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Loving Crockpots & Popcorn (But Not Together)

Hello and Happy Halloween! Anyone have any fun plans today for the holiday? I’m hitting up Markoff’s Haunted Forest tonight with Matt and a bunch of friends – so excited. We’ve gone a bunch of years now, and it’s always great. I love a good scare! Anyone else going to a haunted house or forest tonight? What’s the best one you’ve been to?

Before I get into my regularly scheduled programming, I wanted to give a reminder that the Food Blogger Online Summit is this coming weekend! There are 10 speakers (I’m one of them!) sharing presentations on a variety of topics related to growing, organizing, branding, and monetizing your blogs. Click here for more information and to sign up, and use the code “ANNE50” (expires Friday at midnight) to get $50 off your registration fee! We have almost 100 people signed up so far so the private Facebook group for attendees should be a great place for networking and Q&A.

And now, I’d like to introduce you to my new favorite thing: our crockpot.

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We got this crockpot as a wedding gift last year and I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t use it until this week! It was buried in the back of our cupboard since last fall and I kind of forgot about it until the weekend, when we were at our friends place for a party. Megan, the hostess, had made chili and that got us talking about slow cookers, which inspired me to dust ours off and give it a shot.

I did a quick Google search for recipes (I searched for “chicken and sweet potato crockpot recipe”) and ended up finding a simple and tasty-looking recipe for Slow Cooker Chicken Marrakesh over on AllRecipes.com. It called for chicken, sweet potato, carrots, chickpeas, onions, garlic, a can of diced tomatoes, and some various spices, all of which I had on hand. Perfect!

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I followed the recipe exactly but scaled it down since I didn’t want 8 servings and we only had a little over a pound of chicken breast. I also used fresh parsley instead of dried since we still have some in our apartment garden boxes to use up!

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I prepped everything for the meal in the early afternoon on Tuesday and it was super simple. Basically just toss everything into the crockpot…

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Stir it all up…

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Set on high for 5 and a half hours, and that’s it! Once the time was up, the crockpot would automatically set itself to “warm.”

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I went about my day, did some work, then some errands, met with an AnneTheRD client, had a walking date with a dietitian colleague/mentor, went to a yoga class with my friend Chrissy, and arrived home around 8 p.m. to dinner ready to go.

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Arriving home to dinner 100% ready to eat was basically the best thing EVER. Expect many more crockpot meals to be making appearances here on the blog! I couldn’t believe how easy it was to use. “Set it and forget it” = my kind of cooking. :)

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The recipe I used was really good, too – Matt and I were both big fans. We’ll definitely be repeating this one!

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Speaking of food, you know what else I’m loving lately? Popcorn! ConAgra Foods, who is sponsoring this section of the post, shared results from an interesting study on popcorn and snacking at the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE) I attended last week out in Houston.

On nights that we have an early or light dinner and get hungry again before bed, Matt and I sometimes bust out popcorn as an evening snack while catching up on our favorite TV shows. I love the salty crunch and the fact that it’s a great volume food – meaning you can eat a lot of it for not a ton of calories.

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When working with my nutrition counseling clients, I have them use an approach called intuitive eating, in which they focus on the process of eating and really enjoying their food and being mindful, because research shows that people tend to eat more when distracted by everyday activities like watching TV. I try to have them not do anything else while eating, especially as they get used to listening to their hunger and fullness cues again (it can be hard to recognize them after years of dieting habits, or if you eat too quickly, or if you’re distracted). In a perfect world, no one would eat while distracted… but obviously that isn’t going to work 100% of the time in real life. So that said, if you are actually hungry (not just bored or eating to eat) and looking for a snack to enjoy while watching TV or reading, it’s smart to pick something that gives you some good volume bang for your buck. At FNCE, the study presented showed that the type of snack consumed can have a large impact on total calorie intake from eating while distracted. Makes sense, right? Researchers found that people ate 32% fewer calories when they snacked from a large bowl of popcorn instead of regular potato chips while watching television. This is because a one ounce serving of popcorn packs six times more volume than a similar serving of potato chips. Sweet!

