7 Tips for Using a Slow Cooker

15 Feb

7 Tips for Using a Slow Cooker

The slow cooker can be your best kitchen tool – allowing you to multitask while it does the cooking work for you, but you can run the risk of ending up with a mushy meal that’s not quite right. Use these tips for what to do and what to avoid to ensure you’ve got a winner every time.

1. Plan Your Meals Ahead

If you want to turn your slow cooker on first thing in the morning, a little planning goes a long way.

  • The night before: Cut and trim any meat, chop any vegetables, measure out dry ingredients and prepare any sauce; refrigerate the items in separate containers. Do not refrigerate the components in the ceramic slow cooker insert, as a cold insert takes too long to heat up and will affect cooking time and food safety.
  • In the morning: Add ingredients to the slow cooker according to the recipe. If you won’t be home close to the end of the cooking time, make sure you have a slow cooker that can switch to a “warm” setting when cooking is done.

2. Avoid Overcooking Lean Meats

A long cooking time could cause stringiness, so aim for a shorter stint and extra liquid to prevent lean meats like pork tenderloin or chicken breasts from overcooking.

3. Layer Food Properly

Remember that the slow cooker’s heat source is directly on the bottom. Foods that take the longest to cook need to be placed into the slow cooker first to absorb the most heat. This usually translates into tougher cuts of meat and root vegetables like sweet potatoes. This same thought process also holds true for more delicate, quick-cooking veggies like bell peppers or chopped string beans being layered at the top of the slow cooker pot during the last 30 minutes, so they don’t turn into overcooked mush.

4. Don’t Overfill the Slow Cooker

When it comes to adding food into the slow cooker, always try to err on the side of “less is more”, aiming to fill the ceramic container around two-thirds full. Instead of simmering, filling the slow cooker to the top allows the food to steam, resulting in a longer cooking time and food that isn’t quite as tasty.

5. Keep the Lid Closed!

Resist the urge to take off the lid and peek at your meal. Opening the slow cooker lets the heat escape and slows the cooking process. Only open it 30 to 45 minutes before the low end of the cooking range to check for doneness.

6. Add Herbs at the End

Add your fresh herbs to your slow cooker during the last 30 minutes otherwise they’ll wilt.  Herbs and even dairy can’t handle the temperature and long cooking times of a slow cooker.

7. Let Liquid Boil Off

Some vegetables like onions release too much liquid in slow cooker recipes, making the cooking sauce too thin. If the meat is cooked and you were aiming for more of a gravy-consistency from the dish’s sauce, place the slow cooker on a high setting and remove the lid for 30 to 45 minutes. This will allow the extra moisture in the sauce to boil off.

Put your Slow Cooker to work with these tasty recipes!

Slow Cooker Roast Vegetables

3 Vegetables
1 Starch

1 Bell Pepper, sliced
½ medium Sweet Potato, peeled and cut into cubes
1 cup Zucchini, cut into thick slices
½ Tbs. Extra Light Olive Oil
Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste
1 Tbs. finely chopped Herbs of choice
¼ Garlic Clove, peeled

Spray the inside of crock pot with unflavored Pam spray. Add your vegetables, seasonings, herbs, oil and mix together until vegetables are well coated. Cook 3 hours on low, stirring once every hour.

Slow Cooker Venison Roast

1 Protein
2 Vegetables
1 Starch

1 serving pre-soaked Venison Roast
½ cup sliced Carrots
½ medium Sweet Potato, cut into cubes
½ cup Celery, chopped
¼ medium Onion, sliced
½ tsp. Salt Free Creole Seasoning
1 Bay Leaf
Freshly ground black pepper

Soak venison roast the day before in water with 2 tsp. of vinegar and then regular water the night before. Place vegetables in the bottom of crock pot. Place soaked venison on top of vegetables. Add water to crock pot. Add seasonings and bay leaf. Cook on low setting 7-9 hours. Remove bay leaf and serve.

Slow Cooker Chicken Soup

2 Feb

Try our excellent Slow Cooker Chicken Soup recipe! It will be sure to warm you up. 🍜

• 1 Protein
• 2 Vegetables
• 1 Nutrient

• 1 serving Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
• ½ Tbs. Salt Free Poultry Seasoning
• ¼ medium Onion, chopped
• ½ cup Carrots, chopped
• ½ cup Celery, chopped
• 2 cloves fresh Garlic, minced
• 1 MWLC Chicken Bouillon Nutritional Supplement
• Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste
• 1 Tbsp. fresh Parsley, roughly chopped

Place all ingredients (except parsley) in slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 2 ½-3 ½ hours or low for 5-6 hours. Remove the lid and shred the chicken breast in the bowl with two forks. Taste the soup in the crock pot to adjust any last minute seasoning. Ladle soup broth and vegetables over the shredded chicken. Top with fresh parsley.

