Slow-cooking is a great way to cook a healthy and savory meal with minimal effort. I do this a lot during the colder months; the heat from the long, slow cooking process warms the house and fills the air with mouth-watering aromas. Those cold-weather outdoor chores are easier to bear when I know there's a hot pot of meat and veggies slowly simmering in the kitchen.
Slow-cooking is gourmet cooking for people with busy lives. None of us is perfect but there's a whole lot we can do to make ourselves healthier while also supporting a sane and local food system. The most important thing? Keep it simple. How do we break the cycle of being too busy to eat healthy food but being too tired to find the time or motivation to prepare it? Break out the braising pan, of course!
Slow-cooking works with virtually any diet, including the "I eat whatever I want" diet (sorry, raw foodies). In all cases, cooking foods slowly and with moisture prevents them from forming carcinogens. If you currently live with Crohn's or Colitis, you have probably noticed your body handles cooked plant fiber much better than raw fiber, especially when flaring. If you have not noticed, check out Breaking The Viscous Cycle--a fantastic starting point for anyone suffering with IBD.
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) helped me turn things around BIG TIME, but I felt even better when I ventured beyond the land of bland vegetable purees served with a side of self-pity. Once you define your goals, it's just as easy to make an SCD-legal slow-cooker dinner as it is to make one that is Paleo, PHD, or Bulletproof compliant. It's a deliciously level playing field.
I don't have time for food that makes me feel ill or sluggish. When I cook for family and friends, it's always stuff I can eat, too. Even with my many food restrictions, no one ever asks what's missing. Instead, they act like I'm some sort of culinary wizard. The truth is, I just like good food and I love sharing it with others.
For starters, pick a culinary theme and let it guide your vegetable and spice selections: Moroccan, Indian, Italian, Mexican, Hungarian...
Get creative while keeping it simple. Some of my favorite recipes started out as "This would be even better with..."
Don't go nuts with the sweet stuff. Some fruits and most fruit juices have a lot of sugar, and we're all better off without too much of that stuff. Use in moderation.
It's a wet heat
In order to delicately slow-cook your food, add some liquid to the pot. When it's time to eat, you will have a delicious broth to ladle over your meat and veggies. I recommend one of the following liquids, depending on your culinary theme:
Spice is the variety of life
You can get really creative mixing and matching spices. Salt and pepper are safe choices, but try some of these other combinations (allergies permitting). Please note that I don't eat garlic or paprika because I don't like what they do to me, not because I don't like the taste. Don't follow my rules--make your own! Here are some ideas to get you started:
Slow-cooking is a piece of (gluten-free) cake. Select vegetables and/or fruits that play well together, peel them (optional), chop them (recommended), and add them to your pot with meat and liquid. Put the heat on low for several hours or more and prepare to be amazed at the magical flavors that form when you cook quality whole ingredients together for a long time.
Using an oven: Make sure your pot/pan is oven-friendly and be sure to cover it. I typically slow-cook at 325° Fahrenheit. If I learned anything in thermodynamics, it was that our friend, steam, pretty much guarantees we won't burn our food. Make sure to add enough liquid so the pot doesn't dry out. If you're worried about it, check once in a while.
Using a slow-cooker: My slow cooker has high, low, and warm settings. If I prepare my recipe in the morning, I set the pot to low with adequate liquid and let it go uninterrupted until dinner. If I'm in a hurry--even fast slow-cooking is rather slow--and want to eat in a few hours, High is my setting of choice. Quite often, actually, I take a frozen brick of meat and place it directly into the cooker. If I'm around to man the dial, I'll start out on high for a bit and dial it back before heading outside to hassle the critters.
Food for thought/for slow-cooking:
If you buy into this whole healthy and ethical consumption of meat idea--Sorry Ronald, your burgers are not Paleo, even without the bun--you might find yourself doing odd things like buying some significant fractional portion of a whole animal. What does one do with that frozen chunk of pig that looks like it could also be used as a primitive weapon? Other than the obvious, throw it in a slow-cooker! Bone-in cuts are the BEST. The bones and connective tissue make a delicious mineral and collagen-rich broth with no added effort. I'm not saying you have to throw in whole chicken feet but, if you do, what time's dinner?
In good health,
I'm Ethan, a guy whose life used to be controlled by ulcerative colitis. As I systematically tested diets, treatments, and all types of health advice to heal my colon, I learned a lot about my own biology and also how to cook without compromise. I'm here to share the best (and sometimes worst) of that journey with you.