Have a Plant: Fruits & Veggies for Better Health


Every October, my neighbors host a backyard harvest party. Mother Nature provides the canvas of trees and potted mums painted in Northeast autumn colors of red, orange and yellow. The day offers a cloudless sky of sunshine and the cool, crisp air reminds you to dress in layers.

With crockpots, ladles and serving bowls in hand, guests arrive and place their crockpots on one of the 6-foot tables complete with extension cord outlets and index cards to identify their creations. Last year’s bounty was 22 crockpots all steaming with a variety of meat and vegetarian soups, chili, stews and even warm beverages of mulled apple cider and Mexican cocoa.

The kids carve pumpkins, play football and adults sit around the several fire pits or huddle under outside heaters and share stories about summer vacation, gardens, and of course, our crockpot recipe creations.

Garden to Crockpot …

  • Tomatoes and Scallions – for fresh salsa or base for sauce, soup or stew
  • Eggplant, Tomatoes, Zucchini and Garlic – for ratatouille
  • Beets– I like them roasted with olive oil
  • Leaf Lettuce and European Cucumber – for a cool salad made with a delicate vinaigrette, sliced scallions and fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
  • Swiss Chard (sautéed or shredded) – I added to bean or lentil soup
  • Tomatoes, Bell and Hot Peppers – for a hearty chili

Many of these vegetables can be placed in your crockpot as starting ingredients or added the last 30 minutes of cooking.

5 Slow-Cooking Crockpot Ideas

  1. Brown meat ahead of time, as proteins caramelize and build flavor into your stew or chili.
  2. Cut up vegetables and meat in uniform pieces so they all cook at the same time.
  3. Spice it up! Bump up flavor with herbs and spices; add salt as needed.
  4. Only use the liquid that is called for in the recipe.
  5. Less Tender cuts of meat need the low setting.

Be Safe with Your Slow Cooker!
Be sure your crockpot is bringing food up to temperature as quickly as possible. How can you test this? Put 2 quarts of lukewarm water into your slow cooker and turn it on low. After 2 hours, test the thermometer reading for 165ºF, and after 6 hours it should read at 185° F or higher. If it does not pass the test, it’s time for a new one!

Wondering what crockpot creations I am bringing to the fall harvest this year? Thickness, creaminess, and the little kick from the salsa make the soup below my number one comfort food (and best use of my garden harvest). If you use vegetarian broth, its vegan too.

Recipe

African Peanut Soup
Makes 15 servings (1 cup)

Ingredients

    • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
    • 1 Large Onion, chopped
    • 1 Medium Sweet Potato, peeled and diced
    • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
    • 8 cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth (lower sodium)
    • 1 teaspoon Dried Thyme
    • ½ teaspoon Ground Cumin
    • 1 cup uncooked Basmati Rice
    • 3 cups Thick and Chunky Salsa (medium heat if jarred)
    • 3 cans Garbanzo Beans, drained and rinsed
    • 1 cup unpeeled Zucchini, diced
    • ⅔ cup creamy Peanut Butter (all natural)

Directions

    1. In a large sauce pan, heat oil on medium-high heat and sauté onion, sweet potato and garlic, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
    2. Add broth, thyme, cumin and rice.
    3. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer. Cover until rice is cooked and vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
    4. Add salsa, beans, zucchini and cook for 10 minutes.
    5. Stir in peanut butter until completely combined.
    6. Ready to serve from pot or spoon into portable crockpot.
      Also freezes well. (If it separates during re-heating, add small spoonful of peanut butter.)

Marilyn Mills, MS, RD, LD, CDE
Dietitian
Hannaford Supermarkets

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