Deglutenized, Delicious, and Definitely Healthy Slow Cooker Meals

The Healthy Slow Cooker 135 Gluten-Free Recipes for Health and Wellness, Second Edition (Robert Rose Inc, 2014)

Courtesy of The Healthy Slow Cooker, Second Edition by Judith Finlayson © 2014 Reprinted with publisher permission.

Courtesy of The Healthy Slow Cooker, Second Edition by Judith Finlayson © 2014 Reprinted with publisher permission.

Judith Finlayson
ISBN: 978-0-7788-0479-6
352 pages, 135 recipes

Recently I read about the possibility of cartilage regeneration in a column by Mark Sisson, on his website Mark’s Daily Apple. In this particular article, Sisson recommends drinking home-made bone broth as a possible aid to the regeneration of cartilage. This information was still fresh in my mind when I first explored the pages of the second edition of The Healthy Slow Cooker: 135 Gluten-Free Recipes for Health and Wellness (Judith Finlayson, 2014), I happened upon a recipe for slow cooker hearty beef stock; in a box entitled Natural Wonders (115), opposite the hearty beef stock recipe (114), author Judith Finlayson has written detailed information about the health properties of home-made beef broth. She mentions the nutrients and the healing properties of gelatin, the beneficial ingredient in well-made bone broth. The recipe for beef stock sounds delicious; its presence in a cookbook is, though, unsurprising. The nutritional information about bone broth that appears on the opposing page is, however, an unexpected find in a book devoted to slow cooker recipes. Many such nuggets of nutritional information appear throughout this book, all under the headings of either Natural Wonders or Mindful Morsels. One Natural Wonder’s note even explains the dangers of hidden gluten to people with Celiac and details ways to identify and avoid these hidden dangers. This type of information is an exciting addition to a cookbook; with it, one can easily relate the nutritional value of the ingredients she uses to the healthy meal she serves her family when she prepares slow cooker recipes from this cookbook.

I received this edition of Ms. Finlayson’s book in the mail, after the good people at Robert Rose, Inc graciously sent me a copy to review. This book could not have arrived at a better time. I was pulling out of my driveway early one morning about a month ago, when I realized neither Phillip nor I had checked our mail the day before. I stopped my car in front of the mailbox and was pleased to find the cookbook included among sundry pieces of mail. At this time I was helping our daughter Elizabeth and her husband with these little guys

photo (4)

while we waited for this little guy to arrive.


I wanted to help her with meals as well, and crock pot recipes were exactly what we needed to make dinner time a bit easier as we made final preparations for our newest family member. I placed the book on the front seat of my car and carried it with me to Elizabeth’s house. I removed the book from the packaging and gave it to her to look at first. She has a BS in nutrition from the University of Texas at Austin, so perhaps unsurprisingly she was drawn first to the amount and quality of nutritional information that accompanies each recipe. The inclusion of such detailed information was, in fact, the first impressive characteristic of Finlayson’s work that drew our attention. No one in our family is what anyone would define as a rigid health nut; however, the wholesomeness and healthiness of the ingredients we use when we cook and bake are as important to us as resulting dish’s ability to please one’s palate. We were pleased to have a cookbook that includes detailed nutritional information about the recipes it includes between its covers.

In addition to the wealth of nutritional and culinary information included in this slow cooker cookbook, Ms Finlayson includes other important related information. An entire section of the book is devoted to information concerning cooking with a slow cooker: the types and proper use of slow cookers, as well as methods for ensuring food safety while using slow cookers. A section near the back of the cookbook provides both the Canadian and American Diabetes Associations diabetes food values for each recipe in the book, with a comprehensive explanation of the differences between the Canadian Diabetes Association and the American Diabetes Associations values. Finally (and perhaps most important to the former freshman composition instructor in me), Ms Finlayson provides her sources of information throughout the book, as well as a list of additional resources at the back of the book. People who enjoy learning as well as they enjoy cooking will be delighted by the amount of information contained in this culinary work.