Most often, Matt and I just buy the whole kernels and pop our own popcorn on the stove with a little oil, but if you’re looking for a microwave version, I’d recommend the Orville Redenbacher’s Gourmet Naturals line which has no added flavors, colors, or preservatives. And no trans fat! We all know how to find that on labels now after my post about it (Trans Fat: What It Is & How and Why to Avoid It), right? :)

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Anyway! Just some interesting nutrition tidbits for you to mull over today.

A couple questions before I sign off:

  1. What’s your favorite quick & healthy slow cooker/crockpot recipe? Please share links! I’m seriously going to use that thing every day now…
  2. Are you a popcorn fan? What’s your favorite kind?

Have a happy Halloween, everyone! :)

Comments

  1. 1

    I love my slowcooker!! This is my favorite: http://pinchofyum.com/healthy-jalapeno-sweet-potato-chicken-chili. I asked the author how to adapt this recipe to go into a crockpot (she responded in the comments section) and it is delicious. My fiancee and I love it but I only make it every 3-4 weeks because it makes so much that we end up eating it for days. That blogger also has a lot of other great crockpot recipes for meat that I will make and use throughout the week in different dishes. I also really enjoy this recipe for Ropa Vieja recipe and you can either tone down or crank up the spice: http://paleomg.com/crockpot-ropa-vieja-cuban-style-rice/.

  2. 3

    I LOVE kettle corn! I like to pop my own popcorn in a pot. It’s really easy and healthier because you can use less oil and not have random ingredients like hydrogenated oils. After it pops, I add a sprinkle of sugar and a dash of salt and shake the pot really hard.

  3. 5
    Stephanie K says:

    This is a pretty great BBQ pulled chicken recipe, and you can even sub in chicken or turkey breasts instead of thighs:
    http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/barbecue_pulled_chicken.html

    Also, this sesame honey chicken from the skinny taste blog is so good:
    http://www.skinnytaste.com/2013/02/crock-pot-sesame-honey-chicken.html

    The only bad thing about crock pots is then you have to smell food cooking for hours! ;)

    • 6

      Ha, I know – if I’d been home while it was cooking I think I would have dove headfirst into the crockpot! It smelled amazing when I got back!

  4. 7

    I have great crockpot recipes on my blog! Come on over to check them out!

  5. 9

    As a busy student, I rely on my crockpot a couple times a week for dinner! There are so many great recipes out there that I never get bored. One of my favorites is Skinnytaste’s Picadillo (http://www.skinnytaste.com/2013/01/crock-pot-picadillo.html?m=1) So good! And you can seriously make anything in a crock pot: breakfast, dessert, soups, I’ve even made lasagna! Quick and easy cooking that gives you a hot meal right when you come home, there’s nothing better!!

  6. 11

    I absolutely love my slow cooker! I use it all the time, especially during the cooler months. Here are a couple of my favorite recipes:

    http://eatgreatbegreat.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/slow-cooker-chicken-cacciatore/

    http://www.the-girl-who-ate-everything.com/2011/09/slow-cooker-chicken-caesar-sandwiches.html

  7. 13

    You can also microwave the whole kernels in a brown lunch bag. I use 3 T of kernels then fold the top of the bag over and tape it. Microwave on popcorn setting or two minutes to start.

    • 14

      Interesting, I didn’t know you could do that! No oil or anything?

    • 17

      That’s how I make my popcorn, too! It makes the perfect amount for one (generous) serving. When I’m feeling indulgent I top it with butter, grated Parmesan, and black pepper, but often I’ll just toss it with some Sriracha or olive oil and nutritional yeast. Don’t worry if you burn or underpop a batch or two at first; finding the right timing takes a little trial and error. On my microwave it takes 2 min 25 seconds on high.

