By: Lynn Stevens
In a recent article in the New York Times entitled, The ‘Busy’ Trap, Tim Kreider states, “Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness.” True. We like to “be” busy, don’t we? We feel like we have accomplished something when, by the end of the day, those idle moments have been kept to a minimum and each moment packed without “wasted” relaxation or laziness. Astonishingly, Kreider takes a different approach: “I am not busy,” he says. “I am the laziest ambitious person I know.” Defending that, he claims “the space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole… it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.” Deep thoughts; but, rather than just sit around and think about that, I’ll think about it while I stay busy in the meantime.
So, how busy are you? Just last week, I attended 6 baseball games and 4 practices, as well as another three piano practices after the kids finished school, most of which occurred during the ‘normal’ dinner hours. Despite our ‘busyness’, we didn’t miss a meal. Food requires and demands our attention regardless of life’s circumstances. So, we welcome the slow cooker into our chaotic lives. But, will that slow cooker meal deliver the nutritional punch with ease that will overcome the temptation to grab dinner out? Well, it takes two things: (1) some good recipes and (2) a good slow cooker. I believe I may have found both.
The Healthy Slow Cooker cookbook, 135 Gluten-Free Recipes for Health and Wellness, by Judith Finlayson, is a cookbook that highlights nutrient dense foods in easy to follow recipes. Finlayson pinpoints fundamental nutritional truths, balancing macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrate) in the recipes and including a variety of micronutrients from various nutritional powerhouse foods to contribute to long-term health. Each recipe includes a nutritional analysis, as well as a “Natural Wonders” section that highlights recent research related to a star recipe ingredient. Perhaps the best part of this book is that you actually learn to understand and use your slow cooker appropriately. The recipes utilize different slow cooker sizes depending on what is being prepared and the finished products were creative, tasty, and nutritious. One that was a big hit with my family was the Poached Eggs on Spicy Lentils.(recipe below)
For the slow cooker, I tried the new Hamilton Beach, Set & Forget 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker to achieve great results from these recipes. Keep in mind, the slow cooker should be half full to avoid overcooking, so if you don’t already own a slow cooker, be sure to choose a size appropriate for your family. The technology in the Set and Forget allows for three different settings for cooking: program, probe, and manual mode. The program mode allows it to automatically shift to a warm setting when the cooking time is up. This holds your food at a safe temperature, without continuing to cook it, which is perfect for those days when you want to turn it on in the morning and eat when you come home in the evening. The meat probe allows you to insert the probe into the meat and set the desired temperature and it will automatically shift to warm when the temperature is reached. An added benefit to this remarkable slow cooker is the clip-locked, secure lid that allows you to travel without a mess. This slow cooker was a big improvement over my previous one. I highly recommend it.
If you’re like me, the rest of your life is busy, so the food experience should not be rushed, but rather a necessary indulgence. The slow cooker can be the star of the show on those busy days when you don’t have the time to be in the kitchen; or, maybe even, as Kreider would say, on those lazy days, when idleness is a necessity to our souls and the kitchen a hindrance.
Poached Eggs on Spicy Lentils
Medium (approx. 4 quart) slow cooker
1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced ginger root
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cracked black peppercorns
1 cup red lentils, rinsed
1 can (28 oz) no-salt-added tomatoes with juice, coarsely chopped
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup coconut milk
1 long green chile pepper or 2 Thai bird’s-eye chiles, finely chopped, optional
1⁄4 cup finely chopped parsley leaves
1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin and peppercorns and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add lentils, tomatoes with juice and vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Transfer to slow cooker stoneware.
2. Cover and cook on Low for 6 hours or on High for 4 hours, until lentils are tender and mixture is bubbly. Stir in coconut milk, salt, to taste, and chile pepper, if using. Cover and cook for 20 to 30 minutes until heated through.
3. When ready to serve, ladle into soup bowls and top each serving with a poached egg (see Tip). Garnish with parsley.
To poach eggs: In a deep skillet, bring about 2 inches (5 cm) lightly salted water to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low. Break eggs into a measuring cup and, holding the cup close to the surface of the water, slip the eggs into the pan. Cook until whites are set and centers are still soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon.
Makes 6 servings
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