The Healthy Slow Cooker is a joy to use in the kitchen. The book is attractive, with colorful pictures appearing throughout (though not on every page); it is also well organized and easy to use. The recipes are organized by category: breakfast, starters and snacks, soups, poultry, fish and seafood, beef and veal, pork and lamb, vegetarian mains, sides and sauces, and desserts. The recipes themselves, every one of them gluten-free, are interesting and unique. Interspersed among more common recipes such as “French Basil Chicken” or “Onion Braised Brisket” are less common recipes such as “Pork Belly with Flageolets” or “Mushroom and Chickpea Stew with Roasted Red Pepper Coulis.” (Disclosure: I had never before heard of a flageolet, which Finlayson describes as “the Rolls-Royce of legumes . . . the ne plus of rustic cooking.”)The recipes are explained in detail, and accompanied by helpful tips such as the way to halve a recipe, chop kale, or reduce the level of spicy heat in a particular dish. The ingredients used in each recipe are mostly easy to find. In fact, when I made the “Tagine of Chicken with Apricots” I found a jar of prepared harissa (a North African sauce made from hot peppers), which I thought I might have trouble finding, at the first local HEB grocery store in which I looked for the sauce.

My personal attraction to this cookbook is that although it’s a book specifically devoted to helping people cook delicious gluten-free dishes in a slow cooker, it’s also a book generally devoted to a wholesome manner of living. Although Ms. Finlayson leaves gluten out of every recipe, she includes items for every food family: animal as well as plant, (gluten-free) grain as well as dairy. Finlay stresses, however, that people who want to follow a healthy diet must make such purposefully, well-educated decisions as to buy “sustainably caught fish and seafood,” “pasture-raised meat and poultry.” They must also include leafy green vegetables, nuts, and berries. She makes no apology for including recipes that list butter among the ingredients, noting that butter is an excellent source of vitamin A. In one of her Natural Notes boxes, Ms. Finlayson explains that butter contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which not only helps to fight cancer, but may also help prevent heart disease. No natural food group is omitted from the range of ingredients called for by recipes in this book.

Foods that are omitted from this cookbook are those foods that can be categorized as junk and highly processed. Thus, Ms. Finlayson states in her introduction that one “won’t find recipes in this book that focus on being low-carb or low-cal.” Rather, one will “find recipes that are nutrient-dense.” She emphasizes that we get the most nutritional value from whole foods; nutrients work best when they work in union with each other, rather than when they are isolated from the foods in which they naturally occur. By including whole food groups and wholesome natural ingredients in her recipes, Ms. Finlayson encourages people to live healthy lives by cooking wholesome meals that include an abundant variety of natural, healthy, and flavorful ingredients. Her philosophical, holistic approach to food, cooking, eating, and living resonates with my personal attitude toward these same aspects of life. This cookbook is about right living and eating, as much as it is about making easy, healthy meals in a small appliance.

Elizabeth and I made three different dishes from The Healthy Slow Cooker. All three were easy to prepare, and all three turned out exactly as expected, and they tasted delicious. The recipes for these dishes are below. I ran up against that same old image issue. Distracted by various goings-on when we served dinner, I neglected to get some nice photographs of plated dishes of all three recipes.

Elizabeth has prepared the following breakfast rice recipe several times in the past month. With two active toddler boys and a brand new baby in the house, having breakfast ready to go in the mornings is a super efficient way to start the day. This recipe works well and tastes very good; my two and three year old grandsons like it and actually eat it!

Breakfast Rice (page 22)photo

*Small to medium (1 ½ to 3 ½ quart) slow cooker
*Lightly greased slow cooker stoneware
1 cup (250 mL) brown rice
4 cups (1 L) vanilla-flavored fortified rice milk
½ (125 mL) cup dried cherries or cranberries (see Tips below)
Toasted nuts, optional

1.In prepared slow cooker stoneware, combine rice, rice milk and cherries.
Place a clean tea towel folded in half (so you will have two layers) over top of stoneware to absorb moisture.Cover and cook on High for 4 hours or on Low for up to 8 hours or overnight.Stir well and serve garnished with toasted nuts, if desired.

Tips (included in the cookbook alongside this recipe on page 22): Made with this quantity of liquid, the rice will be a bit crunchy around the edges. If you prefer a softer version or will be cooking it longer than 8 hours, add ½ cup (125 mL) of water or rice milk to the recipe.

I served this Tagine of Chicken with Apricots over rice, and it made a hearty, satisfying meal. I forgot to take a picture of it after I had plated it, but I did take a picture of it after I added garnished it with cilantro and pine nuts while it was still in the slow cooker.

