As the season changes from summer to fall, two things are almost certainly guaranteed; cooler weather and busier schedules. The best way to handle both is a hearty meal that you can set in the morning and enjoy in the evening!
We mentioned in our meal prep blog that slow cookers are one of the best tools to have at home and we wanted to expand on that. Here are some tips and a sample recipe to get you started on your slow cooker journey!
Do’s and Don’ts
- Do properly layer your ingredients. Since you won’t be constantly stirring your slow cooker creation, it's important to layer ingredients in an optimal way. Place firmer ingredients like root vegetables at the bottom so that they can soften and absorb flavor.
- Don’t over or underfill your slow cooker. Since the slow cooker is sealed there will not be any evaporation of water. Plus, ingredients give off water as they cook. Overfilling may result in an unwanted texture or diluted flavors. However, underfilling your slow cooker can result in overcooking or possibly burning. For best results, aim to fill your slow cooker about halfway.
- Do build flavor. There are multiple ways to do this. If you’re including an animal protein like chicken, browning the meat before adding other ingredients provides a good start (however this isn’t necessary for some dishes like soups). If adding fresh herbs or citrus juice to the dish, wait until the last few minutes of cooking. Adding these ingredients too early can cause their delicate flavors to get lost.
- Don’t keep removing the lid. As much as it’s nice to pull off the lid and get a whiff of the delicious meal you’ve made, hold off on that temptation until cooking is over. Every time you remove the lid of a slow cooker the temperate drops, meaning it will take longer to cook. Only lift the lid if you have to add more ingredients.
- Do what’s best for your schedule. If a recipe presents two options for cooking times and temperature (e.g 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high), you may not know which is best. While both recipes will turn out great, there are different perks. The longer cooking time will yield more flavor, but the shorter cooking time may be easier to fit into your schedule. Do what works for you, and know you’ll have a delicious meal either way!
- 1, 14 oz can Coconut Milk
- 2 tablespoon Thai Red Curry Paste
- 1 tablespoon Fish Sauce
- 1 tablespoon Tamari
- 1 tablespoon Maple Syrup (or sweetener of choice)
- 4 cups Butternut Squash, cubed
- 1 ½ pounds Chicken Breast, boneless skinless
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- ½ teaspoon Pepper
- 1 Red Bell Pepper, sliced
- 3 cups Spinach
- 1 Lime, juiced
- ¼ cup Cilantro, chopped
- In the bowl of your slow cooker, mix together the coconut milk, curry paste, fish sauce, tamari, and maple syrup.
- Add the squash and chicken to the slow cooker, almost fully submerging in the liquid.
- Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.
- Switch the slow cooker to high mode if it’s not already, and transfer the chicken to a bowl. Season the liquid with salt and pepper. Use a sturdy spoon to stir and gently smash the tender butternut squash.
- Using two forks, shred the chicken and return it to the cooker along with the bell peppers. Cover and cook the curry for 30 more minutes.
- Garnish with lime juice and cilantro. Enjoy!
- This recipe is a great template to modify for your flavor palate. Keep the amount of liquid the same, but try swapping the curry flavors to an Italian or Asian-inspired sauce.
- Like the liquid, you can swap out your vegetables and protein! Tougher ingredients like whole pieces of meat and root vegetables should go in at the beginning, but softer vegetables and delicate flavorings like citrus and fresh herbs should be added at the end.