As we slowly ease out of the hecticness of summer, slower living and being more present lets us savor these last few warm days and live in the moment. And that helps bring about an array of health benefits, including less stress, healthier blood pressure, and a more resilient immune system.
But mealtimes are often the most stressful and busy parts of our days…
Fuel your body with immune-boosting ingredients while also slowing down with this collection of delightfully easy slow cooker meals. You’ll fill your home with delightful scents, satisfy the appetites of even the pickiest of eaters, and spend very little time in the kitchen. It’s slower living at its finest!
1. BREAKFAST: Slow Cooker Yogurt
A healthy gut is strongly associated with a healthier immune system, notes researchers. And one of the best ways to power-up your gut and strengthen your immunity is by adding more probiotic-rich foods to your diet.
Start your day with yogurt. Yogurt is rich in protein and essential minerals like calcium, while also teeming with millions of healthy bacteria that support a well-balanced microbiome. But skip the store-bought stuff. This homemade recipe is a breeze to make, and you can rest assured that you’re giving your body and your family only the purest, most delicious probiotics possible.
1 gallon of whole milk
1 cup plain, unsweetened yogurt at room temperature (ensure the yogurt has live cultures in it)
Pour a gallon of milk into your slow cooker. Set the heat to high and close the lid. Let it cook for three hours or until the temperature on your kitchen thermometer gives a temperature reading of 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
Turn off the slow cooker and let the hot milk cool down to 110 degrees Fahrenheit with the slow cooker’s lid still on. This may take another three to four hours.
Check the temperature again, and once it hits 110 degrees, scoop out a cup or two of the warm milk into a bowl. Add the plain yogurt to the bowl and whisk it thoroughly. Pour the yogurt-and-milk mixture back into the crockpot and give it a good mix (use horizontal or vertical strokes and not circular motions).
Close the slow cooker, wrap it in a towel and let it sit on your counter overnight for at least 12 hours.
The next day, strain the yogurt. Put a colander over a very large bowl and line the colander with cheesecloth. Pour all of the slow cooker’s contents into the colander and let it strain for three to four hours. What’s left in the cheesecloth is your yogurt! (The liquid is also beneficial and could be drank or you could skip the straining step unless you need your yogurt very thick). Keep it chilled in your fridge and enjoy this fermented food whenever you have a yogurt craving.
2. LUNCH: Slow-Cooker Mexican Stew
You won’t believe how amazing your home will smell as the aromas from this authentic Mexican stew waft through your kitchen. Birria (pronounced “beer-ya”) is quick to make in a slow cooker, and all of the herbs and spices aren’t just flavorful. They’re also a great source of immune-boosting antioxidants in this healthy comfort meal. Plus, using a slow cooker makes prepping this dish effortless and saves a lot of time!
3 lbs of your favorite stew meat (beef, lamb or goat)
1 tbsp sea salt
1 tbsp black pepper
2 cups chicken or beef broth
4 dried whole chile peppers
2 tbsp oil
1 yellow onion, diced
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tbsp honey
1 cinnamon stick
6 whole cloves (or see notes)
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
Rub the stewing meat with salt and pepper and set it aside to marinate. You can use any type of stewing meat that’s very firm, such as beef or lamb (chicken can work, but will fall apart a bit too much during the slow cooking process).
In a frying pan, toast the dried chiles for a few minutes until fragrant.
While the chiles are roasting in the pan, heat the broth in a pot until boiling. Add the chiles when done, turn off the heat, and let the chiles soak in the broth for 20-30 minutes.
In a frying pan, toast the spices (listed above under “toasted spices”) for 60 seconds, then set aside.
In another frying pan, saute the onion and garlic until translucent, then add the tomatoes, vinegar, oregano, allspice, bay leaves, toasted cinnamon and everything else listed above under “herbs.” Bring to a simmer and simmer for two minutes.
Pour the broth (with the chilies still in it) into a blender, along with the tomato mixture and the rest of the toasted spices. Blend until smooth.
Pour this sauce into your slow cooker, then add the meat. Cook for eight hours, then enjoy!
3. DINNER: Simple Vegan Chili
Because the chili is prepped in a slow cooker, most of the heavy lifting in the cooking process is completely hands-off, and the resulting chili is robust in flavor with surprising layers of subtle changes in every spoonful.
One thing you’ll immediately notice is the use of dark cocoa powder. An unconventional ingredient, the cocoa brings this chili to life and also adds extremely potent plant-based polyphenols that may help with everything from inflammation to improved cardiovascular health. All the other ingredients also impart immune-boosting, health-enhancing benefits, from fiber that enhances your gut health, to tomatoes that are rich in antioxidants like lycopene.
1 Tbsp olive oil (or your favorite plant oil)
2 lbs plant-based ground meat substitute
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 14.5-ounce cans of diced tomatoes
3 8-ounce cans of tomato sauce
1/2 cup veggie, chicken or beef broth
2 tbsp chili powder (less or more depending on your spice tolerance)
2 1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp smoked paprika
3 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander
Salt and pepper to taste
2 15-ounce cans of dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce can of light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Saute the onion in a frying pan with oil for a couple of minutes, then add the garlic and saute for another few seconds until fragrant. Add to your slow cooker.
In the same skillet, saute the beef or plant-based ground “beef” until browned and cooked through. Add to your slow cooker.
Pour the remaining ingredients (except for the canned beans) into the slow cooker, stir to mix thoroughly, then cook with the lid on for five to six hours on your slow cooker’s lower heat setting.
When it is done, remove the cooker and add the canned beans. Once warmed through, enjoy!
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