Slow cookers are popular and an easy dinner option. Slow cooking is exactly what it sounds like—a process of cooking slowly. Using a slow cooker can retain some of the nutrients typically lost when frying or boiling.
Plant-based slow cooker meals focus on foods primarily from plants. This includes not only fruits and vegetables, but also nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans. Plant-based meals are a great way to focus on choosing foods from plant sources, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop eating meat and dairy.
Research has shown plant-based diets reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers (specifically colon, breast, and prostate cancer), depression, and a decreased risk of frailty, along with better mental and physical function.
Here are a few tips to get started with a plant-based slow cooker meal:
Add a whole grain with root vegetables, like potatoes and turnips, for soups and stews.
Try dry beans for soups and stews.
Layer vegetables, starches, and sauces for a casserole-style meal.
Use a variety of herbs and spices to add flavor.
Enjoy a nutritious and delicious plant-based recipe perfect for slow cooking at Spend Smart. Eat Smart., go.iastate.edu/FR22GX.
In a large bowl, stir together chopped vegetables, oil, ground black pepper.
Cut kielbasa into round pieces 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick.
Stir kielbasa into vegetables.
Spray baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Spread vegetables & kielbasa evenly over baking sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes. Stir.
Bake for up to 25 minutes more, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes, until vegetables are soft. Cooking time depends on size of vegetable pieces.
Nutrition information per serving: 250 calories, 12g total fat, 3g saturated fat, 710mg sodium, 22g carbohydrates, 4g dietary fiber, 15g protein. This recipe is courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website. For more information, recipes, and videos, visit Spend Smart. Eat Smart., spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu.
Is your garden limited on space? Consider growing your vegetables in containers! Container gardening occurs when plants are grown in containers such as pots rather than in the ground. This method reduces potential problems with infertile garden sites and “free-living” bacteria such as nematodes.
Containers. Almost any type of container can be used as long as it has drainage holes in the bottom. Common containers include plastic, clay, ceramic, or wood. Check out this resource, store.extension.iastate.edu/product/4179, for more information on size of containers recommended for various vegetables and the amount of potting mix.
Growing mixes. Select quality mixes that are free of plant disease organisms and weed seeds, are less likely to compact, drain well, are lightweight, and hold moisture and nutrients. Soiless potting mixes can be purchased from garden centers and retail outlets and can be prepared with fertilizer included.
Summer care of container gardens.
Location. Vegetables grow best in full sunlight. Plants that bear fruit require at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Leafy vegetables tolerate more shade.
Watering. Plants grown in containers require more frequent watering because they dry out from the sun and wind. Never allow the soil to completely dry out between waterings. Overwatering will also kill plants. Avoid wetting leaves when watering to prevent the development of plant diseases.
Fertilization. A soluble fertilizer (15-30-15 or 20-20-20) applied once every week is recommended. If using a commercial potting mix, it may not be necessary to begin fertilization until midsummer.
Toss in a large bowl. Add dressing and toss until vegetables are coated.
Tear 2 large squares of aluminum foil and place half of the vegetable mixture on each piece. Place an equal piece of foil over the top of the vegetable mixture and fold bottom piece with top sheet to form a packet.
Place on heated grill for 20–30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. If you don’t have a grill, bake Veggie Packets in the oven at 400°F for 20–30 minutes.
Before you open the packets, poke holes in the foil with a fork. Be careful opening the foil because the steam will be very hot and could burn you!
Empty vegetables onto serving plate or serve from foil packets.
Nutrition information per serving: 133 calories, 0g total fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 144mg sodium, 29g total carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 5g sugar, 4g protein. This recipe is courtesy of MyPlate website, USDA MyPlate Recipes, www.myplate.gov/myplate-kitchen/recipes.
Warm weather is a wonderful time to fire up the grill. From asparagus to early zucchini or grilled chicken with mushrooms, onions, and peppers, using your grill to make the most of the summer crop of vegetables adds a variety of colors to summer meals! Did you know that there are several different ways to grill perfect vegetables? Check out the tips below!
Directly on the grill. On a gas grill, preheat the grill to medium heat, about 375°F. Marinate your veggies or season them with your favorite spices and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Put your seasoned vegetables on the grill in a single layer, placing the ones that take the longest to cook in the back of the grill. Close the lid and let the vegetables cook for ~20 minutes. After 10 minutes, open the lid and flip the vegetables until done to your liking.
Kabobs. A kabob is made by skewering pieces of meat and/or vegetables and then grilling them. Grilling kabobs is a great way to grill a bunch of vegetables together! Toss vegetables in desired sauce and seasonings. If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for 30 minutes before threading on the vegetables to avoid burning. Combine vegetables with similar cooking times onto skewers (peppers, onions, zucchini, tomatoes). Place skewers on the grill over medium heat. Grill for 20 minutes or until you can easily stick a fork through the vegetable.
Foil packets. This way of grilling requires no pots and pans to scrub! To create foil packets, place ingredients in the center of the foil and tightly seal the packet to trap the steam inside. You can serve the packets directly from the grill or stack them in the refrigerator until you are ready to use. Check out this month’s recipe!
Grill basket. Using this method is similar to a foil packet but easier. A grill basket is a wire container made out of large-weave mesh. You can use it to hold food while cooking on a grill. For more information, check out this Iowa State University Extension article on Grilling those summer veggies, blogs.extension.iastate.edu/answerline.
5 cups of vegetables cut into uniform sized pieces (carrots, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, winter squash)
1 tablespoon oil (canola or vegetable)
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 425ºF.
Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
Spread vegetables evenly in a single layer on the pan.
Sprinkle oil on the vegetables. Stir. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning, ground black pepper, and salt. Stir.
Bake for 20-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Bake until vegetables are tender.
Nutrition information per serving: Nutrition Information per serving: 90 calories, 3 g total fat, 0 g sat fat, 0 g trans fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 95 mg sodium, 16 g total carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 2 g protein. This recipe is courtesy of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website. For more information, recipes, and videos, visit spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu
A diet focused on eating more plant-based foods and less saturated fats will help lower chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation can lead to disease. Choose anti-inflammatory foods to improve your health and well-being, lower your risk for disease, and improve your quality of life. Plant-based foods, such as berries and dark leafy vegetables, have anti-inflammatory properties. Base your diet on whole, nutrient-dense foods that contain antioxidants, and avoid highly processed products high in added sugar and fat. Your anti-inflammatory diet should provide a healthy balance of protein, carbohydrate, and fat.
Foods to eat more of include the following:
Whole Grains: 3 servings/day; whole grains have brain healthy B vitamins and are a great source of fiber.
Green Leafy Veggies: 6+ servings/week; dark leafy greens are nutrient packed with antioxidants and high in vitamins A, C, and K, all of which have anti-inflammatory properties.
Other Veggies: 1 serving+/day; other vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower are cruciferous vegetables that protect against cell damage in our bodies.
Berries: 2+ servings/week; berries get their superpowers from their bright colors that fight inflammation and cell damage.