Budget-friendly crock pot meals

Budget-friendly crock pot meals

By: Leanne Ely

 

It seems like the more you do to feed your family properly, the harder it is to keep the grocery budget in check.

Using the crock cooker is a great way to stretch a dollar for several reasons.

• You can use tougher, less expensive cuts of meat
• Traditional crock cooker meals like chili and soup tend to go a long way
• The convenience of this appliance saves you from spending money on take out
• Crock cookers use less electricity than stoves

Today, I’m going to share some tips with you to help you save even more money with this beloved kitchen appliance.

Make your own stock. If you know me at all, you know I’m pretty big on making stock. With a slow cooker, you shouldn’t ever have to buy canned or boxed broth again. Simply save up bones (I keep one zipper bag for chicken bones and one for beef), trimmings and juices from your roasts and freeze them until you have enough to fill your crock pot about half full. When you have enough, put them in the crock pot, fill the crock 3/4 full with water and let it cook on LOW for 8 hours or so. Then, you can use this homemade broth in your crock cooker recipes and for other uses.

Cook more than you need. Buy a very large, inexpensive chuck roast. Even if it’s much more than your family needs—as long as it will fit in your crock pot, bring it home with you. Put it in the crock pot, fill the crock cooker half way with water (which I would do only for cheap cuts of meat), and let it cook on LOW for 8 hours. Portion the meat and use it throughout the week in lunches and dinners. You can even freeze some of the meat to take out later in the month.

Buy from the Clean 15 list. Even if you make an effort to buy organic whenever possible, you can save a little bit of money on your grocery bill. Use crock cooker recipes that call for ingredients from the Clean 15 instead of the Dirty Dozen list so you can buy the less expensive, conventionally grown option over organic. (You can learn more about the Clean 15 at ewg.org by the way.) Many Clean 15 items are great for slow cooking, including onions, sweet potatoes and cabbage.

If you’re coming up short on crock cooker meal inspiration, are you in luck!

We have a great promo going on right now on our Crock Cooker Classic and Paleo Menus. Find out more here!

Budget Crock Cooker Ideas

My Top 7 Slow Cooker Safety Tips

My Top 7 Slow Cooker Safety Tips

By: Leanne Ely

 

I couldn’t function without my slow cooker. You all know by now how I feel about this wonderful, time-saving appliance. If you’re new to slow cooking, or even if you’re a seasoned pro, there are some safety precautions that I hope you’re taking when it comes to this highly efficient way of getting a meal on the table.

Please don’t put another meal in the slow cooker without checking over this list of 7 safety guide-lines:

1. Thaw meat and poultry before placing in the slow cooker. Frozen meats may not reach the safe zone (140 degrees) fast enough and could end up making you sick.

2. Never use the warm setting to cook food. That setting is for when your meal is already cooked, to keep it warm.

3. Preheat the slow cooker on high before you put your meat or poultry inside. This will shorten the amount of time foods spend in the danger zone, before reaching 140 degrees.

4. Don’t use the slow cooker to thaw or reheat foods.

5. While your foods are cooking, do not lift the lid. Every time you open the slow cooker, the tem-perature drops 10–15 degrees and your cooking progress will be slowed by 30 minutes.

6. Check your cooked foods with a thermometer to ensure they are cooked thoroughly. Poultry, soups, stews and sauces should be at 165, while roasts are okay at 145–160.

7. Don’t use the slow cooker to cool down cooked food. Remove food from the crock and then let it cool before placing in the refrigerator.

 

 

stewed chicken breast with mushrooms in the crock-pot.

Dandelion Greens…the nutritional superstar + a recipe!

Dandelion Greens…the nutritional superstar + a recipe!

By: Leanne Ely

 

Most of us are familiar with the common yellow weed that marks the onset of spring and in many parts of the country.

Dandelion greens are the enemy to gardeners everywhere, but these flower bed nuisances are actually real nutritional superstars.

Dandelion greens are very high in vitamins A, B, C and D. They are rich in magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc and calcium. Dandelion greens are commonly used in contemporary herbal medicine because of their diuretic properties. They’re used to suppress appetite and as a digestive aid – dandelion greens are great for gut health.

