Join the Slow Cooker Movement!
By Jennifer Mitchell

Growing up, my family was always on the go. Whether it was school, sports or volunteer activities it was difficult to prepare dinner. We valued sitting down as a family around the dinner table and this was possible with the use of the slow cooker. Believe it or not, the terms slow cooker and short on time actually go together! A great attribute about using a slow cooker is the flexibility it offers. You can toss the ingredients into the slow cooker that morning, cook it all afternoon, and serve it the same evening.

Food may be frozen or fresh and does not require pre-cooking. The majority of the time there are even leftovers that can be frozen and stored for busy nights that you just canâ€TMt seem to pull a dinner together. However, the best qualities about using a slow cooker are healthy cooking methods , variety of recipes, and hearty meals that can be “cooked all day while the cook is away.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we spend 8.7 hours working and an average of 7.7 hours sleeping each day! There are barely enough hours in the day for an on-the-go family.

My family joined the slow cooker movement and enjoyed the bounty of farm fresh local foods all year round. Check out the seasonal recipes below so you too can join the slow cooker movement and enjoy dinnertime with your family!

Winter: Harvest Vegetable Stew Serves: 12, 1 cup servings

• ½ medium onion, diced
• 2 cups lima beans
• 2 cups mixed vegetables
• 2 cups corn off the cob
• 2 cups carrots
• 8 cups of peeled and diced whole tomatoes • 2 cups water

• Add all ingredients to slow cooker. • Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. • Serve hot and enjoy!

Spring: Spring Vegetable and Bean Soup
Serves: 6, 1 cup servings

• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 onion, diced
• 6 cups veggie broth
• 2 ½ cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
• 1 can cannellini beans
• 1/4 teaspoon salt

• Add all ingredients to the slow cooker. • Cover and cook on low for 6 hours. • Serve hot and enjoy!

Summer: Chicken and Black Bean Taco Salad Serves: 4 salads

• 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts • 1 tablespoon reduced sodium taco seasoning • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
• 1 cup canned black beans, rinsed • 1 cup chunky salsa
For the Salad:

• 6 cups chopped romaine or red leaf lettuce • 1/4 cup reduced fat Mexican cheese blend • 1/2 cup zesty avocado cilantro buttermilk dressing Instructions:

• Place the chicken in the slow cooker and season with taco seasoning and cumin. Pour the beans over the chicken and top with salsa. • Cover and cook on low for 4 hours. • Shred the chicken with 2 forks. Keep warm until ready to eat. • To make each salad, place 1 1/2 cups lettuce on each plate, top with 3/4 cup chicken and bean mixture, 1 tablespoon cheese and 2 tablespoons zesty avocado buttermilk dressing.

Fall: Slow Cooker Salmon
Serves: 4, 4oz filets

• 1 pound salmon filets, skin left on • 2 tablespoons lemon pepper seasoning • Sliced lemon
• 1 to 1 1/2 cups liquid, like water, broth, wine, beer, cider, or a mix Instructions:

• Sprinkle lemon pepper seasoning on salmon and rub it in with your fingers. • Place lemon slices on the bottom of the slow cooker. • Place one layer of salmon in the slow cooker, skin-side down. Top with more slices of lemon. • Pour 1 to 1 ½ cup of liquid (your choice) over the salmon. • Cover and cook on low for 1 to 2 hours. • Remove from the slow cooker.
• Serve immediately or cool and refrigerate for 3 to 4 days. Store leftover salmon in an airtight container.

Jennifer is from Gulf Breeze, Florida and attended Ole Miss for a Bachelors of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics. She is currently completing her Dietetic Internship at Vanderbilt University and hopes to pursue a job teaching youth about the importance of nutrition and health in their everyday life.