Oh Hi, Slow Cooker!

Do you own a slow cooker aka crock-pot? Chances are that you do. Here’s a hint. It’s probably hidden in the back of a closet or cupboard somewhere, and if you don’t then they’re seriously easy to come by. I’ve even seen them for sale in Walgreens and CVS. You know for all those times when your to-do list reads: pick up some gum, a Mother’s Day card, and a slow cooker.

My most vivid crock-pot memory hails from my grandmother. She used to make a killer crock-pot beef stew that I absolutely loved. Mostly because it was full of potatoes, turnips, carrots and zero peas. My mother made her stew with peas and I was a great big twit and refused to eat them. I have no idea why I thought turnip was awesome and peas were the devil. I certainly don’t feel that way now. However, as part of my dinner time argument, I often pointed out that the family dog would literally eat around peas if any happened to be on a plate set down in front of him. Matlock would have been proud of my evidence gathering skills.

So what are you supposed to do with this big plugged-in pot once you get it home? Well, there are pretty much a million-and-one things you can cook. Some of them are fantastic ideas that will yield great tasting and healthy meals while others encourage you to make macaroni and cheese and (I kid you not) cheesecake in your new kitchen toy. Let’s not focus on those right now though. I’m here to inspire you to give your crockpot another look, not make you gain ten pounds.

Breakfast Ideas
These get-up and get-going dishes will be the perfect thing to wake-up to on mornings when you workout. Plus, imagine how good your home will smell when the alarm goes off and you have a steaming pot of oats, apples, or eggs just waiting for you in the kitchen.

Overnight Oatmeal with Apricots and Buttermilk
Effortless Crockpot Breakfast Burritos
Slow Cooker Baked Apples
Crockpot Whole Grain Breakfast Cereal
Peach and Coconut Quinoa

Dinner Ideas
Here’s where the real fun starts. Who wants to slave over a hot stove after you’ve gotten up early to run around outside with your fellow bootcampers and slogged your way through another day at the office? Even though I love to cook I still answer with a resounding, “Not me!” at least a few times each week. Fortunately, if you own a crock-pot you can toss a few simple ingredients in the bowl, set the controls, and arrive home to a drop-dead-delicious dinner with very minimal additional evening effort.

Pulled Pork with Low-Sugar Barbecue Sauce
Crockpot Chicken Tortilla Soup
Slow Cooked Boston Baked Beans
Whole Chicken in a Slow Cooker
Homemade Crockpot Marinara Sauce

Of course, after looking at all of these recipes I’m seriously starving! If you’d like some helpful tips on choosing a crock-pot that will work best for you definitely consider checking out this post from SlowCookerFromScratch.com. It features a great round-up of reviews and frequently asked questions. These ladies and gentleman are serious about slow cooking and will have you hooked in no time at all.

Additional Blogs to Gather Recipes From:

http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/
http://www.slowcookerfromscratch.com/
http://www.skinnytaste.com/2007/07/crock-pot-recipes.html [with Weight Watchers Points]
http://www.coconutandlime.com/search/label/slow%20cooker
http://www.theperfectpantry.com/slow-cooker-crockpot/

I also made a new Pinterest Board for you to follow if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s called “I Swear I’ll Use My Slow Cooker Someday.”

7 Make Ahead Muffin Recipes to Kickstart Your Day

Whenever a new bootcamp session begins you’ll inevitably hear about the importance of eating something before you come to class. Classic responses to this never-ending conundrum include everything from a piece of toast to a banana. I tend to usually make an english muffin with peanut butter as that seems to be the right amount of food that can give me a little energy at 6:00 AM and not make me feel ill if we have to do sprints in the first 10 minutes.

But boy does it get boring! What I really like to do, if I can get my act together on Sunday evening, is bake a batch of muffins. Then I can just grab one on my way out the door and eat it as I walk to class. Of course, not all muffins are created equally. My absolute favorite muffin recipe is actually for bran muffins. Sounds good for you, right? Not so much though as the batter contains an entire stick of butter and a cup of sour cream. They’re really delicious but ingredients like that sort of defeat the purpose of getting out of bed to workout so it’s probably best to save those for a weekend treat.

Thankfully there are oodles of make ahead muffin recipes that are composed of much more diet and exercise friendly components including a host of great replacements and additions to white flour and sugar. Perhaps one of the following will make it into your weekday rotation? Personally, I have my eye on the Spinach and Quinoa Muffins.

Primal Pumpkin Nut Muffins via my blog, ErinCooks.com

Whole Grain Almond Poppyseed Muffins via Amy of Nook and Pantry

Gluten-Free Mango Muffins via Marla at Family Fresh Cooking

Spinach and Quinoa Muffins via Lisa at Dandy Sugar

Almond Meal Banana Muffins via Gabrielle at Honest Fare

Beet and Oat Muffins via Sonia at The Healthy Foodie

Low Fat Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins via Gina at SkinnyTaste