(originally published 09.08.2014)
(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
When can restricted diets be a delicious thing? When they are the subjects of healthy, innovative cookbooks by Judith Finlayson.
Finlayson, a million-selling cookbook author, uses the slow cooker almost as medicine, and has in the second edition of her "The Healthy Slow Cooker," with its gluten-free fare, come up with gems that rival her earlier "The Best Diabetes Slow Cooker Recipes."
If you've been looking for dishes to make your life easier, look no further than Finlayson's (also author of the "175 Essential Slow Cooker Classics" and a slew of additional slow cooker books) health-themed helpers. If your family doesn't know the titles of the books, chances are they won't realize you are sneaking high-fiber, fruit-and-vegetable-packed, lean protein-rich dishes into their diets.
In both, Finlayson first fills you up with plenty of slow cooker tips, such as finding dishes and pans that fit right into your stoneware or cooking a recipe overnight and then refrigerating until ready to serve.
The recipes are the stars, though. They are innovative concoctions, many of which you may have never dreamed could be made in a slow cooker. From the diabetes book, black bean-salsa dip is creamy with light sour cream and light cream cheese, spicy with jalapeno pepper, cracked black peppercorns, green onions and cilantro. A pumpkin date loaf emerges moist, dense and brimming with nutrients. Gingery pears poached in green tea is among the distinctive desserts. Plenty of old favorites for slow cookers, like stews, ragouts, goulashes, stroganoffs and casseroles also fill the pages.
Gluten-free specialties include leafy greens soup, miso mushroom with Chinese cabbage and coconut rice pudding with flambéed bananas.
What's to be most appreciated, though, is how Finlayson and her registered dietitian consultants have created proportions and ingredient mixes that create heavy lifting only for your fork, not for your body.
That includes ease of preparation as well. Slow cooking is the only thing slow about this type of food preparation, like these recipes from "The Healthy Slow Cooker."
Fun fare like this also proves food preparation can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun – and fast. The creative combinations are delicious proof that everyone has time for creating homemade specialties and, more importantly, the healthy family togetherness that goes along with it!
- 1 cup brown rice
- 4 cups vanilla-flavored fortified rice milk
- 1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries
- Toasted nuts, for serving, to taste (optional
Yields 4 servings.
In the lightly greased slow cooker stoneware of a small to medium (1 & 1/2- to 3 & 1/2-quart) slow cooker, combine rice, rice milk and cherries. Consider purchasing dried fruits unsweetened or sweetened with fruit juice if possible. Made with this quantity of liquid, the rice will be a bit crunchy around the edges. If you prefer a softer version, or will be cooking longer than 8 hours, add 1/2 cup water or additional rice milk.
Place a clean tea towel folded in half (so you will have two layers) over top of stoneware to absorb moisture. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for up to 8 hours or overnight.
Stir well and serve garnished with nuts, if desired. Nuts add a bit of protein and fat, which helps control how quickly the carbohydrates are digested and absorbed.
Almonds with Thyme
- 2 cups (preferably unblanched) almonds
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon fine sea salt (optional), or more to taste
- 2 tablespoons (preferably extra virgin) olive oil
- 2 tablespoons (preferably fresh) thyme leaves
Yields about 2 cups.
In stoneware of a small (maximum 3 & 1/2-quart) slow cooker, combine almonds and pepper. Cover and cook on high for 1 & 1/2 hours, carefully stirring every 30 minutes, until nuts are nicely toasted.
In a bowl, combine salt if using (see Note below), olive oil and thyme. Carefully add to hot almonds in stoneware and stir thoroughly to combine. Spoon mixture into a small serving bowl and serve hot or let cool.
Note: Sea salt, available in most supermarkets, is sweeter than table salt. Use it or no salt, as the flavor of table salt may not work well in this recipe.
QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK: "Don't pass on sprinkling your cereal with nuts because you're counting calories," Finlayson writes. "About one-third of the calories in nuts (and seeds) are provided by resistant starch, which means they are not absorbed into your bloodstream."
Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes (Avery/Penguin Putnam) and Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet(Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.