Do You Believe In Tomorrow?

1 Feb

Who do you want to be healthy for?  Your spouse?  Kids?  Grandkids?  Yourself?  February is the American Heart Association’s Heart Month, a health initiative focused on bringing awareness to heart disease, stroke and making healthy lifestyle decisions. 

Popular Detroit radio Sports/Talk host Terry Foster was sidelined last summer after suffering a mild stroke.  His leave of absence allowed him to not only recover his speech and motor skills, but work on improving his long term health goals.  His weight loss has lowered his blood pressure, decreased belly fat (an indicator of high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes), and most importantly, Terry is able to be here for his loved ones and devoted listeners.  

Prevent heart disease, stroke and diabetes by taking control of your health and by managing your health conditions.  Men’s health is important – take control today!

Click here to read Terry Foster’s inspiring article   

Coconut Cream Pie

23 Jan

Happy ‘National Pie Day‘!  We think our delicious Coconut Cream Pie says it all!

• 1 Fruit
• 1 Starch
• 1 Supplement
• 1 Snack/Bar

• 1 Vanilla Pudding Shake Supplement
• 1 serving Pineapple
• 2 ½ tsp. Coconut Extract
• 1 Brownie Snack Bar (optional)
• ½ serving Rice Cakes
• ½ serving Melba Toast

Mix vanilla supplement and pineapple with 10 oz. water. Add extract and mix. Crush Melba toast and rice cakes into bottom of small pie tin for crust. Fill with supplement mixture. Melt brownie bar with a little water and spread over top (optional). Chill 1 hour before serving.

Wild Berry Martini

23 Jan

Start off your week right!  Sit back, relax, and enjoy our Wild Berry Martini recipe! The best part is that it won’t break your healthy weight loss routine you have been going strong on!

• 1 Fruit
• 1 Nutrient

• 1 MWLC Wild Berry Fruit Drink Nutrient
• 1/2 serving Raspberries
• 1/2 serving Blackberries
• 8 oz. Diet, Caffeine-Free 7-Up
• Ice

Mix ingredients together and enjoy!

5 Ways to Spice Up Your Popcorn

19 Jan

It’s ‘National Popcorn Day‘!  Skip the butter and salt….and spice up your popcorn with these Popcorn seasoning recipes

1. Cajun Popcorn Seasoning – Combine all ingredients in a jar and shake mixture well.  Season popcorn serving to taste.

2 Tbsp. Sweet Paprika
2 Tbsp. Garlic Powder
1 Tbsp. Cayenne Pepper
1 Tbsp. Chili Powder
1 Tbsp. Black Pepper
1 Tbsp. Dried Oregano
1 Tbsp. Onion Powder
1/2 Tbsp. Ground Nutmeg (optional)

2. Garlic Herb Popcorn Seasoning – Add all ingredients to a bowl, mix well.  Store in an airtight container.  Season popcorn serving to taste. 

2 Tbs. Dried Rosemary
2 Tbs. Dried Thyme
4 tsp. Fennel Seeds
4 tsp. Garlic Powder
2 tsp. Dried Marjoram
2 tsp. Dried Sage

3. Mexican Cocoa Spiced Popcorn – Add all ingredients to a bowl, mix well.  Store in an airtight container.  Season popcorn serving to taste. 

2 Tbs. Ancho Chile Powder
2 Tbs. Smoked Paprika
1 Tbs. Ground Cumin
2 tsp. Dried Oregano
2 tsp. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 tsp. Freshly Ground Black Pepper

4. Apple Cinnamon Popcorn – Mix ingredients with serving of popcorn and enjoy!

1 small Apple, chopped in small pieces
2 Tbsp. Ground Cinnamon

5. Pumpkin Pie Popcorn – Combine all ingredients in a jar and shake mixture well.  Season popcorn serving to taste. 

4 tsp. Cinnamon
2 tsp. Ground Ginger
1 tsp. Freshly Grated Nutmeg
1 tsp. Ground Allspice
1/2 tsp. Ground Cloves

Slow Cooker Chicken, Kale, Sweet Potato Stew

17 Jan

Our featured Soup of the Week for week three of ‘National Soup Month’ is our delicious and easy to prep Slow Cooker recipe: Chicken, Kale, and Sweet Potato Stew.

