Can you live without a slow cooker?

Seriously can you live without a slow cooker?

I can honestly say my answer is no. My slow cooker is one of the key pieces of gear that I rely on and use every week without fail. I think that a slow cooker is a must-have item for anyone wanting to make real food a part of their life, here are my reasons why;

  • It saves you time
  • You do not need to keep watch while it cooks
  • It is versatile

These reasons may seem basic, and honestly, they are but let me explain my reasons why you need one.

Slow cooker

Too busy for this

Cards on the table, I hate coming home from a busy day and knowing I have to walk into the kitchen at 7 pm, cook a full meal, and then clean up. Don’t get me wrong, I love cooking, it gives me the joy to create a beautiful meal for my family. This is not the case when I have had an 8-hour day at work, an hour commute to the gym, and then a heavy workout. At this point I am usually borderline hangry, I want to get home, I want my food as fast as possible. 

This is where having a slow cooker comes into its own; I know that I can walk in and find a meal that is cooked, hot, and ready to serve. That means food is served as soon as we are willing to sit down, not 30 minutes later.

Life and time saver

With a little planning and preparation, you can put your meal in the slow cooker before you head out the door in the morning, time-saving and hangriness preventing.
Unlike other ways of cooking, you do not need to stand over the cooker and make sure that it does not burn/stick to the bottom/cooking evenly. You set the temperature, fill the pot, and put the on the lid. You do not need to stir, check that everything is covered with enough liquid, baste meat, or turn anything over. Worry-free cooking.

Get a big beast

I recently upgraded our slow cooker so now I have a little bit of a fancy one, it doubles as a sous vide cooker, which means my slow cooker can do two things. What you may not realise is a standard slow cooker is just as versatile, don’t believe me? Here are some of the things that I used our old slow cooker to make;

  • Soups
  • Stews
  • Curry
  • Slow roast pork
  • Roast lamb
  • Roast chicken
  • Meatballs
  • Roasted vegetables (sweet potatoes, peppers, etc.)
  • Bread
  • Sauces
  • Stocks

I do not really think there is an end to the things you can do with your slow cooker; you just have to give it a go.

Reasons to get a slow cooker

If you are not convinced already here are a few more reasons that slow cookers are great;

  • Most slow cookers are large enough that you can cook food for six people, if you are not feeding that many people at once you are in the perfect zone of ‘cook once, eat twice’ and have leftovers for the freezer.
  • Cheaper cuts of meat are usually a little tougher; these meats are perfect for the slow cooker, so they are good for your budget
    They make for an easy clean up; you have one pot to wash up which is always a bonus in my book.
  • You will never get a dry roast again; the slow cooker keeps in all the moisture when it is on, so you do not have to worry about your meat drying out.

If you are looking to buy a slow cooker here are a few that may interest you

Here are some options

Slow cooker meal

Budget range

  • Kensington TWKSL150R
  • Sheffield PL390

A little bit fancy range

  • Sunbeam HP8555
  • Sunbeam MU4000

Very nice range

  • Cuisinart 3 in 1 Multi Slow Cooker 6 Litre

If you want to find out more about some essential kitchen tools check out my post Kitchen items to invest in


2016 goals

Happy New Year!!!!

Hopefully, you all had a great break and enjoyed time with friends and family.
I am not one for making New Year’s resolutions. I prefer to set myself goals for the year, have something to work towards and start a new year by setting my goals.

2015 the year that was

Last year, I set myself many goals; I achieved all of the important ones but never accomplished the physical goals I set thanks to injuring my Achilles in August. I spent a total of two months rocking around with a cast and then had a moon boot on. Sadly that means that all of my hard work from the year that would have seen me reach my goals was mostly undone, and I spent the remainder of the year focusing on physiotherapy and regaining my strength and flexibility.
I’m still not fully recovered from my Achilles adventure (apparently, it’s a long road to recovery), so with that long layoff still fresh in my mind, I’m setting my goals and making sure I’m kinder to my body in the process.

2016 goals

Over the next 12 months, I want to:

  • Stay injury-free for the year, continue to recover from my injury and avoid surgery.
  • Improve my back squat aim to squat 80kg
  • Attend one yoga class a week to improve flexibility
  • Reduce my resting heart rate to 60bpm
  • Reduce my body fat to 20%
  • Work out at least once a day.

