Feeding the family with a slow cooker

slow cooker, diet

The VonShef 6.5l Digital Slow Cooker in all it’s glory.

Over the past few months I’ve been taking steps to improve this family’s diet. Mrs Adams and I start each day with a freshly made fruit drink and sometimes the children join us in having some. I’ve started getting more creative with Helen’s lunchbox and made her meals more diverse.

Something I’d always been keen to try out was a slow cooker. I’m going to be blunt here; my aim was to get maximum nutrition and taste with minimal effort. Would a slow cooker enable me to do this?

I knew very little about these devices but they seemed like a good idea. Was it possible to throw a load of ingredients into a slow cooker in the morning and return to it in the evening with a meal for the family?

I spent five days using a VonShef Digital Slow Cooker from Domu. Could I produce an evening meal every day using this item? I’ll reveal all in just a moment!

First of all I had to do a little research. I had two concerns;
1. slow cooked food would lose its nutrition and
2. a slow cooker would be energy inefficient.

I didn’t have to look very far to find both my concerns were misplaced. I’ve found numerous sources that show slow cooked food is more nutritious than food cooked at speed. Slow cookers are also more energy efficient than using an oven (see here and also here for more info).

Before I tell you what I cooked, a quick word about the device I was using. The VonShef Digital Slow Cooker has a 6.5litre capacity, so it one of the larger models on the market. This, however, gives you the flexibility to over-cater and freeze meals to eat at a later date.

Like most slow cookers, it has a high setting, low setting and a warm setting. You can set the timer in 30 minute chunks. Once the timer has run its course and the food is cooked, it automatically changes to the warm mode where it will stay, keeping the food at a decent temperature, until you turn it off.

It is stupendously easy to operate. I also found it incredibly easy to clean. At £29.95 it is also competitively priced.

What you want to know is what I cooked. Here you go;

Coq au vin.

family food, clow cooker, coq au vin

My first slow cooked dish; coq au vin. It was superb!

This was one of the easiest dishes. You simply put all the ingredients in the slow cooker on a high setting and return six and a half hours later to a delicious meal. It was completely hassle free.

Ingredients;

• 400g shallots, chopped
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 200g bacon (I used bacon medallions which worked really well)
• Four whole chicken breasts (or thighs / drumsticks)
• One fresh bay leaf
• Few sprigs fresh thyme
• Two garlic cloves, crushed
• 300ml full-bodied red wine
• 100ml chicken stock (although I used vegetable)
• 150g button mushrooms

Method; put all ingredients in the slow cooker for six and half hours and serve. Serves four.

Mexican chicken stew

This recipe can made with minimal fuss. You can simply cover the chicken in fajita seasoning and then pour on shop-bought salsa. After cooking for several hours, you then pull the chicken apart with two forks.

I, however, wanted to make fresh salsa to ensure maximum nutritional value. It was easy, but fiddly and I didn’t quite get the salsa right. With slow cooked food, all the moisture is retained. Although it tasted great, it was a bit too watery.

Ingredients;

• Four chicken breasts
• One packet fajita seasoning
• Several jars of salsa
Or make your own salsa;
• Two tins of chopped tomatoes
• One large onion, chopped
• Half a bunch of coriander, chopped
• Green chilli pepper, chopped
• Lime juice from two limes
• Teaspoon of ground cumin
• Two garlic cloves, chopped

Method; rub the chicken with half the taco seasoning. Place it in the slow cooker. Pour on the salsa. Stir in the remaining fajita seasoning. Cook for six hours. Pull the chicken apart with two forks. Cook for a further 30 mins. Serves four. Can be eaten on its own or served with rice.

Chicken jalfrezi

slow cooker, chicken jalfrezi,

Chicken jalfrezi. This was Mrs Adams favourite dish during my experiment.

 

Another ridiculously easy recipe. Once the chicken has been seasoned, you put all the ingredients in the slow cooker, walk away, and come back nine hours later to a delightful curry. As with any curry, it involves a lot of chopping of ingredients. Even so, Mrs Adams declared this to be her favourite meal of the experiment.

Ingredients;

• Four chicken breast fillets or thighs
• Two tablespoons plain flour
• One large onion, roughly chopped
• Two cloves garlic, roughly chopped
• Two fresh green chillies, chopped
• One (400g) tin passata
• One teaspoon ground coriander
• One teaspoon ground cumin
• One or two red or green peppers, roughly chopped
• Half a teaspoon chilli powder
• Two whole fresh red chillies (optional)
• Two teaspoons garam masala
• Two half teaspoons curry powder

Method; cover the chicken in flour. Place in the slow cooker. Add the other ingredients. Cook for six and a half hours on a high setting or nine on a low setting. Serves four. Can be accompanied by rice on naan breads.

Chicken and lentil soup

chicken and lentil soup, slow cooker, slow cooker recipes

Chicken and lentil soup. A superb winter dish



Another recipe where you simply chuck the ingredients in and leave it to cook. About half an hour before the end, you should, as with the Mexican chicken, pull the chicken apart using two forks. Just keep a close eye on the consistency. I found myself adding more water and stock as the lentils absorbed loads of the moisture.

Ingredients:

• Four chicken breasts or thighs
• 100ml of chicken or vegetable stock
• 400ml of water
• Large onion, diced
• Two large carrots, diced
• Several celery stalks, diced
• 400g lentils (I used red lentils)
• Half a teaspoon of oregano
• Bay leaf

Add all ingredients to the slow cooker for nine hours on a low setting. Half an hour before the end, pull the chicken apart with two forks. Keep an eye on the food as it cooks as I found it was necessary to top up with water and stock. Serve with crusty bread.