• 1 Protein
• 1 Vegetable
• 1 Starch

• 1 portion Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast
• 1 cup Kale, stems removed and thinly sliced
• ½ medium Sweet Potato, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
• 1 packet MWLC Chicken Bouillon Fulfill Fiber
• 1 tsp. Italian Seasoning

Place all the ingredients in a 6-quart slow cooker, stirring to combine. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6, or until the sweet potato is tender and the chicken is cooked through and very tender. Remove the chicken and shred with two forks. Return to the slow cooker and stir to combine.

Guest Blogger Rosa: My Teenagers on the Plan

13 Jan

Teenagers and weight loss

Izaak and Ben are the two youngest out of our five children.  They joined Medical Weight Loss Clinic with my husband Mike and I.  At age 17 and 18, Izaak and Ben are our last two children living at home with us.  Their older brother and sisters are off on their own with their own families.  The four of us decided as a family to clean out the house, lose weight and learn to eat what our bodies needed to be healthy.

Izaak, the baby, is my homebody.  He’s quiet and loves hanging out at home with the family. Marching Band is his social time with friends and this is his third year marching for his high school.  Since joining Medical Weight Loss Clinic, Izaak has lost 52 pounds.  He told me, “Marching in the hot heat at summer camp and all of the football games was so much easier this year after losing weight.”

Ben is the social one out of my boys.  He’s always on the go.  Like me, Ben has always struggled with weight and maintaining good eating habits.  We LOVE FOOD!  After deciding not to play sports this year, Ben’s weight climbed.  When I asked Ben what his goal was, he said, “I need to keep trying.  I want to get this weight off.”

Our biggest support system is the staff at the Clinton Township location.  They helped the boys put together a customized menu that made the program work during their school days.  Ben and Izaak both say, “School is easy now.  Our biggest struggle is the weekend and when we’re out with friends.”   Our team at Medical Weight Loss Clinic help the boys make wiser choices when ordering out with friends.  They educate them on how to pick their protein, starch, etc. so they stick as close to the plan as possible. For example, the boys struggle with pasta and chips. A good substitute has been Special K chips. Another great substitute the boys have learned is replacing pop and energy drinks with tea. New favorites now are sauteed peppers, onions, and mushrooms with every dinner.

When I ask them if they had any tips for staying motivated through the cold weather, “The best way to stay on track is to keep busy and drink lots of water.”

There are weeks that have been a struggle for them.  They’re teenagers!  The best thing I can do is keep encouraging and reminding them of the awesome accomplishment they’ve made by sticking with it and that every bit of effort counts!

Chicken Curry

13 Jan

Check out our Chicken Curry recipe

• 1 Protein
• 1.5 Vegetables
• 1 Starch
• 1 Dairy
• 1 Supplement

• 1 serving Chicken Breast
• 1 serving Zucchini, thinly sliced
• 1 serving Skim Milk
• 1 serving Couscous
• 1 Cream of Chicken Supplement
• 1/2 serving Yellow Onion, thinly sliced
• 1/4 cup freshly ground Basil Leaves
• 2 tsp. Curry Powder
• Dash of Cinnamon
• Fresh Ground Pepper to taste

Rinse chicken. Cut into 1-inch pieces and place into bowl. Sprinkle with the curry and cinnamon, toss and set aside. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and zucchini and cook until softened, 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add the chicken and cook until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes total. Add the supplement, milk and pepper. Bring to a gentle simmer. Return the onion and zucchini to the skillet and heat until the chicken is cooked through, 5-7 minutes. Take prepared couscous and place into a bowl. Top with the curry chicken and sprinkle with basil.

Herbed Tomato Soup

9 Jan

Did you know it is National Soup Month? No worries! We have the best Herbed Tomato Soup recipe to warm you up on this chilly afternoon!

• 1 Supplement

• 1 Tomato Soup Supplement
• 1/4 tsp Dill Weed
• White Pepper to taste
• 1/4 tsp Thyme
• 1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
• 8 oz. Boiling Water

Mix all ingredients together, let sit for one minute and serve.