I know dandelion greens are good for me, but I also love their bitter flavor. I enjoy dandelion greens sauteed in some olive oil, rendered bacon fat or a little butter with garlic, onion and some salt and pepper. They are absolutely delicious served alongside bacon and eggs in the morning. Mmm mmm!

Are you getting hungry for dandelion greens?

Now, it’s time for your Trick!

If your lawn is full of dandelion greens in the spring and you are confident that chemical herbicides have not polluted the soil or air around your home, go ahead and harvest your own! Choose pale green leaves (the pale green leaves are tastiest) and get them before the plant flowers. After the dandelion plant flowers, the greens become more bitter. If you can manage to keep the root in tact with the plant, the greens will last longer in the fridge if you’re not eating them right away.

Your Tip:

Wash your dandelion greens thoroughly under running water after you harvest them, or bring them home from the grocery store. Wrap them in damp paper towels and keep them in the fridge for up to a week. You can freeze dandelion greens after they’re cooked.

And your Recipe:
Green Chili Southwest Scrambled Eggs
Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:
1 tablespoon coconut oil
3 cups chopped dandelion greens
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
3 (4-ounce) cans diced green chiles
1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 eggs, beaten

INSTRUCTIONS:
In a large skillet over medium heat, heat coconut oil. To the oil, add the next 6 ingredients (dandelion greens through garlic powder). Cook for 5 minutes, until vegetables are slightly tender.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and salt and pepper and pour over the vegetables. Reduce heat to low and stir. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until eggs are set and vegetables are tender. Serve warm.

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Dandelion

Dandelion

Herbaliciousness! (I’ll explain…)

Herbaliciousness! (I’ll explain…)

By: Leanne Ely

 

When I’m looking at a big rack of dried herbs in the grocery store, I often think of dollar bills chopped up and put into bags. For many dried herbs, you might as well just chop up a few dollar bills and sprinkle them on your food for the amount of flavor they add to anything! (Dried parsley? I don’t think so!)

Fresh herbs are used very frequently in my home. I use them in my salads (chop some fresh dill into a bowl of greens and you may never want to eat it any other way ever again!), my soups, with my roast meats, chicken dishes, sauces and the list goes on and on and on.

Fresh herbs don’t only taste great, but many of these fantastic aromatic little green wonders are just packed with nutrition. Sage, rosemary and thyme are much more than just a Simon and Garfunkel hit! These herbs are extremely healthy for you.

herbs1

Fresh herbs: the basics

Fresh herbs add a certain something to your dishes that you just can’t duplicate with the dried variety. Once you start you won’t want to go back!

Cooking with fresh herbs can be intimidating at first, but it’s really pretty simple. You figure out which herbs go best with your favorite dishes, and you go from there!

But where do you start?

How about by learning which herbs go with what foods! Here’s a cheat sheet for you:

Basil: Amazing on pizza! Basil is almost peppery in flavor, it’s very fragrant and has a wonderful spicy bite to it. Basil almost a must for any dish containing tomatoes. The little leaves at the top of the bunch will be the sweetest.

Dill: Your fish will never the the same again! This grassy herb with its feathery leaves is often paired with fish dishes and it’s amazing in a vinaigrette.

Mint: If you plant your own mint be VERY careful. It is a prolific plant that can easily overtake your entire garden. It’s wonderful in beverages, with lamb and with peas. It’s also nice to chew on to freshen your breath!

Oregano: This wonderful earthy herb is a must for pizza but it’s also fabulous on eggs! Oregano is the one herb that is actually just as good dried as it is fresh.

Parsley: Parsley is great for everything from freshening your breath to chopping into salads, hummus, guacamole, soup – pretty much anything, really! It lends a nice freshness to anything you put it on. But the dried version? A waste of money.

Thyme: This citrusy herb is wonderful with seafood, poultry and many Mediterranean dishes. Here’s a tip for you! It’s a pain to tear off the tiny little leaves from their woody stems so use fork tines to strip them!

Sage: Another easy one to grow at home, this aromatic herb is just wonderful with duck, turkey and sausage.

Rosemary: One of my favorites, rosemary has a flavor that’s almost like pine. It’s wonderful in meat, soups, stews and even breads.

