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Healthy Winter Meals Made Easy

Healthy Winter Meals Made EasyGetting healthy winter meals on the table in time becomes increasingly challenging as days get shorter and shorter, and we struggle to accomplish more with shrinking energy. And with temperatures dropping, grilling outside is not attractive…

Heavier meals are also on the menu in order to help maintain body temperature and keep energy flowing. But cooking hearty food traditionally requires a considerable amount of elbow grease and plenty of cleanup.

Thankfully, nowadays you make it easier on yourself by putting some little sous-chefs to work. And since we all crave comfort food at that time of year, cooking with an electric cooker sounds like the perfect small appliance to get the job done.

But did you know that these little marvels can also take care of dessert? 😉

Instant Pot Dinners

Instant Pot DinnersIt is only fitting that we start with the multi cooker that stands head and shoulders above the competition due to its versatility and reliability: the Instant Pot multi use pressure cooker.

The Instant Pot is what multitasking is all about. Apart from pressure cooking and of course keeping everything warm till you’re good and ready, this one pot wonder will also sear/sauté/roast, steam, slow cook, bake, and – are you ready for this – even sous vide, depending on the model you choose. WOW!!!

As you can see, Instant Pot uses are so varied that it is deemed a miracle worker. Designed for busy people, this one pot wonder can handle any task thrown at it. Judge for yourself…

Bear in mind that the following only scratches the surface in terms of the variety of dishes the Instant Pot can handle.

True, one-pot dishes are its mainstay: Honey Sesame Chicken, Thai curry, Cheesy Chicken, Beef Stroganoff, Tex-Mex Taco Pie, Chicken Cacciatore, Fried Chicken; Mac ‘n Cheese, lasagna, quiche, stuffing, pasta sauces and so much more.

But note that it also does double duty, simultaneously cooking two totally different components to perfection:
.One Pot Chili AND Cornbread
.Soy Ginger Pork and Rice
.Southern Shrimp and Grits
.Ratatouille with Quinoa
.Shrimp & Pea Risotto

Instant Pot steamed vegetables such as a Vegetable Medley can be cooked as a main dish, or simply added to already pressure cooked meat or fish. How about Sunday Pot Roast with Carrots and Mashed Potatoes, or Soy-Ginger Salmon with Broccoli?

Or perhaps some Instant Pot vegetarian dishes might be up your alley:
.Homemade Marinara Sauce
.Roasted Garlic Hummus
.Spicy Lentils
.Breakfast Quinoa
.Coconut Butternut Squash
.Vegetable Lo Mein with Rice Vermicelli
.Wild Rice Pilaf
.Broccoli and Rice
.Deviled Eggs

You can also make soup in the Instant Pot (French Onion, Chicken Noodle, Broccoli Cheddar, Clam chowder, Roasted Red Pepper, Tomato bisque) …and even pasta: Chicken Fettuccini Alfredo, Asiago Shrimp Risotto, Honey BBQ or Chinese Chicken wings, Bourbon-Glazed Meatballs, Whole “Roast” Chicken and Gravy.

Hunkering for something different? Why not try Steak Fajitas with Chimichurri, Pork Vindaloo, Naan, Turmeric Pork Curry, Chicken Sangria, Pad Thai Stir-Fry, Butter Chicken or perhaps French Cider & Mustard-Braised Chicken.

But why stop here when this Over Achiever can also make breakfast, as in Breakfast Burritos, Superfood Porridge or Ginger Almond Oatmeal – and even bake:
.Cakes like Streudel or Blueberry Cinnamon Coffee Cake; Chocolate Fudge, Pineapple Upside Down, Mango with Cardamom; Mini Mochaccinos or Chocolate cheese cake;
.Peach cobbler, Bread or Rich Chocolate pudding; Cinnamon rolls, cupcakes, Lava cakes or Lemon Curd tart;
.Southern Sweet Potato or Brioche Rum custard, Flan, Dulce de Leche!

And finally, the Sous vide function allows you to flawlessly cook such varied dishes as Turkey Club sandwiches, Rosemary Leg of Lamb with Roasted Root Vegetables, Buttery Lobster Tails, Strip Steaks with Chives & Garlic, Perfect In-the-Shell Eggs, Pork Shoulder Quesadillas, Limoncello, Hoisin-Glazed Spare Ribs, Creme Brulee, Avocado Toast with Poached Egg, Apple-Cinnamon Oatmeal, and a whole lot more.

