To Your Health | Slow cooker a time-saver for fall meals

To Your Health | Slow cooker a time-saver for fall meals

Cooler temperatures and soup for dinner go hand in hand, like peanut butter and jelly. Making a delicious soup can be a time-consuming affair, but slow cookers are here to make it an easy experience even on a weeknight.

This recipe is hearty enough for a main dish when paired with crusty bread and a glass of milk on the side. Enjoy leftovers for a second meal later in the week or a quick and tasty lunch.

Lentils are high in fiber and protein while being naturally low in fat. They can be stored in a cool, dry location, such as a pantry or kitchen cabinet, for up to a year. Unlike dry beans, they don't need to be soaked before cooking.

Slow cookers should be filled half to two-thirds full to ensure even heating. If overfilled, they may not cook foods safely; if underfilled, the dish may end up dry or overcooked. Make sure to add at least a half-cup of liquid to a slow cooker, especially if only cooking meats. Add harder vegetables, such as potatoes and carrots, to the bottom since they take longer to cook.

Food safety is very important when using slow cookers. Start with a clean preparation space, hands and slow cooker. If your recipe calls for meat or poultry, make sure to defrost any frozen pieces ahead of time in the refrigerator or microwave.

Keep the lid on while cooking — each time you remove it, you can extend cooking time by 30 minutes! Lastly, make sure to use a food thermometer to test temperatures before serving. Beef or pork roasts should reach at least 145 F and poultry (chicken or turkey), soups and stews should reach 165 F.

VEGETABLE-AND-LENTIL STEW

Servings: 8.

1 large onion, sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup carrots, chopped

2 cups kale, chopped

2 cups chard, chopped

2 cups dry lentils

8 cups vegetable broth

1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

In a medium skillet, sauté garlic and onion in vegetable oil until tender. Combine garlic and onion with remaining ingredients in a large slow cooker.

Cook for eight hours on low or four hours on high.

Remove bay leaves and serve.

Find more recipes from UI Extension at "EAT.MOVE.SAVE.: Making Healthier Choices on a Budget," at go.Illinois.edu/EatMoveSaveRecipes.

Sections (1):Living
Topics (2):Food, Nutrition
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