  8. 18

    I loooooove popcorn! I pop it in a little coconut oil, then top with sea salt, a drizzle of butter, and a couple shakes of nutritional yeast. The yeast gives it a savory, almost cheesy, flavor and adds B vitamins. My roommate and I love to make big bowls on popcorn on Sunday nights and watch movies – a nice, relaxing way to finish the weekend!

    • 19

      Yum! I need to pick up some more nutritional yeast – I haven’t had it in awhile! The coconut oil approach sounds yummy, too – I’ll have to try that to mix it up.

  9. 20

    ConAgra sponsored?!? Anne, no…….

    • 21

      Totally agree. I get the need to do sponsored posts but ConAgra?

      • 22

        Thank you for your input! I will keep this in mind for the future.

      • 23

        I have to agree. I think as a Registered Dietician with a background in public health you would have more knowledge about this cooperation and their business. I understand the need for sponsorships, but where do you draw the line ( you but any blogger in general) ? Would you accept a sponsorship from a Fast Food restaurant?

        • 24

          Hi Stacy, thank you for your comment and for reading! I accepted the offer because I do genuinely like Orville’s gourmet naturals line, especially for readers who don’t want to make their own popcorn on the stove and/or who go to rural grocery stores that don’t offer smaller/organic brands. I also found the research that Orville presented at FNCE interesting from an intuitive eating standpoint, as it furthered the purpose of the work I do every day with my clients. ConAgra was the overall sponsor since they own Orville, which made me hesitate, but I really do like Orville’s popcorn and found the study results interesting, and that was all the sponsored content was related to, so I decided to continue with the post. Thank you for your thoughts – I will keep this in mind for the future because I really value my reader’s opinions! And, just as a funny aside – I was offered a lot of money once to go to a fast food restaurant, eat a chicken sandwich, and post a photo on Instagram. Obviously I said no. :) Anyway – I hope you’ll keep reading. Again, thanks!

    • 25

      I also agree. Sponsored posts that are done tastefully and are relevant to your blog aren’t an issue to me as a reader, but a company like ConAgra seems very contradictory and inappropriate to be partnering with.

      • 26

        Hi Margaret, thank you for your comment and for reading! I accepted the offer because I do genuinely like Orville’s gourmet naturals line, especially for readers who don’t want to make their own popcorn on the stove and/or who go to rural grocery stores that don’t offer smaller/organic brands. I also found the research that Orville presented at FNCE interesting from an intuitive eating standpoint, as it furthered the purpose of the work I do every day with my clients. ConAgra was the overall sponsor since they own Orville, which made me hesitate, but I really do like Orville’s popcorn and found the study results interesting, and that was all the sponsored content was related to, so I decided to continue with the post. Thank you for your thoughts – I will keep this in mind for the future because I really value my reader’s opinions!

        • 27

          Thanks for offering that insight to your thought process! I think that’s an interesting problem with today’s food industry, and something that I’ve struggled with myself in deciding what things to buy personally. Do I support a small, organic brand, that started as an independent company, because within that one brand they support my ideals, even though it’s been bought out by a large corporation that doesn’t, overall, support my ideals at all?

          • 28

            I totally agree. I was actually just having that conversation this morning on my run, regarding Larabar because they are owned by General Mills. I wish three big companies didn’t own basically everything…

  10. 29

    I would LOVE to see you tackle some crockpot recipes. Here’s a good one: Down Home Tomatoes and Beans, found at BruceAndMark.com: http://www.bruceandmark.com/slow-down-sundays/2013/9/15/down-home-tomatoes-and-beans.html

    Thanks, Anne, great website.

  11. 31

    I used to have an air popper but it broke, so now I use the brown lunch bag/kernels trick in the microwave. When it comes out, I throw in some jarred jalapeno slices and it’s PERFECT!

  12. 33

    I seriously need to get a crockpot with an automatic shutoff. There are so many times I would use it, but don’t because I know I won’t be home in time. I have a few crockpot recipes on my blog and this lasagna is one of my favorites.
    http://www.hungryhealthygirl.com/2013/01/15/crockpot-lasagna/
    If you haven’t already, you need to try Quinn popcorn. It’s so flavorful without any of those nasty chemicals. Look them up on twitter and I bet they’ll hook you up with a sample.

