If one of your goals for the new year is to focus on eating a more wholesome diet, the slow cooker is one of the most helpful tools in the kitchen to get you there. Instead of thinking about specific foods to add to your weekly meal plan, first consider the appliance that will get you there. Here are seven smart ways to utilize your slow cooker to prepare more wholesome meals throughout the week.
1. Shredded Chicken
From breakfast bowls to salads to tacos, shredded chicken is a mealtime superstar. With the help of the slow cooker and a fail-proof ratio, making a week's worth of lean, juicy chicken at once couldn't be easier. It's a mostly hands-off affair that requires just two ingredients: chicken breast and water or stock.
Packed with protein, a big spoonful of beans is a simple and wholesome way to bulk up meals from breakfast through dinner. Skip the soak and long simmer on the stovetop and let the slow cooker take the reins for a big batch of tender and creamy beans for the week.
Learn how: How To Cook Beans in the Slow Cooker
3. Caramelized Onions
Consider caramelized onions your secret weapon to bringing deep, rich, savory flavors to everything they touch like grain bowls and frittatas. It's the simple solution that upgrades a basic meal to one that tastes far more luxurious. For the busy cook, the slow cooker is the easiest way to make caramelized onions.
4. Breakfast Casseroles
Rely on the slow cooker to deliver a wholesome breakfast filled with eggs, veggies, and meat. It works through the night, so you can wake up to a hot breakfast first thing in the morning. And if you really want to get a jump on things, prep the ingredients now to store in the freezer and then dump them right in the slow cooker when you're ready to cook.
5. Baked Potatoes
Let the slow cooker help you cook up a week's worth of baked potatoes without turning on the oven. Take advantage of the lengthy cook time and come home to a freshly prepared batch of potatoes, or run your slow cooker at night so you can wake up to them in the morning.
Learn how: How To Bake a Potato in the Slow Cooker
6. Pulled Pork
Tender, shredded pork cooked in the slow cooker is a solution for a week's worth of meals that can span the whole day. Fold the meat into breakfast tacos, bulk up a salad or grain bowl, stuff it into a sandwich or burritos, or make it a topping for your spiralized veggies.
Lean on your slow cooker for a slow-simmered batch of bolognese. Of course, you can spoon this hearty meat sauce over pasta, but it also makes a nice finishing touch to spaghetti squash, an unsuspecting side kick to scrambled eggs, and the warm, filling topping that makes a truly meal-worthy salad.
Learn how: Slow-Cooked Bolognese Sauce