Tag Archives: slow cooker

wooden cutting board with chopped peppers, carrots, celery, and red onion

Menu Planning for Busy Families

Now that school is back in session and kids sports are underway, your evenings have probably gotten much busier. Instead of turning to takeout, delivery, or fast food, put a little time into meal planning so your family can eat smart. These are a few different strategies you can use to make it easier and quicker to cook more meals at home no matter how busy you are. Continue reading

Protein Doesn’t Just Mean Meat

This post was written by VT Dietetic students Lauren Jaeger, Olivia Privitera, Jessica Perkins, Jillian Rogers, and Samantha Altizer.

When people often hear the word “protein,” they immediately think of meat. But there are more protein sources that are healthier, cheaper, and easier to cook than meat protein sources. Some examples of these are beans, such as black beans and pinto beans.

Pot of beans, a plant-based protein

Beans are a low-cost, lean protein option.

One way to cook lean protein sources is by using a slow cooker, which is a tool to cook food over a long period of time. One of the best features is that meals can be prepared in the morning before work and the meal will be ready by the end of the day when your family is ready to eat! The best way to use a slow cooker is to fill it three-quarters of the way full, making sure there is water covering the food, and set the timer for how many hours are needed to cook the food. To make beans in a slow cooker, follow these easy steps:

  1. Wash one pound of dry beans and soak them overnight in cold water
  2. Put the beans in the slow cooker and cover them with water
  3. Add seasonings! For example oregano, chili powder, bay leaf, onions, and/or house seasonings to match your tastes!
  4. Cook until beans are tender.

Shifting to leaner proteins can have these benefits:

  1. Save money
    • Eating beans and eggs are a cheaper option than meats and provide similar nutrients.
    • Plant-based proteins can be bought in cans, dried, or frozen which can be cheaper than fresh products.
  2. Increases dietary fiber intake
    • Beans and legumes are high in fiber which increases the feeling fullness and helps with weight management.
  3. Reduces added fat
    • Choosing lean (90% or greater) meats and plant-based proteins will significantly reduce saturated and total fat

Next time when thinking about cooking meat, consider using lean meat options or plant-based proteins!

Dietetic Intern Lauren’s SNAP Challenge Day 4

Recap of Day 4


  • Oatmeal (1/2 c)
  • 1% Milk (1 c)
  • Peanut Butter (1 Tbsp)
  • Clementine (1)

I try to alternate eggs and oatmeal for breakfast and today was an oatmeal day. I ran out of bananas, so I just had peanut butter to top my oatmeal this morning. I had originally planned to buy more milk with the remaining $3 in my food budget, but I think I’ll buy a couple more bananas instead.  Sorry milk, fruit takes priority for this girl! I’m going to try to make the last few cups of my milk stretch!


  • Salsa Chicken in a Whole-Wheat Tortilla
  • Low-fat Shredded Cheese (1 Tbsp)
  • Carrots and Celery Sticks (3/4 c)
  • Clementine (1)

For lunch, I had leftover salsa chicken in a whole-wheat tortilla tortilla, carrots and celery sticks, and a clementine. I like being able to pack up leftovers to take for lunch. It makes packing my lunch really easy!


  • Banana (1/2)
  • Peanut Butter (1 Tbsp)


  • Spicy Slow Cooker Black Beans over Brown Rice
  • Kale Chips (1 c)

IMG_1281 My slow cooker did it again! Today was my first time ever cooking with dried beans. I soaked dried black beans over night, drained and rinsed them well, and then put them in my slow cooker with water and other spices. I set my slow cooker to cook on high for 4 hours and dinner was ready by the time I got home! I used my immersion blender to blend half of the black beans and this turned the dish into a black bean “soup”. You could also blend half of the beans in your blender or simply mash them with a fork or potato masher for the same effect. Served over brown rice with some chopped tomato and low-fat shredded cheese, these beans were delicious! I’ll definitely cook with dried beans again because they were easy to make and more affordable than canned beans.

Today’s meals compared to MyPlate recommendations:

Screen Shot 2014-02-22 at 9.48.28 PM        5 oz.                       2 ½ c                           1 ¾ c                             1 c                             7 ½ oz.

Estimated cost of today’s meals: $3.76

Welp, I didn’t even come close to meeting my recommendation for dairy today. Looking back, I wish I had made some changes to my grocery list. I really wish I had bought more milk or yogurt. To have money to buy these items, I would have probably bought more frozen vegetables instead of fresh and bought regular brown rice instead of the quick cooking kind to save money.

Dietetic Intern Lauren’s SNAP Challenge Day 3

Recap of Day 3


  • Breakfast Egg Burrito
  • 1% Milk (8 oz.)
  • Clementine (1)

This morning I had a breakfast egg burrito and a glass of milk. My gallon of milk is starting to dwindle down! I’m thinking that I may need to use my leftover money to buy a half-gallon before the end of the week.


  • Peanut Butter Sandwich
  • Carrots and Celery Sticks (3/4 c)
  • Clementine (1)


A friend invited me to go to lunch with her today but sadly, I had to decline. Instead, I made a peanut butter sandwich. I had carrots and celery sticks and a clementine on the side. Lunch was a little boring, but I felt full after eating.


  • Low-fat Cottage Cheese (1/2 c)
  • Pear (1)

I had the same snack today: cottage cheese and a piece of fruit. While I love cottage cheese and fruit, I’m starting to get a little tired of this snack. It’s hard to not eat other food that I have in my pantry and fridge that’s off-limits during the challenge! I only have a little bit of cottage cheese left, though, so I might need to get creative with my snacks for the rest of the week.


  • Salsa Chicken in a Whole Wheat Tortilla
  • Low-fat shredded cheese (2 Tbsp)
  • Frozen Broccoli (1 ¼ c)
  • 1% Milk (1/2 c)


I made a variation of this recipe. I used the same ingredients, but I cooked it in my slow cooker for 4 hours on high, and then shredded the chicken with a fork. My boyfriend and I should be able to get one more meal out of this!

I love using my slow cooker because it’s so convenient. Just add the ingredients, set the time and temperature, and dinner will be ready by the time you get home from work. The only downside to making this recipe today was that I worked from home and could smell it cooking all afternoon, which made me hungry… I couldn’t wait to eat it for dinner!

Today’s meals compared to MyPlate recommendations:

Screen Shot 2014-02-22 at 9.48.28 PM     4 ½ c                         2 ½ c                          2 ¼ c                           2 c                                6 oz.

Estimated cost of today’s meals: $4.65

I did a good job today, but came up short in grains and dairy. I’m finding that it’s pretty difficult to meet my recommendation for 6 oz. of grains. For the past few days, I have found myself wishing that I could eat some of the whole grain crackers I have in my pantry for a snack. Eating those would have allowed me to meet my recommendation for grains, but I didn’t budget for those this week, so I’ve had to pass them up. At least more than half of my grains have been whole grains!

My slow cooker is one of my favorite kitchen appliances! Do you have a slow cooker? What recipes do you use it for?