While it’s still quite mild here in Norfolk, the dark evenings and foggy mornings are making me long for hearty, warming food. With my kitchen out of action for a couple of weeks while we have all new units, work tops and units installed, I’m limited to the slow cooker for my meals. There’s nothing more convenient than throwing a load of fresh ingredients in a slow cooker and just leaving it to do its thing! Here are some healthy slow cooker recipes to keep you warm this winter.

Slow cooker chilli – Bon Appétit

via Bon Appétit

This chilli is made with chunks of melt-in-the-mouth beef rather than the usual mince. This makes it feel really decedent when really it’s still a healthy, protein-rich meal. Just be careful how much cheese, sour cream and nachos you add. All those extras can make the calories of this simple dish sky rocket.

For a richness of flavour, you need to cook a number of ingredients in a skillet ahead of popping it all in the slow cooker. This contains dried chillies so 30 minutes of the prep time below is soaking time.

Cooking time: 8 hours on low / 5 hours on high (+ 1hr prep)

Lentil and chorizo stew – Big Oven

This is one of my weekly staples when it starts to get cold outside. I normally do it on the hob but it’d work just as well in the slow cooker. Brown off your celery (I actually use carrots because celery is offensive), chorizo, garlic etc. with the paprika before transferring it all to the slow cooker. This is where you’d add your stock, lentils and tomatoes. Set to cook on high for about 3-4 hours.

Herbed chicken with beets and sprouts – Delish

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A whole chicken in the slow cooker? Yes please! No skillet cooking here, you just season and stuff the chicken then shove it in the slow cooker with the veg. Easy peasy and you get a delicious mustardy sauce at the end of it.

Cooking time: 8 hours (+ 20 minutes prep)

Root vegetable stew – Chowhound

 

This is a great stew that can easily be made into a vegan slow cooker meal by substituting the chicken stock for vegetable stock. The flavours are really interesting with warming cumin, cayenne and ginger. There’s also a pinch of saffron in there, which is delicious and perfect with the pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes and parsnips!

There’s a fair bit of peeling and chopping involved here but it’s well worth it and this will freeze beautifully!

Cooking time: 3.5 hours (+ 30 minutes prep)

Shredded beef and cabbage bowls – Kalyn’s Kitchen

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While paleo doesn’t always mean healthy (yes, you can overeat on bacon), this caveman-friendly meal is full of protein and wholefood nutrients.

The key to lots of flavour is to brown the meat before it goes into the slow cooker. It’s a really easy meal that even the most inexperienced of chefs can handle. There’s a lot of chopping involved to make the cabbage slaw (use paleo mayo for this!) and avocado salsa but the rewards are great! Click through to the full recipe and you’ll find some tips on cutting avocados too.

This is a nice low-carb dinner that works throughout the year.

Cooking time: 4 hours (+ 30 minutes prep)

skinny-taste-pulled-porkPulled pork – Skinny Taste

This is one of my go-to meals because it’s so easy and tasty! In the absence of liquid smoke I tend to add a little bit of water and a smoky BBQ rub, which could be easily replaced with smoked paprika. I also make my own slaw and then stuff it all into wholemeal pitta breads with a load of pickles. It’s a really hearty meal that also wows guests!

It smells amazing while it’s cooking too so be prepared to feel very hungry whenever you approach the slow cooker. There’s something really nice about being in a house that smells like BBQ, it reminds me of Texas.

Cooking time: 7 hours (+ 20 minutes prep)

What do you like to eat when it starts getting chilly out? Feel free to share recipes in the comments!