Since the 17th century, families have been serving delicious meals made in slow cookers. Set it and forget it by adding fresh ingredients to a pot and letting the flavors come together. A transition from fire-based outdoor cooking, to the convenience of plugging in. We have some great recipes using fresh greenhouse grown vegetables, plus slow cooker tips and healthy hints that make slow cooked meals convenient, full of essential nutrients, and can be enjoyed year-round.
Slow-cooked meals can feel like a warm hug on cooler evenings. From family favorites to new culinary adventures, with set-it-and-forget-it type meals what matters most is the quality ingredients that you put into them. Greenhouse grown vegetables are readily available 365 days a year, are jam-packed with vitamins and nutrients, and their consistent flavor makes them perfect to use in slow-cooked recipes. We’ve put together some handy tips and tricks for using various slow cookers as well as recipes filled with fresh, flavorful, and nutrient-dense vegetables like tomatoes & peppers! Since they are grown in greenhouses, you never have to sacrifice fresh produce, even in the midst of winter.
A CLASSIC SLOW COOKER, THE DUTCH OVEN –
Dutch ovens have been used as cooking vessels for hundreds of years. The Dutch oven originated in the Netherlands in the 17th century. This type of slow cooker is perfect for roasts, stews, and casserole-style dishes. Using the oven or stove top for heat sources, you can adjust cook times for convenience.
Dutch Oven Beef & Cheese Pasta is a fantastic family-friendly dish that can be enjoyed by all and is made with fresh, whole ingredients. It is effortless to make and is ready in under an hour! To make this nutritious, vitamin- and mineral-rich meal, simply quickly sauté the beef and onion before adding diced Pure Flavor® Tomatoes On-The-Vine, spinach, dry macaroni, milk, and Italian seasonings. Continue cooking on the stovetop for 15 minutes and then gather everyone around the table to enjoy.
THE MODERN ELECTRIC SLOW COOKER –
Electric slow cookers are the true set-it-and-forget-it appliance. It’s the handy slow cooker where you can literally toss in all the ingredients, walk away, and a few hours later, you’ve got a delicious meal. Slow cookers became popular in the 1940s as families sought greater convenience in starting dinner before leaving for work and finishing the meal when they returned home. Slow cookers are ideal for stews and soups but they are also fantastic for party apps because they allow you to keep your appetizers at the perfect temperature for serving.
These Slow Cooker Sweet & Sour Meatballs are a delicious party appetizer that everyone will love. This dish is full of flavor and offers the perfect balance of sweet and sour without a lot of added sugar. Simply dice Sweet Bell Peppers and Beefsteak Tomatoes, then add frozen meatballs, along with pineapple, a pinch of sugar, and a few seasonings. Enjoy it with toothpicks for an easy appetizer that will disappear in seconds or over rice for a family meal. You may want to make two batches of this one because it is that good!
THE TIME-SAVING PRESSURE COOKER –
Pressure cookers have been around since the late 1600s, but they gained newfound popularity most recently with the Instant Pot. Early pressure cookers were a little more difficult to use and less convenient however this modern appliance allows you to prepare any type of recipe in one-third of the time of traditional slow cookers. Simply chop your fresh vegetables, add your protein, and set the table!
This Instant Pot Kung Pao Chicken is a tasty dish with the ideal harmony of salty, sweet, and spicy flavors. It is loaded with Aurora Bites Mini Sweet Peppers, zucchini, onions, and a simple Kung Pao sauce that you can make at home to cover the chicken. Excellent for lunch or dinner when served with noodles or rice.
TOP 10 SLOW-COOKING TIPS –
- Use fresh ingredients
Using fresh ingredients, especially vegetables, can help to enhance the flavor of your slow-cooked dish. You can rely on greenhouse grown vegetables from Pure Flavor® for consistent quality and taste no matter the season.
- Cut up vegetables into small pieces
This allows them to cook faster and evenly in the slow cooker.
- Avoid pre-packaged mixes and sauces
These often contain added sugars and preservatives that can add unnecessary additives to your meals. Use fresh herbs and simple, dried spices to add flavor.
- Cook in bulk
Slow cookers are great for cooking large portions of food at once, which can be portioned out in a convenient and healthy way to help meal prep for the week.
- Plan ahead
Slow cookers take time to cook, so it’s essential to plan ahead and prepare your ingredients before starting the cooking process. This can save time and ensure that your dish turns out perfectly. As well if you are short on time in the morning, prepare everything you need the night before. Place in the slow cooker dish and store in the fridge overnight.
- Brown your meat
Before adding meat to the slow cooker, try browning it in a pan over high heat. This helps to sear in the juices and add a depth of flavor to your dish.
- Avoid overfilling the slow cooker
It’s important not to overfill the slow cooker, as this can prevent it from heating up evenly and may result in uneven cooking.
- Don’t open the lid unnecessarily
Every time you open the lid of the slow cooker, heat escapes and it can take a while for the temperature to return to the right level. This can extend the cooking time, so try to avoid opening the lid unnecessarily.
- Place hard vegetables at the bottom
Carrots, potatoes, and other root vegetables take longer to cook, so place them at the bottom of the slow cooker where the temperature is highest and they have the best chance of absorbing moisture.
- Use the slow cooker LOW setting
You can set any slow cooker recipe to LOW heat. Most dishes benefit greatly from a slow, gentle heat to bring out the flavors. Also ideal if you plan to be away all day and want to come home to a nice warm meal.
CREATE SLOW-COOKED FAMILY MEALS –
There is a magic that happens when the family comes together to enjoy a warm, home-cooked meal together. With busy schedules and long work days, one of the best ways to create nutritious meal options is to work with ingredients that you can count on like greenhouse grown vegetables that are available year-round. It may be a cool winter night, but by taking these slow-cooking tips and tricks, along with these mouth-watering recipe suggestions, you can easily serve a nutritious meal without spending hours in the kitchen.
If you are looking for more inspiration, explore other Slow Cooker Recipes that are packed full of nutrient-dense, flavorful, and fresh greenhouse grown vegetables this winter.
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