Easy Slow-Cooker Dinners that Make Healthy Weekday Eating Easier

Colder days make you long to just Slow. Things. Down.

But of course, that’s rarely ever an option in the mad rush of daily life.

Your slow-cooker is the answer to this temporal anomaly. Slow-cooking allows you to gently simmer foods in their own natural juices, minimizing the need to add extra oils while amping up their flavors and soft-as-butter tenderness.

At the same time, for those days when your schedule is jam-packed and you know it’ll be a struggle to get a healthy nourishing dinner on the table, you can defy time and space (and the greasy corner take-out restaurant) by starting an easy-to-prep recipe in your crock pot before you leave in the morning. Then savor the comforting smells permeating your home as you walk in after a long hard day, happily arriving to a hot savoury meal just waiting to be enjoyed and to warm up your evening.

Spicy Jerk Chicken with Corn, Black Beans & Salsa

Jerk Spice Rub:

1 Tbsp dried parsley

1 Tbsp dried onion flakes

2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp dried thyme

2 tsp brown sugar

1 tsp (or to taste) cayenne pepper

1 tsp salt

1 tsp crushed red chili flakes

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp ground allspice

¼ tsp ground star anise

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp black pepper

4 chicken thighs, skinless

15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained

15 oz. can corn, rinsed and drained

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 sprigs fresh thyme

¼ cup fresh cilantro, uncut

½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1 lime, cut in half (for squeezing)

1 tomatoes, chopped

½ purple onion, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, deseeded and finely chopped

In a small bowl, make the spice rub by combining all of the jerk spices.

Add the chopped yellow onion, drained beans and corn to the bottom of the slow cooker.

If you have time, heat some oil in a skillet and brown both sides of the chicken thighs. If you don’t have time, skip this step.

Coat the chicken thighs in the spice rub and place them in the slow cooker on top of the beans and corn. Top with ¼ cup uncut cilantro and 2 sprigs of thyme, and cook on HIGH for 2.5 – 3 hours, or on LOW for 5 to 6 hours.

Right before dinner time, place the chopped up tomato, purple onion, jalapeno and ¼ cup fresh cilantro in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper, squeeze half a lime over top and toss everything together well.

Divide the chicken thighs, the bean corn mix and fresh salsa among 4 serving plates. Use the remaining half lime to squeeze juice over the chicken and bean corn mix. Garnish with remaining ¼ cup fresh cilantro.

Nutrition Facts per serving: 267 calories/12g fat (0g saturated fat)/13g total carbs (3g dietary fiber)/32g protein

Turkey Chili

2 lbs ground lean turkey

1 large onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed

1 zucchini, chopped

15 oz. can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup frozen corn

1 jalapeno pepper, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 yellow pepper, chopped

16 oz. jar salsa

1 can diced tomatoes

Seasoning Mix:

1 Tbsp chili powder

1 ½ tsp ground cumin

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

½ tsp smoked paprika

¼ tsp garlic powder

¼ tsp onion powder

¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

¼ tsp dried oregano

In a small bowl, combine the spice mix.

In a skillet, heat some oil and sauté the onion and celery for about five minutes. Add in the garlic, sauté for another minute, and then add in the ground turkey. Cook the turkey until browned, about another 5 minutes.

Transfer the turkey mix into the slow cooker. Top with the sweet potato, beans, zucchini, corn and peppers. Pour in the spice mix, then add in the tomato paste and salsa. Cook on HIGH for 4 to 5 hours, or on LOW for 6 to 8 hours.

Nutrition Facts per serving: 269 calories/8g total fat (2g saturated fat)/26g total carbs (5g dietary fiber)/26g protein

Hearty Beef, Barley, Mushroom & Kale Soup

1 lb boneless stew beef or beef chuck, cut into 1 inch cubes

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 yellow onion, diced

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 cup sliced mushrooms

2 cups kale, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup pearled barley

2 cups beef broth

2 cups vegetable broth

2 cups water

½ tsp dried thyme

½ Tbsp fresh thyme, chopped

Salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Heat some oil in a skillet. Sprinkle beef with some salt and pepper and brown on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Then transfer the meat to the slow cooker.

Keep the skillet hot, and sauté the onion, carrot, celery and mushrooms in the left-over pan drippings. Continue sautéing until the mushrooms release their juices and the vegetables become slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and dried thyme for an additional 30 seconds, and then add the vegetables to the slow cooker.

Pour in the barley, the beef broth, the vegetable broth, the water, some salt and pepper into the slow cooker, and then cook on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours, or on LOW for 7 to 8 hours.

Five minutes before serving, stir in the chopped kale and chopped fresh thyme, and adjust the salt and pepper if necessary. Ladle into bowls and serve.

Nutrition Facts per serving: 189 calories/8g total fat (3g saturated fat)/6g total carbs (1g dietary fiber)/16g protein

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