tacos
  • Ratatouille
  • Blueberry & Banana Steel Cut Oats

Vegetarian Lentil Tacos

Adapted from: CookingClassy.com

Lentils are the perfect pantry staple if you’re looking to increase your protein, fiber, and iron intakes. In just one ½ cup serving of cooked lentils, you’ll get 12 grams of protein, 32% of your daily fiber, and 15% of your daily iron needs! Plus, lentils are rich in potassium and folate, supporting cardiovascular health.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups green lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 10 oz can diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 3 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • Salt & ground black pepper to taste

Garnish Suggestions:

  • Fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Fresh lime juice
  • Tomatoes, lettuce, onions
  • Corn or whole wheat tortillas
  • Sour cream or plain greek yogurt
  • Shredded Cheese

Directions:

  • Place lentils, broth, olive oil, tomatoes, onions, garlic, chili powder, cayenne, paprika, salt, and pepper in a 5-6 quart slow cooker. Stir to combine.
  • Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 7-8 hours.
  • Serve with tortillas and toppings as desired.

Ratatouille:

Adapted from: TasteOfHome.com

Eat your way to the recommended daily 4-5 cups of fruits and veggies while you protect your body from infection, inflammation, and chronic disease! Eggplant, tomatoes, and bell peppers are all rich in vitamin C, which supports skin, bone & muscle health, and can help fight off that summer cold. The bright colors in these veggies show the variety of phytonutrients and antioxidants they all have to offer, which are known to fight the inflammation associated with chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tsp salt, divided
  • 3 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 2 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 6 oz can pitted ripe olives, drained and chopped
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • ½ cup torn fresh basil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 T olive oil
  • Non-stick cooking spray

Directions:

  • Place eggplant in a colander over a plate and sprinkle with 1 tsp salt. Toss to coat evenly and let sit for 30 minutes. Rinse and drain well.
  • Coat a 5-6 quart slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray. Add the drained eggplant and stir in the tomatoes, zucchini, onions, bell peppers, olives, tomato paste, basil, garlic, pepper, and remaining salt. Drizzle with olive oil.
  • Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours, until the vegetables are tender and most of the liquid has absorbed.

Berry & Banana Steel Cut Oats

Adapted from: AllRecipes.com

Oats and berries are packed with fiber, which can help us feel full longer by slowing the passage of food through the digestive system. This can also help control blood sugar levels as food is digested at a slower pace. The viscous soluble fiber in oats, called beta-glucans, helps improve cardiovascular health by reducing circulating levels of blood cholesterol. Antioxidants in berries can also prevent cardiovascular disease, in addition to supporting healthy aging, bone health, kidney health, and brain and cognitive function.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups almond milk (or milk of choice)
  • 2 cups berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries – you choose!)
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 cup steel cut oats
  • 2 T honey
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp salt

Directions:

  • Stir all ingredients together in a 5-6 quart slow cooker.
  • Cook on low for 5-8 hours.
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