In a million hurries? All the more reason to slow-cook these delicious, nourishing recipes

Once upon a time, a very sweet couple gave my hubby and I a crock-pot as a wedding gift. At the time, I had no idea what a valuable resource this under-appreciated kitchen gadget would become for us. And nearly 14 years later, we’re still slow cooking with the same old Rival Crock Pot.

Purchasing a slow cooker (or “crock-pot”) is one of the smartest investments you can make. And not just because they are super affordable (you can get great ones for under $40). Even more importantly, they can actually save you from the less-than-healthy dinners that often cap off a busy, exhausting day in which you’ve (circle all that apply): worked 8+ hours; managed to work out; got the kids to school / practice / game / daycare / play date / doctor’s appointment; watched the kids all day; watched someone ELSE’s kids all day; ran errands; volunteered; insert other feat accomplished here___________. No wonder you don’t feel like cooking dinner!

But the beauty of the slow cooker is that it can do MOST of the work for you, so that your end-of-day-brain doesn’t just default to convenient fast food or take out. All it takes is a little forethought for the grocery list, and minimal actual prep time. With as little as 5 minutes (max of 15 to 20 minutes for the recipes below) in the morning, you can have a dang tasty, nutrient-rich, comforting, home-cooked meal just WAITING for you at the end of your day.

Here are 3 of my favorite go-to’s for busy days. All you’ve got to remember is to press “start” before you walk out the door.

Slow Cooker Turkey Quinoa Chili with Sweet Potatoes and Black Beans
(very slightly modified from Well Plated link above)


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound organic ground turkey
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 3 small or 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (about 1 pound)
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1, 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1, 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 – 4 cups organic chicken stock
  • For serving: cilantro, avocado, shredded cheese, tortilla chips, and sour cream or plain Greek yogurt


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium high.
  2. Add turkey, onion, salt, garlic powder, and black pepper. Cook and stir, breaking up the turkey as you go, until the turkey is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the chili powder, chipotle chili powder, and cumin, then transfer to the bottom a large slow cooker.
  4. To the slow cooker, add the chopped sweet potatoes, quinoa,  2 to 4 cups chicken stock (depending on thickness preference), crushed tomatoes, and black beans. Cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or low for 5-6 hours, until the potatoes are tender. Stir in additional chicken stock if the chili is thicker than you would like (I used about 3 cups total). Serve warm with desired toppings.


Slow-Cooked Chicken Curry (ridiculously easy, a family favorite in our house–even better the next day)


1 medium onion, chopped
1 1/2 pounds organic chicken thighs (I use skinless, boneless for this particular recipe)
4 large carrots, cut into thick slices
1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can coconut milk (I prefer full fat coconut milk–don’t fear the fat)
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon mild curry powder
2 teaspoons sea salt (or enough to suit your taste)
1 cup fresh chopped kale
chopped cilantro
*cooked brown rice or quinoa for serving (either one of these can easily be made in a rice cooker–the other under-rated tool that massively saves time and effort)


  • Place the onions in the bottom of the slow cooker.
  • Cut the chicken into chunks and add it to the slow cooker along with the remaining ingredients.
  • Gently stir, cover, and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours.
  • When you’re ready to ladle curry into serving bowl, stir in chopped kale and let it “cook” for a minute.
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve over quinoa or rice.


Slow Cooker Red Lentil, Chickpea Coconut Soup


2 tablespoons butter (olive oil is vegan option)
1 medium yellow onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups diced)
3/4 cup diced carrots
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger or 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
4 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed
2 15-oz cans chickpeas, drained
1 14-oz can light coconut milk
Fresh cilantro and lime wedges for serving


  • Melt butter in a medium saute pan over medium-low heat.
  • Increase heat to medium and add the onion and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened, about 4 minutes.
  • Add the garlic, curry powder, cayenne powder, ginger and salt. Stir and cook for another minute.
  • Add the tomato paste and pour in about a cup of the vegetable broth. Stir to get all of the bits of good stuff off of the pan, and pour the entire mixture into a 4.5 quart or larger Crock Pot.
  • Add the remaining vegetable broth, red lentils, chickpeas, and coconut milk to the Crock Pot and stir.
  • Cook on low for about 8 hours.
  • Taste and add additional salt if necessary.
  • Serve with fresh lime wedges for squeezing on top and sprigs of cilantro

Is the exercise loophole sabotaging your weight control efforts? Plus, 5 REAL reasons to make exercise a priority!

Seasons greetings to all my fellow holiday health nuts out there! I’ve been thinking about this post for awhile and thought it particularly apt for this magical time of year when sugary goodies seem to be falling lovingly out of the sky. I wish you all a happy and healthy holiday!

Admit it–at some point you’ve probably gone an extra mile or taken an extra class to “burn off” that row of cookies you ate out of the box last night. Or maybe you exercise solely so that you can eat whatever you want. I used to think this way–that it was as simple as burning a greater number of calories than you consume.

Sorry, it don’t work that way, ya’ll.

We can’t simply exercise away poor food choices. Using exercise to lose weight without changing food habits is asking for failure. If you exercise but keep those patterns of unhealthy eating, sure–you may improve endurance, gain muscle, and be fitter overall, but you won’t shed many pounds. You may very well have a six pack…hiding under a muffin top. And, without changing food habits, your workouts will likely feel sluggish and your recoveries not very recovering. Our bodies are kinda like expensive, high-performance cars in a way–our performance (physical and mental) is directly related to the quality of the fuel we put in our bodies. Junky fuel yields clunky performance–and not just when we’re working out. High-quality, clean fuel yields optimal performance–during workouts AND throughout everyday life.

And think about this: when we workout–especially if we do moderate to intense exercise–we are gonna be HUNGRY! It’s easy to fall into the trap of eating whatever you want and more of it “because I worked out HARD today!” AKA, the exercise loophole.

Did you know that a lot of marathoners-in-training actually GAIN weight during their training? Often, it’s because they are invoking the exercise loophole.

Developing healthy food habits–NOT exercise–is key to shedding unwanted weight and keeping it off.

This in no way means that exercise is a waste of time. Completely the opposite!

Here are just 5 of the many, many compelling benefits of exercise:

  1. Body reshaping–when combined with healthy food habits. Just because you now eat lots of veggies doesn’t mean your butt will automatically lift or your triceps will stop waving themselves.
  2. Lower risk of heart attack, stroke, and maybe even certain types of cancer.
  3. Miracle Gro for your brain: better memory, concentration, and actually works better than Prozac and other meds for many people with depression. Oh, and definitely a great way to manage stress and work out any negativity and aggression. Tis no coincidence that the words “exercise” and “exorcise” are just one letter apart, my friends. I notice a DEFINITE shift in my mood and outlook on life when I go several days without exercising / exorcising. It ain’t pretty.
  4. Energy boosting: sounds counter-intuitive, but if you want MORE energy, then get some exercise!
  5. Slowing down of the aging process: abandon the Botox and get moving! A recent study has found a link between exercise and damage to telomeres–part of our DNA that associated with health and longevity. Exercise is linked to healthier telomeres, and therefore linked to slower aging.

So, if you were disappointed to learn that exercising will not compensate for a not-so-healthy diet, I hope this post helps reframe what exercise can do for your body, heart, and mind. It’s so worth the investment, with a huge rate of return!

photo credit: Aaron Tilley Aaron Tilley/Guardian