There is nothing better than being welcomed home by the wonderful smell of dinner that is almost ready to be served. This sure beats the greeting I have become accustomed to, that famous question: “What’s for dinner?”

This welcoming aroma is just one of the many reasons I love using my slow cooker.

And while I use mine year round, there is something about this time of year that just seems to make using that slow cooker even better.

Maybe it’s the cooler temperatures or the shorter daylight hours that make is so appealing. But I honestly think that it’s the wonderful fall cuisine you can do so quickly and easily with a slow cooker that I enjoy the most.

Slow cookers, or crock pots, do the cooking for you, even while you are away. The preparation, which can be done pretty quickly either in the morning or even the evening before, is usually minimal.

Oh and did I mention that these meals often require very little clean-up? Especially now that they have those wonderful crockpot cooking liners.

If you are still not convinced yet to bust out your slow cooker, let me remind you of the other benefits. This method of cooking uses less electricity, which can help save money.

Unlike the oven, the slow cooker gives off very little heat, keeping your kitchen cooler when it is hot outside. The slow cooking method can enhance the flavor of foods, can help tenderize those less-expensive cuts of meat, and recent studies show that heating vegetables may actually increase the bioavailability of some nutrients.

Speaking of nutrients, meals prepared in your slow cooker are likely a healthier alternative to many convenience foods and take-out meals. These homemade slow cooked meals are great ways to combine veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean proteins.

Pot roast, beef stew, and soups are just a small sampling of the countless meals that can be made in a slow cooker. Below are some of my favorite recipes. Give them a try!

This is one of my all-time favorite holiday recipes. It is a reduced calorie version that could not be easier.

CROCK-POT CRUSTLESS PUMPKIN PIE

1 15-ounce can of pumpkin

1 12-ounce can of evaporated skim milk

½ cup low fat baking mix

½ cup Splenda brown sugar blend

2 eggs beaten, or 6 egg whites

2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Stir until lumps disappear. Add to a slow cooker that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours. Serve warm or cold with a dollop of low fat whipped topping.

Makes 12 servings.

Per serving: Calories: 99, Total Fat: 0.3 g, Saturated fat: 0.1 g, Fiber: 1.3 g, Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 126 mg, Carbohydrates: 18 g

SLOW COOKER PEPPER STEAK

1 Pound beef sirloin, cut into strips

Garlic powder to taste

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil

½ cup chopped onion

2 large green bell peppers, roughly chopped

1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed tomatoes with liquid

3 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce

1 teaspoon white sugar

½ cup beef broth

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Sprinkle strips of sirloin with garlic powder to taste. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet and brown the sirloin. Put onions, peppers, stewed tomatoes, soy sauce and sugar in slow cooker. Add the browned beef to slow cooker. Combine cornstarch with the beef broth until dissolved and add to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours.

Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: Calories: 250, Total fat: 8.4 g, Saturated fat: 1.9 g, Cholesterol: 71 mg, Sodium: 624 mg, Protein: 31 g, Carbohydrates: 12 g

Serve with brown rice- ½ c cooked rice = 110 calories

Beth Cecil, RDN, LD is a registered dietitian and the manager of community wellness for Owensboro Health. She has been practicing at a dietitian for 24 years and has spent the past 13 years working in wellness, health promotion and community education with Owensboro Health. Beth is passionate about wellness and nutrition and works hard to promote Owensboro Health’s mission to improve the health of our community.

 

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