January is National Slow Cooking Month!
It is time to shine a light on this wonderful way of preparing food and experiment with hearty, simple one-pot plant-based recipes.
The reality is we are all too busy, and our ‘busyness’ inevitably affects our cooking (and eating habits).
Did you know that over 30 percent of our calories are consumed away from home, and 40 percent of our food budget is spent on food we eat outside the house?
Food away from home is more expensive. It also tends to be higher in calories, fat, sugar and salt, and lower in fiber and nutrients.
One good way to eat healthier is to increase the number of meals we eat at home.
And the best way to increase the meals we eat at home is to use a slow cooker.
We can literally ‘set and forget’ and have a delicious home-cooked meal waiting for us when we return from work.
Slow cooker meals are simple to prepare and convenient to clean up.
They give us the best of both worlds—the possibility of eating a nutritious home-cooked meal without spending hours at the stove.
The History of the Slow Cooker
In 1940, a man named Irving Naxon (who ran the Naxon Utilities Corporation based in Chicago) received a patent for a food-heating device he called the Naxon Beanery All-Purpose Cookery.
The machine was portable and consisted of a removable insert, which was held by a case that contained a heating unit.
He was inspired to create the Naxon Beanery after listening to his grandmother tell him stories about a stew she used to make in her native Lithuanian town.
The bean-based dish was called cholent and would cook all day long.
A traditional Jewish dish, women would start cooking the stew before sundown on Friday night (when the Sabbath began) and cook all the way until the end of the Saturday services the next day.
The Crockpot Is Born
In the 1970s, Naxon sold his design to Rival Manufacturing, which renamed it the Crockpot and further developed the cooker so that it could cook an entire family meal.
Rival marketed the Crockpot to working mothers who would put food in the pot before leaving for work and return to a delicious home-cooked meal.
A 1965 ad for the Crockpot, which said ‘cooks all day while the cook’s away’ captured the idea perfectly.
Not surprisingly, working women in America absolutely loved the concept, and it sold millions.
Today Rival sells three-fourths of all slow cookers; as such, the word ‘crockpot’ is now virtually synonymous with slow cooker.
Slow cooking continues to be extremely popular, with about 83 percent of families in the US owning a slow cooker!
The Benefits of Slow Cooking
Here are some of the key advantages of slow cooking.
Your slow cooker:
- Ensures You Eat a Nutritious Meal: The main principle behind slow cooking is to cook fresh ingredients at a low temperature for a long time. The result is a dish that is rich in nutrients and retains the natural juices from your vegetables.
- Saves Time: All you need to do is the initial prep, and your slow cooker does all the work for you. The perfect solution for busy people who still want to eat healthfully!
- Can Be Enjoyed Year Round: Even though slow cookers are often associated with warm wintertime meals, they can also be incredibly convenient during the summer when using your oven can overheat the kitchen.
- Reduces Energy Usage: Slow cookers use much less energy than a conventional electric oven.
- Makes Cleanup Easy: With your slow cooker, you clean one pot. What could be simpler?
- Creates Better Tasting Food: The extended cooking time distributes flavors better for a delicious result.
The obvious way to celebrate National Slow Cooking Month is to experiment with slow cooking recipes.
Here is a fabulous recipe for Asian-Style Chickpeas that will get you started!