Beef stew

This came out superbly. The beef, which I knew to be very chewy as I’d cooked with the same batch previously, just melted off the fork. You can just throw everything in the slow cooker but I went off-piste and thickened up the sauce slightly before cooking. I did this to make sure it didn’t come out too thin.

Ingredients;

• Two tbsp vegetable oil
• One onion, roughly chopped
• Two medium carrots, cut into 2.5cm pieces
• Several celery stalks, cut small
• Three tbsps tomato purée
• One kilogram braising steak, cut into 4cm (1½in) chunks
• Plain flour, to dust
• 200ml red wine
• 600ml beef stock
• Three fresh rosemary sprigs

Method; dust the beef with plain flour. Put everything into the slow cooker on a high setting for at least six and a half hours. Serve with mashed potatoes.

The experiment was a resounding success. My advice, if you haven’t got a slow cooker, consider it. This item has become a part of the family, just like our juicer and I can’t imagine the kitchen without it!

Disclosure; for review purposes I was provided with a VonShef Digital Slow Cooker. Thoughts and opinions my own. To see my disclosure policy, please follow this link.

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21 Comments

  1. October 27, 2015 / 7:43 am

    before we had children someone bought us a slow cooker. we never used it so we got rid of it. Now we have a little one, I wish we’d kept it. these recipes are great. we may have to get another one soon!

    • John Adams
      Author
      October 28, 2015 / 4:55 am

      I would sooooo suggest you invest in another one. Based on my experience it would be just that…an investment.

  2. October 27, 2015 / 8:45 am

    I’m also trying out a Vonshef slow cooker at the moment. I’ve made some really tasty meals and I love the sound of your chicken and lentil soup. I’m also really impressed with how versatile it is. I’ve even made a cake in mine!

    • John Adams
      Author
      October 28, 2015 / 4:56 am

      Wow, I haven’t made a cake yet, although there’s always a first time!

  3. October 27, 2015 / 9:35 am

    I think I need to invest in a slow cooker the chicken jalfrezi looks amazing, I would use quorn as I am vegetarian but apart from that good job!

    • John Adams
      Author
      October 28, 2015 / 4:57 am

      You’ve inspired me. I shall look up some vegetarian recipes to cook. SLow cookers are, frankly, awesome.

  4. October 27, 2015 / 9:38 am

    These recipes look really good. I’ve been terrible with cooking recently with the new baby coming along. I now want to try all of these, especially the beef stew 🙂

    • John Adams
      Author
      October 28, 2015 / 4:57 am

      With the addition to the family, I think you might find the slow cooker to be vry useful. I wouldn’t want to be without ours now.

  5. October 27, 2015 / 1:14 pm

    I love slow cooking, so nice to come home to a hot meal when out at work, Your recipes look fab as does this slow cooker. I need a new one as the knob broke on mine so may look at this.

    • John Adams
      Author
      October 28, 2015 / 4:58 am

      I can’t imagine our kitchen without the slow cooker in it now! Hope you find a decent replacement.

    • John Adams
      Author
      October 28, 2015 / 4:59 am

      I thoroughly recommend it. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

  6. October 28, 2015 / 6:53 am

    Al being well, I will be in my own house in my own kitchen in a few weeks, where I shall be sourcing locally grown vegetables from the greengrocer, and local meat from the village butcher. (Ah, Kent countryside, I cannot wait to be in your arms!)

    All of these ingredients will be begging to be lovingly tenderised in a slow-cooker after we’ve spent a day exploring the local woods.

    This particular specimen looks incredible! My friend has a slow-cooker and I’d love one. You’ve even included some super recipes, John – thanks!

  7. October 28, 2015 / 11:51 pm

    I love my slow cooker. Especialy making fudge in it!
    Such a handy thing for on the go and makes sure that my todler gets a easy made (and yummy) meal that i woudnt have had time to cook otherwise.
    Your food looks sooo good!

    Much Love,
    Umber of http://www.umberphoenix.co.uk

  8. October 29, 2015 / 2:55 pm

    I love my slow cooker and find that meals are so flavoursome when cooked over a longer period of time. These recipes look delicious! I manage and co host #CookBlogShare if you have any foodie post or recipes it would be lovely to see you there x #TastyTuesdays

    • John Adams
      Author
      October 30, 2015 / 6:07 am

      Oooooo. A new linky to take part in. This post has proven to be so popular I will link it up next week. Thanks for alerting me to it.

  9. October 30, 2015 / 12:40 pm

    So many super recipes, get videoing them for youtube!Thanks for linking up to #tastytuesdays

  10. October 31, 2015 / 2:43 am

    I have a slow cooker but I’ve not used it yet, my mother is nagging me to so I think you’ve given me the kick up the bum to get using it. Great post I’ll share on facebook in the morning and pin #TastyTuesdays

    • John Adams
      Author
      November 2, 2015 / 5:54 am

      Thanks for sharing! My recommendation is that you use that slow cooker. Once you have, you won’t look back.

  11. November 6, 2015 / 11:04 am

    I am bookmarking this! We have asked for a slow cooker for christmas so in January no doubt i’ll be on the lookout for some good recipes to try out. Good timing! #TheList

  12. November 10, 2015 / 7:56 pm

    Oh this is just what I need, I have been thinking about using our slow cooker more. Will try some of these. Thanks for linking up to #TheList (if you could link back to one of our blogs that would be awesome) x