Can you see why IP is the undisputed Top Chef in my kitchen? 😉

Slow Cooker/Crockpot Dishes

Slow Cooker/Crockpot DishesThough the Crock-Pot started as a simple bean cooker, it has evolved into a multi-fasceted slow cooker that can handle a broad range of dishes.

Sure, slow cookers can easily produce main dishes such as Mac ‘n Cheese, Meatballs, Sloppy Joes, Red Beans and Rice, Pork Loin & Potatoes, Chicken Marsala, Burritos, Chicken Divan, Pulled Pork, Meatloaf, Spaghetti Sauce, Chicken Penne, Lasagna, Stuffed Peppers, BBQ Baby Back Ribs, Ham and a whole lot more.

But crockpots can also make great soups and stews: Vietnamese Pho (Beef Noodle Soup), New England Clam Chowder, French Onion Soup, Carrot Coconut Soup, Curried Butternut Squash Soup; Chili, Gumbo, Black Been Chipotle, Beef, Chicken or Vegetable Stews, etc. Appetizers? Not a problem: Cheese Fondue, Chicken Wings, Nachos, Corn Bread & Queso, Corn on the Cob, dips and spreads.

Put your slow cooker to work last thing at night and wake up to a lovely breakfast: Applesauce Flapjacks, Oatmeal with Maple-Glazed Apples and Cranberries, Pumpkin Pie Steel Cut Oats… and even Green Apple, Quince and Cardamom Jelly!

Dessert hasn’t been left out either: Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake Bars, French Toast Casserole, Mini Salted Caramel Mocha Cheesecakes; muffins, cobblers and brownies; all sorts of puddings including rice or bread pudding; and it can turn apples into apple sauce, apple butter and even apple pie.

One the most appealing benefits of slow cookers is the ability to make hot drinks like punch, cocoa, latte, and mulled cider or wine. Not only do they handle the job beautifully, but I can’t think of a better way to welcome guests than with the warm scent of mulled cider…

Pretty impressive for a single small appliance, but the question is: can you make healthy slow cooker meals?

That is where the easy slow cooker process becomes an issue. Because slow cookers simmer, i.e. cook at a lower temperature and for longer periods than other cookers, some flavor as well as nutrients can be lost.

Also, if you love eating beans, you MUST take extra precautions. Boiling destroys some toxins contained in raw kidney beans as well as other beans (broad, fava, etc.). The problem is, slow cookers never reach the boiling point. So raw beans need to be pre-cooked if you are using a slow cooker!

Cooking with a Rice Cooker

Cooking with a Rice CookerCooking rice in a crock pot is not ideal, as slow cookers are designed to cook at low temperatures over an extensive period of time. On the other hand, you can cook perfect rice in a rice cooker in no time, as these appliances work to quickly bring your ingredients to a boil, producing the steam needed for light, fluffy rice.

If rice is a staple in your diet, a rice cooker is a definite must. Though most will warm rice, model settings will determine which kinds of rice the unit can cook (white, long grain, brown, mixed, wild) as well as whether or not it will steam food, make porridge, quinoa, or even bake cakes.

So whether you are dreaming of simple, perfect jasmine white rice or sushi, bear in mind that part of the preparation might well involve your stove or other appliances.

Now that you have been warned, here are some healthy rice cooker ideas you may want to try: Tofu Jasmine Fragrant Rice, Brown Rice Tabbouleh, Brown Rice and Turkey Sloppy Joes, Chicken Vindaloo, Rice Alfredo, Japanese Beef curry, Paella, Caprese Rice Salad, Niçoise Brown Rice salad, Quinoa and Chicken salad, Wild Rice salad, Gumbo Bowl, Jambalaya Buttered Lobster Rice…

But what can you make in a rice cooker other than rice? More sophisticated models can make breakfast for you: perhaps Creamy Oatmeal Brûlée or Steel Cut Oatmeal rice cooker porridge. Or you may want to try some rice cooker desserts like Cheese Cake, Lemon Cake, Black Sesame Cake, Chocolate & Fig Cake, or Ice Rice Gelato!

One Pot Cooker: Good or Bad Idea?

Minimal effort for maximum results…

It’s easy to see why everyone needs a one pot cooker (or two), specially when fall arrives and it starts getting chilly. You’ll probably find yourself using it year round for its practicality, and also because your kitchen will stay cool in the summer even if you cook in it all day long.

While crock pot cooking quickly gained in popularity, many have since turned to pressure cooking for truly tasty, healthy meals – and safe sailing with today’s built-in safety features!

Don’t worry about what to make for dinner, or your next barbecue or potluck: the comfort food ideas above are just a small sample of the recipes you can find directly on manufacturers’ websites.