Healthy, Easy Slow Cooker Jumbalaya

Andouille sausage, shrimp, brown rice, loads of veggies, and a kick of hot sauce … need I say more? This simple slow cooker dish is packed with flavor and texture. It’s perfect for a lazy Sunday at home while we wait for the weather to turn slightly nicer, and it makes delicious grab-and-go leftovers to pack for lunch during the week.

The best part is that it’s healthy, though you’d never guess it. You can add whatever veggies you have lying around the kitchen that need to be eaten, and the hefty dose of satiating protein and healthy whole grains keep you from heading back to the fridge for a midnight snack. It’s a fun dish to throw into the week’s lineup!

This dish is a quadruple threat: delicious, hearty, healthy, and easy to make!

This dish is a quadruple threat: delicious, hearty, healthy, and easy to make!

What you’ll need:
1 large onion, chopped
3 tablespoons (or cloves) garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 medium bell peppers, chopped – I used sweet red bell peppers
1 can (15 ounce) crushed tomatoes
1 cup brown rice
1 package (12 ounce) andouille sausage, cut into 1/2 inch rounds – use turkey or chicken sausage if possible
1 teaspoon hot sauce – I used sriracha
2 tablespoons thyme, minced – fresh or dried
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups water
3 tablespoons parsley, minced – fresh or dried
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

What you’ll need to do:

Start by chopping and mincing all your veggies.

Place the onion, garlic, celery, carrots, peppers, tomatoes, rice, and sausage in your slow cooker in that order. Add the hot sauce, thyme, salt, pepper, and water.

Cover and cook on low for about 9 hours.

In the last hour of cooking, add your shrimp and parsley. Stir to combine.

Enjoy!

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Mom’s Crazy Chili

Nothing sounds better on a freezing cold night than a big bowl of chili. It’s warm, hearty, delicious comfort food – but it can be healthy comfort food! The best thing about chili is that you can pretty much add whatever ingredients you want as long as you have the basics: meat, beans, beer, and the right spices (that’s right: beer).

I may be biased, but I believe my mom makes the best chili. When I called her to ask her for the recipe (for about the 15th time), she replied, “Well, I just add a little of this and a little of that.” I asked, “Well do you know how much chili powder or cumin you add?” She answered, “I add enough to make it taste good.” So I improvised. That’s why I call it my mom’s crazy chili recipe – there really isn’t any set recipe. But those basics I mentioned are in there, and that’s the key. I also truly believe that beer is the secret ingredient to setting this one over the top.

I’m going to break down necessary ingredients and optional ingredients. I’ll also give you healthy and indulgent options. Lastly, you can make this either on the stove or in the crock pot, so I’ll give you both options there, too. However, there is one area where you don’t have an option: you cannot make just a little bit of chili. You have to make a giant pot. But that’s a good problem to have because chili makes the best leftovers!

This one was hard to tag because you can make it as healthy as you want! As long as you have the basics, it's delicious.

This one was hard to tag because you can make it as healthy as you want! As long as you have the basics, it’s delicious.

What you’ll need:

Necessary ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-1.25 pounds ground meat – use ground turkey for a healthier option, but I love the taste of ground beef.
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic – not necessary to have fresh garlic, but garlic in general is necessary. Use more garlic powder if you don’t use fresh garlic.
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder – garlic powder is necessary, even if you use fresh garlic. If you don’t use fresh garlic, too, then triple the garlic powder.
  • 4 tablespoons cumin
  • 4 tablespoons chili powder
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can or bottle of dark beer – ales, nut browns, stouts, or porters are the best. In a pinch, you can use a light beer, but stay away from IPAs.
  • 2 cans red kidney beans, rinsed

Optional ingredients:

  • Bell peppers, chopped – I like green because it adds color; I use 2 bell peppers
  • Cayenne pepper – adjust the amount to make it more or less spicy; I use 1/2 teaspoon
  • Celery, chopped – it adds a nice crunch to the chili, just use however much you have in the fridge
  • Carrots, chopped – it adds a little sweetness to the chili, again, use however much you have in the fridge
  • Bacon, crumbled – either turkey bacon or regular bacon is delicious, turkey bacon is healthier
  • Rice – it’s traditional in my family to serve chili over rice
  • Cheddar cheese – I love topping my chili with cheese!

