3 Healthy Slow Cooker Recipes For Busy Weeknights
Likely by the time you read this it will be September. September! How is that even possible, right?! School schedules are in full swing for most, and if you haven't yet, you'll be dusting off your slow cooker promptly after you see the healthy slow cooker recipes in this post. I'll admit over the recent years that I fell out of love with this classic kitchen appliance. As a family, we began eating less meat and went dairy free. At the time most slow cooker recipes were geared toward animal protein recipes. However, with the ever growing popularity of plant-based diets, I am noticing more and more super healthy slower cooker recipes.
So put your feet up and take five with me. Won't you? With fast and easy weeknight meals ranging from comforting to exotic, and all kid approved, there is something for every taste.
1. Vegan Butter Chickpeas
Whether you typically like curry or not I encourage you to give this a try! We make it with a sweet curry spice recipe which is not spicy at all, and the kids not only go for it, but they love it. As far as nutrients are concerned, it's packed full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory thanks to the turmeric, and loaded with fiber and protein. And did I mention flavor? This comforting dish covers all the points.
6 oz *firm tofu (1/2 package)
*Tip: do yourself a major solid and spring for the pre-drained option like this.
1 tablespoon Coconut Oil
1 medium size onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 can coconut milk (we prefer full fat)
1 cup tomato puree
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon *sweet curry powder *My girls don't tolerate any heat from a spice, so this non-spicy curry spice recipe is a pantry staple for us.
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 15 oz *cans garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained *Tip: We make a large batch of dried chickpeas in the pressure cooker and store in the refrigerator to use throughout the week when we make this recipe. If using fresh beans simply measure 22 oz of cooked beans.
1/8 cup cilantro, finely chopped
If you purchased the pre-drained tofu - gimme five! You just saved yourself a solid 20 minutes. If you did not continue with THESE instructions: Remove the tofu from the package and rinse. Wrap tofu in a paper towel and place on a cutting board. Placing something heavy on top of the tofu to allow the water to drain out, about 15 minutes.
In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onion. Cook for about 5 minutes or until soft and translucent
Add in the garlic and stir until fragrant
Whisk in the coconut milk, tomato puree, garam masala, curry powder, chili powder, ground ginger and a pinch salt/pepper.
Cook until slightly thick, about 5 minutes.
While the sauce is cooking, cube tofu into small squares
Place the tofu and garbanzo beans in the base of slow cooker. Pour the sauce on top. Cook on low for 5 hours until thick. You can cook the sauce longer if needed.
Before serving, stir in the cilantro.
Serve with rice (we prefer brown) a vegetable such as green beans and of course Naan.
2. Ropa Vieja
Fun Fact: Ropa Vieja directly translates to "old clothes." Pretty funny, huh?! As you can imagine my face was all, "huh?" when my husband explained it to me. The reason? Old clothes are torn and tattered, and the meat in this dish becomes pull-apart tender resembling, yep you guessed it, old tattered clothing. Now that we have taken care of your cultural lesson for the day we will get to the recipe! I had no part in this and made followed the recipe exactly as is. I will caution you that the prep time is about double that is listed (longer if you make beans to go with it) but it is well worth it.
We served ours over brown rice along with fresh black beans. Admittedly this dish had me understanding why folks opt for the Instant Pot. I had my slow cooker, pressure cooker, AND rice cooker going. *face palm*. Even still this was a pretty quick meal and could be faster when adapted to the Instant Pot if that's your jam. Without further adieu, the recipe from Little Spice Jar Blog is below.
FOR SEARING THE MEAT:
6 whole cloves garlic
*2-2 1/2 lbs. beef chuck roast or flank steak
*When shopping for meat always spring for the highest quality you an afford. Preferably pastured and humanely raised. Not only is it better to support sustainable farming but the nutrient composition of pastured meat is better for us (and our environment)
1 tablespoon oil
FOR THE ROPA VIEJA:
2 (8 ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 (4 ounces) can chopped green chilies
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons EACH dried oregano AND salt
1 tablespoon EACH ground cumin AND white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup chopped cilantro + more for serving
white rice and cuban-style black beans
SEARING THE MEAT: Take the beef chuck roast and using a small paring knife, make 3 small ‘x’ marks into the meat. Take 3 cloves of garlic and insert them into the 3 ‘x’ marks so that the clove is completely inserted into the thickness of roast. Season both sides of the meat with a pinch of salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet. Add the beef in one piece and fry on each side for 5 minutes, turning only when the exterior is browned. This will splatter a bit but don’t cover the pan as the meat will end up steaming rather than searing.
FOR THE ROPA VIEJA: Chop the remaining 3 cloves of garlic into thin slices and add to the slow cooker along with all the remaining ropa vieja ingredients. I used a 6-quart slow cooker, but a 3-quart slow cooker will work too. Cover and let cook on the low setting for 7-8 hours. When the beef falls apart quickly when pulled with two forks, it’s done. Shred the meat with the forks and stir it. Taste for seasonings, season with additional salt and pepper as desired.
TO SERVE: Serve over a bed of rice with Cuban-style black beans on the side topped with additional cilantro and a few lime wedges. You can also use the beef for salads, lettuce wraps, tacos, burritos, breakfast quesadillas! Even more, this versatile dish is freezer friendly!
3. Barley Risotto
When most people are in college, they survive off ramen or cup o soup. Me? Ok, outside of a stint where I survived off popcorn, wine and trail mix, I ate pretty well. I had the pleasure at one point of having a friend/roommate who made the best risotto. Risotto so good that I use it as the benchmark, still to this day. Now whenever I see risotto recipes, I drool a little at the mouth and continue to chase that first risotto high. Let me preface this recipe by saying, this is not that. However, it's pretty darn good, fast, filling, and nutrient dense. So I'll take it any day of the week. As will my kids or anyone else in the family.
Adapted from Fox Loves Lemons Blog
1-1/2 tablespoons avocado oil
3 carrots, chopped (I like to leave the peels for extra fiber)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1/2 small yellow onion, minced
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1-1/4 cups pearl barley, rinsed
1 *can (15.5 ounces) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
*Remember you can always make a big batch of fresh beans and use it for both the meals calling for chickpeas in this post. Work smarter not harder.
2-1/2 cups less-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1-1/4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1-1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup Nutritional Yeast for a cheesey finishing touch
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Heat oil in large pan over medium-high heat. Add carrots, cauliflower, and onion. Cook until vegetables being to soften, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic at the end and cook until fragrant.
Stir in thyme and barley; cook 2 minutes, stirring often.
Transfer mixture to slow cooker. Stir in chickpeas, stock, water, salt, and pepper. Cook on high 2 to 2-1/2 hours or until barley is tender and most liquid is absorbed.
Remove and toss thyme sprigs; stir in lemon juice. Serve in bowls topped with nutritional yeast and parsley.
Serve alongside a crusty bread!
Now pin these so you can make them STAT. The best part? With some strategic meal planning, these easy recipes will help knock out the better part of a week's worth of healthy meals. We like to make them in the order above. The reason being, to spread out our meatless days and also utilize one big batch of chickpeas (my kiddos don't like the texture of canned beans. Seriously!). Another meal prep hack for busy moms is to double these meals. They are simple to double and freezer friendly to make super crazy weeks easy peasy.