Monday, September 12, 2011

My Friend The Slow Cooker

Since I am still currently unemployed, APL and I have a pretty old fashioned relationship these days: husband brings home the bacon, wife cooks it for dinner. That's right - my main job these days is to make sure there's a healthy dinner waiting for my husband when he gets home from work (you know, aside from figuring out what I want to do with my life/career and looking for a new job...)

Unfortunately, for the past few weeks, I have also been dealing with what I can only describe as a really bad fatigue flare. Luckily, the nabumetone did help me manage the intense pain I was having in my hips, so these days my joints are all (more or less) behaving, but I have just been so very tired. 

I've been resting a lot, but even after a few weeks of taking it easy I'm still having difficulty shaking this extreme exhaustion. Some days I wake up feeling reasonable but then crash by 4pm, which can make my only goal for the day - to have dinner ready when APL gets home from work - seem really overwhelming. Even more frustrating is the fact that I know I will feel better and have more energy if we eat healthy - if I run out of steam and we order a pizza I know that isn't going to help me deal with my fatigue the next day.

And that is where my friend the slow cooker comes in! Tonight, regardless of how I will be feeling after 4pm, I will have a delicious and healthy dinner waiting for APL when he gets home, and I was done preparing it before noon!! The slow cooker is a really big help on days when I feel ok in the morning but I'm not sure how I'll be feeling later on. It's quick and easy and healthy and delicious. And it makes enough to have healthy leftovers on hand for lunches and other tired dinner days. It's certainly a trick I will keep up my sleeve for when APL and I have kids.

If you need some inspiration to get your own slow cooker back out and give it a try, let me share with you one of our favorite slow cooker recipes - and what we are having for dinner tonight! The original recipe comes from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker, but I have augmented it to make it even more healthy by using buffalo instead of beef and adding a few tricks from Deceptively Delicious

I always make this recipe with ground buffalo - and if your grocery store carries it I highly recommend giving it a try. Compared to beef, buffalo contains 70-90% less fat, about 50% less cholesterol, and is higher in protein, iron, and all the omega and amino acids. I also think it tastes way better than ground turkey. However, you can always substitute lean ground beef or ground turkey if you prefer.
Also, Deceptively Delicious is another great trick to have up your sleeve for healthy meals with less effort. The premise of this cookbook is to always have steamed and pureed vegetables in your freezer to add to meals - a couple hours of preparation gives you quick access to extra nutrition. For example, I never make pasta anymore without adding a few cups of spinach and brocolli puree to the store-bought sauce. And though the cookbook is aimed at cooking for kids we've found it works great for adults too!
Mariah's Buffalo Joes!!
Serves 4
1 pound ground buffalo
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 large rib celery, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can tomato paste (6 oz)
2 tablespoons cider vinegar (or more as needed)
2 tablespoons firmly packed light or dark brown sugar (or more as needed)
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (to taste)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper (to taste)
1 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce
Dash of hot sauce (such as Tabasco)
2 cups steamed, pureed carrots (see Deceptively Delicious)
1 cup steamed, pureed cauliflower (see Deceptively Delicious)

1.  In a large skillet, cook the buffalo with the onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic, stirring to break up the meat.
2. When the meat is cooked through, transfer everything to the slow cooker.
3. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.
4. Cover and cook on LOW for 6 to 7 hours.
5. Serve on whole wheat hamburger buns!!


Deb aka AbcsOfra said...

I have this item on my must buy list. It is funny but for years I used a slow cooker prior to ra. I use to put it on before leaving for work so I would have a yummy meal for the entire family upon my late return home. For some reason I got away from a slow cooker but with the fall fast approaching I am looking forward to exactly these types of meals again. And I am also fighting fatigue or a bear of a flare. In any case, it is time I cough up the money and get me one so I can make my life just a bit easier. Thank you for reminding me :-) And the recipe looks yummy!

Mirela said...

Funny. I have a slow cooker too. When I first got sick and told my mom that I barely have the energy to cook, she quickly bought me a slow cooker. Did I use it? No. It takes space in my cupboard. Your recipe inspired me and tomorrow, I'll take my machine out and try to give it a chance...sounds easy enough. Thanks Mariah and Bon Appetit!

Helen said...

I LOVE my slow cooker! Yesterday when I got back from school I had a lovely Thai curry waiting for me.

Your recipe looks delicious - I will have to give it a try!

~Mariah~ said...

DEB: The slower cooker has been really awesome for me on fatigue/achy days - because on those days any energy I have is likely to be most useful in the morning! And if you are cooking for more than 1 or 2 (last night I cooked for us and 4 friends who came over to watch football) a slow cooker certainly makes this easier! Also, I hope you are able to find ways to reduce your fatigue and flare soon - I'll be thinking of you!

MIRELA: Yay! I hope you like it! Yesterday I put extra chili powder and hot sauce in mine to give it a little bit more of a spicy kick - to rave reviews from APL and my friends! ~;o)

HELEN: Interested in sharing that Thai curry recipe? ~;o)

Helen said...

Here it is Mariah. It's super easy! And the amounts are just guidelines - the sauce should not be too thick, so just use whatever gives it the consistency and spiciness you're after. This makes about 4 servings.

Thai Green Curry

1 eggplant, cubed
1 zucchini, halved and sliced
1/2 red pepper, cut into strips
Half a block of tofu, cubed
About 1 cup vegetable broth
About 1/2 cup coconut milk
As much green curry paste as you want - I usually put in about 2 tbsp

Stick everything in the slow cooker and combine - you can mix the liquid ingredients and the curry paste together separately and then pour it over the veggies, but sometimes I'm too lazy to do that. Cook on low through the day, or on high for about 3-4 hours until the eggplant is squashy.

Serve with brown rice.

~Mariah~ said...

HELEN: Thanks so much! I've been so exhausted that I slept until noon today - so a little late to start a slow cooker recipe since I would need to go to the store. But I think I will try it tomorrow!! ~;o)

Anonymous said...

We should start trading crockpot recipes!!! I <3 crockpots- when we moved into our last apartment, we had about 4 crockpots. I had to say goodbye to a few of them :0) BUT WE STILL HAVE TWO. You never know when you'll need them, right?

~Mariah~ said...

AKLASICCOMMOTION:Hahaha, Meghan! Why would you ever need more than one crockpot, let alone FOUR?? ~;o) And yes please on the recipe trade. I still haven't tried Helen's (been feeling a little yucky this week) but I hope to try it next week!

Unknown said...

I love this! A slow cooker is next on my kitchen-gadget list, plus a lot of faux-meat. Your recipe looks so good!!!

Unknown said...

Umm, so suddenly I'm "unknown..." sorry. It's Lauren. Like a dikdik Lauren.

~Mariah~ said...