There is something incredibly wholesome and healthy about feeding your family with homemade soups, stews and oatmeal. The idea of tossing a handful of ingredients into your slow cooker and a few hours later you have a restaurant-quality meal is just… well, awesome! Especially when there’s a new baby in the picture. Slow cookers should become the new “it” item on baby registries. These bad boys can save you an incredible amount of time when your new bundle of joy arrives. Completing a task as simple as taking a shower will become a major success during those first few weeks. Anything you can do to simplify your life is a welcome strategy. So be sure to buy a slow-cooker if you don’t already have one -- maybe it’s still in the box from your wedding registry? Time to bring it out! TOP FIVE TIPS AND TECHNIQUES: 1. High vs. Low: Remember that one hour on the high setting is the equivalent to two hours on the low setting. A benefit to using the low setting is that the food can cook a little longer than the recipe advises without the risk of being overcooked. 2. Layer in order: Unless the recipe specifies otherwise, you should always layer the ingredients in the order they are given – no need to stir! 3. No extra liquid: Pour liquids (water, stock, etc.) over vegetables and meats, and only use the liquids specified in the recipe with roasts and stews. Extra juices cook out of the ingredients, and less evaporation occurs than in traditional cooking methods. 4. No peeking! It might be challenging, but don’t open the slow cooker before the cooking time is complete. It takes 20-30 minutes for the heat to build back up to the previous temperature each and every time you remove the lid. Now that we have covered the basics, I will share my three favorite slow cooker recipes. Just give yourself 15-20 minutes of prep time, and 4-8 hours later you have a delicious, flavorful meal to feed your entire family. Can’t beat that! TORTILLA SOUP (pictured above) Ingredients: · 1 pound shredded, cooked chicken (optional – this recipe is vegetarian without the chicken) · 6 Roma tomatoes, skin on and quartered · 4 tomatillos, leaves/stems removed and diced · 1 medium onion, chopped · 1 orange bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced · 2 cloves garlic, minced · 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced · 1 orange bell pepper, seeded and diced · 1 teaspoon cumin · 1 teaspoon chili powder · 1 teaspoon salt · ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper (about 5-6 turns) · 1 bay leaf · 2 cups black beans (or one can, drained and rinsed) · 1 ½ cups corn kernels (or one bag frozen kernels) · 2 cups water · 2 cups (or one container) low-sodium vegetable broth · 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (optional) · 7 non-GMO corn tortillas · Extra-virgin olive oil Preparation: Place the first 18 ingredients in your slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours (or on high for 3-4 hours). 30 minutes prior to serving, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly brush both sides of the tortillas with oil. Cut the tortillas into strips and spread on a baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven until crisp (approximately 10-15 minutes). Spoon servings of soup into individual bowls, sprinkle chips on top and serve. PUMPKIN & BLACK BEAN CHILI Ingredients: · 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil · 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced · 1 clove garlic, minced · 1 medium sweet onion, diced · 3 cups black beans (or two cans), rinsed and drained · 1 sugar pumpkin, rinsed, stem removed and cut into 1” cubes · 6 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced · 3 cups vegetable broth (or water) · 2 teaspoons fresh parsley · 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder · 2 teaspoons cumin · 1 teaspoon dried oregano (be sure to roll it in your hand to release the oils) · ½ teaspoon salt · 3 grinds freshly cracked black pepper · Cubed avocado (optional) Preparation: Place the first 14 ingredients into your slow cooker. Cook on high for 1 hour, then drop the temperature to low and cook 5-6 hours. Spoon into individual bowls and top with avocado (if desired) and serve. OVERNIGHT OATMEAL Ingredients: · 1 teaspoon coconut oil · 8 ½ cups water · 2 cups steel-cut oats · 1 ¾ cups unsweetened coconut milk · ¼ cup coconut sugar · ½ teaspoon sea salt · 1 teaspoon vanilla extract · Optional toppings: Banana, berries, nuts, coconut flakes, chia seeds, maple syrup, etc Preparation: Coat the inside of the slow cooker with the coconut oil. Add the water, oats, coconut milk, coconut sugar and salt into the slow cooker and stir to combine. Cover and cook on low heat until the oats are cooked through and creamy (approximately 7-8 hours). Stir in the vanilla and spoon into individual serving bowls. Add any desired toppings and serve warm. Bon appetit to you and your bébés!