What you’ll need to do:

Brown your meat in the two tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat on the stove for about 5-7 minutes. If you’re going to use a crock pot, use a large pan. If you’re going to make the chili in a pot on the stove, just brown the meat in the pot. As the meat is browning, constantly break it apart with a wooden spoon. You want the meat to be smaller crumbles instead of large chunks.

Or, as an alternative, cook the bacon in the pan first. Cut or tear the bacon into smaller pieces and put them in the pan so that they cook faster and so you don’t have to crumble it later. If you’re cooking turkey bacon, cook the turkey bacon in the olive oil. If you’re cooking regular bacon, don’t put any oil in the pan. Then brown your meat in the same pan with the bacon drippings.

When the meat has browned, turn the heat down to medium and add the onion. If you’re using fresh garlic or bell peppers, add those at this time, too. Cook for about 3 minutes or until the onion has turned translucent. Add all your dry spices, except the bay leaves, and stir with the spoon until the spices thoroughly coat the meat and veggies.

I used turkey chili here, but the spices added the darker color.

I used turkey chili here, but the spices added the darker color.

If you’re cooking in a crock pot, transfer the meat and veggies into the crock pot. Add the can of crushed tomatoes, beer, and bay leaves, either in the crock pot or big pot on the stove. Stir to mix.

Cover and let cook for many hours. If you’re using the crock pot, set on low heat for at least 6 hours – you can let this cook all day if you’re making it on a work day. If you’re cooking on the stove, turn the heat to low and let simmer for at least 4 hours, stirring occasionally. The chili generally tastes better the longer you let it cook.

This will make your house smell wonderful all day!

This will make your house smell wonderful all day!

In the last hour of cooking, add your kidney beans. You can also add celery or carrots at this time if you’re using them. Stir and cover.

I love serving my chili over rice and topping it with cheddar cheese. In my family, we’ve also been known to put chili over tamales, but that may be a Southern California thing. Of course, chili is also delicious on hot dogs, fries, or other ballpark food. I’ve also heard of people putting chili over noodles. If you want to make it healthier, chili would also be good over quinoa. But you don’t have to pair it with anything at all – this chili is also delicious all by itself.

Enjoy!

Crock Pot Corn and Cheese Chowder

It’s soup season! Which also means it’s time to break out the Crock Pot. I love cooking in the Crock Pot because it’s so easy. Spend a little time in the morning prepping a few ingredients, and by the time you get home from work you have a delicious dinner and leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

I like this dish in particular because it tastes indulgent but it’s still fairly healthy. I love chowders and cream-of-whatever-soups, but they’re often not figure-friendly. In this dish, I swapped out some of the less healthy options for healthier ones (did you know they made reduced fat evaporated milk?!). I kept the potatoes because a chowder has to have potatoes, but you’re really not eating too much of them with the amount of servings this makes. Just serve this creamy soup with a tossed green salad and crusty French bread for a complete, delicious family meal.

Creamy, sweet, with spice from the cumin makes this a delicious cold weather meal.

What you’ll need (makes 6 servings):
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. cumin
3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped into small, bite-sized pieces
1 can creamed corn
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (I used frozen and threw them in un-thawed)
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped (dry works fine, too)
1 cup reduced fat sharp shredded cheddar cheese
1 can reduced fat evaporated milk
2 tbsp. fresh chives, chopped (you need fresh here; green onions will work, too)

What you’ll need to do:

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, sauté the onion and garlic in the oil until golden.

There’s the golden color we’re looking for. That’s when the onions and garlic lose their bite and become sweet.

While the garlic and onion cooks, peel and chop your potatoes. Throw them into the crock pot as you go.

Add the can of creamed corn, frozen (or fresh) corn, parsley, and cumin. Add the onion and garlic when it’s done cooking. Pour the chicken broth over the top and mix thoroughly.

I love the cumin in this dish. It gives the dish an unexpected warmth.

Cover. Cook on low for 8-9 hours or until the potatoes are tender. In the last hour of cooking, add the cheese and evaporated milk. Garnish with chives before serving.

Enjoy!

If you like this dish, check out my Turkey Bacon and Lentil Soup.

Turkey Bacon and Lentil Soup

The best part about soup is that you always end up with leftovers. So, dinner? Done. Lunch tomorrow and the next day? Done and done. And you end up getting an extra 7 minutes of sleep in the morning because you don’t have to make a sandwich. Oh, and did I mention that soup can be really yummy, easy, healthy, and inexpensive too? This recipe is a quintuple whammy!