To make these goals achievable, I am going to break them down and give myself some milestones through the year to keep myself on track. Any goals that I reach before the end of the year will be ticked off, and I will set a new goal for myself. I want to make myself accountable for my progress, so I’ll check in each month and share my progress.

Starting point

Here are the January starting points

  • Starting weight on back squat 20kg
  • Starting resting heart rate 74bpm
  • Starting body fat percentage 29%

My first update will be February 5th 2016


Alternative ingredients

One of the key things missing that I found important when removing ‘standard’ foods from our diets was knowing an alternative I could use. Many of the alternatives I discovered, that were suitable for how we wanted to eat, were found over time, and I considered each discovery and successful use a little triumph on our food journey. Knowing what is out there and suitable can be hard work. Here is a list of the alternative ingredients we have found useful over the years.

Removing milk – alternative coconut milk/ almond milk

Dairy is a big issue for some people; removing milk can be challenging and take a while to get used to, having an alternative can make life much easier. Coconut milk and almond milk are nice alternatives that are available in most supermarkets and health food stores. Look for the kinds of milk that don’t have any added sugar, sweetener or preservatives. You can always make your own if you want to remove the risk of milk with added chemicals.

Coconut milk

Removing soy sauce – alternative coconut aminos

Coconut aminos are an excellent replacement for soy sauce. Soy is one of the most controversial foods out there; it is considered either a superfood or a hormone-disrupting poison. Instead of working through many papers that argue the pros and cons of soy, use coconut aminos where you would normally use soy sauce, a nice and simple solution. Interesting facts about coconut aminos;

  • 65% Less Sodium than Soy Sauce!
  • High Source of Liquid aminos
  • 100% Organic
  • Gluten-Free
  • Dairy-Free
  • Non-GMO
  • Certified Organic by OCIA

This is the one that we use, and you can buy it in most health food stores.

Coconut aminos

Removing flour – alternative coconut flour

Often getting rid of wheat and grains from your diet is one of the hardest things for people to do, a nice way to minimise the impact and ease the transition is by using coconut flour as a replacement. It pays to keep in mind that coconut flour is not the same as normal flour; after much experimentation, I have found a simple formula that you can apply when using coconut flour.
Other alternatives to standard flours include almond flour, tapioca flour, and many other non-grain flours; it will often depend on what you are trying to make. I recommend experimenting to find out which flours work best for you and the food you are making.

Coconut flour

Removing sugar – alternative honey or maple syrup

Sugar is addictive, and in everything nowadays, removing it can be challenging, and once it’s gone from your diet, it does not mean the craving for something sweet will go away. Honey and Maple syrup are better options when you compare them gram for gram against sugar.
Both are sweet without that sickly sweetness you get with processed sugar, plus some honey is good for you (UMF honey and benefits) other replacements include Stevia and Coconut sugar.

Maple syrup

Removing rice and couscous – alternative cauliflower

Replacing rice is simple when you embrace cauliflower; it is much more versatile than you may think. Grating or chopping your cauliflower gives you a rice grain texture that you can use in most of the same ways you would use rice. It goes great with curry, as a side, fried rice, stuffing for peppers and even cold as a replacement for couscous.
Cauliflower Rice

Cauliflower rice

Removing spaghetti – alternative spaghetti squash

I have yet to find anywhere in New Zealand that sells Spaghetti Squash, if you want it you need to grow it (or get your awesome in-laws to grow it for you), I can honestly say that growing it is worth the effort. It gets its name from the spaghetti strands you get when it is cooked, it has a mild flavour and goes with pasta sauces, and the bonus is you get an extra vegetable portion with your meal.