Tagine of Chicken with Apricots (132)photo (2)

*Medium to large (3 ½ to 5 quart) slow cooker

3 lbs (1.5 kg) skinless bone-in chicken thighs (about 12 thighs)
1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced on the vertical
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbls (15 mL) minced ginger root
½ tsp (2 mL) sea salt
½ tsp (2 mL) cracked black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 piece (2 inches / 5 cm) cinnamon stick
2 cups (30 mL) harissa sauce
1 tbls (15 mL) liquid honey
¼ cup (60 mL) finely chopped cilantro leaves
¼ cup (60 mL) toasted pine nuts

1.Arrange chicken evenly over bottom of stoneware.
2.In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes.
Add garlic, ginger, salt, peppercorns, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Stir in stock.
3.Transfer to slow cooker stoneware. Stir in apricots. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours or on high for 2 ½
Hours, until juices run clear when chicken is pierced with a fork. Remove and discard bay leaves.
4.In a small bowl, combine harissa and honey. Mix well. Add to slow cooker and stir well. Cover and cook
on high for 10 minutes to blend flavors.Garnish with cilantro and pine nuts and serve.

I served the following main-dish polenta recipe. I accompanied the polenta with a green salad. It’s was a perfectly rich, delicious meatless dish to serve on a Friday night during the Lenten season. I made one change to the recipe; I used whole milk rather than skim milk.

Creamy Polenta with Corn and Chilis (276)photo (3)

*Medium to large (3 ½ to 5 quart) slow cooker
*Greased slow cooker stoneware

3 cups (750 mL) skim milk or non-dairy alternative
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp (5mL) finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves or ½ tsp (2 mL) dried rosemary leaves, crumbled
Freshly ground pepper
¾ cup (175 mL) course stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1 cup (250 mL) corn kernals
1 cup (250 mL) shredded Monterey jack cheese
½ cup (125 mL) freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 can (4.5 oz / 127 mL) diced mild green chiles, drained

1.In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring milk, garlic, rosemary, and black pepper to taste, to a boil.Gradually add cornmeal, in a steady stream, whisking to remove all lumps. Continue whisking until
mixture begins to thicken and bubbles like lava, about 5 minutes. Add corn, Monterrey jack and Parmesan cheeses and chiles and mix well. Transfer to slow cooker stoneware.
2. Cover and cook on low for 2 hours, until mixture is firm and just beginning to brown around the edges.

The recipes and photographs below are provided courtesy of The Healthy Slow Cooker, Second Edition by Judith Finlayson © 2014 Reprinted with publisher permission. I did not prepare the recipes below. I added them to this post in order to provide a broader view of the content of the cookbook.

Chili with Black Beans and Grilled Chicken, page 124, Poultry

The addition of grilled chicken adds a flavorful and festive note to this simple chili. I like to use leftover chicken alla diavola (marinated in extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and chile peppers), which we often make on the barbecue. It adds pleasant hints of citrus and hot pepper to the mix, but if you’re opting for convenience, use a store-bought rotisserie chicken instead. You won’t be disappointed.

• Medium to large (31⁄2 to 5 quart) slow cooker ChiliBlackBeansGrillChickenHSC2E
1 tbsp oil 15 mL
2 onions, finely chopped 2
4 stalks celery, diced 4
4 cloves garlic, chopped 4
1 tbsp ground cumin (see Tip) 15 mL
2 tsp dried oregano leaves 10 mL
1 tsp sea salt 5 mL
1 tsp cracked black peppercorns 5 mL
2 tbsp tomato paste 30 mL
1 can (14 oz/ 398 mL) no-salt added 1
crushed tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock 500 mL
2 cups cooked black beans 500 mL
2 tsp pure chile powder (see Tips) 10 mL
1⁄2 tsp cayenne pepper, optional 2 mL
2 cups cubed (1 inch/2.5 cm) grilled chicken 500 mL
1 green bell or poblano pepper, seeded and diced 1
1 can (41⁄2 oz/127 mL) chopped mild green chiles 1
Shredded Cheddar or Jack cheese or sour cream
Finely chopped red or green onion

1.In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and celery and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, oregano, salt and peppercorns and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add tomato paste and tomatoes and bring to a boil.
2.Transfer to slow cooker stoneware. Add stock and beans and stir well. Cover and cook on Low for 6 hours or on High for 3 hours.

