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After a busy day, the last thing you want to do is worry about cooking dinner. The good news? Using a slow cooker is a convenient way to prepare a warm and delicious (and healthful!) meal for you and your family. It’s also a great way to prepare your own meats for protein-rich snacks. Try these simple slow cooker recipes today:

stewSlow Cooker Beef Stew
8 servings
2 pounds boneless beef sirloin, cubed
One 14-oz. can stewed tomatoes
One 14-oz. can spicy fire-roasted tomatoes
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp. minced garlic
2 bay leaves
2 cups beef stock
1 pound carrots, sliced
8 ounces frozen or fresh green beans

Directions: Place beef in slow cooker. Cover with tomatoes, onion, garlic, bay leaves, and stock. Cover and cook on low heat for 6 hours. Add carrots and green beans; cover and cook for 2 additional hours on low heat. Remove bay leaves before serving.

Zesty Lemon Herb Turkey Breast
8 Servings
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
2 tbsp. minced fresh rosemary
1 tsp. crumbled dried sage
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
½ cup water
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 turkey tenderloin (approx. 2 lbs.)

Directions: To prepare marinade, mix all ingredients except turkey. Place turkey in bowl and coat well with marinade; refrigerate 4 to 6 hours or overnight. Place turkey and marinade in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low heat for 8 hours, or until tender. Serve with vegetables or salad, or thinly slice to eat as homemade deli meat.

Slow Cooker Chicken Parmigiana
8 Servings
1 tbsp. olive oil
½ cup gluten-free bread crumbs
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ tsp. dried oregano
¼ tsp. dried basil
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp. salt
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
1 large egg
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
3 ounces mozzarella cheese, sliced or grated
One 24-ounce jar marinara sauce (no added sugar)

Directions: Coat bottom of slow cooker with olive oil. Mix bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and spices in a medium bowl. In another bowl, beat egg. Dip each chicken breast in egg then spice mixture, coating both sides evenly. Place breasts in slow cooker. Cover chicken with mozzarella cheese; top with marinara sauce and cover. Cook on low heat for 6 to 7 hours (or on high heat for 3 to 4 hours). Serve with salad.

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wine-in-glassThe occasional glass of pinot is no miracle weight loss cure, but scientists at Oregon State University are saying red wine may help boost your metabolism and stimulate fat burning—both of which are important when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off.

It has to do with a chemical called ellagic acid, which occurs naturally in red grapes (as well as other fruits such as raspberries and pomegranates) and is one of four chemicals analyzed by researchers in a recent study. As it turns out, ellagic acid was the star of the show, showing off its ability to not only slow the growth of fat cells in the liver but also to keep new ones from forming.

The 10-week study involved two groups of mice, one of which was fed a high-fat diet while the other consumed a normal healthy diet. Some mice from each group also received a serving of grape extract, equal to about a half cup of the fresh fruit. The most interesting results were seen in the high-fat group.

While all of the high-fat mice developed fatty liver and diabetic symptoms similar to those in overweight people, those who received the grape extract showed less fat accumulation in the liver and lower blood sugar levels overall. In those mice, the ellagic acid worked to improve liver cell metabolism and slow the growth of fat cells—possibly by triggering the release of certain proteins that metabolize fat and sugar.

The takeaway, say study authors, is that we may one day see a natural supplement made from red grapes that could help promote fat burning and support healthy liver function in people who are overweight. Because the high-fat-plus-supplement mice saw blood sugar levels improved almost enough to match those of the mice in the healthy diet group, researchers believe such a supplement may help round out a healthy weight loss program.

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