Cilantro: This one seems to be loved or hated! Popular in Mexican, Asian and Indian cooking, cilantro looks like flat leaf parsley but it’s much different in flavor. Some describe it as tasting soapy!

When you bring your herbs home from the store, rinse them in cold water to remove any dirt or bugs (hey, when you buy organic, it happens!). Store them in water in the fridge, covered with a plastic bag and they should keep for a few days. This method does NOT work with basil. Instead, put it in water and leave it on your counter.

PS – The 21 Day Knock Out is happening!!! I’ll sneak you in, but you gotta come right now!!

Tea or smoothies? (special herb for both)

Tea or smoothies? (special herb for both)

By: Leanne Ely

 

Fresh mint is a common sight in the summertime and today you’re going to get a tip, a trick and a recipe featuring this pretty little leaf!

I have mint growing in my garden and let me tell you, when you plant mint, you have mint for life! Really. Mint can take over so you really have to be vigilant about keeping this plant in line.

But if you can manage a mint crop it’s well worth growing! (If you don’t have a green thumb, fresh mint is a relatively easily fresh herb to get your hands on.) Mint is quite high in Vitamin A and it also contains Vitamin C, iron and manganese.

There are many uses for mint leaves. While you see it most often used as a garnish, you can add mint leaves to your smoothies for a minty kick (can you say chocolate mint?!), make yourself a cup of peppermint tea, or even flavor your water with them!

mintsmoothieortea3

Now, it’s time for your Trick

When you’re freezing a tray of ice cubes, try adding a mint leaf to each one for a pretty (and refreshing) way to keep your lemonade or cocktails cool!

Your Tip

If you wish to plant your own mint, I recommend planting it in a container. This is probably the best way to keep that mint under control.

And your Recipe

Mint Chip Smoothie
Serves 4

 

Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 to 3/4 cup water (or more coconut milk)
2 tablespoons mint leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon cacao nibs
1 scoop Perfect Paleo Protein Mix (chocolate preferred for this recipe)
2 teaspoons Saving Dinner Fibermender (optional)
1 tablespoon Just Juiced Greens (optional)

Instructions:
In a blender, place coconut milk, water, mint leaves, cacao nibs, Saving Dinner all-in-one smoothie mix, Saving Dinner Fibermender and Saving Dinner Just Juiced Greens (optional); blend until smooth and enjoy! It’s ok to add a tad more milk of your choice, if a thinner smoothie is preferred.

Speaking of smoothies…I LOVE Perfect Paleo Protein–dairy free, creamy yumminess and anti-inflammatory to the 10th degree! Highly recommended!

Perpetual Salad! (love this idea!)

Perpetual Salad! (love this idea!)

By: Leanne Ely

 

I don’t know about you, but I have a really hard time buying produce that I can easily grow myself. At my house, we eat a lot of salad. As many of you know, I serve a large green salad with almost every meal that goes on the table. All of those heads of lettuce can add up!

So, I recently started looking into some ways to grow my own lettuce indoors and I thought I would share what I’m learning with y’all.

All you need is:

• A large round pot, about 6 inches deep (or a container of some sort with roughly the same depth)
• Organic potting soil (look for the kind with perlite in it—thats those little round white balls)
• Mesclun mix seeds (or whatever lettuce you like best)
• Water
• A sunny window

You’ll need a window that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. If your lettuce doesn’t get enough sun, it will get tall and spindly and that isn’t what you want.

perpetualgreens1-3

To grow your lettuce:

1. Fill your container to the halfway mark with soil. You can sprinkle some fertilizer on there if you want to. Moisten the soil and sprinkle a couple pinches of seeds on top. Sprinkle a little more soil over the seeds and spritz the surface with more water.

2. Water daily and keep the pot in the sun or under a grow light. The seeds should sprout up in about seven days and your first harvest should be ready in about a month.

To harvest your lettuce:

After you cut your lettuce the first time (leave the growing crowns alone!), you’ll only have to wait another two weeks for a fresh crop.

And it’s pretty much just that easy!

Fresh lettuce greens are just the best, aren’t they?

PS – The 21 Day Knock Out starts TODAY!!! I’ll sneak you in, but you gotta come right now!!