Spaghetti squash

Removing pasta and noodles – alternative coodles

Replacing pasta may seem difficult, but really, it isn’t. Coodles (carrot and courgette noodles) are perfect for filling the gap left by pasta and noodles. Just like cauliflower, coodles are versatile. Cut them julienne, and you have noodle or pasta strands, cut in strips you have replacement lasagne sheets or something to put you stuffing in for ravioli, use a spiraliser and you have little pasta shapes. They are quick to cook and are another sneaky vegetable hit for your meal.
Coodles

Zoodles/Coodles

Removing vegetable oil – alternative coconut oil

There are so many oils out there to choose from it could make you dizzy. You can spend hours reading about the pros and cons of vegetable oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, canola oil, and corn oil, I could go on, but I won’t. Coconut is, as far as I can tell the best option, it gets a bad reputation because of the saturated fat it contains, but when you compare it to all the other oils out there, it comes out on top. A bonus is you can use it for your skin and hair as well as for cooking.

Coconut oil

Removing margarine – alternative ghee or butter

Replace your margarine now; it is highly processed and in no way good for you. Replace easily with ghee or butter. Ghee is clarified butter and is considered Paleo-friendly, as it has a lot of the impurities in butter removed from it if you have issues with dairy products this is the best option. If you don’t have any issues with dairy products use an organic/grass-fed butter, I look for the unsalted butter as you can use it for things like bulletproof coffee.

Removing standard/ lower quality meats – alternative organic, grass-fed and free-range meats

We are reasonably fortunate that here in New Zealand, we have some of the best meat products in the world. Unlike other countries our meat is reared, as it should be not fed grains like corn, they graze on grass all day long as animals are supposed to do. Mass-produced meat, generally speaking, is not fed on the right things and is usually much lower quality. Organic, free-range and grass-fed meats do cost more money, but it is worth it In the long run, the meat you get is better quality, tastes better and often you don’t need as much of the meat because there is less water and fat in the meat.

Grass-fed steak

Removing potatoes – alternative sweet potatoes

Potatoes make up a large part of many people’s diets when you look at the amount of French fries, potato chips and mashed potatoes we eat. “Meat and two veg” is a common approach to a meal and more often than not potatoes are one of the vegetables. Removing them from your diet can be challenging; thankfully, a helpful tuber is here to help. The Sweet Potato/Kumar is a popular Kiwi option that can replace your normal nightshades. You can use them for chips, potato chip, mash, and hash browns; you can even eat them raw.

Northland sweet potato/kumara

Removing peanut butter – alternative nut and seed butter

Let’s get this straight, peanuts are not nuts, they are legumes, you can make your own decision about legumes, but for me, peanut butter is not an option, more people have issues with sensitivities to things like legumes and nuts so you may need to find an alternative. Thankfully, there are a few tasty alternatives out there. If you are good with eating nuts, you can replace your peanut butter with Almond or Cashew Butter, for those wanting a nut-free option try Sunflower or Pumpkin Seed Butter. You can use these kinds of butter as one to one ratio replacements in recipes or just out of the jar if that is how you like it.
Sun Butter recipe

Homemade sunflower seed butter

Removing store-bought mayo – alternative homemade mayo

You may not realise it, but store-bought mayo isn’t what you think it is, often it’s made with ingredients you wouldn’t normally put in mayo and increasingly made with soya bean oil and has sugar added. Making your own mayo is simple (seriously, kids can do it) the beauty is that you know exactly what is going into your mayo. Here is a simple and foolproof recipe to try Easy Mayo

Homemade olive oil mayo

Removing chocolate – alternative raw cacao

Please don’t hate me; I’m not saying have chocolate again. Next time you get a craving take a look at the back of your chocolate bar before you buy it. Milk chocolate is loaded with milk and sugar; most brands also contain extra ingredients like soy. Good news is that chocolate itself is good for you, it has antioxidants which will do you good. Raw cacao is a great replacement, it tastes good, and you can make your own chocolate out of it. Making the change means, you get all the chocolate goodness without all the added nastiness. See that was not as bad as you thought.

Raw cacao powder

Removing cage eggs for organic free-range eggs

Free-range and organic eggs are better in so many ways, not just for us but also for the chickens. Chickens are born to walk around, peck in the grass, eat bugs and plans, not to live in a dark barn, without room to move around or locked in a cage, eating grains. The quality of organic and free-range eggs is so much better than caged eggs, moving over to free-range eggs is beneficial for you and the chickens, they do cost more, but they are worth the extra cash when you can taste the difference in quality.

Free range egg