  13. 34

    I’m a huge fan of crockpot recipes! I’m going to need to try this one. Looks yummy!

  14. 35

    I am a huge popcorn fan!! I actually own an air-popper which makes it even better to nix the oil all together when I make it at home.

  15. 36

    I love crockpot soups – so easy to just throw in whatever you happen to have, and nice to have a warm, healthy, hearty meal waiting at the end of the day! I also love popcorn but popping my own sometimes seems like a lot of work, so thanks for sharing the product.

  16. 37

    That recipe sounds delicious! I also have had a crock pot in its box for about a year now but I think it’s team to put it to use. I’ve bookmarked a few recipes (and have yet to try any of them) but this ones looks simple and delicious – Mediterranean Chicken & Wild Rice (http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=1211317).

  17. 38

    Slow cookers are the best! We usually make chili in there, but it’s also great if you have a pork loin or a pork butt for bbq that you just want to cook low and slow. Makes the house smell so good too!

  18. 40

    I loooove our slow cooker .. we usually use it about once a week and use it for soup most often. Here are some of my favorites:

    Chicken Tortilla Soup: http://iowagirleats.com/recipes/?recipe_id=6008350

    Spicy African Peanut Stew: http://peasandthankyou.com/recipage/?recipe_id=6000512

    Chicken and Barley Vegetable Stew: http://iowagirleats.com/2013/02/21/crock-pot-chicken-barley-vegetable-stew/

    Chickpea, Butternut Squash, and Red Lentil Stew: http://www.eatliverun.com/crock-pot-chickpea-butternut-squash-and-red-lentil-stew/

    Enjoy!!

  19. 41

    I LOVE my slow cooker!!! It is seriously the best ever!!! I have a couple on my blog, but I really love just throwing chicken breasts in with a jar of salsa or some barbeque and calling it a day! I come home, shred it, and serve it on taco shells, lettuce wraps – really whatever!

    I also heart popcorn as a snack! I can’t be trusted around boxes of crackers so I can frequently be found with a mini bag of popcorn – either plain or as a vehicle for hummus when I’m not in a veggie mood. People think it’s weird, but I’d rather have a whole bag of popcorn than 16 lousy wheat thins!! Have a Happy Halloween, Anne!

  20. 42

    If you try making popcorn in a lunch bag be very attentive and do not walk away from the microwave. Watch it carefully. It depends on your microwave and it’s wattage but those bags can catch on fire. Good luck! Your slow cooker dinner looks delicious. HAPPY HALLOWEEN

  21. 44

    I’ve made this recipe twice now (subbing red wine for the beer the first time and using a porter the second time) :

    http://www.katheats.com/smoky-beef-stew

    It’s great cold weather food and makes a bunch.

  22. 45

    This post was made for me! If I had to pick a favorite food, it would ALWAYS been popcorn! I love making it on the stove with some coconut oil & spritzing it with olive oil once popped. Then I can add cinnamon/nutmeg/salt/jalapeno powder/garlic powder or whatever I want! Yum.

  23. 46

    I’m a huge fan of our crock pot, especially for making chili, which is perfect at this time of year! I don’t have an online recipe, but I focus on putting lots of veggies, beans, and ground beef into my chili so its very packed with protein and nutrients. Yum!

  24. 47

    I love popcorn!!!! I eat so much of it, but sometimes not the healthy kind. White cheddar popcorn is my guilty pleasure. :)

  25. 48
    Jonna Green says:

    One of my favorite slow cooker recipes is a spinoff of one that Jenna has on Eat Live Run. I take chicken breasts and season them with taco seasoning (whatever kind you like) and then put in crockpot, add Costco brand organic salsa (probably half of a 32 oz jar) and cook on low about 4 hours. Chicken just shreds at that point and I serve it over a salad with tortillas and all of the fixings.