If you are halving this recipe, be sure to use a small (11⁄2 to 3 quart) slow cooker.
Use a single ground mild chile powder, such as ancho or Anaheim, or a combination thereof.
Makes 6 servings
Can Be Halved

Thai-Style Coconut Fish Curry, page 52, Seafood

This luscious dish has everything going for it: a centerpiece of succulent fish, a sauce of creamy coconut accented with zesty Asian flavors and an abundance of tasty vegetables to complement the mix. Serve this over brown basmati rice to add nutrients and fiber and complete the meal.

• Medium to large (31⁄2 to 5 quart) slow cookerThaiCoconutFishCurryHSC2E
1 tbsp olive or extra virgin coconut oil 15 mL
2 onions, finely chopped 2
4 cloves garlic, minced 4
1 tbsp minced gingerroot 15 mL
1 tsp finely grated lime zest 5 mL
1 cup vegetable stock 250 mL
1⁄2 cup fish stock 125 mL
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice 30 mL
2 tsp Thai green curry paste (see Tips) 10 mL
1 cup coconut milk 250 mL
2 tbsp gluten-free fish sauce 30 mL
2 lbs firm white fish, such as snapper, 1 kg
skin removed, cut into bite-size pieces, if desired
2 cups drained rinsed canned bamboo 500 mL
shoot strips
2 cups sweet green peas, thawed if frozen 500 mL
1 red bell pepper, diced 1
1⁄2 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves 125 mL
Toasted sesame seeds, optional

1.In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and lime zest and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add vegetable and fish stock and stir well. Transfer to slow cooker stoneware. Cover and cook on Low for 6 hours or on High for 3 hours.

2.In a bowl, combine lime juice and curry paste. Add to slow cooker stoneware and stir well. Stir in coconut milk, fish sauce, fish, bamboo shoots, green peas and red pepper. Cover and cook on High for 20 to 30 minutes, until fish flakes easily when pierced with a fork and mixture is hot. Garnish with cilantro and toasted sesame seeds, if using.

If you are halving this recipe, be sure to use a small (11⁄2 to 31⁄2 quart) slow cooker.
Check the label to make sure your curry paste does not contain unwanted additives, such as gluten.
Makes 8 servings
Can Be Halved

Poached Pears in Chocolate Sauce, page 325, Desserts

Nothing could be simpler than these pears poached in a simple sugar syrup enhanced with vanilla and a hint of cinnamon. The fruit is delicious on its own, but if, like me, you enjoy gilding the lily, add the chocolate sauce, which is very easy to make.

•Medium to large (31⁄2 to 5 quart) slow cookerPoachedPearsChocSauceHSC2E
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice 30 mL
6 large firm pears, such as Bosc or 6
Bartlett, peeled, cored and cut into
quarters on the vertical
1⁄2 cup unpasteurized liquid honey 125 mL
1 piece (2 inches/5 cm) cinnamon stick 1
1 tsp vanilla extract 5 mL

Chocolate Sauce

1⁄2 cup coconut cream 125 mL
1 tbsp coconut sugar 15 mL
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped 125 g

1.In a large bowl, combine 4 cups (1 L) water and lemon juice. After preparing the pears immediately drop them into the lemon juice solution. (This will prevent the fruit from turning brown.)
2.In slow cooker stoneware, combine 2 cups (500 mL) water, honey, cinnamon stick, vanilla and lemon zest. Stir well. Drain pears and add to stoneware. Cover and cook on Low for 6 hours or on High for 3 hours, until pears are tender. Transfer pears and liquid to a large bowl. Cover and chill thoroughly.
3.Chocolate Sauce: When you’re ready to serve, combine cream, sugar and chocolate in a saucepan or microwave-safe bowl. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until melted, or microwave on High for 11⁄2 minutes, then stir well.
4.To serve, using a slotted spoon, transfer pears to a plate and top with chocolate sauce.


If you are halving this recipe, be sure to use a small (approx. 11⁄2 to 31⁄2 quart) slow cooker.

Makes 6 to 8 servings
Can Be Halved


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