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4 Reasons Summer Is a Great Time to Use Your Slow Cooker

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Though you probably think of your slow cooker as a cold-weather kitchen tool, this handy item can be your healthy-eating secret weapon year round—even when the temperatures soar. Here are four great reasons (and some recipes) to dust yours off this season.

1. It won't heat up the kitchen.
The slow cooker's low-and-slow method of cooking is perfect for scorching summer days. You can enjoy seasonal classics like baked beans, pulled pork, and even berry crisp without ever turning on the oven. (You'll also love these light summer dinner recipes.)

2. It frees up your time.
Summer can be busy, with lots of activities, parties, and vacations taking you outside the house. A slow cooker allows you to let dinner cook while you spend time outside enjoying the day or catch some much-needed zzz's after a day at the beach—your call. (Speaking of "fast" food, you'll also be surprised how quickly these easy, healthy 20-minute recipes come together.)

3. It makes meal prep more convenient.
A slow cooker streamlines your weekly meal prep duties. Make a big batch of pulled chicken for salads, sandwiches, and other dishes through the week. If you're just cooking for one, you can freeze single portions for quick meals later.

4. It helps you feed a crowd.
Got a big crew coming over for a cookout? Side dishes like baked beans or hearty fare like chili are great in the slow cooker. The slow cooker is also convenient for making sauces and dips or even dessert, especially summery fruit crisps.

Put your slow cooker to good use again with these yummy summer recipes.

Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1 cup water

Directions

  1. Mix water and barbecue sauce together.
  2. Pour some sauce into slow cooker; then place chicken on top. Add rest of the liquid
  3. Cook on low for 5 hours. When chicken is cool enough to handle, use two forks to "pull" meat into shreds.

Slow Cooker Black Bean Chili

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 large bell peppers, sliced peppers
  • 1 small can diced green chili peppers
  • 2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin
  • a few drops liquid smoke (optional)

Directions

  1. Combine ingredients in slow cooker.
  2. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.

Slow Cooker Pork Tacos

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 pounds pork tenderloin
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 16-ounce jar low-sodium salsa
  • 1 cup water (optional)

Directions

  1. Mix spices, and rub pork with spice mixture. Place pork in slow cooker. Add garlic and onion.
  2. Pour salsa over pork, garlic, and onion.
  3. Mix together remaining ingredients and pour over pork. Add water if desired. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours.
  4. Serve meat in taco shells or on top of greens with your favorite toppings for a deconstructed taco salad.

Slow Cooker Baked Beans

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 2 28-ounce cans great northern or navy beans, drained
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard powder

Directions

  1. Combine ingredients in slow cooker.
  2. Cover and cook on low 4 to 6 hours or until thick.

Slow Cooker Berry Crisp

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 3 cups sliced strawberries
  • 3 cups blueberries
  • 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour, almond meal, or oat flour (oats ground in a food processor)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup cold coconut oil or butter, cut into cubes

Directions

  1. Toss berries, honey or maple syrup, lemon juice, and lemon zest in slow cooker.
  2. In small bowl mix oats, flour, cinnamon, and coconut oil until crumbly mixture (about the size of small peas) forms.
  3. Pour oat mixture over fruit.
  4. Cover and cook on high for 2 to 3 hours or until fruit is bubbling and crumble topping is lightly browned.
  5. Serve immediately. Top with your favorite whipped topping, vanilla ice cream, or Greek yogurt.

 

 

Jessica Cording, MS, RD, CDN

Jessica Cording is a registered dietitian and wellness writer with a passion for helping others experience a happier, calmer life through drama-free healthy eating.  More →

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