This may seem like an odd post to put on type2diabetes.com. I think it’s important to talk about how to make healthy meals when we are so busy in life. Here are a few of the small appliances I use to make sure we look after the family (and my diabetes) to make healthy affordable meals. Many recipes can be adapted easily for use in either of these.
Slow Cooker (aka: crock pot)
This little appliance is the best thing since sliced bread! I love it so much I have three for when we have big family or friend get togethers. Let’s talk!
There are a variety of sizes. There are mini ones that work for warming salsa or other dips. Other sizes will accommodate one or two people which is great if you believed you can’t cook ‘for one.’ Bigger ones are for family sized meals. Size is important depending on what you’d like to make and for how many. For a family of four, the largest size is probably the best.
I have had friends tell me that after a while all the recipes taste the same. Unless you are picking recipes that have the same ingredients than I say “No way!” If you check it out, there are many free online recipes for you to try. The slow cookers always come with a small recipe book as well. Some of my family’s favorites are from that book. You have to be careful about the nutritional value with any recipe. If the one you choose is too high in salt or fat, you can easily adapt them by using ingredients that contain less. You can adapt any recipe to make it more healthy but with the slow cooker be sure to watch the amount of liquid you use in your recipe. You may need to decrease the amount. Because the food cooks slowly, there is less moisture lost. The really amazing part about the slow cooker? You can use cheaper cuts of foods and they cook up beautifully!
There are also a variety of features. My favorite features are the simplest ones. They have a dial with only 3 settings: Low/High/Warm. If you are purchasing your very first one or replacing a worn out one, you may want to avoid some of the electronic styles. Most of them cannot be put on warm manually. If your slow cooker cooks your meal a bit faster than expected, you have no recourse other than to turn it off. It’s nice to be able to turn it to warm if the rest of the family isn’t home yet.
A couple of cautionary notes: if want to assemble your meal the night before, the veggies can be prepared ahead of time but the meat/chicken/pork shouldn’t be mixed until you are ready to turn the cooker on. If you live in an area where you frequently lose hydro, an electronic one may not be for you. Once the power is lost, they have no way to come back on! Your dinner cannot be eaten if it’s not properly cooked. The same can be said for the manual crocks if you don’t know how long it has been off too. If it’s only brief, the manual one will just resume cooking when the hydro returns. Remember the public health motto: “When in doubt, throw it out!”
Slow cookers are often on sale at really good prices, both in stores and online!
Another amazing product! Other than my husband’s BBQ, this is his favorite small appliance. In the event you’ve never heard of a pressure cooker, it is essentially a pot with a special vacuum sealed lid that when heated on the stove creates a high pressure environment inside that cooks the food…fast! Similar to the slow cooker, pressure cookers come in a variety of sizes. You just need to pick the one size that fits the size of your family.
Many people have expressed their concern and fear of pressure cookers having heard horror stories of them ‘blowing up.’ What is being referred to is the pressure piston in the lid being blown out the hole in the lid. In over 25+ yrs of using a pressure cooker, we have never had a problem. The biggest thing to remember is to not overfill it. If it is overfilled, the food can block the pressure piston and then it can be a problem. Read the instruction book that comes with your pressure cooker to know what they recommend in terms of how full it can safely be.
When used properly, this small appliance can be a great way to cook a healthy meal in a short period of time. Any recipe you have can be cooked in the pressure cooker. It’s even easier than the slow cooker. We use it a lot for Sunday dinner when we want to go do other things. We also use it during the week when we all get home late from work or school and want a healthy meal. My husband has informed me that no matter what other appliance I buy, he’s not giving up the pressure cooker. He makes yummy stew. He also makes a whole chicken (skin removed) with potatoes, carrots and other veggies. A little seasoning and water and dinner is cooked fairly quickly. The chicken comes out so moist! Here’s a couple of examples of the cooking/cooling times for the stew and chicken dinner once you turn on the stove:
Stew: 10 min for pressure to build up, 12 min to cook, 15 min for the pressure to come down. Voilà!
Chicken Dinner: 15 min for pressure to build up, 25 min to cook, 20 min for the pressure to come down. Voilà again!
Here’s a small secret: the time spent waiting for the pressure to come down can be reduced by placing the cooker in a sink of cold water. It helps to reduce the wait time by about half which is nice when you have people who are ‘starving’!
The Next Generation?
There is now another small appliance that combines both the slow cooker and pressure cooker plus rice steamer, yogurt maker, etc. It’s called an insta-pot. I just bought one on sale! I’ll let you know how I like it. Or better yet, let us know how you like yours!
*No matter what small appliance you use, always remember the principles of good food safety. Here are a couple of reference articles in case you want to read more about food safety:*