January 26, 2011 at 1:57 pm , by Arpita Joshi
Catherine McCord, the face of Weelicious.com, was kind enough to guest post for us today. She shares her thoughts and helpful tips for using a slow-cooker to whip up family meals, which is especially useful during this cold season. Weelicious is a site dedicated to recipes and cooking advice for busy people who want to keep their families well fed and healthy, including the littlest ones — she’s a resource to busy moms everywhere!
When I was growing up, I had dinner with my entire family every Sunday night. It’s a tradition that I continue with my own kids. But that doesn’t mean that mom cooks while everyone else sits around playing or watching. I get everyone involved. From cleaning and chopping the veggies to mixing, stirring and pouring, when everyone takes part in the preparing of the meal, it makes the whole process of cooking so much more enjoyable and it is truly what puts the “family” in family dinner.
One of our favorite new recipes is this Slow-Cooker Lentil-Veggie Stew (recipe after the jump). After a leisurely Sunday morning at our local farmer’s market, picking out beans, vegetables and all kinds of fresh toppings for the soup, my husband, our kids and I head home to work as a team and put dinner together. I find that the more I involve my kids in the process of cooking, the more excited they become about eating the foods we make. And since there are so many family things we want to accomplish on Sunday, I always focus on meals that are easy. Around noon we simply dump all of the ingredients into “mom’s best friend in the kitchen,” the slow cooker, and then head out for an afternoon of family fun. At 5:30pm, we all sit down together, take fresh bread out of our bread maker, ladle some of this healthy, hearty stew into colorful bowls and then everyone gets to top theirs off with a dollop of herbed goat cheese as a finishing touch.
If you’ve never used one, slow cookers can make cooking and cleanup about as painless as it gets. And don’t forget, whenever you’re making anything in the slow cooker, double the recipe so you have plenty to freeze or keep as leftovers for the next few days when you’re running around and don’t have time to cook — something I know most moms can relate to. Who says cooking has to be time consuming and boring? It never is when everyone has a job and gets to be part of the fun. To me, there’s no better way to eat as a family.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 leeks, chopped (use only the white and light green part of the leek)
2 large carrots, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon fresh (or 1 teaspoon dried) thyme
2 teaspoons kosher salt
8 cups vegetable stock (you could also use chicken stock)
1 32-ounce can chopped tomatoes with juice
16 ounces dried lentils
2 cups kale or Swiss chard, chopped
* Accompaniments: plain yogurt, herbed goat cheese, feta cheese, crème fraiche or Parmesan cheese
1. Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium heat and cook the onions for 4 minutes.
2. Add the garlic and cook an additional minute.
3. Place the onion mixture with the remaining ingredients in a slow cooker and stir.
4. Cover and cook the lentils on high heat for 4 hours or low heat for 8 hours or until lentils are tender.
5. Top with desired accompaniment and serve.
You can also place all of the ingredients in a large pot over low to medium heat and cover for 90 minutes or until tender.
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