One Aisle, So Many Meals
By Jen Haugen, RDN, LD
If I stop to think about my pattern of grocery shopping, there’s one aisle I never miss. Yes, as a registered dietitian and mom, I start in the produce aisle (that way I have an entirely empty cart to load up on fruits and veggies!),that’s probably no surprise. But that aisle I never miss? The aisle that’s essential every time I shop? Not the cereal aisle, not the snack aisle (hey – with two kids, the snack aisle is a frequent stop), but the canned foods aisle – or in my supermarket – aisle 2.
Why do I stop in the canned foods aisle every time? Because the best meals are made from here. Meals that are satisfying, comforting, nourishing and perfect for fall. Meals that are perfect for the slow cooker. Slow cooked meals that say “welcome home” when we open the door and smell the goodness cooking inside the kitchen.
Slow cookers can be anyone’s best friend in the kitchen. Come home feeling exhausted? Slow cooker to the rescue. Busy day of running errands or kids all over town? Slow cooker wins again. Rather than give myself an excuse to run through the drive through, I plan a slow cooker meal for the busiest night of the week. And I get the ingredients ready in the morning when my energy is highest. Although prepping the night before and sticking the crock in the refrigerator is a great idea too. It’s a day maker when I open the door and remember that our meal is ready to eat! Yet, to get the most out of this machine, we need to have the right ingredients on hand to make that slow cooked meal and it all begins in the canned foods aisle. Essential stop? Canned tomatoes.
Did you know that canned tomatoes are the best loved vegetable by families across America, but also the least recognized super food? Full of lycopene (7 times more in 1/4 cup tomato paste compared to 1/2 cup raw tomatoes), loaded with potassium (more potassium than a banana) and fill-you-up fiber, canned tomatoes are an essential ingredient in the pantry.
As a registered dietitian and mom myself, there are a few reasons I recommend having canned tomatoes in your kitchen. I love that I can add a serving of vegetables to a family meal without having anyone pick them out of the dish because they part of the dish for just pennies a serving. I love that canned tomatoes can be easily found without added salt so I can be in charge of how much sodium goes into the dish. I love that canned tomatoes are loaded with lycopene, an antioxidant that’s found to contribute positively to skin and heart health as well as cancer prevention. And of course, canned tomatoes are needed in so many meals (stews, soups, pasta dishes, sauces and the list goes on), so it makes sense to have them on hand all the time.
Here’s a favorite slow cooker meal in our house: Chili. Perfect for fall, and perfect as a go-to family weeknight (or weekend) meal!
Easy Slow Cooker Chili
1 green pepper (or yellow or red), diced
1 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 cup ketchup
1 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes
1-1/2 cups low sodium beef broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (14.5 oz) can reduced sodium kidney beans
To a slow cooker crock, add cooked and crumbled ground beef, diced onion and peppers, oregano, chili powder, ketchup, canned tomatoes, beef broth, tomato paste and beans.
Cook on low for 8 hours. Serve with cornbread and honey.
Jen Haugen, RDN, LD is a registered dietitian and nutrition communications consultant. Jen writes, speaks and develops recipes as both a blogger and school nutrition dietitian with the goal of educating on the importance of bringing families into the kitchen together. Her perfect day includes tasty times in the kitchen with her family eating meals that make her family happy and healthy. You can find her at www.jenhaugen.com, on Twitter @jenhaugen, on Facebook www.facebook.com/JenHaugenRD and Instagram http://www.instagram.com/JenHaugenRD