    I eat a huge bowl of popcorn everynight! I either pop in a brown paper bag or my glass Catamount corn popper. Neither require oil. After it’s popped I spray with Spectrum Coconut Oil Spray and season with spices (sometimes salty, sometimes sweet)! So good and healthy!!!

  26. 49

    I use my slow cooker often. My favorite use is to cook a bunch of boneless, skinless chicken breast (I cut them into strips) and throw a few herbs, dash of salt and pepper, on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3 depending on my timing. Now I have a lot of chicken prepped for the week. Some gets shredded (with some help from the KitchenAid mixer and paddle attachment) while the rest is diced and used in various dishes throughout the week.

    I also use it to make my own chicken stock and vegetable broth. Throw everything in and leave it on overnight or all day! On days when I’m not making plain chicken for other recipes I throw chicken breasts and salsa in. Cook and then shred for tacos or enchiladas. Or serve over saffron rice and spinach. The possibilities are truly endless with a slow cooker! I actually use it more during summer to keep from standing over a stove/oven in the heat. And when in doubt, throw a bunch of veggies, olive oil and herbs in. Voila…”roasted” veggies!

    • 50

      I’ve always wondered about making chicken stock in the crock pot (temperature safety!)… what chicken parts & what settings/time do you use?

  27. 51

    I love popcorn of all kinds. When I eat it at home I add some seasoning and nutritional yeast, which makes it the tastiest snack ever!

  28. 52

    I need to try the crockpot recipe with just the veggies! YUM!

  29. 53

    If you are looking for something meat-free, I am fan of this vegetarian chili and my husband likes it to! I add a fair amount more chili powder and just go by taste for some of the other spices. I also have done it with 2 cans of black beans, 1 can of kidney beans instead of the three different kinds of beans. Just depended on what I had on hand!

    http://greenlitebites.com/2009/01/14/easy-slow-cooker-vegetarian-chili/

  30. 54

    Anne, you need to invest in an air popcorn popper! My boyfriend and I LOVE popcorn and eat it often. The best is air popped. No oil needed and almost every kernel pops, so no waste!

  31. 55

    I’m surprised your sponsored by Conagra, that seems to contrast quite a bit with you style. Can you elaborate on why you accepted their sponsorship?

    • 56

      Hi Jersey! I accepted the offer because I do genuinely like Orville’s gourmet naturals line, especially for readers who don’t want to make their own popcorn on the stove and/or who go to rural grocery stores that don’t offer smaller/organic brands. I also found the research that Orville presented at FNCE interesting from an intuitive eating standpoint, as it furthered the purpose of the work I do every day with my clients. ConAgra was the overall sponsor since they own Orville, which made me hesitate, but I really do like Orville’s popcorn and found the study results interesting, and that was all the sponsored content was related to, so I decided to continue with the post. Thank you for reading!

  32. 57

    That’s it, I just bought the slow cooker. Thought about it on and off for a long time, but this clinched the deal. There are so many of my favourite foods, such as baked beans, stuffed peppers, stuffed cabbage rolls, bean stew etc which I never make because I can’t be bothered to supervise it for hours. Now I’ll be able to, and have loads to freeze as leftovers, which is always a really good thing. Thanks for the recommendation Anne :)

  33. 59

    The crockpot really is the greatest kitchen invention. I loveeeee coming home to dinner ready adn waiting :)

  34. 60

    Ohhhh that looks like an AMAZING slow cooker meal!! My favorite is taco soup or salsa chicken. Mexican lover right here! xoxox

  35. 61
    Roadrunner says:

    Agree on you getting an air popper, Anne. It is the ticket! And, chili for the crockpot!

  36. 62

    I made a Mariana Pork and Vegetables from the SparkPeople cookbook, and it was a big hit. I modified it from the chicken version of the recipe, because I don’t eat chicken. I just bought my slow cooker last week.

    I bought some popcorn to try the microwave method, which requires a microwave safe bowl and plate.

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