Review | The Low-GI Slow Cooker

9781612431802.01

***This is a sponsored post. I received a copy of The Low-GI Slow Cooker for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed are my own and no further compensation has been received. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…***

When I got married the first time, I purposely did not register for a slow-cooker as I patently did not want one in my house. So of course we received three, all from concerned relatives thinking we’d merely forgotten to request one.

We gave two of them away but kept the one and over the years I learned to appreciate it for it’s convenience. And I still have that same Crock-Pot that I received in 1995 and it still works wonderfully. Better, for some things, than Todd’s newer, slightly larger model, in fact. (A few years ago they adjusted the internal temperature settings, so his cooker’s ‘Low’ cooks faster and at a higher temperature at mine.) And they keep coming out with  newer, shinier, multi-featured models all the time, it seems.

Which is why, among other reasons, I was happy to take a look at The Low-GI Slow Cooker cookbook by Dr. Mariza Snyder, Dr. Lauren Clum, and Anna V. Zulaica.

Using a slow cooker almost exclusively to prepare everything from breakfasts to desserts, the authors have concentrated their efforts on suggesting recipes and ingredient combinations that have either a minimal or moderate impact on blood sugar (and therefore insulin) levels. This is extremely useful for those who are diabetic or hypoglycemic, but can also be useful for people looking to curb snacking impulses as preventing the rapid rise and subsequent crash of one’s blood sugar helps us feel full and satisfied longer. The authors also contend that using a slow cooker, aside from the convenience factor, retains more of the vitamins and minerals in the fruit and vegetable-focused Low-GI meals they are promoting.

So what is the Glycemic Index? It’s a rating of how much a given food raises an individual’s blood sugar. Generally speaking, the lower the GI number of a food the better, but it’s not always that simple. While the GI works as a good guide, our meals are seldom made up of a single ingredient, which is where the Glycemic Load (GL) comes in.

A while back there was a trend of manufactures touting “Net Carbs” on the front of their packaging. (They may still do it, I just buy so few of those sorts of products these days that I just don’t know.) Net carbs is figured out by subtracting the dietary fiber from the overall number of carbohyrates (in grams), because fiber (while technically a carb) does not generally affect blood sugar. Net carbs are also useful in figuring out the GL of a food using this formula:

GL = (GI x Net Carbs)/100

Betcha didn’t think we’d be doing math today, right?

If the GL is under 10, it counts as a low-GI food, 11-19 will have a moderate impact on your blood sugar, and a GL of 20 or higher means it’s more likely to spike your blood sugar. Because of the Glycemic Load, it’s possible to have a meal that contains high-GI foods but has an overall low GL, because of the way the foods combine and interact. Basically, it’s all about making better choices. They also focus on “real” food instead of highly-processed convenience items, and I can definitely get behind that!

One thing I did notice about many of the recipes is that they do not take 8 hours in the slow cooker. So if you’re used to being able to set up the cooker in the morning and then go off to work, you’ll either want to have a programmable slow cooker that can switch to a warming mode after cooking has finished or choose your recipes more carefully. I know, for me, coming home at lunch to turn on the Crock-Pot takes away a lot of the convenience, so make sure you read the full recipe before planning your meals.

Sausage Frittata
Sausage Frittata

Speaking of quick slow-cooker recipes, this Sausage Frittata (p 50) takes just 2.5-3 hours at Low, and only 45 minutes to an hour on High, so it make a great brunch dish. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s incredibly tasty! The texture of the cooked eggs is a little different than what you’d get in a stove-top frittata, but it’s not unpleasant–just different.

Chicken Sausage and Kale Soup
Chicken Sausage and Kale Soup

Soups are, of course, a slow-cooker’s best friend, so it’s no surprise that there are plenty of tasty soup recipes to be had. This Chicken Sausage and Kale Soup (p 62) reminded me of Italian Wedding soup that is just so wonderful in any iteration and we were not disappointed at all. The author called for half the soup to be pureed but we skipped that step and could see how the soup suffered at all.

Chicken Tagine with Artichokes and Peas
Chicken Tagine with Artichokes and Peas

From the Fish and Poultry chapter, this Chicken Tagine with Artichokes and Peas (p 108) uses a slow cooker in place of the traditional Indian cooking vessel with pretty good results. While you should always have at least 1/4 cup of liquid in your slow-cooker to prevent the food from scorching, wet ingredients like the called-for 2 cups of fresh tomatoes can contribute to that amount. I erred on the side of caution and added a little bit of water just in case.

Tender Pork Loin with Nectarines
Tender Pork Loin and Nectarines

One of the first dishes we tried as the Tender Pork Loin and Nectarines (p 116). Of course, since nectarines aren’t Low-FODMAP I skipped most of the fruit but the pork was indeed tender and flavorful.

Pulled Pork Tacos with Tangly Slaw
Pulled Pork Tacos with Tangy Coleslaw

Meanwhile, I’d been craving pulled-pork for a while so had to give Pulled Pork Tacos with Tangy Coleslaw (p 118) a try. The slaw is super simple and best made ahead so it has time for the flavors to meld while the slow-cooker does a wonderful, nearly fail-proof job of cooking the pork shoulder to fork-tender goodness.

Berry Cobbler
Berry Cobbler

Supposedly you can even bake cakes in slow cookers though I’ve never tried it. The trick seems to be placing a piece of plastic wrap over the cooker bowl to catch the condensation from lid, and sometimes the use of a rack is needed. Neither were an issue for the Berry Cobbler (p 180) we tried one evening. Using uncooked quinoa as part of the crumble topping did concern me (that stuff is pretty hard until cooked) but wasn’t a problem in the end–the quinoa was still pretty sturdy, but it wasn’t unpleasant. Granted, I have a feeling that the ice cream we added to make it a la mode was not truly in keeping with the spirit of the book,  but life’s too short to be good all the time, right?

The back of the book includes a list of the GI for the foods used in the recipes which is great because you can see how your usual food choices stand up to their counterparts. Remember, though, that a food is the sum of it’s parts, though, and getting a variety of minimally-processed foods is always a good thing.

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