Piping-hot, hearty meals that pretty much cook themselves might sound like a dream—but a crock-pot, aka slow cooker, makes them a reality. We’ve rounded up a few weeks’ worth of yummy recipes that aren’t just healthy—they’re kid-pleasing too. From teriyaki meatballs to chipotle chili to paleo hamburger soup, there’s a meal to satisfy every member of the family. As for soon-to-be moms, you’ll want to take a look too: Many of these recipes freeze beautifully, so you can pack up those (plentiful) leftovers and happily pop ’em out again when baby comes home (and you and your partner have zero desire to cook).
1. Low-Carb Pork Roast with Mushroom Gravy
Low on carbs but not on flavor, the whole family will love this dairy-free version of the comfort food classic—and you’ll love that it’s so quick to prepare. Forgot to plan dinner until that day? You can even use frozen meat, and it’ll still be ready in two hours. Hayley at Health Starts in the Kitchen saves the day!
2. Instant Pot Teriyaki Meatballs
There are plenty of reasons to like meatballs, no matter how old you are: among them, they offer a mouthful of flavor in one yummy bite. And this turkey version from Mommy’s Home Cooking—which has a healthy flair with Asian flavors—is no exception. Serve them over quinoa, rice or a veggie stir-fry—whatever you have on hand.
3. Vegan Enchilada Quinoa Chili
Meatless Mondays just got a lot more exciting with Fit Mitten Kitchen’s south-of-the-border-inspired gluten-free dish. No one will even notice the meat is missing from this hearty meal, thanks to easy, healthy substitutes like sweet potatoes and black beans. And you can even add mucho zestiness with a homemade enchilada sauce that whips up in less than 10 minutes.
4. Loaded “Baked” Sweet Potatoes
Hummusapien swaps out baked white potatoes for slow-cooker sweet potatoes to make the perfect healthy winter meal. This version fills those vitamin-A-rich veggies up with corn and black beans. Not feeling those toppings? Go for your kids’ favorite veggies and sauces instead.
When it’s cold outside, it’s time for chili! This unexpected bean-free version makes the cut for paleo. Get kids busy in the kitchen by letting them help you dress up each bowl with the toppings they love. Renee at Raising Generation Nourished yums up hers with avocado slices, chives and parsley. Deeelish!
6. Thai Peanut Chicken
Skip the takeout and make this Thai favorite yourself from Averie Cooks. It requires just five minutes of prep time—seriously! And it’s mild enough for the pickiest palettes, even as ingredients like coconut milk and ginger expand your children’s taste buds. Just add steamed veggies and rice or noodles at the very end. Dinnertime!
7. Lazy Crock-Pot Lasagna
The ubiquitous Italian dish is one that the entire family can always agree on. Unlike most lasagna recipes, this one, from Spend with Pennies, requires only minutes—not hours—of prep work, thanks to its ingenious use of spinach ravioli.
8. Cabbage Roll Soup
Cooking traditional cabbage rolls typically means lots of time in the kitchen—unless you’ve got a crock-pot and this recipe from Spend With Pennies. Throw in the ingredients before you head out for the day and come back home to an irresistible aroma and a cozy, stick-to-your-ribs-thick beef and tomato goodness.
9. Kung Pao Chickpeas
This popular dish from Detoxinista typically isn’t an option if you have nut allergies in your household. So forget take-out and try this nut-free, vegetarian version. It’s so yummy, your kids will think you ordered in. What’s more, by subbing chickpeas for the typical chicken, you’ve got complex carbs in every vegetarian-friendly bowl.
10. Pesto Mozzarella Chicken Pasta
Even the pickiest eaters will be pleased. This dish from The Magical Slow Cooker mixes the perfect comfort-food ingredients of pasta, oozy mozzarella and parmesan with a burst of bright flavors, thanks to the pesto and a few squeezes of lemon. Buon appetito!
11. Chicken Enchilada Casserole
There are quite a few steps when it comes into making enchiladas (the simmering, the frying, the baking)—but not when you have a crock-pot. Crackling with the zesty flavors that kids and grownups alike crave, this recipe from The Magic Slowcooker lets you set it and forget. Just toss tortilla, cheese and olives into the mix when you’re ready to eat.
12. Scalloped Yukon Gold and Sweet Potatoes
What’s not to love about cheesy potatoes? Well, maybe the brick-in-the-stomach feeling you sometimes get after eating them. Thankfully, this dish from Well Plated has a lighter touch. The sweet potato spin offers nutritional and flavor perks; plus, it’s got a sauce that’s rich without being greasy.
13. Stuffed Peppers with Quinoa and Black Beans
Surprise! Yes, you can actually make stuffed peppers in a crock-pot! Erin at Well Plated filled hers up with ground chicken, but you can swap in a protein your family likes (or what you happen to have in the fridge). Whatever you do, the yumtastic blend of black beans, diced tomatoes and spices pretty much guarantees that Tex-Mex flavor will come through.
14. Garlic Parmesan Chicken and Potatoes
In this quick-to-prep dish from Damn Delicious, standard-issue chicken thighs turn into a gourmet dish, thanks to a magical blend of spices and parmesan. Sear the chicken in a pan before tossing into the crockpot for amazingly crisp-tender results.
15. Root Vegetable Minestrone Stew
With a spotlight on root vegetables, this hearty meat-free dish from SkinnyMs. celebrates the cool-weather season. Get your little one in on the action by letting her help pick out the ingredients at the farmer’s market or grocery store and toss those beauties in once you’ve washed and sliced them.
16. Pizza Casserole
Pizza! And casserole! In one dish! Enough said. This one has it all: penne, pepperoni and loads of cheese. Your kids will be asking for seconds. The best part? You need only five ingredients—and as Abbey at The Cards We Drew, who offered up this recipe, points out, you can pop it in before you leave for your kid’s afternoon activities, and by the time you’re home, you’ve got an instant dinner for a hungry crowd.
17. Wild Rice Vegetable Soup
It’s vegetarian. It’s vegan. And it’s super warming and hearty. What’s more, the unbeatable combo of wild rice, butternut squash, kale and white beans in this recipe from Kristine’s Kitchen means it’s super healthy too. Make room in your freezer—this one stores really well.
18. Creamy Portobello Chicken
No time to search high and low for a zillion ingredients in the grocery store? This meal from Cutefetti requires only three, plus salt and pepper to taste. Mushroom lovers are sure to devour it.
19. White Bean French Onion Soup
With this yummy crock-pot creation from The Busy Baker, you lose the time-consuming, hovering-over-a-stove requirement of your traditional French Onion Soup recipe, but gain an Italian twist with the addition of oregano and white beans. The upshot, besides the yum factor? Plenty of protein to keep you and your family fuller longer.
20. Paleo Hamburger Soup
For the family on a paleo kick—or any kind of health kick—it doesn’t get better than this soup from Food, Faith and Fitness, which is also gluten-free and Whole30. It’s packed with veggies and it tastes even better the next day, so make room for leftovers.
Published November 2017