Yummy, easy, healthy, inexpensive, and makes leftovers? I'm in!

Let’s start with yummy. The turkey bacon is rich and smokey; the onions and garlic add a big kick of flavor; and the lentils, carrots, and celery make this super hearty. The smell that permeates the house when you cook this makes your mouth water, and you can’t help but eat cup after cup of this dish.

Okay now easy. This one’s another crock pot wonder. So after the 15 minutes it takes to chop all your veggies and throw them into your crock pot, you just set it and forget it in the morning, go to work, and come home to an already cooked meal.

This dish is as healthy as it is yummy. It makes about 6 servings, and it’s only about 194 calories per serving. But you’d never guess it. Guilt-free seconds, please!

It’s always great when a dish is inexpensive, too. Carrots and celery are about 99 cents each (and you have leftovers for a bomb salad or snacks later). A pound of dry lentils is about $1.30, and the leftovers keep in your cupboard until you want to make this again. One onion is about 45 cents. A couple cans of chicken broth are about a dollar each. And a package of turkey bacon is about $4, conservatively. So the entire meal is less than $10! And you’ve made two lunches and have some leftover veggies for later. Not bad, right? Okay let’s get down to business…

What you’ll need:
1 medium onion
2 medium carrots
2 ribs of celery
3 cloves of garlic (or 3 teaspoons of chopped garlic from your kitchen staples)
1 1/2 cups dry lentils
12 ounce package of turkey bacon
6 cups low sodium chicken broth

What you’ll need to do:

Chop your onion, carrots, and celery and throw them right into your crock pot.

Keep your vegges about the same size so they all cook evenly.

Add your garlic and lentils. Then slice your turkey bacon into bite-sized slices and add to the pot.

Your turkey bacon should be about the same size as your veggies. Just slice across the whole package and then break apart with your fingers.

Lastly, add your chicken broth and stir.

Just stir and you're ready to go!

Cook for 9-11 hours on low heat (or however long it takes you to get home from work).

I made this on a cold, rainy Saturday and could barely stand it while I smelled it cooking all day.

And you’re done! This dish is really delicious with sourdough bread (perhaps leftover from your pulled pork sandwiches!).

2 Ingredient, 3 Step, Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

There’s nothing better than coming home from work and smelling a delicious, home-cooked meal waiting for you. And with my pulled pork recipe, having that delicious, home-cooked meal waiting for you has never been simpler. It has 2 ingredients and only takes about 5 minutes of actual prep time. Not to mention, it’s super delicious – but, seriously, when is pulled pork not? So whenever Clinton requests this recipe (and trust me, he requests it a lot), I am always happy to oblige.

So delicious. So easy. You really can't go wrong with this dish.

What you’ll need:

2.25-2.5 pound pork tenderloin
1 20 ounce bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce

What you’ll need to do:

Step 1: Put your pulled pork in your slow cooker and smother with the entire bottle of BBQ sauce.

There's my pulled pork, chillin' in my favorite BBQ sauce.

Step 2: Cook on low for about 10 hours (anywhere between 9-11 hours is fine; mine differs depending on when I get off work).

As soon as I open the door to my apartment when I get home from work, I am overwhelmed with how amazing this smells. I can barely get off my shoes and jacket before I'm sampling this yummy goodness.

Step 3: Once cooked, use two forks to pull the pork apart and shred. Make sure that you do this in the BBQ sauce – the first time I made this recipe I made the mistake of removing the pork and shredding it outside of the BBQ sauce, and you definitely don’t want to do that. All that pulled pork and BBQ sauce needs to be combined for optimal yumminess.

The pork tears really easily, just make sure that you're mixing it in with the BBQ sauce as you do it.

And enjoy! Seriously, it’s as simple as that.

I like to serve this as sandwiches (also simple). I love it on sourdough bread, toasted with a little sharp cheddar cheese. Sometimes I’ll throw sliced apples on the sandwich (try it, it’s delicious!). If you use a lower calorie and/or sugar BBQ sauce, this dish can also be quite healthy.

Another big bonus: it makes a lot of leftovers that are great for easy lunches or nights when you don’t want to make dinner. Pulled pork freezes really well, too!