by Lauren Panoff
One of the best things about cold weather is using a slow cooker for “set it and forget it” ease that offers warm and comforting food to look forward to at the end of the day. While there are many recipes available, this simple five-step process shows how easy it is to create unique, delicious and nutritious slow cooker soups and stews that won’t break the bank.
Step 1: Choose vegetables.
Start with what’s on hand. Soups and stews are a fantastic way to use up any leftover vegetables. Garlic, onions, carrots and potatoes work well in a lot of different recipes. Other produce such as cabbage, winter squash, zucchini, rutabaga, beets and collard greens can be used to provide unique flavorings. Save money by choosing produce that’s in season. Simply chop and throw these into the pot.
Step 2: Choose protein.
There are a lot of proteins, animal- or plant-based, that can bulk up the dish nicely. Beans come in many varieties that work well with certain recipes (e.g. kidney or black beans for spicier stews, chickpeas for lighter pasta soups or white beans for creamier soups). Cubed tofu or tempeh take on the flavor of most any seasoning—simply add toward the end of the cooking process so they don’t fall apart. Chicken, pork or beef must be added at the beginning so that they have time to cook thoroughly.
Step 3: Choose base.
When it comes to bases, thick-and-creamy or thin-and-light is a matter of preference. Start with water, a broth or a mixture of the two for a thin base. Canned tomatoes are a great addition to hearty stews. Make a thicker base by adding cream, non-dairy milk or even a plant-based “cream” made by blending cashews with water.
Step 4: Choose seasonings.
For stews, savory seasonings such as oregano, basil, paprika and chili powder work well. Choose a mixture of Italian seasonings for a lighter bean soup, or taco seasoning and crushed red pepper for a spicy soup. When making an Indian soup like lentil dahl, try adding a dash of flavorful spices such as cumin, coriander or turmeric.
Step 5: Mix, heat… and enjoy!
Once everything is added to the slow cooker, give the ingredients a gentle stir. Cover with the lid, turn on low heat (or high heat if cooking for only a few hours) and let the magic happen.
For more recipes and ideas for making delicious one-pot stews, soups and other healthy one-dish wonders, visit the office of a local ShopRite dietitian. Office locations are conveniently listed at ShopRite.com. February 2019